Question for readers

Because I’m really lazy busy writing, I’m asking you to provide content today. Answer in the comments.

Is there any author of whom you read a book or two (or three), when you became aware of this author’s offensive political opinions/offensive online behaviour/general arsheholery and then stopped reading this author’s books?

I’m asking the question, because there are voices like Dean Wesley Smith, who say that your personality or opinions don’t matter at all, and I’m not terribly sure that this is true, at least not if you’re not extremely successful already. Or even if you’re extremely successful.

This is kinda related to the J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith thing. I believe that the author is the brand, and if the brand says “I’m a homophobe” or “I’m a defensive, up-my-backside pick”, I’m having an extremely hard time believing that this doesn’t have some sort of influence. It might not have been so important pre-internet and when all reviews (and author retorts) were printed and had a limited audience, but I think the internet has changed this.

So. There you go. Attack.

25 comments on “Question for readers

  1. Fiction is fiction, anything is open to exploration and should be. The characters involved are free to explore. For me it is up to the writer not to leave. What I consider a bad taste. Explore by all means. Fiction allows that. Make the most of it.

    • I’m not talking about opinions in the author’s fiction, but opinions the author voices in a blog or some other venue. I’m talking about the author as personality. Have you abandoned books or not read them because of that?

  2. I will never read another book by OSC again because he is a right-wing nut and a homophobe prick.

    There’s one data point.

    • Thanks for responding. I was thinking about him, yes, since he seems to be mentioned a lot, and I think he has done a lot of damage to his sales by being so outspoken about his controversial opinions.

      Would you, for example, not watch a movie with Tom Cruise because of his religion? Or read Jonathan Franzen because he’s behaved as a literary snob?

      • To talk about OSC, I had already given up on him before I found out about his controversial opinions. I did–sort of–enjoy Ender’s Game, with the exception of the whole Speaker for the dead section, which I loathed, because it came across to me as overly preachy. Then someone informed me that the next books went into that direction, so I bowed out.

        I don’t think I have ever given up on an author after hearing about an opinion which I find offensive, but I’ve definitely given up or not even started reading authors because of their behaviour/tone.

  3. I don’t think I’ve consciously avoided any book because of its authors political opinions. For instance, I’ve read books by OSC and Anne McCaffrey even after learning they had some silly opinions re: homosexuality. I’ve not read anything by Elizabeth Moon lately, but I will always think well of her literature despite any comments she might’ve made about Islam. And I like a lot of Mike Resnick’s work too. If he puts out anything that looks interesting, I won’t let this SFWA Bulletin controversy stop me from taking a look at it.

    However, there are some authors who I do feel differently about. I liked and admired Isaac Asimov’s work and his general authorly voice _so_ much, and I felt very betrayed when I learned that he was kind of a groper. Ever since then, I’ve not been able to think about him in the same way.

    I also really like Vladimir Nabokov, and I’ve read a ton of his work. But his _Lectures on Russian Literature_ really put me off him. It made him seem so petty-minded and querulous.I still read his work, but I don’t regard it as highly.

    I guess I am only put out by an author’s opinions or actions when there is something about their work that made me think that they might be better than that sort of thing.

    • In a case like this, betrayed is probably a better term.

      I’m wondering if Asimov was still alive and putting out books if you’d buy them?

      • Certainly, if he put out something that I found interesting, I would not hold myself back from buying it. I’ve reread a few of his works since finding out about the groping, and I still enjoy them. However, I’ve felt no desire to read the books that I hadn’t yet read (like The Gods Themselves). So I don’t know. That’s why I said that I don’t consciously avoid authors whose politics and/or actions I disagree with…however, I can’t rule out the possibility that some unconscious distaste does seep in and prevent me from getting excited about their books.

        However, I’d never say, “Oh, I _really_ want to see this movie / read this book…but I won’t do it because the author is a homophobe.”

