The Other Moral Dilemma of Ender’s Game

by Tee Morris on May 8, 2013

Orson Scott Card.

What can you say about celebrated New York Times bestselling author Orson Scott Card?

Well, there’s this…

“Orson Scott Card is a homophobic piece of shit.”

And then there’s this…

“That P.O.S. gets none of my dollars.”

And from the same thread…

“He’s not getting a dime from me.”

Members of the Science Fiction community have been of late truly repulsed by some of the things OSC has expressed both online and in the world of op-ed pieces, and—let’s be honest—OSC as an author is so mainstream that his recent spirited opinions inspired articles like this:

http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2013/02/21/1619481/an-ethical-guide-to-consuming-content-created-by-awful-people-like-orson-scott-card/

http://www.salon.com/2013/03/07/end_game_for_orson_scott_card_partner/

Here’s where it gets tricky though…

Ender’s Game is a book I have never read, but I know the book. I’ve known this book for decades, prominently displayed in bookstores everywhere in 1985. And in 1995. And in 2005.

And today, people still recommend it. Pip loves this book, and while I already know how this epic adventure wraps up, a part of me really wants to read it in preparation for what promises to be an incredible epic rivaling the upcoming Man of Steel.

Yes, I believe in you, Zac Snyder, even though you got a Brit playing one of the most iconic of American superheroes…

…but I digress.

Since OSC started spewing his hatred and other political rants, fans of his work have taken a moment to step back and say “Hold on.” There was enough uproar against his opinions that DC Comics artist Chris Spouse walked away from OSC’s Superman story, compelling DC to shelf the story until they can find an artist willing to work on it. Even Browncoats who held OSC’s review of Serenity as a golden fleece for Whedon’s deep space western had to stop and wonder where this hatred was coming from.

Then this trailer hit the Interwebz, and suddenly the same geeks once chastising him for his bile-laden bigotry were starting a countdown to the movie’s release. And regardless of what kind of deal OSC signed (and in his own words, “I jealously protected the movie rights to Ender’s Game so that it would not be filmed until it could be done right.” so you know this had to be one killer deal for it to look this good in a preview), one way or another, the Ender’s Game movie puts money in OSC’s pocket.

So I find myself in a quandary. I honestly don’t want to give money or support of any kind to Mr. Card. I want to read the book. I really do. Based on the casting and the glimpses we got in this two-and-a-half minute trailer, this looks to be an incredible story. However, you could be the best storyteller EVAR; but if you’re a bigoted punk, why would I want to buy your stuff?

From the earlier quoted thread, there was another comment worth noting:

“If you judged every work by its creator, you’d live in a dull, motionless vacuum. Go see the damn movie.”

Good point. After all, I’m a writer. So’s Pip. Shouldn’t we be practicing solidarity for our fellow author, and shouldn’t we take a point-of-view of “Would we want people passing judgment on our work based on the merit of the work itself, not on our beliefs and opinions?” I’m sure, based on my blogposts, my podcasts, my sentiments expressed both on and off panels, and my social media updates, I’ve turned off potential readers on account of my tree-hugging-raging-liberal-Christian viewpoints.

No, you didn’t misread that self-description. You read that right. Shocking but true: I drive an E.V., and I recycle.

But seriously, would I want someone to judge my work based on how I live my life, or on the quality of the stories I tell and the characters I create?

enders

When you think about it, this impasse sounds a lot like something you’d read in Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine or see on The Twilight Zone. If a scientist discovers the cure for cancer, but then reveals his or her insistence that this cure would be reserved for “whites only” would you financially invest in his or her work? Okay, for something less dramatic, what if you have a favorite musician and you love their work. You have all of this artist’s music, maybe even a few rare vinyls of their early works. Then you discover the artist is anti-Semitic, supports white supremacist groups, and is about to come out with a new album. Do you purchase it? Yeah, maybe you can pirate it, but by enjoying their work, aren’t you also giving that artist validation for their efforts?

One part of me wants to discover a great story. Another part of me does not want to give any kind of validation to Orson Scott Card. But by boycotting the film, I’m boycotting what promises to be powerful performances from Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, and Ben Kingsley, and artistic accomplishments of the film’s director and technical crew. Is one guy carrying a lot of fear and hatred within him worth it?

It truly is a moral dilemma. And once upon a time, there was an author who wrote about such a moral dilemma. Back in 1985.

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{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Christopher X. Morse May 8, 2013 at 10:55 am

Does time allow us to forgive such things? Wagner, Lovecraft and Doyle are all still celebrated artists today. But Wagner was an anti-semite, Lovecraft was a racist and Doyle promoted a lot of nonsense.

If we avoid the work of Orson Scott Card, are we being morally inconsistent by embracing those others?

I honestly don’t know.

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Nobilis Reed (@Nobilis) May 8, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Wagner, Lovecraft and Doyle are not actively using their platform to to do harm to my offspring.

They get a pass.

Let’s take the money out of it, if only because Card already deposited his check.

Going to see this movie enhances Card’s platform. They give him credibility and amplify his voice.

A voice he has used, and continues to use, to harm my child.

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Scott Roche May 8, 2013 at 5:52 pm

“Going to see this movie enhances Card’s platform. They give him credibility and amplify his voice.”

