Orson Scott Card = do not want

[Originally written long before OSC went super-homophobe.]

I’ve read some of OSC’s books (Firefly, Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus) and liked them. But now I can’t stomach the idea of giving this man any more of my money. Why?

Here’s the timline.

JK Rowling starts publishing Harry Potter books.
Some guy on the web makes a great web encyclopedia about the Potterverse.
Rowling doesn’t tell him to stop. In fact she admits that she uses it to look stuff up from time to time.
Web guy decides to publish his encyclopedia as a print book.
Rowling sues, claiming copyright infringement, she feels emotionally devastated, blah blah blah.
Orson Scott Card writes a really mean and nasty article about Rowling’s decision to do this.

And that’s what clinched my decision.
Did Rowling draw on other sources for her books? Yes.
Are some elements from her books similar to Card’s Ender series? Yes.
Did Rowling like this guy’s site just fine when it was just a website? Yes.
Is his website a copyright infringement of her work? Possibly (I haven’t read the site, and I’m not an expert on what defines “fair use,” though I have read up on it). The courts will have to decide.
If the site IS a copyright violation, is Rowling within her rights to allow it to exist on the web but not in print? Yes.
If the site IS a copyright violation, is Rowling within her rights to shut it down on the web as well? Yes.
If the website is ruled as NOT a copyright violation, does the guy have a right to publish it in print? Yes.
Legally, has she lost any footing by allowing it to exist for so long on the web before taking action? No, not one bit. You don’t lose copyrights by not actively protecting them (trademarks are a different story). Even if a site had her entire books scanned for free download, and she knew about it and did nothing, 20 years from now she could sue them to take them down, and win because you don’t lose your copyrights until you die or voluntarily give them up in a legal declaration.. Her tacit approval of the website doesn’t mean she has given up ANY control over her work.

Does Card make snide comments in his article? Yes.
Does he put words in her mouth and claim to know what she’s thinking? Yes.
Does he make fallacious arguments as if they were fact? Yes.
Does he show a misunderstanding of copyright law and argue as if he were knowledgeable? Yes.
Does he make personal attacks against her? Yes.

And it disgusts me. He’s being a jerk and an ignorant oaf, Here are my rebuttals to some of his comments, if you care to read them.

OSC: Once you publish fiction, Ms. Rowling, anybody is free to write about it, to comment on it, and to quote liberally from it, as long as the source is cited.
SKR: The court decides to what extent you can quote from a source and still have it be “fair use,” not you. And the court has ruled that 300 words out of a 200,000 word article is not “fair use,” so there’s no simple standard for it.

OSC: [Rowling admitted to using the site as a reference.] That means that Vander Ark created something original
SKR: Debatable.

OSC: He added value to the product.
SKR: If I burn a copy of the Fellowship of the Ring DVD and include my own commentary track talking about how the stories and movie influenced D&D, I’ve added value to the product, but it’s still a copyright violation.

OSC: Rowling has nowhere to go and nothing to do now that the Harry Potter series is over.
SKR: Except that she’s stated she’s going to create her own encyclopedia of the Potterverse. And donate the proceeds to charity.

OSC: Moreover, she is desperate for literary respectability.
SKR: Apparently OSC has developed the ability to read minds, or at least Rowling’s mind, because he knows her inner motivations for these actions.

OSC: It makes her insane. The money wasn’t enough. She wants to be treated with respect.
SKR: Personal attack. More mind-reading.

OSC: Now she is suing somebody who has devoted years to promoting her work and making no money from his efforts ? which actually helped her make some of her bazillions of dollars.
SKR: The “it’s free advertising for your work” excuse doesn’t mean it’s not a copyright violation.

OSC: People who hear about this suit will have a sour taste in their mouth about Rowling from now on.
SKR: Much as I do after reading this cheap shot from Card.

OSC: Her Cinderella story once charmed us. Her greedy evil-witch behavior now disgusts us. And her next book will be perceived as the work of that evil witch.
SKR: Wait, her “next book”? I thought she had “nothing to do now that the Harry Potter series is over”?

OSC: It’s like her stupid, self-serving claim that Dumbledore was gay.
SKR: Her “claim” that Dumbeldore was gay? Dumbeldore is her character. If she says he’s gay, he’s gay, there’s no “claim” about it.

