Thursday, January 17, 2008

At least they didn't give it to Mittens

Here's the SLJ article asking if Orson Scott Card's beliefs about homosexuality should have been taken into account when YALSA awarded him the Margaret Edwards Award. I dunno if this is a real controversy; has anyone heard it brought up elsewhere?

31 comments:

fern said...

I laughed out loud when I read your fair and balanced comment at the end of this article. Clearly the writer or editor who gave you the last word appreciated it as well.

llemma said...

It's a bit of a controversy inside my own head; I love his books in part for their impassioned humanism, but sometime in between Speaker for the Dead and Ender's Shadow, he seems to have become the most boring sort of ornery bigot, so much so that those earlier texts seem barely to belong to him. Songmaster is I suppose the bridge; it's deeply anxious about queerness but ultimately sympathetic to what it perceives as the victims of same.

Anonymous said...

My issue with his winning the award is that he's not a young adult author. Is everyone who publishes adult books with young protagonists now eligible?

Farah said...

Anonymous is correct. Card's older books have been repackaged for teens, but he has never to my knowledge set out to write for teens (and I've heard him speak several times).

I am afraid, fan of his work that I am, I also share Levithan's feelings that here is someone who holds views about me and mine, that if they were concerned with my religion rather than my sexuality would be abhored by the same committee as has just presented him an award. It's rather shameful that hate speech against gay people is defended under "freedom of speech". Card is indeed free to say such things, but we are also free to point out their repulsiveness, and no one is obliged to ignore them.

llemma said...

I've just gone and read the article with Roger's comment, and I think what I feel funny about is that it's a lifetime achievement award. It's not like this issue is completely nontextual; are we just not counting all his overtly homophobic novels?

Roger Sutton said...

I've chaired this committee and the terms are a little weird. It's called a lifetime achievement award (although I think that might be language of more recent vintage than my tenure) but it is awarded for specific books. Judy Blume only won it for Forever, for example. It's kind of a contradiction. But from the beginning, authors for adults who have a significant YA readership have been eligible; the most obvious winner would be J.D. Salinger, but in that case another criterion proves an impediment: you have to agree to accept the award in person. (I hate that rule; it makes the award look like a fancy way to get a lunch speaker.)

steve said...

oh, so you mean that librarians will have the opportunity to protest the selection then, since Mr. Card is required to show up in Anaheim... sounds promising.

Laura (Pinot and Prose) said...

KT Horning mentioned it over at her blog, but I haven't heard anything else about it. I don't know...it seems alarmist to be up in arms about this. Your comments about "being an idiot in real life" were completely on point.

Anonymous said...

My concern is that the specific terms of the Edwards award concern honoring books that "...should enable [young adults] to understand themselves, the world in which they live, and their relationship with others and with society...” and the committee is required to take into account whether the book(s), among other things, help adolescents to become aware of themselves and to answer their questions about their role and importance in relationships, society and in the world.

Given that criteria and context, Mr. Card's world view is relevant, especially in light of how that world view and his other writings might impact the interpretation and impact of the cited works.

Anonymous said...

Laura:

This will cause a rumble in the SF world. Card was the Guest of Honour at a convention in Boston a few years ago, and their attendance dropped significantly that year. I was there on business and took my opportunity to meet Card and judge for myself. He is a very charming bigot. This award condones that.

Farah said...

I have just been reminded that Card has made some pretty vicious comments about Islam as well. What *were* the committee thinking of?

Anonymous said...

farah,

I wonder that myself. The quote in the SLJ article makes it seem that they were entirely unaware of Card's views. If so, that's embarrassing. It feeds a stereotype of a children's librarian-- that they never read anything but children's books and subsequently have the worldview of . . . children. Being so clueless about your honoree seems unprofessional.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a huge fan of Orson Scott Card's fiction, but after reading one of the essays posted as proof as to why he shouldn't win the award, I feel people are attacking him mainly for his religion and religious beliefs (as opposed to the quality of his fictional works, like Ender's Game). Has anyone here ever read Tolstoy? Although I don't agree with Tolstoy's beliefs and attitudes toward women and femininity, War and Peace is still one of the best novels in existence. Tolstoy's beliefs, of course, are interesting to literary fans and critics, but are not central to enjoying the novel.

Anonymous said...

The difference between criticizing Leo Tolstoy for his views on women and criticizing Orson Scott Card for being a homophobe is that Tolstoy lived at a time when his views were the accepted societal norm. Card's are not for a growing number of people, and he's not shown the slightest interest in any scientific or sociological evidence showing that homosexuality is anything but nasty, evil, and sinful.

Furthermore, despite his popularity with young readers (which I was unaware of; most of his readership seems to be male SF fans in their 30s and 40s), he's not a YA author. I don't think he should have given this award on those grounds alone. Add in that he's a bigot and a mouthy one at that, and there you have it....

Chris said...

I'm concerned that an award of this nature would be given to a bigot like Card, but I'm also concerned that it's mainly his homophobic worldview that is mostly the subject matter that throws a wrench into his being given the award. His work also glorifies children as heroes of war, and despite some of the moral lessons they learn about what is right in war, it's still essentially fiction that young people are given models for participating in war and destruction. Is this a "positive" impact on teens? Or is it propaganda?

