“Problematic favorites”

We have another Podish Sortacast coming up this weekend, and the theme is “problematic favorites.”

Uh-oh. This could be bad. Can it be myself?

Quick, make some suggestions in the comments, to spare the world an hour of me talking about wicked me.


  1. StevoR says

    Any chance you can talk some astronomy? Thoughts on the Artemis II crew and program? Exop-lanets, astrobiology, Cytherean life and suchlike?

  2. StevoR says

    Or botany and ecology and if there any local friends groups working on those in local reserves / National Parks?

  3. StevoR says

    @ PZ Myers : Dunno but hope & expect they are intresting to others as well as me..

    BTW. Colbert will have the Artemis II crew on tomorrownight – Aussie time – just seen on his show tonight as screened in Sth Oz.

  4. charley says

    Not sure what this means, I googled it and got, “A problematic fave is a character or person who’s done or said offensive (i.e. problematic) things. Your fave is problematic is a phrase that usually accompanies a cited list of these offensive things.” Still not sure that’s what they have in mind.

  5. StevoR says

    @ Rob Grigjanis : Depends whether you are inside or outside a spacecraft and whether your spacesuit is intact or not.. among other things. Where was King Lear when he was howling again?

  6. StevoR says

    Huh. Youtube telling me this is gunna be on at 6.30 a.m. in 3 days time. Ouch. So not a morning person here.

  7. says

    An example of a problematic fave: HP Lovecraft. He basically founded a whole genre of weird horror and is still popular, but was outrageously racist. You could say the same for many writers of the early 20th century, like Edgar Racist Burroughs. His Tarzan novels were basically colonizer propaganda written as potboilers.

  8. StevoR says

    I grew up on and once loved Isaac Asimov & Orson Sciott Card so ..yeah.. Them.


  9. StevoR says

    ..Not the giant ants.

    Asimov with misognyist gropings and Card with, feck, where do Idstart, homophobia massively despite the way his characters once seemed.

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    Just last year it was discovered that the creator of my favorite fantasy setting wrote Neo-Nazi sci-fi and published in an Holocaust denial journal under a pseudonym. Still love the setting, though I want Barker to be alive so I can kick him in balls.

  11. doctorworm says

    If I’m being honest, I still think Kevin Spacey is an excellent actor, one of the best. He’s definitely a monster, but it still hurts to throw out the entire man.

  12. Rich Woods says


    And I was very grateful to Dr Mengele for giving me that typhoid jab. Nice chap. I don’t understand what went wrong. Well, I sort of do. It’s just that my party card proves that I’m not Jewish, so that’s alright. Time will take care of the Herr Doktor’s reputation.

  13. StevoR says

    One suggestion for problematic if extremely influential author would be JRR Tolkein noting he had a whole species of Orcs (admittedly created artificially at first from deformed, corrupted, tortured elves & men if memory serves?) that were all evil and also a bit racist with the southern and dark-skinned people being either villains or unseen or both.. Was there atleats some elemnetof racism inboth the LOTR movies and the books?

  14. Chabneruk says

    Apart from the aforementioned H.P. Lovecraft I do wince sometimes when my playlists put on a song by Michael Jackson. Or Eric Clapton. Great music, highly problematic people.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    “Rock ‘n Roll” by a notorious pedophile is good music.
    So is the music of Ten CC , they got collective punishment by BBC after a new member turned out to be like Gary Glitter.
    BTW in one of his book series Orson Scott Card described the brutal persecution of gay men in the urban fantasy society he described, so he is not a total nazi who is indifferent to all this crap. He might be described as anti-brutality while biased.
    John Lydon- a flawed working-class singer who despite the various prejudices you can expect nevertheless has a moral compass and tried to out Jimmy Savile.
    Werner von Braun!

    The Rausing bloke who started IKEA, för the same reason as von Braun.

    The 19th century people who campaigned against slavery were often racist, but were still opposed to a brutal, vile institution.

