Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lots Of Pageviews

I decided I should write a post because my last post got a lot of views.

The mood at the party, ya see.

Uh... damn, the M&M jar is out again. Let me refill that.

Have a scotch.

Have a non-affiliated-with-Orson-Scott-Card cookie.

Seriously, thanks for the support, and the polite disagreement. I want to reiterate: a lot of what the man said has been cherry-picked and taken out of context, and he supports things I support, but... he's affiliated with National Organization For Marriage, and there are your boss's annoying opinions and then your boss's activism.

Thanks so much to the people who sent me leads on other places to put a column. No bites yet, but I think something is coming my way.

Anyway, if you're interested in more opinions on Mormonism and gay people, I wrote a long response to the infamous viral post by Josh Weed. Here it is again.

On a totally different subject, I have fallen deep into the hole that is the early 1960s and Don Draper's fragmented psyche. Season 3 now, and I just cannot leave Mad Men alone, even though I suspect it makes me a little depressed about life and money and things.

It's like they have everything, and they talk about having everything, and they're miserable. And it's like an extensive explanation of This Is Why Baby Boomers Did The Stuff They Did, Because Their Parents Actually Were Messed Up. And it's like, it kind of makes sense.

I grew up with parents who burned draft cards, partook of "substances" and generally raised hell. I don't love the topical aspect of the show so much as the way it reflects the mindset that gave birth to my parents' mindset, and gave birth to my generation, who lived through a troublesome decade of our own and were mostly... confused. More thoughts as I watch the show. Which I'm getting back to now.

Also, the one movie scene that could make any man cry.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I Resigned From IGMS


Here we go.

I have resigned from writing columns about graphic novels at Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. In addition, for whatever it's worth, I won't be submitting any more short stories, even though I had a wonderful experience when they chose one of my stories for publication.

This is because I do not want to be associated with the anti-gay-rights views that Orson Scott Card has become synonymous with.

This was a hard decision.

Scott Card was my favorite writer through most of high school, until I replaced him with Octavia Butler, who I learned about through one of Scott Card's books, How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. At the time I was far from the controversies that would dominate public discourse about Card. I didn't know he opposed gay rights. I didn't know that I supported them!

I didn't know my sister was gay. I didn't know that my parents, loyal California voters that they are, would support Proposition 8 in 2008, choosing the requirements of Mormonism over the vocal protests of their daughter and son. I didn't know that I would not blame my parents for their decision.

But I did know that I wanted to be Just Like Orson Scott Card.

The man was one of my heroes.

He had promoted his faith through his writing without soft-pedaling his work or rating it all G. I even admired his complex treatment of a homosexual in a heterosexual society in the Homecoming series. I don't admire that part of it anymore, but I will still defend that series as a great piece of writing.

He was great at writing misanthropes and people who didn't fit in to a society they were supposed to fit in to. Ender was too smart and persecuted. Nafai was too connected to his spirituality. Jason Worthing was too aware of the foibles of his society.

As a missionary, I served in his ward and got to have dinner at the man's house. He signed books for us, cooked us salmon, and was a perfectly lovely host.

In 2005, I attended his writing workshop, where he was again a wonderful host and a great mentor.

I'm sorry, people who hate him. He's done a lot of nice things for a lot of people with no hope of reward.

And thus it was easy to ignore the fact that, when he began writing columns for The Rhinoceros Times and The Ornery American, his political views were very far from my developing ones. He was a vocal supporter of President Bush and the invasion of Iraq. I didn't like either; in fact I found Bush's behavior shockingly irresponsible. Big deal; I disagree with lots of people I respect.

He was surprisingly opposed to gay marriage, considering the rather sympathetic treatment of homosexuals in his work. Oh well. I supported gay rights. My best friend in high school was gay, and although she hadn't come out, I more or less knew my sister was gay. I had always and would always support gay rights. I could work with, be mentored by, and read the works of people I disagree with.

After I attended his 2005 Boot Camp, I got the opportunity to write comic book reviews for his fledgling magazine, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. I cannot express enough how grateful I am for the experience. For five and a half years I got to write about comics and get paid for it! They asked for the work sight unseen, having only seen my work in Card's 2005 workshop, and praised the columns.

In 2011, IGMS published one of my stories, and the experience, working with editor Ed Schubert and assistant editors Eric James Stone and Scott Roberts, was really wonderful.

