Nov 5, 2009

The Artist and His/Her Art - Part II

Thanks for all of your comments yesterday. This is a fascinating topic, in my opinion, and all of your well-thought out comments certainly helped me get my mind around the subject a bit more. But let's get right down to the reason why I first wrote about all this crap.

Orson Scott Card

For years I have been a big fan of this man's work.  More specifically, of his Enderverse novels and short fiction work.  I must have read Ender's Game when it first came out because I remember patiently awaiting for it's sequel, Speaker for the Dead, to be published the following year.  As each sequel and re-imagining came out, I gobbled them up.  Couldn't get enough of them.

For those of you not in the know, these science fiction novels revolve around a group of genius children who are sent off planet to Battle School to help find mankind's next savior in the upcoming war with the insect-like race of aliens colloquially known as Buggers.  A commander intelligent enough to lead us to victory.  Humanity has already survived two devastating wars with the aliens and they are looking for a final and permanent solution in the next invasion.  These young geniuses are our best hope.

Roughly half of the books revolve around the titular hero from the first book, a young boy named Ender Wiggin.  The other half, and in my opinion the more enjoyable half, follows Bean and the rest of Ender's companions at Battle School after the war with the Buggers.  Bean is an even smaller, smarter and younger genius than Ender was, and in many ways he was the more important figure in the final Formic/Bugger War and it's aftermath.

I recently picked up the second set of novels prior to going on my vacation.  I had previously read a couple of them, but it had been awhile so I wanted to start fresh with young Bean and his colleagues.  Say what you will about Card, and I plan on saying a lot, but I think the man is a brilliant writer.  The challenge of writing good science fiction is daunting enough, but that challenge is increased ten-fold when writing about characters who are political or military geniuses.  One has to be brilliant in one's own right to convincingly portray genius on the written page.  I found myself being awed by Card's brilliance a long time ago in the first sequel to Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead.  How could this man who writes about genius so well be anything other than a genius himself?

Well, as I read these Bean (or "Shadow") novels on vacation I found myself wondering at the somewhat odd world views of some of these genius characters.  Stuff about religion and marriage and genetic disposition of heterosexuality. And then I remembered something I had read a while ago about Card.  About his stance on gay marriage and homosexuality itself.  Much of that tied into his personal religious views as a Mormon.  Not the most tolerant of religions when it comes to the gay community.

So I started re-reading some of the material he has written about these issues.  Stuff like this and this.  And I started to get angry.  Really angry.

It's filled with all kinds of nonsense rhetoric like this utterly idiotic argument:
In the first place, no law in any state in the United States now or ever has forbidden homosexuals to marry. The law has never asked that a man prove his heterosexuality in order to marry a woman, or a woman hers in order to marry a man.
Any homosexual man who can persuade a woman to take him as her husband can avail himself of all the rights of husbandhood under the law. And, in fact, many homosexual men have done precisely that, without any legal prejudice at all.
Ditto with lesbian women. Many have married men and borne children. And while a fair number of such marriages in recent years have ended in divorce, there are many that have not.
So it is a flat lie to say that homosexuals are deprived of any civil right pertaining to marriage. To get those civil rights, all homosexuals have to do is find someone of the opposite sex willing to join them in marriage.

Right.  So gay men and women aren't denied the right to marriage.  They just have to find someone of the opposite sex willing to marry them.  In other words, it's okay for them to marry as long as they are willing to marry someone that they really don't want to marry.  I'm sorry, but I don't think I have ever read a more insulting or idiotic argument against gay marriage than that one right there.

And this is the freakin' genius that I have been lauding all these years?