How? As someone said further down, does seeing a Tom Cruise movie do the same for Scientology?

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Indiana Jim May 9, 2013 at 11:53 am

Sticks and stones….

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Bibliotropic May 8, 2013 at 11:06 am

I would be incensed enough to OSC’s hatefilled diatribes, but what really got to me is that it all becomes particularly galling if you read his “Speaker for the Dead,” a novel which spends a huge chunk of time dealing with the premise that you can’t judge one culture (or group of people, or whatever) based on another culture’s standards. After reading that, it felt to me like Card missed the point of his own book, and even if I could have tolerated him previously, I lost a huge amount of respect for him as an author at that moment.

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Peter Prellwitz May 8, 2013 at 11:11 am

It can be a dilemma, can’t it?

We get so caught up in finding who we want to ban for various – and justifiable – reasons, that we overlook the obvious:

Go see Ender’s Game for the people you SUPPORT.

Why do our decisions need to be based on the negative? Couldn’t it be just as easily based upon the positive? Sure, if you’re talking about a single person’s work, you can ponder the question. But this is a movie; an undertaking of dozens of actors, hundreds of behind-the-scenes professionals, and thousands of support specialists. Do you support them? If so, then ask yourself, “Does my disgust of one person’s life views negate my support for the thousands who would benefit by my going to the movie?”

If your answer is, “Yes. OSC is a contemptible human being, so vile that it is worth the suffering of those who worked with him to pay the price of my punishing him”, then don’t see the movie.

If your answer is, “No. As much as I revile OSC as a human being, I can’t expect the penalty of my hatred of the man to be placed upon those thousands who are simply doing their jobs, supporting their families and earning a living,” then go see the movie.

These are extreme examples, but look at them and find where in the gray you are, then make your decision based on either your disgust of one man or your enthusiasm of everyone else.

Me? I’m going to see the movie.

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Rob Froese May 8, 2013 at 11:17 am

I think the fact that we all miss in judging Card for his words is that our country is founded on free speech. The left gets so caught up in being able to do/say whatever they want that they forget that the right has the same right. Card can say whatever he wants/feels about homosexuality. That’s his choice. It doesn’t change his work. I’m pro-life, but I listen to bands who are violently pro-choice. Do I agree with them, no. Does that change the validity of their music? Not a bit. Advocating avoiding Card’s work because of something he said/wrote that you don’t agree with his childish and more closed-minded than he is.

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Kate B. May 8, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences, nor is it a moral mandate to listen to those who wish you dead.

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Paulette Jaxton May 8, 2013 at 11:21 am

Opera composer Richard Wagner created some of the most beautiful and moving pieces of music ever written. The helicopter scene in “Apocalypse Now” would not have been the same without the “Ride of the Valkyrie” from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, nor would Chuck Jones’ “What’s Opera Doc” without more music from those operas. My favorite piece of music, hands down, is the overture to Tannhauser, it inspires me when nothing else can. Wagner’s influence on modern classical music is still felt today. And yet, Wagner was so publicly anti-Semitic that 50 years after his death, Hitler made him a hero of the Third Reich. Whatever an artist’s personal views are, it is their work that speaks to us, and to generations yet to come. The work lives on long after the hate and rhetoric die and fade into distant memory. Does OSC deserve to get some of my money for “Ender’s Game”? Yes, because it is a wonderful story and looks to be an epic film. What Mr. Card chooses to do with that money — to forward his hate filled views or buy groceries — is not my concern. As far as I’m concerned I have bought the best of him and nothing more.

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Scott Roche May 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Well said.

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MWStover May 8, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Wagner sucks. Even Nietzsche said so. Repeatedly, in fact.

Mark Twain famously remarked that “Wagner’s music is better than in sounds.”

I’m not weighing in on OSC except to say that he wrote some good books, but not very many. He’s written a lot of bad books too.

A good story is a good story, regardless of what asshole told it. Nobody promised us that Homer, Dante or Shakespeare were admirable people; hell, I’m not that admirable myself.

But if I ever tell a story as good as Ender’s Game, I hope people will support it. Not for my sake. For the sake of a good story. There aren’t enough of those in the world.

OSC can kiss my ass. Ender Wiggin, on the other hand, deserves to be immortal. (As long as you ignore everything that follows Speaker for the Dead — but that’s just my opinion, and I’m a notorious crank. YMMV.)

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Nobilis Reed (@Nobilis) May 8, 2013 at 11:23 am

“…would I want someone to judge my work based on how I live my life, or on the quality of the stories I tell and the characters I create?”

No. But I will judge your stories by the images they create in my mind. If your name is connected to a philosophy so vile that seeing in on the cover of a book or the credits of a movie call to mind a booted foot stamping on the face of my offspring, then I won’t be able to bring myself to enjoy it, no matter how transcendent the story is.

Keep in mind that OSC is not simply a homophobe. He’s a vocal homophobe who uses the soapbox that his skill has brought him, to give support and credibility to a movement that is a real threat to the physical health of my kid, not to mention emotional and psychological wellbeing.

I find it hard to consider any counterargument credible, in that light.

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Michael Spence May 9, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Wait … “a real threat to the physical health of my kid” … could you explain, please? I don’t see him advocating beating up anyone, executing, quarantining; and even the questionable passage about defying the government does not mention force and violence. What threat are we talking about?

