Orson Scott Card Changes his Tune

Orson Scott Card, July 2008:

How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.

Biological imperatives trump laws. American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.

Orson Scott Card, July 2013:

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

Five years really makes a difference, doesn’t it? We go from “overthrow the government!” to “can’t we all just get along?” Now suddenly the moral weight is on us, the proponents of marriage equality, to show tolerance.

What exactly is Card afraid will happen? That gays will throw big Ender’s Game themed weddings? No, that folks will boycott the Ender’s Game movie. Card’s appearance as a guest author for a Superman comic was scuttled by controversy, and he’s likely aware now that his over-the-top polemics aren’t playing well with his core audience.

But here’s the problem: tolerance means that I acknowledge Card’s rights to hold his beliefs and speak them as he sees fit. I don’t think that tolerance means that I’m obliged to spend money on his production.

I could also argue that tolerance also means allowing other people to love and have relationships as they see fit so long as they harm none, but Card is on record as supporting anti-sodomy laws, so that’s out. One would think that a Mormon, part of a group that once faced intense legal pressure because of the supposed “bad tendencies” of their religion, would be more cautious in advocating government involvement in personal life.

The idea that the issue is now “moot” is clearly wrong. The fact that the National Organization for Marriage hasn’t closed up shop should be a tip off for him. After all, Card is still on the board. The idea that the issue of gay rights did not exist in 1984 is also wrong, although Card may be narrowly right that gay marriage wasn’t on the political radar for most Americans.

(As an aside, I can’t boycott the movie because I have no intention of seeing it. I enjoyed Ender’s Game when I was young, but I made the mistake of rereading it when I was a bit older. The second time I found it heavy handed, the characters unlikable and unbelievable and the “innocent murderer” theme too forced.

Let that be a lesson: never reread your old favorites. Let them stay perfect and uncorrupted in your memories.)

  • UrsaMinor

    I have very deliberately never read anything by Card, because I’m not about to line the pockets of someone who has been actively working to keep me a second-class citizen.

    The cognitive dissonance on display by a Mormon who claims that marriage has only one definition is astounding.

    • Chuck Farley

      I had wanted to read this book, and see the movie. However, after reading all this wonderful stuff about Mr. Card I’m suddenly reminded of all the other books I have that I haven’t read yet.

  • dbellis

    “Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to
    do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written
    in 1984.”

    Long before Card made his public anti-gay pronouncements, Norman Spinrad, in his excellent book of sf criticism SCIENCE FICTION IN THE REAL WORLD did an analysis of the book Ender’s Game in which he argued that the novel had underlying homophobic themes:

    “Superficially, at least, sex never rears its head. What Card gives us in the guise of young children are desexualized adolescents. Well, not exactly, for beneath the surface there certainly is a strong sexual subtext in Ender’s Game. Paul and Ender compete throughout the novel for the affections of sister Valentine, and in the denouement, Ender, the hero, gets the girl. Valentine goes off with Ender to colonize the home planet of the aliens in a complex, hurried, over-dense final chapter that reads like an outline for a whole other novel.… It is difficult to believe that such a writer would name the central figure in his incestuous love triangle Valentine (as in Be My Valentine) were he not deliberately pointing to the nature of the relationship…..Even more difficult to believe that he was unaware of the obvious sexual connotations when he named his aliens the “Buggers.” That’s right, the insectoid aliens who are never really described, aren’t called “Bugs” or “Bug-Eyed Monsters,” but Buggers throughout the whole novel. The little boys and girls, the desexualized adolescents, are trained by the adults to go out and fight buggers, and Ender, the hero, wins his Valentine, at least in plot terms, when he exterminates Buggery.”

    At the time I thought he might be reading too much into it. Knowing what we know now, I think he was just more perceptive in his reading than I was.

  • Machintelligence

    Just curious, when you reread it was it the novella (original) or the expanded novel version? IMHO it was far superior as a shorter work.

  • gimpi1

    Is it possible that Mr. Card has learned something and changed his mind, or at least opened it a bit? It is to be hoped. Personally, if nothing had changed in my opinions in 5 years (2008-2013) I would be surprised and disappointed in myself.

    • JohnMWhite

      He clearly hasn’t changed his mind, he has become afraid now that he’s on the losing side he’ll end up having to deal with people who are as aggressive as he was in 2008, who have more power than him in this arena.

      • gimpi1

        You’re probably right. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps I’m too generous, especially when I like someone’s writing.

        One example I would cite is President Obama’s much-ridiculed statement that his thoughts were evolving on the issue of gay marriage. I found his statement to be most likely sincere. As people examine their beliefs and discover that they don’t line up with reality, fairness or kindness, they can, and should change. That’s not being inconsistent or flip-flopping, that’s growing up.

        I think it’s possible for people to learn and change, but you’re right, it certainly isn’t the most likely outcome. Backing down because of fear of losing money or market share is probably more likely. Too bad. Mr Card is missing an opportunity to learn something and stretch his perceptions a bit. That’s something no writer should pass up.

        • JohnMWhite

          I agree with you that people can change, and I wouldn’t want to imply that we should never be willing to accept that this change is sincere or write it off as flip-flopping. Obama’s evolution seemed genuine (even if it was politically advantageous) and sometimes it takes something as simple as your kids pointing out that their friends’ parents are people too before it clicks.

          I just don’t buy that anything in Card’s latest statement implies he has softened in his revulsion for homosexuals. All he’s done is acknowledge the Supreme Court decision exists and then implied that he fears retribution for his anti-gay marriage position from some kind of homosexual take-over of social power.

          • gimpi1

            Kids are a great force for enlightenment. There’s nothing like having your 13-year-old show up your tired logic. May Mr. Card’s children drag him kicking and screaming, if necessary, into a more kind and reasonable place.

  • JohnMWhite

    Now suddenly the moral weight is on us, the proponents of marriage equality, to show tolerance.

    Unfortunately, I doubt there will be anything pro-gay marriage people can do to be considered tolerant of folks like Card. Their existence is an insult and an assault.

  • trj

    How exactly would “proponents of gay marriage … show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute”?

    I assume by choosing to not address the bigotry of Card and his fellow gay-bashers. Sorry, Card, ain’t gonna happen. That’s just how “intolerant” we are.