Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

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Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby PAstrychef » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:17 pm UTC

I just finished Flashback by D. Simmons. The world in the story is is bad shape, for several reasons. Many of the motivating "facts" in the story are (I believe) wrong. Simmons has said that the politics and so on in the story are not his, in most emphatic terms. But I can't help but wonder if his own biases are not sneaking in somehow. Some authors do this blatantly, some by the tone of various character.
Can an author really leave behind her views?
By the way, Flashback is a great book.
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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Kewangji » Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:12 pm UTC

I think an author can leave behind their views. Orson Scott Card comes to mind, though I'm not sure what his views were when he wrote his good books.

EDIT: Though he was well into WTF-land when he wrote the amazing Ender's Shadow-series, wasn't he?
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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby AvatarIII » Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:30 pm UTC

I had actually heard that flashback was rubbish, good to hear the author of done of my favourite books hadn't lost it.

But anyway, I don't really care what an author thinks, as long as it isn't bring forced as a form of propaganda, like I'm perfectly happy enderverse books, because Card's right wing Mormon views are pretty absent.

Edit: you really think that Card left a lot of political influence in his ender books? Sure they have political elements but I didn't come away with any change in my political views.

I wouldn't be particularly surprised if an author writing satire or a very political work would leave some views behind but I don't think a book could really change anyones views radically, at most it could make you think, but reading mein kamph isn't going to make a nazi unless they we're already leaning that way politically, right?

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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby The EGE » Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:43 pm UTC

Oddly enough, Card came to mind for me too.

I haven't read much of his recent stuff - mostly Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and a few of their sequels. But his "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything" column seems pretty level, and very funny.

I'm less impressed with Tom Clancy. Hunt for Red October was very good and human, and after that any character who's against military action becomes a pretty flimsy strawman.
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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Adacore » Sat Aug 13, 2011 5:22 am UTC

I certainly find it easier to read books by authors who agree with my politics. I think the only author I read who is definitely not aligned with my left-wing bias is Peter F Hamilton, who is decidedly ultra-capitalist right wing (although has been getting a little more social conscience in his more recent work. Iain Banks and, to a lesser extent, Elizabeth Moon (who are two of my favourite authors) are definitely strongly aligned with my views. For the authors, like Hamilton, whose politics I disagree with, I don't have any trouble reading their work unless they make it overtly political - so I don't really care what an author thinks or does, so long as it doesn't both oppose my views and come through too strongly in the book.

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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby AvatarIII » Mon Aug 15, 2011 11:20 am UTC

Hamilton may be economically right wing, but i can't think of a more left wing author when it comes to societal structure, for a start nearly all his books have a socialist faction, and none of those factions are considered bad, the Edenists and Martians from his Night's Dawn books, pretty much everyone on Far Away in the Commonwealth books, and the Advancers (? i think that's the right one, there are so many factions in that trilogy) in the Void Books.
also nearly all his books have things like 3 way marriages or huge amounts of free love and general hippiness, (maybe he's just bitter he was only 9 in the summer of love :D)

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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Czhorat » Sun Aug 21, 2011 5:49 am UTC

What if the author's politics are so repugnant to you that you refuse to support them with your money?

I've suggested publicly elsewhere that people boycott the work of Orson Scott Card to protest his membership on the board of the professional-bigot group NOM. The idea of supporting someone who would publicly take this stance is, quite honestly, sickening.

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Boycott all things Orson Scott Card?

Postby Czhorat » Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:01 pm UTC

His books. [url]Intergalactic Medicine Show[/url]. Anything else he comes up with that can give him revenue or positive recognition.

Why? A year ago he took a position on the board of the National Organization for Marriage, a group of professional bigots devoted to fighting against gay rights, specifically marriage rights. This position disgusts and angers me to the point that I don't want to support the man at all. In any way.

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Re: Boycott all things Orson Scott Card?

Postby charliepanayi » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:58 pm UTC

No, because if you started boycotting stuff from authors (or musicians or actors etc) because of them expressing idiotic views or doing awful things where would you draw the line. Should I chuck out all my Velvet Underground CDs as Maureen Tucker expressed support for the Tea Party? Or my Polanski films because of what he's been accused of?
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Re: Boycott all things Orson Scott Card?

Postby Adam H » Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:18 pm UTC

This thread is going to get derailed/locked super fast, but I have a few thoughts. The NOM doesn't strike me as an unusually bigoted organization. From my brief googling, it appears to only be against gay marriage. Like it or not, about half of americans (NOM and Orson Scott Card are both american) do not support gay marriage. So prepare to boycott a lot of stuff, basically.
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Re: Boycott all things Orson Scott Card?

