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In which I was inspired to mangle some Shakespeare.
| Aug 14, 2012 | No comments |

Reading the discussion on Mike Duran’s and Becky Miller’s blogs this past week, I had a walloping sense of deja-vu. Anyhow, it inspired me to mangle some Shakespeare. Below is Hamlet’s Soliloquy, as it might be delivered by one of the combatants in the most recent dust-up over profanity in Christian fiction. As for my personal take, you can find it here and here.

To swear, or not to swear–that is the question:

Whether ’tis a holier action to truly reflect

A culture prone to flinging arrows of coarse profanity

Or to take arms against a sea of vulgarity

And by opposing remain pure. To edit, to censor–

No more–and by censor to say we end

The conflict, and smooth the evidence of sin

That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To clean, to sweep–

To sweep–perchance to sanctify: ay, there’s the rub,

For outside that sanctified space what turmoil yet remains

Unseen, slighted by such attempts to shuffle off our rude mortality,

Must give us pause. There’s the conflict

That makes calamity in writing of a fallen world.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of critics pro and con,

Th’ reviewer’s slight, the blogger’s enmity

The pangs of questioned faith, the law’s accusation,

The insolence of publishers, and the spurns

From churchmen convinced sinful characters spring from unworthy souls,

When he himself might his quietus make

By blotting out offensive words? Who would unvarnished dialogue bear,

To grunt and sweat under the burden of rejection,

But that the dread of something akin to death,

Of framing a false, undiscovered country, whose fresh-scrubbed paragons

Hear, see, and speak no evil, impels the will,

And makes us rather write as best we can of those ills we share

Than fly to a burnished fantasy that salves scruples yet fails integrity?

Thus primness in conscience’s name does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of life, smudged, stained, and profane

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of fear,

And enterprise of great grace and redemption

With this regard is shown halfheartedly

And loses the force of honesty, and the name of action.

Fred was born in Tacoma, Washington, but spent most of his formative years in California, where his parents pastored a couple of small churches. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, and spent 24 years in the Air Force as a bomber navigator, flight-test navigator, and military educator. He retired from the Air Force in 2007, and now works as a government contractor in eastern Kansas, providing computer simulation support for Army training.Fred has been married for 25 years to the girl who should have been his high school sweetheart, and has three kids, three dogs, and a mortgage. When he's not writing or reading, he enjoys running, hiking, birdwatching, stargazing, and playing around with computers.Writing has always been a big part of his life, but he kept it mostly private until a few years ago, when it occurred to him that if he was ever going to get published, he needed to get serious about it. Since then, he's written more than twenty short stories that have been published in a variety of print and online magazines, and a novel, The Muse, that debuted in November 2009 from Splashdown Books, which was a finalist for the 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award for book of the year in the speculative genre. Speculative fiction is his first love, but he writes the occasional bit of non-fiction or poetry, just to keep things interesting.

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Kessie Carroll

Hee, hee, it’s like all the same people arguing about the same things on both blogs. We’ve got a real echo chamber going, don’t we?
Out in the real world, people like James Scott Bell are willing to let a lot of language slide, but even he remarks that “dropping the f-bomb on the first page of a book will lose you about half your potential readers”.
I notice  that nowhere in any of these arguments does genre come into question. Nobody has posed the question, “Should there be swearing in modern-setting thrillers, where people do, indeed swear?”
Nobody has mentioned cussing in fantasy novels, where expletives are largely made up to conform with the world.
Teenagers cuss. Just hang around outside your local high school at three o’clock. They’re more astonished by the lack of cursing than by its presence. We don’t have to be prudes while writing YA, but neither do we have to drop cluster f-bombs. Sometimes a precision f-strike, one in a whole book, will get the point across nicely.
And if you’re a weaker brother, read the reviews on Amazon, and if you aren’t comfortable with it, don’t read it!

Bethany A. Jennings

Ahahaha.  LOVE it.

I understand why some Christian authors employ swear words in their books, I completely agree that it can be useful to portray characters realistically, and I’m not offended by it (unless it’s gratuitous).  But personally I can’t bring myself to do it – especially taking the Lord’s name in vain.  It may be a character actually saying it, but my hands still have to type it!  Happily, I write science-fiction and fantasy and I can invent my swear words all I want… 😀

Patrick J. Moore

isn’t swearing swearing? why does it make a difference if they are words that are used in our culture or in fictional cultures? there is nothing sinful in words themselves but in the heart of one who would curse another. most of the time it’s just an exclamation with no actual cursing of anyone involved. why do we care if it’s the “f-bomb” or the word “shock” (used in certain future set Marvel comics) or the word “balls” used in the latest Kristin Cashore book. Isn’t it all really the same thing? 

It’s all a very silly argument to me. Of all the sinful actions we can show villains committing, yet words which are not sinful in themselves get so much attention? Humans have deemed certain words as “vulgar”, not God. And much of the distinction between proper and vulgar is some fairly straight forward prejudice between the groups that used the various words to begin with, or judgement labels we have determined it is not politically correct to speak out loud. 

Sorry, Bethany- I don’t mean to be aiming this all at you. I just started out responding to what you said and it seemed to turn into a mini general rant about the whole subject.  

Patrick J. Moore

Excellent performance, Fred!

Paul Lee

That’s brilliant!
Hopefully, it won’t end for us the way it ended in Hamlet. 😐

Grace Bridges

Brilliant. I rest my case that Fred is a genius.


[…] to remove some of the shrapnel the combatants so often use to snipe at each other. But according to Fred Warren at Spec Faith, Sally Apokedak at Facebook, and Mike Duran in the comments to the above post, I […]

Rebecca LuElla Miller

Fred, I realize the post you linked to was fairly long so perhaps you weren’t able to make it all the way through. That would explain why you think I took a position on the whole language in Christian fiction thing. In truth, I did give an explanation for my own choice when it comes to what I read, but that wasn’t the thrust of the post by any means. Rather, it was a look at the issue of eating meat offered to idols which I believe has been misunderstood and subsequently dragged into the argument as “proof” of one position or the other.

Perhaps the following post on Friday–the one I really meant to write on Thursday, but it got too long–paints my position more clearly. That one’s called “Weaker Brothers, Legalists, And Christian Fiction.”

At any rate, there has been considerable back and forth on the subject this summer, and your Shakespeare parody is very clever! 😀