close menu

‘Huckleberry Finn,’ ROBOTIC EDITION

All right, so, you’ve read about the edition of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” that will edit out the “n-word.” You know about that debate; you know all the arguments. This is about that. Sort of. And how you can play a role.

See, someone’s following up on NewSouth Books’ intention to edit out the offending word by going one step further. And that step is…

Robots.


Yes, robots. The plan by Gabriel Diani and Etta Devine is to replace “n-word” Jim with Robot Jim. “Statistically, people prefer robots to the word ‘n-word,'” say the proponents of this audacious plan. “The word ‘n-word’ is ugly and pejorative. Robots are fun and cool… even when they’re trying to take over our world! So we’ve decided to take the word ‘n-word’ out of Mark Twain’s classic and replace it with ‘robot.'” And they’ve commissioned an artist to alter the original illustrations to include the robot. (They admit that vampires are “in,” too, but say that would be silly)

Where do you come in? Simple: They’re raising money for a short print run of the robot-inflected “Huck Finn.” The more money they get, the cooler they believe they can make the finished product. More money means more altered illustrations. More money means getting a scholar to add a piece about the “n-word” controversy to add context and credibility. More money could mean hardcover editions.

You can pledge a donation by clicking here for the project’s Kickstarter page. A buck will get a PDF copy of the book. Five will get you the PDF and an invitation to the L.A. book launch party (travel not included). $15 adds a print of a robot-altered illustration from the book. $25 adds a physical copy of the book (add $5 for international shipping). $50 adds either a Robot Jim figurine (!) or a “R-O-B-O-T” necklace or two physical copies of the book. $75 gets the physical book, plus either the robot figurine or necklace and the print and stuff. $100 or more gets your choice of two of the three (books, figurine, necklace), $150 gets everything, $200 gets everything plus an acknowledgment in the book, $500 adds 15 more copies of the book, and $1,000 adds your name, or any name you want (that isn’t silly or ridiculous), to the actual text of the revised book.

But they need $6,000 pledged by March 11th at 7:15 pm ET. So if you’re into it, pledge now. Join Chris Hardwick himself in the quest to bring robots to the world of Mark Twain. If Jane Austen can survive a zombie invasion, Huck and Tom can stand some robot love.

Comments

  1. neurotype says:

    This could also be construed as a clever, but totally PC, way of criticizing the institution of slavery. I’m sure Twain would be on board with that.

    Best self-censorship ever. I wonder if we could do this for all the banned books 😀

  2. dorothy_notgale says:

    @Brian
    …You’re kidding, right? This is a satirical action of protest meant to highlight the ridiculousness of what NewSouth is doing by pushing it over the top. NewSouth are the ones you should be angered and offended by. The whole *point* is that sanitizing classic literature is wrong.

  3. Kyle says:

    My recollection of a couple weeks ago was that the editor of this new version had mixed feelings about his change, but finally decided to go ahead. His intent was to make the book more ACCESSIBLE! That is, to pull in readers who might be offended by Twain’s use of the word, “nigger.”

    My parents gave me “Huck Finn” as a 12-year old. They’d given me “Tom Sawyer” as a 10-year old and I’d loved it, couldn’t put it down, so perhaps they figured I’d find “Huck Finn” the same. Wrong–I was bored with it, had to drag my way through it (perhaps didn’t even finish it–don’t recall). I disliked the long, drawn-out episodes with the King and Duke, and Huck’s pre-adolescent, mild interest in Mary Jane didn’t hold a candle to Tom’s passion for the irresistible Becky Thatcher!

    A couple weeks ago when this new edition hit the news I got out my old copy and began reading it aloud to my wife, a chapter or two a day. What a different reaction I had (still having, we’ve about a third yet to go)!

    It seems to me that the story is not particularly appropriate for young readers, but is a powerful one for those mature enough to recognize the irony and underlying messages. Huck was ‘raised by wolves’ and sees himself as evil and likely hell-bound. He hardly recognizes his love for Jim and has to struggle with all he’s learned about “stealing” Jim from his “rightful” owner. He’s on the point of turning Jim in order to gain peace of mind (and Heaven, I guess).

    I can see this book (the original) being used in elementary schools, but only with adequate teacher discussion (historical background, how context and time can affect offensiveness, and what Twain was trying to convey through the episodes of his story).

  4. Sean says:

    I’m waiting for the Zombie and Pirate editions to come out.

    Huckleberry Finn was actually banned reading material from my high school more than ten years ago. The only copy left in the school was in the library and librarian took a black marker and blacked out all “objectionable content.” The book looked like a secret military document redacted to hell.

