Fri
Aug 14 2009 4:26pm

Outrage and Art

How much does an artist’s personality or views affect your appreciation of their work? I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately. If your favorite author’s view of life runs contrary to your own, do you stop buying? Stop reading?

Paul Di Filippo’s defense of the Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF angered readers, some of whom said they would not buy the anthology or read him again. John C. Wright’s recently posted views on homosexuality shocked and angered me (I think my exact words were that I wanted to scream and puke at the same time). A few people in the thread also said they wouldn’t buy his books anymore. I’m moderately fond of Di Filippo and have never read Wright. But I couldn’t help but wonder how I’d feel if I found out that one of my favorite authors—Ray Bradbury, let’s say—was really a bigot. Would I ignore it and keep on reading? Or would I feel betrayed and never read another word?

Even the most revered people can hold views others find abhorrent or at least bizarre. Undeniable accomplishments on the one hand, nasty business on the other. Charles Lindberg was a heroic pilot and an anti-Semite. Helen Keller, the most famous disabled person in American history, supported eugenics. Edison publicly electrocuted animals to defame his rival Tesla. Tesla wanted to build a death ray and believed his mother had been reborn as a pigeon. The list goes on and on. (And let’s not even get into Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.)

It’s natural, I think, that authors (science fiction authors especially) would hold strong opinions and be vocal about them. These are people for whom speculation is a major factor in their career, after all. And diversity of view is essential for ongoing discourse; without dissenting opinion, the genre could cease to develop. So authors will go on saying things that piss me off and I’ll go on being pissed off at them. But when, if at all, should you draw the line and say, “I’m never giving you another cent, you horrible [insert ideological, religious or political explicative here]!”

In supporting the art, while disapproving of the artist, do you become a tacit supporter of the views you oppose? If you choose to disregard the art because of the views or personality of the artist, is this a disservice to the art?

I’d like to say I have easy answers to these questions, and that my behavior is consistent, but that would be a lie. I enjoy H.P. Lovecraft though I know full well he was a racist. Though I acknowledge that G.K. Chesterton was a very clever writer, I have yet to read any of his mysteries because his comments on Buddhism offend me. I don’t think Orson Scott Card has ever made a political statement I agreed with, yet it doesn’t stop me from frequently recommending Ender’s Game.  Margaret Atwood’s statement about “talking squids in outer space” soured me on her. Stanislaw Lem has also said unkind things about SF, but I have read plenty of his books. I remember pirating (shh!) some Ike & Tina Turner songs because I didn’t want to pay for something that would give money to a wife-beating coward. But that’s pretty hypocritical of me, and only sidestepping the issue. And yet, “A Fool In Love” is a great song. Should I stay away from it since I think Ike was a crap human being?

Assuming you are not all as hypocritical and fickle as I am, how do you deal with this issue? 


When Jason Henninger isn’t reading, writing, juggling, cooking or raising evil genii, he works for Living Buddhism magazine in Santa Monica, CA

172 comments
Kate Nepveu
1. katenepveu
I don't read books by current-day people who I know have said or done hurtful and hateful things because I couldn't be fair to the book: I'd keep looking for traces of the behavior in the text, and that's no way to read for pleasure.

For non-current-day people, it depends on how intrusive the attitudes are into the text. There's a certain amount of setting-aside I can do there, but not a whole lot.

Again, this is about me and my reactions as a reader.
K Tempest Bradford
2. ktempest
This is a highly individual thing, in my view. Certainly artists may hold views I find abhorrent yet still make good art. Though I tend to think that people who truly do hold such nastiness within them must leak it into what they create. That can't be good.

When I encounter artists who hold what I find to be truly abhorrent views, I don't partake of their art, anymore. I don't wish to support them or, if they're long gone, I don't wish to give any honor to their memory. I don't wish to separate an artist from their art if I can help it. But I wouldn't say that people who feel differently are wrong for their personal choices.
james loyd
3. gaijin
Harlan Ellison has probably insulted or offended more people than Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged. If ANYBODY still reads Ellison (and who doesn't?) I think quality writing will maintain an audience regardless of how you may feel about an author.

I strongly agree with Orson Scott Card's politics, but not his religion. So what? Do I think Mormons are bad people? Of course not, I simply have other views which I maintain as I read Card's brilliantly written works with sometimes strong Mormon influences.
Ken Neth
4. neth
When it comes to people who are dead and gone and from bygone eras, I really don't pay attention as long as it doesn't intrude into the books too much.

With modern-time writers, it all depends on publicity. If an author is very public with beliefs that I strongly disagree with (such as OSC, Wright, Goodkind, and a few others), then I choose not to buy their books and support them and their beliefs with my money (my most powerful vote). I'll also not recommend their books and I have no problem being public with my thoughts on the matter.

If an has beliefs that I strongly disagree with but is quite and low-key about them (and they don't taint their fiction overly much), then I have no problem with buying their books.
Bill Mermaniac
5. Bill Mermaniac
Card is the problem, for me. I LOVED Ender's Game and Seventh Son when I was younger, and I read many, many, many of his other works. I had the Folk of the Fringe hardcover, I had some of the 1970s Analog issues with his stories. Maps in a Mirror is a brilliant collection.

All of which just made it so much more difficult to fathom his anti-gay beliefs when I was finally confronted with them in an interview.

It was about this time when he started to go back to the Enderverse. I tried to read some of the books, but I had to just put them aside.

To this day, I'm afraid that I can't recommend Ender's Game to young people, despite the fact that I think that it's probably perfect for most tween kids.
TW Grace
6. TWGrace
You say:

"Tesla wanted to build a death ray"

Like that is a bad thing...
[da ve]
7. slickhop
Whoa, just read the John C. Wright post. No longer reading or recommending him. I can't even engage with that sort of rhetoric, he's too far gone.
Paul Howard
8. DrakBibliophile
Two comments.

First, I take the position that the only time I care about an author's views is when he/she inflicts them on me in the books. From the descriptions of Tepper's works, I know that I'll throw her books across the room.

Second, what worries me is the extreme hatred I sometimes hear about authors holding views that the readers dislike. I have no problem with people not buy an author's book, but I worry that some of these people would support banning an author's work. Of course, nobody here has stated anything about banning books, but I sometimes wonder how far things can go.
Dan Sparks
9. RedHanded
I think it's a form of an ad hominem. Just because an author has views that are screwed up to me or you or whoever doesn't necessarily mean that what they write is all crap or doesn't have some truth or something worth reading. Then again it does mean that you DO NOT have to agree with their views or even care what they say outside of whatever art they create that you enjoy.

Think about actors/actresses and how they spout crap all the time about politics or religion or anything. Just because I think Tom Cruise is a D bag doesn't mean I am going to turn off Mission Impossible III if it comes on TV and I have shit else to do, in fact I will probably watch it. (a fan of Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Just because the person saying something is mostly an idiot or speaks in generalizations or eats babies or what have you doesn't mean that their art/work/or all that they say is wrong or a load of crap. I think you have to judge everyone and everything said based off of reality and truth and not by WHO says it/writes it/paints it or whatever.

Then again I think it would be disappointing to meet an author whose work you have a lot of respect for and then find out they are your arch-nemesis in all/most of their views. Doesn't mean I would stop reading them but it would definitely make me look twice at the messages that their work sends to people.

Kurt Vonnegut definitely had many views I strongly disagree with, but I still get a kick out of reading Slapstick.
Angela Korra'ti
10. annathepiper
As I think is the case with all of us, I've admired my share of artistic output from persons with whose views I do not agree. What I do about it really rather depends on what my point of contention with the person in question is and how they go about presenting it to the world. If he or she is reasonably sane about it and trying not to be an asshole, I'll probably go ahead and continue to partake of that person's work.

If on the other hand the person is espousing beliefs I find abhorrent and is being actively assholish about it, I will quite cheerfully abandon their work. I would not support banning them--that's not appropriate for anybody, even people I personally abhor. But I will not read them (or otherwise partake of their work), and if asked, I will not hesitate to explain why.
Kate Nepveu
11. katenepveu
John C. Wright has recently deleted his post.

In the interests of context, there is a screencap and, for a brief time, Google cache.
Stefan Raets
12. Stefan
Well, everyone is entitled to express their opinions, whether they're authors, readers or publishers. I consider "voting with my pocketbook" a very valid way to express my opinion about authors who use terms like "sexual deformity" when referring to gay or lesbian people. Therefore, I will never spend a dime on books by John C. Wright anymore - and from what I saw on his blog before he blocked comments to that specific post, is that many people feel the same way.

(By the way, this is nothing new for Mr. Wright -- even if yesterday's post was deleted, you can still check the "UPDATE" at the end of this post for an example of his opinions.)
Bill Siegel
13. ubxs113
I have friends and family that I vehemently disagree with too, doesn't stop me from caring about them.
Paul Howard
14. DrakBibliophile
That's all Mr. Wright said? Sorry but I've heard worse said about Repubicans, Christians and Conservatives.
Mitch Wagner
15. MitchWagner
I used to love Orson Scott Card, but now I find his work unreadable because of his hateful and evil views about homosexuality. This is not a conscious decision on my part, but an aesthetic one.

If the person sitting across the table from me found a roach in their salad, I wouldn't be able to finish my dinner, even if I inspected my salad thoroughly and found no roach in it.

Bit of a digression, but since we've mentioned Card: I recently discovered that someone I met recently and liked a lot is a Mormon. He's keeping it a secret because of the LDS Church's hateful and evil views about same-sex marriage. I think that's a shame, if for no other reason that finding out this person is a Mormon reminded me that, while I have problems with the LDS, I actually like Mormons a lot. I have, on the whole, found them to be cheerful, hard-working, honest, friendly, polite, and decent. Doesn't make the Church's stand on same-sex marriage any less wrong, but it's it's important to remembers that there's a complicated relationship between, on the one hand, an organization like a church or a nation, and, on the other hand, its members,
Judith S. Anderson
16. jskanderson
This question has troubled me for many years in terms of Wagner, the composer. How does one judge? Blindly and in terms only of the specific piece of music or keeping in mind that he was anti-semetic and ruined Mendelsohn's career because he converted from Jewish to Catholic? None of Wagner's works were allowed to be played in Israel for years, and then they were. I never did find out why the change, but when the Ride of the Valkyries comes on, at least I can listen to it, and not change the station (and can sing "kill the wabbit"), but still I feel guilty liking it. In terms of authors, I won't buy any Orson Scott Card books anymore because of his attitude implicitly stated in one of the Bean books regarding the embryos, and also the religious attitude in the book about the people who go back in time to convert the native peoples of the Americas to worship one god. So, while banning books is too extreme, boycotting is ok to me. Why spend money to support someone who thinks your life or lifestyle is not worthy of living? If people think you should be in prison because of how you are, why give them your hard-earned money?
Bill Mermaniac
17. Mdekk
I just find it ironic how there are people out there who can say truly vile things about the person who holds a view, when all that person is doing is expression an opinion about someone elses view.

I think it totally undermines the homosexual cause when they say things even worse than what Wright said.

By their own definition and admonition they're just as bigoted and hateful than he is, but for SOME REASON, when they do it, it's justified?

And if smart intellectual people can write some good stories that are so interesting, wouldn't it be worth understanding why they hold the views they do and not just assume they are bat shit crazy? Lots of reasons to hold a specific view that doesn't worship at the altar of homosexual sacrosanctity.
Dave Thompson
18. DKT
It depends, really.

Never is an awfully long time to not consider someone else's stories and perspective. And I don't feel like I have to agree with a writer's ideology to enjoy and/or appreciate the story. And it's something I dig about writing and art in general - the chance to see other's perspectives.

I haven't read Di Fillipo before, but I've been curious about his Steampunk trilogy. I still am, even though I find his recent comments...odd. I don't agree with OSC's viewpoints, but if he ever writes another great novel, then I imagine I'll at least give it a shot.

That said, some of those JCW posts are quite terrifying and I'd be hard-pressed to seek out anything he's written. Not for the time being, at least.
Kate Nepveu
20. katenepveu
Mdekk @ #17, you are assuming that no person criticizing John C. Wright's views has attempted to understand them. You are wrong.

You also assume that opinions cannot themselves be harmful. You are wrong about that too.
Craig Gidney
21. CraigGidney
I can and do enjoy books written by people whose beliefs don't mirror mine. But, there is a limit. There's a difference between saying, "My religious beliefs don't permit me to support homosexuality" to snide vilification and demonization.

Finally, sexual orientation is recognized as a *trait* like blue eyes, left-handedness, skin color by many people, and professional organizations (APA, AMA, others) recognize this. Not to mention the tons of studies done. To go on a tear like he did and not acknowledge that, is, at the very least, intellectually dishonest.
Paul Howard
22. DrakBibliophile
So Katenepveu, shall we ban opinions that you think are harmful? Can we also ban opinions that I think are harmful?

Quite frankly, while opinions might be harmful it is action that actually causes harm that is the problem. I find modern Liberals quite scary because their opinions often imply that their opposition should be purged from society.

It is one thing to talk about not reading an author who hold position me or you dislike. It is quite another thing when opinions are lightly considered 'harmful'. After all, if an opinion is harmful, then why shouldn't we permanently deal with the holders of that opinion?
Bill Mermaniac
23. cyborgsuzy
I choose/un-choose my reading materials for many different reasons that aren't necessarily fair, consistent, or related to the quality of the work itself. Time, availability, cost, cover art etc.

I'm busy and lazy sort on patience for racists/bigots. And I have a long reading list. Why should I waste my energy on works by authors who loudly and arrogantly broadcast especially bigoted views when there's plenty of books by authors who don't?

Never heard of Wright before his little rant was flung around the internet, but now I'm going to actively avoid his work. I just don't need him or the added stress of trying to enjoy a book when I have doubts in the back of my mind.
Kate Nepveu
24. katenepveu
DrakBibliophile @ #22, you are arguing against positions I have not taken and in a way that indicates to me that you are not actually interested in engaging in a conversation with me. I therefore decline to respond to you.
Bill Mermaniac
25. Rencheple
By the time that Jason's post showed up on my Google Reader page, the Wright blog entry had been removed. I couldn't find any mirrors, but I could find a bit of commentary on it - mostly from folks virulently opposed to his views. Being a conservative Christian myself, I subscribe to a purely Biblical view towards homosexuality. I know that many don't though, and I find that a difference of opinion in this area very rarely affects the quality of relationship I have with any person, straight or not. (I'd have to be free of sin to hold sin against others, and the One guy that was, didn't, so...)

