Orson Scott Card

This post doesn’t really have anything to do with the class, but it does have to do with writers. Sort of.

This weekend, I was reading a collection of short stories by Orson Scott Card, the author of Ender’s Game, probably his most well-known book.  Partway through one of his stories, I noticed a snarky little aside by one of his characters concerning homosexuality cast in a negative light.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the book with me at the moment, so I can’t quote it.  This piqued my interest, and I looked into Card’s personal beliefs.  Before this week, all I knew about him was that he is an awesome writer and a member of the Latter-Day Saints (made evident in his novel Lost Boys).

After a rather cursory bit of research, I discovered that Card is extremely anti-homosexual, mostly within the context of his religious beliefs, but socially as well.  His article, “The Hypocrites of Homosexuality” explains his beliefs on the subject quite well.  I was disgusted while reading this.  This author, who I’d admired so much before, was a bigot, albeit a bigot who can argue intelligently (according to the article, he would argue against my using the word “bigot” to describe him as well).  I finished reading the book of his short stories after reading this article, but the rest of the stories were tainted for me, despite having no subject manner related to homosexuality.  I’m half afraid that upon re-reading Ender’s Game, one of my favorite novels, it will be tainted a bit as well.

Which brings to mind the question of how much I should let knowledge of an author’s personal life influence what I read?  I know little to nothing about the lives of most of my favorite contemporary authors, but if I went in and did the research, how many people’s books would suddenly be ruined for me?  Perhaps I’m taking this a little too far.  Perhaps Card is the exception, the one of few authors who go out of their way to make a particular point known.  Why am I letting this knowledge affect how I read his books, books which almost never reflect his personal moral opinions (other than, of course, his LDS-specific stories)?

Of course I would never deign to silence these authors in any way.  Free speech, and all that.  I would love it if you guys replied to this post with how you would tackle this problem of potentially alienating readers when it came to certain subjects, should you become a relatively well-known author in the future.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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2 Responses to Orson Scott Card

  1. Brett Roberts says:

    Since I’m a homosexual, I guess I’m allowed to say I’m not that bothered when I find out someone’s a homophobe*. I think most people have prejudices for some reason, and maybe we should explore why they have those prejudices instead of just calling them a bigot and a horrible person (I’m not saying you were doing that, so please don’t take offense). It’s hard to put this eloquently……hmmm. I guess I should say that I also feel like everybody has prejudices but because of 21st century political correctness, we have to pretend like we don’t and hold it in, and I think that’s even worse, cuz it just creates a resentment and people feel like they have no way of getting these feelings out. Maybe if we all said “Yes, I have prejudices, let’s explore this,” we could get a little closer to world peace. Do I sound overly idealistic?

    I’ll go a little further in exploring the difference between art and artists (this is a really great comment so I have a lot to say). I fall into the camp that says art is separate. A great painting is a great painting. If you find out that the painter raped nuns, it doesn’t change the painting, does it? But I myself have a hard time adhering to my own values sometimes. There’s a director named Victor Salva. He made the movies “Clownhouse” and “Powder” but more recently has gotten popularity from the two “Jeepers Creepers” films. Well, “Clownhouse” is a very well done, very scary horror film, and I respect it as a piece of frightening art. HOWEVER, during the making of the movie, the director was raping the 12 year old star of the film. So it’s hard for me to watch that movie, or any of his movies, and feel comfortable.

    But legend does have it that Shakespeare had little boys to….eh hem….service him. If we found that out about an artist today, it would destroy his career, but Shakespeare is a legend.

    *Just wanted to add that I think it’s kinda BS that political correctness has dictated that it’s okay for homosexuals to make fun of homosexuals or Jews to make fun of Jews or blacks to make fun of blacks or what have you. I still believe it’s America and people have the right to say whatever they want, but for some reason whenever I say something that might be interpreted as homophobic I feel like I have to hold up my little “I am a homo” sign so that people will chill out and say “Oh, then it’s okay for him to say that.” Frankly, I think that’s ridiculous and I wish I didn’t feel like I have to do that. I also have more respect for people who just flat out state their feelings rather than pretending they don’t have prejudices.

  2. Brett Roberts says:

    My opinion is that nobody’s perfect so you have to set those things aside. Does he write good work? Do you enjoy reading his work? That’s all that matters. So maybe he was a homophobe, probably Shakespeare was, or any other great writer you can think of (Hef? Probably not). Basically, you gotta separate the art and the person.

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