Postby Adacore » Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:21 am UTC

What was wrong with this thread?

Unless someone is actively using their earnings to do something absolutely abhorrent, I don't think boycotts are sensible. I guess that means it depends on how bad a view you take on someone actively campaigning against gay marriage, in this case.

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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby the classy corsair » Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:34 am UTC

I see great books as works representative of their author's views and life experiences.

Who they are directly influences what they write, no doubt.

Is it reflective of what they think? Not always, but I always like knowing what they think. If what they think and what they say are known to be similar, it makes the reading experience feel more genuine. If it's not, I enjoy calling them out internally on their fraudulent works.

So yeah, I think it matters.

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Re: Boycott all things Orson Scott Card?

Postby Czhorat » Tue Aug 23, 2011 3:20 am UTC

Adam H wrote:This thread is going to get derailed/locked super fast, but I have a few thoughts. The NOM doesn't strike me as an unusually bigoted organization. From my brief googling, it appears to only be against gay marriage. Like it or not, about half of americans (NOM and Orson Scott Card are both american) do not support gay marriage. So prepare to boycott a lot of stuff, basically.


NOM strikes me as an unusually bigoted organization because their sole purpose is to campaign to deny rights to a group of people - in this case homosexuals. That's active, ugly bigotry. They fought successfully (for the time being - the courts have yet to speak) to un--marry already married people in California. They've stated that they want to do the same in my state of New York (where I believe that they'll never win).

So far as a just-under-fifty-percent minority opposing marriage equality, I agree that that is a shameful and sad statistic. I'll be just as aggressive in opposition to anyone who publicly takes an active role against equality. I draw a distinction between those and other members of the shrinking anti-rights minority who are at least quiet and passive.

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Re: Boycott all things Orson Scott Card?

Postby Kewangji » Tue Aug 23, 2011 11:47 pm UTC

What about those who are against all marriage and think that gay marriage is a red herring for equality?

I mean, hypothetically?

I will not buy any of Card's books from stores anymore, this has been my policy for a while. Doubt I'll read him again actually, unless he writes more Enderverse chronologically before Xenocide.
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Re: Boycott all things Orson Scott Card?

Postby meliescomic » Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:21 am UTC

OSC is interesting, Ender's Game was such a strongly liberal book (the government demonizes other cultures to start needless wars, people need to resist their inner prejudices, seemingly different peoples need to find common ground and work together). What happened since then? I have to wonder if today's OSC would stand by his earlier messages. Would the revised Ender's Game end with the government being right?

I don't think you can be a Mormon and support gay rights. His chosen religion might be forcing his hand. But, you know, I'm not gonna boycott Rudyard Kipling or J.R.R. Tolkien because I find their political views offensive.
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Re: Boycott all things Orson Scott Card?

Postby Czhorat » Wed Aug 24, 2011 2:34 am UTC

Kewangji wrote:What about those who are against all marriage and think that gay marriage is a red herring for equality?

I mean, hypothetically?


If they were on record opposing marriage before the gay marriage equality issue came to the forefront? I'd respect them, but disagree. That's clearly not the position of NoM or OSC. Here is an example of a more nuanced position, and a fair one, I think.


meliescomic wrote:OSC is interesting, Ender's Game was such a strongly liberal book (the government demonizes other cultures to start needless wars, people need to resist their inner prejudices, seemingly different peoples need to find common ground and work together). What happened since then? I have to wonder if today's OSC would stand by his earlier messages. Would the revised Ender's Game end with the government being right?

I don't think you can be a Mormon and support gay rights. His chosen religion might be forcing his hand. But, you know, I'm not gonna boycott Rudyard Kipling or J.R.R. Tolkien because I find their political views offensive.


Fair point, Melie. I'd argue that the "classic Ender trilogy" had a message of tolerance for the other along with the theme of powerful pro-war interests manipulating the natural childlike brutality in young Ender for their own goals in the first book. From what I've read of subsequent Enderverse books, I'd suspect that Mr. Card no longer thinks that way.

WHat are your issues with Kipling's politics? I admire his anticolonialism. In either event, I see it as different because Kipling is dead and can no longer profit from your support.

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Re: Boycott all things Orson Scott Card?