OSC: She wants credit for being very up-to-date and politically correct.
SKR: More mind-reading.

OSC: but she didn’t have the guts to put that supposed “fact” into the actual novels, knowing that it might hurt sales.
SKR: Or perhaps she felt that Dumbeldore’s sexuality was (1) irrelevant to the storyline of defeating Voldemort, and (2) something she didn’t want to discuss in a children’s book? Very few characters in the series can be positively affirmed as heterosexual (point at the married ones and the ones hitting puberty and going loopy over the opposite sex), why call out Dumbeldore as gay if he’s not actually dating anyone? And as my sister pointed out (3) the book is from Harry’s perspective and he doesn’t find out about it during the course of the series, thus there’s no reason to mention it in the series, so it’s not surprising she mentioned it outside the books.

OSC: What a pretentious, puffed-up coward.”
SKR: What an arrogant prick.

OSC: When I have a gay character in my fiction, I say so right in the book.”
SKR: When was the last time you wrote a children’s book, Card? Until you write a children’s book and put a gay character in it, your point is irrelevant. And do you still believe we should keep anti-homosexuality laws in place to force homosexuals who wish to engage in homosexual behavior to “do so discretely” so as to “not to shake the confidence of the community”?

OSC: Rowling has now shown herself to lack a brain, a heart and courage. Clearly, she needs to visit Oz.
SKR: And Card has now shown himself to lack tact, wit, and common courtesy. Clearly, he needs to revisit his Bible/Book of Mormon and learn about how good Christians are supposed to treat other people.

So he’s now off my reading list, which saddens me because I really loved Pastwatch.

(And FWIW, if you disagree with my beliefs to the extent that you don’t believe in buying my books, that’s perfectly fair. Of course, that doesn’t give you the right to download them for free….)

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26 thoughts on “Orson Scott Card = do not want

  1. Seriously, I’ve thought OSC was a d-bag for a while now. This is just more evidence of his douchebaggery.

    “Moreover, she is desperate for literary respectability.”

    In what literary circles does OSC move that he thinks he can comment on “literary respectability”? Gimme a break.

    • That is a shame. I’ve enjoyed his books over the years and am not done with all of his series. However, to speak out against a fellow author, with no good reason? What’s behind it? A little green monster?

  2. Also keep in mind that he wrote one of his Alvin books using characters created by role-playing users on an AOL message board – but I doubt very seriously that he would have stood for anyone but himself trying to make a buck off that.

    His work has gone downhill in proportion to his growth as a crank. And it’s a pity, because he had some good stuff for a while.

  3. Actually, I tend to agree with his assessment of Rowlings’ lawsuit. Your analogy really doesn’t fit – he’s not in any way packaging her original text; it’s an encyclopaedic reference. It absolutely falls under the stated terms of fair use, but naturally whether or not the courts rule that way is going to depend on who has the better lawyers (probably Rowling).

    On the other hand, I’ve hated Card ever since I discovered what a horrible person he is. Same with Pratchett. And I’m torn about adding Niven to this list – he’s said some appalling things lately, but when I met him at WorldCon I was astounded at what a genuinely nice person he is. But I guess that’s ‘cuz I’m not Hispanic.

    • {Actually, I tend to agree with his assessment of Rowlings’ lawsuit.}

      And with my experience in copyright law (it was my job to flag things that may be violations) I’m saying it’s debatable. :)

      {Your analogy really doesn’t fit – he’s not in any way packaging her original text; it’s an encyclopaedic reference.}

      Again, debatable. His site could take descriptions of characters and creatures verbatim from her books, and that could easily put the site in the category of copyright violation rather than fair use.

      {It absolutely falls under the stated terms of fair use}

      Again, debatable. :)

      {but naturally whether or not the courts rule that way is going to depend on who has the better lawyers (probably Rowling).}

      … which is why it’s dumb for the webguy to push the issue after she said not to do it.

      • Have you looked at the site? It’s no different than any other sci-fi/fantasy concordance. And the only debatability in Fair Use clause is in the poopmouths who argue it out in court. The law itself is pretty damn clear.

        Reproduction …for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

        There is an exception: if he thus cites the most important parts of the work, with a view, not to criticize, but to supersede the use of the original work, and substitute the review for it, such a use will be deemed in law a piracy.

