Quiet, you quazy quackers!

A crossword clue I liked the other day: Tango quorum.  Maybe because I like the word quorum.  And quagmire.  And quackery.  Quell.  Quench.  Quibble.  Quest.  But I have never understood why the uppercase cursive Q looks like a big floppy 2.  Whose decision was that?

I finished reading Orson Scott Card’s Hidden Empire yesterday.  There are times when knowing more about an author makes reading their books more enjoyable.  There are times when knowing more about an author makes no difference whatsoever to how you feel about their books.  And there are times you wish you could unlearn things about an author because you were SO much happier reading those books before you knew what you know now.  Orson Scott Card falls into the third category for me.  In high school, when Randy badgered me into reading Ender’s Game (I have no idea why I needed badgering, but thank you for doing it), I didn’t know anything about him (OSC, not Randy).  I LOVED Ender’s Game.  I still really like it, and I like all the sequels.  I’ve read just about every novel OSC has written, and with the exception of the Homecoming series and maybe one or two others, I really liked them.  Later, I found out OSC was Mormon.  Not a big deal – an author’s religion is completely irrelevant to me.  Knowing that, though, made me notice that it comes through in his Alvin Maker series, but those books are still fantasy (alternate history with magic), and I like them.  His religion, his feelings about religion, come up sometimes, in some books, but they don’t get in the way of suspension of belief.  Usually.  Yes, one of Ender’s parents is Mormon and the other is Catholic and that’s why they want more than their allowed number of children and yes, the government in the book is painted as evil for hating religion (and other things).  It’s still part of the story, and when I first read it (the first few times I read it, probably), I didn’t see that plot point as anything other than a plot point.  I can still NOT view it as something planted by the author for a reason because it serves the story.  It helps that the vast majority of his books take place in the past or in the far future.

A few years ago, I found OSC’s website.  He writes a weekly column called “Uncle Orson Reviews Everything”, and for a long time, I enjoyed reading it.  At least, I enjoyed reading it when he was reviewing books and movies and restaurants and random products.  I like his writing style, and I’ve found that I like (and often love) books that he recommends.  Sometimes, he discusses politics and world events.  I can’t read him when he discusses politics and world events.  I see red.  He’s a Democrat who hates Democrats.  He thinks global warming is the left’s religion.  He – no, that’s not my point.  My point is that I know this about him now.  And I can still dismiss it when he’s writing science fiction or fantasy that takes place in the future or the past or in nothing resembling real life.  But Hidden Empire (and Empire, which came out a few years ago) takes place in the immediate future.  I don’t remember having as much a problem with Empire, but with Hidden Empire, I couldn’t go two pages without being hit over the head with his worldview.  Right, people who believe global warming is a problem secretly want a third of the world’s population to die.  Sure, only Christians would volunteer to help the sick and dying.  The action was good.  The preaching was not.  I was disappointed.  End of review.

I started to quote bits of OSC’s latest reviews as examples of what makes me want to tear my hair out, but reading those articles is making me crazy, so I’ll just link to a couple.  You can read them if you want to.  Then breathe deeply.  He gets into politics in this one from 9/15/11 and there’s a section on Herman Cain in this one from 11/3/11.

10 Comments

  1. Chris H.

    As a Mormon myself, who very much enjoys OSC novels (for the most part), I have to completely agree with you here.

    First, my two cents on his Mormonism and writing. I’m not too concerned with the Mormon characters in many of his novels (like Ender’s Game). They tend to be minor characters, and it makes sense to me that he would write about a culture/religion/environment he was familiar with. I think many authors are similar.

    I, too, enjoyed the Alvin Maker series. I could see where the bits of Mormon history and lore were thrown in, but it was still inventive enough that it didn’t bother me. The Homecoming series, however, is a different story. I read the first book, which basically parallels the story in the first part of the Book of Mormon, and it really bugged me. It just seemed like blatant plagiarism to me. I never read any of the other books in that series.

    As for his political views, I once found a political quote from OSC (I think it may have actually been in the epilogue to one of the Empire books) that I kind of like:

    “Democrats and Republicans must renounce the screamers and haters from their own side instead of continuing to embrace them and denouncing only the screamers from the opposing camp. We must moderate ourselves instead of insisting on moderating the other guy while keeping our own fanaticism alive.”

    Unfortunately, he tends to denounce what he views as the “screamers and haters” on both sides by being a screamer and hater himself. For being a “moderate,” he has very fanatic, polarizing political opinions and I rarely read any of his political rants because they just upset me.

    Anyway, good blog post! I just thought I would give you a thumbs up and give my thoughts on the subject as well.

  2. ibcrandy

    I read the first two books of the homecoming series, and then went “Okay, I’ve given you two books, and this is still terrible. I’m done with this series.” It made me sad since that was the first thing of his I had read after the Ender series, and it turned me off to pretty much the rest of his work.

    I too have read some of his political writing and yes, it made me see red as well. I also got a chance to meet him and hear him speak at Joseph Beth (before having read his political stuff) and he infuriated me then too. He went on some long rant about how computer programmers are doing it all wrong and not taking advantage of how computers could work. As a programmer I understand the points he was making. As a programmer, I also knew why he was dead wrong, and it drove me nuts that he could stand up there and spout such uninformed nonsense and try to act like he knew better than the sum of all of the worlds computer scientists.

    So yes, I’ll always be grateful for the Ender’s series (though I still need to read the last Shadow book), but after having learned more about him I’ve given up on his other work. I don’t care that he’s a Mormon. I care that he’s a world class twit.

  3. mama mama

    I love these intellectual discussions. (Could get past 40 or so pages of Enders Game. Never tried any of the others. So you’re the one who started it all, Randy.)

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