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.