As writers and authors it is difficult to remove yourself from the worlds you create. Often times the utopian or dystopian ideals that you set forth into a story are those that you foresee as the most, or least, preferable world possible. The worlds we create as fiction writers are indelibly marked by our own personalities and politics—even our most villainous characters are in some way part of ourselves because they are created in our imaginations. Regardless of this, our works are not reflective entirely of our particular view point—only informed by them. It is, of course possible to write or imagine worlds, people, and scenarios with resolutions that we wouldn’t condone or advocate for in the real world. The beauty of creative writing and fiction writing is that we can build and populate realities that are as based in the real world as we want (or not).
Therefore, this raises an interesting question about the political power of supporting a particular author in regard to whether or not you agree with their actual worldviews, as opposed to whether or not you enjoy their work on its own. Recently, Orson Scott Card—writer of the famously popular Ender’s Game Series—was consigned by DC Comics to write an out-of-continuity Superman story in the relaunch of the title Adventures of Superman and all of fandom exploded in tirade. Card, a Mormon with a pedigree so prestigious that he is actually the great-grandson of Brigham Young, has openly opposed gay marriage in recent years and has historically held extremely conservative views regarding the Civil Rights of homosexuals (which have admittedly been at least revised over the years to keep current with the trends of Constitutionality and legality) that are based in his personal morality and, no doubt, his religious upbringing.
When DC announced the author of this one-shot tale, fans all across the internet swore to boycott the issue and rallied to have the company fire the author from the story. Meanwhile, Card’s novel Ender’s Game is consistently held to be one of the best Science Fiction novels of the 20th century (and considered the best by many), is recommended reading for Marines recruits and Officer’s Candidate School students, and has been adapted into a major motion picture to be released later this year, boasting an all-star cast including Harrison Ford. Where is the boycotting of the beloved Ender’s Game in the face of his never-been-secret views? In the meanwhile the story has been held up as, amidst the controversy, the artist attached to the issue has stepped down leaving the story without an illustrator and the release of the issue—the first in the relaunched series—has been apparently delayed and comic retailers are saying that due to the feedback they will only order the comic on a demand basis.
Are we as readers relegated only to consuming fiction by authors who we philosophically agree with? Are we as authors delegated to keeping our opinions to ourselves in order to be more commercially accepted? Certainly authors like Ayn Rand found a political following (posthumously) in the Tea Party and Fiscal Conservatives with her works, notably Atlas Shrugged—but I thoroughly enjoyed the book while having some issues with its philosophical underpinnings. Likewise for Ender’s Game. It’s a great book and deserves its much-lauded status. In reading Atlas Shrugged I found myself constantly challenging the ideals in the book, and checking them against my own which in turn required me to closely examine the beliefs I held gospel. I found that in reading a story so firmly entrenched in a philosophy that I did not agree with, but was nonetheless well written and well argued with a compelling plot (though arguably the characterization in Shrugged was lacking, and in the case of the protagonist ultimately disappointing) was like having a great conversation, taking a challenging course, and getting swept up in the escapist joy of fiction reading. I liken it to having a debate with a good friend with whom I am completely politically opposed—only in contest can we test the veracity of our own beliefs. Additionally, I have found very little in Ender’s Game that betrays a homophobic tone or even an abnormal amount sophomoric adolescent ribbing.
As a Superman fan, a person who enjoyed Ender’s Game, and someone who firmly believes personally that homosexuals deserve the full gamut of civil rights, privileges, and benefits as heterosexuals I find myself wondering “What’s the big deal?” Don’t we suffer as readers and thinkers when we relegate ourselves to have intellectual discourse with those who exclusively agree us? Aren’t we then doomed to never test our opinions and beliefs against opposition, making our opinions all the weaker?
So I turn the question to you—what do you think of the controversy over Orson Scott Card’s issue of Superman? Do you believe we should only support and read from authors and writers we agree with? What do we really look to get out of our reading?
Written by Brandon Melendez