If you’re a sci-fi geek with political opinions who reads stuff on LJ, the odds are probably better than even that you’ve stumbled over the Orson Scott Card thing about gay marriage, which I found dreadfully misguided, even as a straight chick. Fine and good, free country, he gets to say these things, I get to complain about them, such is life. I would, however, like to remind everyone not to condemn the entire Mormon church merely because of Card.

God, I never thought I’d ever say THAT.

This isn’t about the gay marriage thing, however. I’m for it, I think the government ought to have no say in the sex lives of consenting adults, etc, etc, can I get a hallelujah from the choir?

This is about what I’ve taken to calling the Sim Effect.

Not like SimCity, but like Dave Sim, the creator of “Cerebrus the Aardvark.”

The Sim Effect, in Ursula-speak, is that uncomfortable phenomenon where you find yourself enjoying a creation or work of an artist/author/whatever. And then, either later, or simultaneously, or whatever, you find out that the creator of this work that has given you such pleasure holds some view that you find so reprehensibly misquided that you cannot quite get your mind around it, and are left feeling…something. I don’t think we’ve got a word for the emotion in question, but it’s usually compounded of chagrin, shame, dismay, and continued admiration for the work. And this is further compounded by the knowledge–particularly in those of us who’ve fended off Really Weird Fans–that the art is not the artist, and just because you like the art in no way means that the artist will agree with your politics, far from it, and as an artist yourself, you ought to know better.

In other words, because the artist is so on crack, you almost wish you didn’t like the art, but you do like the art, but you can’t look at it without the back of your mind going “Did you hear what he said about ——-?! Are we living in the friggin’ DARK AGES!?” and the other voice says “This is no different than people objecting to YOUR politics but liking your art,” and the third voice coming in saying “I know that, damnit! Don’t you think I know that?!” and then it mostly just drowns into a sea of small yappy mental objections, like a crate full of Yorkies being dropped from a great height.

It is a complex and obnoxious emotion.

I don’t just mean “Bob likes bunnies, and I don’t,” or “Bob is into bondage, and I find that a little odd,” or even “Bob thought the war in Iraq was a good thing,” but like “Bob is a neo-Nazi white supremacist,” or “Bob is a pro-life firebomber,” or whatever. Not just “Ursula’s an asshole, but at least she can paint,” which is a fairly normal experience, god knows, but a really whalloping my-god-how-can-anyone-in-their-right-mind-even-think-this kinda slam, of the sort that would generally cause you to have nothing to do with that individual in perpetuity and move occasionally without a forwarding address just to make sure.

In the case of Dave Sim and “Cerebus,” he does a quite well drawn, well written, entertaining, well-paced tale of an aardvark adventurer–which no one ever seems to tar with the furry brush, for some reason–that is generally enjoyable in the Moorcock swashbuckling fashion. He (Sim, not the aardvark. Well, the aardvark, too, actually.) is also, alas, a misogynist who practically redefined the term and pushed misogyny to new and exciting heights, reportedly feels women are incapable of creating art, etc, etc ad nauseum. He is so batshit insane, and did such a good comic otherwise, that he’s the poster child for the Sim Effect.

Card, however, has also qualified himself for the Sim Effect, because I quite enjoyed his Secular Humanist Revival thing, I share many of his stated views about why science is good and prayer in schools is a terrible idea, and James loved many of his books and keeps nagging me to read Ender’s Game. And then he comes out with this claptrap about homosexuality resulting from abuse in childhood and all gays being arrested adolescents, and I find myself holding my head and going “Oh, lordy…”

The funny bit–and the reason for the complexity of the emotion, I think, beyond mere disappointment in the too-human failings of someone who’s work you admire, and the reason that I continue to worry at it like a hamster taking offense to its own limbs and taking them off at the ankles for no apparent reason–is the fact that I KNOW I’ve been a conduit for the Sim Effect myself. I’ve gotten e-mails about it, generally from religious sorts, where they tell me, with varying degrees of politeness (most of them rather oddly polite, in fact) that they enjoy my art and my writing, but must regretfully express their total dismay at my viewpoints re: god, abortion, the biblical treatment of women, whatever. I even had one say that they liked my art but regretted that I believed in evolution. The irony of this was not lost on me, as I can easily see myself enjoying someone’s art and clutching my temples in Sim Effect dismay upon learning that they’re a young earth creationist.

And skill at something is no guarantee of virtue. And art is not the artist. And artists are flawed and human and as crazy as anybody (if not moreso). And there is no onus upon an artist to believe as I do merely because I like their art–that we share a love of the color puce does not mean that their politics conform to mine.

I know all this. I have experienced this myself. I believe these things the way I believe in chickens–not only that chickens are real and true, but that they will continue to be real and true even if I declare myself a chicken atheist and dedicate myself to exposing the big lie of chickens. My belief does not much matter to the existence of chickens. I think I was going somewhere with that, but I got sidetracked. But anyway.

I have no pithy answer to this issue, mind you. In the great scheme of things, the beliefs of someone who’s work I admire in passing is a small enough matter, and it won’t be long before I am distracted by more pressing matters like the glisten of slug skin or whether watercolor can replicate the unnatural highlighter color of a red-bellied woodpecker head. But still, as Khan would say–“It vexes me!”

Leave a Reply