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:16 pm UTC

meliescomic wrote:I don't think you can be a Mormon and support gay rights. His chosen religion might be forcing his hand. But, you know, I'm not gonna boycott Rudyard Kipling or J.R.R. Tolkien because I find their political views offensive.
Sure you can. Oh, don't get me wrong - demanding gay marriage in Temple will probably get you asked to leave, but what does it matter if the secular world sees it as being fine? Why is that any of your business?
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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Lazar » Wed Aug 24, 2011 5:26 pm UTC

For reference, there is a small, liberalizing Mormon breakaway church called the Community of Christ. Totally the place to go if you're a fan of the Book of Mormon but you're not into the whole social conservatism thing.
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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby JudeMorrigan » Wed Aug 24, 2011 9:25 pm UTC

Kewangji wrote:EDIT: Though he was well into WTF-land when he wrote the amazing Ender's Shadow-series, wasn't he?

Actually, you can watch some of his descent into it happen over the course of it. The books attitudes towards Islam shift from:

Spoiler:
"No, no, Muslims are totally cool in this future. The Arab world is even allied with Israel!" to "Ok, there are bad Muslims, but Alai's are totally cool!" to "Islam does not qualify as a religion, and can never work on this planet".

The last time I read the series, I found a comparison of the shifting attitudes and the publish dates to be interesting but wholly unsurprising.

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Re: Boycott all things Orson Scott Card?

Postby Czhorat » Thu Aug 25, 2011 5:05 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:
meliescomic wrote:I don't think you can be a Mormon and support gay rights. His chosen religion might be forcing his hand. But, you know, I'm not gonna boycott Rudyard Kipling or J.R.R. Tolkien because I find their political views offensive.
Sure you can. Oh, don't get me wrong - demanding gay marriage in Temple will probably get you asked to leave, but what does it matter if the secular world sees it as being fine? Why is that any of your business?


To give a very public example, Mitt Romney the governor of Massacheussetts was pretty friendly towards gay rights. Mitt Romney the Republican Presidential candidate not so much. I'd say that this would argue that you can be a Mormon and support gay rights, but not a Republican presidential candidate. (replace "Romney" with "Guiliani", "Mormon" with "Catholic" and "Mass" with "New York City" and you get exactly the same formulation).

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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Mirelle18 » Sat Aug 27, 2011 12:37 am UTC

To give a very public example, Mitt Romney the governor of Massacheussetts was pretty friendly towards gay rights. Mitt Romney the Republican Presidential candidate not so much. I'd say that this would argue that you can be a Mormon and support gay rights, but not a Republican presidential candidate.


I agree that you can probably be Mormon and still support gay rights. I'm not sure Romeny's a good example, though. He's far too inconsistent on the issue- I think he's just a politician, really. It was better for his career to be moderately gay friendly while he was governor in Massachusetts- I don't think that makes him actually gay friendly, or truly supportive of gay rights. It just makes him someone who wants to keep getting voted in. We don't know what his actual opinions are.
(Which is incredibly sad.)

Oh, if you're interested- I found a timeline of Mitt Romney's actions and public statements relating to gay marriage: http://www.massresistance.org/docs/marr ... eline.html


And about the question- As long as the politics don't affect the book too much, I don't really care what the author thinks. Mostly I'd rather just not know. For example, I still love Roald Dahl books, even though I don't like that he was violently anti-Israeli, and made a few horrible anti-Semitic comments as well. (I don't think being anti-Israel and being anti-Semitic is the same thing, which is why I make the distinction.) But I'd really rather not have known that my one of my favorite authors said those things in the first place.

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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Lazar » Sat Aug 27, 2011 2:06 am UTC

Mirelle18 wrote:And about the question- As long as the politics don't affect the book too much, I don't really care what the author thinks. Mostly I'd rather just not know. For example, I still love Roald Dahl books, even though I don't like that he was violently anti-Israeli, and made a few horrible anti-Semitic comments as well. (I don't think being anti-Israel and being anti-Semitic is the same thing, which is why I make the distinction.) But I'd really rather not have known that my one of my favorite authors said those things in the first place.

I think most readers/music lovers/movie lovers/etc. would agree with this line of thinking, but in the case of OSC (i.e. a living author who is politically active), there's the point that Czhorat brought up that you might actually be subsidizing a distasteful cause by buying the person's stuff.
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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Mirelle18 » Sat Aug 27, 2011 3:51 am UTC

Lazar wrote:I think most readers/music lovers/movie lovers/etc. would agree with this line of thinking, but in the case of OSC (i.e. a living author who is politically active), there's the point that Czhorat brought up that you might actually be subsidizing a distasteful cause by buying the person's stuff.


