Ender’s Game is on the verge of being sucked into the gay marriage debate. Thanks to Orson Scott Card’s tendency to tell gay people he hates them in lengthy essays, shockingly, gay people have no plans to attend the movie and are encouraging others to join them in not seeing the movie. Card, for his part, released a rather passive-aggressive statement to Entertainment Weekly, demanding tolerance for his previous actions.
So, do we have lump the author in with the book, or not? What’s the call to make here?
This happens a lot in science fiction, unfortunately, across the political spectrum. Science fiction authors are people and some of them are, well, nuts. This is hardly a problem limited to Card; every time Harlan Ellison comes up, to be frank, I struggle because his work is so good, but I kind of want to punch the guy at the same time because he’s such a terrible human being.
The problem is that it tends to get mixed in with their work. The debate becomes simple-minded, and divided on whether or not the book is any good. People who insist the book is good are immediately hit with “Oh, so you support bigotry, then?” People who don’t like the book are called out for being judgmental. But should that be the question?
No, it shouldn’t. Let’s be clear here: This is Orson Scott Card explicitly deciding to force his fans to make a choice. And it’s something he’s been doing for years.
The standard line here is that “Well, he/she didn’t make it a political issue”, but Card has a long, long, looooooong history of hating gay people. It’s not that he’s “uncomfortable” with them personally, or “just” argues that they shouldn’t be married; he’s actively supported laws that make homosexuality illegal, not because he wants them enforced, but just to remind gay people they’re second-class citizens.
Furthermore he’s had it explained to him, multiple times, both politely and angrily, by both professionals and fans, that he’s acting like a hateful, unpleasant person. He’s even had friends and close associates cut ties with him over this issue. And his response, every single time, has been to double down.
It’s not a lot of fun for people who picked up the book in school with no knowledge of Card’s personal opinions, and now want to see the movie because they loved the book. It’s not like Ender’s Game opens with a foreword of “Hi, I’m Orson Scott Card, and I hate me some homosexuals.” It leaves them in a tough spot.
And it’s unreasonable to expect somebody to stop enjoying a book, or a movie, or any form of art because they later find out the author’s political opinions. At the same time, it’s worth asking where your money will end up when you buy any product, whether it’s a movie ticket, a case of beer, or a car. Even if you just want to see Ender’s Game to see some bugs get stomped, you should think about where your money may ultimately wind up.