  16. birgerjohansson says

    Social Democrats in the Scandinavian countries have a whole host of problematic luggage.
    They did a lot of “for the greater good” stuff.
    Including 1930s “racial hygiene” and other pseudoscience (mainly in Sweden)
    The first chairman of the UN the Norwegian Tryggve Lie was a cynic who had no problems lying, both before WWII and after.
    For ideological reasons, he secretly supported Israel against the Palestinians despite nominally being impartial. He undermined the work of the UN envoy Folke Bernadotte.

  17. flex says

    I can confess to a guilty love, of all things, the Hardy Boy books. But I recognize that the original books written in the 1930’s were filled with stereotypes, bigotry, and racism. In the 1950’s and 1960’s these were re-written, in some cases keeping the title but given entirely new plots because the original books were so bad. These days, even the re-written books include some thinly hidden stereotypes, and a good bit of what we know recognize as misogamy. But I still enjoy re-reading them.

    Another problematic favorite author is one who had a huge impact on mystery novels and could be seen as the inspiration for what developed into the CSI-style of a focus on forensics, and also the inventor of the inverted mystery where the reader sees the crime first, was British author R. Austin Freeman. He wrote fiction in the years 1900-1943. He was also an ardent eugenicist. Interestingly enough, his work shows admiration for African people and culture, probably because he spent a couple years in Africa dealing with the local culture. I wouldn’t say that his views on African people were enlightened, but compared to his description of Eastern Europeans his depictions of Africans are far more flattering. His anti-Semitism has been debated, and he certainly uses stereotypical descriptions for people of Jewish background, even those characters who are portrayed in a favorable light. On the whole, I would say he was a product of his time. That is not to forgive his faults, but to recognize he shared them with others. While there were voices at the time pointing out the problems with his views, Freeman (and a lot of other people) did not heed them, leaving us in a position where we can admire their work but recognize the flaws they had as human beings.

    That’s my answer to the conundrum of finding that I enjoy the creative works of someone who is personally repugnant. I try to separate the product from the creator. If I find the product valuable, like many of the works of Lovecraft, I feel I can value the fiction while still acknowledging the odiousness of the source. Other people’s views differ, and I respect that. I certainly appreciate the view that an abhorrent creator shouldn’t profit, and thus get a platform for their viewpoints, from even enjoyable works. But as these days I’m generally purchasing books from authors long dead, that aspect usually doesn’t apply.

    Delicious mushrooms grow in manure.

  18. birgerjohansson says

    I grew up with Swedish translations of The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and -of course- Enid Blyton’s The Five.
    Mercifully they did not make me an asshole, or at least not a racist asshole.

    As a counterforce, we had the books written by Astrid Lindgren.
    Pippa Longstocking might get in a tussle with thieves but she never inflicted harm on them.
    And Tove Jansson ‘s books about Moominvalley might at worst make me hostile to the Groke.

  19. StevoR says

    @17. Akira MacKenzie : Clive Barker yeah?

    See : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clive_Barker

    @22. birgerjohansson : BTW in one of his book series Orson Scott Card described the brutal persecution of gay men in the urban fantasy society he described, so he is not a total nazi who is indifferent to all this crap. He might be described as anti-brutality while biased.

    I remember reading that. I recall being moved by it and thinking here was someone who got it and was sympathetic and loving towards queer people along with some of his other hints and references including in Enders Game and yet.. Seems very likely OSC is closeted and at least bisexual himslef but in Mormon cult denial of it to me although obvs don’t really know But enough hints of it to be highly plausible.

  20. StevoR says

    Huh. Coulda sworn I had blockquotes and saw them work in preview, sigh.. Guess y’all know where..

  21. StevoR says

    PS. In fact if my unreliable memory serves, that was one of if not the very first times I remember encountering any openly gay characters in SF at all.. ironic maybe?