  4. There’s a guy on a forum I knock about on who is aggressive, unpleasant and just generally offensive to everyone. He’ll argue black is white if he thinks he can upset someone, he’s rude, abrasive and just… vile. His books look interesting but I could never bring myself to buy one… I mentioned it to another forumite, privately and it turned out he too had been thinking of trying one of this chap’s books but found him so gobsmackingly unpleasant that he just couldn’t bring himself to do it either.



    • I tend to think that being obnoxious online or IRL has more negative effect before you become a big name, when it’s actually important and when it can actually stop your career taking off. Kevin Anderson tells the story of being a young writer and helping someone with luggage at a con. That person then turned into his biggest fan. The bonus was that this person was a bookshop owner.

  5. Yes I have, and will continue to do so … OSC is just the latest in a long line of nastiness. And lets face it, there’ll always be other books to read.
    The interwebz and western culture’s obsession with ‘celebrity’ means that for good or naught, it is impossible for an artist to hide from their art.

    • I think that the internet has changed quite a few things. The fact that an author is a sexist/homophobe/prick is spread much more widely and it may stop people buying books. When you’re Stephen King, who cares, but when you’re at the start of a career, I think this matters more than people think.

  6. Oh… I do enjoy reading Heinlein, but the whole Lazarus Long incest saga got a bit long winded/offputting. I kept reading though as he’s still a good read and most of his more minor novels never touch on those points.

  7. Barry Eisner is a hard-line left winger who takes very public stances in his blog and on Twitter on the NSA and governmental intrusion–in the internet age and still seems to sell. Elizabeth Moon’s opinions regarding Islan which some find offensive post-date the internet. Orson Scott Card is a hard-line right winger who has publicly supported the criminalization of homosexuality. Heinlein supported a strong world government, including advocating it in some of his books.

    People still read all of those and a lot of other authors whose political views you may find “obnoxious”. I doubt that many people when they see a book on Amazon that they think looks interesting on Amazon or in the bookstore first look up their political opinions before buying it. On the other hand, if someone sees my opinions on Twitter about UK politics, which are at least moderately controversial, and decide they don’t want to buy my books because of it, so be it.

    • More often than not, people learn of an author’s views or behaviour after the author has achieved fame, but I think this is changing. Barry may have his views, but no one is saying that these views are invalid or even unpopular. Left vs right-wing politics are pretty much split 50-50 on average. I’d hardly call that a minority view. In Barry’s case, his views may even help him, because most of Twitter is the domain of left-wing politics (I’ve not read him–so many books, so little time–and assumed him to be right-wing, but now I’m interested). I’m not talking about which side of politics an author is on, unless the author takes an ultra-ultra extremist position. I’m not talking about authors who clearly have a heart for the environment, or the advancement of women, or other, fairly mainstream issues.

      I’m talking about authors bordering on troll-ism. Authors going on tirades against women/gays/Muslims/Christians, whatever. If your name is Richard Dawkins, and you sell atheism, awesome, because it’s part of your brand, and that’s why people buy your books, but a fiction author? People of the already-made-it category like OSC or Stephen King or JK Rowling, or even Barry Eisler could say anything, and their books would still sell.

      But in the age of the internet, what of the upcoming author? I have certainly not read newly published authors because of opinions or online behaviour.

      You and I probably have a similar level of abruptness and anti-diplomacy masquerading as honesty, and I’m sure some people will be repelled by that. Sure. But if either of us started to screech “foreigners out” something like that on our blogs, I’m sure that would be harmful to sales.

  8. In general, I read anything I enjoy or which makes me think. I definitely don’t expect authors to match my views on various issues in order to read them/ enjoy their works. But if I am aware of an author’s views on some matters and have a gut reaction of extreme disgust to these views, I am unlikely to pick up a work by that person again.

    I do not make it a project to check an author’s views before picking up his/ her work to read. It’s not like when I see a book, I feel obliged to surf for the author in all forums, check his/ her views on everything, and then apply their acceptability to me as a filter before I make a read/ purchase decision.