That applies as much to my reading as well. I don't really give much thought to the author's views being different than mine *unless* they make a big deal out of it in their books. As an example, I used to love Jennifer Roberson, and grew up reading her "Sword" books. I really identified with Tiger and Del, and she told a great story. One of the more recent books had a lesbian pirate captain, though, who ended up not being just a character, but an issue-character. It wasn't just that her lesbianism was a primary part of her, but that her character depended on my agreeing with her views on homosexuality. I got about half-way through the book and took a break to read the afterword where Roberson outlined (if I am recalling correctly) her personal beliefs and her reasons for putting it into the book. I didn’t think any less of her for doing so, but nevertheless, I found that her interjecting the issue so prominently really soured me on the idea of continuing the story.

In the end, I purchase and choose my reading for the escape and the story, the exercise of my brain and imagination. I don’t object to homosexual characters in the slightest, and I don’t think the inclusion of a character, or even the acceptance of the lifestyle as a whole, when written into the story, affects my enjoyment of the story or the author. But when the topic is pushed to the forefront of the story, it becomes not so much the pleasant escape I am seeking but more the stressful realism that we all face day by day.
Bill Siegel
26. ubxs113
@ DrakBibliophile

I find modern Conservatives quite scary for the exact same reason.
Paul Howard
27. DrakBibliophile
Ubxs113, I discuss politics on a somewhat conservative site. I've notice there that conservatives will slap down a conservative who 'goes too far'. On the other hand, liberals there hardly ever slap down a liberal who 'goes too far'.

But what do I know. After all liberals will tell me that anybody not in favor of gay marriage is the same as somebody who kills gays for being gay.
Pam K
28. PamK
Well, of course authorial intent is not the be-all and end-all of artistic appreciation (or even the most important thing). After all, a reader interprets a work through the lens of her own experience. So, just as it is possible to perceive a piece of art negatively in a way the artist didn't intend, it is possible to perceive it positively in a way the artist didn't intend.

That being said, if I know an author holds views I find repugnant, or even if I just think they are annoying on the internet, it is hard not to take that opinion with me when I start reading a book. And so, I find myself uninterested in reading works by people I think poorly of.

Let me be clear: it is rarely a case of "I categorically refuse to read this person's book because s/he said X." It's more like, given the wide variety of entertainment options which are available to me, I naturally have little interest in reading books by people I think are jerks or idiots.
MacAllister Stone
29. MacAllister
I think we cannot conflate the art and the artist.

Actually, what I think is more vehement than the above statement.

In 1953, Isaac Asimov called SF "that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings" and I find that description compelling precisely because so much of the impact of science upon human beings has precisely to do with issues that, once upon a time, were dictated to us by shamans, holy men, or chicken entrails.

I think it's damaging to conflate the art with the artist. The writer is not the book. When we're talking about the literature of ideas, especially, I think it's damaging to us as thinkers, readers, and writers to artificially and arbitrarily shield ourselves from ideas we disagree with, find unpleasant, or even repugnant.
Dave Thompson
30. DKT
Drak, you're kidding no one by stating one side keeps its own members in check while the other does. Both sides have faults.

it feels like you're making this post out to be an "Us vs. Them" arguement. I'm not sure it's intended to be taken that way.
Paul Howard
31. DrakBibliophile
Nod. PamK, that's a very understandable position.
Bill Mermaniac
32. FungiFromYuggoth
I think there are two lines, both highly individual.

The first line is: I don't want to support this behavior. (Usually financially, but ktempest makes a very good point about reputation.) This is a political and ethical line, and I think reactions differ on how political you are, the quality of the artist, the context of their times, and whether it's your ox they're goring.

The second line is: I can't read this anymore, because of what I know about the author and their perspective. I've learned something which cannot be unlearned, and it spoils my enjoyment of the work. I've crossed this line with a couple of people, and when picking up their book gives me a queasy feeling it's time to stop reading those books.

Speaking of unlearnable knowledge, Ray Bradbury did react poorly to Fahrenheit 9/11. I think it's absurd that anyone who wrote "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "I Sing the Body Electric!" would complain about someone else riffing off his work to create a title. I don't think this damaged my ability to read or reread his work, but this might not be true for everyone else.

There are, as several people have said, too many good books, so considering the author when buying books is both a sorting technique and sanity-preserving defense.

Linking the art and the artist can work in the opposite direction - one of the nice things about blogs and conventions is watching an author's mind at work and wondering why the hell you haven't read anything by them yet.
Alistair Young
33. silicate
I suspect that your tolerance for this sort of thing may well depend on how far your own views are outside the social mainstream, and thus how used you are to making considerations and allowances in daily life.

For example: as a libertarian, the daily adjustments I have to make for the fact that people who are perfectly good people in their own right, and are pleasant people to know, to deal with, to work with, and to hang out with, are also by my ethical standards making elaborate rationalizations for their support for theft and slavery, and quite open about it too - well, let's just say that the practice makes it pretty easy to separate an artist's works from their obnoxious opinions.
Bill Mermaniac
34. Sochitelya
I'm one of those who will not spend my money lining the pockets of a bigot like John C. Wright. For me, personally, that's what it comes down to. He does not deserve my money and I'm pretty sure I can find better books written by better people. Not to mention, even his name fills me with loathing now, so I wouldn't be able to enjoy his writing even if he was the greatest author in the world.

Frankly, people like that make me ashamed to be a writer of sci-fi/fantasy, even an amateur one. Aren't we supposed to be more open to difference?
Angela Korra'ti
35. annathepiper
MacAllister @ 29: When we're talking about the literature of ideas, especially, I think it's damaging to us as thinkers, readers, and writers to artificially and arbitrarily shield ourselves from ideas we disagree with, find unpleasant, or even repugnant.

I can't speak for anyone else on this, but for me, this is totally not the point.

The point is that I have only so much money to spend and only so much time to read, and I would prefer to allocate these resources to support creative work by people who haven't gone out of their way to be assholes in public.

An author who's a public asshole may also be the most brilliant person in the world, and I may be depriving myself of interesting ideas by avoiding their work, sure. But that's my decision. And there's just too much good work out there waiting for my attention to lose too much sleep about what I might be missing if I choose to avoid a specific person's work.
Bill Mermaniac
36. goodfellow_puck
If it's a living writer don't read them, period. To buy their work is to support them and thus their views. I think it's on us the readers to make it plain that having those sorts of views ARE NOT OKAY.

The only way to do that is through the wallet and through not giving recognition to them. Please, go back under your rock until you know how to act like a decent human being.

I'm gonna make a wild guess that if you "tolerate" these views in a writer because you like their work, then you likely do not fall into the group they are being bigoted against. That's a privilege that group likely does not have.
nat ward
37. smonkey
I find hypocrisy is the way to go. Read some authors you hate because you love their books, ignore some authors you hate because their books are tainted with their isms. Or heck, pick and choose with wild abandon.

Whatever...I contain multitudes.

Then of course I go ahead and read that John C. Wright's blog and realize he's a complete nutcase and decide to avoid his work. (tho a quick wiki search one finds that he converted to jesus-ness recently and then joined the papists even more recently. As my dad sez, "No zealotry like the newly converted.")

As for Paul difilippo, I love his work and as long as I can write off his little flame war as a curmudgeonly dude being...well...curmudgeonly...I'm cool with that.

I'm still going to buy his next book.
Bill Mermaniac
38. punkrockhockeymom
There's a large difference between "having an opinion with which I disagree" and "advocating in a vile manner for or against something I hold as a core value."

I support single-payer nationalized health care. I would not stop reading someone's books solely on the basis that they disagree with my political opinion, even if I thought the author's views were profoundly illogical, wrongheaded or selfish. Someone writing a hate-screed against homosexuals, or acting a racist or sexist fool all over the place, however, is not just expressing disagreement with one of my political opinions. She or he is rather expressing something I find so hateful and appalling and morally corrupt that it changes the way I see the speaker as a person.

There's a range of reactions, I guess, on my part, depending on (a) what it is the person's said that I agree with or disagree with and the value I place on the issue as a part of my moral compass; (b) whether I think it's an incident of the person being "flawed" or having made a mistake or if I'm comfortable that it's a core and likely unchanging aspect of the person's character; and, (c)frankly (and I'd be lying if I didn't admit it), the past v. present issue and the value I think the work in question has. I'm far more likely to give an author lots of chances or be able to separate the work from the writer if it's older, or if I read it long ago and ascribe some nostalgic value to the piece. But that only goes so far.

Harlan Ellison, as an example, makes me so sad. Deathbird Stories was a *formative* collection for me. I actively *wish* I could set aside how I feel about him now, but I see it on the shelf and feel a bit ill. It's tainted for me now. Maybe in time that will change and I'll be able to salvage at least the nostalgic value, but right now? It sits on the shelf. I'm trying to decide if I should just give it away.

John C. Wright? I would never pick up anything he wrote, because he's so actively, dangerously and *hatefully* bigoted. There is no common ground for me, and it's not like I've already read something and assigned independent value to it. I've limited resources (both time and money) and there are an awful lot of good books out there to read, so crossing an unknown author off of the list is easier, and--really--Mr. Wright has wholly demonstrated to me that he is a person I feel has some literally *evil* viewpoints and a determination to express them as hatefully as possible. So I don't have any qualms about saying his work is not for me.
Lisa Spangenberg
39. Medievalist
John C. Wright has recently deleted his post.


I'm a long term reader of SF and F in part because it is, or should be, a literature of ideas. As an adolescent, SF and F exposed me to new ways of thinking and being, and strong females, and queer characters, and people who were very very different and thought and lived and behaved differently than I did, or than the people I knew. SF/F made it possible for me to realize that I did in fact have choices and alternative ways of being, open to me.

I don't sympathize with Mr. Wright's ideas about queers or women, and his understanding of early literature is lacking in the extreme. But I find it appalling that he has been silenced. He has a right to his opinions, no matter how repugnant. Most particularly, I regret his silencing because it suggests a desire to bury our heads in the sand, to ignore the increasing tides of hatred, and alienation, and bigotry rising from not only within the SF and F communities but in our nation as a whole (speaking as an American). We are watching the tactic of divide and conquer in action, and it is succeeding.

The distressingly common trend in not just the SF/F communities but the larger world as well want to shut down dissent is frightening in the extreme, as is the naive assumption that the book is the author, or that as readers we can possibly know the author's intentions.
Arachne Jericho
40. arachnejericho
If an artist has done/said certain things that trigger me, I will drop/never experience their work. The last thing I need is to pay for my own bad PTSD trip.

Also, I take issue with the idea that the artist is always separate from the work, if only because I've definitely had experiences with artists who intentionally insert themselves into the works ideologically and occasionally literally. Some of them quite gleefully admit to it, too. There's a reason the Writer on Board tropes (much less the Mary Sue and Gary Stu trope families) exist.
Alistair Young
41. silicate
punkrockhockeymom @38: "I support single-payer nationalized health care."

There are people in the world who - okay, don't find that hateful, but would certainly find it appalling AND morally corrupt. And depending on your reasons and the way you express them, possibly also hateful.

It's not as clear-cut a distinction as all that.
Kage Baker
42. kagebaker
The only danger I see here... is that if you keep excluding people, building higher and higher fences to screen out people you don't agree with, then eventually you'll only move in a community of people whose views are exactly the same as yours. And you'll believe anything you hear about those Others you've shut out, because you have never taken the time to understand why their minds work the way they do. This is not to say you should agree with them, at all, but you need to work from an informed position.

GK Chesterton, like many writers of his time, said a number of gratuitously stupid, racist things about Jews. When he learned what Hitler was doing, however, his eyes were opened and he changed his views. People aren't cardboard figures who can be labeled "evil and hateful". They may in fact be evil and hateful, but they are human beings, complex and contradictory. Understand what you're condemning, if you're going to condemn. Don't base your judgment of someone on one statement.
Lisa Spangenberg
43. Medievalist
One of the problems with identifying the artist and the work too closely is that most people are odd contradictory bundles of contradictions, and often, hateful opinions, actions, and associates.

I'm not suggesting anyone read anything they're not inclined to read in terms of their own mental health, but Chaucer, like Malory, was a rapist, Milton a horrible father, Gertrude Stein was more than a little selfish, Julia Child was less than kind in a number of her opinions about queers, Sidney a social-climber, Alice Walker a less than ideal parent, Virgina Woolf an anti-Semite, . . . all them with human flaws.

I too am a flawed human being. I can learn from their books, and their mistakes may even show me how not to behave.
Bill Mermaniac
44. punkrockhockeymom
silicate @ 41:

Well, I don't think I said it was clear cut; my point was sort of the opposite. If someone feels that strongly about my view, they don't have to read what I write. The extent to which some author's disagreement with me influences my decisions on whether to buy their books is pretty personal and depends on the importance I place morally on a given trait or statement. For me, whether or not a book is tainted for me (which, as with the Ellison, might be something I'm actively resisting), or whether or not I would avoid someone's fiction based on other opinions they've shared publicly, is a "decision" that will fall on a complicated continuum. It's not like I'm advocating (or ever would advocate) banning in any way shape or form. I'm talking about what I would purchase or how I would feel upon reading something.

Medievalist @39

I just don't agree Wright's been silenced; he's been criticized. He has a right to an opinion, but I don't believe he has a right to avoid harsh criticism for either the opinion itself or the vile way in which he chooses to express it. That's the whole beauty of the marketplace of ideas.

I also don't think that saying "now that this person has gone up on a platform and shouted this screed from the rooftops, his work is tainted for me" is necessarily saying that the book is the author or that you can always discern authorial intent from *either* the book or the author.

And I don't shield myself from reading people whose views I find abhorrent. But I read them differently, I don't read them for *pleasure*, and they don't, therefore, become a part of the *pleasure reading book (time and money) budget* as it were.

Additionally, using Wright as an example, sometimes someone can post something (or in his case, a series of somethings) so fundamentally flawed that it can't help but influence me on my point of view about the person's intellectual capacity. That, in turn, influences me about what value I'm likely to get from that person's other writing.
Bill Mermaniac
45. FungiFromYuggoth
MacAllister@29 wrote: I think it's damaging to us as thinkers, readers, and writers to artificially and arbitrarily shield ourselves from ideas we disagree with, find unpleasant, or even repugnant.

I agree, but that's not the subject at hand. The subject is: once you experience the views of an artist that you find repugnant, to what extent does that affect your perspective of the art? The shield has failed; people have already been exposed from the ideas.

Medievalist @39: I think you're completely misreading the situation.

Let's recap:
1. John C. Wright writes a post on homosexuality, calling upon The Left to dance to his tune
2. The post is discovered and passed around to multiple sites, leading to a storm of angry comments, some more responsive than others
3. Wright's response is to delete or hide all of the comments and disable further response, and write an arguably disingenuous response. I'd say the commenters are silenced more than he was here, although they're free to write about it elsewhere (and several have).
4. Wright's Wikipedia page is edited with uncharitable remarks which are then removed by Wikipedia editors, who decide to leave a link from his Wikipedia page to the LJ entry in question.
5. Not wanting to have his Wikipedia entry linked to his own opinions, Wright deletes the LJ entry.

