People have been telling me for years that I should read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I was always hesitant though, 1. because I am not a huge science fiction fan, and 2. because Orson Scott Card is a disgusting bigot. Which made me wonder, would knowing that I disagree with his beliefs cloud my judgement if I read his novel?
My initial thought was yes, of course I would be unable to enjoy literature (albeit supposedly good literature) because it was written by a person with such an opposing world view. After all, I enjoy literature more from authors I appreciate as human beings. Before meeting Scott Westerfeld I was a huge fan of his work. After meeting him and learning what a down to earth, nice person he is, I found myself loving his work even more. Surely reading a book from someone I loathe would make me dislike their book.
So I figured, why not give it a shot, why not read Ender’s Game and see what all the fuss is about? With all this milling about my head I decided to learn a little bit more about Card. I wish I hadn’t opened Pandora’s box, because it definitely swayed my opinion before I began reading. The fist thing I learned is that Card was raised as a radical Mormon and that he opposes gay marriage and believes in Intelligent Design and thinks Charles Darwin is a phony.
Through my research I discovered that he opposes homosexual marriage because it cannot benefit society in the same way that heterosexual marriage can- procreation. <BEGIN SARCASM> Because there aren’t tons of children in orphanages and shelters who could use a good home, surely that wouldn’t benefit society for homosexual couples to give them loving homes. Not to mention that ALL heterosexual couples are obviously adequately equipped and able to bear children. No heterosexual couple is abusive or addicted to drugs or homeless and having children. Or physically unable, your God gives them all child-bearing prowess. <END SARCASM>
Furthermore, he argues that homosexual marriage passing is, “the end of democracy in America”, and that homosexuals, “cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society”. There is also a mention of a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, but this is where I got nauseous and stopped reading.
I don’t agree with the hypothesis that it is because Card is a Mormon that he has these beliefs. After all, Stephenie Meyer is Mormon and she approves of teenage werewolves falling in love with infants. Guy on guy love has to be more acceptable than that.
I am not a religious person, but I can be semi-tolerant of religious people as long as it’s not being rammed down my throat (said the altar boy to the priest- ba dump bump). This isn’t helping my argument, is it? As a whole I think I am a person who is tolerant of a lot of different beliefs – UFOs, ghosts, reincarnation, etc. I might not believe it all, but I won’t stop being your friend if you do. The same cannot be said of bigotry. I cannot be tolerant of a person if they are a bigot, that’s just who I am. It is here that I am going to refrain from ranting about how a lot of persecution is caused by religion, mostly because without religion, humanity would probably be raping and pillaging their way to anarchy.
Suffice it to say, I do not agree with anything Card believes in as a person, and with all this in my head I started reading. Albeit I started reading with regret that I had forked $6 of my money to support a racist, homophobic, crazy person.
The book started off with an intriguing premise. Society is fighting an alien race called the Buggers, and they cultivate and train intellectual and gifted children in society in what they call Battle School to fight this threat. Ender Wiggin (the chosen one) is a Third, a third child only sanctioned birth by the government due to the near success in the program of his siblings. He is taken to Battle School and quickly moves up the ranks, proving to be capable of fighting successfully and using impressive problem solving skills for a six year old boy.
Despite the strange dialogue and the confusing world I was thrust right into, I didn’t exactly mind the beginning of the novel. I didn’t fall in love with it or think it was the most amazing thing in the world, but it wasn’t bad either. And I soon forgot everything I knew about the author. That is until I found the below examples, which stopped me in my tracks.
I am currently halfway through the book and I have come across three blatant examples of racism. The first occurs between Ender and a friend of his from the same Launch group. Ender is the initial speaker.
“‘Hey, we can’t all be niggers.’
Alai grinned. ‘My grandpa would’ve killed you for that.’
‘My great great grandpa would have sold him first.’”
Maybe the world we live in now is way more PC than it was when this novel was written, or in this world racism is “funny”. Regardless, neither character seems bothered by the conversation and they go so far as to bond over it. Bonding over racism. Fun.
The second example is not a direct quote but rather the belief in this world that Jews are particularly adroit Commanders, so much so that Strike Forces are jokingly referred to as Kike Forces. This could be played off as a convention of the world Card creates, but he goes a step further and places a Jewish character nicknamed Rose the Nose (you read that right) as Commander of the Rat Army (yeah, he went there). All the Armies in Battle School are given animal names (Salamander, Condor, etc) but Card chooses to place a decidedly Jewish character as the head of the Rats- a moniker used as propaganda in Nazi Germany. I don’t know how I feel about that. And by I don’t know I mean I feel a smashing all consuming hatred. Especially because it was done so deliberately.
Not to mention the comment, “That little slanty-eyed butt-wiggler?”. I have learned that “slanty-eyed” was later removed from newer copies of the text, but Card’s slur is still known, thanks to the internet. See kids, time doesn’t fix everything. At least since the invention of the world wide web.
Ultimately, I don’t hate Ender’s Game as much as I hate its author, but it certainly doesn’t help that his true self shines through in the text. I’m hopeful however that this racism is not what people take away from the text (why would so many people like it if they did?) but rather for the excitement and brutality of Ender’s world.
How does this answer my hypothesis? It doesn’t. Perhaps I think the novel is only so-so because I am not a giant science-fiction fan, perhaps it’s because I knew Card was a racist and went out of my way looking for examples of his bigotry. Unfortunately, without a time machine it would be impossible to say if I think this book is just okay because it’s not my genre or it’s just okay because the racist tendencies in the writing jars and upsets me.
Unfortunately, I ruined my own experiment before I even started.