NPF: ART vs ARTIST

At first glance this is going to seem like a curious interpretation of "No Politics", but I'm interested to see the resurgence in interest in the science fiction classic Ender's Game resulting from its (inevitable) Hollywood film adaptation. Accordingly, the book's author, Orson Scott Card, has also gained a higher profile. In case you didn't know, Orson Scott Card is an asshole. Specifically, Orson Scott Card is a ultra-strict Mormon who has a Falwell-sized beef with The Gays. He calls himself a libertarian but believes that the government should be violently overthrown to prevent people from doing The Gay.

This has led to articles like the recent Salon piece "What Happened to Orson Scott Card?" speculating about the his descent from respect author of a sci-fi classic to Michael Savage knockoff. While the obvious conversation to have here would be the old "Can the art be separated from the artist?" debate, I have a more naive question.

I am not a great student of fiction writing and I do not claim to be able to talk about it with an air of expertise. But I can't figure out why anyone who read Ender's Game can claim to be surprised by Card's heel turn. It has been a while since I read it – and I did not really like it, hence it's not like I re-read it a dozen times – but my read of Ender's Game was essentially as an Objectivist fairy tale. I thought it was Atlas Shrugged written by a person with basic English writing skills and more imagination. I also thought that everyone realized this because it seemed really goddamn obvious. It surprised me over time to learn that the book was quite popular in my social circle and most people did not see it that way.

I'm sorry if I'm taking potshots at your favorite book here. I don't have especially negative feelings toward it; it just wasn't my thing, and I thought its ideological core was Randian. Since I hate listening to myself talk about fiction and literature I'm not going to go into an extensive discussion of why I thought the right-wing undertones and themes were obvious throughout the book. I'm just curious to see if anyone else read it that way, or if I imagined/misinterpreted those political messages where they were not.

For me, however, nothing Happened to Orson Scott Card. I assumed he was this way from the outset.

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72 Responses to “NPF: ART vs ARTIST”

  1. Nick-B Says:

    I've always enjoyed Ender's Game and it's few sequel books. They tell a neat story, if a frustrating one, in which the people in power (I suppose it would equate to government) were doing horrible, horrible things but with the best intentions. I've always hated the people that feel that the end justifies the means, even to the extremes they went to in this book. Which is odd, I guess, that I liked it so much. The book really did seem to glorify end > means overall, with the people in power willing to have their name slurried (conveniently after their death, of course) "for the good of the world, whether they like it or not".

    As for the Mormon tones, I never really noticed them. I grew up recalling that Card always snuck in a mention of Mormonism into each book, but other than a mention didn't seem to really push it. It could be, though, my growing up in a Mormon household means that what might seem odd to others is so normal to me. Now that you mention it though… The whole odd religion and spirituality second-life thing in the sequels do seem to scream a subtle Mormon vibe to me now.

    *shrug* I don't really pay attention to the author vs his art talk. Some books may try to sneak in small morals that are obviously from the author, but I mostly enjoy the story behind it and their conflict.

    But, in the case of Hubbard and his Battlefield Earth and Mission Earth series, WOW does he hate Psychology and boy does he seem to believe in mankinds corruption. I like his books, but I do have to put them down every now and then when he (or his character) goes into a EVIL PSYCHOLOGISTS WANT TO CLEANSE OUR MONKEY BRAINS WITH SHOCK THERAPY kick for a bit in his books.

    Oh, uh, long story short: I never read Atlas Shrugged (have no desire to) but I did not get a Ayn Rand vibe. Maybe because I haven't actually read her books I don't realize how similar it is.

  2. Duckbilledplacelot Says:

    True Story: Two weeks ago, I found a 10 year old copy of Ender's Game in an otherwise empty parking lot, in perfect condition except for the cockandballs scrawled on the first page of every chapter.

    It seemed so appropriate that I brought it home with me. Maybe I'll give it a quick reread – although I remember pint sized me being disgusted with Card as soon as I realized the sequel (Ender's Shadow) was the same damn story.

  3. Noskilz Says:

    Had to read it for a class in college back in the 80's and didn't care for it; it stuck me as kind of cheap, manipulative and oddly paced(which since it started out as a short story that was expanded to a novel maybe isn't that odd.)

    I particularly didn't care for the handwavey rehabilitation of Ender's brother at the end. But since I didn't care for my first exposure to Card's work long before we was widely known as a jackass (back then, we had to rely of things like the sci-fi lovers listserv and convention appearances for author scuttlebutt), I was never inclined to run down more of his work, and his antics and output since then haven't really given me much reason to change that.

    Ender's Game did seem to be sporting serious wood for "the ends justifies the means" so you probably aren't just hallucinating. I wonder if having Card do work on the Superman comic is going to work out for DC ( http://herocomplex.latimes.com/comics/orson-scott-cards-superman-comic-delayed-after-artist-exits/ ) Comics aren't my thing, and some have accused DC of basically trolling their fan base with that reboot awhile back, so whether DC thought Card had some great story ideas or is just angling for some cheap heat by courting someone likely to generate free publicity, I have no idea.

  4. Matthew Says:

    I actually happened to read Atlas Shrugged followed by Ender's Game a few years back while on vacation. My main impression was that Ender's Game was really poorly written (This happened, he said, then that happened, etc.).

  5. Pinacacci Says:

    Actually, I *would* like to read why you perceived it as Randian. I've never read Rand and am glad of it; have read Ender's Game and didn't like it all that much. I know you haven't all the time in the world so I look forward to enlightenment from the comments. I kinda liked the first couple of books of the Alvin Maker series. I don't read him any longer because I know more about him, but as you say the urge to re-read was not there to begin with.

  6. Pinacacci Says:

    ahaha @ Nick-B I went back and read and I apologize for repeating some of your points! You first.

  7. Pinacacci Says:

    Sorry to post again, I'll stop now.

    I do appreciate Card's contributions to the Monkey Island series.

  8. Erin Says:

    I convinced a friend of mine not to spend his money when Card was tagged to write Ultimate Iron Man five or six years ago.

    I really enjoyed Ender's Game when I first read it twenty years ago. The rest of the trilogy was a slog, I couldn't get into Alvin Maker and Ender's Shadow (Bean's perspective of Ender's Game) was just a shitty book that as there when I was at sea for the first time. I'm not a fan of the man or his writing.

    However, I really like Treason. How a man so awful can write something that amazing is mind-boggling. I still read it annually and it still makes me feel like a 16-years old kid in a shit town, addled by LSD and mushrooms, having discussions with friends about the fucking living rocks under our feet, man.

  9. J. Dryden Says:

    I'm s big believer in separating Art from Artist, though it would be nice if we could use someone other than Card as our case study, since the book is…well, basically, it's the kind of book that's really popular with some people because they read it at *just* the right time in their development, and as such perceive it with the excitement they felt at not having read something quite like this before, and retain their inordinate fondness for it as a result. (That, by the way, is not something I'd ever argue with as a valid reason to love something–I think it's as good a reason as any, and really, is there any harm to others in loving ENDER'S GAME? Not unless you plan on re-enacting the many scenes of naked pre-pubescants in your basement. Don't do that.) You see the same thing with fans of a lot of sci-fi and fantasy books, most by authors who couldn't string together a declarative sentence under threat of torture, and whose comparative passages are indistinguishable from parody. But so what? Enjoy. You are not wrong.