I see this as Wright trying to escape the consequences of his actions, not him being silenced. The people who left pages and pages of comments on his journal weren't trying to silence his opinion, they were trying to express theirs.
Bill Mermaniac
46. punkrockhockeymom
Medievalist @43:

Well, I actually agree with all of that. But that a work doesn't lose all value when I know those things doesn't mean that I don't read the works differently.

And really, when someone is currently writing and selling, and they are also using their own public forums to advocate for something I find abhorrent, I'm less inclined to use my limited resources to purchase their books and fund their endeavors, given that I already live in a world in which I can't read *everything* that comes out, and I can't afford the time and/or money to buy all of the books written by my favorite authors (many of whom are also close friends).

I have to prioritize anyway, and someone like Wright isn't so much being crossed off a list as he is never making it on, now, because I've seen enough to assign, at this point in time, a priority of nil. That's not to say there could never be a point in time where I thought I might want to read something he wrote, but it wouldn't be for pleasure, and my knowledge of how he feels about the humanity of some of my closest friends? Well, I couldn't keep it from influencing the way I read the book.
Alida Saxon
47. alida
We've all got some trait or view or personal history that'd turn others off. It is precisely why I am uneasy about coming across a writer/artist's blog on the internet or going to conventions. Especially so for meeting actors, when I am attached to a character they have portrayed.

I don't denounce a book or movie that I like, but it does color my opinion and make me less eager to pick up more of their work. I don't want to be thinking of their opinions and actions when I'm trying to enjoy the story.

It isn't a 100% thing either. I think the only time where I'd say I wouldn't EVER touch their work again was if the income I provided went to enforcing their views or supporting crimes. Say I found out so-and-so contributed 10% of his income to the KKK, yeah, I'd stop buying.
Alberto Yáñez
48. Alo.
Medievalist @39:

But I find it appalling that he has been silenced.

Respectfully, but that's misreading this situation entirely.

Especially given that Wright was the one to delete his own post.

As has been pointed out above, Wright has not been silenced, he has been criticized. He said something in the public sphere and the public reacted negatively.

He has every right to espouse whatever beliefs he chooses, but when he makes them public, the public also has every right to tell him what they think of them.

That he then deleted the post... well, that's his choice. I find it neither wise nor principled to have done, but that's my opinion, and I do not see his actions as silencing, but of making a choice.
Kage Baker
49. kagebaker
And furthermore (because I just found the quote I couldn't manage to locate when I was writing the last post), get a load of this opinion from a beloved American fantasist:

"The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extirmination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. In this lies safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands. Otherwise, we may expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins as those have been in the past."

My father was an Iroquois. He would grumble when we asked for cowboy hats and six-shooters for Christmas, he took pains to read "Hiawatha" to us when we were young so we'd have some sense of our heritage (even though we could never contain our giggles at "Gitchee gumee") and I resemble him facially though not in the color of my skin. In my long-ago hippie youth I occasionally wore a headband, and was told it really emphasized my Indian cheekbones.

So do I fly into righteous rage over L. Frank Baum's racist, genocidal gaffe? Do I refuse ever to watch the Wizard of Oz? Do I withhold his books from children of my family, telling them they shouldn't read about Ozma because her creator was an evil and hateful bigot?

No. I don't. Because I've read enough on Baum's life to know that he was a naive fool who spouted the political and ethnic opinions of his time without understanding their full implications. He was also a strong supporter of the feminist movement and, most important, a good writer of children's books. I can enjoy his art without subscribing to his opinions.
Helen Wright
50. arkessian
I won't spend money in such a way that benefits an author who has demonstrated views I find repugnant. (If they later prove a change of mind, I might reconsider... if I was attracted to their writing anyway, which isn't likely.) So, no JCW or OSC for me. .

But quid pro quo: I would not expect people who have problems with the content of my writing or with my politics to send money my way.
Alberto Yáñez
51. Alo.
One of the best response I've seen to this has been by Catherynne M. Valente, who--in addition to being a writer whose work I find extraordinary--strikes me as a person of very good sense in this post:

An Open Letter
James Goetsch
52. Jedikalos
I agree with not supporting active contemporary authors who promote discrimination and bigotry. As long ago I would try to avoid South African products due to apartheid, or I continue to avoid any kind of product that would support outright discrimination and bigotry (or promulgation of those views), so I avoid Card's work because of his anti-gay activism--and now Wright's comments stand as a sort of perfect example of the kind of folks I would not like to support financially. Why should I give money to those who actively work against the rights of people I know and love?
MacAllister Stone
53. MacAllister
FungiFromYuggoth @45

Actually, I was more addressing the question from the OP: "If author’s view of life runs contrary to your own, do you stop buying? Stop reading?"

The answer, for me, is no. Absolutely not. In fact, it's likely to drive me to find and examine their fiction -- albeit, more likely from the library than via my local bookstore.

I emphatically did not say I'd read them the same way.

And ultimately, crappy fiction is crappy fiction -- and my personal experience is that didactic fiction, more often than not, doesn't work for me. So if the writer is producing non-didactic fiction, and it's good? Yep. I'll go right on reading.
Bill Mermaniac
54. Sochitelya
Medievalist @ 39: He silenced himself. He deleted the entry because it was linked to in his Wikipedia page. Link is here. No one deleted it for him. As he has a right to his opinions, we have a right to ours. I hope he will take something away from this that isn't 'people are persecuting me! Troll avalanche!'
Alberto Yáñez
55. Alo.
kagebaker:

I see your points about being open and considering people and their views in context, and completely agree with them, but here's my point--

I am not denying Wright (or Card, or whomever) the right to hold whatever views, to publish them, or to make a living by art that may or may not reflect those views; I am, however, denying him my money and support. Those, he has no right to, and will not receive. That is my right.
Stefan Raets
56. Stefan
@53: To me, this comes down to scale. It depends on how "contrary" to my own view of life this author is, and how he expresses the difference.

I'm not a religious person, but Gene Wolfe manages to express his beliefs without offending me. He even manages to infuse his fiction with his beliefs in a way that I not only find inoffensive but inspiring and admirable.

I'm not a conservative person, but, say, Michael Flynn (http://m-francis.livejournal.com/) expresses his conservative opinions in a way that doesn't offend me. I don't agree with him in the least, but he doesn't offend me, and so I continue to purchase and read his novels.
Angela Korra'ti
57. annathepiper
kagebaker @ 42: The only danger I see here... is that if you keep excluding people, building higher and higher fences to screen out people you don't agree with, then eventually you'll only move in a community of people whose views are exactly the same as yours. And you'll believe anything you hear about those Others you've shut out, because you have never taken the time to understand why their minds work the way they do. This is not to say you should agree with them, at all, but you need to work from an informed position.

Sure. And if somebody whose opinions I trust comes to me and says, "Look, I know this particular author you decided to avoid was being an asshat online, but she wrote a seriously awesome novel that came out last month and, um, actually, you'd probably like it", then I'll even consider checking out that novel. But it'll have to be a seriously awesome novel.
rick gregory
58. rickg
So fairly early on this thread started to be about the rights of authors et al to express their opinions, and it seemed to sidetrack into silliness about opinions being banned which isn't the point of the post at all. I scanned the rest of the comments, so this might restate some points, but...

To me, anyone is and should be free to state their opinions no matter what they are. Period. That's not the point at all. The point is what impact, if any, those opinions should have on the people who express them.

In the case of authors and other artists who create work that we buy directly, they can avoid publicly stating opinions on controversial issues and let their work speak for itself or they can choose to give opinions on controversial issues knowing that some people will agree and others will find those opinions odious. The former might buy more works by the author, the latter may boycott them entirely and both audiences are simply exercising their own right to express support for the author. An intellectually honest author would accept both actions as valid. After all, this is basic 'accept the consequences of your actions' reasoning - it's something we're taught as kids; if you do something, you're responsible for the effects of that action, good or bad.

For myself, I will not buy Card or Wright because that's directly supporting them - it puts money in their pockets. I'd not donate to a cause that espoused their opinions, why contribute to their well-being by buying their books? If an artist is dead, I won't hold to this standard simply because I'm not supporting them - they're not around. I might avoid the work if I find it repellent, but I won't avoid everything by them as a matter of course.

As for things like Atwood's case - I could care less what she thinks of SF. That's a personal opinion that doesn't affect my evaluation of her work at all. I think she's silly and wrong if the quote above is accurate, but it's not the kind of opinion that would make be buy or avoid her work.
Andrew Peterson
59. BCWoods
I think you have to draw the line at activism.

I don't hate people who are homophobic, racist, or sexist simply because I think it's better to forgive and work from a position of "Due to some kind of trauma this person has an illness."

I grew up with a kid named Bobby who was beat every day and told that his bruises were N***er marks. He grew up to hate black people. I can't really hate him for it. Doesn't mean I don't think he shouldn't be arrested if he crosses a line, but you can't hate for something like that.

However, when someone goes out of their way to put their racism/homophobia/sexism in the public square AND tries to use the legal system to discriminate, then I think you're morally obligated not to support that person anymore.

Orson Scott Card could hate gay people in private and on his blog all he wants as far as I'm concerned. However, the second he joined various organizations aimed at using the legal system to ban gay marriage, he crossed the line and was deserving a boycott.

If someone wants to read Ender's Game, I give them my old copy or refer them to the library. OSC shoudn't get anymore money until he stops that. It's seriously NOT okay.*

*Again, that doesn't mean you should hate someone. They're just doing something wrong. Also, to state again: just because you don't hate someone doesn't mean they shouldn't be stopped.
Lisa Spangenberg
60. Medievalist
@54. Sochitelya

When I last looked at Wright's post, the comment thread included posts saying that he had no right to express his opinions.

I also note, that like @55. Alo. and @53. MacAllister, I do think shoddy thinking, like Wright's and Card's, emerges in the form of shoddy writing. While I won't refuse to read them, I don't see myself ever adding to their royalty statements.

But I would also object to either being banned from my local libraries' shelves.
Bill Mermaniac
61. Brandon Bell
The Valente post that @51 references is a great response. I've read several now. Duncan, Tempest, etc.

Ultimately I stand by the statement that all people are deserving of dignity and respect.

Not all behavior is. And some behavior should be condemned.

I can appreciate Lovecraft while placing him honestly within the context of his bigotry. I think to do anything but that is to accept the racism, and it is something that the genre world has done to a large extent. Lovecraft's cat named n*****man? Oh, we won't talk about that. Cthulhu's what we love.

It's an opportunity.

I won't support someone who is active and whom I know is actively bigoted or acting politically or socially for against the interests of some set group of people.

Everyone, given enough attention, is going to say or do something that offends someone else. That is one thing. It is this sort of willful, active attack that I think justifies the response of 'I won't buy this person's work any more'. There are too many people who are probably as good who could use the extra support, yes?

But, it is a personal choice. And there are circumstances I may not have considered.

Brandon Bell
nithska.blogspot.com
Bill Mermaniac
62. C_Regan
From above: "I avoid Card's work because of his anti-gay activism--and now Wright's comments stand as a sort of perfect example of the kind of folks I would not like to support financially."

This I think is pretty key. It's not only the views that drive me away -- it's the activism. The public drumming up. It makes it impossible to ignore the source, even if one is careful to, say, get the book from a library or second-hand bookstore.

This has been a hard choice for me in some instances -- particularly Card, who was formative for me, when I was a child, in developing exactly the tolerance, empathy and acceptance that he decries and fights against right now. Now, I betcha he didn't mean to do that at all! But if I hadn't read him... well, I'd like to think I would have come to the same place I'm in now, but it might have taken me longer.

Each case is individual, I suppose. And craft is often weirdly divorced from character, or what is voiced. Some of these people I'd never want to associate with in real life have (obviously inadvertently) gotten inside the heads and feelings of characters that have changed my life.

That said, there are a lot of books in the world. Public behavior like this is likely to make me avoid the writer in question, not because I wish to punish but because I've got a bad taste in my mouth, and how is that fun and relaxing? We have alternatives.

(I'm gutted over DiFillippo. I've loved his work.)
Bill Mermaniac
63. realJD
How can you love an author one moment, then find out what his religious/political/whatever beliefs are and suddenly hate him? This seems so asinine to me. I listen to the music of hundreds of people whose lifestyles I would never approve of. Doesn't mean their music is crap (though in some cases it does). The same goes for books. Unless those viewpoints are evident in all of the author's works, as though trying to push their agenda, then it makes no sense. Most authors know enough not to do that sort of thing (though, again, in some cases they don't). Really, I find that suddenly disliking who was once a favored author of yours because they don't believe everything that you do is immature. Grow up. To reiterate, not everyone in this world is going to hold the same beliefs as you and I'm sure every author you read has one belief that you might find hard to swallow. So? Get over it. If they're not pushing it in their work, why should it matter? They aren't forcing you to agree with them. Really. Just deal with it.
TW Grace
64. TWGrace
After checking out the links...

Maybe I am being daft... but what was so bad about what Di Filoppi wrote?

He certainly didnt seem to be a bigot (as it seemed to be implied by his inclusion in that paragraph) with his response to what appears to be manufactured 'outrage' over who was included in an anthology.

Unless there is a history behind the editor of the Mammoth Books I dont know about, that is.
David Bilek
65. dtbilek
I understand the impulse and, obviously, if you can't bring yourself to buy the work of someone who's views you find abhorrent then that's that. But it's awfully arbitrary. Wright repulses you so you don't buy his books because you don't want him profiting? Well, hey, TOR publishes his books and David Hartwell has been nominated for Hugos for editing them. It's not cool with you for Wright to profit off his book because of his views but it's just fine for others, such as our hosts Tor Books, to profit off the work of that same bigot? Why? It's only okay to subsidize bigotry indirectly? Seems kind of dubious to me.

Money is fungible and if you buy Tor books, some of your money ends up in Wright's pocket. If you buy Bujold's Vorkosigan novels some of your money ends up in the pockets of other bigots over at Baen. And so on.

So I buy the books I like without regard to the author. The crazies tend to have their minds overrun by craziness such that the quality of their works suffers to the point it isn't worth buying so this all tends to work itself out in the long run. When was the last time Card wrote something at the level of ENDER'S GAME or SPEAKER? Exactly.

If we avoided the work of repugnant artists, art commissioned by repugnant sponsors, or art that was otherwise tainted by repugnant actions, we'd have missed out on a lot of great art.
Bill Mermaniac
66. C_Reagan
@ 64 LOL -- they're also not forcing me to buy and read their stuff. (As I am not forcing them to stop saying whatever they want to. Win - win!)
Brian Kaul
67. bkaul
I think it's ridiculous when fundie groups boycott companies for advertising in a magazine that isn't anti-gay or giving benefits to homosexual employees or whatever. I think it's equally ridiculous for people to boycott authors because they don't support the current politically correct Newspeak and approve of every behavior that would traditionally be considered aberrant.

