Thinking Through Type | Separating the Art From the Artist

Thinking Through Type will be a rather random addition to the blog wherein I go on long, rambling diatribes about some issues that affect the SFF world. It’s literally me thinking “out loud” (or as loud as it gets on the internet), which is why it will be “rambling” rather than cohesively pulled together and nicely edited. This is the raw edition of my thoughts and I’m going to try very hard to explore multiple perspectives on some hot-button genre issues.

I encourage discussion, but keep it polite. The point of Thinking Through Type will be to examine issues, and examination often best happens when beliefs and viewpoints are (politely) challenged. Feel free to add your two cents in a comment. Discussion helps me broaden my understanding of the world and the many events and people that color it. 


I am lucky enough to be one of those birds that flies in several different artistic circles. My website keeps me absolutely immersed in all things SFF, and through it I’ve made some amazing author, publisher, and reviewer friends. My photography has kept me immersed in semi-pro and professional photography circles. I am a rather busy person, and due to the fact that I’m running my own business, I also have to self-promote a lot.

A few weeks ago I got an email from someone who, I guess, was a fan of my photography. She wrote me a letter saying that she loved one of my photography series. She saw some of my new work at (insert venue here) and loved it. Unfortunately, she did some research on me and somehow found out I’m an atheist. This was hugely offensive to her and due to the fact that I’m an atheist, she can no longer support my artwork.

Fine. That’s her right, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how my atheism influences the quality of my photography.

Hey, Sarah, what are you getting at here?  

It’s interesting for me to see these discussions about Orson Scott Card pop up all over the place. In my mind it boils down to a fundamental issue that I addressed on my Facebook page today: Can/should we separate the art from the artist? This is made doubly thought-provoking because I’ve now been on the side of the artist who is getting spurned due to a belief/lack thereof.

Card is very vocally against same-sex marriage and while I have a visceral knee-jerk reaction against his point of view, and I find many of the things he’s said absolutely offensive, he has a right to his beliefs, no matter how offensive they might seem to people. Until I balance his checkbook and make his financial decisions, he also has a right to do whatever he wants with his money. On the other hand, people have a right to speak with their money and show their disfavor of his beliefs, just like my potential photography client did with me. It’s easy to get swept up in passions and the heat of debate, but the truth is that I can see both sides of the issue, especially now that I’ve experienced both sides of it.

I’ve studied art my whole life. I’ve always been very into it; from sculptures, photographers, painters and whatever else you can throw at me. I’ve taken more art history classes than I could count. I’ve spent months in Europe studying art. I am obsessed, and I can say the same with literature. I am fascinated with art in all its many forms. This is probably why running Bookworm Blues is so easy for me. Analyzing the creative field is nothing new to me. I’ve been doing it for years and years. However, one thing I try very hard to do with my website is separate the art from the artist.


Despite the fact that every bit of art reflects the artist in some way, the art itself is not the artist, just as corporations are not people, and neither are books or paintings. None of them have hearts, thoughts or feelings. They don’t eat, breathe, cry, sweat, or worry. I have read a ton of books throughout the course of running my website. I’d be a fool to think that I couldn’t find something to fundamentally disagree with, or even be offended by, if I analyzed each author closely enough. I try hard not to get to know authors too well. It helps me remain impartial as a reviewer. If the author’s viewpoints aren’t known, they can’t color their book for me, and I can enjoy the work from a less biased foundation.

One reason literature and art has always fascinated me is because it stretches my understanding of the world around me and the people who inhabit it. Each year I make myself read a lot of books in a genre I don’t typically enjoy. Why? Because reading those books forces me to gain a greater respect for the authors, their efforts, their books, and their fans. It helps me broaden my scope and I enjoy that. It keeps me from stagnating.

There are books that address all sorts of issues that I disagree with. For example, Twilight, especially later in the series, focuses quite a bit on abstinence until after marriage. The series has millions and millions of fans (though that boggles my mind). Do you really think that each of those fans is pro-abstinence just because they read the Twilight books? Of course not. I love Mark Lawrence’s series, but that doesn’t mean I’m pro teens killing people. You don’t have to agree with the author or the themes they toy with to enjoy the book for what it is. There are a ton of fantasy books that involve men degrading women in one form or another (IE: there’s rape in Peter V. Brett’s first book), but I tend to enjoy the books anyway because (insert thing here) is realistic in the context of the world the author has created. It doesn’t mean that I’m (whatever).

