When Choice Is The Problem: On OSC and Ender’s Game
Being able to make a choice is what our societies and cultures are about in this day and age. It is a basic right, to have the choice between two (or more) options. To be miserly or generous. To watch a movie or not watch a movie. To buy a novel instead of going out to a restaurant. To eat a burger instead of a pizza. To wake up early on the weekend or sleep in till late. To have a grand affair wedding or something simple and personal. To have a job we like or one we hate. And so on.
Choice is what we are about. Without choice, there really is nothing.
We go through life making choice after choice.
Choice is what often gets us into trouble, small, medium or large. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own choices and every now and then there a comes a time when we have to qualify and defend that choice. We make particular choices for particular reasons and being able to defend that choice, whether justified or not, is part of our life.
Orson Scott Card, a world-renowned author with several bestselling books to his name, made a choice long-ago that he was going to promote and support anti-gay speech and anti-gay activism.
He made his choice.
I’m making mine: to not watch the movie adaptation of Ender’s Game when it comes out, despite the fact that the film stars one of my favourite actors (Harrison Ford), and that I really liked the trailer.
I love science fiction movies. I love to watch starships fighting it out on the big screen while heroes and heroines race around trying to save the day, whether with brain or brawn or whatever mix thereof. I would love to watch Ender’s Game because the trailer I’ve seen makes it look like a movie that I would enjoy, much as I enjoyed (mostly) all the Star Trek and Star Wars movies, or Stargate, or whatever else.
But, I just cannot find it in me to support someone who so actively promotes hate speech, someone who is a major leader of an organisation that supported the horrifying “Kill The Gays” bill in Uganda recently.
I’ve been proud to call a few LGBTQ people my friends over the years, and none of them deserve the kind of vitriol and hate that Orson Scott Card promotes. Or any other kind of hate for that matter. They are as much human beings as I am. They go through life the same as any of us (with added… discomforts the likes of which we cannot really imagine or can ever experience first-hand). They are not freaks of nature or genetic defects. They are a part and parcel of our society and their existence promotes diversity, free-thinking, and equality of rights, among other things.
When I read the first novel of the Formic War series last year, Earth Unaware, I had no inkling that Orson Scott Card was such a… homophobe. I read it because people kept recommending Ender’s Game to me and this novel was part of a prequel series that laid the ground for what happens in that classic of SF fiction. Thinking back about it, I’m saddened that I reviewed the novel and thus contributed that tiny bit to Orson Scott Card’s popularity. It was a choice I made without proper context, and like many other such that I’ve made over the years, I regret it.
But that then is the rub: how much should readers know about the personal beliefs and views of authors before reading their novels?
I knew full well when I picked up Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire that the author was anti-gay and that he had some strong views on the topic. But that was balanced out by the fact that he had attempted to engage with the other side and that he had sought a greater understanding of this minority in our global society. This knowledge did not hamper my reading experience of the novel, and never did I feel that through the novel the author was reaching out and promoting his views to me.
People talk often about the separation of artist from art, that whatever beliefs and views the artist holds should not in any way get in between the enjoyment of the art that said artist creates. In the case of Mistborn: The Final Empire, I am glad that I was able to maintain that distance.
I did not have any knowledge when I started reading Isaac Asimov back in high school that he used to have inappropriate contact with women at conventions and other places. I hold Asimov to be a cornerstone of SF fiction, a true classic writer who is a must read if someone wants to really experience the grandiosity and adventure inherent in a lot of the “classic” SF fiction. Discovering that the man I held on so high a pedestal was part of an ongoing problem within the industry, a problem that persists to this day and has only gotten worse over the years, was not something I found easy to deal with.
I’ve read a lot of hate speech directed at Asimov since then and I reluctantly find myself agreeing with some of it. But then I think about it, considering whether or not I can still appreciate Asimov as much as I used to, and I realise that my feelings on his work haven’t changed in any shape or form. The big reason for that is that (as far as I am aware, so feel free to correct me and provide evidence), Asimov did not go around telling men that they should smack women’s butts whenever they wanted, that a man had every right to fondle a woman’s breasts in public as he wanted. Asimov did not promote these ideas and he was not a part of an organisation that did the same either. Asimov did not contribute any kind of money or time to such an organisation either.
Yes, his actions allowed the problem to persist and formed a sad template of reactions that have been willingly or unwillingly perpetuated since then, but going back to the separation of artist and art? I have no problem with it in this case and I am able to respect the man solely on the basis of his work.
The recent SFWA controversies have brought to my attention an author named Theodore Beale who recently participated in the election for SFWA President. He also goes by the name Vox Day and has published a few works under said name. TB/VD is one of the most hateful and disgusting men I’ve had the misfortune of being aware of within the publishing industry. The guy spews hate and vitriol like its bread and butter. His views on diversity of any kind and people who promote diversity and acceptance are toxic enough to make me wish I could take a cricket bat to his hide. He is one of those people that I would love to see being tied upside down above a pit full of poisonous snakes and scorpions. That’s the kind of “hate” that I have of this man.
