The Orson Scott Card Stigma
Part two: Painted with the Same Brush


Yesterday I talked briefly about the rhetoric surrounding Orson Scott Card and gay rights. Which is a mess.

The main takeaway has to be that it doesn't matter whether or not OSC is in the right or in the wrong, public opinion is that he must be destroyed. And that opinion seems to be getting stronger and stronger with each controversy (real or manufactured) he's involved in.

I mentioned yesterday that some people are actively distancing themselves from OSC---sometimes less because they disagree with him and more because it's bad for business to be associated with him.

The question for discussion now is this:

Are Mormon writers in general in danger of being so smeared with "Cardism" that we should distance ourselves as well?

After all, Orson Scott Card has been the most out-of-the-closet Mormon in American letters for decades. No one else is quite so Mormony as Mr Card. I wager if we did a phone survey asking Americans about American Mormon writers, Card would still beat out our Sandersons and Meyers and Hales and Udalls. He is, still, THE Mormon writer.

And the word "Mormon" is important here---some writers whose fame is closely tied to their Mormonism (Elna Baker, Neil LaBute, Brian Evenson, Walter Kirn) have cut their official ties to the faith with extreme publicity. And that's certainly an option if Prop 8 gives you the willies. Screw the Mormon writer thing. Ditch Mormonism entirely. Problem solved!

But before you allow your feelings about OSC to determine your future, pause a moment.

Here's what I tell people who aren't Mormon.
I'm Mormon.

Look at me.

This is what a Mormon looks like.

I'm out and I'm proud.
And here's what I tell people who are Mormon.

I go around telling people I'm Mormon.

That I'm what a Mormon looks like.

If you don't like it, you'd better be as out as I am.
And I frankly don't care how other Mormons feel about that. I'm a 100% trueblue diedindawool Mormon. You can't tell me I'm not. I am.

If you want people to think Mormons are something else, be more obvious than I am.

And that's the same thing I'm proposing to Mormon writers---and artists of all types.

Whether you like OSC's persona or not, who cares?

If you want people to think Mormon artists look like you, show them what you look like.

Get out there.

Don't fret about what other people think about other people.

Stop worrying about what being associated with Orson Scott Card will do to your career. Let Orson Scott Card worry about how being associated with you will affect his career.

Geez. Do your own thing.

Be rational, be honest, be yourself.

Don't let other people define you, whether you agree with them or not.

Let the mob stigmatize all they want. You stand true.


  1. I also have a prominent nose, though not as green. And I'm a Mormon.

  2. James, I thought your comment over at AML was utter genius. This:

    “I see an early pattern of people trying to stigmatize traditional-marriage-ism as a dangerous and antisocial position by attempting to socially and economically isolate advocates. [...] The All Out Petition is also designed to show that there will be consequences for others who take the increasingly taboo (in literary circles) position of opposing marriage redefinition. The persuasion/intimidation effect is definitely there for younger artists who can’t afford to lose a contract casually.”

    It was Noam Chomsky who said: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”

    So the semantic/rhetorical debate is, in fact, important in narrowing the debate until it becomes about nothing at all. We are just then conditioned to not say That Word/That Phrase (whatever it is) and nothing ever gets solved. But then, it's not meant to get solved.

    As to Theric's music that Card's Mormonism might affect other Mormon artists who trade on their Mormonism... I don't have this fear. Why? My politics protects me from it, because my work is predicated on my politics as much as it is on Mormonism.

    Anyone who has read me AND Card will know that I (libertarian capitalist) have nothing in common with Card (anti-gay-marriage socialist) except the word "Mormon."

    Aside: There are a lot of reasons Card and I wouldn't get along (AT. ALL.), but speaking strictly to his word, I just don't find it particularly special. I know lots of people do, but I don't get the love.

  3. *musing (not music)

    *work (not word)

  4. .

    I find some of Card's work among the best of the last century. And some of it's not even close. And I too don't really worry about being painted with anyone's brush, though I recognize other people worry about it all the time. I yam what I yam.