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Old 09-30-2011, 09:23 AM
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Default When Good Authors Go Bad

ITT we talk about authors that we used to read but can't anymore for various reasons.

My exhibit A is Orson Scott Card. I like Ender's Game and loved, loved, loved Speaker for the Dead. But Card's been slowly disappearing up his own ass and his very right-wing, homophobic worldview has really been poisoning his writing.

Recently he released a novella retelling Hamlet to make it an anti-gay screed. Jesus.
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:50 AM
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Two words: Dave Sim.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:00 AM
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Does Robert Jordan count? Because the Wheel of Time began really well, and then the wheels started spinning as he started to craft the epic to end all epics. I remember reading volume 10 (I think?) and realizing that nothing happened, because he could only devote a single chapter to each of the plot lines he was attempting to follow.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by upupdowndown View Post
ITT we talk about authors that we used to read but can't anymore for various reasons.

My exhibit A is Orson Scott Card. I like Ender's Game and loved, loved, loved Speaker for the Dead. But Card's been slowly disappearing up his own ass and his very right-wing, homophobic worldview has really been poisoning his writing.

Recently he released a novella retelling Hamlet to make it an anti-gay screed. Jesus.
As wonderful as Ender's Game is, I think the warning signs for Card's right-wing extremism were already there in the sub-plot of Catholicism/people who want more than two children as rebels against the oppressive government and its birth-limit policy.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:37 AM
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On the subject of Card being a creepy weirdo, re-read Ender's Game sometime with an eye towards how often and how far out of his way he goes to note the Battle School boys all lounging around naked for no reason, culminating of course in Ender's wet, soapy fight with Bonzo in the shower.

I'm just saying.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:46 AM
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Science fiction authors have this habit of turning into crazy conservatives as they get older. See, for example, Larry Niven. Or Ray Bradbury, who apparently now refuses to allow his material to be referred to as "science fiction" in his presence...
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:53 AM
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For me, it's C.J. Cherryh. I loved Downbelow Station and the Ealdwood books, but nothing else of hers has clicked with me. And it's for a silly damned reason. In Cyteen, every single character uses "damned" liberally in their speech, making them seem homogenous, and in Foreigner Bren, aside from maundering too much, also has "damned" disease. I know both of these are good/respected books, but that damned thing just drives me crazy!
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:58 AM
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I'm going to have to go with Charles de Lint here. Some of his earlier novels were great, and his short stories have been really good (at least out of the two short story collections of his that I've read), but his later novels have the problems of making his characters far too similar, his plots being pretty much the same, and then shoehorning in a "they were fated to be together" plot for two of his popular characters, even if a previous book had them getting over that and dealing with it.
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:00 AM
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Oh Orson Scott Card.

I also enjoyed Ender's Game, and really enjoyed Speaker for the Dead. I did my undergrad in social/cultural Anthropology, so the idea of mankind being totally unprepared for their first real encounter with an alien species (well, the Piggies were technically the second, but they were the first they tried to understand) really fascinated me. Xenocide and Children of the Mind were... not as good, but I still enjoyed them enough to finish the Quartet. I haven't looked at any of the other stories in the Universe, though, most of the folks who directed me to the Ender series to begin with warned me against them. Anyone know how they hold up?

Anyway, yeah, Card's political beliefs weren't that hard to spot as I went on through the series. They weren't enough to drive me away, because I enjoyed Speaker too much. But I'm not as interested to check out his other works.

So how about that George R. R. Martin? (he had to be mentioned)
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:02 AM
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I think Card very much has let his prejudiced and wrong sociopolitical opinions unfairly color his writing, but there's a lot out there being leveled against him unfairly.

Hamlet is not an anti-gay screed. Hamlet's father is made into a child molester, but according to Card (and a number of people who read it) there are no gay couples in it. There're a few phrases that could be read as having a homosexual subtext, and I think say things about Card's mentality, but aren't clearly intended that way at all. It certainly doesn't rise to the level of an "anti-gay screed", which would require at least rather more clarity.

The background for Ender's game was written while at BYU. He is part of a culture that values having many children, and that value dominates more than the strong tendency for social conservatism -- I know a number of extremely liberal (including pro gay marriage) Mormons who are still pro multiple children. He wrote Ender's mom as being Mormon. There's really nothing ultra conservative about writing one of your first stories around a value like that.