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Nobilis Reed (@Nobilis) May 9, 2013 at 10:31 pm

He does not advocate violence. In fact, he’s very careful to say, at every turn, that while homosexuals are second-class citizens who do not deserve the same freedoms to marry, etc. that heterosexuals do, people shouldn’t actually do anything to hurt them.

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Tee Morris May 10, 2013 at 8:15 am

And it’s that “second class” label that I find offensive. The whole idea America was (supposedly) founded upon was an idea of freedom and a system free of a “class” so by that argument, you are living no longer in a free country.

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Michael Spence May 10, 2013 at 9:37 am

The question still stands, then.

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Michael Spence May 10, 2013 at 9:52 am

That is, is Card’s physical threat to your child literal, or hyperbole? And if literal, how?

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Indiana Jim May 8, 2013 at 11:36 am

In this country we have the freedom to say what we want. The listener has the freedom to say what he likes in response, or the freedom to ignore the speaker.

Personally I have heard much about Ender’s Game over the years, but have never really had the desire to read it. I know he’s a Mormon, and I know he adheres to conservative values politically and religiously. I also know he is very outspoken and says what he thinks, often abrasively. There are a lot of other authors, however, who are also Mormon (among other conservative religious traditions) and while they likely agree with him on several points–and while sometimes a person’s opinion simply offends people regardless of their delivery–they manage to express themselves respectfully.

You must decide what your conscience will accept. If you can watch a good movie or read a good story, knowing OSC has already made his money, great. If it eats at you when you do it, it’s not worth doing. No one else can tell you that you are wrong for watching or not watching.

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Tee Morris May 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Well spoken, Jim. Miss you, Big Guy.

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Dan Alt May 8, 2013 at 11:44 am

I think I big problem for me is that OSC is alive and making money. I’ll listen to Wagner, despite the fact that he was one of the worst people ever, because he gets no benefit from it.

OSC is 61 – he’ll likely die long before I do. And then I’ll watch the movie.

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Lianne May 8, 2013 at 11:47 am

This is why I try to avoid knowing much about writers (or actors) unless I *know* I would personally like them. I find that if I find their personal behaviour or views repugnant, it will colour my appreciation of their work. For example, see Mel Gibson. I’ve enjoyed his movies in the past, but after the drunken anti-semitic, ‘sugar tits’ rant, I just can’t watch him. I can’t get away from that knowledge.

Now, in the case of OSC, I did read Ender’s Game and enjoyed it, back around when it came out. But while I tried a number of his other books, I just couldn’t get into them. After stumbling across his personal views online, I shrugged and decided not to bother trying his books ever again.

But in like way, after reading several accounts of Anne McCaffrey’s statements about homosexuality (not hateful, just really, really stupid), I had trouble reading her Pern novels without that bleeding in. I have not read any of the ones published in about the last ten years (although that may also be because 1) her son is now the main writer, and he’s not as good at it, and 2) there’s a lot of rehashing the same stories over and over again in different times)

A lot of people say that the author’s views shouldn’t stop you from enjoying their books, but I really don’t see how you can keep them from bleeding over, unless (of course) you completely agree with them.

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Elizabeth May 8, 2013 at 3:49 pm

In regards to Pern and Anne McCaffrey, I had not heard of her views on homosexuality. I have had to re-look at her writing in the viewpoint of a mother of a pre-teen/teen girl who likes dragons and sci-fi stuff and honestly, I became concerned. The first Pern book can be seen as en extended rape fantasy, where Lessa is a subjugated female who goes from one dominating male to another. I try to tell myself that it was written in the 60s with different social views, but I do have trouble with it.

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Lianne May 8, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Apparently she had the sincere belief that a man who was on the receiving end of sex (even if it were rape) would automatically become a flamboyant gay, even if they were straight before. Which explained why so many of her green riders struck me as so silly that I couldn’t understand why a dragon would choose them.

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Cat May 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I read Ender’s Game before I knew about Card’s “issues”. After I finished, I thought it was epic, well-written, thought that the Hunger Games series wanted to be half of what Ender’s Game was. I’ve even recommended the book to people. …then I found out about Card. I just assume that he is a racist as well as a bigot.

I will say that in going back to college as an adult that I was forced to read “classics” as part of assignments and the book that was assigned to us had over 100 instances of the “n word”. I was told that even though it chips away at my soul to see that word that I should parse through that and see the artistry of the body of work. I also disagree with editing a body of work as so not to offend me because I don’t believe in censorship, so I deal with “it” in classic stories to get to the essence of the piece. In modern stories (music, films, etc.) I don’t tolerate the use of the “n word” and choose to not support artists who choose to use it in a modern setting.
I bring it up because it asks the questions: Do you support art that is offensive when the artist does not believe in the offense made in his/her art? Do you support art that is not offensive but the artist his a bigot, racist, etc. but doesn’t use his beliefs in his/her art?
I think Elvis was great even with the rumor of his racism. I continue to watch Doctor Who even though William Hartnell was racist. I loved John Galliano before his outburst. I support America even though at one time… well you get the idea.

