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Separating Art from Artist

This isn’t going to be a debate, or even a discussion. Ultimately it’s up to each person to follow their own moral compass. Separating art from artist is not something I can do. Many have reached out to me in the hopes of swaying me to their position. I suggest redirecting your efforts toward teaching a pig to sing.

To the argument that a used book puts no money into an author’s pocket: that is not the point. The same goes for viewing something on a streaming service that I’m paying for anyway. I won’t even entertain dragging piracy into this. To consume the work of an objectionable artist, whether it puts coin in their pocket or not, is a breach of my personal ethics.

To the argument that quality work should be praised, in spite of the problematic nature of the artist: then non-problematic artists should be even more deserving of said praise. They have, after all, managed to create something exceptional without doing harm in the process. There are more books, films, television shows, comics, paintings, comedy albums, games, and so on available now than a person could ever consume in a lifetime. We have better options in terms of whom and what to support.

Context is Everything

Does that mean that problematic artists should be relegated to the dustbins of history? No. I support things like re-releasing Song of the South and Gone with the Wind with disclaimers. Adding some commentary track to offer perspectives would be valuable. I still wouldn’t run right out and buy them on Blu-Ray.

Given a choice between reading Lovecraft or another author with no history of racism, though, I will choose the other author. If given a choice between listening to Led Zeppelin or an artist that hasn’t been accused of kidnapping and statutory rape, it’s not really a difficult choice. The lack of Roman Polanski, Louie C.K., and David Foster Wallace in my personal canon leaves me free to discover other wonderful, but lesser-known, creators.

Art as Experience

The notion of separating art from artist arose in the late 19th century as an academic tool. It was an assertion that a work should be able to stand on its own merit independent of the creator’s reputation. In this sense it is useful; c.f. The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen. It was not ever meant to be used as a decision-making tool to assuage one’s conscience when determining which art to consume or support.

There is often a matter of intention and influence. Knowing the author’s views can sometimes facilitate understanding of a piece. It provides missing context. Knowing that John Grisham is actually a lawyer gives his stories credibility; I might be able to write a legal thriller, but it wouldn’t have the same gravitas. You almost can’t fully grasp an artist like Taylor Swift without knowing her personal history; the lyrics make far more sense when you do.

Likewise, knowing that Lovecraft had a pearl-clutching fear of race-mixing adds a whole new layer of meaning to stories like “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth“. Understanding the various allegations against Woody Allen, it’s impossible to not see them right out in the open in films like Manhattan.

I cannot un-know that. Not any of it. Which means I cannot consume any of those works without thinking about the faults of their creators.

The Brontë Effect

For a good part of this year I’ve been enmeshed in old Gothic novels. In particular, I’ve been working through the canon of the Brontë sisters. All of the authors dead. The works are in the public domain, all skeletons firmly shaken free of the closet so there are no unpleasant surprises to be had. I was taken to task for this, and rightly so.

There are living authors who need the support. People who, like me, rely on book sales to pay the rent each month. Creators who benefit greatly from my patronage. The choice to buy one of their books, and not a classic, is tremendous. My purchasing a copy of Wuthering Heights has no impact on Emily Brontë, but buying novel by a new author can affect their career in some small way. That doesn’t mean I can’t read classics. As a creator, I bear some duty to support other creators as best I can. There needs to be some balance.

It also becomes a matter of what I’m filling my head with. Is it beneficial to me to be reading the thoughts and opinions of a know bigot? No matter how well-written their bigotry is, or how limited their prejudices may be to micro-aggressions? Or is there greater benefit to discovering new voices, finding creators who keep me engaged by speaking to this moment in time?

Comments are Closed

I honestly sort of resent having to come out of my hermitage to address these things. But I made the choice, so ultimately I’m to blame. Now I’m going back into my cave to write and ignore the world.

Separating Art from Artist

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A Statement About J. K. Rowling

I have never read a Harry Potter book. Nor have I seen a single Harry Potter movie. As such, I have been asked my opinion on recent statements made by author J.K. Rowling.

First, allow me to get the obvious out of the way: Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Transgender people are valid, no matter what rude, cruel, and willfully ignorant individuals say. If you have an issue with granting people basic dignity and human rights, or extending a bare minimum of empathy to other human beings whose lived experiences differ from yours, get off of my page.