    As for E.G., I don't think the narrative screams Randian except for the obvious warmed-over echoes of Nietzche and Carlyle–"Some people are just born totally awesome and the rest of us can either get with their program or else become part of the problem." But Hero-worship is part of so many narratives (Ender is just a variation on the young Arthur, or Luke Skywalker, or Harry Potter) that to read it as being particularly Randian seems to me to give Rand too much credit–she played the same tune for political ends in her own works, and not well–but that doesn't mean Card, ipso facto, intruded his assholery into the narrative.

    Plenty of complete and utter shitheads wrote works of genuine beauty and/or insight that belie the shitheadedness of their authors. The best authors (Card is not one of them) use their art as a means of being self-critical about their own assholery, but even there, I'd argue that when the typing stops, when the last note is scribbled into the score, when the paintbrush hits the floor, then the work is ours to make of what we will. If we want to read Card's work as a reflection of his truly dickheaded beliefs, we may do so. If we do not, we need not. I don't. Though I will say that, again, for a guy who's so stridently anti-gay, he's awfully damned comfortable having scenes involving naked boys working out their aggression by rasslin'. Just saying.

  10. Eric Titus Says:

    Am I the only person here who liked Ender's Game? I haven't read it since middle/high school, but it was a exciting, fun book to read at the time. The writing isn't great, but that's par for the course for sci-fi. I don't really see the Randian thing–sure both have ostensibly brilliant main characters, but that's hardly a unique feature. If I recall, the rest of the series involve the main character atoning for the consequences of the first, and may be Christian-tinged but certainly not objectivist. As you point out, Card isn't a "real" libertarian, and I wasn't aware he was a libertarian at all.

  11. Arslan Says:

    Unfortunately I never finished Ender's Game, but I hope it isn't as bad as Heinlen's Starship Troopers, in which he shoehorns in a direct reference to the labor theory of value with the infamous "mudpie" (strawman) argument.

  12. Z Says:

    Ender's Game is, or was for a long time, my favorite book, in the world, period. I haven't re-read it in ages because as my life changed it stopped being quite as relevant to me as it used to be.

    I've discussed it with literally a hundred people, and I've never heard anyone mention any Randian or otherwise individualist themes in it. Can you give me some examples? Because I'm downright bewildered. Where is the value of anything stated that remotely resembles a contemporary conservative or libertarian ideology?

    I definitely don't think his homophobia should necessarily be connected to some kind of Ron Paul-ness. People of all stripes and political beliefs across the spectrum, for some reason, have always been able to work in some gay-bashing, no matter how logic-defying it may be. Ever see a Sunday service in the poorest, blackest neighborhood of Los Angeles? Yeah.

    On a separate note, I've always believed in separating the art from the artist, even though I don't understand exactly how some contradictions are possible. I've known for a long time that Card was a homophone nonpareil, and it just disappoints me a little. I sigh and move on, and I don't let it dampen my enjoyment. Certainly Card is not the ignorant juvenile jackass that Axl Rose is, or a sleazy womanizer on the order of Bill Clinton. Idols have feet of clay, at least mine do, so sometimes you just gotta say fuck it.

  13. Technogeek Says:

    I prefer to regard Ender's Game as a (possibly accidental) anti-war treatise, outlining how a military and government dedicated to victory at any cost can transform the greatest minds of a generation into little more than well-engineered guns.

  14. The Mad Dreamer Says:

    I've never read Card. The closest I've done is read this, about his "translation" of Hamlet:

    http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2011summer/card.shtml

    From the article:

    "Here's the punch line: Old King Hamlet was an inadequate king because he was gay, an evil person because he was gay, and, ultimately, a demonic and ghostly father of lies who convinces young Hamlet to exact imaginary revenge on innocent people. The old king was actually murdered by Horatio, in revenge for molesting him as a young boy—along with Laertes, and Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, thereby turning all of them gay. We learn that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are now 'as fusty and peculiar as an old married couple. I pity the woman who tries to wed her way into that house.'"

  15. Major Kong Says:

    If you really want to read not-so-thinly veiled objectivism posing as hack fantasy novels try reading Terry Goodkind sometime.

    The worst part is he doesn't go full metal objectivist until several books into the series.

  16. The Mad Dreamer Says:

    Kong: If I remember correctly, Terry's motto is "Rape is good if it's done by the hero."

    Yeah, that guy's a ball of fun.

  17. Daniel Says:

    I read it and enjoyed it when I was about twelve years old. I didn't really have strong political opinions back then. I suppose I was moderately liberal at the time, but it just seemed like a fun sci-fi book. It did seem pro-war, but I think people are curious about Card's strong homophobia more than any sense of neo-con politics.

  18. Arslan Says:

    Sometimes I wonder why sci-fi is often so full of libertarian themes, but I guess that's because fantasy is the only place where Randian/libertarian ideas actually work.

  19. ADM Says:

    How is the book Randian? Ender's really smart. Like, borderline Xavier from Xmen smart. But the whole point of the book, if I remember correctly, is what to do with advanced children – a.k.a "chosen one(s)." And Orson Scott Card's answer seems to be: "Let the government turn them into killing machines." Not Randian.

    Otherwise it's pretty right-wing; his perspective regarding war seems to be that there are two kinds of… species: soldiers fighting the good fight, and unthinking bugs controlled telepathically by their Queen. Pre-emptive war is just, military discipline at a very early age is just common sense, and those who show special abilities should be given into apprenticeship so that they may do their commander's work.

  20. c u n d gulag Says:

    Never read Card before.
    Unlikely to ever read him now.

    I'm 55, so I don't have as much time trying to figure out if someone's writing is worth reading, as younger folks do – and don't want to waste any time, even if I'm around for another 30 years.

    I remember that I was in my early 20's, when it dawned on me that, hard as I might try, I would never be able to read everything that I felt I NEEDED to read, let alone that I would WANT to read.

    THAT, was a very depressing thought…

  21. Tom Says:

    There's a really good essay by another science-fiction writer, John Kessel, who breaks down the facism inherent in Ender's Game quite well:
    http://www4.ncsu.edu/~tenshi/Killer_000.htm

    I hate that book, too, but something about the "young genius child taken advantage of by the authorities" strikes a cord with people. Everyone, I suspect, has some experience with feeling used by those in positions of authority, especially as children, and I suppose most people fancy themselves to be geniuses, too.

  22. Orpho Says:

    Card's (Orson Scott is a Mormon 'theologian') work is Mormon through-and-through, but I too don't see the Rand streak. The Homecoming series is a retelling of the Book of Mormon with God (initially) as a computer, homophobia throughout (worst bit: gay character having sex with his wife to pass on his genes, and realizing that, just this one, he's done it right).