Card is a dumbass and his views are just plain mean spirited. I can’t ignore that when I read his book I sincerely loved it. I don’t recall Card inserting his beliefs into the story and I’m going to see the film because it looks like it will be great. Harrison Ford is in it, there will be spaceships, and those of you that know me know these things are all it takes to get me in the theater. Card can bite me.

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eric May 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm

The simple solution to the ‘read/don’t read’ and ‘watch / don’t watch’ conundrums is to buy the book/DVD used, or check it out of the library. In both cases, Card’s already gotten his money from it.

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Nobilis Reed (@Nobilis) May 8, 2013 at 2:58 pm

@eric

I find it disturbing, though not surprising, to hear his views on homosexuality. He is a staunch Mormon, after all.

You can be a staunch member of the Church of Latter Day Saints and not be a douchecanoe.

Here’s Brandon Sanderson on the topic of gay marriage:

http://brandonsanderson.com/article/51/EUOLogy-Dumbledores-Homosexuality

“I have changed my stance on gay marriage somewhat. After a great deal of soul searching, thought, and discussion, I now believe that the best way to approach this is to push for ALL state unions to be civil unions. I believe we should establish what the state grants a union–whether it be straight or gay–and apply those rights universally to all.”

Being a member of a church is never an excuse for advocating violence. Ever.

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eric May 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm

as far as the merits of _Ender’s Game_:

I’ve rarely felt so manipulated by a work of art. I’ve rarely felt so strongly that I could see the wires, so to speak, not merely in the convenient plog exigencies, but also in the moral choices.

In a word, it feels fake, even as it’s one of the more ripping yarns I’ve ever read.

Ender’s sort of a convenient superman, the sort of faux-human that gets trotted out in didactic works like _Atlas Shrugged_ or _The Iron Heel_, who can stand up to privation and be true to their souls and still be ten times as brilliant, ten times as virtuous and 8.5 times as physically adept as the rest of us. We’re supposed to buy Ender killing another boy in the bathroom at the age of — what, 10? — and then having more or less no emotional consequences beyond the lip-service Card pays to them.

This is a book I’ve often used to illustrate points about verisimilitude versus realism. People often remark how _real_ a character Ender seems to them, but he’s about as realistic as Ted Bundy’s friendly smile. He’s the fake conditions of a fake though-experiment: the boy who’s a brilliant killer and brilliantly vulnerable and innocent and a genocide. It’s sort of the logical equivalent of a “Red-Rose” wine. (“there’s NO SUCH THING as a red-rose wine!” my brother used to shout at the TV, “that’s like saying it’s ‘blue-pink’.”)

But he SEEMS real because we WANT HIM to be real, just as we want Dagny Taggart or Ernest Everhard to be real and possible. We want people to combine personality traits that never combine; we want behaviors that are clinical evidence of profound sociopathy to be just things an innocent boy gets duped into.

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Matthew Wayne Selznick May 8, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Here I thought I was alone in all the world in thinking “Ender’s Game” just wasn’t a very good book.

Based on that alone, I wouldn’t have seen this movie.

However, even if I hadn’t read the book years before I knew about Card’s bigotry and active hate mongering, the author’s platform is enough to keep me away from the film.

My boycott won’t send OSC to the poorhouse or change his views. But I’ll be able to sleep at night.

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Teresa May 8, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Actually, Cat, OSC’s beliefs run rampant throughout his works. Everything he writes follows strong Mormon themes and archetypes. It’s been a while since I wrote my Ender’s Game research paper, but I distinctly remember covering a lot of that sort of thing.

Personally, I adore Ender’s Game. I never got past it thanks to the heavy use of Portuguese in Speaker for the Dead that kept tripping me up, but Ender’s struggles and his philosophy of winning the fight and every fight after that at once inspired me as a bullied child and teen. It hurt me to see Ender so scarred by his own philosophy at the end of the Bugger War.

I find it disturbing, though not surprising, to hear his views on homosexuality. He is a staunch Mormon, after all. But I really want to see the movie. So I probably will. I’m getting more and more over it when I see entertainment personalities being hypocritical, and I have to remember that they have as much right to believe that as I do to believe the opposite. I skipped out in eating Chik-fil-A after the owner went and acted like a douche supporting abusive reprogramming organizations. I had more issues with the lying about where the money came from than anything. As far as Card goes? I don’t really know enough right now to say.

I’ll probably go see the movie, though.

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Nuchtchas May 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I’m with you Tee, in the sense that I don’t know if I can or can’t watch this movie. It’s the first trailer in a LONG TIME that I have seen Harrison Ford in where he doesn’t apear to be old crazy man, for that alone I’d like to see it. But OSC makes me ill. I want to show him that he can’t spew hate and expect scifi fans to line his pockets like sheeple, but then, there is the other side. How many times have we done this? How many times does a sports arena play Gary Glitter’s big song (you know the one, Nah Nah Nah HEY!), yet he’s worse than OSC because he isn’t just spewing hate but practices it and abuses people. People continued to watch Roman Polanski films even though he was arrested for raping a 13 year old. Heck, they tried to get him special access to the USA so the Oscars could honor him. I’m not saying we should forgive these things, but I am saying we forget the inconvenient truths when we desire to be entrained. Athletes, Musicians, and Celebrities get a free pass in our culture, they do something reprehensible and a few years later everyone forgets.