He claims that it shouldn't be up to the courts to make laws, which is what he believes is happening in California and Massachusetts with regard to same-sex marriage.  That may be true.  But man oh man does he take the ball and run with this one.
The first and greatest threat from court decisions in California and Massachusetts, giving legal recognition to 'gay marriage,' is that it marks the end of democracy in America. These judges are making new law without any democratic process; in fact, their decisions are striking down laws enacted by majority vote.
Then end of democracy in America!  Are you scared yet?  You know sometimes it IS the court's job to strike down laws enacted by majority vote.  If those laws are discriminating against  a minority group, for example.  Sometimes laws are enacted without everyone's best interest in mind.  Constitutional purists would call for amendments or new laws passed by Congress to redact formerly inconsistent or "bad" laws.  Yet the judicial branch is also entrusted with protecting the rights of individuals.  And maybe I am just being a bleeding heart liberal, but I think this is one of these examples.  Who the Hell am I or you or your Congressman to tell someone that they can't marry the person they love?

Card claims that he is not a bigot or a homophobe or intolerant strictly because he does not believe in the "harsh personal treatment of individuals who are unable to resist the temptation to have sexual relations with persons of the same sex,".  You know...the sinners.  Well isn't that mighty white of him?  Using that argument, I guess a person who hates black people but who doesn't see himself participating in a lynching can't be called a racist.  There should just be laws against them and their homosexual behavior, and that my friends can't be intolerance.  Right?

Here is another juicy tidbit from the man:

Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.

The goal of the polity is not to put homosexuals in jail. The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity's ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships.
Now I think it is all well and good to have beliefs.  Both religious and political.  But to advocate laws against homosexual behavior so that if such behavior occurs it is done on the down-low to protect the very basic  nature of our society (i.e. marriage) is ludicrous.  In my humble opinion, of course.

Well, it might not be ludicrous to everyone.  Some of you out there may read Card's words and think "Damn right!".  And that is fine.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  I just happen to find Card's opinions, which he often states as fact...both religious and biological, to not mesh with my own personal views of the world I live in.  The fact that he so openly defends his positions in somewhat silly ways only exacerbates my issues with him.

And therein lies the rub.  I still enjoy his writing.  Not his right-wing/conservative/religious writings.  But his science fiction.  I still think Ender's Game and it's sequels are some of the finest examples of the genre.  And I am torn.  Especially when I hear some of his own philosophies echoed in the brilliant minds of those future children he is writing about.

There are two novels left in the Enderverse that I haven't read yet.  A War of Gifts and Ender in Exile.  I want to read them...I really do.  Because I've invested a lot of time in the series and I naturally want to know what happens next.  I think that is common for those of us who get wrapped up in characters that we have come to care about.

Yet I don't want to spend another dime on this man's intellectual property.  Not when I know about some of his personal beliefs.  It's a classic conundrum.

Frankly, I'm having a hard time balancing my long-held belief in the brilliance of Orson Scott Card and my more recent belief that he is a moron.  On certain subjects, of course.

What to do, what to do, what to do?


Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. And it is okay to disagree with me on this one.  I won't hold it against you.  Probably.


Verdant Earl said...



#27 feels as good as the rest of them. Well, the 7 I've seen in my lifetime.


LegalMist said...

Do they have them at the library? You could check them out and read them without spending a dime. And then you could donate the amount of money you would have spent on the books, to a gay rights organization.

He has committed no crime in holding his beliefs. I don't think it's a crime to read his good writings and avoid the bad.

Of course, if the characters' political views start getting in the way of you enjoying the books, you can stop reading at any time.

(And being a genius doesn't preclude being a self-righteous bigot. Nor does it mean a person can't fall prey to faulty logic. It's possible the man is a military and science genius, but his logic skills about gay marriage are sorely lacking.)

Candy's daily Dandy said...

Oh holy huge topic.

I just came over here to congratulate you dude, then I got swept up in all this....

Unknown said...

The series ends with one great big mass gay wedding. There, now you don't have to read it.

I like the idea of checking it out of the library. His homophobic ass doesn't get a dime, you find out how things end, everyone's a winner.


Avitable said...

I read Ender's Game before knowing anything about his views. He's also racially prejudiced, too. After reading some of his thoughts about these issues, I realized that I wasn't going to read any more books that he had written.

sybil law said...

