When Is It OK To Say I Should't Care About A Creator's Morality?

In A Cafe thread on Fantasy novels with a female lead, someone brought up Marion Zimmer Bradley, and I responded with this:

To which Wendell Wagner replied:

There was a bit of back-and-forth, and now, to stop the hijack there, I thought I might continue it here. This is Wendell’s last post, with my reply to start the thread off:

That’s funny, it takes me a lot less time to read a Wikipedia biography than a novel. YMMV.

Not all of them, more like 90%, and I fill in the holes as I go.

Yes - actually, I only found out about both of those having already read their works (no internet back then so the research was a lot harder), but now, I won’t read either.

I feel as though you’re not reading my posts at all, as I quoted several in my last post:

So paederastic rape should have a statute of limitations, to you?

I know a little - I do know they still employ Elisabeth Waters.

The literary rights are in a Trust, actually.

No, Waters was also an enabler of Breen herself. It’s not at one remove like that. Anyway, that’s an issue, but not the main issue.

Like I said, there’s no such chain.

Anyway, like I said, the estate and continuing support of Waters isn’t the main issue.

The main issue is not allowing a paederast apologist to amass fame, albeit posthumously, without people knowing what she actually stood for (and, like I said, worked into her own books). Basically, I think she should be reviled by all right-thinking people, the same as her ex.

How is “I research the authors I read before I read them” random? It’s the exact opposite.

So, the topic for debate: is it a bad thing to control for authorial morality in the creative works you choose to consume? Or does only their creative output count?

Should no-one read Mein Kampf?

For fun? We were discussing recreational reading, novels, not academic works or non-fiction reading.

That’s a poor comparison. A better one would be to ask if no-one should go a gallery to see Hitler’s paintings. Mein Kampf, generally speaking, is not read because you think it’s good stuff, it’s read because you want insight into the mind of a real-life genocidal maniac. Unless you’re reading Ender’s Game to try to understand Card and his bigotry and not because you want to read a good novel, it’s really not the same thing.

Plenty of places online where the books can be obtained without cost and thus no money to the author.

I’ll take this stand. I never research artist backgrounds before enjoying their works and I seek to learn as little as possible about them. Everyone is an asshole to some extent and I suspect that more than half of people have views that make me uncomfortable.

Art stands on it’s own.

If the actions of the creator bother you to the extent that you can’t enjoy the product then you shouldn’t buy the product. For myself, I see a distinction between individuals and products. I have no issue eating at Chick-fil-A. I don’t like the politics of its owners but they don’t discriminate in the business. I don’t like the politics of Richard Mellon Scaife and I don’t buy his local newspaper because he uses it as a vehicle to spread his poisonous views. I stopped drinking Coors when they denied same sex benefits but started again when the company changed course. The money goes to the Coors family either way.

The title of this post is a bit misleading.

I don’t research people before reading/watching/whatevering. But once something is known to me, I don’t ignore it. If it’s something troubling, I would avoid reading their work, though honestly this hasn’t come up that often. I read Ender’s Game before I knew how hateful Card was, but I hated the book so I never felt any urge to continue to read him. And I’ve never had any interest in Bradley, so again I really haven’t had to put my literary money where my mouth is.

Now, most of my books I get from the library (in e-book format). While that does still probably help someone’s estate or income (spurring libraries to buy more of their books?), it does not feel as direct.

This is how I feel about the topic.

If it bothers YOU as a consumer, then stop consuming. If it doesn’t bother your friend/internets argument opponent, then that’s his or her business.

For instance, I hayte WalMart with a capital “Y”. I don’t shop there. My wife will shop there. I’m not going to be some morally superior self-righteous “person in the right” simply because she doesn’t share my opinion or my response to my opinion.

Over my lifetime I have too often found the creators of work I admire to be annoying, radically different in positions political/religious/whatever, or to have done things either criminal or highly immoral by my standards. If I boycotted the work of everyone I disapproved of personally I’d have precious little to look at, read, or listen to.

I won’t even commit to boycott the work of someone who committed murder or some other hideous crime. In extreme cases I’d consider it, but the artwork is not the artist and vice versa.

Now, if the work in question promotes a viewpoint I strongly disagree with, or promotes criminal activity, that’s a different matter. In that case it’s about the work, not the creator.

I find the notion of “disappearing” someones body of work because of objectionable behavior, or even worse objectionable thought, to be every bit as disturbing as murdering pedophiles. No one is all good or all evil (a few come close, but no, not even them) and it’s not inconceivable for someone to create great good as well as commit great crimes in the course of a life.

For the examples given: I find it disturbing that MZB was connected to a pedophile, which seem pretty certain. I also find it disturbing when meddling busy-bodies get in my face and demand I stop reading novels I enjoy because they think I should. If MZB had been writing apologist screeds for NAMBLA it would be a different matter but that’s not what she was doing at all.

I disagree strongly with Card on a lot of issues, but I enjoy some of his works (not the longer series, though). I don’t see a reason to stop reading those stories because I am in disagreement with their creator. If he wrote a new novel and stated “all proceeds from this will go to fighting SSM” then I’d consider not buying it because I wouldn’t support that cause but so far as I know he’s never made such a pledge and the money he made as a writer went to supporting himself and his family.

