When the fiction editor at The Walrus resigned last month, he was protesting what he saw as the limiting of icky swears in the magazine. But Nick Mount’s protest was in vain, as the story he quit over will be running in the winter issue with much of its profanity stripped out.
Mount’s frustration stemmed not from obscenities being censored, but the lack of a clear line. “A big part of the problem that led to my resignation [was] the lack of clear limits from the magazine’s publisher or EIC on what language was permissible and what wasn’t,” he said.
What started the discussion of how much profanity was okay in the magazine’s pages, was a now-infamous story by friend-of-CANADALAND Stephen Marche where an owl is fucked to death.
“After the Marche story, the publisher, Shelley Ambrose, said we’d had complaints and asked me to find stories with less ‘dark, violent, abusive, icky, fucky themes,’ ” Mount said.
Ambrose did not reply to several requests for comment.
Following that conversation, Mount was asked to tone down the language in a story by Eden Robinson. “It’s called ‘Nanas I Have Loved,’ and is adapted from the opening chapter of Eden’s new novel Son of a Trickster,” he said. In the story, “the boy’s mother swears a lot, which the story itself criticizes, though the boy’s father.”
After twice going through the story to remove much of the swearing, Mount had had enough and resigned, he said.
But to one source at the magazine familiar with the situation, the whole thing has taken on a tinge of farce in the office. Editors found the swearing in the original draft to be heavy enough that it bordered on juvenile. The edits were made not with an eye on censoring the language, but to tone it down, the source said. There’s no “family-friendly” diktat at the magazine.
Despite that, Mount is no longer the fiction editor and ‘Nanas’ has had its cursing dramatically scaled back, as shown in a draft obtained by CANADALAND. “Shit” appears twice, and “fuck” not at all. Numerous “cunt”s were also dropped from an earlier draft of the story. “Frig” is entirely absent.
The author, Robinson, could not be reached for comment. Mount said the story will appear, uncensored, as the first chapter of her book Son of a Trickster, to be published this winter.