Not gonna name names here or anything, because that's secondary to the issue and I see this as a pretty informal discussion, not an essay. My question is, how do you react when you find out that the writers you enjoy are assholes — i.e., not just "ornery" or "politically incorrect" or "contrarian," but real assholes, who have caused other individuals profound psychological, emotional, financial, social, or even physical distress? Do you stop reading them altogether, or do you try to separate the writer from the work? In the case of the latter, can the writer always be separated from his or her output?

In most instances, readers will separate the work from its creator, or at least try to place both in some kind of context where the offending behavior, however severe, can be understood in the context of the creator's life and times. SF fandom is unique however, I think, because there's always a strong tendency on the part of readers to identify with authors, especially if you started reading their works at an impressionable age. I think of this as the "imaginary friend syndrome" — the writer isn't just someone whose stuff you enjoy, but someone you come to identify with very strongly, to the point where you can easily imagine that if you did know the person in question, you would probably get along with them very well and would share many of the same interests and opinions. (Especially if you first encountered them when you were going through adolescence or some other stressful period in your life.) Most readers tend to outgrow this period, but I suspect there's still a tendency among fans to regard their imaginary relationships with certain writers as sacrosanct, to the point where they envision them as absolutely infallible, incapable of error or misdeed. (Again, not mentioning names here.)

I myself enjoy lots of writers who have acted like or been total dickweeds at one point or another, if not consistently so. My strategy is to always enjoy stuff in context: When rereading a novel that I loved when I was fourteen, I'm always remembering what it was I liked about the book at the time versus my current appraisal of the book as an adult. I've also stopped worshipping specific writers beyond their ability to tell a story, facility with language, characterization, etc. That said, there are some writers I used to love but just avoid entirely because I don't really dig them as people that much. I'm not fair. I don't see how you can be.