For another one - I stopped purchasing Laurel K. Hamilton’s works not because I disagreed with her personal stances on any particular issue but because she took some great concepts and characters and turned them into really badly written porn, then pitched a fit when people weren’t enthused with her improbable fanfic-level crap. Again, though, it was because of the work itself, with an added dash of spoiled princess on top. Hon, if people don’t like your work it’s not because they don’t appreciate “edgy” or they aren’t smart enough to get your point or they’re prudes it’s because they don’t like what you write. No one is obligated to buy what you write, no matter your track record, prior history, or your PR work.


The only time an author’s/artist’s personal views matter to me is when they get embedded into the text.

I can’t imagine having the energy to care that much. A book written by a kitten kicker would probably be more interesting than your generic lib arts major.

I third this motion.

So you’re saying I shouldn’t even make the facts known, nor ask (I made no demands) for people to avoid a work?

MZB’s work does promote a paederastic relationship in one novel…

No-one’s* demanding* anything. I’ve put the facts and my opinion out there. If that doesn’t make people want to avoid her, well, that’s their business. But Wendell seemed to want me to not even raise the subject.

Not read Heritage of Hastur, I take it?

That’s pretty much the way I feel too. I mean, William Luther Pierce could be a choir boy and paragon of human virtue, but “The Turner Diaries” is such hateful crap that it doesn’t matter- I’m not reading it.

Conversely, the work in question may be terrific, and the author may currently be, or have been an unsavory character. Why should that bother me? I mean, it’s all a matter of degree- there are plenty of Hollywood actors whose politics I don’t agree with one bit, but that doesn’t keep me from watching their movies and enjoying them.

IIRC, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a troll and a credulous cretin regarding Spirits, Fairies and he could had a hand in the Piltdown Man fraud. Throw in some misogyny, racism, and class snobbery too for good measure.

Still, I do think that if Sherlock Holmes would had encountered his creator, I think that Holmes would had defenestrated Doyle, so I still like to read the adventures of the greatest Consulting Detective.

More important to me is that Conan Doyle is dead also, and only if the creator was alive with a chance of still causing harm is that then I would not look at any of his/her creations. A more modern example for me was Michael Jackson; could not stand to even listen to his work again until he did die, and now we know that any profit will not go to a guy that was causing harm, and I’m not just referring to the very suspicious sleepovers that he had with kids, but to his drug abuse.

Same here: it’s really pretty rare for this to come up at all.

Card is an interesting case, as I love his books…but since he went so far out of his way to espouse unpleasant views, publicly and without remorse, I have joined the boycott.

Harlan Ellison is the only other name on my list. Also a brilliant writer, but so exceptionally unpleasant in real life as to taint his works.

By and large, my experience is usually the other way around: Jack McDevitt, Timothy Zahn, Gail Carriger – extremely NICE people in real life! I could name fifty more. This is the more common pattern among creative people.

You’re welcome to make the facts know but yes, I think “asking” people to avoid a work because YOU dislike either it or the creator is over the line. Present the facts and step back to let other people make their choices.

Really? Which one. I’ve read nearly everything she’s written, please point to it.

YOU may not be demanding. Other people have done to me in the past. YMMV.

Yes, I have.

For those who haven’t - there is a character named Danilo Syrtis. He is repeatedly raped by a superior officer, not just physically but also mentally (the aristocracy on the world depicted are psychic). He is kicked out of the city guard in disgrace after he pulls a weapon on his rapist. MZB very clearly shows that this is devastating to the victim who runs off to seclusion. What the anti-MZB crowd fail to point out is that one of the main characters of the novel seeks out Danilo, encourages him to press charges, and pledges to support him in his claim. It is clearly a crime within the culture depicted. The anti-MZB crowd will make much of the fact that Danilo is then named as the heir to the rapist, but fail to note that this is done as reparations, basically saying the kingdom will be handed over the Danilo when the old man dies in compensation. Wow - is that “supporting” or “promoting” pederasty? How, exactly?

Yes, Danilo later forgives Lord Ardais to some extent and develops a much more equitable relationship with him. That is, first of all, consistent with the character’s religion, which emphasizes forgiveness, and the long-term relationships of abusers and abusees can be extremely complicated, with both continuing hatred and continuing affection. It’s one of the things that can screw up abuse survivors. It’s very clear from subsequent novels that there are no further sexual relations between rapist and victim. Personally, I like the fact Danilo Syritis is not portrayed as a helpless victim for the rest of his life and we see him moving past victim to something different.

Yes, one of the reasons anyone gave a damn about Danilo is because he is an oh-so-special telepath/psychic, but the injustice of differing treatment on that basis when compared with other victims is pointed out, just as the injustice of kicking a rape victim out of military service is likewise pointed out. Frankly, I don’t see anything “promoting” child abuse, molestation, or pederasty in that novel. If it weren’t for MZB’s relationship with Breen (a convicted child molester) I don’t think most other people would see it either, but the pissed-off crowd is looking for evidence to use against her.

It makes me wonder if some of these people objecting so vehemently have read the novel themselves, or just the Cliff’s notes version.

Making the facts known, sure.

Asking others to share your stance? Maybe. It’s all in how you say it. Bu be prepared for someone to have found that particular piece of work soul-changing to be vehemently opposed to your views. And you may note that they will have that reaction whether or not they rationally agree that the creator is a scumbag.