I agree. I think there's a difference between authors who are no longer alive, and the authors who are, and therefore might be donating some of the profits from their books/movies/music to the cause you're against. In that case, I think you're probably better off boycotting (*cringe*) or at least going to a library for the books, instead of buying them. (As much as I hate to ever suggest the boycotting of books)

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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Tryss » Fri Sep 02, 2011 8:59 am UTC

A good exemple of a talented writer with nauseous political views is Céline

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis-Ferdinand_C%C3%A9line

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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Metaphysician » Sat Sep 03, 2011 7:43 pm UTC

I read good authors that tell compelling and human stories, regardless of their politics. I'm not afraid to reading something written from a point of view that I disagree with, and I'm not so emotionally involved in politics that it would make me sick or enrage me. I'm not arrogant enough to be that irate over people disagreeing with me. Maybe I'm just used to it since almost nobody actually agrees with me, I have points of view that literally piss off everybody from every major and minor aspect of the political spectrum. Maybe I just have a habit of automatically separating what seems like good or bad ideas as I read and adopting the good and ignoring the bad. I think most political philosophies have merit in some way or another. Anyway, in short, whether or not I enjoy an author has everything to do with their writing and storytelling abilities, and nothing to do with their politics. Same with music.
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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Fedechiar » Mon Sep 05, 2011 12:24 pm UTC

Especially in non-fiction, though, seeing facts skewed and statistics picked to favor a point of view you don't agree with can be annoying (not that authors I agree with don't, but it's easier to overlook the fact that history is presented from a subjective point of view if that point of view is yours). I agree with you that good writing is independent of politics, and a bad writer can make you cringe even when stating the same ideas you have

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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby PAstrychef » Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:01 pm UTC

So I was listening to Empire of Lies by Andrew Klavan. Here is a novel that most definitely is meant to show how the author had a conversion moment and became a religious conservative, having grown up as a leftist atheist. I am finding the voice of the protagonist quite so smug and irritating that I probably won't be listening to the rest of the book. Now Klavan has written some great thrillers which don't highlight his own beliefs quite so stridently, and those I will continue to read. It's purely the tone of the character that I don't care to deal with any more. And checking on Klavan's personal life, that smug and irritating tone is even more strident.
If I was to discover that he was actively supporting causes I find abhorrent, I would probably stop reading his stuff altogether.
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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby GraphiteGirl » Wed Sep 14, 2011 5:08 am UTC

Czhorat wrote:WHat are your issues with Kipling's politics? I admire his anticolonialism. In either event, I see it as different because Kipling is dead and can no longer profit from your support.
To pick up this earlier thread of discussion, Kipling expressed in some of his work a definite tendency toward racism and colonialism. See particularly his poem 'The White Man's Burden'.
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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Czhorat » Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:39 pm UTC

GraphiteGirl wrote:
Czhorat wrote:WHat are your issues with Kipling's politics? I admire his anticolonialism. In either event, I see it as different because Kipling is dead and can no longer profit from your support.
To pick up this earlier thread of discussion, Kipling expressed in some of his work a definite tendency toward racism and colonialism. See particularly his poem 'The White Man's Burden'.


I've always read "The White Man's Burden" as satirical, but that could be my modern-era bias talking.

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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Sonata » Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:34 am UTC

I've been bothered by Anne McCaffrey's views on homosexuals before. :( It did put me off.
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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Sleeper » Wed Sep 21, 2011 8:33 am UTC

I think the author's views on things provide relevant context for understanding their work, but I usually wouldn't refuse to buy a (fiction) book simply because of the author's views on politics.

...Then again, I say that and I immediately think of counterexamples: Bill O'Reilly wrote a pornographic thriller in 1998 called "Those Who Trespass," and there's an audiobook out there where you can hear O'Reilly saying things like "off with those pants!" and "Say baby, put down that pipe and get my pipe up."

(I found clips of these online but apparently I'm not supposed to link anything until I get up to 5 posts.)

Glenn Beck has also written some fiction, which I strongly suspect is crap.

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Re: Author's Politics, or do you care what an author thinks?

Postby Nat » Wed Oct 05, 2011 9:22 am UTC

Depends on how they do it. In holes, for example, it was done well: (for those of you who didn't read it, there's a scene where the town's black man is killed trying to escape the police because he kissed the white schoolteacher). The author writes down the facts, and ends with "you decide, who did god punish?" He doesn't tell me what he thinks, just show me what led him to think it.
Charles dickens, on the other hand, really annoyed me with that, because he's incredibly blatant about his politics. I like his writing style, but I just couldn't keep reading Oliver Twist after he wrote "the only thing I'd like more than to see a rich man watch how Oliver ate that tiny meal would be to reduce the rich man to that meal" (I don't remember the exact wording). I get that you don't like rich people. You don't have to tell me outright how much you hate them.


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