Will you or won’t you?

The hot-button issue of the moment is whether or not people will be seeing the adaptation os Ender’s Game in theatres, and their reasons behind whichever action they choose. The question of, “Will you or won’t you, and why?” seems to be on everyone’s mind, and I can’t resist the chance to weight in with my own take on the matter.

Personally, I won’t be seeing it in theatres. I probably won’t even rent it when it gets its DVD release. I can’t bring myself to. Even though I know that the movie is very likely to be a good one, probably one I’d even enjoy, I can’t bring myself to pay money for it when I know that some of that money is going back to a man who has said, on numerous occasions, that my friends and family don’t deserve the same rights that he does because they don’t boink in the same way as him.

There’s been a lot of talk about whether it’s best for one to seperate the artist from their art, and supporting and enjoying the art even if you think the artist is reprehensible. It’s a good argument, and it’s one that I spent time wrestling with in the past. Where does the dividing line lie? Is it even possible to hold the two apart, appreciating one while despising the other?

For my part, I’d say that the answer is yes. I think that Card can write a damn good book, and I’ve enjoyed what works of his that I have read. And his participating in the Ender’s Game movie is probably going to make it just as enjoyable, given that such instances usually end up creating a movie that’s as close to the source material as possible. I can appreciate that, and you won’t hear me deny that part of things. Ever.

However, this is where it gets tricky. It’s possible to appreciate the art seperately from the artist, but then there’s the matter of support. Money that I spend on his works will, in smaller amounts, trickle back to him. What I spend on his works will go toward giving him a paycheque. It will pay his bills. It will fill his bank account. And it’s a fairly well known fact that Card gives funding to organizations that support turning back the clock when it comes to marriage equality and equal rights for homosexual couples (National Organization for Marriage, if anyone’s curious, and no, I won’t be providing a direct link to that website). So by the trickle-down movement of money, my money goes to fund not only a man that I find reprehensible, but an organzation that I find reprehensible, which does reprehensible things.

Appreciate his art all you like, but just be aware of where your cash is flowing.

That Ender’s Game itself has nothing to do with marriage equality and gay rights isn’t the point. Many people have used that argument. They say that so long as the artistic work itself has no bearing on the issue people are complaining about, then all is fine and dandy. I disagree. Again, I point to the issue of money.

There is a distance between free speech and hate speech, ranging from a fine line to a gaping chasm. In Card’s case, it’s a gaping chasm. He is speaking his mind, absolutely, and he has the right to do that. But he has missed, time and again, chances to educate himself, to learn about these people who he so despises and thinks are subhuman, and insists on supporting bigotry, spewing vitriol, and standing firmly beside his ignorance and misinformation. It’s not a matter of not having the chance to know better. It’s not a fine line. It’s a matter of equality, human decency, and this is what Card wants to deny your friends, your neighbours, your kid’s teacher, that cashier at the grocery store.

Also, the messages in Card’s own works have been so divorced from his own personal ideals that it’s hard for me to stand idly by and be quiet when people say that the art’s message is different, so there’s no problem. Here’s an excerpt from my long-ago review of Card’s Speaker for the Dead, to illustrate this point:

I couldn’t help but look at everything he says in Speaker for the Dead, about the varying degrees of humanity in creatures that aren’t biologically human, about how just because something seems alien doesn’t mean it’s bad, about how we should understand things from the perspective of the other side before we make our judgments… And I felt sad and disgusted. Whether he had a change of heart between writing the admirable sentiments expressed in the novel and between ranting about the evil gay dangers of the world, or whether he didn’t believe a word of those admirable sentiments when he wrote them, in the end, comparing the two things, he just made himself seem like a prat.

Card missed the point of his own work. You can talk all you want about how his works are great so they should be supported, but when messages of tolerance are preached by a guy who hasn’t shown any, you start to look at things with a different eye. There’s a saying that you have to look at a person’s actions as well as their words. His words (or his novels) say one thing. His actions say another.

He has begged for tolerance from people to whom he has shown none. He has pouted like a little boy denied a cookie, thrown tantrums when he thought it might get him his way, then sulked when it didn’t. You don’t support that in toddlers. Why would you support it in a grown man.

For my part, seeing this movie would be me turning a blind eye to bigotry in favour of a few hours of entertainment. It’s not worth it. No movie is that good. And happily, I live in a place where it’s not wrong for me to stand up against hatred, to choose who to give my money to, to decide based on my own morality who to support and who to deny. This is a peaceful protest, an exercising of my rights.

John Scalzi noted in a recent post that “freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.” This is Card’s consequence. This is us, banding together as individuals or groups, standing up to show that we do not support his actions, and we hope that by denying him something, he might learn that his viewpoint is not as tolerable as he thinks it should be. That he is not right to want to deny people equality under the law. That telling people they are genetics defects, that their love came from abuse and that they in turn are or will be abusers, just doesn’t fly. This is the consequence to his speech.

Will I or won’t I? I won’t. And know you know why.

Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

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Author’s website
Publication date – August 15, 1994

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) The direct sequel to the classic Ender’s Game from Orson Scott Card, winner of the Nebula and Hugo Awards. In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: the Speaker for the Dead, who told the true story of the Bugger War. Now, long years later, a second alien race has been discovered by Portuguese colonists on the planet Lusitania. But again the aliens’ ways are strange and frightening… again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery … and the truth. Orson Scott Card infuses this tale with intellect by casting his characters in social, religious and cultural contexts.

Thoughts: Some argue that this book was superior in all ways to Ender’s Game. I agree that the story was wonderful, detailed, mysterious, and well-researched, and overall I’d say it was a very powerful novel. Stylistically, this one’s superior.

I still enjoyed reading Ender’s Game more, though.

Don’t get me wrong. Speaker for the Dead is a wonderful novel, and I’m glad to have read it. The book before it just appealed to my interests more. That being said, though, it’s interesting to see just how Ender grew up, how he became a different person and yet still showed signs of the killer-child he used to be.

I’m still a sucker for cultural relativism, though, and this book had that in spades. What might be appalling to us is perfectly normal, even respected within other cultures, and learning to see past ourselves is very often the key to solving the mystery and understanding others. The way Card handled the killings of the humans by the piggies was wonderful to read, and trying to solve it kept me amused through the book. (“Is this why they did it? Or maybe because of this?”)

I applaud the man for the research that he put into the writing of this novel, in linguistics and anthropology and biology. The little details made everything so believable, so realistic, that when his smooth writing style drew me in, I forgot everything around me.

——————————

If anything about this bothered me, it was from an outside perspective, where I kept thinking to myself, “Good lord, you missed the point of your own novel.” Orson Scott Card’s views on homosexuality are… ignorant, to say the least. I recall him saying on his blog that if gay marriage was legalized in the United States, he’d storm the White House himself, because homosexuals are just plain wrong and should fix their sorry selves.

And so I couldn’t help but look at everything he says in Speaker for the Dead, about the varying degrees of humanity in creatures that aren’t biologically human, about how just because something seems alien doesn’t mean it’s bad, about how we should understand things from the perspective of the other side before we make our judgments… And I felt sad and disgusted. Whether he had a change of heart between writing the admirable sentiments expressed in the novel and between ranting about the evil gay dangers of the world, or whether he didn’t believe a word of those admirable sentiments when he wrote them, in the end, comparing the two things, he just made himself seem like a prat.

As I said in my review for Ender’s Game, I like the man’s work, but I don’t like the man personally. Too much that he says rubs me raw, and this was certainly one of them.

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

  Buy from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or IndieBound

Author’s website
Publication date – June 28, 1994

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Thoughts: This isn’t the first time I’ve read this novel, but I’m engrossed and impressed by it every time I do. The subject matter covers the human condition, the ethics of war, what it means to be sentient, and what it means to be a child or an adult, touches on what people are willing to do when ther are (or at least feel they are) backed into a corner, and it does it all in a spectacularly entertaining way.

I have to admit, as much as I don’t like the author as a person, the man sure can tell a good story!

Though the book is called Ender’s Game, the story does not just follow Ender, but also gives us a glimpse into the lives of his siblings, at first deemed failures according to the purpose that somebody else gave them, but who find their own feet and end up changing the world in their own way, but a no less profound way than Ender himself did. Their stories are separate from Ender’s and yet are still tied up in the events of his life, playing their parts.

I hear a lot of people dislike the use of the term ‘buggers’ for the alien race in the novel, saying that it’s too reminiscent of, well, our use of the word ‘bugger’ for someone who engages in sodomy. I’ve heard people say that it’s a childish use of the word and inappropriate to what’s going on. Frankly, I think it serves its purpose well there. Name one society in human history that has not tried to denegrate their enemies, given them cruel and childish epithets in an attempt to raise local moral and to inspire a feeling of confidence in “our side.” Ender himself thinks early on in the book that the buggers probably have their own pejorative terms for humans. It’s the way we work. It’s not pretty, it’s not kind, but it’s one of the ways we band together in times of crisis. The use of the word ‘bugger’ doesn’t seem out of place at all, and I think a lot of these people have to remember that just because we have the same word, it doesn’t mean that the words have the same meaning.

The book isn’t perfect, though. No book is. Sometimes I wonder if Orson Scott Card wrote about child geniuses partly because they create interest and partly because he simply didn’t know how to write interesting “normal” children. Having genius children sound like adults is a good way to write intelligent conversation between characters without having to suffer the accusation that you can’t write realistic children. I’ve seen a few people fall into this trap. Card avoids some of this by having the children still give out fairly childish insults, like “fart-eater,” but some of the feeling of avoiding writing real kids by writing genius “adult-sounding” kids is still there.

Still, I wouldn’t pass up reading this for anything. It’s a wonderful book, exploring many aspects of the philosophy of humanity and war while not bogging down the story in meaningless speculative conversations. Highly recommended novel. If you haven’t read it yet, you ought to read it soon.