FWIW, Ender's Game is the only thing I've read by either Card or Wright, but with some of the hyperventilating going on here, I may have to head over to Amazon and order a few more of their books.

A person agreeing with half of the rest of the country that a particular sexual behavior practiced by a small fraction of the population isn't morally beneficial and deserving of special consideration isn't guilty of "shoddy thinking," merely of having an opinion that differs from the approved liberal dogma.
Cathy Mullican
68. nolly
Someone who is civil about presenting their opinions, and especially someone who is generally polite and respectful face to face, I will probably keep reading.

Card falls in this category for me; several years ago, I attended a con where he was GoH, and one of the co-chairs was gay. Card was perfectly friendly, polite, civil, etc. I don't agree with him on the topic of marriage -- I'd prefer to see civil and religious marriage separated, with entirely disjoint benefits. (i.e. civil benefits only come from civil marriage; what religious marriage means is up to the religion.) But I'm willing to read Card, and occasionally buy his books new, because he doesn't let his politics get in the way when dealing with people in specific, rather than abstract groups. On the other hand, I haven't, and almost certainly won't, buy his inner-city-LA book, because I just don't think that's a setting he's equipped to handle.

Wright's screed, on the other hand, was so far beyond civil that I couldn't finish reading it. I've not read him -- hadn't heard of him, I don't think -- and I certainly won't start now.

There's another author I won't read because he writes the techie sort of SF, yet some time back, was incensed to discover an "unauthorized mirror" of his blog on another site, insisted it be deleted, and that those who wanted to read his blog use the RSS feed. The "unauthorized mirror"? Was the RSS feed -- the site it was on offers both blogging and RSS aggregation. So his rant was "Stop using my RSS feed and use my RSS feed!" If he can't/won't understand today's tech, why should I trust him to say anything sensible about tomorrow's?

Had an author writing in a less-techie subgenre made a similar blunder, it wouldn't bother me so much.

All that said, there are a couple of ways to keep reading authors when you enjoy their writing, but don't want to support them financially for political/etc. reasons:
1) Used books -- the author makes nothing from your purchase, and you save, too
2) Libraries -- you might think this should be first, but since the library will use circulation numbers to influence purchasing decisions, checking it out slightly increases the chance that the library will buy the author's next book, thus sending a little money their way. But not as much as if everyone who checked it out bought their own copy.
Mary O'Dea
69. thorn
for me, in the case of di filippo, it's not him personally. it's the nature of the anthology that made me decide not to buy the book. i commented on another blog that because there are *so many* truly brilliant non-white, non-male writers in the genre, at worst di filippo intentionally excluded them. at best, he hasn't read any of them and is therefore not qualified to edit an anthology of work in the genre. he should not have been given power in publishing.

remember that cartoon about math? guy messes up a math problem on the blackboard -- other guys says, "wow. you're bad at math." girl messes up a math problem on the blackboard -- guy says, "wow. girls are bad at math." yeah. total exclusion from an anthology of certain types of writers, that couldn't possibly happen randomly, sounds like inappropriate extrapolation. which is dumb.

that's it! if i find out that an author is dumb, i won't read his or her work. yep. no dumb authors. otherwise, i try to avoid finding out much about the authors i read.
Bill Mermaniac
70. Brit Mandelo
@bkaul

The issue here isn't totally his ideas; it is how he chose to put them out there. It's one thing to post that you have a moral objection to homosexuality, another entirely to spew slurs and also racial epithets wildly out at the internet. It makes you look like an asshole.

As for the main question: I think it depends. Dead authors who wrote in a time when their opinion was the majority and it doesn't show up in the fiction (Lovecraft) are okay, because let's face it, just because they weren't a radical forward thinker at the time is no reason to blow them off.

For modern authors, it falls under two camps. One: calmly, rationally making an argument, even if the end point disgusts me. Two: epithets, insults, slurs, and general screaming insanity, which disgust but also enrage me. I will often still buy the works of camp #1, because someone's personal opinions are their own, and as long as they're not being assholes, okay. Strangely this never seems to happen.

Now, camp #2? If I feel like I am morally obligated to shove the person down a flight of stairs the next time I see them, no. I won't be supporting their work. Two reasons: they horrify and disgust me as a member of my species, and also it is likely that if they are so irrational and angry and vicious about their belief (be it racism or homophobia or misogyny) it will show up in their fiction. And I will just be disgusted and enraged all over again. (Clarify: when these things are used intentionally in a story to make a point, it is different. When they are presented positively, just no.)
Tony Zbaraschuk
71. tonyz
I've run into multiple occasions of people with whose ideas, or manners, or customs, I have considerable disagreement with, and yet I find I still enjoy reading their books. In many cases (not all!) I think this is because the work has its own integrity which the author does not violate with their current obsession. I really, really dislike books where it is Obvious that the author is Preaching A Message at the expense of where I think the story should go. Not to say that stories with a Message can't be good, but there's a point at which it's no long a story with a message but a message thinly disguised as a story. If I don't already agree with the message this is unlikely to convert me; if I do agree with the message I wince at the tonedeafness of it.

I have run into some books with undertone (or even overtones) which I find repulsive. Sometimes the story is interesting enough that I can keep reading, sometimes not. I think I tend to be more annoyed with stories that casually assume the obviousness of their own repulsive point of view (_of course_ all right-thinking people support X) than with ones that are at least aware that people may disagree with them for other reasons than They Are Evil.
Bill Mermaniac
72. Brit Mandelo
@realJD

I missed this one; double-comment:

This is not what we're talking about. It wasn't suddenly discovering he was a born again Christian and disagreed with homosexuality. That wouldn't have particularly changed my opinion. Lots of people are religious; doesn't change how I feel about their writing.

It was that he chose to fling vitriol, slurs, insults and filth out at other members of our species. There was no element of rational argument to the post. No hint of decency or functional head-meats. When somebody makes me feel literally nauseas with their racist and misogynistic AND homophobic hatred, I'm done. It's not asinine. If my grandfather suddenly spewed that sort of thing, I'd probably stop talking to him too, because I would never be able to look at him again without knowing how full of violence and hate he was.
Lisa Spangenberg
73. Medievalist
@bkaul 67
A person agreeing with half of the rest of the country that a particular sexual behavior practiced by a small fraction of the population isn't morally beneficial and deserving of special consideration isn't guilty of "shoddy thinking," merely of having an opinion that differs from the approved liberal dogma.


Err . . . hang on there cowboy. What particular "sexual behavior" are YOU (never mind Wright) referring to? Despite Wright's charming and less than erudite references to "homosex" and "crotch licking," damned if I can think of a single homosexual sexual behavior that heteros don't engage in, and have engaged in, for at least three thousand years of documented history--Cthulu knows that medieval penitence manuals demonstrate, quite clearly, that there's nothing new under the sun.

While I'm quite willing for Wright to practice free speech on his blog, let's not pretend that idiocy is anything other than idiocy.
Bill Mermaniac
74. jere7my
It drives me up the wall when conservatives boycott people they disagree with — actors who support gay marriage, pro-choice authors, leftist filmmakers — and I feel it would be hypocritical of me to do the same in reverse. Yes, I am right and they are wrong (of course), but boycotting someone for their (wrong wrong wrong) political beliefs doesn't sit well with me — unless the work itself becomes a mouthpiece (*coughDaveSimcough*). I prefer to maintain the belief that even people who are viciously wrongheaded in one arena can say things that are worth listening to in another, and that the former doesn't easily swamp the latter.

My grandfather was vocally racist; some of my new in-laws would probably agree with John C. Wright's post. I still think they are (or were) good people, worthy of my time and support. I try to give strangers the same benefit. (But I admit I am sometimes tempted to boycott the occasional, ah, fuckmuppetry. And I've probably been subtly influenced more than I would like — I hesitate, for instance, before buying a Baen book because of Jim Baen's politics.)

Relatedly, I don't want authors — even wrong-headed ones — to self-censor because they fear an impact on their sales. I'm sure many do now, which is unfortunate. I want the benefit of a vigorous public discussion of gay marriage and public healthcare and fasten-vs.-zip among the bright lights of our field, and I don't want the right to hold their tongues (for fear of losing readers like me) any more than I want the left to hold their tongues (for fear of a conservative boycott).
rick gregory
75. rickg
@74...

"It drives me up the wall when conservatives boycott people they disagree with..."

Why, though? Supporting someone economically is a form of speech. For one person to say "I think that person X is repellent and refuse to support them by buying their work" seems perfectly valid. Demonizing them is over the line as is saying that they should not be allowed to speak their opinions, but it seems in the finest tradition of free speech to boycott someone whose opinion is odious to you and even to tell others that they shouldn't support that person if they share your opinion.

I disagree with the far right social conservatives on, well, everything, but I think them boycotting people who don't agree with them is nothing more than free speech in the economic dimension.
Bill Mermaniac
76. jere7my
@75: Why does it bother me when conservatives do it? I suppose it seems like a type mismatch: "You said something that offends me, so I won't do business with you." Either they're explicitly trying to wield a financial club to dissuade the people they disagree with from speaking, which rankles, or they're writing off the entirety of the person for a single opinion — saying, in effect, "Because you believe this one thing, I can't interact with you at all." A political disagreement becomes a refusal to contribute to someone's livelihood. The idea of not seeing a Pixar movie, say, because the CEO is queer-friendly is alien to me. Why does it matter to them? And why would it matter to people like me whether Brad Bird is an Objectivist?

I dunno. I like supporting socially conscious businesses, but I don't expect everyone I do business with to agree with me. That feels divisive, a bit us-vs-them. I wouldn't move out if I saw my landlord wearing a Sarah Palin T-shirt — we can be on opposite "sides" and still have a fine social and financial relationship. I would vastly prefer that everyone be queer-friendly and pro-gay marriage, but I know they're not; should I privilege the homophobe who seethes silently over the one who posts to his LJ?
Bill Mermaniac
77. afterthefallofnight
In principle, I think the work is separate from the artist. In practice, if I dislike the artist there is a pretty good chance I won't be able to enjoy the work.
Bill Mermaniac
78. Thomas Lindgren
Do you read H.P. Lovecraft?

(PS: why does Tor require word verification to preview comments?)
Bill Mermaniac
79. Thomas Lindgren
Personally, I have read the works of many a vile bootlicking toady who did not hesitate to sing the praises of their adored strong men and strong ideologies (e.g., quite a few european writers of the 20th century). For the mental gymnastics, I sometimes also read works that express spitting hatred of people like me, though I admit it has to be well-expressed to be worth it.

Fortunately, the art can transcend the artist. I wonder what would remain if I culled first the works of artists with unsavoury opinions, then those of the ones who were plain bad people.
Rob Hansen
80. RobHansen
Like others here, I don't buy books by Card because I don't want to put any money in his pockets. This is a purely personal decision and I would never try to influence others to do likewise.

There are other living authors I feel the same way about. Dead authors of the past were of their time and place and I don't try to judge them by today's standards, but I expect better of writers in the here and now.

One author who I was certainly politically sympatico with but who I stopped reading after seeing him at my first con in 1975 was John Brunner. That was purely a reaction against what he was like in person - smug, pompous, repellant - a reaction quite a few UK fans of my generation shared. Not a particularly noble reason for never reading someone again, but there you go.
James Goetsch
81. Jedikalos
@Thomas Lindgren: The art can indeed transcend the artist. And mental gymnastics are worthwhile. But it has to be worth my time and effort. But even genius level work would not incline me to support that person with my money if the were activist bigots. And to my mind an anti-gay activist, no matter how polite, is no different than those of my youth in the deep south who would calmly argue that blacks should not be allowed the same rights as whites, and so forth. And I would certainly talk with them, hear them out, and so forth; and give them the right to their opinions, free speech and so forth. But support them with my purchases? And on the art issue: well, to my mind, great art is indeed rare. Over in her blog, Catheryne Valente wrote something that sums it up nicely for me:

Oh, but it should be about the art, shouldn't it? We should separate the art from the artist.

Allow me to be frank.

I might be willing to do that kind of forgiveness for genius-level work. I can get through Aristotle and Euripides even if they aren't so hot with the chicks. Ditto Tolkien, Eliot, Henry Miller. I can stomach a little Lovecraft, even. I can just barely almost start thinking about Ender's Game and Wyrms because he wasn't spouting that shit when I read them. Hell, I'll even throw in Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, (author is a neocon copyright illiterate sack of hubris) but Winter's Tale is the bargain basement lowest denominator level of genius I require before I even start trying to overlook your ass in my public.

For your derivative hacktastic doorstopper fantasy? Not a chance. You guys? Are no Winter's Tale. Y'all aren't even Wyrms.
Agnes Kormendi
82. tapsi
I read John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos last summer and I enjoyed it. I'm not saying it was genius, but it was entertaining and fun.

I disagree with this rant of his, and so I won't read his blog, or follow him on Twitter, or care about his personal opinions. I don't consider him one of my heroes.

BUT: the trilogy was quite free of this bile he was spouting in his post (I actually had to check that it was the same writer), and there would have been plenty of opportunity for him to advocate his anti-gay views (the series features an impressive list of ancient Greek gods, and homosexuality was absolutely accepted in ancient Greek culture). There were a few things I found slightly disturbing, but they were about different issues, and anyway, I'm the sort of person who thinks certain things in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone are downright wrong. Wright didn't use his story as a vessel to deliver a sermon, and I appreciate that (and not only because I disagree with him). Because of this, and because I enjoyed the books, I would probably consider buying other works by him, and I would definitely recommend this series to friends who I know would enjoy it.
Bill Mermaniac
83. Anonymous Coward
@82: I also read his Chaos series. And then I found his livejournal, and it was filled with not just vitriol, but also a lot of misogyny and regressive doctrine.

And all of a sudden, large chunks of the books that had made me uncomfortable--the emphasis on female submissiveness, the retrograde sexual politics, the bizarre lack of agency for his heroine--snapped into sharp relief.

I'm with Valente, personally. If your work is incredibly brilliant, I can forgive disagreement with the author. But learning more about the writer is often eye-opening when it comes to more marginal works--and may tip me over from "impulse buy" into "ignore" mode when I'm at the bookstore.
Jason Henninger
84. jasonhenninger
Well, I'll say this about tor.com readers...no one can accuse you of ambivalence! Difference, discussion, debate! Hooray!

@Kage Baker

Just for the sake of clarity, when you said, "Understand what you're condemning, if you're going to condemn. Don't base your judgment of someone on one statement" was that directed at me, specifically (regarding my comment about Chesterton) or to the thread in general? I wasn't sure.



