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March, 2014:

Authors and their Politics

So apparently, the whole “Demonization of Orson Scott Card” thing is bugging me more that I realized. It came up on a friend’s feed on Facebook, and I went over and wrote something horribly, amazingly disjoint on the subject. (No link, because it’s embarrassing.) I figured I’d take another shot at explaining myself, in case it came up again.

Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that Card is imperfect, and deserves to be criticized for some of his views. That’s actually important, because if you’re not willing to enforce a principle defending people you don’t like, then you don’t actually have principles — you have sophistry that you trot out in defense of principals.

(Full disclosure: I haven’t read any Card in about twenty years. At the time, he only seemed able to write the same three stories, over and over again. I have no real clue what he’s written since then, except Ender’s Shadow, which supports my critique.)

Secondly, what got me going was the idea that, “if the wrong people believe something, then what they believe must be wrong.” I can go into the example of what Card believed in detail, but that’s not very important to the discussion. It’s that Slate presented this belief as obviously wrong because Card believes it. In this manner, they actually treat Card as worse that Hitler, as nobody seriously argues that vegetarianism, animal rights, and conservation are wrong because Hitler supported them.

(In fact, it’s more a sign of how messed up Hitler and the Nazis were — they would do things to Jews that they outlawed doing to animals.)

And so, extending that thought, this means that an author (Card, in this case) is perfectly capable of doing something right, separate from his beliefs. Just because you disagree with an artist on one point, doesn’t mean you should discount his work out of hand. This would mean I, as a libertarian, would dismiss Firefly out of hand because Josh Wheedon’s politics run entirely counter to what is presented in that work. And, in this case, a leftist would miss out on Ender’s Game if they judged an author simply by his private beliefs.

All that said, Firefly and Ender’s Game play fair with the audience. The plots of both go where they need to go, and don’t get sidetracked by the authors’ politics. I’m not telling you that you should read an author who gets preachy — those that write “message” or “advocacy” fiction generally don’t do a very good job, no matter their politics. Avoiding them because they can’t write is perfectly fine in my book.