    If I find the work I’m reading is full of the sort of biases and rants that make me squirm (or throw up), I stop reading that book and may not read that author again. But if the person has presented his/ her views (which I disagree with) in a calm and thought provoking way, I may still read the work, even if my mind is full of counter-arguments with every sentence I read.

    Sometimes, I find there is outrage against some authors because of their opinions (or even outright activism) related to some social issues, but I often don’t even learn of these till much later. If I have liked/ loved their fiction earlier, I don’t start hating a book post-facto or looking for hidden signals in it because I now know the author’s views. Given how many authors seem to have views/ behaviours I don’t agree with (I always learn of these much later), that mind-set would leave me with very little I still like 😦


    • I agree with you that I don’t make a habit of scouting out the author’s personality before buying a book. And also, I have no problem with reading authors whose views differ markedly from mine.

      On the other hand, the internet makes it ever more easy for any of the author’s dickheadery to spread before I get a chance to buy their books. And I may think “hmm, maybe I’ll just buy this other book”. There are definitely authors in that category.

  9. people only care about OSC because its *now* and he’s alive… when you look back at other eminent racists (arthur conan doyle or hp lovecraft) people are able to separate the author from his work. we look back and go “awesome scary tales, Mr Lovecraft, but we despise your views on race”. Same with Conan Doyle, we look back at his nutty spiritualism and racism and separate it from the awesome Sherlock Holmes tales.

    • Actually, not being a horror fan in the slightest, I was positively abhorred by a piece of HP Lovecraft fiction my daughter had to read for her HSC. It was racist as hell (apart from a slow piece of drivel, although the latter is my personal opinion and you may disagree). I do agree that we do allow authors who are dead the filter of time. See also the comments on Asimov and groping. That sort of stuff was acceptably swept under the table back then. Still, sexism (usually implied rather than overt) is the main reason why I can’t get my mind around “Golden Age” SF. I even detest that label. What the hell is “Golden Age” about denying half the population a meaningful existence?

  10. I started to use the WWW for only about a year insofar as reading blogs and referred blogs that interest me. Just for the record, this blog was sent to me via G+ (your post about authors spamming).

    The OSC debacle is the third time I’ve seen what I call ‘web swarming’, and I define it by people self-righteously ganging up on a blog site talking about someone else’s opinions or activities elsewhere on the web.

    The first time was when Joe Konrath had a guest post taking Harlequin Romance to task for how they treat their authors. On a few other HR author sites there were dozens of posts about how evil he was. And yet, not one person challenged him on his own blog where he actually posted his opinion.

    The second time was when Kendall Grey did a guest post about her experiences as an author, and again on many other places on the web, she was attacked and pilloried. In that case, only one time did someone take it directly to Kendall on her blog. And when they did, she explained herself, her opinions and so forth in a reasonable way.

    The swarming about Konrath and Grey on other websites smacks too much of gossip for my comfort zone.

    The latest is OSC and his purported views on LGBT issues. I first heard of it via Chuck Wendig’s blog and saw some discussion there. I went to OSC’s website, and again found a clarification from him in several areas on the topic which comes across a lot more reasonable than what I was seeing on Wendig.

    What I like best about THIS thread is that you put up the question without putting forward your own opinions. That’s pretty cool.

    I often read books and watch movies for mere entertainment, not consciousness raising. There are few writers or creators that are able to raise my consciousness in a way that also entertains me. For me, the only one that does so consistently is Sorkin.

    I like good sci-fi, and I’ll probably read Ender’s Game. This debacle brought it to my attention. If OSC does a good job at entertaining me with his story, then I could not care less about his views on religion, race, human rights etc. That debate is for another arena.

  11. I won’t ever read Card, but I will read Sanderson despite the later holding some silly views on same sex marriage. The difference being the extent to which those authors use their influence in terms of politics/activism ie Sanderson virtually none.

    I can’t watch Mel Gibson anymore and I have a very hard time watching Cruise.

    Barry Eisler is as left as they come. Probably the best paced thriller writer I have come across. His last was a bit sub par but everything else written while he had a traditional contract was good.

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