Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Controversy Deepens

I've been e-mailing out little teasers to the media and influential people about the controversy surrounding Eugene Woodbury's Angel Falling Softly, and as a result heavy-weight Mormon author Orson Scott Card has been reaming me out this weekend for making a mockery of the faith by publishing such a Mormon-meets-vampire book, which I do not believe Card has read. He equates it to being as absurd and disrespectful as writing a story wherein Joseph Smith meets the Easter Bunny.

I wonder if I could get some help from OSC acolytes as to why this would push his buttons so much, because he's been pretty over-the-top antagonistic about it, talking down to me like I'm some kind of enemy to the faith. Also, I'll include my side of the correspondence below, and I wonder if anyone wants to weigh in on the debate?

Here's my first reply to him:

Hold on, it's not that absurd in a culture that believes (or at least some do) that an evil immortal embodied being named Cain still walks the earth, and perhaps Lameth (or whatever Cain's grandson's name is) and others as well. Personally, I suspect some vampire and werewolf types of legends could have something do to with the real-life Cain, not just Sasquatch legends. And it makes some sense to me that if there are good embodied immortals walking the earth, there could be some bad.
Then this follow-up from me, trying to back off and cool him down a little while still holding my position:

OK, thanks for taking time to give your viewpoint. I wish we got as much feedback when we did something clearly worthwhile as when we cross a line for some people, but that's the nature of the beast.

Just to be clear, I'm an active card-carrying Mormon and a true believer, and I didn't anticipate a problem with a speculative fantasy novel on the terms of, "If vampiricism existed in some form, how would it play out in a Mormon milieu?" I still don't see why that's so threatening or offensive as a creative imaginative exercise. While I wasn't the editor who acquired and edited the book, I was impressed that the author pulled it off so well, and it didn't threaten or undermine my faith at all, even if it left me with unresolved questions to savor. And no, I don't believe in vampires, even if the jury is still out for me on Cain (what's so outlandish about thinking that if you have Three Nephites, you could also have evil equivalents?)

So what do you guys think? Is it somehow unethical or heretical to write/publish a speculative novel that looks at how fantasy-horror might intersect with Mormon theology?

7 comments:

bkdunn said...

Just saw the scathing on Amazon. It's a shame the criticism seems to be of the decision the character makes herself rather than of whether that decision was well supported in the narrative.

Not that you asked *this* in particular, but I'm a little uneasy around the concept of "Mormon fiction". If it's on-tune with what the church teaches, then it's almost necessarily trite and useless. OTOH, if it's veers off in its own direction, then it's potentially exploitative and cynically marketed.

On yet another hand, there's no such thing as bad publicity. I'm guessing this couldn't be truer than it would be for a small press that exists solely on the passion of its operator.

MoJo said...

Not that you asked *this* in particular, but I'm a little uneasy around the concept of "Mormon fiction".

I address the matter of LDS fiction in today's post. http://moriahjovan.com/mojo/

OTOH, if it's veers off in its own direction, then it's potentially exploitative and cynically marketed.

Yes and no. I mean, mine goes way off the rails, but I don't think I showed the church in a bad light. None of my non-member test readers thought so; they understood that these characters were people whose worldview was molded by the church and accepted them on that basis. Thus, though they are not faithful members, what they did/felt/said made sense in that context and the readers got a sense that at least three of them grieved that loss.

Thanks for the direction to Amazon. I hadn't seen that. ::sigh::

no-man said...

>>>I wonder if I could get some help from OSC acolytes as to why this would push his buttons so much, because he's been pretty over-the-top antagonistic about it, talking down to me like I'm some kind of enemy to the faith.<<<

That's easy. OSC is full of himself, always has been. He's got such a fawning fan base and has created his own little literary universe, so he can pretty much tell anyone else how to write, what to write, and whether they're orthodox or not. He's always been condescending to Mormons with whom he does not agree.

The Amazon reviews are humorous. Apparently there are many who believe that if you have Mormon characters and market to a Mormon audience, you have to bring it all down to a G-rated level. I don't know that I would take the time to read a vampire novel, but why not have some fun with Mormon culture in a work of fiction.

abel keogh said...

Where, exactly, are Card's comments. I've done Google searches and checked other blogs. Everyone's talking about his comments but I can't find a link to them. HELP!

Joe said...

Card writes speculative books about the future in which the LDS church is non-existent and where the second coming apparently never happens. So what is more insulting to the LDS faith?

The more disturbing part of this is who appointed Card to be the defender of the faith? And why does he so quickly forget the criticism aimed at him in his early years for his fiction, which other "defenders of the faith" thought offensive to the church.

Methinks we have Animal Farm playing out before our very eyes.

David T. said...

I'm about a third of the way through the book, Chris, and I'm finding it interesting. I'll have a review for you next week.

To answer your question, I don't have a problem with Mormonism crossing with horror-fantasy. Does anyone recall the story of the Saints, when they were fleeing, coming upon an abandoned cabin and later that evening getting violently ill in it? The Lord revealed it was a hideout for cutthroats and invited the presence of evil spirits-- right out of The Shining. Stephen King once said he believed a house or location could act as a dry cell battery and absorb the strong emotions that took place there. Those two thoughts kind of go together.

Let me add, though, if the Mormon elders were invited to the MacNeil home, The Exorcist would have been 10 minutes long.

Holly said...

Color me thoroughly baffled. But if Stephanie Meyer can write the whole Bella thing without mentioning Mormonism but still with it as the morality shaping the whole story, and if OS Card can write science fiction that draws on a Mormon world view (even if it doesn't entirely support it), what the hell is wrong with an explicit exploration of how Mormonism and vampires mix?

For that matter, why shouldn't Joseph Smith meet the Easter Bunny? It could be a fascinating encounter, and need not be blasphemous.