“No book, however good, can survive a hostile reading.”
― Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card gifted me many years ago with five words.
“The enemy’s gate is down,” when I was 17 years old.
Until that point I had no idea the world that existed in science fiction. It was vast, it was beautiful. It was full of starlight, space battles, planets, valor, and honor. It taught me the bittersweet lessons of compassion and empathy. It taught me to love my fellow man as I would love myself and this was the only way to understand him.
I bring this up, because of Myke Cole. An author I read and respect tweeted something I agreed with whole heartedly and wanted to talk about his thoughts.
He tweeted recently:
“Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game changed my life. I maintain it is one of the greatest works of fiction ever written, despite the fact the author is deeply troubled, toxic and problematic person. I lift up the work while rejecting the rancid principles of the author.”
Ender’s Game Changed me and my life as it did Myke Coles. It was, along with Lord of the Rings, my gateway drug into science fiction.
I don’t purchase Orson Scott Card’s works any longer. That is as much as a choice about not supporting him and his beliefs as I feel his later works are without merit, character, style, and substance. So I ask, how do readers support books that we love while not supporting the authors? Because in the end, Card is not Ender. Just as much as Heinlein is not Michael Valentine Smith. Heinlein was also a bit of a bastard. But that’s a conversation for another day. There is a dividing line between the two. I think that had Card used Ender as a means to spread his horrid and repugnant beliefs, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But he didn’t. Card separates and compartmentalizes his beliefs from fiction. And I as a lover of Ender want to lift this work and bring it to new readers. I want new readers to have the epiphany about science fiction that I had when I realized why the enemy’s gate is down, and that it first started showing me how a lot of novels treat children like mice. How games are so much a part of life, and so many other things.
What is so ironic about Ender’s Game and Card’s personal views is that Ender’s Game is a deeply moral story. It delves into what it means to be other. That is shown is played out time and time again in what it means to be third or a bugger. Ender was born a third child. A cultural aberration. A lesser being that should not have come into existence due to laws of societal norms. No one is allowed a third child. Right off from the beginning of the story, Ender is different. Buggers are bugs that attacked humans fifty years ago, they are not humanoids. They are not understood, they are different. You have to empathize and show compassion with what you don’t understand, and what is different. Something that Card understands and can write about so beautifully, yet can not understand and do internally.
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.”
I think it is one of the greatest pieces of science fiction that has been written in the last 50 years. It changed the way I view books. It crushes me to think that something beautiful like Ender’s Game will die off because Card is repugnant. Books live on because people read them, remember them, and pass them on. If we as a culture stop reading a book, then it stops getting printed and that’s that. I don’t have the answers. It is a huge world full of amazing books, and people only have so much time to read. If people don’t want to spend their finite time reading something from a man like Card, I am not judging. I am only asking, I don’t know how to move forward with this question. I do not buy his books for many of the same reasons that most of you do not. I have a beat-up copy of Ender’s Game on my shelf. It will be the last copy I own. If my house burns down, the words “the enemy’s gate is down” will only exist in my memory and not in my library.
But how do we move forward as readers? How do we keep something like Ender’s Game from disappearing?
Because Ender’s Game is so worth the read
Beth, so well written.
Thank you mom 🙂
It can be a challenge to keep the art separate from the artist. It is hard not to let an author’s behavior color my thoughts on a book sometimes. I accept that authors and I may not always share the same opinions or views, but, for me at least, there is a line. Some lines I refuse to cross. A blogger friend recently posted a similar discussion, but pointed to authors like Linda Fairstein and Marion Zimmer Bradley, both authors I have read and enjoyed in the past–all before knowing about their behavior. Bradley’s Mists of Avalon was one of those life changing books for me, but that is now tainted. I cannot read another book by that woman. She sickens me. I’ve though about getting rid of my well read copy of Mists of Avalon, but there it sits. I probably won’t ever reread it, knowing what I know now. But it doesn’t change the profound impact the book had on me when I first read it, and so it sits. It would be hard for me to read Fairstein again too, honestly. Maybe if she was remorseful or willing to admit an injustice was done to those innocent boys.
With social media, so much more information is out there. It’s a double edge sword.
I know exactly what you mean. I didn’t know about Linda Farstein but I know all bout Marion Zimmer Bradley. Authors are just people warts and all and have no requirement to have any sort of morality any more than the rest of us. I try to keep that in the back of my mind when I struggle with this. But it comes down to powerlessness. What I do with my time and my consumption of it is finite. Gah.. it is so hard and as you say a double edge sword.
I relate to this so much. OSC was one of my favorite authors. I actually went to a writing workshop he was hosting and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a writer. I learned so much and had the best time. He was funny and a really good teacher. When I finally heard about how awful his views are on numerous subjects, it was so hard to hear. I felt betrayed and foolish. It’s hard to look at his works the same way, even though I really enjoy the stories.
I know exactly how you feel. I had a shattering of writing hero worship when I heard his views. Authors are people and can believe what ever the hell they want to. But damn it was hard to look at his work the same way again.
Beautiful discussion, Beth! This is a topic in general which I think about often because one of a person’s greatest powers is voting with their wallet, so to speak. I choose not to buy or boost the works of authors (or other creators) who are known to be problematic because I don’t want my money to go to their pockets. Authors who treat their readers poorly on Twitter or have problematic worldviews – even if not present in the work itself – are not people I want to support. That is my choice though, and one I won’t force upon anyone else.
I’ve never reader Ender’s Game but I did see the film because my thesis advisor told me to go when I was experiencing massive writer’s block. I enjoyed the themes portrayed and it did get me back in the mood, and it was a book I planned on eventually reading myself… until I found out about Card’s views. And I just couldn’t justify giving that man any money. Ender’s Game may be an important piece of science fiction, but there are new authors writing in the genre now who have the opportunity to be just as innovative and thought-provoking, bringing in a class of new readers to the genre without the baggage of being a repugnant human being.
That is true! There is a world of incredible books out there and as readers and writers our greatest support is through our wallets as said. I understand and respect that choice. It is so hard though. It meant to much to me and I would hope that people would have a similar experience that I had reading it. It is a hard spot to be in.
Fantastic post. I loved everything about Ender’s Game but picked up my copy second hand. His other books didn’t do much for me so I never grabbed them.
One of my very favourite authors has said some really shitty things in the past, his views were ridiculous, he has since apologised but I couldn’t turn my love for his works off. His books got me back into reading.
I think if I had of known about his previous views before I read any of his books, I would have just avoided reading them.
I loved the Bean books, but his later Ender’s Game books kinda fell off for me. I try to avoid Author’s politics now, before hand, so I don’t run into issues like these. But it is hard after the fact.
This is a great post and a very good discussion, Beth.
I personally haven’t had to separate the artist from their art in the books I read, however, I have in other areas of society; art and music. Is it bad to say that I don’t support musicians or artists whose public declarations I find appalling? I don’t want my hard earned money to support them in any way.
This is a book I’ve never read. I keep thinking about it and want to and yet don’t want to buy it. Maybe I’ll get it for the library. Still…great question that I don’t have a good answer for.