Free speech gives OSC the right to say these things, but free speech isn’t always free, he suffers the consequence of alienating his audience.

Yeah I still don’t have an answer.

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Tee Morris May 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Thanks, everyone, for syndicating this blogpost and for the discussion about this. It’s good to know my Provolone is not standing solo in this decision.

And I still haven’t really decided. If people are still talking about this book after this time, and the movie took this long to make, it’s got be a heck of a story.

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Roy Carroll May 8, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Yeah, it is.

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Scott Roche May 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I’m not doing backflips over this movie, but I can see how it would tear people up. I do echo the sentiments of people here who point to artists with known troublesome beliefs who are still lauded as great creators.

As a Christian I ask myself, what do I believe about the human condition. We are all radically broken people. For me to point fingers at OSC and say that what he is is so much worse than beliefs I hold either publicly or privately makes me a bit of a hypocrite. To say that God, the inspiration of all art in my opinion, can’t use a weak vessel like OSC to create awesome and inspirational art goes against what I believe as well.

Now comes the question, do I want to support a broken man who’s creating great art? Maybe not, but I do want the great art to be successful. If I don’t support the art that inspires then Hollywood will stop making it. Of course this brings up the question, is this “great art”? If you’re torn over watching it then I suspect that the answer is yes. Also, given the amount of critical praise the series has garnered over the years, it’s yes again.

Finally, let’s face it, and this may be the weakest argument, if you didn’t go see it would he notice? If you did would he notice? The man’s richer than Solomon because of this series. He’ll see less than a buck off of your ticket. And if giving him even a dime pains you and you want to see it I understand there are other ways.

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Nobilis Reed (@Nobilis) May 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm

DC Comics noticed.

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Tony Mast May 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Did DC really notice? The last word I heard is that they were just delaying the story because the artist backed out. Not that they’ve announced a replacement, but they haven’t seemed to say anything outright against OSC and his views. (Unless I just missed that, which is totally possible.) I kinda hope they do make a stand and drop the story all together. Just take the loss and move on.

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Tee Morris May 8, 2013 at 7:08 pm

What I read concerning DC Comics was they could not shelf a story based on OSC’s beliefs as that opens them up for litigation. In one of the stories I linked in this column, DC did say they were going to have a tough time finding an artist wanting to work with Card. So was DC making a statement? Doubtful. The artist who walked from the project, on the other hand, did decide “on account of the media coverage” that it was in his best interested to walk.

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Tony Mast May 8, 2013 at 5:19 pm

It’s a tough question to answer and one that each of us will have to contend with.

A number of artists do things that are absolutely deplorable. It amazes me to this day that we still play Rock And Roll Part 2 at sporting events when the creator of the work is a convicted child molester.

This movie might put OSC in the public spotlight. Maybe it’ll let him get his message out to even more people. Maybe people will see him for the bigot that he is.

I am currently listening to the audiobook of Ender’s Game that I checked out from my local library. I’m not that far into it, but so far, I am enjoying it.

For me, I am willing to separate the art from the artist. If not, I’d miss out on a lot of great music, movies and other entertainment. I have strong feelings about drug use, suicide, drunk driving, sexual abusers, and people who condone violence and hatred. Given those views… I’d probably have to trash most of my music library.

So maybe OSC is a bigoted Ass. And maybe Tom Cruise is crazy. And maybe Gary Glitter should just stay in jail for the rest of his life.

Personally, I’m going to set aside OSC being small-minded and Tom Cruise jumping on a couch. Glitter isn’t getting a pass from me.

We all have our lines in the sand. Until OSC does more than run his fool mouth, then he’s just someone who is talking. As long as his beliefs don’t affect the work that I want to enjoy as fiction, then I’ll enjoy the fiction.

I can completely understand someone who is so offended that they choose not to see the film, read the book, listen to the audiobook, etc. I respect that.

I don’t know if I’ll see it in the theaters, I watch a lot of movies and can’t make it to most of them on the big screen. That said, I think it’s a safe bet that I’ll watch it.

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J. Daniel Sawyer May 8, 2013 at 5:31 pm

So, two issues:
1) Is OSC an excreble human being?
2) Is going to see Ender’s Game, or reading/buying his work, an endorsement of that segment of his ideaology that falls somewhere between “wrongheaded” and “revolting?”

On the first, frankly, I have a hard time seeing it. OSC has aggressively given back to the community that’s made him rich–not just his church, but fellow authors. Without OSC, we wouldn’t have Howard Tayler, Brandon Sanderson, or any of the New Mormon contingent of writers. If you’re a writer in a certain age range working in SFF, you’ve benefited either first or second degree from the good and noble parts of OSC’s character. I’ve never taken a class from him, but I’ve taken classes from people he mentored. I also read his nonfiction in the 90s, on worldbuilding and a variety of other topics, and profited greatly from it.

Folks of OSC’s generation, particularly in more conservative subcultures, have seen more social change in 60 years than the world previously saw in any 200 year stretch. When OSC was a kid, his church was officially racist (a doctrine that changed in the late 1970s) and antihomosexual. This is a fellow who has gone from a world where non-white people were accursed of God for failing to take sides in a war in heaven to a world in which anyone of any color could be a minister. Don’t underestimate the power of this kind of shift–I know a lot of folks who lived through it, and it wasn’t easy.