    Speaker for the Dead, in the Ender series, (Hugo and Nebula award winner) is shot through with Mormon metaphysics about the soul and how it lives on after death – fun with after-death baptism issues as well!

    The Alvin Maker series has an evil Christendom (non-Mormon Christian), corrupt conventional priests, and a fellow with magical powers/Ubermensch who founds a religion in an alternate-timeline US. More Mormon fantasy than anything else – Native Americans don't all get wiped out and join with the separatist sect led by the main character, main character founds the "Crystal City" in the west, leaving behind the tyrannical easties, etc.

    But I'm on board with everybody else here – Randian? Maybe (to your credit) you're not familiar with the extreme Mormonism. Supermen like Joseph Smith, views on war and separating yourself from the world because it is corrupt, rampant homophobia, etc – Rand doesn't have a patent on them! She's in fact a bit of a Johnny-come-lately.

  23. duquesne_pdx Says:

    J. Dryden: "…well, basically, it's the kind of book that's really popular with some people because they read it at *just* the right time in their development, and as such perceive it with the excitement they felt at not having read something quite like this before, and retain their inordinate fondness for it as a result."

    That's pretty much the summation for me. I first read EG in 1985 and it blew me away. Card hit a particular tone with the "loneliness of the gifted child" theme that rang very true for me and for a lot of people with whom I have discussed the book since. His other books… meh, at best.

    But I can still read Ender's Game and feel that excitement.

  24. lofgren Says:

    ADM, you completely missed the point of the book.

    I like Ender's Game precisely because it raises difficult questions and provides no easy answers.

    The war with the bugs is classic Greek tragedy. From the human perspective, the bugs represent an overwhelming force capable of destroying them all too easily, both because of the devastation of the previous war and because there are very few humans capable of formulating military strategies on the bugs' level. Humanity basically got lucky during the first war when Mazer Rackham was able to devise an effective tactic on-the-fly. They know that they cannot count on luck again, and they believe that communication and cooperation with the bugs is impossible due to their inhumanity. So they devise a plan that is truly evil.

    Contra those who would argue that the book shows unequivocally that the ends justify the means, I think there is significant ambivalence about what is done to Ender. He is portrayed as tortured, both physically and emotionally. I believe the message is clear that no child should be subjected to what he experienced. The isolation he endures, the psychological toll of being hewed like a weapon, and the betrayal of being used to commit immoral acts without his consent are all shown to be cruel and abusive.

    As for the ends, they turn out to be mostly illusory. By the time Ender discovers that the bugs actually weren't a threat anymore, it's too late. The humans have tortured their children, committed genocide, destroyed the only other known intelligent species in the universe, and expended blood and treasure on an unnecessary, immoral war. At the same time, the militarization of their society left it ripe for internal conquest by demagogues.

    What makes this tragedy is that it is difficult to answer the question of what the humans should have done differently. If they had opened diplomatic channels with the bugs, they might have discovered that the bugs had no intention of restarting the war. But if the bugs did intend to restart the war, revealing that they knew the location of their home planet would have sacrificed the only advantage that allowed them to win. From their perspective, they had no choice but to act as they did, or to be destroyed themselves. They had to kill the bugs totally, or they would continue to be a threat. They had to launch a preemptive attack, because they knew they could not defend if the bugs launched first. They had to commit to a plan right away, because it would take several decades to get to the bugs' planet system. The decisions they made were rational, but horrifying.

    I think claiming that Ender's Game offers an objectivist view point or argues that the ends justify the means or the preemptive war is just or in any other way attempt to reduce its themes and messages to a single sentence do it a great injustice. There is a lot of complexity in the novel, but it is disguised as a penny dreadful adventure story. It does a lot of question raising but provides very few answers. It is the story of a race who are trapped in an unwinnable situation, doing the best that they can, even though the best that they can is absolutely immoral by our standards.

    As for whether or not we can separate the artist from the art, I argue that we can. The reason is that the artist often does not seem to understand the implications of his own art. For example, Card would undoubtedly argue that morality is universal and eternal, and any argument to the contrary is a "postmodernist" attempt to deny God. (This is a common claim amongst fundies, anyway.) However his book clearly suggests that morality is subject to circumstance, or at least that it might be. I'm sure you can think of other examples where the author's work got away from them and ended up sending the opposite message than they intended. I think it is also reasonable to look at a piece of art both in the context of its time and place and removed from those contexts. Both approaches are necessary to fully appreciate it.

    One thing that really drives me nuts is when people who haven't finished Ender's Game try to tell me what it's all about. The second half of the book turns the assumptions of the first half on their head one by one, right up to the last page of the last chapter which (SPOILER) reveals almost everything the earthlings believe to be a lie. Some books you can read 50 pages and know everything that is going to happen. Ender's Game really requires you read the whole thing. (And it's, what, 110 pages? You might as well.)

  25. Hazy Davy Says:

    Read it in January, because my 10 y.o. son read it and LOVED it. Only then did I learn it was being made into a movie. While I didn't consider the Ayn Rand angle, that totally fits with my assessment of the book, which was:

    "The plot was interesting. (Except for climactic scenes which, while dramatic, where too imprecise for "action" scenes.)
    I suspect that's why my son adored this book.
    On the other hand, I was repeatedly frustrated with the character interactions: Nobody human actually views every interaction with others as a transaction or competition. Every character in this book does. They act as though every other person is an object or a rival."

    Actually, that's a pretty good summary of Rand, too…

  26. sluggo Says:

    Personally, I can't separate the artist from the art. I have a hard time understand how other people can separate. If you can separate, please explain, I would love to understand your thought process. I am honestly not trying to be my usual smart ass self.

    The example that comes to mind is John Wayne Gacy paintings selling for thousands of dollars. I understand that a lot of that price was because of the 'novelty' of his name attached to the painting and not necessarily the quality of brushstrokes or the perspective or the color. I don't even want to look at them. The whole thing hits me with a wave of creepiness.

  27. Tim H. Says:

    I liked Ender's game, thought the story was a bit overstretched to make it a novel, and the sequels were of uneven quality, but the original was fun, and I don't usually worry that much about the beliefs of authors. As far as Card's work for DC, (On indefinite hold, until an artist is found who'll work with Card.) why not? He's experienced on writing demigods.

  28. Jim Says:

    Leni Riefenstahl says hi…..

  29. lofgren Says:

    If you can separate, please explain, I would love to understand your thought process.

    I don't really find it that difficult, except in extreme cases. (John Wayne Gacy may be one such.) It also depends on what the art is about and what it is about the artist that you dislike. Distance helps. I know some people who can never listen to Wagner again after learning what a raging antisemite he was. It's not a rational thing for them. (The two people I have in mind were both raised Jewish.) Ride of the Valkyries brings to mind Wagner which brings to mind antisemitism which makes them scared for their lives, even though the guy has been dead for a hundred years. For me, I just have less of a visceral reaction to that, so I can listen to his music with his opinions on Jewish people pushed comfortably to the back of my mind.

