The problem with Orson Scott Card

Being a bit of an online hermit, this piece of Orson Scott Card’s mind has slipped my eyes for seven years. I am surprised, because in his science-fiction sagas, which I still have to recommend to any science-fiction reader out there, he always came along as a subtle and tolerant, if religious, author.

This essay is apparently part of a series of many others in which he attacks gay marriage for the following reasons, in order of appearance (click on More… to read selected paragraphs)

Orson Scott Card and his Ender's Game

Everything he says and stands for sounds so horribly intolerant, unresearched and stupid that my first instinct was to look for the punchline. It manages to rave against homosexuals, divorced parents and single-parent homes while offending the intelligence of children and trying to manipulate it for his own beliefs, insulting all the people who decide not to reproduce and attacking public education. It is amazingly close-minded and bitter, but indeed this author that advocates for intergalactic tolerance of extremely weird species wrote it, and he takes himself pretty seriously because he has repeated the same discourse over and over again.

I feel a little cheated. It is one thing to read In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust and think that his narrator, protagonist and stand-in character is very self-centered, and then discover that he spent years in bed just because – I wasn’t very surprised. But Orson? You have just broken my literary heart. I don’t think that I will ever buy any other book by you, and I really wanted to read the Alvin Maker series, only because I would be afraid that you would use the income to somehow support those groups that call themselves pro-Family but are really anti-gay and anti-abortion and anti-individual-freedom in general (unless that individual happens to believe in gun possession and the marriage of Church and State). Sigh.

This core belief of mine has a big and bothering loophole.

That is the risk of researching the authors that you like. I was much happier, and less judgemental, when I was a child and I believed that books magically produced themselves and that the author’s name was really just an accessory (which makes sense, because I was a die-hard fan of Goosebumps and the Sweet Valley Twins at that time). Now, as an adult, I find it difficult to divorce the person that wrote the book from the message that he or she is trying to get across, and these messages are usually very easy to detect and discard or think about, depending on my personal beliefs. A good example would be Barbara Kingsolver, who deserves a whole series of articles for herself, or Stephenie Meyer, who is also a very obvious writer.

But Orson deceived me completely. Maybe I was blind with love. This article sums up the core of my problem with the author previously known as my favorite.

What do you do when you find out unpleasant facts about authors that you adore? Does it change your perception of their work, or does your love for their books stay the same?

17 Responses

  1. Holy crap…just read through the entire article. It just got creepier and creepier. Fortunately I am not a huge fan of his, but I’m not sure what I would do if I found out a favorite author was a crazy/intolerant person. I tend not to research my authors, partially for this reason, and partially because I dislike having to get a lot of things out of my books besides entertainment. If an author has an agenda, I’d like to just glaze over it.

    • You are very lucky, and probably right to not research your authors… although now with Google it is almost impossible. :)

      I really don’t want to shun him, because he writes really well and his plots are very, very good… but then again, would it be moral and intelligent to ignore a good writer because he expresses views that are completely opposed to mine? Wouldn’t that be also intolerant and close-minded? On the other hand, he is attacking all the views that are different than his, and the right to decide how you want to lead your life and raise a family, so do I really want to be involved through a monetary transaction with this person? The relationship author-reader is a very personal one. I am conflicted.

      • Normally I’d agree with not judging a good author, but his post was huge…like this was something he’d been stewing on for awhile. Which gives me a moment of pause.

        If an author has a set of private beliefs that they hold dear, good for him/her. But in this case he’s being public and it sounds like he’d very likely campaign for such things. That starts to take it on another level that gets me uncomfortable, because then yeah you could make an argument that he’d use funds for supporting intolerant causes.

  2. […] Do you remember this post, where I expressed my horror at discovering that Orson Scott Card is a raging homophobe? […]

  3. Thanks for this post. Discovering Mr Card’s views today put me in a bit of a quandary. I am working through some of the classics of SF, the Ender’s Saga by all accounts being right up there, but learning of this has inclined me to throw his books in the bin. It’s not just that the views expressed are revolting, but also that the reasoning with which they’re expressed is so bone-headed, which makes me wonder if his books can possibly be worth reading at all. Looking at the reviews on Amazon I discover that the Ender’s saga might be considered for older children and young adults, adding to my doubts – at 40 would they be worth the bother? I’m also more inclined now to give credence to the bad reviews, thought they’re in a minority.

    In short they would have to be as special as it gets for me to want read them at this point. I can enjoy Wagner despite his anti-semitism, but there are differences (one of which perhaps is the fact Card is active).

    • I’ll have to check out Spin and Never Let Me Go; the others are some of my fvearitos as well. The richest Scifi novel I’ve ever read, however, is Hyperion by Dan Simmons. It’s not exactly light reading, and alludes to everything from Canterbury Tales to The Wizard of Oz, but the story and writing are magnificent.CJ: Hi Jamie, Hyperion is great and you’re right, very rich; I love Dan Simmons Ilium is another great read. Hope you enjoy Spin and Never Let Me Go if you can find them Spin is one of the best SF books I’ve read in years, and Never Let Me Go is a beautiful crossover.

  4. What’s wrong with Barbara Kingsolver?!

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  9. Maybe he should read his own books? Many authors are living contradictions.

  10. BTW I still eat at Chik-filet even though their policies are idiotic. Why? They make good chicken. Far be it for me to determine what nazi group they send their money to. Card is a very good writer and I will continue to read him despite his best efforts to make me not want to. Take the message for what it’s worth and discard the idiocy of his personal politics.

    • Aaah, I’m betting that you read this article at Cracked too :)

      Personally, US chicken scares the crap out of me. But I can see your point. If Orson Scott Card was a bad writer, this whole article would be absolutely pointless. One truly atrocious writer that managed to create his own religion was Hubbard, and look what his philosophy did to perfectly normal Hollywood actors.

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  13. It is difficult to stand for something without being called intolerant, because standing for something is by nature exclusive. So what do we expect, for all people to agree with us? Just know going into any book that you are going to come across philosophies you embrace and some you don’t. But please quit calling other people names because they have differing beliefs. When you do, please know that you are probably being manipulated by those who orchestrate other’s thinking into acting mindlessly out of pure emotion so you, too, can push a particular bias. The vast majority of thinking, intentional people are intolerant of something. This is a given. However, does this make us all phobics of something, too? Orson Scott Card has produced some of the greatest works in science fiction. Do I agree with everything he believes in? No, not even close on some issues. Should he be afraid of me and bully others into being afraid of me, too? I hope not!

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