None of that is to say that I have a particular love for Mormonism or Scott’s expressed views (which I find ridiculous, though less extreme than the way those views are portrayed and were, for a time, vanguard progressive vs. the rest of the social conservative milieu against which he was operating). I don’t, and leaving it at that is being charitable. But I can’t make the leap from hating the guy’s views to asking for his head on a platter (or even organizing or participating in a boycott). It would be, if nothing else, the height of hypocricy. Which brings me to question number two.

Let’s take the historical artists who “no longer influence” out of the mix–even ones like Wagner, who wasn’t just anti-Semetic but was actively involved in the proto-Nazi movement–and just take a look around today. What kind of ugly things might one wind up supporting second-degree if one followed the same logic?

Well, if you like a Tom Cruise movie, you’re not just supporting a Scientologist, you’re materially supporting an organization that enslaves and tortures people, destroys families, actively campaigns aginst LGBT rights, attempts to recruit children into billion-year contracts through school programs, frames people for terrorism to silence them, the list goes on. Cruise gives VERY generously to his “church,” and he’s the world’s most visible member. Every purchase of Top Gun or Vanilla Sky or War Of The Worlds enables far worse thing than OSC’s most demented rants (including some of the things contained in those rants).

Or how about DragonCon, owned, created, and run by a pedophile who used it as his hunting ground until last year when he was arrested. Still owned by him, in fact, and run by the people who actively helped cover it up. Direct, indisputable harm to real people.

These are only two of dozenz of skeletons rattling around the SFF closet, and there’s hundreds more rattling around in the bigger world. The hell of it is that peopel are not one thing (good or evil)–even the most vile human being can make important contributions to the world, and even the most noble can commit acts (with the best of intentions) that cause untold human misery.

I’ve never read Ender’s Game. I didn’t find it at the right time in life as a kid. As an adult writer it’s been in my “someday” stack, for the purposes of my own education. I’ve got no particular investment in the film, so I’ll probably wind up seeing it at a movie party someday, or when I’m up late fighting insomnia.

And I have no desire whatever to see OSC’s politics succeed–either his views on homosexuality or his Platonic Philosopher-King views on government.

But I’ve got this notion that we’re going to be in the midst of protracted cultural upheaval for the rest of my lifetime, and the only way through it is to keep listening to people on the other side. A change in culture as dramatic as the one we’re going through requires a lot of patience and understanding on an interpersonal level. Criticize ideas as much as possible, all means! But demonizing people who hold views that were mainstream only 20 years ago (rather than just villifying those views)? That’s no more enlightened than demonizing Muslim people because they share a theology and moral outlook held by the guys who flew the planes into the WTC.

The views are the problem. The people are our neighbors.

FWIW
-Dan

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Doc Coleman May 8, 2013 at 5:39 pm

The only comment I have to offer is this:

If George R.R. Martin came out tomorrow and stated that he hated gays and that he thought that all good Americans should take up arms and throw the darkies out of DC, would you still watch Game of Thrones on Sunday?

Doc

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Tee Morris May 8, 2013 at 7:15 pm

I would miss my Dinklage…

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Michael Spence May 10, 2013 at 9:29 am

And there might be your answer.

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Nobilis Reed (@Nobilis) May 9, 2013 at 8:59 am

It depends. If it’s in a private conversation, then yes, probably.

If he made a single blogpost, I’d wonder whether he was making some kind of joke, but I’d think about it.

If he waged a one-person campaign of hatred, you bet your ass. I’d also cancel my HBO subscription, because GOT is the only reason I’m subscribed.

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Doc Coleman May 10, 2013 at 6:37 am

So, it is less about the opinions that a creator holds, and more about how energetically the creator encourages others to subscribe to that opinion?

That would seem to send the message that the offensive behavior that gets one banned is the act of proselytizing. I’m pretty sure that isn’t the message you want to send.

See, I find this interesting because I have a similar quandary with Adam Baldwin. I used to enjoy his work, but then I found out that he is a militant conservative and one of those people who defends rape culture by denying its existence. His positions are repugnant in the extreme, and will skirt the edges of legality. So now I don’t know if I can still enjoy Firefly.

Doc

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Tee Morris May 10, 2013 at 8:07 am

An interesting point, Doc. See, I followed Adam Baldwin on Twitter, for one day; and that was one day too many. I can look beyond those opinions because extreme as they are, it’s only talk. I personally have not seen him calling for anything other than the impeachment of the president. It’s the same rhetoric as Trump, so it’s easy to block.

Then again, I stopped paying attention to his rantings long ago. If it has gotten worse, it may be difficult to separate the artist from the Shiny. If he was spewing blind hatred and bigotry, then I would have to take pause…

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eustaciavye May 8, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Read the book – borrow it from a library.

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Barry Tikkanen May 8, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Isn’t the message of the story/narrative more important than the rantings of the author? I read this series of books long before I knew Card’s political and moral leanings. The books affected me profoundly, in a way contradicting Card’s personal voice. I suspect this has occurred thousands of times over, and therefore has turned Card’s personal rants into nothing more that the faintest of background noise.