    If you learn enough about any artist, you're probably going to find out they held opinions you disagree with or did things you think are wrong. If you find learning about artists interesting, you have to learn to get past that. I don't find it too difficult to listen to Thriller without thinking about Michael Jackson's suspicious relationships with children or to watch Barbarella without thinking about Jane Fonda astride that Viet Cong antiaircraft gun. I see it as two different approaches to the art to try to figure out what it means independently and what it might have meant to the artist. One is criticism and one is more like psychology.

  30. SeaTea1967 Says:

    Don't know who lofgren is, but after that literary review I would totally subscribe to whatever blog they decided to write!

  31. Nick-B Says:

    @lofgren

    Yeah, End justifies the means as I used it in my post as well was a giant oversimplification. It raises a lot of moral issues, all of which I felt were handled wrongly. The biggest of all, to me, was how in the entire series the book continually tries to justify the "We can't do anything if they act first, so WE must act first" mentality, which I find abhorrent.

    It's like the prisoner's dilemma: "I assume you will do the worst to me, so I will do the worst to YOU first!" is not the most advantageous position to take up. If both sides work towards a mutual benefit, you -and also they- will come out better off than if you just go for yourself. In the book, they didn't even try to think of an alternative, they just derided the other side as non-human aliens (which they were) which can NEVER be understood and must be destroyed.

    And in the process, they used massive amounts of propaganda (bugs vs aliens child games pretty much encouraged to make the kids DESPISE the buggers even more by being beat up while PLAYING as a bugger), fascism (using the school as a way to weed out, violently if need be, their very best from their best), child endangerment (pretty much eliminating the rule of adults, letting the kids form their own gangs and intimidate/attack others), torture (pressing Ender beyond his limits because someone believes they must do so), and outright lying (the buggers are attacking again! This is really REALLY just a simulation!).

    To me, though, all of that was used as a means to an end. Sure, if they messed up, en entire generation of child geniuses would be ruined, setting them back a decade or so, but success is all they need, and time is what they got.

  32. Xynzee Says:

    When it comes to sci-fi and fiction I guess I'm a bit like the couple at the end of Meaning of Life at the philosophy restaurant. In that it's a story w a plot line, in a good story there will be a well developed back story of sorts as back drop. If the backstory isn't developed enough then the book just sucks, I'll put it down and not read it. Did I identify w the characters? One of the more important qualities in a book. Sure an author may have an angle to tell, but I was mostly oblivious. Final analysis: was I entertained? Yes/No If yes, I'll seek out more of their work. Otherwise I really do not put much thought into it. Heck I've got tonnes of McCaffrey.

    So like the husband in MoL:
    Waiter: do you ever wonder why you're here?
    Man: well last year we went on cruise, and the year before that we went to America…
    Waiter: No no no! I mean do you ever wonder why you're here? What life is all about?
    Man: (stares back blankly) Nope!

    If I picked up on anything from EG it was that it was opposed to war and the militarisation of society.

    As for separating artist from art. I guess my having Exploited in my catalogue isn't necessarily good is it?

  33. acer Says:

    @Dryden:

    I think you hit on something here. The big Card fans I've known were typically spoiled, "academically gifted" kids in their teens or early 20s. People who were nearly as bright as they thought they were and had absolutely zilch in the way of experience outside private school, LARPing, and the 'burbs. They also tended to love Heinlein and Rand.

    I think Ender's Game works as an engaging story outside the Objectivist context, so I'll defend it the same way I defend C.S. Lewis and his Christian parables.

  34. Nazz Says:

    I used to work in a bookstore way back in the 90s, during my poor liberal arts degree'd years. One day on my way into work, some asshole tailgated me into the parking lot. Totally rode my ass, like he was in a big hurry. He was driving a huge Detroit model sedan, a Lincoln or something like that. "What a dick," I thought to myself. It turned out to be Card, on his way to my store to sign books. I had read Ender's Game and liked it, but after that I sort of revised my opinion of the man and didn't read anything else by him.

  35. acer Says:

    @sluggo:

    There are a few people whom I dislike so viscerally that I wouldn't want to enjoy anything they created. But I think separating the art from the artist is generally worth a shot.

    People are immensely complicated – they can't be reduced to rap sheets or list of factoids. There's a lot more about people we don't know than there is that we do, including our friends and certainly including those we only know through their fame or their work. Maybe some people are such Horrible Monsters that they can never create anything beautiful again and everything I liked about them before was obviously a lie, but I'm never going to make that argument.

    If I had to pick between moral outrage and art, I'd pick art every time.

    The Killer Clown is a really bad example. It's not as though the art world went so crazy over his talent that it forgave his crimes. Remember the '90s serial killer fad? That's what drove up the price on his awful work. If it weren't for his crimes, no one would have been interested. The '90s were a really shitty decade.

  36. Jak the Yak Says:

    Subjectivity being what it is, I'm not shocked to learn there is a range of opinion on this subject.

    For my part, I guess maybe it was just my perspective coloring my impressions, but I felt that the message of Ender's Game, and even more so Speaker for the Dead (which is what I considered the sequel to Ender's Game, not Ender's Shadow, which was written many years later and which I've never read) was not that the ends justify the means, but rather quite the opposite. Ender is used by people in power to win a war at a terrible price, and Ender regrets it for the next several centuries, devoting his (rather long) life to ensuring nothing like it happens again with varying degrees of success. The war and it's conclusion were not justifiable, and may have even been avoidable. Lofgren already wrote extensively about this and it looks like I agree entirely, so I don't want to write too much, but to the degree that there is any "moral grey area" to the books I'd say it is more saying that sometimes, if not all the time, it is hard to know what's right until after the fact, and that things are rarely as simple as they seem at first. The two books that follow Ender's actions after the first (speaker for the dead and Xenocide) also show some keen insight into how culture and language play into human (and alien) behavior, as well as telling a story of someone who wants means that are independently justifiable from ends, and other things I won't get into right now.

    I was surprised to learn Card was Mormon after reading those first two books for the first time, but even after that I never really noticed anything that even subtly referred to Mormonism that I can recall. Maybe it was just that subtle. I don't know much about Mormons. Maybe whatever was there just wasn't important enough to remember later. I have read them a few times, but not in several years: in any case, it didn't seem like he was pushing Mormonism on the reader. Like the author of the Salon piece I was surprised and a bit dissapointed to learn that Card was such a jackass about homosexuals and in other ways even after learning he was Mormon (there are tolerant ones, I have been told). I never would have seen that coming from what I read.

    Having held my nose so as not to vomit through not even half of Atlas Shrugged (I just…can't do more than that) I never thought of them as being similar. I see that similar subject matter is dealt with, but I previously (perhaps mistakenly) would have thought of the works as opposed to each other.