Jail all gays!
Seriously. WTF?!
I think what disgusts me more than his attitude is the pompous attitude behind his crazy rhetoric. His beliefs are his beliefs, and certainly he's allowed to have them, but to go that extra inch/ mile and suggest that we basically jail or prosecute homosexuals are are caught living that lifestyle is sheer insanity to me. (Not to mention that our court systems don't have the time to deal with that shit, you know, what with all the true crimes like rape and murders and shit occurring daily. I mean, if that's going to be his lame argument. Which, actually, I am not sure he outright said be he seemed to allude to...)
Either way, if it's something you feel strongly about, well, *I* wouldn't read the rest of his books, but if you must, then go get them at the library. That way you aren't putting money in his pocket.
He's actually scary.

badgerdaddy said...

The get-book-from-library-and-donate-what-you-would-have-spent-to-gay-rights-organisation idea is a brilliant one, a near-perfect solution.

That Hank said...

I figured it would be ol' OSC that spurred this line of thought. Honestly, though I enjoyed a few of his Ender books, having picked up another of his that was dripping in Mormon antigay, weirdly racist BS, when I heard some of this stuff I wasn't surprised.

Anyway, just buy them used, he won't get a dime. Even people with terrible politics can sometimes write a damn good story. He's not in any political position and his arguments are so stupid that there's no worry of him influencing anyone to start hating gays. I see this as a very different kettle of fish from an artist who is also a rapist, etc.

That being said, I'm not inviting him to any parties any time soon.

Slyde said...

This was an EXCEEDINLY roundabout way of asking me to finally marry you.

Verdant Earl said...

Mist - The library. What a great idea! See...writing about all these geniuses has made me stupid.

Candy - How many days until pitchers and catchers report? ;)

Kevin - A big gay wedding. Oh...sweet irony! ;)

Avitable - Really? I haven't read anything about him being a racist nor has it come through in his books. But I don't doubt it.

Sybil - Word. Actually he specifically mentions that he believes that they shouldn't be jailed, but that the laws should remain so that gays keep their behavior hidden from society. Just as bad.

badger - A simple and sublime solution.

DG - Plus I heard he won't touch PBR! What a douche. :)

Slyde - When you go to the lengths of capitalizing a word to hammer home one of your silly points you should try to spell it right. Thanks.

Bruce Johnson said...

This sort of goes back to the rant on my blog about 'orgainzed' religion. This guy is a Mormon, and my first thought it what would expect from a practicing Mormon? This religion is very devious and has a lot of hidden agendas. I would not be able to read his work, not matter how good, because the quality of the work would be tainted by what I know the man is trying to get across subliminally.

More than once I have found myself engaged with someone who is trying to convince me of something only to find out later that they were Mormon and trying to 'steer' me in the way of their beleif without actually raising the fact that they were Mormon.

Believe what ever you want, feel free to discuss it with me. But as soon as you start to 'organize' a dogmatic concept of the universe, you become evil to me and you are no longer a benefit to fact, you are a cancer.

Anonymous said...

I think there are several aspects to this. First, the issue with supporting his agenda by buying his books. This one is reasonably well-handled by getting the books from the library or buying used. Technically, this still enhances the market slightly, but in my opinion it has too small an effect to matter.

Another issue is whether you are concerned that his agenda is insidiously promoted in his writings in a way that will affect you. I think this is probably only an issue for children, and in particular is mitigated simply by knowing aspects of his agenda.

The biggest issue is probably whether you can really manage to enjoy the material now that you feel this way about the author.

Finally, I would say that his diatribes do not rise to the level of Polanski's offense. At least, not the way he has presented his opinion. His true feelings could be much more severe, but we shouldn't assume that.

In retrospect, I could probably just have written "What LegalMist said!"

Water Logged Canine said...

Card is a textbook, "closeted queen." Guarantee this guy knows what smegma tastes like.

Callie said...

