Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why I Can Put Up With Lovecraft, But Not Orson Scott Card

I just came across an article on Cracked that reminds us, in case anyone forgot, that Orson Scott Card is a paranoid, gay-bashing, Islamaphobic prick.

I was lucky enough to read both Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead before I learned about Card's extracurricular activities.  I knew about his affiliation with the Church of LDS, but given the depth of humanity showcased in his writing, I assumed that his religiosity was tempered by compassion, tolerance, and understanding.  I figured he was Mormon the way Stephen Colbert is Catholic.  Then, one day, I came across his blog and learned that he was a far-right nutcase.  I hadn't been so disappointed since I saw Dee Dee Ramone's rap video.

Since then, I haven't picked up a single one of his books.  It's a shame, because I greatly enjoyed the two that I've read, but knowing about the ugliness lurking beneath the surface cancels out any pleasure I might have derived from them.

But here's the rub:

There are quite a few writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers whose work I adore, even if I don't see eye-to-eye with them politically, or I find them questionable as human beings.  There's no better example of this than H.P. Lovecraft.  Lovecraft was appallingly racist, even by the standards of his time, and it certainly shows up in his writing.  Lately I've been wondering why I'm so quick to approve the boycott of anything with Card's name on it, yet Lovecraft doesn't bother me.

First of all, Lovecraft is dead.  When I buy one of his books, the money goes to Del Rey.  If he were alive today, he'd no doubt be blogging for some vile little site like, lamenting the decline of the Anglo-Saxon majority in America.  If that were the case, I'd abstain from buying his stuff, sending a message along the capitalistic chain of command that I don't support that shit.  But that isn't the case.  He's six feet under in Providence, RI.  Card, however, is alive and well.  What's more, while Lovecraft handled his xenophobia by living as a shut-in, Card is directly engaged with the political climate.  He's donated large sums of money to organizations that are busting their ass to limit the rights of others.  It doesn't matter who Lovecraft hated, but buying Card's books essentially buys ammo for the enemy.

Secondly, it's a matter of getting what you pay for.  It's only natural that the mind that produced such dreadful, pessimistic work would belong to a miserable little goblin like Lovecraft.  In fact, that racism, awful as it was, played a large part in shaping his fictional universe.  His work is the product of a neurotic who lived in constant dread and fear of the unknown, but who happened to be blessed with linguistic genius.  It seems alien to us because, thankfully, most of us can't relate to it.  However, I expected better things from Card.  When I read Ender's Game, I was moved by the author's grasp of the human condition, particularly in how he addresses the hypocrisy of war and the way we systematically program and exploit children.  To this day I still can't square the concept of that book with the backward-ass dickhead shooting his mouth off about gays and Muslims destroying America.  It's like when you read about Axle Rose being a raging misogynist, then remember that this was the same guy who sang, "November Rain."

I've probably already made it clear, but I think Ender's Game is a good read, and well worth your time.  Regardless of how you feel about Card's politics, knowledge is power.  Read it.  Take from it what you can.  Just, if you care at all about the well-being of your fellow man, try to avoid paying for it.

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