Sunday, 4 May 2008

Orson Scott Card vs J. K. Rowling

This one's been doing the rounds throughout the genre blogosphere and online communities. In case you've not yet read Card's amusing rant about Rowling, check out the article HERE.

I think Rowling's response to Steve Vander Ark's Potter Lexicon is rather extreme. I do see why she would not be happy about it, but I think the way she has gone about settling the issue is completely over the top. Subsequently, I do agree with some of Card's points:

"Here's the irony: Vander Ark had the material for this book on his website for years, and Rowling is quoted as saying that when she needed to look up some 'fact" from her earlier books, she would sometimes "sneak into an Internet café while out writing and check a fact rather than go into a bookshop and buy a copy of Harry Potter."
In other words, she already had made personal use of Vander Ark's work and found it valuable. Even if it has shortcomings, she found it useful."

The above point is why Rowling's lawsuit should fail.

"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."

True, and and it doesn't reflect well upon Rowling at all. In fact, it makes her look like a bit of a bitch.

"It's like her stupid, self-serving claim that Dumbledore was gay. She wants credit for being very up-to-date and politically correct -- but she didn't have the guts to put that supposed "fact" into the actual novels, knowing that it might hurt sales."

Definitely agree on this one. It was an utterly pointless thing to do and smacked of attention-seeking.

"Rowling's hypocrisy is so thick I can hardly breathe: Prior to the publication of each novel, there were books about them that were no more intrusive than Lexicon. I contributed to one of them, and there was no complaint about it from Rowling or her publishers because they knew perfectly well that these fan/scholar ancillary publication were great publicity and actually boosted sales."

Another fact that makes Rowling's court action look doomed to failure, and makes her look rather foolish.

"Rowling has nowhere to go and nothing to do now that the Harry Potter series is over. After all her literary borrowing, she shot her wad and she's flailing about trying to come up with something to do that means anything."

I agree to some extent here. I do think Rowling's future works will never achieve anything close to what the Potter books did, and the nature of the British media being what it is, she'll be slated for it.

"But now the Harry Potter series is over, and Rowling claims that her "creative work" is being "decimated."

This is a rather dumb remark by Rowling. I get the impression she's struggling with whatever she's writing right now, for other reasons, and simple needs a scapegoat. Pure speculation of course, but you do wonder.

However, I don't agree with some of Card's comments:

"Well, heck, I feel like the plot of my novel Ender's Game was stolen by J.K. Rowling."

If Card seriously means that, then he's off his rocker. J. K. Rowling probably hasn't even heard of Ender's Game. In any case, the plot from Ender's Game was old even before Card used it.

"I can get on the stand and cry, too, Ms. Rowling, and talk about feeling "personally violated."

If all authors got on their high horses and accused all those other writers who they believed had stolen their ideas, no new books would ever get written...and everyone would be accused by someone else. There are no new plots under the sun. In any case, you can't copyright ideas. You only have to look at the Dan Brown trial to prove that. He blatantly used ideas and theories from that other book, but the case was thrown out because - you guessed it - you can't copyright ideas. If you could, it would mean an end to genre fiction as we know it.

"Moreover, she is desperate for literary respectability. Even though she made more money than the Queen or Oprah Winfrey in some years, she had to see her books pushed off the bestseller lists and consigned to a special "children's book" list."

I doubt Rowling gives a toss about literary respectability. I know I wouldn't if my books were that popular and I'd made stacks of cash.

"It makes her insane. The money wasn't enough. She wants to be treated with respect."

Does Card actually know Rowling, or anyone close to her? No? Then how the hell does he know this? You can't make this sort of accusation without proof, and Card has no proof other than his own misguided opinions.

"People who hear about this suit will have a sour taste in their mouth about Rowling from now on. 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."

Who is 'us'? Who the hell does Card think he's talking for? Not me, for one. I'll form my own opinions thanks, and certainly don't need him to talk for me. In any case, I doubt any of the millions of Potter fans will give a shit about this lawsuit.

"What a pretentious, puffed-up coward. When I have a gay character in my fiction, I say so right in the book. I don't wait until after it has had all its initial sales to mention it."

A rather ironic comment given that Card has freely admitted that he thinks homosexuality is a sin. In his own words: "Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society." Of course, he'd never put that in his books. Why? Because it would hurt sales. Which is, funnily enough, exactly the same thing that he accused Rowling of when she didn't reveal Dumbledore's homosexuality in her books. Talk about hypocrisy.

"Rowling has now shown herself to lack a brain, a heart and courage."

Hilarious comment. One thing Rowling certainly does not lack is a brain; the Potter stories are clear evidence of that. Heart? Well, she wrote her first Potter book while on the dole as a single mother. She couldn't afford to heat her flat, and money was unsurprisingly tight. I think that shows plenty of heart. Courage? Well, who is Card to talk? It doesn't take much courage to slag other people off.

All things considered, while Card makes come valid points, he does come across as a bit of a whinging egotist, jealous of Rowling's success. Perhaps he thinks his position as a 'legend' of sci-fi gives him the right to launch childish rants towards other authors.

It doesn't.


Anonymous said...

This makes me laugh, but I have to side with OSC because I just bought his writing book and I can't stand JK Rowling or her works. My mother told me all about how witchcraft is bad and I shouldn't read her garbage. I tried to read her anyway and didn't like it, and was further pissed off when me and my cousin -- who was holding a Potter book --walked into some store, and the cashier said something about how Rowling is great because she's caused all these kids to read ... That was a lame sentence but bear with me.

Nevertheless, I agree with most of what you say. :)

But ...

"However, I don't agree with some of Card's comments:

"'Well, heck, I feel like the plot of my novel Ender's Game was stolen by J.K. Rowling.'

"If Card seriously means that, then he's off his rocker. J. K. Rowling probably hasn't even heard of Ender's Game. In any case, the plot from Ender's Game was old even before Card used it."

I thought he was sort of being sarcastic, trying to get across that Ender's Game itself "was old even before Card used it." But maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention; I don't know how that fits into his argument, and I skimmed most of his article.


T.D. Newton said...

His rant is pretty hilarious but it is just that: a rant. It's very emotional at some point and he's taking ownership of the issue as if someone asked him to get involved and arbitrate the lawsuit. We're all familiar with the adage that there's nothing new under the sun and nowhere is this more true than in fiction. Same story, different characters happens all the time. Regardless, the whole thing is just humorous and I feel that it's just another example of how "sue happy" people can be in the 20th/21st centuries.

abel said...

Orson Scott Card rocks. I thoght his essay was great and was a breath of fresh air. Go Card!