There's a question that gets posed every so often... can you separate the artist from their art? Can you dislike the artist as a person but still enjoy the work they produce? Should we hate Ender's Game because of who Orson Scott Card is today? Should we discredit all of Roman Polanski's work? Can I still enjoy Naked Gun despite the presence of O.J. Simpson?
This is a bit heady when it comes to this book, but it honestly has been more than a passing thought since the stories of Brian Wood's past(?) misconduct(s?)
have circulated on the internet. There's the he-said/she-said back and forth of it and people who take sides, when really, this isn't so much about sides. One woman is opening up about her experience, and people are either refusing to believe her (despite quasi-confirmation from Wood himself, and an apology) or saying horrible things about her just for speaking about it. I feel that it's gross the general attitude a large subsection of fanboys have about women, as creators and characters and as fellow geeks, but most of that is chalked up to isolation from the fairer sex and a crass misunderstanding of how social interaction works, and perhaps some mommy issues. But beyond that, when a creator gets called out for being a letch (with a couple incidents discussed but others claiming there's more) does that mean we need to abandon them even if we like their work?
I don't know who Wood is as a person, but I've liked a lot of what he's done, and he tends to (ironically?) write a lot of strong female characters as well as (ironically?) partner with a lot of female artists. Can he be this progressive as a writer and also be a total prick of a human? Sure. Was he? Sounds like it. Is he still? I don't know. His response taking ownership of some of the alleged actions, and apologizing was a start but also felt like he was trying to willfully forget/ignore some of the more serious dickbag behaviour. Does he have more to apologize for? I don't know. Sounds like it. Was this in the past or is it a perpetuating problem with him? I don't know. Without really knowing who he is, can I damn the man and abandon his work easily? Can I just say I'm not going to support this guy full stop, vote with my dollars but at the same time not really voting for or against anything? I don't know.
Of his current work, I'm reading only the Massive, which I think is smart and an important examination of eco-politics in a nearly post-apocalyptic near-future. This issue continues an interesting conversation about whether whaling for survival is criminally damnable when there's no longer a whaling industry and whales as a species are thriving? As we've advanced as humanity, with science and curiosity at our sides, we've discovered plenty of species around the world are quite intelligent, and emotional creatures. Whales are among these creatures that aren't just instinctual, and as such, my standpoint is that whaling is akin to murder. But others may not feel the same way and may see the sacrifice of a few whales every year, with every element of their physical being made use of, as more than justifiable and that case is presented here too (last issue mind you, this issue is pure vendetta-driven and it gets pretty grim).
I like the Massive, but I'm keeping an eye on what's going on, I'm thinking about everything I read, and I'll weigh my discomfort with the creator against my enjoyment of his work and once one the one tips over the other, I'm out (it's sort of sitting even keel right now). This isn't me excusing anything he's done, to be sure, harassment of any sort is ugly and any sort of backlash against someone reporting it is as deplorable as the act of direct harassment itself (shaming and backlash is in fact a form of harassment)...but for now, I'm not certain if he or his career is worth totally torching based on who he (hopefully) used to be.
Briefly, playing devil's advocate... if he is
a guy who used to be a dick fancying himself a ladies man, but has turned himself around into a family man, then he has a lot to be ashamed of and perhaps would shy away from acknowledging that he used to be that way. It's hard to admit your mistakes, especially ones that hurt someone else. End of advocacy.
On the other side, if he's still that guy, he's going to be in denial that he is that guy. He'll be deluded into thinking that he's being crucified for something that he likely remembers differently because to him he fully thinks he doesn't do anything wrong in these situations. And he'll keep doing it.
I hope it's more of the former situation and that he'll personally and privately apologize (or at least attempt to apologize) to those he knows he has wronged (and perhaps to those he may not know he has wronged. We may never know if he does, but that would be the right thing to do and I bet a few people would say something about that. On the other hand, if he's still the letch, then we'll be hearing about that too, and honestly, I couldn't support him and I don't think the industry should either.