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