- About Me
- Great Hugo Read
Posts Tagged Orson Scott Card
This is taking a long view of the Great Hugo Read. Then again, the whole event is based on a long view. With the last book scheduled for November 2021, talking about 2017 doesn’t feel nearly so far away.
In 1986 and 1987 a writer pulled off a previously unheard of feat. He won both the Nebula and the Hugo awards in consecutive years. The novels were Ender’s Game and its sequel Speaker for the Dead, and the author in question was Orson Scott Card. Due to the Hugo wins, these two books are the October and November, 2017 books for the Great Hugo Read. This will not change. The purpose of the Great Hugo Read is completion. Every Hugo winner, mostly in order. See what people were reading and felt worthy of the high honor.
Of course, Card has a tendency to visit the headlines every few years, largely due to his views on homosexuality and gay marriage. He has, since 2009, been a member of the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Marriage, a group built out of supporting California’s Proposition 8 and has a history that I am not going to recount on this blog. The executive summary is that he’s been continually willing to voice opinions that have made him rather unpopular.
He’s reentered the news these last two weeks as DC (the comics, not the city) has brought him on as a writer for two chapters of an upcoming series of Superman graphic novels. The result of this announcement? Boycotts of the comics, petitions to remove his involvement in the franchise, and counter donations planned for marriage equality organizations, similar to those made by some to “offset” their purchases of Chick-Fil-A sandwiches. These protests are reverberating in Hollywood, where there is now some concern whether the big budget film adaptation of Ender’s Game can expect some of these same protests.
I do not support Orson Scott Card’s views. I never have, I likely never will.
So I’ll admit no small internal conflict with his two books on the 2017 Great Hugo Read schedule. I’ve read only one Card book in the past, Wyrms, largely out of curiosity.
Readers, film viewers, theater goers, any supporters of the arts, have varying abilities to separate the artist from the art. Some can clearly and simply compartmentalize the two, some cannot. I have some entertainers I can divorce from their opinions, some I can’t. I’m not interested in providing a run down, that’s not the point. The point is, neither of these positions is more right or wrong than the other, and not wishing to support someone financially whom you stringently disagree with politically is any media consumer’s prerogative. But what is one to do when their distaste for a particular creator runs headlong into another goal?May I recommend a solution? A solution that exists not only in shopping centers across the country, but also through online retailers. A solution I, myself, intend to employ when it comes to these two books.Buy them used.Used book sales generate no royalties to the original author. Instead the sale price entirely supports a local business owner within your community. It’s a nice compromise position that readers have available, letting them read a piece of literature without providing any financial benefit to the original author. I wouldn’t typically highlight this particular element of used book stores as a feature, but in this case, perhaps it is.Now, this event isn’t so massive that I think we’ll make any kind of difference by protest buying copies used rather than new. But it does make me feel better, and I hope it makes you feel better too. If even that feels like providing too much support, then feel free to skip those months and join us again in December when we pick up David Brin’s The Uplift War.For now, I’ll look at the distance both The Forever Machine and I Am Legend stand away from the characters and the action, then in March we start in on the first of five Robert Heinlein books scheduled as part of the Read. Thank god there’s no controversy there.
I do what I can to avoid politics on this blog. Oh, not completely. Anyone could find my posts about SOPA and PIPA and see where I stood on those issues. But if I’m going off on an opinion, it’s more likely one about corn shuckers in the grocery store than anything that the Republicans or the Democrats have done. This is entirely a personal decision, one made for myself that I don’t think all writers could/should/would follow me up on. I do plenty of political opinioning in real life, it gets me riled up at times, and it’s nice to have my blog as a place for calmer discussion.
There’s also that one sticking point when it comes to political opinions. Lots of people have them, and not everyone agrees with them.
This past week has seen two very prominent writers delivery two very impassioned editorials. The first was Stephen King when he called on the government to “Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake!” and the other comes from Orson Scott Card asking “What Right Is Really At Stake?” with regard to North Carolina Amendment 1. Neither man has ever shied away from the political spotlight in the past, and these editorials are both well in line with their previous opinions on these subjects. King does not hide his liberalism, nor does Card hide his conservatism. I’m going to just state, because I think most people who know me know where I stand on these things, that I agree with Mr. King and disagree with Mr. Card. This entire post is going to be so much easier to write if I don’t pussyfoot around that.
