Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Orson Scott Card and the Man of Steel

So this: Book News: Anger Over 'Superman' Author Who Condemns Homosexuality

I think I've written in the past about my distaste for Orson Scott Card's personal beliefs and how my knowledge of them kept me from reading his most famous book, Ender's Game, for quite some time.  Since then, I have read (and enjoyed) Ender's Game, as well as his Pathfinder series of books (Pathfinder and Ruins).

Should I be ashamed, as a gay man, a human being, a YA writer, of not boycotting Card's work?

That's a complicated question to which I don't have a concrete answer.

First, the issue at hand:  should DC have hired Card to write Superman?   Probably not.  Superman especially, is an icon, a symbol of the best of us, and hiring someone who is not shy about sharing his anti-homosexual beliefs is going to detract from the actual writing.  It may not even matter if Card pens the most brilliant Superman in the history of the comic; his personal beliefs will overshadow his work.

That said, DC cares about talent, and there's no denying that Card is a talented writer.  A writer's personal life is his personal life, and so long as he doesn't push his agenda through his writing, it probably shouldn't matter what his personal beliefs are.

Which leads me to the gray area here.  Card's books.  For the longest time, I felt incapable of separating the man from the work.  I thought his books would be thinly veiled anti-gay propaganda.  They were not.  Pathfinder and Ruins were both well-written, insightful, and interesting explorations of young adulthood and time travel.  Sexuality was never even brought up or considered.

Had Card used his books as a soapbox for his personal beliefs, I would have returned them to the bookstore and never purchased another.  Still, part of me feels like I'm doing something wrong by supporting him, by giving him my money, knowing that he does support efforts to keep gays and lesbians from having the right to marry.

I personally believe that guns have no place in a civilized society, but I don't write about it in my books.  Should pro-gun advocates boycott my books?  I gave money to Hilary Clinton's campaign.  Should conservatives boycott my books?

Maybe.  Maybe they do.  Should they?  I don't know.

Personally, I don't know where I stand on this issue.  Card could write a brilliant Superman.  I just don't know.  I don't know that people are wrong for wanting DC to reverse their decision.  I do know that the best way to send a message is to vote with your wallet.  If you don't like the things a company does, don't give them your money.

I don't eat at Chick-fil-a anymore, and I don't shop at Lowes.  If people are this against Card writing for DC, then maybe they should not buy the comic.  If sales slump, I doubt he'd be asked to write again.

I'm just not sure a person's personal beliefs should be held against their work unless they translate into the work itself.  The way Chick-fil-a uses consumer dollars to fun anti-gay causes.

What do you think?


  1. It's a tough one, isn't it. Personally, I am very conscious to keep my personal/political/religious beliefs separate from my "business" for this very reason. You won't find any of those things discussed on my websites, etc because my public persona is in some cases different from my private one. And I don't think one has anything to do with the other. I don't use my books to push my personal beliefs and I don't discuss my beliefs specifically because I don't want someone to buy or not buy my work based on that. Read them because you love my work or don't read them because you don't. But I wouldn't want how I feel on any given subject outside of my books to factor into it.

    I'm a romance writer (something which, depending on the heat level of my books and the marital status of my characters) might get me a few raised eyebrows (or worse) when I walk into church :)and honestly, that bothers me. I don't think the fact that my characters are getting hot and heavy makes me any less good of a Christian (others disagree) :)

    I understand why people would want to boycott people who believe differently than they do. They might (probably correctly) assume that any money that goes into his pocket from their purchase of his books might be used to further something they don't believe in.

    Then again, like you said, if he's not using his books as a way to push his beliefs on others, should he be punished for his personal beliefs? To be honest, I don't want people to punish me by not buying my books because I don't believe the same way they do. Which is why I generally keep my personal beliefs out of my public arena. :)

    And on the other hand, I can understand why people think it doesn't matter if his personal beliefs translate into his work since he's made his positions (outside of his work) clear. It's....a tough one :)

    1. I think this is interesting because you show the flip side. You write about things that people in your real life might judge you for. Do you think that people in your church would think less of you if they read your books? Do you think it's possible for a writer to write about things which go against their own moral beliefs?

      Because if you, as a Christian, can possibly write about things that might not be strictly moral (infidelity and such) without compromising your own personal morality, isn't it possible then for someone who is homophobic to write books that don't support his views?

  2. I remember reading some of Card's comments and being floored. See, I hadn't known his personal beliefs before reading ENDER. If I had, I'm not sure I would have opened the book. But like you say, does this matter? Stay with me...

