The Orson Scott Card Stigma
Part one: Fighting the Man


Andrew Hall's recent post on the latest flareup in the ongoing OSC/gayrights controversy has alerted me to something I had not known. Not only are people peeved over OSC's very public political stance (and, let's be honest, his not so politic manner of discourse), they are blisteringly frothy in their anger.

Not everyone, of course. Spencer Ellsworth is on the can't-be-associated-no-mo' side of things, but comes off reasonable. (Though he does admit that his decision has as much to do with others' perceptions of and projections onto Card as his actual political [or artistic] disagreements with the man.)

James Goldberg made what I thought were reasonable comparisons to the OSC hunt and McCarthyism, but even if I'm right about him being reasonable, it doesn't matter. The lines are drawn and OSC is the enemy and these quasidefense has now marked Goldberg as an enemy colluder. Sucks to be you, Jimmy m'boy.

Let me pause for a moment and say I understand how OSC gets on people's nerves. He writes his opinions as absolute facts. Some of his more recent fiction is getting similarly didactic. He is decidedly against gay people having equal rights to the word marriage because he's certain such semantic equality will be destructive to society. His political opinions fail to fit into any simple box.

That last one seems confusing and almost as if it should inoculate him from kneejerk attacks of the sort this petition exemplifies.

But I think the opposite may be true.

When something is complicated in unusual ways, it's all the more necessary to fixate on the one issue that drives you bananas and then assume the rest. I think if you read this article you'll get a sense of what I mean. The author is interviewing Card and suffering from extended stereotype disconnect. OSC keeps yanking her out of her assumptions. And, in the end, she's forced to make a compromise. But her compromise isn't to draw a complex human being, but to narrow her subject down to two stereotypes and call it good enough.

Look: I think OSC's gay-stuff rhetoric is damaging not just to people's feelings but to the dialogue as a whole. But tarring him with slurs utterly fails to put anyone on high ground. And to do so with only the vaguest sense of what Card's fuller argument is (and failing to engage on said argument) only gives power when it's accompanied by volume.

Really, if you want to fight OSC's rhetoric, you have two options. You can ignore him or you can engage with him. Just yelling Homophobe! as loudly as you can makes you look like what you claim he looks like. And sure, maybe you WILL scare DC Comics away from working with him, but reigns of terror don't actually make new friends.

I know. What he says hurts, and when we're hurt we want to lash out.

In the words of another three-initial man, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Tomorrow, this link will lead somewhere.


  1. The whole thing has made me question where I draw the line between art and artist. I love the Ender series. I decidedly don't love the man himself. And it's not just a matter of not liking him--as you point out, his rhetoric is harmful to the dialogue overall, and thus potentially harmful to me personally. But I will likely see the Ender's Game movie, even though that will put a little more money in OSC's pocket and thus fund the platform he stands on when saying these harmful things. And if I were so inclined, I'd buy the Superman comic he's writing, but as it happens I'm not buying a lot of comics lately and this one doesn't particularly interest me. And yet I refuse to eat at Chick-Fil-A, and I'm not sure what the difference is. I enjoy (or used to enjoy) Chick-Fil-A at least nearly as much as I enjoyed the Ender series. Perhaps it's that I see value in OSC's work and artistic value is unique to the artist in a way that fast food value is not--I can eat at In-N-Out and not feel like I'm missing out on Chick-Fil-A, but other artists' works are not going to so easily replace the value in OSC's works. And I do believe, quite strongly, that even people who say incredibly stupid and harmful things can also say things of great value.

  2. .

    Right. If we start dropping every artist we find impolitic, we're going to start running out of artists. Though I admit I'm more likely to be gregarious to writers whose work I already love as opposed to writers I have not yet read.