Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1) Ender's Game question

Author Politics and Ethics of a Reader
Sara Sara Aug 30, 2013 10:00AM
Should an author's personal political views or morals/ethics be a consideration when selecting a book to read? Card's (Ender's Game) anti-gay views, while not present in his book, have made me reconsider purchasing his book(s). I loved Ender's Game (and read it without knowing the Author's anti-game values), but probably won't pick up another Card book.

Naiya (last edited Aug 30, 2013 08:46PM ) Aug 30, 2013 08:31PM   5 votes
When there's a car or clothing company that's doing something objectionable, or whose CEO starts spouting off in a way that angers people, it's pretty much expected that consumers who feel strongly about those practices or opinions can/will/should boycott the product.

Do we put a different standard on books because they're art/entertainment/literature? Is it the fear of being accused of the c-word (censorship, close-minded, curmudgeony)? Is it because we don't like the idea of emotional/moral obstacles to getting our hands on the books we want?

Way I see it, it's important to differentiate between historic literature whose authors are dead and whose copyright is either public domain or owned by the family or other entity, and modern books which are owned by their creators who (along with publishing houses) directly profit from their sales.

Buying these books supports the authors financially. That's it. End of. It's that simple, whether it's books, soccer balls, or an ivory pendant. It's up to you, as the consumer, to decide whether that's a purchase you want to make, and a product-producer you want to support.

Also: Borrowing the book from the library sounds like the perfect solution, but many libraries pay authors for the times the book is checked out. If you want to be truly consumer-conscious about your reading habits, find out what your library's policies are.

Also #2: You can disagree with an author, but have no objection to supporting him financially. I read memoirs of people whose political views or life decisions I disagree with. It's not a question of only reading authors who have no opinions (authors usually have many) or of only reading liberal or conservative fiction. It's about making informed choices about where your money is going, and deciding whether this specific issue is the one that matters enough to you to make that decision not to buy.

It's so curious to me that people don't understand the distinction between the freedom to express one's beliefs, and actions taken to effect change on other people's lives - maybe it's that they don't know that it's not what he's written in the books, and it's not just his personal opinion. OSC has been a prominent board member on NOM, and he has repeatedly written and contributed money to efforts that work to deny rights to a segment of society. He can believe whatever he wants, and spout off whatever bigoted bilge he chooses to, just as the idiots did in reaction to the pageant winner last night - that's freedom of speech. When he uses the money and position he's gained from his writing and now the movie, to actively work against fellow citizens, that is more than enough reason for me to choose to not contribute to his ability to do so, and to speak out against supporting him.

Xdyj (last edited Aug 30, 2013 07:24PM ) Aug 30, 2013 07:23PM   2 votes
I think Alyssa Rosenberg wrote something about this: An Ethical Guide To Consuming Content Created By Awful People

Gary (last edited Aug 30, 2013 06:42PM ) Aug 30, 2013 04:47PM   1 vote
I would first contend that OSC's anti-gay agenda actually is present in Ender's Game in a few subtle, and some not-so-subtle ways. No decent writer with a dictionary and access to a TV set accidentally names the inhuman, faceless targets of a genocidal war against humanity "buggers" and has children indoctrinated and trained to destroy them without realizing that that term has an association with homosexuality.

However, without getting too far into an analysis of the book which would require I go through the whole thing again (I'm loathe to do that--I didn't much like it the first time) let's go with the assumption that it does not appear in his work at all.

Writers are not perfect people, and it is unreasonable to expect them to be. Equally true is that writers are putting themselves out for public delectation in a way that is deeply exposed, easy to misinterpret and entirely voluntary. Where artists express ideas that might be in a gray area, or even relatively negative, I think reasonable people can agree to disagree.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's a lot of gray area when it comes to OSC. He's gone right off the deep end into working hard to oppose civil liberties for other Americans, using racist associations in order to cast aspersions on those he politically disagrees with, has called for the imprisonment of homosexuals on a regular and arbitrary basis (just to keep the rest in line and in the closet) and gone so far as to espouse taking down the U.S. government and nullifying the Constitution. (He hasn't said what he wants to replace it with, but he has said that he thinks the Constitution is "insane" and that he believes it "will die.")

Those things would be bad enough, but he's actually worked to make them happen as a board member for the NOM, and apparently he has spent his money for such causes. That means the money people give him goes to support his political work--not his beliefs, mind you, his WORK.