Roger Sutton said...

I've only ever made it through Ender's Game (I was on the BBYA committee when that came out and I remember the hardcore SF members sneered at it) and Speaker for the Dead, but I recall a definite horror at the cost of war. Not so?

SG said...

The trouble with Ender's Game, as I read it, was that the children-as-heroes-of-war concept was distinctly linked to an idea of 'oh, you didn't realise you were committing REAL atrocities, therefore you can be technically absolved of any real responsibility and/or guilt for it'. All of the accolades with little of the consequences. Sounds like a fine lesson to be teaching on the whole, regardless of whether the books count as YA fiction.

NATHANIEL R said...

bigotry towards queer folk is part of the Mormon character so I'm not surprised although i am surprised that this is news to anyone.

Lisa C. said...

I already said my piece on KT's post, but I have to defend Ender's Game to SG... Guilt and shock over decimating the Bugger population haunts Ender beyond the end of Ender's Game and into future books of the series as he saves a Hive Queen and brings her to a new planet. I have never seen the book as excusing Ender's actions so much as showing him as a pawn in a much larger game.

jamie said...

Remember just a mere month ago when we as a profession were defending Pullman's right to be an atheist, by claiming that his views didn't change the fact that he wrote a great book? If Pullman gets to be an atheist, Card gets to be a homophobe.

We need to be consistent. I personally find homophobia abhorrent, but the award is not for character but for a body of writing work that has spoken to teens.

jane said...

The peculiar thing is that Scott Card (who I know quite well) is actually very close friends with a very well known lesbian singer/songwriter and went to her wedding. She defends him, loves him, and has told me so. (I don't feel at liberty to say who she is.)

So Scott the man and Scott the Mormon and Scott the writer of novels are three very distinct personalities. I believe his homophobic essay (I have only read the one and it's a very nasty piece of business) has been confined to his LDS writings.

Jane

Kitty said...

But being an atheist and being a homophobe are really not the same thing. Being an atheist is a fairly personal thing; no one is being oppressed or harmed because of it. The Christian church is not going to collapse because Pullman doesn't believe in organized religion. But Card's unsettling writings in which he states, for instance, that gays should not be able to marry, are direct attempts to keep people he doesn't like from gaining the same rights he has as a Mormon man.

I'm not saying this should keep him from winning an award, but my distaste for him as an individual has made it impossible for me to read him anymore.

Anonymous said...

Clearly, Orson Scott Card and David Levithan (who objects to this award in the SLJ article) are at polar ends of the gay rights spectrum. But I have to wonder if their roles were reversed, if David Levithan was winning the Edwards Award, would Orson Scott Card say that Levithan was unfit for the award based on his politics, his sexual orientation? I have a hard time believing that he would.

Debbie Reese said...

Related, sort of...

Have any of you seen Sherman Alexie's film, THE BUSINESS OF FANCYDANCING? The protagonist is gay, a poet, living in the big city.

Debbie

Roger Sutton said...

To the latest Anon.: I don't think orson Scott Card would have anything to say about David Levithan winning the Edwards Award because a) I don't think Card had ever heard of the award before he won it and b) this is largely a controversy among insiders (liberal YA lit-types) confronted with an outsider (Mormon author of books published for adults).

Three out lesbian authors (Kerr, Garden, Woodson) have won the Edwards Award with no fallout that I'm aware of.

Little Brother said...

"The award is not for being an idiot in real life.."

My big brother is so frickin cool.

Anonymous said...

OK - someone's got to admit to ignorance. What is (or was) MITTENS?

Roger Sutton said...

It was the drag name of a certain former governor, but I hear he's changed it. Again.

Anonymous said...

There were plenty of people during Tolstoy's time who found his views on women repellent. These people included his daughters, whose lives were ruined by him. It's acceptable in the general population to view women as less intelligent overall to men. Many women will even admit they never want a female boss if they have the choice. It's just not acceptable to say so among the Ivy League/liberal arts elite. Still there are exceptions: Norman Mailer and Philip Roth aren't exactly considered sympathetic to female readers, yet their books are constantly reviewed in all the major literary reviews. In the end, the skills of the writer almost always overcome whatever personal "demons" or defects that writer has.

Anonymous said...

Mitt Romney was a drag queen??? Oh, I'm so confused ...

Yonmei said...

I think I know which famous lesbian singer/songwriter you mean.

If so, literally within months of her marriage and Orson Scott Card's attending her wedding, Card wrote:

But homosexual "marriage" is an act of intolerance. It is an attempt to eliminate any special preference for marriage in society -- to erase the protected status of marriage in the constant balancing act between civilization and individual reproduction.

So if my friends insist on calling what they do "marriage," they are not turning their relationship into what my wife and I have created, because no court has the power to change what their relationship actually is.

Instead they are attempting to strike a death blow against the well-earned protected status of our, and every other, real marriage.

They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won't be married. They'll just be playing dress-up in their parents' clothes.
link

So was he being a complete hypocrite when he wrote the above - or is that his honest opinion, and he despises someone who "loves and defends him" that much?