@64
I can see how you got the impression that I was calling Di Filippo a bigot, but I didn't mean it that way. I apologize for being unclear. I thought his comments were really screwy, off-base and really did him no favors, (and the response at the Angry Black Woman blog tore his statement down well) but "bigot" is a stronger word than I'd have intentionally used to describe him. Better described by the expression "showing your ass in public" as I think Valente said in her response to him and Wright.
Brian Kaul
85. bkaul
Brit Mandelo@70: Valid point. His sarcasm and tone were over the top, and I can understand why people would be irritated by that. The "showing your ass in public" quote applies well to his lack of tact. However, I still see it as ridiculous to boycott someone because of such things if it doesn't have a negative impact on his work.

I don't insist that my plumber agree with me on everything; why would I insist that an author do so? If I believe homosexuality (or unfaithfulness to one's spouse, or lying or cheating or stealing or whatever else) to be an immoral behavior, should I read only authors who don't portray any of their characters as doing these things? One couldn't read the Bible in such a case! Should I boycott every author who goes off on an explicit or over-the-top rant about anything I disagree with? Hell, I'd have to stop watching movies and TV if I applied that kind of standard to actors. Maybe I shouldn't watch football since so many players are felons? Where does it end? As jere7my@76 said, it's just a type mismatch.

Now there are some authors who get too "preachy" as tonyz@71 pointed out. e.g. The Jungle - I thought that most of the book was excellent, but then Sinclair completely lost me at the end when he had Jurgis, an illiterate working-class immigrant who had been up until that point a very sympathetic protagonist, go off on completely unrealistic elaborate monologues that constituted a preachy socialist manifesto. WTF? I had been feeling sorry for the guy and his mistreatment by factory owners, et al. but that pulled me right out of the story to where I was just annoyed at Upton Sinclair for ruining it. Never even considered looking for any of his other novels - he was just too preachy in that one. I don't care if the guy was a Socialist, but when he spoiled the book by being too aggressive with his message, I no longer found it an enjoyable read.

For me, it kind of goes along with what Tolkien said about allegory (Foreward to LOTR):
As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical.
...
I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.


Medievalist@73: I was not referring to specific detailed acts, but to the practice of homosexuality in general. I thought that would have been obvious from the context of the fact that it was what Wright was referring to.
Brian Kaul
86. bkaul
Thomas Lindgren@78:[quote](PS: why does Tor require word verification to preview comments?)[/quote]
Because you're not registered/logged in. For logged-in registered users, there's no verification. For others, there is, to prevent spam bots from commenting.
Bill Mermaniac
87. jere7my
@82 wrote, "I read John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos last summer and I enjoyed it."

Wikipedia tells me Wright didn't convert to Catholicism until 2008. I don't think anything he wrote after that has yet been published.
Kage Baker
88. kagebaker
Jason@84: No, my remark was not directed at you specifically, but at the thread in general. The Chesterton remark caught my eye because I've been reading a lot of Chesterton lately (got a packet of his books as a present).

I've never read what Chesterton had to say about Buddhists, but he did say some horrifying things about Jews-- so did Agatha Christie, in some of her earliest books!--and he took the standard hyperCatholic view of Elizabeth the First, which was that she was evil and nasty for being a Protestant and executing saintly Mary Queen of Scots.

The thing is, he was a humorist; he had a light and silly personality; he spouted off the prejudices of his era and religion. I can't imagine any scions of the British Empire in the last century having much good to say about Buddhism or Jews either, other than the occasional shining exception like Conan Doyle.

Chesterton, at least, when brought up against the brutal reality of what happens when race prejudice is taken to its logical extreme, realized he'd been wrong. A bit late in the game to do any good, but he did.

And he wrote a lot of fun stuff, which I have enjoyed reading very much. My take on the whole issue: John Wright said some truly vile things, and ought to be ashamed of himself. Maybe he is, judging from the speed with which he covered his tracks.

Card-- well, has he written any books demonizing gays? I don't read his stuff anyway, so I can't judge. But if you're going to hate him for his Mormon views on gays, aren't you going to have to hate everyone whose religion says homosexuality is a sin? Which lines you up against all other Mormons, observant Jews, devout Christians and Muslims right there.

If you don't want to give living hatemongers your money, I applaud you. But if you start excluding long-dead writers because their views don't agree with your own, you'll have to pretty much avoid most literature written before WWII.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
89. pnh
It doesn't look to me like Wright was "silenced." It looks like he didn't like the results he was getting, so he decided to delete his post.

I think there's nothing wrong with not wanting to read books by people who consider you or your friends to be less than human. Even more to the point, I don't think it would matter even if I did think there was something wrong with it. If Jo Walton were to announce on the Internet tomorrow that all Belgians are degenerate, cannibalistic child-molesters, I suspect that Belgian people, and people with Belgian friends, would find themselves feeling negatively toward the works of Jo Walton. And this would be hardly surprising.

That said, I also don't think that book publishers should be in the business of pre-vetting authors to make sure they don't have any controversial opinions--or even crazy ones. First, because many worthwhile books have been written throughout history by people with loopy opinions about one thing or another. Second, because how many of us want to live in a world in which book publishers pre-vet authors for their opinions? That would be, not just a dystopia, but an extraordinarily silly one.
Ursula L
90. Ursula
Since money is tight, I find that it isn't so much a matter of not supporting sexist/racist/homophobic authors, as it is one of affirmatively choosing to spend my time and money on supporting authors who understand equality, aren't prejudiced, and are aware of issues like privilege.

Generally, if I've read a writer, and then find out that they're very sexist/racist/homophobic, my response is "that explains it" - it will come through in their writing, either overtly or in a subtle, nagging way in which they just don't get their characters fully human.

You can't get a character right if you're prejudiced against that type of person. You'll either have your prejudice show through when you write that sort of character, or you'll ignore the fact that that sort of person exists at all (such as all the stories without women characters, but with no recognition of anyone doing the "women's work.")

But it takes paying attention to see this. When I wasn't paying attention, I'd read stories by both sorts of authors - and found some unsatisfying, without being able to put my finger on why. When I started paying attention to authors beyond just reading books, I was more able to sort out why some things bugged me.

And when I started paying attention enough to seek out authors who weren't prejudiced, I realized that there was plenty of good stuff to read without having to deal with the annoyance of an author's prejudices showing through in the text.
Dru O'Higgins
91. bellman
I won't be reading Wright again, I was horrified by his statements and my time and money are limited. And his books weren't all that great.

But if I hear of any organization trying to ban his books or arrange a boycott, I will be tempted. As individuals, we naturally have the right to choose where our money goes, and to tell others our reasons for avoiding a specific writer. But when does it become censorship?
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
92. pnh
Kage Baker writes:

(I)f you're going to hate him for his Mormon views on gays, aren't you going to have to hate everyone whose religion says homosexuality is a sin? Which lines you up against all other Mormons, observant Jews, devout Christians and Muslims right there.

I have to take issue with the word "all" here. It's true that most self-described American Christians who call themselves "devout" take a socially regressive view of gays. But it's not true of all denominations and it's not even true of all members of denominations which officially espouse regressive views. It's a complicated world. Membership in a religious organization does not automatically mean subscribing to a hard-right social agenda. Moreover, a growing amount of polling data shows that the under-30 members of even the most otherwise-conservative religious groups don't have anything like the obsessive animus against gay people that their elders do. In other words, viewing gay people as less-than-fully-human really is a matter of choice, and not something that can be simply assumed from an individual's affiliation with a particular religious group.
Ursula L
93. Ursula
But when does it become censorship?

It becomes censorship when the government does it, or when there is some form of punishment for reading/owning the problematic books.

But if you're concerned about censorship (such as at your public library) that's where it becomes useful to seek out non-prejudiced authors, rather than just avoiding the prejudiced ones.

Libraries have limited resources. If you put in requests that the order books from good, non-prejudiced writers, then there is less money in the budget to spend on the prejudiced stuff, and you'll help expose the people in your community to good-quality non-prejudiced writing.
Kage Baker
94. kagebaker
pnh@92:

I stand corrected. I ought to have said "fundamentalist Christians" rather than "devout Christians". Essentially, anyone who points to the Old Testament lines about young men committing abominations together as their justification for hating gays.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
95. pnh
bellman, #91: While I don't subscribe to the easy fannish/libertarian notion that it's only "censorship" if a government does it, I think that boycotts and actual censorship are pretty clearly different things.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
96. pnh
As a footnote to my own comment #89, I suppose I should clarify that my hypothetical about Jo Walton was, indeed, a hypothetical, and that the real Jo Walton does not in fact assert that all Belgians are cannibals and child molesters.

I trust that this will ease everyone's mind on this important issue.
Bill Mermaniac
97. Anonymous Coward
kagebaker@94:

"Fundamentalist Christians" and a focus on Leviticus leaves out the doctrinal Catholic rationale, focused as it is on a Thomistic understanding of natural law and its consequences for human sexual life and those sorts of things. I think that's what's lurking underneath Mr. Wright's unhinged rhetoric, as in one of his self-justifying follow-up posts, fellow author Michael Flynn explains that reasoning to someone.

I still think it's bad reasoning--or at least I don't share any of its metaphysical foundations--but it's usually good for argument to know the foundations of each groups' objections.
Dru O'Higgins
98. bellman
I think I expressed my thought incorrectly. I'll try again.

A writer, who depends upon goodwill or at least indifference with goodwill towards his works, should not be this stupid.

I will now be unable to read and enjoy his books. Not a choice to avoid someone whose views I find repellent. Just actually unable to put those views out of my mind as I read. And I will certainly express my feelings towards his beliefs if Wright or his books come up in conversation.

But any attempt by an organization to ban or boycott his works approaches becoming a free speech issue. If his works are demonstrably bigoted, I may complain to my library, and requesting non-prejudiced writers is a good idea. But trying to punish someone for their expressed beliefs? Damn, but that makes me uncomfortable.
Bill Mermaniac
99. Coalbiter
The children's author William Mayne won many awards and was critically acclaimed for half a century. In 2004 he was found guilty of sexually abusing young girl fans between 1960 and 1975. He'd used his position as a much admired writer to meet and groom his victims.

Does this change my reading of his work?

Yes it does. Forever and irrevocably.

It doesn't change the text, or the fact that the critics once used terms like "freshness," "purity" and "innocence" to describe his work. Even now, I think much of his writing is beautiful. But it's no longer possible for me to read him without looking for a subtext. Maybe it's made worse because I was a child in the sixties and early seventies when he was at the height of his fame and committing his crimes, and thus there's a sense of betrayal. (Whereas revelations about Lewis Carroll are of purely historical interest and don't change the way I read the Alice books.)

Still, I don't think his work should be banned. I do however think his work is harder to find now than it was ten years ago, chiefly because he's been allowed to go quietly out of print.
Bill Mermaniac
100. Nick Mamatas
I seem to remember many people getting very upset at Card fairly recently. One, when he suggested that homosexual behavior be recriminalized and the laws occasionally enforced to send a message as to what is and what is not acceptable. Two, when he declared that he was in favor of the overthrow of the government in case of legal elevation of gay marriage.

http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-hypocrites.html
http://www.mormontimes.com/mormon_voices/?id=3237

Both those strike me as rather different than simple anti-gay sentiment or belief in a religious proscription against homosexual sex. I suspect that many people against gay marriage--for example the current President and his Secretary of State--see little reason to overthrow the governments of Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine for example.

At any rate, I certainly don't refuse to read or buy books by people whose opinions or actions I find reprehensible or even by people who actively and explicitly dislike me. For one, it is purely practical -- all "I'll never buy your book!" means is what? Given hardcover royalties, what one is saying is "I certainly won't maybe give you two dollars and fifty cents two years from now!" (The price and royalty rates drop with the format.) Is this really supposed to send market signals of some sort to authors? Yes yes, I know if lots of people stop buying books by this or that author...and yet I know many dozens of people who refuse to buy OSC books and perhaps three or four that quickly snap up whatever he publishes in hardcover but sooooooomehoooooow OSC still keeps selling hundreds of thousands of copies of his books.

(Personally, I don't read Card because I find his work mostly very tedious. If I am ever in a desperate state I suppose I'll reread The Worthing Saga, which I enjoyed when I was yonger.)

Practically, these informal, demandless boycott-sentiments don't seem to have any real juice behind them.

The second is just a matter of my own experience: some people are better writers than they are people. Why reduce my pleasure by concentrating on what someone else isn't good at, such as being a person? If their political sentiments and actions are harmful to me, well, I'll deal with that in the political arena. The activism of even popular authors generally have much less impact on my daily life than the actions of the local state senator or the cop on the corner.
Kage Baker
101. kagebaker
Nick,

Wow! I didn't know Card had said that. That's awful.
Arachne Jericho
102. arachnejericho
Kage,

Yup, Card holds... interesting opinions and has no problems expressing them.

However, to give him a little credit, he is still more coherent even in the depths of his tinfoil hat screeds than Wright is in 90% of his LiveJournal. Whether that makes it better or worse is up to the reader.

I still read Card's continuing Ender series because sometimes I want a Big Mac and you know what you get with a Big Mac.

Along with Nick's point about boycotts being ineffectual, I'd add the fact that book burnings mostly makes books (whether you like them or not) eligible for a list of banned books for which there is a celebratory week/month.
MacAllister Stone
103. MacAllister
ArachneJericho said @102
"...book burnings mostly makes books (whether you like them or not) eligible for a list of banned books for which there is a celebratory week/month."


And that's definitely one reason to love the U.S., even when I'm really pissed off at us all.
Paul Howard
104. DrakBibliophile
I haven't read Card in years and just got finished reading his statement. There is a fear among many religious people that 'legal gay marriage' will include telling the churches that they must allow gay marriages within their churches.

If that is what Card fears and it happens, then I'll be fighting beside him. If you tell my church that it must perform gay marriages, then you will have a fight on your hand.
rick gregory
105. rickg
@bellman,


But any attempt by an organization to ban or boycott his works approaches becoming a free speech issue.

Banning and boycotting are different things - banning would be wrong in my view. Boycotting is simply people using their free speech rights to argue that others should not buy an authors' works. It's hypocritical to argue for free speech, but against the boycott form of free speech. Free speech, by the way, does not guarantee distribution of that speech and can't be violated by anyone aside from the government (in the US). Come into my house and spout racist nonsense and I'll shut you up. You have zero free speech rights in my private house. The 1st amendment doesn't apply there and in fact doesn't apply on tor.com either. It prohibits the US government from making laws that inhibit free speed and assembly. That's it.