If he were just a guy who had whacky beliefs and spent his money on a stamp collection, that'd be one thing. I might still read his work, though I'd bear in mind the zany philatelist might leap up at any given moment. However, OSC has crossed the line between reasonable differences of opinion and crypto-fascist political activist. Supporting his work as a writer is to support his work as an activist, and I just don't think people of good conscious can do that when they are fully informed of the facts.

@ Kristy

Frankly, while Ender's game is good piece of genre fiction, it not that good and does not warrant getting pass for its highly bigoted author. Card is not reinventing the genre with Ender's game... I'm not really seeing the horizons being expanded with this one. And nice patronizing response for the OP.

If I think I will enjoy reading a book I will read it, regardless of the beliefs of the author. If the author has beliefs that radically diverge from mine and are likely to impinge into the book I might not read it. Or maybe not, I am always planning to try one of the novels of Celine, for all that he was a far-right anti-semitic nut whose unsavoury ideas do creep into his books to at least some extent.

I agree deciding to read is your own personal choice, what not to read for hwtever reasons is also your choice. As for OSC it is your choice, but knowing what he does these days with the money he makes could influence your choice, I know it did with me.

This book was published in 1985, before homosexuality was as big issue. It doesn't talk about gays at all. The protagonist, Ender, is six when the story starts. He's twelve by the end, but even then he's not thinking about sexuality. Too busy saving the world.
What does it matter what the author thinks? I don't plan on meeting Orson Scott Card anytime soon. I'm never going to talk to him. But books, yes, I'll read his books.

Karla (last edited Sep 01, 2013 06:33PM ) Aug 30, 2013 09:06PM   0 votes
I think there's a line somewhere here.

On one hand, reading books written by authors with different views can expand one's horizons. It's good to learn how other's think, feel and see the world. Reading is educational. Even if you don't agree with someone's views, you might still be able to learn something from them, adjust your own views of the world, or make yourself better informed to argue your point of view.

Just because someone is different doesn't make them a bad person. You can find novels by Christian authors with religious themes and by atheist authors with anti-religion themes. Both may be promoting their views through their writing, and both may be good, moral people. They simply see the world differently from each other. You can learn something from both of them.

However, I think blatant hatred is a different story. As others have said, when you purchase a book that isn't public domain, your money goes to that author. And that person may use their money in support of their hateful agenda. Therefore, by buying the book, you are indirectly contributing as well.

I realize most authors let their writing do the talking for them, and many (myself included) don't publicly share their political views. Nor do I think it is incumbent upon the reader to research what an author supports before picking up a novel. Moral dilemmas like this usually only arise when an author actively makes their views known, as Card has done. And while there is no overt anti-gay message in Ender's Game, the author has clearly made it known that he financially supports anti-gay groups and has gone so far as to advocate the overthrow of the government to stop the advancement of LBGT rights. At that point it becomes a little difficult to separate the story from the writer who is profiting from your patronage.

The subject matter of a book shouldn't turn you away if it differs from your views. (In fact, it may be a good reason TO read the book.) But if an author actively, vocally and financially supports something you are morally opposed to, don't compromise your own integrity by supporting them.

(Personally, I was unaware of Card's political views when I read this book several years ago. - It was loaned to me by a friend. I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. - I thought it was good, but not great. I didn't enjoy it enough to read the sequels or to read it again. And the themes present can certainly be found in other fiction. I don't think anyone would miss out on something wonderful if they didn't read Ender's Game, but that's just my opinion.)

When it comes to selecting a book to read, I agree with Kristy. It is entirely possible to enjoy an author's work while disagreeing with the author.

When it comes to selecting a book to purchase, I have to differ slightly. Reading a book from the library or purchasing it from a used book store does little, politically speaking. However, purchasing it new puts money, however small an amount, into the author's pocket. Some authors, like Card, donate large amounts of money to their causes. By purchasing, the reader has a hand in making those donations possible.

Ultimately, it has to come down to individual conscience. I know that some people will purchase a Card book and then turn around and donate the cost of the book or more to an LGBT group, as a way of balancing the scale. Others boycott him altogether, and others buy up all of his work to show support, either because they agree with his views, don't care either way, or don't believe that a creator and his work are inseparable.