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Richard Green aka Mainframe May 8, 2013 at 9:00 pm

This kind of thing will always be a moral dilemma. The merits of the art weighted against the character of the artist. When does supporting a work of art become support for that authors expressed beliefs, opinions, political causes, and charitable endeavors (and for that matter even HOW they choose to express those opinions)?

I’m almost 50 and I still don’t have an answer, so I’m not going to b.s. you and pretend I do. There are going to be people who in good conscience won’t be able to support a particular work of art and the artist. There are others who have the same opposition to the same controversy who will choose the art and not the author, without any internal misgivings. And there will be people all over the spectrum even in issues that might seem “black and white”.

What I’ve learned is that I have no business making any judgments against those who boycott, those who don’t, and those who don’t care about a particular issue like this. Good, wise, and caring people make different choices for different reasons. Heck they often make choices one day that would be opposite of the choices they might make the very next day.

I refuse say that those who make a different choice than I might are “wrong”, or those who agree are “right” in matters that can be so frustratingly gray.

There are choices that are between true good and true evil. We see instances of this in the news every day. But I would respectfully say that going to see “Ender’s Game” isn’t that cut and dried; nor as clearly harmful or helpful to other people.

Make your best choice and I will support your right to do so, regardless of my own choice. Make a choice that you regret later and I would encourage you to move on and learn from the experience. Decide that you have much bigger things to think about and I’ll let you move on without pestering you.

Whatever you do, just be you the best you know how; but not to the point that you don’t forgive yourself for still being a work in progress. And remember that everyone else is just muddling through this life like you are too.

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Michael Spence May 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm

As one who’s been outside of this conversation so far, I’ve been looking to see which things Card said that arouse such an emotionally charged response. Here are the statements I’ve come up with so far:

a) That homosexual conduct is contrary to the doctrines of the LDS church.
b) That, consequently, one must choose which community membership he or she will give primacy: membership in that church, or membership in the homosexual community. One cannot have both equally; to do so would in effect be serving two masters, which is impossible.
c) That the genetic basis of homosexuality is no more reason to approve homosexual conduct than our natural bent to other behaviors implies the inevitability of such behavior.
d) That while the laws extant at the time forbidding homosexual conduct should be enforced, such enforcement should be lax rather than stringent; conversation was the preferred mode of encounter.
e) That if homosexuality is incorporated into the list of normal American lifestyles, then such incorporation will be enforced upon all, with little or no tolerance for dissent.

Along with these, there is also the quoted statement that marriage is defined as between a man and a woman, and that if the American government seeks to enforce a different definition upon its citizens, then it has in effect chosen an ‘evil-empire’ role and we could count on Card to take the side of the rebels. While I note that this parallels an argument posed by “just-war” theorists in Christian history, I haven’t found this statement in Card’s own writings yet; some who quote it note that it has been withdrawn, leading me to ask why–could it be because Card has changed his mind? In any case, the jury is still out. (I note with some amusement that in popular sf&f taking the side of the monolithic government is the minority view, but apparently not here.)

Okay. For the sake of discussion I’m willing to grant (a), and (b) follows from it. Given the genetic basis of, for example, addictive tendencies such as toward alcoholism or problem gambling, I had already independently come up with (c). The accuracy of (e) is hard for me to deny in light of current political correctness. (Not to mention some frustration that we had to wait until homosexuality became the issue to focus our efforts against bullying. Where were the anti-bullies four decades ago when I needed them?)

The only one of the above that I see a place for conversation about is (d), and that depends on your attitude toward said laws. In any event, none of the five appear to me to be “spewing hate.” We may or may not approve; we may or may not disagree one hundred percent—but is this hate? And if so, does the rhetoric on the opposing side not fit that description as well?

Meanwhile, listen to some of the rhetoric leveled against those who suggest that Darwinism is an inadequate explanation for current life-forms and the fossil record, and we can have this discussion again.

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Nobilis Reed (@Nobilis) May 9, 2013 at 9:07 am

http://www.salon.com/2013/05/07/sci_fi_icon_orson_scott_card_hates_fan_fiction_the_homosexual_agenda_partner/singleton/

_”[W]hen government is the enemy of marriage, then the people who are actually creating successful marriages have no choice but to change governments, by whatever means is made possible or necessary… Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down….”_

The man advocated violence in the enforcement of his minority religious beliefs over the will of the people!

I would be happy to find that he has changed his mind. After all, he changed his mind with regard to fanfic. Let’s see some evidence that he has done so, rather than simply realized that his extremist position was winning him no friends, and withdrew the statements.

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Eric Powell May 9, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I think classifying that statement as ‘violence’ overstates the point – there are peaceful means to overthrow / change governments.

Further, ‘minority religious view’ is another dubious statement – being opposed to gay marriage is still dogma in most Christian (and as I mention below, Muslim) churches/ideologies. This couple with statistics that indicate the majority of Americans identify themselves as Christian, makes the claim even more shaky.

There is a fine line between vocal and strident. This and other issues draws both sides over this line and destroys the ability to have a rational discussion on the issues.

Now for the shocker – I am pro gay marriage, however, the tenor of the discussion is becoming increasingly distasteful to me.

And for the final note – these attacks on Card’s religion/views come very close to the line of bigotry in and of themselves…how ironic.

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Michael Spence May 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm

That’s my observation too, Eric. And it isn’t Card who’s making the personal attacks.

