Baen and Scalzi: Who Are You Willing to Work With?

Deciding whether or not to work with someone or some organization you don’t agree with is always a complex question. We all have lines that we won’t cross — I would never take on a marketing project for a company I believed was scamming its customers, for instance — but when you’re deciding whether or not to work with someone over a less crucial issue, it can be a tough question.

There’s been a bit of upset with a certain subset of the science fiction community of late and John Scalzi’s response has stuck with me. He disagreed with the publisher of Baen Books on a specific topic but continues to promote Baen Books’ authors. One paragraph of his discussion of how he’s handling the situation is particularly well worth paying attention to:

You all know that I recently signed to do a TV series with FX, correct? That’s owned by Rupert Murdoch, the same fellow who is responsible for Fox News. He’s also responsible, if that’s the correct way to note it, for The Simpsons, Firefly and the new Cosmos series. It’s possible to have issues with a company, its C-suite and things it does and still find reasons to do business with them and/or support some of the things it does.

Rupert Murdoch is an excellent example of why it’s a good idea to give yourself as much latitude to work with people you disagree with as possible. I can think of plenty of people who don’t like Fox News, who are fine with Fox News but don’t like Murdoch’s business practices, who are fine with Murdoch but can’t deal with one of the other 48,000 people who work for News Corporation (let alone the tens of thousands more who work for subsidiaries of the company or who freelance for some part of the organization), and so on. Eliminating that many potential connections from your network, not to mention the big projects associated with working with such large organizations, on the strength of just one disagreement can be a tough call.

It’s a personal decision where to draw the line. Personally, I try to avoid letting more minor opinions drive my decisions. I’ll read books by authors with opinions I find abhorrent (consider the general opinions of most of the authors of books we consider classics these days — you can’t make it through high school English if you’re only going to read literature by people who agree with you). I’ll also work on projects (as long as they are unrelated to our disagreements) with people whose general opinions are far out of line with mine. I don’t need everyone in the world to agree with me, as long as we can be civil and well-intentioned.

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