Libraries in America don't pay the author every time the book is checked out but the UK does. So yeah be aware if you don't support Card.
One thing I find funny is how we are so upset about this but when politicians do it, its not talked about as much.
My opinion for me, I don't care I will read the books because I love the characters and the plot. Everyone has their own views on gay rights and if Card was brought up a mormon, it will most likely be what the church believes. Most churches have that view and thats fine; thats what America is all about. I personally support Gay rights because "Marriage" is a religion based union, but civil unions are done by the federal government and our government is not supposed to have any religion in it.
This is my own choice and I am not disagreeing with anyone but we need to let people come to their own views by themselves and not guilt them into it.

Personally I don't think that the author's views have anything to do with what books I read. Provided that the book itself isn't radically in opposition to what I think (I assume that in that case I wouldn't enjoy it as much) I should read the book for the enjoyment I get out of it, not to make any kind of statement about what the author says or does on their own time. I am simply not up to thoroughly researching the opinions of every author whose books I read.

Take this particular example for instance. I didn't read any homophobia at all in this book (as the OP noted), and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Now a few years ago when I first read this I had no idea that OSC was a homophobe. To know or care about anything about the author simply didn't cross my mind, and it certainly didn't change how I felt about the book I was enjoying.

Now that they are making a MOVIE (the movie industry is everything around here apparently) the media has started paying attention to OSC's personal views, which I imagine he's had for some time. Now that this has been shoved in everyone's faces it's cool to pretend we actually care about what all of our authors think and do and boycott the purchase of his books. For me however, it stands to reason that if I care about what OSC thinks enough to stop buying things he receives royalties from, I should go about stalking the authors of every other thing I consume, evaluate their personal views and activities, and do the same with them.

Lets face it, no one is going to do that. So lets not pretend that this is a noble cause and stop letting the media select the people who's views we should care about. I think everyone who's read Ender's Game can agree that its a good read (I at least enjoyed the heck out of it) and that should be what determines what we buy, not OSC's doomed political/social views.

When it's something you're as invested in as I am in Ender's Game, the bigotry doesn't make it into the book, and the Author's views aren't going to become a reality, then I have no problem with buying their products.

Absolutely a person or company's political view should be taken into consideration when purchasing or using their product, I thought everyone did this anyway, especially if you feel strongly against it. There's no way I would give them support, financially or otherwise if I felt strongly against their stance. However, if you are still interested in the book for example borrow it from the library, source the product for free. I wouldn't bother wasting my time personally.

I had posed this question in the Christian Reading forum: "Would you continue to read a favorite author after you found out he was athiest?" For me, I was surprised to find out that Isaac Asimov was a professed athiest. The general answer that was given to me was as long the author was promoting/pushing his/her religious beleifs (or lack of) in the book, then it shouldn't be a problem. I feel the same should hold true with policital beliefs or personal beleifs.

I agree that it's everyone's personal choice whether to support an author who has different, and quite frankly destructive in my opinion, personal views. I choose not to support him by purchasing the book/seeing the movie, because I don't really desire to support someone who feels like I am less than someone else because of my gender and orientation, and I definitely do not want to inadvertently support any him to take action against lgbtqia people. I read the book on a free pdf online just for the sake of having a background in the book for discussions and such, which I do not support doing unless you have a genuine reason you do not feel comfortable supporting the author. I was rather understandably uncomfortable with the subtle homophobia in the book and have no intention of reading any of his other books.

I don't think that people should read books only from authors we completely agree on, however I don't agree with giving money to people (freely or through profits of the things they make) who will very likely spend that money to support organizations that support the disrespect people we care about, and erode the civil liberties that we are working extremely hard to maintain and often, still haven't even been privy too.

It depends on whether the author is USING their status as an author, or their wealth or fame accumulated by being an author, to push those views out into the world.

Here's the thing: if a business is doing something objectionable, like paying horrible wages, not giving their employees healthcare, running anti-gay ads, whatever, they are able to continue doing those things BECAUSE people use their business and pay them money. Taking away their money and business will actually be able to stop these bad practices.

An author might be a different case. They might believe whatever they want, but if they are not promoting their beliefs to the public or hurting anyone with their beliefs, whether you buy their book or not isn't going to make a difference. They're still going to believe whatever it is they believe.

Now if the author is using the money or fame they get from their books to promote the objectionable idea/behavior, then yes, refusing to buy their books on a mass scale would deprive them of that money (though, at this point, not necessarily the fame) and make it harder for them to spread their hate. So then it WILL have an effect, and it's reasonable to refuse their books based on their actions.