On the other hand, people speak with their money. Orson Scott Card has gone out of his way to be vocally against same-sex anything. His plea for tolerating his intolerance is the cherry on top of his incredible cake. Not seeing his movie is one way for people to say they disagree with him and his discrimination. That is within the consumer’s right. We speak with our money all the time. For example: I refuse to buy anything from Chick-Fil-A. I also realize the company doesn’t even notice the loss of my business.

As I said above, I’ve never read Ender’s Game or any of Card’s books because I’ve never really felt any inclination to do so. His movie, honestly, doesn’t look that interesting to me (I’m not a huge movie person, anyway). However, Ender’s Game is one of those books that has pulled a lot of young minds into SFF and created genre fans for life.

You can probably tell I’m of two minds regarding the issue of separating the art from the artist. On the one hand I can understand why people wouldn’t want to support someone who so vocally and flamboyantly offends a huge portion of the population. On the other hand, it goes back to me loosing a client because I’m an atheist. How on earth does my lack of belief affect the quality of my photography? It doesn’t. I don’t hand out The Origin of Species before I do a still life set. Orson Scott Card might be an asshole regarding some of his beliefs, but in this grand country, doesn’t he have a right to be an asshole? I can’t read minds, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t write an entire book while chanting, “I hate gay people” over and over again. If people can enjoy Twilight and have guilt free pre-marital sex after, can’t they do the same with Ender’s Game?

Orson Scott Card will make money off of his movie and what he does with it is his business. I don’t balance his checkbook so I couldn’t tell you where it goes, and despite the claims floating around, I’m not sure anyone else could really tell you how much of his money goes to groceries and bills, and how much of it goes to his religious or personal beliefs. I’m not sure that’s any of anyone’s business, anyway. His beliefs make me almost physically ill, but he has a right to them, just like I have a right to mine, and you have a right to yours.

Like I said above, I try very, very hard to separate the art from the artist. I read books and have studied paintings of people I fundamentally disagree with, and I’ve enjoyed their art immensely. Just because someone enjoys some artwork doesn’t mean that said person supports the artist’s perspectives, or is even aware of them. Then again, people speak with their money, and that can create a powerful voice. Many people feel that not seeing his movie or buying his books will give him less money to dedicate to his various anti-causes. With the internet it’s easy to find out how people feel about certain issues. That’s why, as a reviewer, I try hard not to pay attention. Once you know how an author feels about anything, it’s hard to not let that color their work.

The grand thing about living in today’s day and age, in this country (and so many others) is that I have a right to be an atheist, no matter who that ticks off, and Orson Scott Card has a right to get his hate on, no matter how many people that offends. What either of us does with our money is our business. Boycotting my photography because I’m an atheist won’t get me to be any less of an atheist, nor will it force me to stop taking pictures. I’m sure the same can be said for any author or artist out there.

It’s the guilt about this issue that is bothering me the most. People have already started using the terms “support” in relation to Card’s upcoming movie. For example: I won’t support OSC so I won’t buy a ticket to his movie. Fine, but I doubt everyone who is going to go see that movie is thinking that they are “supporting” anti-gay causes by buying a ticket to his movie, and coloring it like that seems incredibly black and white to me when the world is full of grays. Consumers aren’t supporting my atheism when they buy a print from me. They are supporting my photography.

So what does this gigantic rambling diatribe boil down to?

Consumers speak with their money, so go forth and speak with yours. Art has enriched people for thousands of years. Orson Scott Card is very vocal regarding his beliefs, but if we really examined every artist out there, I’m sure we could all find something to absolutely disagree with in each of them. We can either make ourselves blind, deaf, and dumb to avoid all the controversy out there, or we can accept a book or painting for what it is and realize that artists, consumers and everyone else has a right to believe whatever they want. We all also have a right to agree, disagree, purchase or not purchase their work. It’s as simple as that.