    The perspectives of those of you who didn't like Ender's Game is interesting to me, I've hardly ever met anyone who disliked it, other than a few who don't like anything of depth and were squeamish about the violence. I value insight into perspectives other than mine, so thanks for sharing. The only things I take issue with are the "Card fans = spoiled, gifted kids who never knew no hard times, and loved Rand." I hate Rand. She's a shitty author and a shitty person. I was never in a private school, and have lived in both suburbs and cities (at least if low rent Queens counts as part of a city) and while I suppose I was an intelligent kid I was never an academic superstar, nor in any gifted programs. I was definitely not spoiled. Please refrain from demonizing, even a little bit, people you don't agree with, especially over matters of fucking taste. I am not saying you're wrong to dislike the books, or even that your interpretation is wrong, just that it isn't mine. Art can mean different things to different people.

    As for weather or not we can separate the art from the artist: fuck if I know. This is not the only time I've learned after the fact, as it were, that a particular artist who's art I've enjoyed was an asshole of one flavor or another. It's always a strange feeling, and I'm not sure if knowing it ahead of time would have changed my opinion of the work, though it seems likely…subjectivity being what it is.

  37. Nick Says:

    sluggo: "Personally, I can't separate the artist from the art. I have a hard time understand how other people can separate. If you can separate, please explain, I would love to understand your thought process. I am honestly not trying to be my usual smart ass self."

    If the art involves themes on which I find the artist to be an idiot, then I can't–I would never buy a book by Card that involved the gays, nor would I purchase a Skrewdriver album despite my enjoyment of Oi and punk music. I also would not separate the two if the artist built his career via something to which I object–for example, I've heard that Bill O'Reilly's book on the Kennedy assassination is actually pretty good, but the fact that he very likely only got it published because he already had name recognition from being an asshole means that I'm not going to buy it. Might check it out from the library, but I won't support his work financially.

    However, if the artist is primarily/originally an artist, his or her political or social views are secondary to their career as an artist, and they don't shoehorn those themes into their books, I can ignore them. For instance, I've bought a couple books by Larry Correia, the author of the Monster Hunter International series of books. They're decently if not incredibly well-written books about guys and gals who shoot monsters for a living. Correia is a neoconservative who used to run a gun shop, and the latter comes through in his writing in the form of detailed and accurate descriptions of firearms–but I'd rather have accurate descriptions than inaccurate descriptions, so even if I weren't a gun nut, who cares? And for his politics generally, there are a couple characters in the book who voice opinions with which Correia probably agrees, but considering that said characters are employees of a private company that pays often troubled or marginalized people to use bigass guns to shoot bad things in exchange for a ton of money while operating out of the rural South, it's not exactly an unrealistic portrayal for those characters to have a distaste for the federal government, whether or not Correia agrees. That means that I don't have a problem reading it, or paying him for his work.

    (No, they're not great fiction, but they're a fun plane/beach book.)

    So I guess that's my answer. If the artist is primarily an artist, if the work does not contain political material, or if the political material is pertinent to the art and not a clearly shoehorned political statement (for the latter, see any Tom Clancy books where he talks about how awful Communism is for 400 pages), then I can ignore the facts about the artist and simply enjoy the art.

  38. Jak the Yak Says:

    PS, for the record, after Xenocide I found the series disappointing and just plain weird and never read any of the Bean-perspective books for that reason. Enchanted was good-ish, but a bit patriarchal and archaic. Never read Alvin Maker or anything else by him. So I'm not of the opinion that Card can't write a shitty book by any means.

  39. acer Says:

    @Jak the Yak:

    I didn't mean to demonize all Card fans based on taste and I'm sorry it came off that way. I was simply describing a small, non-representative sample of OSC fanatics I've personally known. I'm not all that great at boiling down large groups of humans. And I actually enjoyed Ender's.

  40. Jak the Yak Says:

    @Nick-B: The thing is that I agree with your interpretation of the motivations of the human/Earth military and government, that they were saying "well we don't know what will happen, so the only answer is to BOMB SHIT NOW!" That is absolutely what they did, and while they are portrayed as feeling like this is really their only option, I also think that, by the end of the book this perception is challenged…not only is it wrong in hindsight, but it was absolutely not their only viable option at the time. At least, that's how I read it, so to me the message ultimately was "people who tell you the ends justify the means are wrong."

    Not sure if Nick-sans-B is the same person, but one way or another: borrowing books from the library still involves money going to the author. Every person who borrows a book, no matter how gently, wears it out a little; eventually it will be too damaged or worn to repair. If it's popular enough at your library, they'll even buy a new copy (and thus pay the author AGAIN) so even if you think "well they already bought a copy but I won't contribute to this author even more" you might…albeit very incrementally compared to buying a new copy.

    Did I mention I'm a librarian? Even in the not-precisely-a-bastion-of-conservatism berg of Ann Arbor, where I currently work and reside, O'Riley's Kennedy book has been popular enough that we've had to replace a few copies.

    Used book store might be a better option for you.

  41. SonofOslo Says:

    Hi. Long time reader, first time commentator.

    I somewhat agree. It's a story about someone achieving through their ability unfettered by rules, and then the guilt that comes when you realize you've been used and you've committed genocide. (Or, this is what I remember from when I read it as a teenager in the 80's).

    A more interesting analysis of "what happened to Card?" would be to take the Homecoming series, which is the first chapter of the Book of Mormon novelized, with a sympathetic homosexual character Zdorab who hides his homosexuality due to the extremely homophobic society he lives in. And he's born that way.

  42. Major Kong Says:

    I read Ender's Game years ago and enjoyed it. I think I read one or two of the sequels and then got bored with it.

  43. Diana Says:

    People here do realize that Ender's Game was the book Terry Pratchett was satirizing when he wrote "Only YOU Can Save Mankind," right?

    go read the Pratchett version. It's much better.

  44. sluggo Says:

    Thanks for everyone's input.

    Good point: Time and distance do matter, and people are complex.

    The Gacy example was heavy handed, but I am always reminded of people's back story when I see/hear their art. For example, a Roman Polanski film or Phil Spector or Michael Jackson song. It detracts for the quality of work for me, to varying degrees.

    I suppose that I give people with stellar reputations the benefit of the doubt as well. Ai WeiWei gets a couple of points in my book for other reasons than his art, although it isn't enough to tip the scale.

  45. Nick-B Says:

    @Jak the Yak
    Heh, no, Nick-sans-B isn't me, but I agree with the "as long as they are an artist first, politician second" aspect of writers, and they leave out or you ignore the most blatant opinions (again, Hubbard's odd disgust with Psychologists), then I can enjoy a good book. I wouldn't myself either be interested in a book written by Beck, Limbaugh, or Hannity, primarily because I know of them so much as a political talker, not an "artist" and don't believe that they would be able to present any information honestly.

    I'm glad to hear I wasn't the only one that likes the original series (Game, Xenocide, Speaker, etc) over the newer alternates such as Shadow. Also, nice to know I probably wasn't being ignorant (as a Mormon) of the series and just didn't notice any blatant Mormonism in the books. The later books do add in some neat philosophy regarding whether life can exist after what we know of as life. Also, the bit about how religions (the main religion throughout seemed to be more Catholic than anything else) try to adapt to truths that destroy their core tenants (such as a non-human sentient also being "of God").