Mind you, I’m not a fan of his; it’s been a long time since I’ve read any of his work. But this is what I see.

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Michael Spence May 9, 2013 at 4:32 pm

That’s the passage that isn’t available for view any longer; it’s only found secondhand.

And as for the suggestion, also quoted in that Salon article, that people who resist the gay-positive paradigm will popularly be branded mentally ill, I can tell you that this kind of thing happens already. Years ago I was in college with a young woman who complained to the dean of student affairs about her roomate’s frequent sexual liaisons conducted in their shared room. The dean recommended that my friend get counseling.

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Eric Powell May 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm

The hyperbole surrounding Card’s views seems to based on a few harshly worded portrayals by hyper-partisans who consider any opposition to their views to be a violent, personal, affront but provide no direct links to the evidence of his supposed ‘wrong-doing’. I am not denying that Card is involved in any of the pro-traditional marriage organizations – but to characterize their views as ‘hate’ overstates the philosophical disagreement and ultimately weakens the argument. This villification of those who hold differning views is tragically common in our sharply ideologically divided environment of late – and endangers freedom and the ability to exchange ideas.

Card is, and always has been, a devout Mormon – and has been very open about it (he discusses it at length in the Afterword of his first short-story collection – casn’t remember the title…). He is following the teachings of his, and most, Christian (and Muslim for that matter) churches.

Philosophically, I agree _and_ disagree with him – as you well know, I lean small-government/Libertarian, but feel Libertarianism shouldn’t have a viewpoint on gay marriage outside of ‘Why is the government involved in marriageat all? Oh, yeah, so they can tax it..’. Based on his views, he more aligns with the modern Republican party than Libertarians. I, however, disagree _more_ with the bulk of the tripe coming out of denizens Hollyweird these days (e.g., breast-feeding is incest). If I were to judge artists on their political leanings, it would be a bleak world for me those who agree with me.

As an aside, I do find it puzzling that a philosophy based upon self-empowerment and self-reliance and small government (e.g., core Libertarianism) is _so_ vilified by those on the left – why is this considered selfish and evil? Is this a reaction based upon fear of the unknown? Or is founded on a fear of failure?

Back to the subject at hand – I think boycotting is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Using the same logic, you and I can no longer be friends – we disagree on stuff…

So- 1) READ THE BOOK – it is fabulous. 2) See the movie – it looks awesome. 3) Be happy. If we all agreed on everything, the world would be waaayyy boring.

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Michael Spence May 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm

About why the government would regulate marriage: I know a pastor here in the Twin Cities whose paper on the subject (and I wish I could link to it, but apparently he keeps only the most recent item up) concluded that government licensing of marriage in the US began in the mid-1800s, and the reason for issuing licenses was not so government could generate tax revenue but so that it could DENY licenses to selected couples, specifically interracial ones.

Nowadays the issue appears to be not race but freedom of information; but even so, I’d just as soon government licensing had never started. The conversation would be significantly different, and I suspect vastly improved.

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Eric Powell May 9, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Another possibility to explain government intervention in marriage is that when/ if things go poorly, it becomes the governments job to sort out the mess via the courts…

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Allison gamblin May 8, 2013 at 9:09 pm

A while back I found myself having a similar issue with an author that I had been familiar with for a while. I discovered that they’d pulled a bunch of shady stuff with their family. Stuff that resonated deeply with me because of everything I’ve had to personally suffer through in my own life. It made me really disgusted with the writer, and even more so when I found out their books [on a perusal in the book store] was stuffed full of glorying in the behavior. Yeah they’d pretty much Mary Sue’d themselves in the books.

The writing wasn’t terrible. But the whole story was rife with their despicable behavior and patting themselves on the back for ‘having the courage’ to do it. Meanwhile, in real life I got to read about how their family was suffering. And I could empathize deeply.

So what to do? Being me, I wanted to shout it to the world. Call ‘em out in public. Blacklist their websites [which I am perfectly capable of doing], etc.etc. But I didn’t. And the reason is something Brand said to me in regards to, ironically, another maniac: Mel Gibson.

Brand told me, after I had a quandary over Gibson, that the “art is not the artist”. Brand said that the reason he doesn’t hate Gibson despite all the terrible stuff is because the man can act. He brings real talent to the screen and there is NO reason to not appreciate the art. Art brings us all something different despite the messenger. Or perhaps, in spite of the messenger.

That is the guide by which I now react to these things. Is it worth my time to sit and ponder whether they’ll care that 1 million americans are pissed at them over their personal beliefs? No. Because the truth is, they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank regardless. Is their behavior affecting me personally? No. And quite frankly if you think it is, and they aren’t an elected official, then you are delusional. Need I quote Eleanor Roosevelt ["No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."]?

The sad, sad truth is that in today’s day and age some people have bigger bullhorns than others. It doesn’t give them more sway. It simply makes the spotlight that much brighter on their personal foibles and failings. And that, ladies and gents, is something we can all bank on.

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Doc Coleman May 10, 2013 at 6:42 am

That is an excellent observation. Pithy guy, that Brand.

Doc

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Suzan McKenzie May 9, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Library and Netflix. That way you can read the book and see the movie and OSC doesn’t get any of your personal money. The book, by the way, is amazing. I read it more than 20 years ago.

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