Art is a window into a point of history that can never be revisited. It’s an interpretation of events, understandings, struggles, and hardships. There are some amazing paintings from Spain that depict inbred royal families (a common practice way back when so the royal blood would be kept “pure”). Viewing them, and enjoying the bit of history they are portraying, does not make the viewer or painter “pro-inbreeding.”

Perhaps on this issue we should all agree to disagree and leave the drama to the pundits.

9 Responses

  • Kathryn (@Loerwyn)

    We all have our opinions, and we all have rights to these views…

    But free speech is not freedom from consequences, and with people like Orson Scott Card, financially supporting them financially supports anti-freedom organisations. Orson Scott Card doesn’t just believe gay people are ‘wrong’ and that marriage equality will damn us all, he sits on the board of directors of NOM (National Organisation for Marriage) and is also a prominent member of the Mormon church. Add these two things together, and you’re talking a fair bit of money from Card’s works going towards an organisation that wishes to recriminalise homosexuality and deny (what should be) basic civic rights to a substantial minority group, and another that engages in highly-destructive gay cure therapies.

    When you give Card your money, you’re not just paying him for the work he’s done. You’re financially supporting organisations that seek to destroy the lives of *millions* of people for doing no wrong. You are supporting a man and organisations that spread hateful, insidious lies that misrepresent natural behaviour. If nothing else, you’re supporting the vile excuse for a man who wrote the utterly disgusting Hamlet’s Father, in which Card links paedophilia and homosexual behaviour.

    It’s not a freedom of speech issue. It’s a hate crime issue. Orson Scott Card is guilty of hate crimes. He is guilty of spreading lies, misinformation, of contributing his time and money (which he gets from publishing) to organisations that have no aims other than to destroy people’s lives.

    • I agree with your point, which is why I don’t buy stuff from Chick-Fil-A. They gave money to that same Kill the Gays bill in Uganda and that makes me sick to my stomach. My point is, however, that I think it’s kind of a slippery slope. I don’t know which artists and authors give their money to what causes, but I’m positive OSC isn’t the only one giving money to a cause that makes me sick. He’s more vocal than just about anyone regarding his hate, which makes his various causes and beliefs easier to pinpoint, but if we judge his work based on where his money goes, don’t we have to do that to everyone across the board? Would that be fair?

      I’m not sure.

      I agree with you. I really do. Like I said, I won’t buy stuff from Chick-Fil-A for the same exact reason, and I won’t watch OSC’s movie or books and I’d be lying if that wasn’t a huge part of why. I just think there are two sides to the issue and I’m trying to explore both of them.

      I hope that makes sense.

      • Kathryn (@Loerwyn)

        This is how I ‘live’ with it:

        If an author, game developer, artist, musician or whatever comes up as homophobic/transphobic/sexist/racist/whatever in my feed, I will tend to drop them. If they are just spewing it on their blog (like Chuck Dixon, the famous comic author who is currently adapting Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself), I will just not buy their stuff but leave it at that. I don’t have the time nor the energy to speak out about every single person. I also don’t buy things with RuPaul in or support any of their projects because of transphobic comments they have made. I was made aware of this via a friend of mine, and from that moment on I stopped.

        We can’t interrogate everyone over everything. I think, personally, you just have to do what you think you can live with. But I think it is our responsibility, as people, to respond to situations we come across. So if a musician you liked was outed as donating to anti-abortion causes (and spoke on their behalf), and you were against that stuff (i.e. for the availability of abortions), it would be your responsibility to put yourself in a position to deal with that. Do you ignore it, do you spread the word, or do you stop supporting that person?

        That’s just what I think. You cannot know where every cent/penny you spend will go. You will spend lots of money with organisations who have negative aspects, some of it is unavoidable. But with things like comics, books, etc? I think those are places we can do some good, and allow our morals and ethics a bit of room to shape our purchases and support causes we believe in and ignore/raise awareness of causes that seek to harm.

        To put it in a tl;dr summary – If views are publicly verifiable, they should be a factor in whether you support them or not. Especially if that support is financial (i.e. your money goes into these organisations).

    • I just wanted to point out that OSC, at least to my knowledge, has never engaged in a hate crime. This may be defined differently in other countries, but according to the US he hasn’t. Hate crimes elevate penalties for violence in a criminal case. Now, hate speech is another issue and mostly legal as long as it doesn’t lead to violence or promote violence.