  22. says

    birgerjohansson@22 It sounds like you’ve heard a distorted version of the Jonathan King story. King was a pop singer, songwriter, and record producer. King did give 10cc their name, and they were initially signed to his UK Records label. They left UK for Mercury Records in 1975, ending their association. King was never a member of the band. (King also gave Genesis their name in 1967, and produced their unsuccessful debut album.)

    In 2001 King was tried and convicted on charges of sexually assaulting several teenage boys in the 1980s.

    The BBC did limit airplay of 10cc’s “Rubber Bullets” when it came out, and banned it completely during the Gulf War.to avoid controversy. Obviously this had nothing to with King, whose crimes weren’t yet known.

  23. KG says

    P.G. Wodehouse. Undoubtedly the greatest English-language comic writer of the 20th century, possibly ever, but undeniably blotted his copybook by recording talks which the Nazi authorities broadcast to the USA and UK after he was detained by them in Paris in 1940 and taken to Berlin. There’s no reason to believe he had any sympathies with Nazism, and one of his comic characters, Roderick Spode, leader of the “Saviours of Britain, also known as the Black Shorts”*, has a very thin time of it. In the first novel where he appears, The Code of the Woosters (1938), he is blackmailed by Bertie Wooster who “knows all about Eulalie” (he doesn’t, but Jeeves has told him this will be effective, and later reveals that Spode designs ladies’ underclothing, “Eulalie Soeurs” being the name of his shop), and in later stories he is knocked out by a punch from a curate, knocked out again by being hit over the head by a cook with a china basin containing beans, and “plugged in the eye with a potato”. But it understandably took decades for Wodehouse to be largely forgiven in Britain.

    And H.G. Wells. A working-class hero, socialist, and one of the few novelists who grasped that evolution does not imply progress (see The Time Machine). But also a eugenicist and racist, who produced some truly chilling exterminationist sentiments.

    *”By the time Spode formed his association, there were no shirts left. He and his adherents wear black shorts.”

  24. KG says

    I forgot: in yet another story, Spode gets coshed from behind by Bertie Wooster’s aunt Dahlia, to prevent him noticing and revealing that a supposedly expensive pearl necklace is a cheap replica, she having pawned the original.

  25. says

    I used to like Joolz Denby, before she turned into a TERF and SWERF.

    The kicker is, she was an original-generation punk in the 1970s; and it’s simply inconceivable that she could never have encountered a single trans person, nor a sex worker, on that scene, in those days.

    At least I don’t feel so bad anymore about nicking those CDs at a Red Sky Coven gig …..

  26. Pierce R. Butler says

    Richard Wagner, Pablo Picasso, Miles Davis, John Lennon, JK Rowling if you stretch the “fave” part, Larry Niven, Marcus Garvey, Leon Trotsky, Ophelia Benson, Jerry Coyne, Dr. Seuss, Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, Pope Francis, Winnie Mandela, James Randi, Mandisa Thomas, Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, Brigitte Bardot, Josip Broz Tito, Julius Nyrere, Queen Zenobia, …

    Just think “feet of clay” and free-associate!

  27. houseplant says

    32 KG,

    Wodehouse was foolish rather than problematic. Read Orwell’s defence of him (excerpt below).

    If my analysis of Wodehouse’s mentality is accepted, the idea that in 1941 he consciously aided the Nazi propaganda machine becomes untenable and even ridiculous. ….. As I have tried to show, his moral outlook has remained that of a public-school boy, and according to the public-school code, treachery in time of war is the most unforgivable of all the sins. But how could he fail to grasp that what he did would be a big propaganda score for the Germans and would bring down a torrent of disapproval on his own head? To answer this one must take two things into consideration. First, Wodehouse’s complete lack — so far as one can judge from his printed works — of political awareness………
    The other thing one must remember is that Wodehouse happened to be taken prisoner at just the moment when the war reached its desperate phase. We forget these things now, but until that time feelings about the war had been noticeably tepid. There was hardly any fighting, the Chamberlain Government was unpopular, eminent publicists were hinting that we should make a compromise peace as quickly as possible,