I read Ender’s Game a few days ago. It was an undeniably compelling book in almost every way. It had three child geniuses (one evil, one kind, and one named Ender – a six year old boy with a little bit of both. And who doesn’t love child geniuses?). It had a space station with a Battle School for Earth’s best children, all training to one day defeat the alien “Buggers.” It had gravity-free practice battles, painted with a meticulous amount of detail and beautifully choreographed strategy. It was awesome.
Time and time again Orson Scott Card delighted me with yet another scene in which little Ender proves once again that he is simply smarter than everyone else. I couldn’t take my eyes off the page as I watched the adults deliberately make Ender’s life as brutal as possible, in order to cultivate a perfect fleet commander. They engineer a constant war between his compassionate and violent sides. They manipulate him into literally destroying other children, almost – but not quite – to his own breaking point. It’s a fascinating exercise in what people can be made to do, with some major ethical themes along the way. And the fighting was pretty cool, too.
My only problem? The author. I’d love to say unreservedly, “you’ve got to read this book!” (Although I guess I pretty much just did.) I’d love to go out and get more of the books from this series, of which there are plenty. But after looking into the life of Orson Scott Card, I just feel icky about putting money into his pocket.
I don’t agree with Card’s general politics, but that in itself wouldn’t usually be enough to turn me off an author, especially if they didn’t make their political convictions a centrepiece of their public persona. No, it’s his raging homophobia that really does the trick. He’s gone out of his way to loudly state, whether through his membership in the “National Organization for Marriage”, or through his own articles, that he’s not only against same sex marriage, but actually advocates for the criminalization of homosexual activities. He goes so far as to equate homosexuality to “deviant behaviour” in this painfully cringey (but fascinating) interview with Donna Minkowitz.
Eesh. I have this terribly naive habit of wanting to identify with writers when I love their books. That’s obviously not going to happen here, but when the disconnect is so severe, can I even support their books in an indirect way? I got Ender’s Game from the library. Is that a decent way around this moral conundrum? Let me know what you think, because I’m genuinely stumped. Do you feel the same way about any talented writers?