The shower thing is mildly amusing, but keep in mind he was trying to imagine a situation where children were being treated as soldiers. Soldier recruits at the time showered together, naked (and quite possibly still do, it isn't exactly a topic I keep abreast of), and that's a convenient piece of downtime to write dialogue into. That doesn't mean there's nothing to read into it, but be careful assuming there's no other possible explanation .
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Egarwaen View Post
. Or Ray Bradbury, who apparently now refuses to allow his material to be referred to as "science fiction" in his presence...

In all fairness he was always more of a fantasy author. And he' s now like a hundred. And a national treasure. Dude deserves a bit of slack.
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:09 AM
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Frank Miller. I just spent four thousand words writing about this for inreads so I'm a bit tuckered out but yeah...
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:13 AM
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I think Card very much has let his prejudiced and wrong sociopolitical opinions unfairly color his writing, but there's a lot out there being leveled against him unfairly.

Hamlet is not an anti-gay screed. Hamlet's father is made into a child molester, but according to Card (and a number of people who read it) there are no gay couples in it. There're a few phrases that could be read as having a homosexual subtext, and I think say things about Card's mentality, but aren't clearly intended that way at all. It certainly doesn't rise to the level of an "anti-gay screed", which would require at least rather more clarity.

The background for Ender's game was written while at BYU. He is part of a culture that values having many children, and that value dominates more than the strong tendency for social conservatism -- I know a number of extremely liberal (including pro gay marriage) Mormons who are still pro multiple children. He wrote Ender's mom as being Mormon. There's really nothing ultra conservative about writing one of your first stories around a value like that.

The shower thing is mildly amusing, but keep in mind he was trying to imagine a situation where children were being treated as soldiers. Soldier recruits at the time showered together, naked (and quite possibly still do, it isn't exactly a topic I keep abreast of), and that's a convenient piece of downtime to write dialogue into. That doesn't mean there's nothing to read into it, but be careful assuming there's no other possible explanation .
Hey, this isn't the thread for defending authors its the one for trashing them. I don't want to hear your justifications for Card's asshattery!

Anyway, David Eddings was great until he decided all he wanted to write about was little girls who were really grown women. Yeah, that is creepy.
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:33 AM
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OK after a bit of thought I have to say that Tom Wolfe is probably the number one person on this list.

Post modernism ruined him. Tom Wolfe used to be the greatest writer of the individual that this country produced and I will swear to it in any court in the country. Then in his collection Hooking Up he started getting super into post modern philosophy and it drained all the life out his work like a fucking vampire. Tom Wolfe no longer writes about individual's he writes about misfiring chemicals in the brain. Disbelief in free will results in some boring fucking fiction.

I've never read a book with such mounting dread and disappointment as I Am Charlotte Simmons. It was so tone deaf and awful, just completely lifeless. And that was before it turned into a two hundred page game of "Who Is Going To Pop Charlotte Simmons' Cherry?" With Wolfe narrating like a dirty old uncle.

You can't write a book called I Am Charlotte Simmons if you apparently do not believe that Charlotte Simmons exists.
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by fugu13 View Post
Hamlet is not an anti-gay screed. Hamlet's father is made into a child molester, but according to Card (and a number of people who read it) there are no gay couples in it.
That's rather the point. There are no gay couples, because that would imply that there are positive aspects of homosexuality (commitment, devotion, dare I say love?). It's pushing the GAY = CHILD MOLESTER angle hard.

How is that not anti-gay?

***

The Mercedes Lackey School of Heavy-Handed Social Commentary deserves special attention. Her characters used to be easy for her target audience to relate to; they were outsiders for one reason or another in societies that valued conformity over expression. Then she started trying to top herself for tragic backstories and things got ridiculous quick. I fully expect the next Valdemar protagonist to have been set on fire at birth by evil parents, born with no arms or legs, or both.
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:54 AM
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That's rather the point. There are no gay couples, because that would imply that there are positive aspects of homosexuality (commitment, devotion, dare I say love?). It's pushing the GAY = CHILD MOLESTER angle hard.

How is that not anti-gay?
Don't forget that Card is on the board of NOM, the "National Organization for Marriage", perhaps the leading anti- gay marriage organization out there and a torrential font of terrible homophobic bullshit. Card has also said multiple awful things about homosexuality in interviews.

So when a book like this comes along that seems to play into horrific anti-gay stereotypes, you know what? I'm pretty sure it's about horrific anti-gay stereotypes!

