I was listening to old podcasts of Mythcreants and caught “The author is dead.” I’ve heard that a lot before, but what about when you love a work from a living problematic author or value their writing advice? You can’t really pretend the author is dead because buying, reviewing, spreading the love of the story/advice still feeds the author machine. What do you do/suggest? Been noodling on this question for a while.
Hey Danita, great to hear from you again!
The question of how to handle authors who are bigoted or otherwise harmful is a tricky one, especially if the author is still alive. Fortunately, it’s also something we think about a lot!
From a purely technical perspective, an artist’s work is separate from their views. Ender’s Game is not a homophobic story simply because the author, Orson Scott Card, is a major homophobe. However, buying a new copy of Ender’s Game still gives Card money, allowing him to boost his homophobia even further.
At some point, we need to decide when it is no longer acceptable to support a problematic author. For us at Mythcreants, Card is way over that line, which is why we will never buy a new copy of Ender’s Game, and we try not to even talk about it unless it’s really relevant, like right now. Of course, people could always buy used copies since that money doesn’t go to Card, but it still adds to the strength of his brand.
Sometimes this decision is easy; sometimes it’s more difficult. There are lots of great novels out there, and as much as I enjoyed Ender’s Game growing up, I have lots of other options. On the other hand, Card’s book on the craft of writing is legitimately one of if not the best currently available. There aren’t a lot of other options there. That’s actually one of the reasons we started Mythcreants, so we could provide an alternative.
My personal recommendation is that Card’s book on writing is useful enough that it justifies buying a used copy, so he at least doesn’t benefit directly. However, other people might not feel that way. We can also disagree on which authors have actually crossed this moral line. Card obviously has, but what about JK Rowling? Her appropriation of Native American culture and transphobic Twitter habits are certainly bad, but are they bad enough that we should stop reading Harry Potter?
Different people will have different answers to that question, which is only to be expected. For my money, the critical thing is to make sure we all acknowledge the facts of the situation and then recognize that we may have different views on the best course of action. We might disagree on whether Harry Potter is still worth reading given the author’s problematic actions and views, but we should all acknowledge what those problems are. Then we can at least have an honest conversation about it.
I hope that helps answer your question!
Do you have a question you’d like answered by Oren or Chris? Submit it here. Q&As are only made public if you give your permission and we decide to feature it. If you’d like more than an answer to a general question, you can hire us to look over your story.