  46. avnirani Says:

    I agree that Ender's Game is pro War and not-so-vaguely Randian. I also loved loved loved (and still love) the book dearly. Not because of the plot. Because of the characters.

    Orson Scott Card wrote those children as if they could think. As if they had brains. As if they understood almost everything going on around them.

    The only people who could hide something from those kids were 1) really really smart and 2) trying to hide something (see Ender's parents, Major Graff, etc.)

    This was a revelation to me. The way he wrote those gifted children made me feel like I wasn't completely and totally insane; instead, probably the adults were the ones with issues. (And that also ends up being the punch line of the book.)

  47. Librarian Says:

    Personally: I read a bunch of OSC in high school and loved what I read. Nowadays his body of work doesn't hold up to that teenaged love. I think J. Dryden's point is relevant to why that is true. Though when I had to read Rand as a senior in HS I did not like her, at all though it wasn't until later on I really figured out why beyond her terrible writing. Professionally: I came head to head with the Art Vs. Artist discussion specifically about Card when my library was doing it's last round of discussions on what our One Book, One Community choice should be. A couple of people on the committee strongly put Ender's Game forth as a contender. I fought hard against it's consideration. For this particular program we always invite the authors to the library, or interview them for our newsletter, or skype with them or somehow have them involved. It is one of our biggest and most popular initiatives. Choosing Ender's Game would have been a giant free marketing thing in our community for him. Choosing OSC work also meant sending resources his way as well as exposing my patrons to him as a person (at the time my patrons were all teens and a substantial number of those teen patrons identify as GLBT.) In the end Ender's Game wasn't our One Book. In that situation the art gives more money and power to the artist to use for evil and I couldn't stomach being a part of it. (For the record, his books are in our collection. I'm not talking about censoring him here.)

  48. lofgren Says:

    Nick-B, I think your analysis neglects or downplays some really important aspects of the story.

    the book continually tries to justify the "We can't do anything if they act first, so WE must act first" mentality, which I find abhorrent.

    I don't think it's fair to call this abhorrent or even to call it a "mentality." Remember what the humans know about the bugs when they first committed to the plan:

    1. Unprovoked, the bugs suddenly attempted the total annihilation of the human race.

    2. Humanity will not survive a second attack.

    And that's about it. The bugs had already "acted," so the humans weren't really "acting first." They were launching a retaliation that they knew might not be necessary, but that is only because they had already been pushed to near extinction. While it is eventually revealed that the bugs had no intention of launching a second attack, the humans did not know that at the time.

    It's like the prisoner's dilemma: "I assume you will do the worst to me, so I will do the worst to YOU first!"

    It's interesting that you should bring up the prisoner's dilemma. In fact, the most successful strategy in the prisoner's dilemma is something called tit for tat. Tit for tat is a simple strategy whereby all prisoner's initially cooperate. However, if one prisoner defects (say, by attempting to exterminate the second prisoner's entire race) then the second will retaliate in kind, after which the slate is wiped and tit for tat returns to cooperation. This is not just an abstract game. Tit for tat is found in nature, and is the basis of cooperation between many species. So given your assertion that the humans were players in a prisoner's dilemma, responding to the bugs' attack was not only warranted, it was the most rational AND most natural response.

    In the book, they didn't even try to think of an alternative, they just derided the other side as non-human aliens (which they were) which can NEVER be understood and must be destroyed.

    There were two other options: either they could do nothing, or they could attempt to communicate with the bugs.

    I think we can all agree that doing nothing would be flat out insane. While it was eventually revealed that the bugs had no interest in reinitiating contact, crossing their fingers and hoping that the bugs didn't return to kill us all wasn't really an option. So that leaves diplomatic overtures or attack.

    The novel leaves it open to debate whether diplomacy or attack was the better option (another successful algorithm in the prisoner's dilemma is called "a tit for two tats,"). On the one hand, the bugs could be communicated with and were open to non-violent relations. On the other hand, diplomacy would have been staking the continued survival of humanity on a lot of of unknown factors.

    And let's be clear: the resulting story can quite reasonably be read as an indictment of human nature. With no knowledge of who the bugs were or why they were attacking, humans fell back on the only model they had available: us. And based on our species' treatment of the rest of our environment, eradicating us probably would be the safer option.

    Sure, if they messed up, en entire generation of child geniuses would be ruined, setting them back a decade or so, but success is all they need,

    OK, a generation of screwed-up geniuses is not a small price to pay. But considering that if the bugs returned, all of those kids would be dead anyway, the only rational choice is to pay it. Whether or not that is the moral choice is left to the reader. I am not convinced the book takes a clear position.

    and time is what they got.

    Not exactly. Although they have the time to find their genius, the plan to attack has to be devised an initiated very quickly in order to be implemented and executed before the bugs return. I think that's an important detail that gets neglected: this was not a carefully considered plan that was dreamt up during the long peaceful absence of the bugs. It was conceived in the wreckage of a decimated human fleet floating in the midst of a still-living bug army that had been stopped through pure luck.

    I don't think that the book outright disagrees with your assessment of it's moral choices. The problem is that, given the scenario, there are no easy alternatives. Maybe you would gamble extinction on diplomacy. Personally, I'm not sure I would.

  49. Bill Says:

    OSC is a virulent homophobe who writes books that often (always?) contain full-page descriptions of the apperance and emotion of nude, frightened prepubescent boys.

    Nope, nothing to see there.

  50. Death Panel Truck Says:

    From Wikipedia:

    He supported Newt Gingrich in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, writing that "despite [Gingrich's] negatives, there is nobody smarter or more capable or with a better record of good government seeking the office of President right now."

    That disqualifies him from my consideration. Only a moron would see Gingrich as smart.

  51. jon Says:

    Here's a distinction between art and artist: having heard Ender's Game is good but also having heard that the author is an asshole, I won't be making his book a priority for either me or my sons. In fact, I will advise them not to see the movie, either.

  52. Xynzee Says:

    @jon:
    "I won't be making his book a priority for either me or my sons. In fact, I will advise them not to see the movie, either."

    As a thought as an observer, this could be an excellent parenting opportunity for you. You could read it together and then discuss it. This way you're instilling reading and critical reading skills. You can then debate the themes etc, and how your boys can tolerate differing opinions. See it as a form of shared activity that encourages different skillsets not just thumping each other.

  53. lofgren Says:

    My comment has been awaiting moderation all day, so I am reposting without the links to see if it can get through.

    Nick-B, I think your analysis neglects or downplays some really important aspects of the story.

    the book continually tries to justify the "We can't do anything if they act first, so WE must act first" mentality, which I find abhorrent.

    I don't think it's fair to call this abhorrent or even to call it a "mentality." It's actually just "the reality of the situation." Remember what the humans know about the bugs when they first committed to the plan:

    1. Unprovoked, the bugs suddenly attempted the total annihilation of the human race.

    2. Humanity will not survive a second attack.

    And that's about it. The bugs had already "acted," so the humans weren't really "acting first." They were launching a retaliation that they knew might not be necessary, but that is only because they had already been pushed to near extinction. While it is eventually revealed that the bugs had no intention of launching a second attack, the humans did not know that at the time.