Last edited by upupdowndown; 09-30-2011 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:58 AM
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Nabokov apparently really liked Nixon

also ender's game has some pretty unpleasant issues of its own, Card's craziness was just more subdued then
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:11 PM
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That's rather the point. There are no gay couples, because that would imply that there are positive aspects of homosexuality (commitment, devotion, dare I say love?). It's pushing the GAY = CHILD MOLESTER angle hard.
There are also no gay characters (though the child molester does mostly molest male children), and most of the characters that could possibly be interpreted as gay are done so on the basis of passages that would put them as part of gay couples. Have you actually read it, or even lengthy quotations?

You're even getting OSC's angle wrong, which is GAY = MOLESTED AS A CHILD, not GAY = CHILD MOLESTER.
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:12 PM
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Mercedes Lackey
I'm convinced that one day Mercedes Lackey found an old shoebox of stories she wrote in fifth grade about being a princess with a magical talking horse, the same stories that every fifth grade girl wrote about being a princess with a magical talking horse, and just shipped them off to a publisher on a whim. No one was more surprised than she when a check came back in the mail and suddenly she was an author.
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:13 PM
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You're even getting OSC's angle wrong, which is GAY = MOLESTED AS A CHILD.
How is that better?!
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:14 PM
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Is this also the thread for bad authors who stayed bad? Because I still have a few bruises from The Fountainhead.
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by fugu13 View Post
You're even getting OSC's angle wrong, which is GAY = MOLESTED AS A CHILD, not GAY = CHILD MOLESTER.
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Originally Posted by fugu13 View Post
GAY = MOLESTED AS A CHILD
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Originally Posted by upupdowndown
So when a book like this comes along that seems to play into horrific anti-gay stereotypes, you know what? I'm pretty sure it's about horrific anti-gay stereotypes!
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Droewyn View Post
The Mercedes Lackey School of Heavy-Handed Social Commentary deserves special attention. Her characters used to be easy for her target audience to relate to; they were outsiders for one reason or another in societies that valued conformity over expression. Then she started trying to top herself for tragic backstories and things got ridiculous quick. I fully expect the next Valdemar protagonist to have been set on fire at birth by evil parents, born with no arms or legs, or both.
I was going to mention Mercedes Lackey in my other post, although I wasn't sure if she was all that good in the first place to qualify as someone who'd gone downhill. When I first got out of college, I loved her first Heralds trilogy. You've got the magically-endowed, sexually liberal wish fulfillment sub-society, and their telepathic white horse bond companions, and its being the first books like that I'd come across*, I gobbled the whole thing up start to finish.

Then I started on her first bard novel, which also had the sexually liberal sub-society, as well as its villains being a homogenously puritanical, unsympathetic group of priests out to quash the bards and their music (and their groovy, free-lovin' ways, presumably, though I don't specifically remember that). Even though I am not especially religious, this cheap straw man turned me off her books for good.

*that type of sub-society is still around in fantasy, even twenty years later. Bujold's Sharing Knife books have one. And I'm sure they existed well before Lackey showed up...
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:26 PM
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Is this also the thread for bad authors who stayed bad? Because I still have a few bruises from The Fountainhead.
You and me both, brother. And I could only get through half of it.
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:35 PM
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Did you stop before or after the rape scene that makes the heroine fall desperately in love with Light Yagami Goddamn Batman Howard Roarke?

And then there's Ellsworth Toohey. If he demonstrated anything, it's that Rand didn't so much dislike altruism, as fail to grasp the concept.
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:42 PM
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How is that better?!
It isn't, it's showing Droewyn wasn't actually working from the book or OSC's opinions with what he was writing, but an incorrect set of assumptions. OSC certainly has no problem being homophobic (he embraces it, see his NOM position), but out of the entire book there are maybe a half dozen to a dozen short passages that suggest homosexuality on the part of some characters, and he's explicitly stated he intended none of the characters to be gay.

I'm not saying he didn't subconsciously write in a few bits of gay-suggesting languages because he's writing about people who were molested as children, and he believes that makes people more likely to be gay, but you have to go a long, long way to get from that to "anti-gay screed".

I know a number of intelligent, well-read people who read the story back when it was first released several years back (to absolutely no controversy at all, which would be strange if the "anti-gayness" of it were so obvious), and they didn't even notice the possibility of any of the characters being gay, because there wasn't enough of a suggestion of it there to make them think that.
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:58 PM
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This thread reminds me of a blog I wanted to start, called Popular Author Stop Sucking (or something better). Each week I would examine an author and explain why that author sucked and how he or she could improve. I planned on discussing both authors I felt had always been bad (Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, R.A. Salvatore, Raymond Feist) and authors that had once been good but gotten worse over time (Orson Scott Card, Robert Jordan (obviously I had planned this while he was still alive), George R. R. Martin). Although I wouldn't focus exclusively on genre authors, I would probably have ended up mostly talking about them for obvious reasons.