But. Here's the big but.

Scott Card is not just a vocal opponent of gay rights, he is an activist against them. He sits on the board of the National Organization For Marriage, one of the big supporters of movements like Proposition 8.

By writing for the magazine, I associate my name with the name of someone who represents the National Organization For Marriage.

In this he is following the lead of the LDS Church, which also supported Prop 8. And if Prop 8 drove me out of the Church, I had to ask myself if I could remain visibly associated with an anti-gay-rights-activist.

The conflict in my family over Prop 8 was... well, we never get intense in the Ellsworth house, but it was a conflict. My sister and I were against it. The rest of my family voted for it, or at least abstained.

This was particularly difficult for me to watch. My father was in a high place in Church leadership, but was a supporter of gay rights. To speak his conscience would have meant that he would lose his calling, possibly his membership, and of course his "eternal blessings."

It was his name. His name on a roll in Salt Lake City, and what it represented, that he could not lose.

Adulthood is full of compromises. I can't hold my father's decision against him. I've made lots of compromises in order to stay employed, feed the family and save face. And he didn't support Prop 8; he just laid low.

But in the words of Arthur Miller's John Proctor: "It is my name, and I cannot have another in my life."

(Well, unless I pay 80$ at the courthouse. But you know what I mean, semanticists.)

Looking at what Card has said, I can't compromise on this one. I cannot put my name next to his. I cannot put myself in a place of constant compromise.

I don't know where it might lead me.

It's not just gay marriage. It's the comment that "there is a hierarchy of suffering," which violates the principles I teach every day in a tribal school on an Indian reservation. It's the fact that Zdorab, the sympathetic homosexual in Homecoming, was essentially cured, feeling only "the memory of a youthful desire," which is something most people seem to forget when they focus on Card's typically sympathetic homosexual characters. I won't go as far as John Kessel in ascribing a dangerous interpretation to Card's fiction, but Zdorab's character arc is only complete if you understand that he really was supposed to have been "cured."

As to whether or not he should write Superman... actually, I think that one's rather silly, considering that just about every variety of people in history have written about Superman, and if you're going to go after DC Comics, encourage them to demand more accountability for labor practices in the factories that make toys of their characters in China, where abusive conditions are rampant. You get what I mean.

There is much debate within the sf field about the ethics of submitting to Card's magazine if you support gay rights. For the record, I've known a queer author who published fiction with queer characters in IGMS and never heard a peep; in fact his work was in their year's best. Card takes a giant financial loss to support a magazine of short fiction.

However, that author, like me, still has some trepidation about the name at the top of the page, and what it means to his name.

I loved writing that column, and I loved getting paid for it. This is the hardest decision I've made in years. I wish everyone involved with the magazine, including the Cards, the best. And I sure would love it if anyone out there is looking for someone to write about comics and contacts me.

It is my name. And I cannot have another in my life.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Letter To Spencer, Circa 1993

Without further ado, I give you this.

Dear Thirteen-Year-Old Me:

I just read the ending of The Wheel of Time.

"Aha," you say, "I must be receiving this missive [don't know about emails, do you?] from three or four years in the future. Perhaps I'm a junior in high school. But no, it couldn't take THAT long to finish the series, could it? There's already five of them!"

I know what else you are thinking. "I have to know. I want to read the end so badly. I love these books so much."

You are even thinking "if my house was on fire, the first thing I would save would be those books." Yes, I remember thinking that.

I'm sorry.

I'm really sorry.

I am thirty-three years old, TYOM.

I have two children and a third on the way, I live in Washington, and I'm a teacher.

And no, I'm not a professional writer. Kind of close. I have been published. But I have not published any of the massive fantasy volumes I have slaved over.

There's one that I think I will send off soon. It's short and it's pretty funny. It's got economics in it.

Wait! Don't cry!

Seriously, don't cry. I remember crying that much. It's weird and makes people uncomfortable.

(Although, for what it's worth, the depression and lethargy is not just from puberty, it's partially a complication of your celiac disease, and as annoying as it is, you really, really need to stick to a strictly gluten-free diet, kid. Like, entirely. Not even Postum, damn it! Listen to me.)

So, how was the book?

