I jumped around the net yesterday, looking to see how much wumphus was being caused by Orson’s (third?) anti-gay rant.
I simply plugged “OSC” and “homophobe” into google and quickly got inundated. Search results appeared from as far back as 2004 to as recently as yesterday. The sites ranged from the respectable to what some might consider the fringe.
I just plugged the two terms in to see what I would see. Interestingly, the only defenses that were aired were back-handed compliments – things like “well, the book was good” or “I don’t pay any attention to his politics”. Quite a few people opined that any enjoyment they had once received from reading his books had now been ruined.
I mentioned in passing the other day that Card’s decision to publish these rants in non-SF related places was obviously at least partially economic. One has to be blind not to realize that the SF community at large at least tries to be tolerant and all-inclusive. How well that is actually achieved depends on the era, the issue and the locale as much as anything else. Not that any SF rag would print such, but it is at least somewhat telling that he doesn’t editorialize on these matters in his own E-zine (Medicine Show). He’s obviously clued in enough to know that airing this laundry in the SF backyard would not be well received and just might negatively impact sales.
Perhaps the most interesting response I found was this one by localranger. That article responded to an earlier piece by Card that localranger claims is revelatory of Card’s fascist leanings. Actually, localranger castigates everyone for not having seen this aspect of Card previously -
“Many people are astonished to learn that the man who wrote about “that poor little boy” is such a rabid Fascist. But Card has always been a rabid Fascist, as well as several other species of asshat, and none of his works demonstrate that better than the sad tale of Ender Wiggin itself.”
You can all add ‘fascist’ to ‘homophobe’ now – unless you consider that redundant.
Localranger then relates the tale of how his friend – a former SFWA member and contemporary of Cards’ – had read Ender’s Game and characterized it as “an apologia for Hitler … When I was a kid I heard every Sunday how Jesus would forgive Hitler if he really really repented, but I say fuck that. Some things can’t be forgiven or redeemed.”
Interesting. I’d never heard that one till now. (Of course, since I’ve refused to read the book, there’s really been no reason for me to bother with its critiques.) This intrigued me, so I read on.
Localranger relates the tale of how his friend eventually wrote a critical piece expanding her contentions. He compares this to another piece of criticism that glancingly rebuts the argument, but points out some additional items of interest.
His friend the critic is inspired to write her piece when she learns that it was likely that the Ender’s Game sequel, Speaker for the Dead, would win the Nebula Award for best novel (it did). She sums her theory up thusly -
“You are telling me that if I wrote a story where Hitler escapes to Brazil, prevents a massacre of some Native Americans, and then raises a bunch of Jews from the dead, that this would be about parallel?”
The critique was accepted for publication and shortly thereafter, localranger’s friend called to say that she had Orson Scott Card on the phone. He was trying to persuade her to withdraw the article under threat of rebuttal. She welcomed the rebuttal.
And then localranger makes a statement that, in light of historical perspective, is the thing that I find most interesting. He says -
(the publication sent Card’s response to her) “And this is where the story gets strange. Card’s response was completely incoherent. In several places he denied that things are in the novel which are not only in the novel, but (she) had footnoted them with page numbers. “
“Then a funny thing happened. The sequel to Speaker never appeared. Speaker ended on a cliffhanger with Ender waiting for a fleet to arrive and shag his sorry ass, and everyone assumed Card would write the third book and go for the Hugo/Nebula Trifecta in 1987. Instead, he started a whole different series and didn’t get around to writing the Ender sequel until 1992. What the hell was up with that?”
…”we speculated on what his motives might be. Her worldview was strongly informed by being raised among fundamentalist Christian nutjobs, which explains part of her anger. She felt Card was building a deliberate fraud, an artifice which seemed to be one thing but was in fact something else, and that when the third book had won its round of awards he would pull the SF community’s pants down and reveal that they had given their imprimateur to one of the most controversial and difficutlt to accept tenets of his religion — which would, of course, be a massive propaganda coup for the Mormon Church.
I tended (and still tend) to agree with this, but if the Hitler Hypothesis offends you I’m afraid I’m about to do her one better. You see, I’m not very convinced that Card even wrote the books.
On the phone and in his incoherent published reply, Card repeatedly shows ignorance of what he himself purportedly wrote. I simply cannot imagine how you could write such a stunningly well crafted piece of work (inasmuch as it is wildly popular and deeply affects people) without being aware of every fibre and splinter of its composition. About the third or fourth time I heard Card say something wasn’t in his book that I knew was, I began to suspect that it was more of a committee effort.” (emphasis mine)
And here is why I find this so interesting. Back in 1978, 79, 80 or thereabouts, there was a fairly popular fanzine (east coast particularly) that frequently gave a bully pulpit to pros in the field. One such was written by the editor of one of the professional publications wherein he called out the editors of two other professional publications for printing Card’s stories. Here’s a bit of it:
“(Respected Professional Editor) has much to answer for in unleashing Orson Scott Card upon science fiction.
I first heard of Card when he sent me three stories a couple of years ago. His accompanying letter boasted nine story sales and a novel sale to (Respected Professional Editor). I was impressed by that only until I began to read the first story.
It was awful. It was badly conceived, badly constructed and badly written. The science in it was a joke (a man who had been gelded fathers a child several months later). I tried the second. It was a story about a man who sold the aliens shit. Real human shit. They preferred it with lima beans in it.)
He goes on about the submissions for a bit.
“I was actually shocked. I could not understand how the author of these stories — which were in no way professional on any level–could have sold stories to (Respected Professional Editor). “
He rejects the stories and never receives a submission from Card again.
Then Card wins the Campbell Award.
The editor/writer of the piece is persuaded to try reading Card again.
“This time I picked one which had been published. I hoped that this would insure a higher quality.”
The story was printed in a publication edited by Another Respected Professional Editor. The story chosen is described – “It is, in many respects, anti-sf…”
“Why was this story published? What made (Another Respected Professional Editor) buy it and place it in a volume next to (highly acclaimed authors)?
Could it have been that Campbell Award?…That the winner of the Campbell Award was in fact the worst possible choice of all the nominees?…That Card’s reputation is a flimsy house of cards, waiting for the first critical examination to collapse?”
Back to localranger.
Knowing what he knew about the politics of the SF field at the time, he tries to persuade his friend that it might not be a good idea to publish her critique:
“Still, writing an essay is not the same as getting it published, and I didn’t think anyone would be willing to publish Elaine’s little rant. For one thing, in 1986 Card was more than just a popular writer; he was also a deft political animal. He was in fact a high mucky-muck in SFWA, and word was that bad things happened to people who got on his bad side. Not necessarily Italian mob style bad things, but bad things like not having a chance at awards yourself and publishers shunning you”
The professional editor who rejected Card’s work prior to his winning the Campbell Award left the field about this same time…
TRULY history does give us interesting perspectives, no?
(I’m still seeking out the former editor for permission to reprint his entire piece.)