  5. Uberforth says:

    Hey dudes who don’t get it, the reason this is funny is because an edition of the book is coming out this month in which the word “nigger” is replaced with “slave”. The article is making fun of this preposterous decision by basically saying, “If you’re going to use ‘slave’, you might as well go all the way and say ‘robot.'” Get it? http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/view/opinion/New-Edition-of-Huck-Finn-Censors-the-N-Word-6435

  6. Albert says:

    “The word robot was introduced to the public by the Czech interwar writer Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), published in 1920.[3] The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people called robots, though they are closer to the modern ideas of androids, creatures who can be mistaken for humans. They can plainly think for themselves, though they seem happy to serve. At issue is whether the robots are being exploited and the consequences of their treatment.” from wikipedia

    nigger….robot… the word has a similar connotation.
    Robot is made by man to serve.
    Nigger is made to serve by man.
    Only difference is nigger was once free.

    I object. Robot sanitizes the word. Leave the book as it is, so future generations can see just what kind of rotten people we used to be. (and still can be in some instances)

  7. stef says:

    This is too “1984”-ish for me

  8. macawm says:

    Can I donate money to the publisher to prevent this abomination from being printed? Quit destroying our literature to “satisfy” the changing times.

  9. toby says:

    Actually, I find the term “robot” offensive. I suggest an edition that refers to “Organically Challenged Pseudo-Hominid Jim.”

  10. Tzvi says:

    wait, “Fahrenheit 451″ had Robots in it? holy shit what did I miss.

  11. Alex Chuck says:

    They should replace it with the other “n-word” – nerd.

  12. JAFO says:

    I hate the fact that you used “n-word.” In the context of this story, I’m pretty sure it’s OK to say “Nigger Jim.”

    Otherwise, where do I donate!

  13. Another Josh says:

    Actually a pretty clever and apt substitution, given the other recent reprinting that used the word “slave”. When you consider the origin of the word “robot” it is an excellent parody of the other new version.

  14. Timmy says:

    Sounds fantastic! This should lead to a series or collection of books, especially those censored or banned at various times and places in the past.

    Brian: Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s dumb. Obviously they are not trying to replace all the real versions of the book. And I hope you realize that the version they reference (published by NewSouth) is not in fact a joke, but someone attempting to revise our literary past. THAT is the one you should be worried about, the one that might end up in our schools, and might be a step down Bradbury’s slippery slope that you are so worried about.

  15. Nick Ensign says:

    How long before the robotic edition has to be censored by replacing the word “robot” with the phrase “the ‘R’ word”?

  16. Nathaniel says:

    This is awesome! A perfect comedic protest to some of the world’s censorship. I, for one, am going to get me a copy.

    Timothy, I bet you could attempt to contact the two creators via their twitter accounts, which are linked above by their names. I, for one, am going to follow both of them.

  17. Gabriel Diani says:

    Brian, may we quote you on the back cover? “Dumb” has a nice look to it.

    As to the “ninja” question: As we explain in our project description in the “Why not vampires?” section, robots have a long tradition of being used in literature as metaphors for slavery/oppression/equal rights issues which is why we think they make the perfect candidate to integrate with Twain’s original text. We think ninjas, zombies, and hipsters are all great though and work on their own terms. The more competing versions of the book we have in the market, the sooner we’ll be able to erase the memory of Twain’s original non-robotic classic.

  18. coconutphone says:

    Aren’t we a little Zombied out Jeff? I know between them and vampires I’m ready for pop culture in general to move on a bit. Besides the old-timey look of the robot in this based on the illustration is just too perfect.

  19. Jeff says:

    Eh. Would be better with zombies, no?

  20. coconutphone says:

    Genius. Simple, hilarious genius. Yes I will donate.

  21. Quintus says:

    According to TV’s Andy Levy it should be “ninja”. Ninja Jim. That is way better than robot.

  22. Michael King says:

    Don’t forget the Flannery O’Connor classic, “The Artificial Robot.”

  23. DPeezy says:

    Are they also adding a binary solo?
    0000001, 00000011, 000000111, 00001111, 0000001, 00000011, 000000111, 00001111

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGoi1MSGu64

  24. LJM says:

    Brian, I’m middle-aged, myself, and I think Twain (who I love like no other) would applaud this as a comedic response to the controversy. If you don’t think it’s funny, that’s cool, but it’s certainly harmless.

    I don’t know how old you are, but if you’re over 30, you’re too old to say, “Meh.”

