Monday, August 31, 2015

The Authorship Problem

Orson Scott Card is a man I have learned both to revere and despise in equal measure. This topic has come to mind in the wake of the dismal events of the Hugo Awards a few weeks ago, monopolized by equally grotesque people whose personal agendas reflect some barbaric dystopia-that-never-was. Science fiction has been a platform for progressive, liberal, tolerance in the United States since as early as the 40s. The greatest works of sci-fi were pioneered by figures like Asimov and Bradbury. Though Ray may have turned his back on his early, more liberal roots, as expressed in his short stories and his humanity-damning Martian Chronicles.

The question, then, is whether or not an artist's work stands out as its own object, separately from the artist. This is related to the question of Lovecraft that recently plagued the internet, which I will restate here, in this format: Is it ok to enjoy the fruit of an admittedly racist author which is, itself, in some places racist? The answer I've always had to this question is a qualified yes. Obviously the work must be recognized as containing racist elements. The same goes for ANY complicated work produced outside of the reader's "home" culture. Ovid and his Greek predecessors think nothing of rape, for example. Does this mean we throw away Ovid and the Greeks? No.

This corollary to the much-debated Lovecraft Question has the possibility of an interesting twist. On the one hand, it seems simpler to answer a fortiori. If it's ok to enjoy (racist) Lovecraft's (racist) stories, surely it must be ok to enjoy (homophobic) Orson Scott Card's (non-homophobic) stories. But that belies an essential difference between Orson Scott Card and H.P. Lovecraft: Orson Scott Card is still alive.

He is one of the great's in science fiction. Few would dispute that. Yet, he is also a vile human being possessed of vomitous agendas and idiotic religious convictions.

The reason his being alive makes a difference is this: in a direct way, purchasing things written by Orson Scott Card rewards him. Because I despise him, in no way would I want to reward him. Regardless of the art he has created, I personally find him repugnant. Surely, some people will be fine with his personal views, and that is their right. But I will not spend a scent in support of such a man.

What does that mean? Does it mean I am more than willing to rob certain authors of their livelihood based on personally held beliefs? It may. I yearn for good artwork, but I yearn for good people more. I love Orson Scott Card's stories. I would never want them censored, removed, or destroyed. Yet, in my loathing for the man behind the pen, I simply do not wish to enable him to write any further, nor do will I make any effort to ease his place in life.

Perhaps that makes me a dick. But such is life.


  1. I'll just point out that while I've never particularly cared for OSC I am very certain that his views on homosexuality are tailored by childhood abuse and pedophilia, and I'll be he was a victim. That can have a profound impact on a person for the rest of their life, and they never really recover. It's a shame he expresses himself as he does (although I should note that he seems to have changed some of his opinions recently) but when I see Orson I see a victim.

    Note that my view is based not on some knowledge I have of his life, but on others I am close to who did experience childhood sexual abuse. Orson Scott Card's lived a life of denial and pain, I am sure of it.

    1. That is something I was not aware of. I can imagine that has informed a lot of his current vitriol.

    2. I can still relate to disliking an author, though. I went through a long anti-L. Ron Hubbard phase (still sort of am) as all of his works were basically Scientology propaganda.

    3. The problem with L. Ron Hubbard is that even if you ignore all of his awful Scientologist moneygrubbing and the vast evil church he built, his writing is still TERRIBLE.