Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Devil's Choice

When I was about 13, a friend of mine suggested a little book called Ender's Game. I loved it. To this day, it's one of the few books I've read multiple times. I read the rest of the series through high school and college. Back then, I was normally a fantasy geek; the Ender books were one of my few forays into science fiction. In that sense, you could say Orson Scott Card was the author who introduced me to sci-fi.

Then, once this whole internet thing became big, I decided to look up some info about my favorite sci-fi author. And I discovered that he thinks homosexuality is a disease. I remember thinking, "are you fucking kidding me?" This brilliant man who wrote this book about children and war and intelligence and love and empathy...and he thinks homosexuality is some defect? Come ON!

Around 2010, a new Ender book, Ender in Exile, was published. I tried to read it, but all I could think of was "in this universe, gays are considered diseased, and those who think otherwise are just flat-out wrong." I couldn't get past that. I couldn't get more than 50 pages into the book. The sad part? I was liking the book. Yet I still couldn't bring myself to read another word.

Two questions haunt me when I look back at all of that. One is "If I knew then what I know now, would I still have liked those books so much?" The other is "If I still like those books now, what, if anything, does that say about ME?" It's been over ten years since I last read them, so I can I don't know how well they've aged...but I do know that there is absolutely no way I can give them an objective read now, regardless of whether or not I still find them captivating.

When the whole controversy reached the national stage during the movie release of Ender's Game, I stayed suspiciously quiet. I didn't know then...and, honestly, I don't know now...how to feel about it all. I can't deny that I really, really liked those books. But I also can't deny that Card is a homophobe...an articulate one, perhaps, but that almost makes it worse. The accepting side is supposed to be the one with all the wit and intelligence and creativity!

I don't want to spiral too far out of control here, but fucking internet, right? How many great books, movies, songs, or works of art would have never received their acclaim if the internet were around to expose how flawed their creators were? Conversely, how many truly talented people might have had a chance at fame and fortune and success if the internet weren't around to damn them for their beliefs?

That last bit right there, that's the toughest pill for me to swallow. Prejudice in the opposite direction is still prejudice, isn't it? Hating someone for hating someone else is still hatred. That whole two wrongs don't make a right, or whatever. You don't get a free pass to discrimminate against someone just because they're on the wrong side of history. Given what we know of psychology and subconsciousness and how the human brain works, we could even argue that people's beliefs aren't even a choice. How fucked up is that? I don't know if I'd go that far, personally, but the implications are pretty scary to me.

So we're left with a devil's bargain: enjoy content created by bigots, or become bigots ourselves.

Anyone who's been following tabletop gaming news for the past week probably knows where this post is coming from. The latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons came out last week. In it, the book acknowledges the presence of people (maybe just one, I'm not too sure) who have allegedly said some really terrible, hateful things on the internet. This has caused what we in the community call a shitstorm. And, most tragic of all, very, very little of the conversation about this new edition of the Biggest RPG in the World is revolving around the game itself. It is instead revolving around these few people, and what they may or may not actually believe.

I want to say it's stupid. I want to scream "WHO GIVES A SHIT? LET'S JUST ROLL UP SOME ELVES AND SLAY SOME FUCKING MONSTERS!!!" But then I remember 13-year-old Ed. I think about how disappointed he may have been if he was told "Hey, that author you love so much? He thinks being gay is wrong." I think about how he may have just thrown that book in the trash, if he knew that.

Listen...you gotta do what you gotta do. If you can't get over what some dude said or didn't say, that's on you, Dear Reader. I won't judge you, either way. Just one request: please, please, shut up about it.


  1. I don't want to take a position on whether it is a moral imperative to reject the art because of the beliefs of the artist, but I think it is important to distinguish between judging people based on their beliefs and judging them based on how they treat other people. Are people speaking out against this D&D guy just because he thinks homosexuality is wrong, or are they speaking out against him because he treated people badly? Because judging someone for treating other people like crap is not "pre-judging," it is just judging, and a valid judgment at that.

  2. Oh, how I know this feeling. With me it seems to happen most often in music. But, in addition to offering my understanding, I also have to say this is will still be a great post when folks don't even remember what everyone was arguing about.


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