        To win this lawsuit (fairly, anyway), Rowling’s lawyers would have to demonstrate that people would buy the guy’s encyclopedia instead of buying Harry Potter. It should be fairly simple for the defendant’s lawyers to demonstrate that the only people who would consider buying his book are people who already own the damn series.

        Under the *letter* of the law, Rowling could be in violation of copyright infringement for publishing a Potterverse concordance *after* this guy (intent to replace). Not that any court would actually enforce that, because it’d be stupid.

      • {Have you looked at the site?}

        I’ve already said I haven’t seen his site. :)

        {Have you looked at the site? It’s no different than any other sci-fi/fantasy concordance.}

        Which doesn’t mean they aren’t copyright violations either. :)

      • { To win this lawsuit (fairly, anyway), Rowling’s lawyers would have to demonstrate that people would buy the guy’s encyclopedia instead of buying Harry Potter. It should be fairly simple for the defendant’s lawyers to demonstrate that the only people who would consider buying his book are people who already own the damn series. }

        Sorry… but you’re actually wrong, and I feel for the good of the discussion I’d bring some legalese into it.

        The problem is that you’re not defining what “for puposes such as…” means. What the courts actually do is parse it down to four factors: purpose of the work, substance of the work, effect of the new work on the market (of the old work), and … I honestly can’t remember what the fourth factor is. Sean is completely correct that this encyclopedia *could* very well be infringing Rowling’s copyrights.

        What Rowling’s lawyers have to show is not only that the encyclopedia cuts into the market of the Harry Potter books (that’s only one of the four factors.) They would have to show that the encyclopedia draws heavily from Rowling’s own works (which I’m going to go ahead and guess isn’t all that hard) and that the purpose of the encyclopedia is – and this is the cincher – *to make money*. As a website it’s fine because (I presume) they’re not charging, and so they lack that crucial factor of marketability.

        Now a judge can go either way on this one, and I haven’t read the encyclopedia (neither in its printed nor its online form) so I couldn’t give an informed opinion one way or the other, but to say that it’s a slam dunk case is pretty foolhardy.

      • Please don’t misquote me – I said the law is pretty straightforward but that the case itself will be decided by who has the better lawyers. That’s a far cry from “a slam dunk case.”

    • Yeah, After Ender, Card went quickly down hill. Then I read about some of his personal views and basically hated him.

      If you want more people for you list, I generally don’t speak ill of the Dead but Robert Jordan is a pretty nasty guy to. Lots of issues.

    • Hi, arya.

      I followed that link for Niven’s comments. It sounded to me like the author of the article, who cast the SIGMA panelists as disrespectful and foolish, was taking a flippant remark and presenting it as a serious suggestion.

      Bear in mind: this is the same man who suggested we mint coins out of spent nuclear fuel, because they would be very hard to counterfeit, and the dangers of critical mass would discourage people from hoarding coins.

  4. With regards to OSC.

    Having read all of his books and enjoying them so much, I went looking for other writing that he has done online. I discovered the columns that he has written for various newspapers and was immediately turned away by his personal politics.

    Obviously he is perfectly entitled to believe whatever he wishes and I am not even going to say that he is wrong, because that would imply that I’m positive that I am right about my -largely contrasting- beliefs. I think that what I believe is right, but who doesn’t?

    Anyway, the point being that I was shocked and amazed at how very different a voice he has when writing about his own beliefs compared the wonder and awe I have experienced reading his novels.

  5. I was very disappointed in Orson Scott Card when I became aware of his, um, issues. He seems to be a very smart man. He doesn’t tow a party line, he thinks about each issue separately and makes an informed decision. For example, some of his decisions are very liberal (he supports children of illegal immigrants getting in-state college tuition), some of his decisions are very conservative (we should retain anti-homosexual laws). I respect that he makes decisions this way, especially since it seems like most people just mimic whatever it is their parents taught them (who are in turn mimicking what THEIR parents taught them, rinse and repeat).

    However, he’s still just a fiction writer, which means I take his nonfiction writing with a grain of salt. Really, him speaking out on an issue is only a little less silly than a movie star doing so.