As to the "it's only a small amount of money" arugment above... yes, my lack of a purchase is only a small thing. But take together, thousands of those decisions will show in the sales of midlist and below authors (like Wright). And... so what if it's a small thing? We argue for collective action because of the cumulative effects of small things all the time - conserve energy, attend a protest, vote. It almost never matters if any one person does any of those things but taken together in a large enough group, individual actions can and do matter. And now we loop back to the boycott...
Bill Mermaniac
106. jere7my
Drak @104, right now churches don't have to host any weddings they don't want to. They don't have to host interracial marriages, they don't have to let anyone other than their pastor or priest perform weddings, they don't have to host the weddings of people outside the congregation or the denomination, or people with facial piercings, or people with Q's in their name. Hasn't happened in the past, and it won't happen when same-sex marriage is legalized. (I'm speaking here as someone who got married in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal for five years. I still bumped up against all sorts of wacky requirements while researching churches.)
Paul Howard
107. DrakBibliophile
Jere7my, somebody I know on another site has met gays who have said that once gay marriages are legal everywhere in the US that they want the churches to be forced to do gay marriages.

I doubt that a sane Supreme Court would allow forcing churches to have gay marriages, but any more I'm not sure that a Liberal Supreme Court would be sane.

All it would take is five kooks on the Supreme Court and a Congress that didn't take action against the Supreme Court and all h*ck would break out.
James Goetsch
108. Jedikalos
@Nick

Even 2.50 two years from now to someone who thinks people I admire and love should go to prison for loving each other is too much for me. I wouldn't buy cupcakes from a Klu Klux Klan bake sale, either, no matter how tasty or tempting the pastries were.

@Drak

Seriously, someone you met on another site said he had met gays who want to force churches to marry them? I have been involved with many groups protesting the anti-gay marriage laws, attended many sometimes quite heated rallies, and nowhere did I ever hear anyone wishing that. The concern is more with getting a marriage license at City Hall.
Bill Mermaniac
109. Thomas Lindgren
@bkaul (#86): I can see the need for verification when actually posting the comment. But for a preview? Oh well, it's not that important.
Andrew Peterson
110. BCWoods
@Drak

You may enjoy this completely serious, and totally legitimate news article:

http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/new_hampshire_passes_law
Bill Mermaniac
111. jere7my
Drak @107, I am absolutely positive you could find people who believe churches should be forced to perform interracial marriages, possibly in this very discussion. But if it hasn't happened in the 42 years since Loving v. Virginia, and it hasn't happened in Massachusetts in the last five years, it doesn't seem like something to waste time worrying about.

And even if it did happen, it wouldn't be a good reason to make interracial marriage illegal again.
Paul Howard
112. DrakBibliophile
Jedikalos, just because you haven't met any doesn't mean they don't exist. I have no reason to doubt either your word or the other person's word.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
113. pnh
Of course, it's impossible to demonstrate than in a country of 300 million people, there isn't a single same-sex marriage advocate who once said they'd like to be able to compel churches to perform marriages those churches disapproved of.

However, the assertion that lots of people are advocating this nutty idea is in fact a well-documented big lie being put forth by anti-same-sex-marriage advocates.

Put simply, DrakBibliophile, you're falling for a lie. The person who passed it on to you may have sincerely believed it. But it's still a lie.
Bill Mermaniac
114. Russell Letson
It might be imprudent for me to comment specifically on these issues, but as I read the thread I kept thinking of Auden's lines:

Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,

Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honours at their feet.

Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well.

("In Memory of W.B. Yeats")

It's a measure of how old my poetry library is that I didn't know that Auden omitted these lines from the 1966 edition of his work.
James Goetsch
115. Jedikalos
Drak: I am sure some exist, they are just a minority. Just like there are a few who would like to force churches of their choice to perform interracial marriages--as jeremy points out vis a vis Loving vs. Virginia--but most people would rather ignore those places that think they are somehow not as fully human and not get married there anyway. Folks just want a legal marriage.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
116. pnh
Indeed, Russell, I've had occasion to quote those lines in other iterations of this argument.

George Orwell was intermittently a blustering misogynist. He also wrote A Clergyman's Daughter, a novel that couldn't have been written without some real insight into the problems women face in a patriarchal world.

The point isn't that Orwell was or wasn't guilty of being a nincompoop when he railed against "feminists, sandal-wearers and vegetarians." Nor is it interesting to endlessly worry over whether we should forgive him, or cut him slack.

The point is that books are sometimes smarter than their authors. Which can be hard to take on board when you're hurt, upset, and looking to clearly identify heroes and villains.
Paul Howard
117. DrakBibliophile
Jedikalos, I accept that they are a minority of gays. My fear is that this minority will attempt and succeed in getting the Supreme Court to rule against the Churches.

What would you do if it happened?
Lisa Spangenberg
118. Medievalist
PNH@116

The point is that books are sometimes smarter than their authors.


This is truly important, and very much worth noting--and repeating.
Arachne Jericho
119. arachnejericho
Due respect to all involved, but perhaps we should step away from fighting directly about healthcare and gay marriage in the comment thread.

If only because this post is not actually about those, per se, and such comments are kinda off-topic, however important those particular discussions are to have.
p l
120. p-l
@DrakBibliophile:
You're obfuscating the issue by pretending there is one big group that can fairly be called "the Churches." There is tremendous diversity in Christianity - not just between denominations but between time periods. There are already churches willing to marry gay couples, particularly in the relatively progressive states where gay marriage is already legal. There will probably be more of them in the future.

It's pretty likely that precedents regarding freedom of religion will prevent the courts from ruling that all Christian churches have to perform gay weddings. Such precedents will probably keep the Supreme Court from even addressing the issue.

But so what? What if all churches did have to marry gay couples? Christianity, like every other human institution, is an evolving system. Centuries ago, people thought human salvation depended on the Latin mass. Later, they thought it depended on forbidding divorce. Still later, Christian morality and interracial marriage were incompatible. All these things changed, and, like gay marriage, none of them mattered.

Your grandchildren aren't going to care a whit about gay marriage, I bet, any more than you care about interracial marriage. Yet they will still be just as devout as you, because that will be the shape of the Christianity they live with.
p l
121. p-l
@arachnejericho:
Gah, sorry. I started writing my comment before yours went up. I preview-posted before I noticed yours. My apologies.
p l
123. p-l
On topic, then, I think there are a few excellent writers whose reprehensible opinions are inextricably tied up in the special flavor of their writing. Gene Wolfe's silly misogyny probably springs in part from his Catholicism, but so does the quasi-mystical awesomeness of The Book of the New Sun, There Are Doors, etc. It might be impossible to have the good without the bad, in his case and others.

On the other hand, progressive beliefs certainly don't entail good writing. I probably agree with Charles de Lint on politics, but I still find his writing pretty dull.
Bill Mermaniac
124. Nick Mamatas
I'm amused by Drak's earlier comment that on conservative message boards the extreme rightists are controlled by the more reasonable conservatives. Once it is demonstrated that OSC is one of those extreme sorts, Drak lines up right behind him with a fanciful tale of forced religious marriage and the street battles that he will join on that occasion.

Hey it only takes five kooks to take the guns away from all white people and then redistribute them to all the black people! Someone told me that they heard someone wanted to do this on some website! So, moral litmus test right now: are you against this, or are you some kind of horrible liberal?
Torie Atkinson
125. Torie
@ DrakBibliophile

Yes, yes, and I bet you heard that when the liberals rule the world it'll be forced abortions and mandatory gay marriage for everyone, etc. etc. (Don't try thinking of how that works.)

To everyone: Let's please drop the overt political arguments from here on out. We can discuss disagreements with authors without disagreeing with them right here.
Bill Mermaniac
126. afterthefallofnight
@bkaul(85)

"I don't insist that my plumber agree with me on everything; why would I insist that an author do so?"

But the discussion hasn't really been about trivial differences of opinion. It has been about people you feel have truly odious opinions or beliefs.

In the same way that I would be unlikely to enjoy the work of an artist whose politics or religion I found truly repugnant - I would not do business with a plumber I knew to be a member of the KKK.
Bill Mermaniac
127. Dacole
ok first off the controversy about the mind blowing sci-fi is ridiculous. The idea that every group of stories has to pass some test of who it includes is stupid. But I do not buy books by those I consider homophobic so yes I do let the political opinons of the author influence my buying habits. Now I would like some proof though of the idea that Gene Wolf is misogynist I find that incredibly hard to believe. If there was any truth to it I can't see dylanfanatic on a site I frequent loving him as much as he does.
Bill Mermaniac
128. Ilana C.T.
Ever since I found out that China Mieville doesn't permit his work to be translated into Hebrew, I resolved to never pick up another of his books again. (And it isn't that hard.)

Ironically, I still get emails from people telling me that my customer review of "Perdido Street Station" influenced them to buy the book.

Yes, China, an ISRAELI helped you sell some books. You're welcome.
Bruce Baugh
129. BruceB
I take a simple view as a reader.

I'm concerned about the society I live in, where a lot of bad people flourish and a lot of good people don't. I can, and to often do, buy more books than I can ever actually read. I'm trying to get that reined in, and part of it is making choices. I am happy with the thought of my dollars going to writers who aren't dangerous to my well-being, or the well-being of people I care about, as well as good writers. Since there are many, many more books by writers of that sort than I can ever possibly read, I really don't need to spend time or dollars on work by writers who wish me or mine any ill.

There's a place for seeking out challenges and simply fresh questioning. But for day-in, day-out, regular reading and thinking and analyzing purposes, I'll stick with work by writers I don't find abhorrent. And I've got plenty of piles of great work selected by this rule (along with others concerned with other issues).
Agnes Kormendi
130. tapsi
Anonymus Coward @ 83

According to his Wikipedia page, Wright converted to Christianity in 2003, before writing this trilogy. Yes, it did have misogynist overtones, but I didn't find them too strong. I've had far worse in books by authors I like and respect. The story was entertaining and had a furious pace and that was enough for me. It was a clever little tale and not a pamphlet on Wright's repellent personal views, so I took it as such.

Honestly, as long as he keeps his views to his blog and personal life, and keeps them out of his books, I don't care for them any more than I do for the views of other idiots out there. His books are OK with me until he starts to use them as an ideological mouthpiece.


p-l @ 123
Gene Wolfe's silly misogyny probably springs in part from his Catholicism

While I myself am not Catholic, I've a lot of Catholic friends and never once did it occur to me that Catholicism and misogyny went hand in hand. I don't think it's fair to excuse anyone's stupidity by saying "oooh, it's because the Pope told him to be like this", not when the overwhelming majority of Catholic people aren't intolerant or misogynist.


Ilana C.T. @ 128

Are you sure this isn't just an urban legend? It sounds mighty odd. He definitely did not strike me as someone who would start excluding people based on race or tongue or anything. He doesn't appear to be happy with the Israeli treatment of Palestine, but that's a different issue, I think.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
131. pnh
#123:

Gene Wolfe's silly misogyny probably springs in part from his Catholicism

And meanwhile, the pro-choice sympathies of Pulitzer Prize-winning Catholic writer Garry Wills are the function of exactly what?

The fact is, once you look at the world in detail, you find that social attitudes and ideological sympathies are complicated and don't map very reliably onto simplistic schemas in which all Catholics are one thing, all Jews another, and so forth. Which is why I'm very critical of the idea that we can breezily assert that "Well, Author X is a member of Religion Y, so obviously they have Outlook Z," as if these things are just attributes in a big D&D game. Religions are hazy things and tend to be full of individuals who aren't in perfect agreement with the official leadership.

If we stipulate that one Catholic writer's work evinces "misogyny" and claim that this "springs in part" from his Catholicism, how do we then account for the many decisive and powerful women in the bestselling novels of Catholic priest Andrew M. Greeley? The great American writer Flannery O'Connor regarded her Catholicism as central to her work, but did her attraction to grotesque subject matter and sardonic diction spring from some papal encyclical enjoining Catholics to be darkly ironic, or was it because O'Connor, like every other writer worth reading, was a member of the awkward squad who managed to turn the crooked timber of her humanity into art?
Johne Cook
132. Phy
It's a double-edged sword. In the comments thread for another post about creating better anthologies and magazines, we're encouraged to read things outside of our experience and comfort zone. And yet, there are certain things that appear to be too odious to read for civilized people.

I read what I'm interested in, and what challenges me. I don't stop reading if the author is an odious person in person, I'm evaluating their work in the written form. If there is something to be learned or gained from their writing, I'll give it a shot.

I agree with some of Card's perspectives but not others. I loved Ender's Game but was less interested in that story arc as it left the Battle School. I found the entire alternate story of Bean fascinating and thought-provoking. I haven't read any of Card's magical realism stuff, nor most of his fantasy. My tastes and my available reading time are limited.

As has been said, Harlan Ellison is legendary for being an offensive loudmouth about some things, and yet I read all his stories because of his craft, his (heh) mindblowing ability to shape and spin a story. He added something important to science fiction, and I accepted that as a reader and as a fan. And now, decades later, he looks like something of an elder statesman. SF benefits from his seasoned opinion.

John C. Wright is still growing into his powers as a fiction author. He has a love for space opera that I, as a space opera editor and fan myself would be remiss to overlook.

Mel Gibson stills makes a helluva movie, and I'm a sucker for giving a person a second chance to learn and grow as a human being.

America is still a free country. I support freedom of speech even if it is not the speech I, myself, prefer. No, I'm not going to stop partaking in culture just because I don't agree with the artist's personal views. If there is something of quality or perspective in the art itself, I'm inclined to give it a chance.
Bill Mermaniac
133. JeffV
Personally, I think some people would be amazed about some of their favorite authors' views if some SF/F authors who don't have blogs and don't comment on blogs...suddenly did.

Re Paul Di Filippo--there's a factual error upstream. He *did not* edit that Mammoth antho. He brought crap down upon himself for his reply in the SF Site comments thread. This is important--get your facts straight. Sloppiness on that kind of thing is really unfair.

Because as ill-advised and blah Paul's comments may have been, they do not equate to editing an anthology that's exclusionary--and for that matter, they don't equate to one of Wright's rants. Wright's rants also constitute a continuing pattern of behavior.

This is a really tough question generally for me. With regard to Wright, it's easy: I never have read his work, and now I just will continue not to. But Kage Baker makes some very good points upstream.
Bill Mermaniac
134. Nick Mamatas
tapsi @130: China Mieville is boycotting Israel for the reasons described here:
http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com/2009/01/call-for-boycott-divestment-and.html



Unrelated fun fact: one of my favorite authors is a devout Mormon who returned to the church after having a mystical experience. He's also a punk rocker, gay, wears Boy George make-up and giant hats with pictures of Barbara Streisand and Williams Shakespeare on them, and lives with his mom. And his favorite writer is, in turn, Lovecraft.
Andrew Peterson
135. BCWoods
Has anyone else here read "How to Win A Cosmic War" by Reza Aslan?