Even though neither man has made a secret of his politics in the past, both surprised some readers and fans with there editorials. If you peruse the comments for both articles, each include several examples of “you’ve lost me as a reader.” Those six words scare the shit out of me. Certainly King and Card, both stalwarts of genre fiction, can sustain a few losses in the readership department without any major changes in their royalty checks, but I’m still trying to win people over as readers, and the thought of losing them before I even have them? That’s what keeps me away from getting too political in my posts.
But what are we as readers to do when we learn that our literary heroes don’t share our personal opinions?
It’s a tough question, and one that I’ve been churning over in my head this past day. I’m going to be honest, I’ve only read one Orson Scott Card novel. I recently found a hardback of Wyrms at a thrift store and thought I should give it a try. It was neither in the top ten or bottom ten of books I’ve read, and ultimately stands out in my memory for the rather, ahem, interesting climax the story reaches deep within the bowels of the post-industrial planet. I’ve not read the Ender series. I haven’t actively avoided it, it’s just one of those things that has never made it onto my pile. In that way it’s like The Godfather, which I’ve never seen for no reason other than I’ve never seen it.
This editorial hasn’t made me any more likely to read Ender. Perhaps it’s made me less, that’s hard to say. He hasn’t lost me as a reader, per se, but he’s made it that much harder to win me as a reader. I don’t know where I would stand if I were an existing fan of his work. I’m certain that a percentage of the readers he has “lost” with this opinion weren’t his readers to begin with, but some of them were. And it’s left them in a very difficult position, seeing a world that they potentially grew up with colored by the opinions of the author, even if those opinions may not translate to the page.
Does that mean that Card shouldn’t have said what he did? Absolutely not. Orson Scott Card is entitled to have and speak his opinions, just as Stephen King is. I doubt anyone reading this blog is going to question that fact. I’ve never understood the notion that celebrities aren’t supposed to use their celebrity to promote political opinions. Especially because what people tend to be saying is that they shouldn’t use their celebrity to promotion political opinions I disagree with. However that freedom of speech goes every which way, and I’m just as much in my right to be less interested in picking up his books, and someone else is well within their rights to put them down entirely. To stop reading the Ender series because they believe that firmly in marital rights. To stop reading the Dark Tower because they believe that firmly in tax reduction. There are also liberals out there who will go right on reading Card and conservatives who have no problem picking up King. It is neither a failure of character to walk away from these writers because of what they said, nor a failure of conviction to stay with them in spite of what they said.
This is a hard post for me to write, because I do feel like it exposes a part of me I’m not entirely comfortable with. It’s the part of me that doesn’t talk about politics because I know I’m the kind of person who might put an author down if I learned his politics varied too greatly from my own. It also forces me to look straight in the face of the part of me who disagrees categorically and completely with just about every word of Orson Scott Card’s editorial, and yet sees a certain bravery in it. Perhaps more so considering the general trend towards liberalism within genre writers. Or is that only my personal perception based on who I follow on Twitter and G+? A man who makes his living on selling himself to others through his fiction and who believes thoroughly enough in his convictions to use his significant megaphone even when he knows they’ll make him unpopular to many. It doesn’t change my opinion on his position, change my likelihood of reading him, but it is an odd moment of clarity. Which is uncomfortable and makes me twitchy, but there it is nonetheless.
Writers aren’t heroes. They’re people. They will, at times, disagree with us or even disappoint us in their opinions. Perhaps to a point that those words of theirs we read before are forever changed in our minds. This is the risk that always comes when people put themselves out there, and one of those odd bits of collateral about deciding to write. One of those things we might not all think of when we’re putting word to paper. I still stand largely where I did before on expressing my own political opinions, you’ll see them few and far between. But there is an argument for letting the chips fall where they may. No writer should ever be forced to be what they aren’t to attract or keep readers. As long as they remember they are not entitled to readers, either.