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Originally Posted by fugu13 View Post
I think Card very much has let his prejudiced and wrong sociopolitical opinions unfairly color his writing, but there's a lot out there being leveled against him unfairly.

Hamlet is not an anti-gay screed. Hamlet's father is made into a child molester, but according to Card (and a number of people who read it) there are no gay couples in it. There're a few phrases that could be read as having a homosexual subtext, and I think say things about Card's mentality, but aren't clearly intended that way at all. It certainly doesn't rise to the level of an "anti-gay screed", which would require at least rather more clarity.

The background for Ender's game was written while at BYU. He is part of a culture that values having many children, and that value dominates more than the strong tendency for social conservatism -- I know a number of extremely liberal (including pro gay marriage) Mormons who are still pro multiple children. He wrote Ender's mom as being Mormon. There's really nothing ultra conservative about writing one of your first stories around a value like that.

The shower thing is mildly amusing, but keep in mind he was trying to imagine a situation where children were being treated as soldiers. Soldier recruits at the time showered together, naked (and quite possibly still do, it isn't exactly a topic I keep abreast of), and that's a convenient piece of downtime to write dialogue into. That doesn't mean there's nothing to read into it, but be careful assuming there's no other possible explanation .
I agree with your defenses above, Fugu, except with regards to the Hamlet one:

A. As is my understanding, Rosencratz and Guildenstern are presented as a couple in the book, both having been given "teh gay" by Hamlet's father;
B. The book perpetuates a myth that one is "turned gay" via child molestation, and given that it's a pretty well established sociological and psychological fact that people tend to perpetuate abuses visited on them as children, it's no small leap to say (based on the reasoning above) that "child molestors create gay people who grow up to be child molestors"; (I can't say for certain that Card holds this view, but I know plenty of people who very much believe that "all gay people are predators"); and
C. Whether or not the book was intended as an anti-homosexual screed, the level of ignorance it portrays at least imbues it with a strong anti-homosexual message.

That said, what I consider to be the biggest tragedy with Card is that somebody who once wrote flawed and nuanced characters now only writes the same series of caricatures, all of whom parrot his socio-political beliefs and deliver lines in Card's patented wise-ass manner. Reading his more recent books is exhausting because not everybody in the world thinks and talks this way.
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Old 09-30-2011, 01:03 PM
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I just want to point out at this juncture that even Hemingway shot himself rather than finish The Garden Of Eden.

Really when you think about it that's the most honest review of all time.
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Old 09-30-2011, 01:04 PM
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It isn't
Thank you, I'm glad we can agree this is a bad book by a once good author.
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Old 09-30-2011, 01:13 PM
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Quote:
A. As is my understanding, Rosencratz and Guildenstern are presented as a couple in the book, both having been given "teh gay" by Hamlet's father;
B. The book perpetuates a myth that one is "turned gay" via child molestation, and given that it's a pretty well established sociological and psychological fact that people tend to perpetuate abuses visited on them as children, it's no small leap to say (based on the reasoning above) that "child molestors create gay people who grow up to be child molestors"; (I can't say for certain that Card holds this view, but I know plenty of people who very much believe that "all gay people are predators"); and
C. Whether or not the book was intended as an anti-homosexual screed, the level of ignorance it portrays at least imbues it with a strong anti-homosexual message.
A. This is wrong. They're presented as a pair of comrades (much as in the original). There are a small number of passages which might hint at them being a gay couple, and absolutely nothing making it clearly so. OSC has explicitly stated that he did not intend them to be gay.

B. At best there are a couple of maybe-subtly-hinted-at-being-gay characters, and no explicitly gay characters. There is a child molester, but if none of the child molester's victims are clearly gay, how does it do this?

C. OSC's position is certainly extremely ignorant. It isn't at all clear that position had much impact on the contents of the book. The case is built on the idea that there are characters in the book turned gay by molestation. That characters are gay is at best hinted at, and the author has said he intended all of the characters to be straight (which is a bit strange if this is intended to be an anti-gay screed, since he certainly has no issue with writing those, or writing anti-gay passages in fiction, which he's also done repeatedly).



Quote:
Thank you, I'm glad we can agree this is a bad book by a once good author.
It is a bad opinion, but it isn't more than maybe vaguely hinted at in the book (which I think is bad for entirely separate reasons).
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