An Open Letter to Orson Scott Card
Hi. How are things? Great, glad to hear it. I had the chance to see Ender’s Game on opening night, which I must congratulate you on. It was one of the finest movie adaptations of a book I’ve seen. Considering the source material, that was no small feat.
I should tell you that many of my friends and colleagues did not go to see the movie. Many of them chose to participate in the boycott started by members of the LGBT community, in protest of your very public views against the basic humanity of homosexuals, and perhaps even more importantly against your contributions to anti-marriage equality causes. Indeed, it is these views that define you for an entire generation of readers. They believe you to be intolerant and hateful. A bigot.
I declined to participate in the boycott, but not because I support your quixotic quest against queers, (that was just for the sake of alliteration, you understand) but because I’ve read much of your work already, and believe that such claims about your character are incomplete. While it’s true that I find your opposition to homosexuality repugnant and indefensible, I believe it’s not the whole story.
You are a mystery to me. A contradiction. I am not one of those people who believes you can really separate the art from the artist. I do not believe that creatives “channel” their work from a place outside of themselves, be it a God, or ill-defined aether, or some sort of cosmic internet of consciousness. I believe art comes from within.
Which is my problem with you. You see, I simply can’t fathom how the man that wrote Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead can hold the views you do, much less take pride in them.
With both the Formics, (I see the movie dropped “buggers”, which I wasn’t entirely happy about) and later the Pequeninos, you crafted two of the most alien races in sci-fi literature, and two of my favorites. Only the ‘Tines’ of Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep and the ‘Pierson’s Puppeteers’ of Larry Niven’s Ringworld compare in my mind among the ranks of fully-developed, believable, yet truly alien races. You managed to write them both in ways that made them so outside of our experience as humans that it was difficult if not impossible to relate to their existence.
And yet, AND YET, you wrote them with obvious love and compassion. Compassion for their unique circumstances, and love for their differences. But you’ve gone further than this. When it was suggested that a method might be found to alter the Pequeninos reproductive cycle to make it more human, “How dare you,” Andrew Wiggin snapped, “We didn’t come here to attack them at the root of their lives. We came here to find a way to share a world with them.”
He loved them exactly as they were, just as he loved the Formics. Andrew believed, with all his soul, that every sentient creature was deserving of love, compassion, tolerance, and respect. How different, how alien they might be was not important. You even came up with an incredibly clever and insightful Hierarchy of Foreignness, to define the different levels of how ‘alien’ something is to human experience.
You wrote all that, Mr. Card, and it was beautiful. That is why I didn’t participate in the boycott, and why I have strongly advised others not to as well, because boycotting your work would also mean cutting themselves off from what I believe to be the best argument for equality, acceptance, and a universal love that I have ever read.
So what prevents you from seeing it? What prevents you from applying the same simple standards you created for the Buggers and Piggies to homosexuals? Can you honestly sit there and expect me to believe that my gay and lesbian friends are Varelse? Because that’s what your public stance is arguing for; a war against the basic human rights and dignity of many millions of people, simply because they enjoy a different set of genitals than you would prefer. How is THAT such a crime that you are unwilling to find a way to share a world with them, with the same level of respect and compassion Ender showed for the Buggers? How is that minor difference enough that you can’t see that straights and homosexuals are not only the same species, but spring from the same culture, language, and shared history?
How can you not recognize homosexuals as Utlanning?
People are calling you a bigot, Mr. Card. People whom I respect. But I don’t actually believe that is the whole story. The intuitive, creative part of you, free of whatever baggage doctrine and dogma has burdened you with, has written something amazing, inspirational and pure. Something worth sharing and spreading and championing. Something that deserves to be timeless.
That part of you knows the right answer. The only answer. It is your life’s work. Please, consider listening to it.
Your humble servant and fan,
Patrick S. Tomlinson
Joseph - 11/05/2013 - 2:24 am #
Oh shut-up. Seriously? Who the hell cares what his beliefs are? You realize that by you criticizing his beliefs that YOU become the bigot?
Tim The Enchanter - 11/05/2013 - 9:38 am #
You lost me in the first paragraph, almost the first sentence. The adaptation was horrible, crushingly bad. I also wonder if you can specify exactly what Card said about homosexuals that is hate speech or that shows that he hates.
Patrick S. Tomlinson - 11/05/2013 - 6:33 pm #
Joseph. I care what his beliefs are, and no, I don’t think I’ll “shut-up” about it. I care because he has worked hard to ensure that the U.S. Government continues to preference his beliefs with the power of law, to the detriment of a persecuted minority.
Were that not the case, were he (and others who disapprove of SSM) content to keep their disapproval as a private matter of conscience instead of the law of the land, then I think you’d find the public reaction would be quite a bit more muted. And no, being critical of intolerant beliefs, ESPECIALLY when those beliefs are being forced onto people who do not share them, does not make one a bigot.
Quite the opposite, actually.
Patrick S. Tomlinson - 11/05/2013 - 6:49 pm #
Tim. I’m sorry you didn’t like the movie. I had a different experience, but then I’m not the best film critic, as I tend to enjoy most of them. As for the rest of your post, Mr. Card’s positions on homosexuals and marriage equality are public record and easily found.
Sue - 11/10/2013 - 2:48 am #
This article is ridiculous. Just because someone does not condone your lifestyle does not mean that they hate you. If you really felt that your lifestyle was moral, would you be so defensive about it? I don’t think so.
Patrick S. Tomlinson - 11/11/2013 - 4:48 pm #
Sue, I’ll go ahead and ignore your use of the word “lifestyle” to describe an intrinsic and immutable part of a person’s nature, no more a lifestyle choice than skin color, but I will correct your other false assumptions.
First, it’s not my “lifestyle”. I am straight, which could have been easily gleaned from the letter itself. I like my women sassy, athletic, and a little nerdy, so there’s nothing for me to be defensive about. A person doesn’t have to be gay to support equality, only compassionate and humane.
Second, could you please point out in the letter where the word hate appears? I did not claim Mr. Card hates anyone, only that he has opposed equal protection under the law for homosexuals, which is not a matter of debate. His emotional motivations, be they hate, apathy, or misguided love, are not actually of concern or importance. A religious man could love women, yet still believe they should not be allowed in positions of authority over men, for example. Hate and bigotry, while often interwoven, are not necessarily synonymous.
Indeed, your reply bears so little resemblance or relationship to the content of my letter that it leaves me wondering if you bothered to read it at all. I rather strongly suspect the answer is no, and that this little gem is your stock, reflexive answer to anyone or anything that dares to argue against your ingrained dogma. It is how you avoid your responsibility to think.
Hailey - 11/21/2013 - 12:45 pm #
The film isn’t out in my country yet, and I’ve been of two minds of whether or not to see the movie myself since I found about Mr Card’s ‘quixotic quest’.
I loved, loved, loved the book, and was so surprised, and so disappointed when I found out about Mr Card’s personal views (and his quest, which unfortunately he has not kept personal). I couldn’t believe that the same person could have written such a moving book.
I enjoyed your letter, as I often wonder how effective boycotts really are, since there’s seldom for dialogue in one, and it’s great to read a different perspective.