      • Thanks for pointing that out. I don’t know the laws like you lawyers do.

        The reason I mentioned that he (and anyone) can do what they want with their money (regardless of whether people agree with it or not) is because it’s the truth. We can do what we want with our money. Public figures can expect a backlash from that, but unless he engages in criminal activities according to the United States, he really can do what he wants with his dough. I know people are pissed about him being part of an organization that supported the Kill the Gays bill in Uganda, and I find that really insulting as well, but at the end of the day, no matter how people cut it, it’s his money and he can do what he wants with it.

        On the flip side, the consumer does what they want with their money, and often public figures who are really into controversial issues like this end up paying for it somehow due to the whole “consumers speak with their money” thing. Doesn’t matter if they are fringe liberals, fringe conservatives, or just believe in something, period. Someone out there will be pissed off about it enough to not pay for the public figure’s (whatever).

        I’m really tired. I hope that makes sense.

        • You are mentioning a prominent theory of constitutional law! The idea that with speech can counter speech, which is why we tend to allow more freedom of speech than less, but the thing is that more speech can be bought to reach more people.

  • The biggest reason I won’t be going to see the movie does come down to the issue of support. I’m not saying that everyone who does see it is tacitly supporting the removal of gay rights, but from where I stand, if I see it, I would actively have to turn a blind eye to bigotry for a few hours of entertainment. And I’m not comfortable doing that. I’m not comfortable knowing that the money I spend on seeing the movie will trickle down and possibly end up funding people and organizations whose views I vehemently oppose. And yes, I’m pretty sure that happens with every dollar I spend, in some form or another, but here I have a chance to take control and stem the flow, even if only by a single drop.

    And even if it doesn’t make a bit of difference, I can at least sleep a little better knowing that I said, flat-out, that I refuse to help pay the bills of a man who treats my friends and family as though they’re subhuman. And I want people to know that when someone’s a jerk, people won’t stand for it. Nothing changes when people do nothing.

    And this stuff does make a difference. I see it more and more often now. Public figures, celebrities, artists, whatever, say or do things that are blatantly insulting. And there’s backlash. Viewers decrease, sponsors get pulled, projects go down the drain, and it’s because people speak up. And even if their mandatory apologies are less than heartfelt, the point, I feel, is that they feel the pinch. They see a direct consequence to their actions. “If I do this, then that will occur.” And negative reinforcement may not yield the most predictable of results, but it’s still something that needs to be said, I think.

    I don’t blame anyone who sees the movie. Truth to tell, I want to see it. I think it’s going to be a good movie. I liked the book, and would love to see a screen adaptation. But no movie in the world is going to be good enough to shake my morals like that. If other people’s morals allow it, fine. If morals don’t come into it for some people, also fine. That’s their choice, and I support their right to express it. But mine don’t make that allowance. And that’s why I spoke out against it.

    • There is a truth to the saying floating around, “freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from the consequences.”

      Honestly, John Scalzi’s blog post about this sums up my opinions 100%. I rarely say I agree with anything anyone says that much, but I kind of feel like he pulled his post right from my brain. I won’t reiterate anything, but here’s a quote and a link for those who haven’t seen it.

      So, to recap: Boycotts a perfectly valid exercise of political speech, participate in one if you think it’s necessary. I don’t tend to boycott creators but don’t mind if you do, even if that creator happens to be me. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence and everyone should remember that, especially folks who’ve spent a while pissing off a bunch of folks.

      (full article here)

      Thanks for the comment, Ria. I appreciate your insight. 🙂

  • It’s your prerogative to say horrible, homophobic things about the LGBT community, Orson Scott Card. Neither I, nor anyone else can stop you writing and saying things which feel like thorns to my heart when I read them. I’m glad that I know the truth about how you feel about the LGBT community – because now I can choose to boycott your books, your films, your work. I will not be complicit in supporting someone who thinks that same sex attraction is a “reproductive dysfunction”, as you do. I hope that one day your views change, because I would love to recommend Ender’s Game to my friends, my future children – but until then, I’m deleting the file on my Kindle and boycotting the film when it comes out this year.

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