    • Movie stars and book authors are entitled to opinions just like anyone else, it just doesn’t mean their opinion is more valid that your average person on the street….

      • Perhaps I should have worded it, “Listening to his opinion of political issues is only a little less silly than listening to the opinion of a movie star.”

        And by “listening” I mean “take to heart.”

        Come on, you know I know everyone has the right to their opinion! Sheesh.

  6. While I totally agree with your opinion of the article, (and with others on his approach to homosexuality), that won’t stop me reading his books. As serial_heretic said, he has a very different voice when writing his books, and they’re all very enjoyable.

    Anne McCaffrey is the same way. She’s terribly homo-phobic (though given her age that’s probably to be expected), yet it hasn’t stopped her from writing gay protagonists into her novels from time to time.

    I don’t like the idea of cutting oneself off from something good to protest something bad. However, buying from a used book store, or going to the library, might be the better option if you don’t want to give him any of your money.

    • It’s not just that, it’s the icky associations I get now that I see his name. In the same way that I can’t watch a movie by Roman Polanski, I can’t help but thinking, “This was made by a guy who thought it was ok to get a 13-year-old girl drunk and have sex with her, and flee the country to avoid sentencing.”

  7. Huh. Weirdly, even though I’ve talked to Rowling maybe three times, I feel a strong desire to defend her against a bully, despite her hardly needing anyone of my limited stature in her corner. I will say that she told me and other Wizards folk of her plan to create this encyclopedia back in 2000, so it’s not like she invented this idea to crush this website.

    That said, I’ve never liked Card’s writing, but I have to say I don’t conflate the author and the work. By producing their fictional works, they’re not asking me to agree with their beliefs. They’re just asking for me to entertained and edified, and that’s worth my money. I value this differently than I do with, say, my candidates for president. Just my opinion, though.

    • Conflating

      I just want to stick an idea in here. I’ve always thought that distinguishing between the author and their work(s) is, generally, a false dichotomy. For a few reasons:

      1. Money. If I buy the book, I give the author money. If the author likes to beat up his wife, or bash homosexuals, or even vote radically conservative — I helped that author buy food and gas and maybe the baseball bat. However fractionally, I contributed. So, I choose not to contribute, no matter how much enjoyment I get from the book.

      2. Responsibility. To distinguish between the author and their work is to also allow the author to disavow responsibility for their work. I don’t think that is wise. Sure, people are entitled to their opinions, I should be allowed to hold an author responsible for how their printed opinions impact the context of current thought. At least to the extent to which I choose or don’t choose to open up my wallet. To say that personally holding an author responsible for the content of their work is to “conflate” — well, that just strikes me as a way to avoid discussing the real implications of an author’s writing in order to get on with enjoying their work. :)

      3. Endorsement. Fiction, like many public activities, endorses ideas in public consciousness. For example, if a person writes fiction in which homosexuals are always evil, morally inferior, or weak then they’ve contributed to a body of ideas about homosexuals. They’ve endorsed a viewpoint and contributed to a context of thought that makes it harder to be homosexual in real life. The fact that they author says, no, no, I just wanted to create a certain kind of character, may or may not wash as a defense, depending on the particulars. What may also be true, depending on the particulars, is that the work, improperly handled, can reinforce the beliefs of those who make being homosexual in real life difficult enough to commit suicide over.

      Anyhoo — you just pushed a button of mine by talking about not conflating an author and their work. In many respects, I think that’s a false dichotomy.

      Just my opinion, of course.

      • Re: Conflating

        A perfectly reasonable opinion. It doesn’t happen to be mine, but it’s definitely a solid one.

        I do think it cuts both ways, though. I’m fervently pro-gay rights, for example, and have said so on my blog. But I sure hope those who disagree with me buy my books and games. Because I need to eat too.

      • Re: Conflating

        Well, certainly … even if you’re a dirty treehugging hippie, if Mr Ultraconservative gives you a billion dollars for something, you’d be an idiot to refuse that money … think of all the GOOD you can do for the trees with that money! The trees don’t care that it’s “dirty money.”

        Fred Phelps, Hitler, and Louis Farrakhan might write the best gaming books ever, but I’m not going to buy them. But if they buy my books, that lets me support gays, Jews, and The White Oppressor if I choose to do so. :)

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