Ugh - there's nothing worse than a bigot. And while I can sometimes enjoy the art without liking the artist, in this case it would be impossible. There would be no way to separate the two in my mind. I would constantly be looking for hidden subtext in everything I read by him, and it would take away from the enjoyment.

Verdant Earl said...

Bruce - yeah, I have my problems with the Mormons as well. And just about any religion, really. But I try to treat this blog like Sunday dinner with the folks. No politics. No religion. Unless it's really juicy stuff! ;)

Doggie - Tastes like chicken, right?

Callie - I'm actually thinking of re-reading some of his earlier stuff. Books, unfortunately, I already own. Just to see what he snuck in there while I wasn't paying attention.

Mrs. Hall said...

no time to thoroughly read through the commentts gaaah!!!

I say this, read the next chapters. Understand that no matter what we right, even it if is a recipe or a grocery list, we reveal who we are.

And given enough space, writing will be a vessel to communicate the writer's agenda. And thus splay the inner workings of their mind.

And this man, who wrote about all manner of things that really spoke to you, reveal bits of himself that are nonsensical and ugly all at once. Which is part of human nature.

I mean, think about the Watchmen. Ugly and brillant all at the same time. All shades of human nature, all shades of it's creator.

The important part is these books call to you and you can learn from them. And some of the best lessons we can learn are the ugliest.


i am the diva said...

i think my heart just broke a little... i loves me some Ender's Game...

this is such a touchy subject for me - not the gay marriage thing, i think that is a no brainer, let them be married!! let them be EQUAL!!...

Mormon posts always make me a little cringy... having grown up Mormon myself, and having left the church over ten years ago... it still makes me a little defensive when people talk shit about Mormons because i inevitably feel like they're talking shit about my (devout) parents.

HAVING SAID THAT - fuck the Mormons and their anti-gay agenda. Their claim to fame is the whole "Family Values" thing, and having spent my entire childhood/teen life in a "Family Value" home was.....amazing. I'll give you this, my family and i are TIGHT, and not just now that we're adults, but growing up too.

One of the reasons that cemented me walking out of the church was when my (mormon) Sister in law and i were having a discussion about homosexuality; i said i couldn't put any stock/faith in a God that would condemn a person for loving someone, i mean - isn't that what God's all about? Love?

Her reply was much like OSC: "well, i'm sure if they tried hard enough, they could find some way to live in a heterosexual lifestyle and eventually they'd love their spouse" (i'm paraphrasing) to which i responded: "How many Gay people do you know and/or are friends with"
her answer: "none" (naturally)

I told her that one of my very best friends in the WORLD is gay, and that if "GOD" didn't want her to be happy, if "GOD" didn't want her to have Joy and Love in her life - then i wanted nothing to do with her "God". I knew my friend when she was trying to be straight, and she was miserable.

anyway, i thought my SIL was a lost cause - but a few years ago, she told me that i had made her change her mind a bit about whether or not a person is "Born that way" or "deciding to be gay because it's trendy" (WTF?)... so at least there was some progress...

I guess what i'm trying to say is: Mormon's as a whole are fucking douchebags when it comes to basic human rights (They wouldn't even let a person of colour hold any kind of preisthood or position of power until the 1970s!!!!) but *a* Mormon is still *a* person and can sometimes be reasoned with.

Now, i'm not saying my SIL is going to jump on the gay marriage bandwagon, but her mind shifted somewhat.

The thing with Mormons is they believe in the power of "Revelation" and that God is consistently talking to them, changing things, evolving as the world evolves... So maybe in another 50 years "GOD" will reveal that Gay Marriage is cool... who knows... at least it gives the Gay Mormons that i know (and they're out there) hope...

PHEW! OMG - longest....comment...EVER.

It's all for you, Earl.

Verdant Earl said...

Holly - I dunno. Alan Moore may be a weirdo, but I don't think he is a jackass the way Card is.

Diva - I had a feeling you were gonna jump in on this one, knowing about your Mormon past. Rock on, Diva. Rock on!

i am the diva said...

Ha, i could write many many posts about this... maybe i will someday.