Pretty good. Some stuff was amazing. Some stuff really deserved a little more time. Some stuff was boring and I wish the author had spent less time on it.

What part of the ending do you want to know? Yes, Rand wins. What did you think would happen? Does he die? Um, kind of.

He also has hot foursomes with his three wives. At least, it's implied. What does "foursome" mean? Changing subject!

You have to understand that there are now fourteen of these books. Robert Jordan is dead. He wrote eleven books and died and they drafted someone else to finish the series. They got really bad. I hate to tell you this, but you're not going to even like books eight through eleven.

And another guy wrote the last three. His name's Brandon Sanderson. They're pretty good books. Gets the series back on track for the most part.

I met Brandon Sanderson once. He's a really nice guy.

Yeah, it wasn't me. I know what you're thinking. I would have thought the same thing, had I had this conversation at your age. Who else but the fabulously brilliant, talented Spencer Ellsworth would be drafted to finish the series? After all, I'm 33 and haven't I've had years to write tons of fantasy bestsellers?

You have, after all, just decided that you will focus all your energies on writing. You sat down at Dad's Macintosh Plus and said "I will be a writer." I remember that decision, and I remember the novel you started as soon as you made that decision.

You'll finish it, TYOM. You'll finish it and you'll write another one, a huge one, before you finish high school!

Hell, you'll have an actual girlfriend for a while, and she will even ask to read it, and her determination will outlast the relationship, even. I know, because she just turned up the manuscript when she was moving and she wrote me a Facebook message... it's kind of like a letter... to mention it. And your wife, who is awesome, will start your relationship by breaking into your room and reading all the copies of your stuff you have lying around.

You will never ever went back on that resolution. You have just made a decision that will change the rest of your life.

It's just that you won't be a famous author like Robert Jordan. At least not by 33.

Ah... shit, you're crying again.

Yes, I swear a lot. It's one of the few advantages of being an adult.

The truth is, writing is really, really hard. 

You know it's frustrating. But what you don't know is that writing is REALLY frustrating. Like when your sister won't stop berating you frustrating. Like when a cold hangs on for a month. Which is also related to the celiac autoimmune issues. Writing is hard. Like when Mom brings home a bunch of Costco muffins that you can't eat, and you are supposed to just stay away from them because you can't eat them.

I've written some stuff that I thought was really good. Even as good as The Eye of the World, TYOM. I published some fantasy stories that I think you might really like, if you read them.

But TYOM, I know you don't want to hear this... life throws you curves. I didn't expect to have kids this young. I did and I love them and they need my time. I didn't expect to feel this exhausted from working a day job and being a dad. I do. Every day I feel more tired than I ever thought possible.

I didn't realize how much rejection was involved. Call me stupid, but I still hate it when I think about how much stuff I've written that got a billion rejections that I finally threw away.

Also, the universe is not really handing out contracts to finish a multivolume bestselling fantasy series. We didn't have Mat Cauthon's luck for that one.

On top of that, there are not a lot of Robert Jordans in the world. In fact, I even worked in the publishing industry, TYOM, and mostly an author gets famous through luck, not skill. They write a book that people didn't know they wanted.

And, also, I suspect I've never been that good.

Shit, now I'm crying. Give me a tissue. I know you have a cold. Gluten-free diet, damn it!

It's a wonder I got through that stupid book--all fourteen of those stupid books--these last few months with this existential crisis on the heels of the reading.

Truth is, TYOM, you will save yourself a lot of pain and a lot of therapy bills if you realize, right now, that writing is its own reward. Telling a story is fun. But the big famous author dream hasn't happened yet, and may never happen, especially because of how the entertainment industry faces its own Breaking of the World and Last Battle called file-sharing... never mind. You're bored. Point is, when you sit back down at the Mac Plus, think less about your name in print and more about the characters.

Think about how much you love Rand al'Thor's frenzied journey, and then create a character you can love as much as Rand al'Thor. Then follow him. Or her. You'd be surprised how misogynist you unintentionally are, TYOM.

Life is better than you can imagine, TYOM. There is even decent gluten-free food in the future. See, I brought you back a muffin. Tastes like the real thing, eh?

Just be happy with who you become. Much like The Wheel of Time, life has all kinds of derailments, oddities, stupid plot twists, and endless delays. It also has unexpected wonders, and times when everything seems new again.

Write your way through it.