From Source of Harassment to Odd Flex

Since 1997 I have been hounded to read the books. While they have always sounded like something I’d enjoy, I am hardwired to resist jumping on bandwagons. With the release of each new book, and the fact that the page count increased with each volume, catching up increasingly felt like a commitment. As one of those people that likes to read the book before seeing the movie, I’ve never seen any of the film adaptations.

My sole source of joy among this hateful misinformation campaign is that the number of shocked “You’ve never!?!” reactions will undoubtedly be greatly reduced. As will the number of people trying to pressure me into dropping everything in my life until I have read over 4,000 pages of text and screened 20 hours of cinema. For those that persist, I now have ample reasons to ask them to go away.

To the fans that are devastated, I say this: It’s never too late to discover new things. There are many, many authors and series that are not problematic that you can fall in love with. You will survive. The positive things that you have learned, the values that you have come to embrace, are still within you. Take all of that goodness, and move on to someone deserving of your time, adoration, and consumer dollars.

Comments are intentionally closed for obvious reasons.

A Statement About J. K. Rowling

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A Statement on Warren Ellis

Update: I don’t know what’s more disturbing to me.

  • That I was expected to make a statement,
  • That I made a statement before he did, or
  • That this gossipy bullshit post blew up more than any insightful or useful essay I’ve ever posted.

To quote Spider Jerusalem (yeah, I’m gonna): “I hate it here.”


In the past I have quoted Warren Ellis and expressed that I am a fan of his work. For that reason I’ve been asked to comment on the current situation. I am not on Twitter where all of this has apparently been unfolding. I am not willing to go back onto Twitter to find out. So I honestly have no fucking clue what’s going on. I am busy up in my own hermitage, working on getting a book released, dealing with my own problems. Not to be dismissive of serious issues, but drama avoidance has kind of been the point.

The gist, from what I can determine, is that there is a long and well-established pattern of him mentoring young female creators (all over 18, from what I am able to ascertain, so this is a power thing rather than a paedo one) and then taking advantage of them sexually and emotionally. Apparently he has had several women on the hook at a time. He then tends to drop them like a hot rock, leaving them to feel they’ve done something wrong.

I believe the women.

Aside from that, I don’t know Ellis, I’ve never met Ellis, I have no connection to Ellis. As stated at the top, I have enjoyed his works for many years, I have subscribed to his newsletter, and I find his ideas about creativity and the creative process to be intriguing. A great many of his ideas have informed my own. None of those ideas, mind you, have anything to do with abusing or exploiting women.

I now return to my regularly scheduled attempt to ignore this fucking world, already in progress…

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7 Ways to Reinvent Depression Like a Pro

7:30 am EEST (GMT+3). This is the June 12 2020 daily proof of life post. Yes, the headline is satirical of clickbait blog post titles. I have no idea how on would reinvent depression like a pro, or even what the hell that even means.

As expected, I am suddenly crumbling under the weight of depression. I saw it coming a few days ago, and mentioned it yesterday. There are also family issues that I need to deal with, which feeds into it. So for a while I’m only going to post once per day. With that paradigm, I felt the need to actually title the posts rather than using the date. Hence the weird title at the top of this page.

Priorities right now are work that pays the bills, things that absolutely have to be done no matter what, and self-care. If you’ve known me for a while or have read this blog for more than a hot minute, you know the drill. At least I’m somewhat prepared and have a playbook for this now. It does make me glad that I already rage-quit Twitter a few days ago, so I don’t have to question whether that decision was fueled by depression.

Reinvent Depression

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Café Epimetheus and the Merry Writer

Since December of last year I have been participating in the Merry Writer game on Twitter. Participants answer daily questions about writing and the writer’s life. I’ve turned those into prompts for blog posts about writing. Recently I started compiling those into the Café Epimetheus zine and publishing it on Gumroad. As I’m no longer on Twitter, I’ve had to rethink my participation.

Clearly I could keep writing the posts. There are countless sources of daily writing prompts that I could use. While I’m not completely discounting that idea, right now it doesn’t feel right. I think I just need to lay it down and leave it alone for a bit. It’s not hitting my “why bother” criteria: it’s not helping my productivity, there are no discernable self-care benefits, and based on the lack of reaction the posts are helping people.

That’s not to say that I’m going to stop writing about writing. I just want to take a beat to reconsider the best way to do that. Participating in the Merry Writer game got me into the habit of daily blogging, but HUBRIS and the Daily Proof of Life do that, too. The act of talking isn’t the same as saying something. Putting out word count doesn’t equate to writing anything worth reading. I want to be more mindful about my messaging.

Café Epimetheus and the Merry Writer