Should We Judge A Book By Its Author? Ctd

A reader writes:

I think what Ms. Gallagher and Card himself don’t understand (or willfully ignore) is the fact that no one – NO ONE – has said that Mr. Card shouldn’t be allowed to publish his books or have a movie made of his important, seminal novel.  No one wants a McCarthy-like blacklist.  What many of us are angry about is that a book we love might be used to support the frankly repugnant rhetoric of an organization like NOM, of which Card is a member of the board.  Freedom of speech does not mean that you’re free of societal scorn.  I owe Card a lot for teaching me how to be a better writer, and Ender’s Game is a beautiful, heartbreaking book.  But I might not see it because then my ticket would be subsidizing a hate-group.  That’s the issue, point blank.

Another draws another distinction:

Boycotting Wal-Mart and Exxon is one thing. It’s their business practices that make them despicable, and doing business with them encourages those practices.  Boycotting Ender’s Game solves nothing except discourage smart fiction writing.


I am quite familiar with Ender’s Game, having read it several times, including recently, and I would say with confidence that there is no homophobic element to it.

That’s one reason I was so shocked to find out Card felt so strongly. The book, in fact, is notable for its characters almost asexual lives. They’re children, for the most part. They are interested in very adult things – war and world politics among them – but their sexuality is basically an unexplored province.

Further, I would add – NOT as a defense of Card’s view – that writers in general, and science fiction writers in particular, are idiosyncratic, opinionated, and sometimes insane people. It’s an activity that requires one to basically live in one’s head, and pay much more attention to the world created there than the world outside. Orson Scott Card is a bigot, but he’s an old bigot who should just shut up and write his stories, and whose non-fictional utterances should be heard by no one but his family and any who intentionally befriend him.

Another is more skeptical:

Does Card’s homophobia influence his art? Well, the aliens in Ender’s Game are called “buggers”.

Another looks at Card’s subsequent works:

Ender’s Game is the beginning of a sequence of books (it is followed by Speaker for the DeadXenocide, and Children of the Mind) as well as a subsequent set of books that follow the same overall story from the point of view of different characters (Ender’s Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow of the Giant).  In these books, particularly the “Shadow” books, the issue of gay marriage does get inserted and unsurprisingly rejected by the relevant character in the story.  With the caveat that it’s been quite a while since I read it, even this sequence in the books, which is not even central to the plot – which I grant makes it a rather gratuitous political self-indulgence on Card’s part, but hey, it’s his book! – I didn’t have a sense of homophobia from the character or, by extension, the author.  Rather, the issue is presented as one of how society should be structured, but the gay character is at that point essentially one of the good guys, and is not in any way ostracized or harassed, and is treated with respect.

If anything, the attitude in Card’s novels is about as open and accepting as one could ask for from a fairly orthodox, devout Mormon. I have read most of Card’s books and occasionally dip into his blog-like postings at his website I disagree with a lot of his conclusions, but always respect his analysis.  Kinda like the Dish sometimes.

Update from a reader:

I’m sure I’ll be one of many, but I had to respond to the reader who noted that the aliens are called Buggers. I’ve seen it made other places, and it’s painful to hear, just about as bad as when Rush claimed ‘Bain’ in the Batman movie was to smear Romney. If people want to boycott the film, I totally get it. But please, don’t be so ignorant of the book to claim this as a reason.

Yes, while the aliens are given the official name of Formics, they are more colloquially called Buggers. Given that we were at war with them it’s not exactly shocking they were given a derisive name. But the point is *SPOILER ALERT* that at the end of the day, the whole war was just a giant miscommunication between two very difference species. For the rest of his life, Ender will try to undo the damage he caused the Buggers and live with immense guilt about how he treated them. The future conversation about the war will be about how horrible humanity treated the buggers and how much blame should Ender receive. If the goal was to put down homosexuality, Card did an incredibly horrible job of it.

I think most readers of Card’s work have the same shocked reaction to finding out his views, because they simply don’t come through in the books. The series I keep rethinking about since finding out about his views is the Earthfall series, not the Ender’s Game series. One of male characters is gay, and another female one has written offensive theories about how people become gay. The female one is the one who ends up finding out she is wrong and is extremely embarrassed and ashamed. However, the two end up marrying and having kids together anyhow, in a “need to repopulate the world” situation. The understanding they come to is that they always use a particular position (I’m sure you can guess which) and he be allowed to be thinking about his former lovers during. I have no idea how to read/think about this section anymore.