I’m really thankful that I’ve never had the chance to come across his works. I would probably consider myself horribly tainted by the association. TB/BD has every right to engage in freedom of speech, since he lives in a country where that is a basic right (as is the case in most of the world) and because his primary vehicle of promotion is his own blog, which is sadly (but unsurprisingly) frequented by people who have beliefs and views that mesh with his own.
The separation of artist and art? It is just not possible where someone like TB/VD is concerned. If it were up to him, the publishing industry would no doubt be full of people (like 100%) who are white males. His defense of the contents of the controversial recent SFWA Bulletin issues and his vitriolic condemnation of N. K. Jemisin’s Continuum Guest of Honour speech was quite shocking and I’m surprised that someone could be so blind to the realities of modern societies, that someone could so extoll the “virtues” of a bygone era redolent with misogyny, discrimination and hate. The publishing industry has made some strides towards the right direction in recent years but it is because of people like TB/VD that the problems continue to exist.
And this brings me back to Orson Scott Card.
Just as I cannot maintain the separation of artist and art with Theodore Beale/Vox Day, so it is with Orson Scott Card. These are men who would regress all the progress that has been made globally towards a much more inclusive society and culture where minorities are not discriminated against, in any shape or form. I have no sympathy of any kind for men, or women for that matter, who would restrict society so that there was a lack of acceptance and diversity in it.
For fuck’s sakes, Orson Scott Card proclaimed a violent overthrow of the US government should same-sex marriage ever be legalised.
Orson Scott Card uses his money to fund the activities of the National Organisation for Marriage, which is the organisation of which he is a board member and which serves as a platform for his anti-gay hate speech.
How can I, or anyone else really, support this kind of a man?
And in light of that, how can we as people support something that he has been a part of?
I am boycotting Ender’s Game because I do not want to Orson Scott Card to go on and earn money for his anti-gay activism. It is my choice to do so, and I’m exercising my right to that choice. Just as he is exercising his right to talk shit about people who are different than him. If he did not support his views with his money (and on such a level at that!), then I might have been able to maintain that separation. I stress the word might there. But it is just not possible.
Yes, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people involved in the making of the movie adaptation of Ender’s Game and most of them undoubtedly do not support Card’s views. But, there is enough support for him that the movie to have been optioned and made in the first place. Lionsgate recently delivered a fairly well-written statement that distanced them from Card with respect to the author’s views, but the facts are immutable. And frankly, this comes far too late.
The film was made. It saddens me that Harrison Ford is a part of this. It saddens me that Ben Kingsley is a part of this. I wish that they had declined the film. But that is not so. They made their choice, and I’m making mine.
I will not be seeing the film when it hits the screens later this year. I will not being getting the DVD either. Nor will I be watching it free on the television when it is eventually screened.
At some point, a symbolic choice such as this needs to be made. I support the boycott because I hope that enough people will join in and send Hollywood a message that shit like this just doesn’t fly. The situation that Lionsgate has created, whether through arrogance or indifference or greed or whatever, it is the same situation as the one DC created earlier this year when they announced that Orson Scott Card would contribute a short comic to their brand-new Adventures of Superman digital series. DC was hoping to cash in on Card’s popularity as an SFF writer to bring some star-power to their biggest superhero brand, but the miscalculation on all levels was just horrendous.
Superman is a character who stands for freedom of all kinds and who is an inspiration to others to do the right thing. Orson Scott Card as a person is none of those things. His views do not reflect that mindset either. How can a person who sponsors anti-gay activism ever write a story about a global icon who embodies the very qualities of acceptance and diversity?
Or, let me rephrase that: How can a person full of hate against a societal minority, a minority that he considers to be genetic freaks, write a story about an alien who is, by all standards of our own, a genetic freak and who proves that nurture wins over nature, that the upbringing of a child is what defines him or her, no matter what their past?
I am sorry, but I cannot trust in Card to ever write a story that will embody who and what Superman is, not unless he writes a generic story about him and that in itself is a disappointment.
People, readers and comics store owners, were justified in their decision to not buy and stock that specific issue of Adventures of Superman when it would come out in print.
Our boycott of Card’s work, or anything else associated with him, is not meant to be a situation where we trample all over Card’s rights to free speech. We are not telling Card how to live his life or what to believe either.
We are saying that he is a hateful, disgusting bigot of a man and that we will not support him in any way. He can carry on believing what he wants, doing what he wants. He just won’t find as big an audience as he imagines he can get.
The world is wiser today. Which is why when Card makes the following claim, we know that he is spewing nothing but bullshit:
“Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
The man who promotes intolerance towards gay people is asking them to be tolerant of him? What sweet irony! Just go to Google and you will find ample responses calling Card out on his words here. The topic has been widely discussed.
Perhaps he has dreams of an Ender-verse movie franchise and he fears that the boycott might cause a big enough dent in those plans? Well, honestly, I hope it does.
Thpeople have a much more interactive level of choice than was possible until a few years ago.
We are only exercising our right to a choice.
A choice to not support people who endorse hatred against societal minorities.