    It's like the prisoner's dilemma: "I assume you will do the worst to me, so I will do the worst to YOU first!"

    It's interesting that you should bring up the prisoner's dilemma. In fact, the most successful strategy in the prisoner's dilemma is something called tit for tat. Tit for tat is a simple strategy whereby all prisoner's initially cooperate. However, if one prisoner defects (say, by attempting to exterminate the second prisoner's entire race) then the second will retaliate in kind, after which the slate is wiped and tit for tat returns to cooperation. This is not just an abstract game. Tit for tat is found in nature, and is the basis of cooperation between many species. So given your assertion that the humans were players in a prisoner's dilemma, responding to the bugs' attack was not only warranted, it was the most rational AND most natural response.

    In the book, they didn't even try to think of an alternative, they just derided the other side as non-human aliens (which they were) which can NEVER be understood and must be destroyed.

    There are two other options that I can imagine: either they could do nothing, or they could attempt to communicate with the bugs.

    I think we can all agree that doing nothing would be flat out insane. While it was eventually revealed that the bugs had no interest in reinitiating contact, crossing their fingers and hoping that the bugs didn't return to kill us all wasn't really an option. So that leaves diplomatic overtures or attack.

    The novel leaves it open to debate whether diplomacy or attack was the better option (another successful algorithm in the prisoner's dilemma is called "a tit for two tats,"). On the one hand, the bugs could be communicated with and were open to non-violent relations. On the other hand, diplomacy would have been staking the continued survival of humanity on a lot of of unknown factors.

    The resulting story can quite reasonably be read as an indictment of human nature. With no knowledge of who the bugs were or why they were attacking, humans fell back on the only model they had available: us. And based on our species' treatment of the rest of our environment, eradicating us probably would be the safer option.

    Sure, if they messed up, en entire generation of child geniuses would be ruined, setting them back a decade or so, but success is all they need,

    OK, a generation of screwed-up geniuses is not a small price to pay. But considering that if the bugs returned, all of those kids would be dead anyway, the only rational choice is to pay it. Whether or not that is the moral choice is left to the reader. I am not convinced the book takes a clear position.

    and time is what they got.

    Not exactly. Although they have the time to find their genius, the plan to attack has to be devised an initiated very quickly in order to be implemented and executed before the bugs return. I think that's an important detail that gets neglected: this was not a carefully considered plan that was dreamt up during the long peaceful absence of the bugs. It was conceived in the wreckage of a decimated human fleet floating in the midst of a still-living bug army that had been stopped through pure luck.

    I don't think that the book outright disagrees with your assessment of it's moral choices. The problem is that, given the scenario, there are no easy alternatives. Maybe you would gamble extinction on diplomacy. Personally, I'm not sure I would.

  54. lofgren Says:

    The thing is that I agree with your interpretation of the motivations of the human/Earth military and government, that they were saying "well we don't know what will happen, so the only answer is to BOMB SHIT NOW!"

    You people are really amazingly forgiving of a race of belligerent, alien monsters who attempted to exterminate the human race for no reason whatsoever.

    I honestly do not get how anyone could not understand why the humans felt like they had no choice. They were up against an enemy who was technologically more advanced, smarter, more organized, better prepared, and, oh yeah, tried to kill us all once already.

    This is like if the Soviet Union cut off all communication, bombed the shit out of the entire west coast, and invaded and occupied the west coast, and the Wolverines were like, "Hey guys, we don't really know what's going to happen here. Let's just walk up to those guys with the machine guns and the Cuban accents who killed our families and see if they want to be friends."

  55. Mark P Says:

    I read EG many years ago and liked it. Like some of the commenters, I found the sequels less satisfying. I had not considered the Randian angle, but I think I can see it, based on what I remember.

    But once I learned who Card was, there was no way I would ever again buy anything he wrote. It's not a matter of separating the artist from his art, it's a matter of not wanting to help enrich this creep in any way.

  56. Pinacacci Says:

    Yeah, what Mark P said. Separating the artist from the art? Sometimes the artist is so loathsome I have no desire whatsoever to explore their oeuvre.

  57. Nick-B Says:

    @ lofgren

    Those are some pretty good points. I suppose I am guilty of basing my reasoning of the overall situation on what I knew about them after the fact, which of course is not how the people in the book knew about things.

    But one odd part of it all was in how the humans completely hid what was the actual cause of winning the first war. They knew that their military leader discovered a central ship, one that when destroyed stopped their entire fleet. This information they knew was significant, yet decided to HIDE such a fact from those who were supposed to be their leaders in the future.

    Regardless, I suppose I can't really judge their actions too harshly. In the end, it ended up being a bad choice (in terms of being "right"), but they had no way of knowing. And yeah, I guess I shouldn't talk as if I am willing to gamble our species extinction over diplomacy, especially after what they went through. In fact, in later books, an identical situation pops up, via the disease on that one planet. Some argued that the disease showed signs of intelligence, but as long as it continued to destroy the humans with no contact possible, there is really no other choice than retaliation.

    I'm depressed now. I've been argued into accepting a genocide, which is one thing that I personally would not want even at the cost of my own life.

    Haha, good talk.

  58. lofgren Says:

    I've been argued into accepting a genocide, which is one thing that I personally would not want even at the cost of my own life.

    If it makes you feel any better, if you are American, I'm pretty sure you're not on the side that committed the genocide.

    Ender's Game should be a wake up call to Americans that if we keep invading other people's countries and killing their families for no good reason, we're going to end up creating a situation where the only rational and natural response is for them to eradicate us without warning.

    In the real world, we're the bugs, not the humans.

  59. Jared Says:

    The biggest plot hole in the novel is the notion that the buggers, after realizing their mistake, did not at any point send a message saying "Our bad. Sorry", and instead left a planet full of spacefaring and really pissed off humans to stew in their rage for a century or so. And once the war was joined, did not make any overt attempt at peaceful communication.

    Oh, and the human invasion was the _third_ war. There were not one but two previous attempts by the buggers to wipe out the human race. Which really would serve to crank the Fleet's paranoia dial up to 11.

    > Ender's Game should be a wake up call to Americans that if we keep invading other people's countries and killing their families for no good reason, we're going to end up creating a situation where the only rational and natural response is for them to eradicate us without warning.

    Yikes. The truly scary part is that I can't really find fault with that line of reasoning.

  60. lofgren Says:

    The biggest plot hole in the novel is the notion that the buggers, after realizing their mistake, did not at any point send a message saying "Our bad. Sorry", and instead left a planet full of spacefaring and really pissed off humans to stew in their rage for a century or so. And once the war was joined, did not make any overt attempt at peaceful communication.

    Correct me if I am misremembering, but as I recall the bugs were so alien that they never really figured out how to communicate with humans, nor vice-versa. It took somebody with Ender's superhuman empathy to be able to understand them. It's sort of like if humans realized that ants had some kind of psychic communication and it was morally wrong to kill them. That realization alone is not enough to allow us to apologize for all the ant traps we've laid over they years.