It's primarily about the Middle East conflict, but I'll do a quick summary:

It's very unhealthy to think of human beings as being the Cosmic avatar of an ideal because it changes the conflict from an argument about policy into a heavenly battle that can never be won.

For example, when people see the Phelp's family protest at funerals, they don't see a bunch of pity-worthy people who were raised by an abusive father. They see the Cosmic crystallization of the concept of bigotry. I've even seen people yell at the Phelps children as if their five and six year olds chose to go protest at funerals.

Now if people put their romantic notions aside, and saw the Phelp's children for what they are (a bunch of severely abused kids) no one would ever dream of screaming in their faces. Anger is almost never a rational response.

The same thing is true here. I don't think of any person as being the incarnated platonic ideal of homophobia. However, just because you understand and have sympathy for someone as a human being doesn't mean there shouldn't be consequences for their actions.

On a final note, human beings are highly dynamic, compartmentalized creatures with very few direct causal relationships in terms of their psychology. Also, go read "How to Win a Cosmic War" you will not regret it.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
136. pnh
Phy, #132: Great comment. I'm basically with you--I read and enjoy lots of books by people with views I consider odious. Heinlein is one of my favorite authors, for instance. And Pound was a great poet. The world is complicated.

That said, I don't even remotely blame people for being put off when an author makes public statements they find extremely offensive. See my hypothetical in comment #89. It's entirely human to have such a reaction. It doesn't mean that those readers are claiming that "certain things" are "too odious to read for civilized people." It just means that those readers have reached their personal limits. If I had close family members who'd been killed by Mussolini, I can well imagine I might find it a lot harder to read Pound. The world is complicated.

It's good to be tolerant. Also: everybody has limits. Both statements are true. The world is complicated.

One more statement that's true: Since nobody in this conversation has suggested banning anybody else, I'm pretty sure that none of this has anything to do with "free speech."
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
137. pnh
Also, I really want to know more about the author Nick Mamatas was describing in #134.
Bill Mermaniac
138. James Davis Nicoll
104: There is a fear among many religious people that 'legal gay marriage' will include telling the churches that they must allow gay marriages within their churches.

In the same way the existence of legalized Baptist weddings require the Catholics to perform Baptist wedding ceremonies? Or, for that matter, how legalized divorce forces the Catholics to perform wedding ceremonies for divorcees now remarrying?

I myself have vowed that if proposed changes to sales tax law in Canada ends up requiring all kittens to be BBQed alive I will most certainly protest loudly. I don't have any reason to think this could be the case - in fact, it seems pretty crazy to think it would - but I think it's important to go alarmist early and often. A Harmonized Sales Tax is the Kitten Apocalypse!
Paul Howard
139. DrakBibliophile
To James Davis Nicoll, there was a request to keep these comments on topic so I'll not respond to you as you deserve.
- -
140. heresiarch
*edited*

On second thought, I shouldn't.
rick gregory
141. rickg
@phy "It's a double-edged sword. In the comments thread for another post about creating better anthologies and magazines, we're encouraged to read things outside of our experience and comfort zone. And yet, there are certain things that appear to be too odious to read for civilized people. "

Yet another person misconstrues the argument. It's not about the odiousness of the work. It's about supporting someone who has odious, bigoted opinions and who actively promotes those in LJ, magazines, etc. I wouldn't send them money to support their cause yet that's basically what I'd be doing by buying their books. So this has zero to do with the idea of reading works outside my comfort zone or by authors who have different backgrounds or characteristics than I. It's about monetarily supporting bigots.

You can get on your high horse about how you're willing to read things by them, but unless you're buying used version of the book, you're also sending money to them. That's your right, but don't decry their opinions while giving them cash.

I've read Wright (Orphans of Chaos was one of the free Tor books that promoted this site). Not bad, good even, but certainly not genius. To use Valente's yardstick, it's not such an amazing work that I feel I'd be missing a Shakespeare-level talent (or even a Tolkien level talent) and to Bruce Baugh's point, there are a lot of books out there and I can buy ones written by authors who aren't saying things repellent to me on highly trafficked sites in an attempt to push hate.
- -
142. heresiarch
pnh @ 136: "The point is that books are sometimes smarter than their authors."

Indeed. It's always been a little weird to me that Card, whose Xenocide is a pretty powerful argument against treating intelligent Others as existential threats, was so gung ho about invading Iraq.
Bill Mermaniac
143. EmmetAOBrien
It seems to me that coping with the existence of authors who are personally reprehensible but who write books that are fun is one of the things that second-hand bookshops are for.

Also, can we please stop using the "wearing no pants"/"showing their ass in public" metaphor ? That's body-hatred plain and simple.
p l
144. p-l
pnh @131:
I have no idea about Garry Wills, and I think you're reading more into my post than was there. If you'd gone up a few posts further, you'd have seen me making a similar argument about diversity within Christianity.

I based my comment about Gene Wolfe (it wasn't a comment about all Catholic writers) on an interview he gave related to "Soldier in the Mist," in which he spoke approvingly about patriarchal religions displacing matriarchal ones. That suggests to me that his misogyny and his religion are connected. If you can find the interview (I think it's online somewhere), you might infer something different from it.

In any case, the point is not to tar religious people with an unfavorable brush, but to point out that sometimes the unpleasant features of a writer's personality are inseperable from what makes them interesting to read. Another example: Lord Byron's lust for romance and adventure obviously informed his writing. But the same drive led him to ruin the lives of several women.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
145. pnh
I'd like to go back to an observation made back in comment #100 by Nick Mamatas, in which he referred to "a matter of my own experience: some people are better writers than they are people. Why reduce my pleasure by concentrating on what someone else isn't good at, such as being a person? If their political sentiments and actions are harmful to me, well, I'll deal with that in the political arena. The activism of even popular authors generally have much less impact on my daily life than the actions of the local state senator or the cop on the corner."

I have repeatedly observed that it's perfectly understandable to feel negatively toward the work of an outspokenly anti-Belgian author if you and/or your friends are Belgians, or even if you're just someone who wants to see Belgians treated fairly (despite their sugary waffles and mayonnaise-laden french fries--you know what they say about Belgians, do I need to spell it out), but nonetheless Nick seems to me to have a very good point here. If you want to change the world, the immediate structures of actual political power are where most of the action is. The attitudes toward Belgians held by the "local state senator or the cop on the corner" are a lot more likely to have a direct impact on your life than the attitudes of most genre writers.

Yes, I realize that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, that science fiction drives our imagination of the future, and that important cultural figures such as Arthur C. Clarke, Roger Ebert, Paul Krugman, Barack Obama, Hugh Laurie, and Ella Fitzgerald got their start in life as science fiction fans. Also that science fiction fandom invented the communications satellite, the Internet, and the Pacific Ocean. Science fiction is very important and therefore we are too. But I can't help but wonder if at least some of the energy being pumped into some of these conversations isn't the result of a certain despair over the prospects for fixing the real world. Easier to cry FAIL on cranky genre writers than it is to organize effective political action. I'm sure there are people who manage to do both, but I do wonder how many.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
146. pnh
p-l, #144: "(S)ometimes the unpleasant features of a writer's personality are inseparable from what makes them interesting to read." I certainly agree with that. I would go even farther and say that sometimes the aspects of a writer's outlook that I find unsympathetic, alien, or hard to understand make them interesting to read. And sometimes they just make a writer unsympathetic, alien, or hard to understand. The world is complicated.
rick gregory
147. rickg
@p-l - I think you might want to cite the interview a bit and take the comment in context. It might be misogynist or it might be a comment on religious practices. However, I think it's a bit much to lay the comment as you've paraphrased it at the feet of Catholicism. It's Wolfe's comment... it's his responsibility. Not the Church's.

PNH - I don't think I or anyone who refuses to buy books by bigots view it as changing the world (though note my earlier point that we exhort people to vote and to do other things that, individually, don't matter but that do when done collectively). However, I think we (or at least I) view it as being consistent on the ethical plane. If I despise a person's views, I won't support them in any arena at all. Mamatas' argument is ethically inconsistent if it comes down to "I despise this person's views and will fight them in the political arena but will buy their work (thereby sending them money) because I like the books."

As Valente notes in her post linked above, that's allowable for genius level work, but for merely good books, well, there are a lot out there that aren't by authors who are raging bigots. For example, if Orphans of Chaos is representative, Wright's fantasy has perfectly good substitutes. If you're merely after good books, the supply far exceeds what any one reader can take in.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
148. pnh
#147, rickg: I'm beginning to wonder how many times I have to restate that I find it entirely understandable that people wouldn't want to buy or read books by authors who have said stuff they find offensive.

I do think it's a little odd to call Mamatas's argument "ethically inconsistent" if you're going to carve out a dump-truck-sized exception for "genius work" one sentence later. Come on, wait at least a paragraph before completely contradicting yourself.

My own view is that it's perfectly fine to not read or buy books by authors who have pissed you off; indeed, that everyone makes choices based on stuff like this sometimes--but to dress it up in the ceremonial toga of "ethical consistency" is a little silly unless we're willing to spend our lives making sure that nothing we do rebounds to the economic benefit of people we disapprove of. Some people do in fact try to live such lives, but I doubt any of them are in this conversation, because they'd have to use computers containing rare earths mined by semi-enslaved workers in the Congo, pay money to internet providers who invest in climate-damaging technologies, and so on and so forth. I am not making fun of the desire to live an ethical life; I'm just pointing out that perfect "consistency" is an ever-receding target. Valente's practical approach seems perfectly sensible. So does Mamatas's. Neither resembles "ethical consistency"; both of them acknowledge that life is short and entails choices.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
149. pnh
In other words, I have no problem with people saying "I don't care how many times Calvin Aargh has won the Huge and Nobbly Awards, ever since he started condemning Belgians I can't stand to read his work." I don't even have a problem with people urging one another to take the same attitude. I do have a bit of a problem with such people claiming some kind of categorical ethical superiority over people who continue to read Mr. Aargh, because I think that--you guessed it--the world is complicated, and that there are legitimate reasons to read Aargh right alongside the legitimate reasons not to.
rick gregory
150. rickg
pnh... I didn't miss your point. I was merely addressing your comment above - "... Nick seems to me to have a very good point here. If you want to change the world, the immediate structures of actual political power are where most of the action is." Small actions taken collectively can add up and even if they don't the person taking them might simply feel better for making that decision.

As to the apparent contradiction, Mamatas seems to make the argument that such inconsistency is allowable for works that merely give pleasure. I'd set the bar higher and even then might balk, but would understand others not doing so for a genius level work. But setting aside principles for a merely good book? Not for me as there are a lot of books that give me pleasure at that level.

Note I said I felt Nick was being inconsistent - not that his choice was wrong or evil. It's neither - but it is an inconsistency. In the realm we're talking about here, whether to support an author or not given that they are promoting things you find offensive, it's not consistent to say you find them offensive and would oppose their viewpoint... but will read their work and send them money. There are larger and other ethical compromises we make (you cite a few) but then I don't feel that the choices are to either live a perfectly consistent, unfailingly ethical life or to not worry about it at all.
Matt Austern
151. austern
I don't agree with rickg@141: you can't always make a clean separation between the author and the work. I'm more inclined to agree with pnh@146: there's a complicated but real relationship between authors and their works. Wagner wasn't just a great composer who happened to be an antisemite in private life; he was a great composer whose works were based on a philosophy that included antisemitism. I can't ignore that, but I enjoy his operas anyway. He's one of those people where his greatness and his horrible qualities are inseparable.

I don't think I can formulate any general rules for when I do and don't stop reading the works of an author who says odious things. When I do, though, it's not precisely because I want to deprive a bad person of economic benefit. A closer model: when I learn more about an author, it sometimes informs my reading of their work. I'll see different things in it. And sometimes I won't like what I see, and I just won't enjoy the work anymore.

This happened to me with one of the writers we've been talking about in this thread, Orson Scott Card, although not for the political reasons that most people have been discussing. What happened was that I read Xenocide, which I thought was an utterly terrible book. I couldn't read any of his other books without being reminded of it; I started seeing the same flaws in the other books, in a less glaring form. So I stopped.
Brian Kaul
152. bkaul
afterthefallofnight@126:

So a (tactless and sarcastic to be sure) rant against the cultural pressure to not only tolerate homosexuals, but approve of their behavior and portray it as the norm in TV shows, etc. ranks up there with being in the KKK how, exactly? Isn't the hyperbole here kind of proving his point?
p l
153. p-l
@152:
The point of the KKK was to fight against the tolerance of black people. It's entirely reasonable to say that fighting against the tolerance of homosexuals is no different - except that it's easier to get away with.
Bill Mermaniac
154. Nick Mamatas
I'm afraid I don't see any inconsistency at all. There are two parallel tracks:

I deal with politics in the political arena.
I read books I enjoy.

What, exactly is inconsistent here? I suspect that many boycotts have rather too much to do with some ultimate faith in the marketplace more than anything else. That is a faith I simply don't share. Markets aren't subtle yet potent political correctives for the politics of individual actors. This is why actual boycotts usually involve specific demands and a mass movement designed to really harm an organization's bottom line as opposed to a group (but not a chorus!) of "Nah, I doan wanna give him no money nyah nyah" on the Internet somewhere.

Wake me when there's an informational picket outside an OSC reading or signing, or even a letter-writing campaign to our hosts in the Flatiron Building. Then I'll buy the idea of a boycott even happening. (And it's not like such a thing must fail. I believe a reissue of the Gor titles was spiked after a letter-writing campaign to some indie press.)

Or, more practically, s $2.50 ending up in the hands of -- gee, I don't even know because I already don't read OSC because he's wooden and silly, so let's just say HITLER -- and $5.00 going to the bookstore and $5.00 to Ingram and $3.00 to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (which may also publish work by, oh, I dunno, Our Lord and Savior Leon Trotsky, the World's Best Anti-Fascist, and of course Ingram will fulfill orders for that book and the bookstore people will stock it) really going to put me at a disadvantage in the political arena, vis a vis Hitler? Really? Really really?

Really, if Hitler and I coincidentally shared the same dental plan, I'd be doing him a bigger favor.

And forget if we actually lived in the same state and Hitler, yes HITLER, were sucking up my tax dollars for nice roads on which to drive his Volkswagen (and me, without even a license, much less a car!) and for mediocre public schools to send Hans and Adolph Jr. and Little Eva (and I have no kids, Aryan Superbabies or otherwise!) etc etc ad nazium.

But but but...I'd also be giving him an extra $2.50. He might buy a hotdog with it and with that fuel in his belly give a speech that would lead directly to the sort of occupation that sent my male relations into the lonely hills of Ikaria to kill crack Nazi troops with kitchen knives and pillowcases full of rocks. (PS: We won.)

