Or How I Learned to Start Worrying about Writers
Over the past few months it’s become more and more prevalent that author’s moral beliefs, frankly terrible views on women and awful acts in public, have started really plaguing me and making me think long and hard about how much emphasis we should place on an author’s personal life when we think about their work.
The first story is this one, which has obviously been the topic of conversation for the past few weeks due to the release of Ender’s Game. Orson Scott Card, a science fiction writer (and a very well admired author for fans) is a huge supporter of anti-gay marriage and is an enormous homophobe. Do those beliefs make their way into his books? I haven’t read them, so I don’t know, but it does make me worry about picking up a copy. Would I be able to read one without thinking, ‘Is this bit meant to be homophobic?’ or ‘What’s the homophobic subtext here?’, the same way I can’t help but see massive racism in all of Lovecraft’s work (although sometimes that might be more heavily signposted than others).
The creators of the film have gone out of their way to say that, yes his opinions are vile and no, the film does not promote them. They also discuss that Card has already made his money from the film and will likely not receive any more. But with books? He’ll earn money from that. Money which he might give to organisations who support his frankly stupid beliefs. So what’s the solution? Charity shops, used copies seem to be the easiest thing to do if you want to have a clean bill of health, morally speaking.
But it does make me wonder, should we be worrying about all this when it comes to fiction? Or should we just be concentrating on the quality of the books themselves?
The second story is perhaps worse. At least with Orson Scott Card, I hadn’t read any of his stuff and could make the choice to just not bother with it, if I wanted to. Here, the writer in question (and since the article doesn’t mention them, I won’t either) is one who I have admired and been reading for a long time. The question is, should this story about them (which may or may not be an isolated incident) cloud my opinion of their work? In this case, it’s even harder than talking about Scott Card, because with Card there is a clear disconnect it seems between the writing he does, and the opinions he has. The writer in this second story makes a point of talking about how he is a feminist, and works with a lot of female creators. It makes me shudder to think that those creators might have had to go through what the author of the linked article went through.
There’s a clear way to show you don’t like this sort of stuff: boycott the comic. But the guy is a talented writer. Even thinking about it in those terms (he’s an absolute twat, but I like his writing) makes me feel guilty. So should I just drop all of the titles he works on, hope that a big enough number of people do that and that he stops writing, or do I just try and put the two things in separate contexts. 1) He is a good writer, so I should read the stuff he writes, because I enjoy it. 2) He is a terrible person, and I don’t agree at all with what he does at conventions.
How do you find it when you discover things like this about authors you admire? What do you do about it? Let me know in the comments.