I’ve been sitting on this for most of the past week, trying to wrap my head around the various angles and implications, and how I wanted to frame my thoughts – because it is something that does matter to me. Then, lo, Scalzi posts something this morning that nails 99% of what I was thinking.
First, some perspective on what the issue in question is, for those who aren’t normally SF-type people.
Part of the inciting incidents:
Orson Scott Card wrote, in a blurb for Entertainment Weekly:
With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot… Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute
That response seemed to serve as well as pouring a barrel of gasoline on an already raging bonfire, judging from other things that started circulating around the internet.
(A response) From Chuck Wendig:
Orson Scott Card has toxic politics shot through with not merely a thread but a full-on threaded steel cable of bigotry and ignorance. And so, I’m gonna boycott the film. Now, to clarify, I’m not saying you should or have to do the same. You do as you like. No harm, no foul… it is safe to assume OSC spends his money on supporting this ignorance and bigotry given that he serves the National Organization for Marriage (which, benevolent as it sounds, is more about defining and limiting marriage than it is about Yay Marriage For Everybody).
So, here we are, just over a week later, which brings me to Scalzi’s response. (slimmed from a much longer piece)
If your conscience tells you to boycott or avoid the film because of Card’s positions on the rights of gays and lesbians, then, you know, do it. Card is entitled to speak his mind on gays and lesbians and same-sex marriage. You are equally entitled, on the basis of that speech and his political efforts, to decide not to support him or a film based on his work. That’s entirely fair.
In a larger sense, look: Art originates from people. People have opinions and thoughts and actions, many of which are largely unrelated to their art. In learning about those largely unrelated opinions, thoughts and actions, you may find some of them, some the people they are coming out of, offensive, obnoxious, insulting or even dangerous. They may eventually keep you from being able to enjoy the art these people produce.
But if you want the first, you should be a grown-up and accept that the second part is also part of the package deal. As I’ve noted before, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence. Suggesting or demanding that you should have freedom from consequence from what you say, or (related to this) that tolerance of your freedom to speak equates to bland murmuring politeness from those who oppose your speech, indicates that ultimately you don’t understand how freedom of speech works.
Which brings me to my position, high up here on the fence. I am a big proponent for knowing before judging. I get twitchy and slap-happy when the concept of banning or restricting books comes up. If those calling for a ban haven’t read the book, my internal monologue goes something like, “Fucking asshat. Actually read the book, then get back to us.” But the issue with Card isn’t the work, it’s his personal politics.
Politics I don’t agree with, but neither do I oppose his creative work.
There’s a business philosophy that I tend to follow: if you want to learn something, seek out those that have already done it. The same applies to writing. A few years ago, I met OSC. I took his Writer’s Workshop (the short session that’s part of his Writer’s Bootcamp). He’s written over 50 novels, and a slew of short stories. When it comes to the writing craft, he (obviously) knows his shit. That’s why I sought out the workshop. (Incidentally, that’s also why I follow people like Charles Stross, Scalzi, Wendig, Gaiman, Mary Robinette Kowall, the folks at Magical Words, Patrick Rothfuss, and have all of the episodes of Writing Excuses on a variety of electronic devices. And why I pursued Viable Paradise. But I digress…)
I found him to be generally pleasant in person, and I refined or revised a lot of things I had in mind about craft because of him. Based on his execution of the workshop, I found myself thinking about how I want to teach, when I get to that point. Plus, I got a novel idea out of it (which was the core of what turned into my PhD proposal that I submitted to Glasgow).
However, I am one of those people that Scalzi mentions in his piece that can divorce the art from the creator. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve added authors to my “check out their books” based on how said author handles themselves at conventions, but I’ve not noticed myself doing the reverse. If the book loks or sound interesting – the cover art or the back copy – I’m open to try it at some point. If the movie looks good, I’m likely to watch it. At some point. (I have a kid who’s still in diapers. The last movie MC and I saw in theaters was The Avengers.)
Which leads me back to my fence, where I will echo one last thought from Scalzi’s post:
Boycotts a perfectly valid exercise of political speech, participate in one if you think it’s necessary… Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence and everyone should remember that, especially folks who’ve spent a while pissing off a bunch of folks.