    (Incidentally, for a kind of cool prequel-of-sorts to Ender's Game, check out Peter Watts' Blindsight. Both of these books portray truly alien aliens, as opposed to funny-looking humans as aliens. Blindsight is the story of a first contact, in a world that could easily have developed into the world of Ender's Game.)

  61. Weird Old Tip Says:

    Interesting thread. The comments after the Salon piece linked to in the OP were also illuminating. For those who don't mind reading Sci Fi & who want to hone their Rand detectors, check out E.E. 'Doc' Smith. Whew.

  62. moderateindy Says:

    Loved Enders game, enjoyed the sequels and Card's other series. Now that I know much more about the Mormon religion I realize that the Alvin Maker series was all about it.
    But I was not aware of Card's religious or political beliefs and am happy I wasn't. The beauty of art is that it is personal. it can mean different things to different people. One of my favorite example of this is from Jerry Garcia when he expressed dismay over the crowd's reaction to a line in a song that to him was supposed to be melancholy, but always was greeted as celebratory. Art is great not because it convey's the message the artist intended, but because of how it speaks to those that consume it.
    I thought that EG's message was about the dilemma faced by earth. A vastly superior enemy that has already shown its willingness to obliterate you is out there, what is the response? Is such a genocide the logical conclusion? Is it justifiable? It is, when only viewed in a context that has limited information. As soon as you learn the truth, the obvious becomes abhorrent. Likewise, does the end justify the means. It didn't feel like it did, especially to the story's hero that was used as an unwitting pawn. Idon't really see it as particularly Randian in nature.

  63. Eric Titus Says:

    "Randian" is an adjective that should be reserved for special cases. Plenty of sci-fi imagines a dystopian future in which large corporations/governments stifle individualism. Often the main character is a skilled loner who resists these organization and thinks outside the box. Throw in a dash of libertarianism and freedom rhetoric and it becomes easy to label most sci-fi as Randian if you just skim the plot. Brazil? Randian. Bladerunner, Heinlein, Card, Gibson? Randian. But given that libertarianism/anarchism clearly crops up in plenty of American (and British) art it's probably important to be able to distinguish between that tendency and proper objectivist rhetoric.

  64. Dael Morris Says:

    dude, Ender's Game is the ultimate Mary Sue fantasy. Ender is secretly cleverer than EVERYBODY and while it LOOKS like he's just playing video games, the truth is he's SAVING THE WORLD. SO THERE, HATERS.

    this is not to say it isn't objectivist. both the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged can be read as Mary Sue style fan fic.

  65. Dael Morris Says:

    also, this:

    http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2011/10/hamlets-father-orson-scott-card-and-the-nightmare-of-the-patriarchal-family.html

    you might not agree with the analysis and conclusions, but the endless repetition of themes is inarguable.

  66. Eddie-O Says:

    I sidestepped reading Ender's Game back in high school, which is just as well since i was also a real sucker for Heinlein back then. I did read his adaptation of The Abyss, which did a pretty wonderful job of filling in the characters by rooting their onscreen behavior in terrible, terrible childhood traumas…

    That does actually speak to a compelling element of Card's work: at his best, he can open up really rotten people and show how they tick, how their own painful and twisted lives have brought them to the point where they make things really suck for other people without any sense of how wrong they are or that they have other choices.

    He should really be writing Lex Luthor.

    Now, if i may direct your attention to the back of the rabbit hole: http://www.kuro5in.org/story/2005/28/22428/7034

  67. Eddie-O Says:

    Dang, I screwed up the link. Just Google "Ordinary Scott Card has always been an asshat"

  68. Metafalcon Says:

    So let me get this straight…

    A vehemently homophobic SF writer writes a book in which humanity is driven to do limitless evil out of a fear of aliens whom they mistakenly believe to be an existential threat, but who ultimately turn out to be harmless. And they're named "buggers."

    To wit:

    [i]There's always moral instruction whether the writer inserts it deliberately or not. The least effective moral instruction in fiction is that which is consciously inserted. Partly because it won't reflect the storyteller's true beliefs, it will only reflect what he BELIEVES he believes, or what he thinks he should believe or what he's been persuaded of.

    But when you write without deliberately expressing moral teachings, the morals that show up are the ones you actually live by. The beliefs that you don't even think to question, that you don't even notice– those will show up. And that tells much more truth about what you believe than your deliberate moral machinations.

    –Orson Scott Card[/i]

  69. don Says:

    MetaFalcon – you wrote:

    "A vehemently homophobic SF writer writes a book in which humanity is driven to do limitless evil out of a fear of aliens whom they mistakenly believe to be an existential threat, but who ultimately turn out to be harmless. And they're named "buggers.""

    Indeed. Thanks for noticing. When I read my husband's copies of these a couple of years ago I got confused and had to ask if this was the gaybashing Orson Scott Card, or some other Orson Scott Card. In a subsequent book in the series Ender rescues the Last Queen, I believe, which is just approaching Narnia levels of obvious. In a different age more in need of sideways metaphor, a film of this thing could have been a secret gay classic right up there w/ the Wizard of Oz.

  70. Eric Titus Says:

    Don, that's the sort of insight that makes me glad people invented blogging.

  71. Robert M. Says:

    Answering a week late and after several people have all made the same point, because I'm passively-aggressively rebelling against a boss who think's it's TOTALLY REASONABLE that I'm working at 10:30 on a Friday night.

    Anyway.

    I first read Ender's Game as a kid; I think it would have been fourth grade, which would make me 9 years old. It's not too much to say that it shaped a great deal of my adult thinking about violence, as well as about the American military experiment.

    The first thing that got my attention about it is that I was a highly gifted kid, and subject to both physical and emotional bullying for it, so I empathized strongly with Ender. And while the novel describes a situation where children are terribly abused to get access to what they can do, the children are in a very important sense not powerless. The adults understand that they're special, the adults need them, and the adults listen to them. The kids in Ender's Game were real kids (in the same way that the aliens were actually aliens, not the humans with heavy makeup I watched on Star Trek). All of those things resonated powerfully for me.

    The second major thing was that–at least as I read it–it was a powerful statement on the self-perpetuating tragedy and ultimate futility of violence. Other commenters have said it at least as well, but it's a situation where every step mankind takes apparently makes sense. And then there's the final, unfathomable revelation of the effect of the "Little Doctor", which unravels the entire chain of rational military decisions and shows them clearly as fundamentally the same as every one of Ender's other, more personal experiences with violence: cruel and awful things that leave everyone involved including Ender exhausted, violated, and less than they were before.

    That is, that violence can be entirely justified and still wrong. The idea had never occurred to me before I read Ender's Game, and it's still with me more than 20 years later.

    I can't honestly square that with the man who, in 2013, believes that the federal government's failure to violently enforce his religious convictions about other people's sexytimes is grounds for violent insurrection. And, honestly, I'm not even interested in trying; I continue to value the lessons my very young self learned from Ender's Game too much to wreck them by trying to incorporate Card's warped vision of the world today.

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