Monday, July 25, 2011

Discussion: Do author's opinions effect how much you want to read their book(s)?

Authors are people too. Thus, they have their own opinions about political, religious and social issues, like any of the rest of us. Most of them seem to keep their personal opinions rather quiet, especially when it's an important time for their book releases and etc. However, occasionally, an author's personal opinion becomes rather widely known. Sometimes these opinions can cause quite an uproar among readers and fans.

For example, last year Elizabeth Moon made a statement about Islam which infuriated numerous people. There were articles about what she said and reactions all over the internet and twitter regarding how outraged people were. If I remember correctly, she wasn't allowed to attend a Con that she was scheduled to attend due to what she had said. I remember seeing people on Twitter saying that they would never read her books again. 

She's not the only author something like that has happened with. It happens. Every author has an opinion, and sometimes that opinion will upset some of their readers. Sometimes it won't. 

Here are my questions: 

Does an author's opinion on political, religious or social issues affect your desire to read their books? Do you think an author's personal perspectives should/shouldn't affect their work? Have you ever decided not to read an author's work due to an opinion/philosophy they might adhere to (even if that isn't found in their book)? 

11 comments:

  1. Tends not to affect me unless they preach it in their books. Everyone has a world view which will seep into what they write. But that can be moderated. My big question is does it cloud everything in a way that ruins the illusions necessary to characterization and worldbuilding? If they can still carry me away to different world and realistically portray characters who are different than they are, then why should it matter to me what they personally believe?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Social media makes it easy to stalk your favorite authors these days and makes it even easier to out them as being unpleasant or espousing disagreeable ideas. Despite the way it sounds, social media is a good thing, a positive thing, that helps more than hinders. Take that wrong step though, don't pay attention to what you are writing and what your fans might think of it, and… that is a mighty misstep.

    I watched the Elizabeth Moon fiasco unfold and have been linked to every post in which John C. Wright starts spouting his crap, but I was lucky and neither author was one that I had much interest in to begin with. That lack of interest is going to keep on, as far as I'm concerned. There have been other authors, too, but try as I might, I can't remember their names.

    That I haven't discovered one of the authors I enjoy is an unpleasant person is more likely down to the fact that, for the most part, I don't follow them on social media sites. I don't pay attention to their blogs and I have no interest in meeting them or holding a conversation with them. This is mostly down to me not being a people person and having little to say to anyone who is not family or a close friend, but it also serves to prevent me from finding out just what these people whose work I treasure are like.

    Finding out that an author I enjoy or would like to read is an unpleasant person or has some nasty belief that I just can't get behind will not keep me from reading their work. I can divorce the work from the author, even if there is preaching involved or the ideas/belief show up throughout the text. What it will do, however, is keep me from supporting the author. I have two local libraries, a used book store not a couple miles from my home, and the combined used markets of Amazon and Ebay… I don't need to buy the book new and I don't need to review it either.

    And wow, this is a bit long and I think only the last paragraph is relevant...

    ReplyDelete
  3. This question comes up pretty often, but that's because it's a pretty good one. We're pretty divided. I think we want to be able to read well-written, intelligent, or just plain good novels without basing our opinions on their political or other behavior. But then there's always that author that pushes the wrong button.

    I heard one of the best arguments for not reading an author the other day. The person said that he would never read Philip Pullman again because Pullman has deliberately said his purpose in writing is to undermine the Christian faith (or something to that effect). I'm not talking specifically about this subject, but I think if an author has said something to this effect - that they're writing to diminish what you hold dear - and it's something you believe strongly in, then that's probably a good reason not to read their work.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Only if they say something so completely offensive that I refuse to let my dollars aid their continued existence. For instance, even if Fred Phelps was JRR Tolkein reincarnated, he is so patently offensive to me that I would never want to pay his bills, as it were.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sadly, yes.

    I'm pretty strict when it comes to reviewing books - only looking at what is on the page, as opposed to second-guessing authorial intent. That's only fair.

    However, as a reader, there's a lot of crap I don't want to put up with. If the author is using the literature as a platform for their own personal or political agenda, they're taking on the risk of alienating readers that don't share that agenda. So when an author talks about a) their beliefs, b) how those beliefs influence their work and c) how those beliefs are *fundamentally inimical to my own*... I'm not going to be to able to enjoy their book, so why even try?

    Moreover, some people are just assholes and don't get my money.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I remember that post by Elizabeth Moon. On my personal blog, I wrote a rather pissed off rebuttal, given that her opinions amounted to little more than, "Muslims can't be good citizens based on their kooky belief system."

    Author opinions do affect my willingness to read their books. As much as their work may be good and interesting, I feel very reluctant to support them if I find their beliefs to be racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted. Orson Scott Card springs instantly to mind. I've enjoyed what I've read of his works, but I can't bring myself to buy the rest of his books, knowing that I'd be financially supporting a guy who openly admits that he hates gay people. There are better things, and better people, that I can spend my money on.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Unfortunately these sort of opinions DO affect whether or not I read their work. The Elizabeth Moon thing is a prime example, as well as the John C. Wright thing since his insane misogynistic opinions are totally infused in his books making them less than palatable refuse.

    I can't get behind supporting an author who has made such a boneheaded mistake as I can't get it out of my head as I read their work.

    That said, I've never really had any interest in Bear so I can't be too upset about her.

    Even Orson Scott Card and the whole thing about how staunchly homophobic he is has become a reason I won't read his work. Not for any other reason than blind hatred or even dislike of people based on prejudice is a horrible way to live your life and quite frankly I don't want to give authors who behave that way the time of day...let alone my money.

    ReplyDelete
  8. No, no, and no. Some of the greatest artists of all time were complete gits. If their art has affected me, why deny myself the pleasure of that just because its originator (to me, far less important than the work itself) had opinions that clash with my own?

    Having said that, there's probably an extreme line in there somewhere that i'd hesitate to cross, if someone brought it up :) Everyone has their personal breaking point.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I can see this happening, but I think it's pretty fickle. Being both fan and author, myself, I can say an author's personal politics don't really affect much. Their personality can be a bit of a drag (e.g. Terry Goodkind) but ultimately it's quality of the story I'm looking for, not a role model.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Overall I don't care really.

    I read that E. Moon post, and I thought there was a lot of straw-man arguments used to throw shit at her.

    I thought the underlying message was a good one, for example. And it was a simple call for improvement in "listening for understanding" for everyone, and attack self-interest ideals. Which overall, I don't see why everyone bunched up their panties over the post. Not saying that there were portions in there that were of an insensitive nature, and probably inflammatory, but not worth the negative attention I've seen given... particularly with all the straw-man bullshit I've seen around.

    Not going to lose any sleep over it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think that author's can't help but show their beliefs and their influences in their work (we're only human, right?) and so if I see or hear of an author whose opinions and beliefs are at loggerheads with my own, I'd be inclined to shy away from their books on the basis that their beliefs would be in their writing, even if it is subconscious. Then again, I tend to shy away from books with any particular kind of 'message' errs towards being preachy (I'm glaring at you, Goodkind).

    ReplyDelete