    I just finished watching the movie FLIGHT and it rings true here. If you haven't seen it, do so. The title of the movie is more about the alcoholic's modus operandi, as in flight from any responsibility for being an alcoholic. It's a shocking portrait of the addict's battle, and those who serve as casualties on the periphery of the internal war that rarely stays internally contained (I don't know one alcoholic/addict who hasn't hurt others, even more than themselves, while fighting that internal battle). Although I myself am not an addict, I was a cigarette smoker for 20 years so I can sympathize with the struggle (haven't had a smoke since my son was born over 2 years ago). To get back on track, if you watch this movie you'll see that the alcoholic pilot MC was drunk when his plane crashed, but due to his heroic efforts and skill(despite being heavily drunk) he is praised as a hero. His old standby line whenever he feels to blame for the 6 lives lost is to say, "No one else could have landed that plane and saved the rest of the passengers the way I did" and he seems right. But that's the question: do we overlook his alcoholism and his horrible actions to fly drunk (that flight and many others) because his skill warrants it? Or do we damn him even more for getting in that plane (and many planes) drunk, regardless of his skill? And this is how it's a bit like Card. Do we ignore Card's awfully ignorant and stabbing views despite his skill (I can almost hear him saying, "No one else could have written Ender's journey like I had"), or do we damn him even more for having the views, and more importantly, WRITING about them. Not in his fiction, mind you, but he has written of his polarizing views.

    I don't know. I guess it's an individual question each of us has to ask ourselves. For me, I simply cannot read his work. And as a teacher, ENDER'S GAME is tucked away in the back of the book room for me. I don't seem myself bringing them out to share with students in the future (I had in the past). I'll let my students ask themselves that individual question in the future, and let them supply their own answer.

    1. I actually think you handle this well. Because, for me personally, I can make that decision. I can make the decision to separate the man's work from his beliefs. However, you as a teacher, made the decision to also give your students that choice. Instead of either pushing the book on them or refusing to let them read it, you've given them the ability to make the decision based on what their own moral compass tells them is right.

      That's also an interesting point about the movie FLIGHT. The only thing I'd point out is that Card is (to my knowledge) not using his books to push his anti-gay agenda. That's what makes it so difficult for me. If Ender's Game or his Pathfinder series had even the faintest whiff of anti-gay sentiment, I'd have tossed them and not looked back. But they don't. And if Card can write an entertaining book and keep his views to himself, why should we punish him for that?

  3. I love that you can post this post, and admit that you don't know for sure how you feel about this. Personally, I try to avoid a book if I know for certain it's author is a douchebag, but I'm sure I would skip that for an awesome book.

    Maybe the compromise can be - don't pay for his books. Borrow them from the library.

    1. As much fun as it is to take a hard core stance in order to rile people up, this is a strange issue. It would be a lot easier if Card kept his mouth shut about his personal anti-gay beliefs, but he didn't, so I can't ignore them.

      Part of me wonders if, by supporting him, I'm contributing to a person who hates me and the way I live. It makes me feel like some kind of apologist for the man. But it's not the man I like, it's his books. And not even all his books, just the couple that I've read. I could never read another one of his books and be just fine.

      This isn't an easy issue because every author you admire has beliefs you may disagree with. Some might be silly, others inconsequential. I'm sure hard core vegans would be appalled to know that I love eating meat. It's delicious. Some of the money I make from my books goes toward the purchase of food, some of which is inevitably meat. Despite that fact, I'm sure there are some vegans who support my books. Are they traitors to the vegan cause?

    2. In addition, I haven't read Ender's Game in two decades, but someone on Facebook mentioned the buggers (the alien race from the book) and questioned whether they might have been meant to represent homosexuality. I think that's a stretch (if my memory serves), but who knows?

    3. There was a move back in the 90s called Powder. It was some weird thing about this Albino who attracted electricity and lightning. As I was on my way to see it, my mom told me that the director had been convicted of molesting a 12-year-old kid. He'd served time and moved on. I was young back then and didn't think much of it. However, as I watched the movie, I noticed things that I thought were odd. My perception of the movie had been colored by what my mom told me. Obviously, there was nothing untoward in the unremarkable movie, but I found myself finding things anyway.

      I think it's possible to take someone's work and apply their personal history and view to it retroactively and find what you expect to find. If people are looking to find anti-homosexual stuff in his work, they'll find it whether it's there or not. That's just how we are. We create an argument and THEN look for evidence to support it.

      Did OSC know of the British slang "bugger" when he wrote Ender's Game? Who knows. I find it equally as funny as the US/UK versions of the word "fanny." They mean totally different things.

      Again, I'm not sure how I feel about this issue. It would be more difficult for me if I thought his works were staggering genius that the world couldn't survive without. We put up with HP Lovecraft's horrible racism and anti-semitism because his works are genius. OSC...not as much. But what I like is that we can have this discussion. That people are passionate about this and talking about it. The fact that we can do that proves just how far we've come.


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