  25. Charles Thurston says:

    Thats awesome. more more more more.
    To Kill A Mockingbird –

    “Do all lawyers defend Robots, Atticus?”

    “Of course they do, Scout.”

    “Then why did Cecil say you defended robots? He made it sound like you were runnin’ a still.”

    Atticus sighed. “I’m simply defending a Robot– his name’s Tom
    Servo. He lives in that little settlement beyond the town
    dump. He’s a member of Calpurnia’s church, and Cal knows his
    family well. She says they’re clean-living folks. Scout,
    you aren’t old enough to understand yet, but there’s been
    to the effect that I some things shouldn’t do much about
    some high talk around town defending this Robot. It’s a peculiar
    case – it won’t come to trial until summer session. John
    Taylor was kind enough to give us a postponement…”

  26. Laura Kim says:

    Ha! That’s funny. I had just read something about author David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis doing the same-thing with the word ‘njnja’ – in the “Adventures of Huck Finn and Ninja Jim,” which I guess also comes out in March.

  27. Timothy Deel says:

    Chris,

    Do you know it would be possible to not only get a bulk order of the books, but have them NOT include the robot cover art? I’d like to donate a generous amount of these books to my local high school English department.

    …and see how long it would be until someone notices what I’ve done.

  28. Tara Maya says:

    Ok, but print runs are so 20th Century. Just make it available as a POD on Amazon. Better yet, make it an ebook.

    Tara Maya
    The Unfinished Song: Initiate

  29. Robot Laurel Virginia says:

    010011010011

  30. Chris Hardwick says:

    Yes Brian, you are too old and too serious to see the glory of this. You’re the kind of guy that would bust in to a screening of “Airplane!” and shout “Hey! Airline safety is nothing to laugh about! People can really get HURT, ya know!!!” I think if you can make a real thing while satirizing a controversial event in our shared culture, that is GOOD. And fun.

    Please get someone to hug you STAT and shake some of that grumpy crust off.

  31. Brian: I believe this is intended as a parody of the editing of the original text, not as a serious mutilation of the original. And it’s by a comedy team, so take that for what it’s worth. Sort of a cross of criticism of the edited version with the “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” meme. But they can defend/explain it themselves; I’m just reporting what they’re doing. (And nobody’s actually replacing or eliminating the original, which remains in print and readily available)

    James: I think they took care of that with the “silly or ridiculous” exception. It’s always smart to leave yourself an exit route when setting something like this up…

  32. my_leisure says:

    @nb

    Yeah it does get kind of weird. After the 2nd one if felt like I was just typing Gonorrhea….Gonorrhea…..Gonorrhea

  33. Andrea says:

    I volunteer to record the audiobook version in a robot voice. Here’s a sample of the edited version (please read along in a robot voice):

    I MADE JIM LAY DOWN IN THE CANOE AND COVER UP WITH A QUILT, BECAUSE IF HE SET UP PEOPLE COULD TELL HE WAS A ROBOT A GOOD WAYS OFF.

    [PEOPLE] ASKED US CONSIDERABLE MANY QUESTIONS; WANTED TO KNOW WHAT WE COVERED UP THE RAFT THAT WAY FOR…WAS JIM A RUNAWAY ROBOT?

    SAYS I: “GOODNESS SAKES, WOULD A RUNAWAY ROBOT RUN SOUTH?”

    NO, THEY ALLOWED HE WOULDN’T.

  34. James says:

    So if I pay the $1,000 and have my name put in, could I put the n-word as my name just so it’s still in the book somewhere?

  35. Brian says:

    Dumb.
    If originally left as a comedy skit, I would say, “Funny premise.” Well, maybe not like that, but I would say, “Meh…” and giggle initially.
    If you are serious, though, as this article implies, I’d like to point you to another book for reference, entitled “Fahrenheit 451″ by Ray Bradbury. Your idea is not far from what he described, and is actually pretty scary. Sure, they burnt all the books with his, but you are actually thinking about replacing books with edited, politically correct versions? Perhaps I am too old to see humor in this. No, wait. You’ve stepped outside humor and have gone too serious with this. Should have left it as a skit.

  36. hb says:

    ^ clap….. clap….. clap… clap… clap.clap.clap.clap.clapclapclap clapclapclapCLAPCLAPCLAPCLAPCLAPCLAPCLAP!

    I have suddenly discovered how awkward ‘clap’ is to type. But this is a wonderful idea.

  37. my_leisure says:

    I think that deserves a slow clap…

    /clap…….clap…….clap