Oooor, maybe Hitler would choke on his hot dog and die and it would be thanks to me Me ME yes me NICK MAMATAS buying Hitler's book and SAVING THE WORLD with the two fiddy I sent him!

And you little bastards probably wouldn't even hold a parade for me.


The notion of not sending some writer with odious opinions money as a political action doesn't fly to me. As some sort of self-reinforcement of one's own beliefs, great, works fine. Doesn't make me inconsistent in my political praxis at all. If it makes you feel better or works as a way of organizing your leisure activities and consumption, sweet. Enjoy, but include me out of the finger-wagging.

N


PNH: The author of whom I am speaking is Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire, a writer of Lovecraftian short stories. As he is, well, a total weirdo, writing to a very specific aesthetic, his stuff mostly appears in the small press. His work has been in several anthologies from major publisher as well. Off the top of my head, he was in the CUTTING EDGE anthology Etchison did for Dell in the Abyss days. (1986! Time sure flies when you're FUNDING HITLER!!!!)
Bill Mermaniac
155. afterthefallofnight
bkaul @152

I thought the issue is whether repugnant opinions of artists affects or should affect what art we choose to experience.

The point I was trying to make is that while in principle I believe "the work" is separate from the artist, in practice, sufficiently repellent political or religious opinions affect the choices I make. The same is true for who I do business with.

And just to be clear, I am talking about voting with my wallet - not censorship.

The reason I brought up the KKK, is that in the past I have stopped doing business with shop owners and with general contractors who expressed strong support for the KKK (I never knew if they were actual members). For me, bringing up the KKK did not seem like hyperbole. It seemed like a concrete business example of voting against prejudice with my wallet.

Clearly what constitutes "sufficiently repellent" will vary from person to person. I never meant to suggest that my criteria would match anyone else's. For the most part, I try to cut people as much slack as I can. To quote from Avenue Q, "Everyone is a little bit racist". Someone usually has to work at it to cross my (admittedly fuzzy) line.
Bruce Baugh
156. BruceB
"Oooor, maybe Hitler would choke on his hot dog and die and it would be thanks to me Me ME yes me NICK MAMATAS buying Hitler's book and SAVING THE WORLD with the two fiddy I sent him! "

This is part of why I'm increasingly inclined to just crawl in a hole and not talk to the world. The charm of rhetorical boots to the head has pretty well worn off for me, whether I agree with the kicker in a particular instance or not. I feel so much more diminished than I ever imagined I would by the passage of time and accumulated losses, and interested in what it takes to make some corner of the world a relatively beautiful and peaceful place, welcoming for myself and my ilk. But I'm increasingly aware of how foolish a hope that is, and how likely it is that it's those good at boots to the head who are likelier to get their corners.
Christopher Turkel
157. Applekey
Generally, a writer's world view or personality doesn't affect my appreciation of their work unless such things go as far to offend me.

For instance, by all accounts Harlan Ellison is a crusty bastard but I still read his works.

Joel Rosenberg sits at the other end of the political spectrum from me and I read his stuff, too.

The only exception I can think of is Orson Scott Card. Until recently, I read his stuff despite knowing his political views until he wrote that homophobic screed of his that so deeply offended me that I longer read his books and I went so far as to through the copies I had away.

But that is rare. It's what a writer writes that is most important.
Bill Mermaniac
158. Nick Mamatas
This is part of why I'm increasingly inclined to just crawl in a hole and not talk to the world.


Likewise, Bruce. Your comment was a rhetorical boot to the head too, and an incredibly vicious one. You managed to tie my comment to your unrelated personal losses and troubles, to your estimation of yourself (and your ilk) as people barred from even some corner of peace and beauty by people like me (who have no interest in either, it seems!), and you sent your boot flying to my head at random.

I had been discussing some prior back and forth about my position on the issue; you're just picking a fight.
Torie Atkinson
159. Torie
@ 158 Nick Mamatas

Vicious? Really? Come now.

This is no place for personal attacks; move on.
Bruce Baugh
160. BruceB
Torie: Thanks. But Nick actually does have a point, and I owe him an apology.

Nick: Sorry. I didn't mean to make it sound like I was picking on you, or your particular comment, and since I did make it sound that way, I need to back up and clarify. My regrets for muddled expression the first time around.

What your post set off on in me was actually a stylistic reaction. I've had several things, personal and professional, lately where it's been necessary to speak very loudly and hyperbolically to get anywhere, and I'm really very tired of it. I get worn out from having to shout so much to protect a scrap of space in which to be quiet.

You're not doing that to me, you only reminded me of it in that I think that style, which you seem very comfortable with and (as best I can judge) do very well, is where any future this side of complete capitulation lies, and I really wish it were otherwise.

You may still find this all very unwelcome and unpleasant, but at least it's the disagreement I mean to have rather than the one I stumbled into.
Bill Mermaniac
161. MattG
Great post. And I'm impressed with the quality of the audience here on Tor that it took until comment 154 for this topic to hit Godwin's law.

My observation is that people tend towards viewing things in black and white terms, and that it is often difficult to break away from this thinking. This pushes us towards extreme positions on topics like this, and often leads to some of the absurd absolutes that can get thrown around.

What gladdens me about both this post and the majority of the comments is, that there is at least a section of us that still recognise that shades of grey and subjectivity enter into discussions like this.

Personally I do not think that one objectionable act or thought would generally turn me off an author, unless that person was using the books to in some way promote that world view.

E.g. if the author was known to make racist comments when they thought they were outside of public scrutiny, I would think less of them but would not necessarily avoid their books. If they were using their access to the media to promote racism as a valid world view I would cease support for them.

In the second example my support is contributing to the spread of their message. I believe that puts a level of moral culpability onto me if I were to continue with material support.

At some point a line would need to be crossed, but that lines position changes depending on the type, severity, manifestation and reliabilty of the flaw being exhibited.
Bill Mermaniac
162. Nick Mamatas
Bruce, thanks. I appreciate both the apology and clarification.

Torie, yes, vicious (had it been actually aimed at a person). A comment that can be paraphrased as 'You are against peace and beauty and remind me of every pain and sorrow I and people like me experience' is absolutely vicious.
j p
163. sps49
Wow, I had no idea of any of these authorial failings. Except for a brief discussion during Kate's LotR reread.

I am used to Hollywood actors with laughable positions and am only bothered when they are given weight based on their relative prominence; intelligence is not linked to acting talent. An author should be held to a higher standard; writing is the best way for us to learn what is in someone else's thoughts, and it can disturb me to learn that a writer whose work has resonated so well with me could turn out to be (______).

What bothers me is that there are some opinions which some individuals and groups will not tolerate, and will not even listen to a defense or rationale of. These litmus test opinions do no good to my community, my nation, or my world.
Louis Wilson
164. louiswins
I think Eric Flint, of the Baen Free Library, said it better than I could:

Literature — and popular fiction is no different, there's no Chinese wall separating the two — is not politics. A writer as a political figure and his or her fiction are not the same thing. Their political and social views will, of course, influence their writings. But the way that influence works its way through can get extremely complex, even contradictory. And since no political viewpoint — not even mine, as amazing as it may be — ever captures all of human reality, you will often discover that a writer whose expressed viewpoints on political matters seems stupid or offensive to you still has something to say in his fiction which strikes a chord.

Prime Palaver #8
Marcus W
165. toryx
My response to the question posed in the original post would be that it's difficult. I'd like to say that my decision on how to deal with troubling comments by authors of books I was fond of is derived by rational thought but I can't. I am influenced.

I agree in general with what Kage Baker wrote about the importance of knowing other positions and perspectives. I believe in the freedom of expressing opinions and I want to live in a world where people can continue to be free to do so. I also believe that it's important for people to be able to react appropriately to said opinions.

I had just finished reading Orphan's of Chaos a week before reading Wright's post. Like Anonymous Coward @ 83 I suddenly found myself thinking about the aspects of the book that made me uncomfortable, especially the enforced submissiveness of the narrator by powerful (and at times brutish) males.

It doesn't matter if the plot points were directly tied to Wright's opinions on homosexuality or not. I simply couldn't help but look at those moments in a different light.

The same is true of OSC's comments. I have read most of the books he published prior to the beginning of the 21st century when I happened upon some of his political and religious opinions. I've only read one book since and I can't pass a copy of his Empire (which I have not read) without scowling at it. On an intellectual level I realize that a writer and his writings are often very different things. On an emotional level, it is difficult for me to view these writings without having my experience colored by an insight into a author's character.

I am as yet unsure if I'll read the remaining books in the Chaos trilogy. I suspect that I was upset enough by Wright's comments to need time to make the decision.

Fortunately, I also just discovered Kage Baker's Company novels and I'm enjoying them so much that any other books would be put on the backburner anyway.
Samantha Brandt
166. Talia
I'm not sure how I'd react to this if I found out something unpleasant about an author who I really really love, like Tad Williams. So far I've only learned about a few authors I'm rather indifferent on, like Card. I admit I never finished 'Ender's Game' and now its very unlikely I ever will - I have a hard time, personally, separating the person from the work, at least when the work isn't something I've invested heavily in. This applies to other media as well, for instance I no longer have any interest in seeing any Tom Cruise movies (although I must admit, he was bloody brilliant in 'Tropic Thunder.').

For me personally, knowing someone is a douchebag forever taints whatever it is they do. Again not sure how I'd cope if it learned such about a favorite, though.

Also seems to me like Di Filippo just lost his temper. Happens to the best of us - I for sure have made the mistake of fighting on the Internet. :p That way is the way of fail. (I happen to agree with his point of view, and find the opposition viewpoint mindbogglingly incomprehensible.. I can understand his frustration).

This was an interesting thread to read.
Paul Eisenberg
167. HelmHammerhand
I had a conversation with a writer at the Nebula Awards in Chicago a few years ago, where Harry Turtledove's name came up.
"I don't like his writing," the guy said.
"Well, he's no Jack Vance," I replied.
"That's not what I mean. Do you know what I mean?" he asked.
"No," I replied.
And the conversation ended there.
I did know what he was getting at, as Turtledove had recently written a politically volatile story for Fantasy and Science Fiction, but I was there to discuss the art of writing, not politics.
It seems that we live in times that are more politically charged than most, at least to my perception, and that seems to leak into just about every facet of life. But it's nice to have stories out there that transcend the fighting and rancor that permeate nearly everything else, and that's why I love reading so much.
To that end, I'm not sure Neal Stephenson's personal politics would agree with mine, but he's still my favorite author, and one who has given me insight on politics, among other things, without changing my closely-held beliefs.
And that is was SF is all about for me.
Kage Baker
168. kagebaker
toryx@165: Thank you for buying my books! I hope you enjoy them.

And, er, Mr. Mamatas? I was having a really crappy morning, and your post about killing Hitler made me laugh out loud. Thank you.
Bruce Baugh
169. BruceB
One thing that I sort of pointed at but didn't make explicit...actually, I'm going to hoist it into a post of its own after I nap. :)
Bill Mermaniac
170. Frank P.
Exhibit A: Mark Twain

American author of such beloved titles as "Tom Sawyer", "Huckleberry Finn", and the time-travelling tale "A Connecticut Yankee".

Also wrote "Roughing It" http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3177/3177.txt

Presented, for your approval, the beginning of chapter XIX:

"On the morning of the sixteenth day out from St. Joseph we arrived at the entrance of Rocky Canyon, two hundred and fifty miles from Salt Lake. It was along in this wild country somewhere, and far from any habitation of white men, except the stage stations, that we came across the wretchedest type of mankind I have ever seen, up to this writing. I
refer to the Goshoot Indians."
Dave Robinson
171. DaveRobinson
I'm a reader, and a book-buyer. I reserve the right to buy or not buy a book for any reason ranging from the color of the spine to having once seen the author express a liking for that hideous drink known as Pepsi-Cola the undrinkable. It's my money, it's my time, I can spend it as I like.

If an author expresses a particularly repellent and odious belief it will probably color my opinion of them as a person - and possibly my opinion of them as a writer.

There's a Baen author who has espoused beliefs I don't particularly agree with. In fact, I consider a few to be somewhat far-fetched. I stopped reading one of his books because I found the political message got in the way of the story. I tried another of his books and enjoyed it - and I'm more than willing to pay for those of his books that entertain me.

Wright went further than this person and so I'm no longer willing to money for Wright's work. It's not because I feel any sort of "ethical" superiority, just that my opinion of him will color my opinion of his work and make it unreadable for me.

However, he does have the right to both hold his beliefs and espouse them publicly, regardless of how repellent and odious they are. He also has the right to accept the consequences of making such statements on a public forum.

Myself, I'll focus on buying and reading books that will entertain me.
Catharine Richardson
172. WebGenii
@bellman #98
"A writer, who depends upon goodwill or at least indifference with goodwill towards his works, should not be this stupid. "
- perfect summary
@pnh #131
"who managed to turn the crooked timber of her humanity into art?"
- lovely

I'm starting to think that for many authors, they should perhaps just keep themselves a little more private. Because you know, in this day and age it is way to easy to overshare. Or simply misrepresent yourself. Handling a public persona well is a challenge and not everyone gets a Hugo for it (John Scalzi).

As a reader - I love finding out more about the authors I read. At least until that moment where I find out too much.

And to get away from the inflammatory examples of JCW/OSC. How about the continuing trainwreck that is Laurel K Hamilton's blog?
Or that lecture in the acknowledgements (Jes Battis) which seemed to say he was just slumming in the genre. Nice. Or even Liz Williams peculiar autobiography (which now has seemed to vanish from the internet) which seemed to indicate that she's done everything to a totally comic level (but I didn't think she was trying for funny - at least not on purpose).

And where do I stand on the above authors?
LKH: her blog convinces me I'm totally right to not buy her books. But I'm at the blog for the drive-by of the accident.
JB: dis my genre? Well, now you've wasted both of our time.
LW: a proven great read, so I'm putting your history down to writerly eccentricity.

But yes, a writer's personality does matter to me. And its' a completely unfair double-standard I'm holding them to. Enough contact to feel I know the writer - but I'll be prejudiced by anything that offends me. Writing and reading feel like such personal acts I have a hard time separating the art and artist.
Bjoern H
174. netweird
Sad and shocked here.
Wright's "The golden Age" is one of the best and engaging Sci-Fi-novels I've ever read. It had huge influence on me.
Although, as I happen to be a gay science fiction nerd I can't do anything other than avoid him. Completely.
And I didn't even read his article about homosexuality, but the one about the HUGOs and the "left wing" thought police. This one shocked me enough.
I couldn't let myself be immersed in one of his books again after so much die hard conservative right wing talk. Sadly so.

/edit
After reading the original hateful anti gay comments of Wright
I've thrown "The golden Age", "The phoenix exultant", "The golden transcendence" and my hardcover version of "Count to a trillion" in the trash bin and I'm done with him.

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