So to me it would be a case to case basis. If you can stop someone from hurting others by avoiding their product, then definitely, you should do so. But if avoiding their product won't change anything, then what's the point?

I think OSC is (or maybe was) one of the better sf writers active today. Until fairly recently I've not heard of his homophobia; without looking more deeply than I tend to when reading fiction (in my view all fiction is escape literature) I did not notice any particular homophobia in Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead (which I consider a much better book), or Shadow of the Hegemon (which I thought not very good). The term "buggers" didn't come to my notice as a reference to gays, mostly because it was not a slang term common in my social circle; iirc, "bugger" as an insulting term for homosexual is more British usage than American. Alternatively it's because aggressive, insectoid aliens were such a common sf trope.

I have read (and shan't name as I may be over-reacting) some current sf authors who seem to ooze bigotry in their work. These, I do not buy and do not read. Anybody who says that this is "censorship" is reaching: first, we're discussing a fiction writer's commercial fiction, second, and more critically, censorship is active suppression, not an individual's exercise of market choice. The Texas Board of Education censors; the Japanese ultra-nationalists who kill (or threaten to kill) Japanese historians who dare to mention war crimes, like the Rape of Nanking, censor. Even the local pressure groups who get books pulled off library shelves, censor. The important point of censorship is not that you and your group don't read something: it's that you keep somebody else from doing so, either by government action or by threat. Not giving OSC my money is not censorship.

Walter (last edited Aug 30, 2013 02:15PM ) Aug 30, 2013 02:14PM   0 votes
I think it's a personal moral choice. By that I mean, the only real affect this decision will have is on your conscience. From what I can see, gay rights are moving forward regardless of Card's views. Will not buying his books affect gay rights in the US? I don't think it will.

But sure, even there are no real-world consequences, I understand the moral sentiment of not buying his books on principle.

I would never take an author's personal beliefs into account when deciding to purchase a book, or even just to read it. This is largely because I choose not to expose myself to authors beliefs and philosophy. I read a book like I enjoy a painting, I don't need the person's life story to enjoy a work of art, or at least you shouldn't.

While I do not agree with Card, and his beliefs only became known to me because of the hype they are causing, the man should be rewarded for what he has created, and that reward is payment. While its fine to start supporting this when examining someone with crazy beliefs toward something you support, if you started getting the complete opposite, I am sure you would then disagree. The double-edged sword of censorship. What if school boards started to ban your favorite book because it was written by someone who supports homosexuality?

As much as it may be fun to want to know about the person who created the book, etc. that you really enjoyed, I think its best to keep those people and their beliefs away from the content, for exactly these reasons. Card has a right to express his personal opinions, boycotting art because you don't like the artist, seems silly to me.

Dan (last edited Sep 16, 2013 08:14PM ) Sep 16, 2013 08:13PM   -2 votes
Sara wrote: "Should an author's personal political views or morals/ethics be a consideration when selecting a book to read? Card's (Ender's Game) anti-gay views, while not present in his book, have made me reco..."

No not in any way form or fashion, a book merits should be on the book itself.

People are flawed by nature so if we have to stay away from such flaws we should remain ignorant idiots or maybe yet just kill ourselves so we don't get contaminated!

That's a terrific idea, lets only read books from authors that believe exactly what we believe.

I am traditional in my views of marriage. I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman, defined by the Creator. Still I watch movies and television and read books where the writers and actors have a totally different view than mine. I am not a Mormon like Card and may even believe Mormonism is a cult, but I love Ender's Game and I am re-reading it right now in anticipation of the movie.

When it comes to your question Sara, the answer is a definite "YES", but not because we should boycott those we disagree with politically or ethically, but we should understand where the author is coming from. Should I boycott Harry Potter, because J.K. Rowling shares that Albert Dumbledore was gay certainly not the Harry Potter series is one of the best written series in my lifetime.

I read because I want to broaden my vocabulary, escape daily routine, and expand my horizon, Sara I would encourage you to do the same.

Well I am perfect in my beliefs so I think all the perfect people (like me) should only engage in the work of other morally perfect artists.


Feliks (last edited Aug 31, 2013 06:49PM ) Aug 31, 2013 06:43PM   -2 votes
"it's pretty much expected that consumers who feel strongly about those practices or opinions can/will/should boycott the product"

Curious statement. This is the first I've heard of this happening or being expected by anyone to happen. Except for the PETA crowd. Why, if this principle were true, and people truly did shop with ideals uppermost in mind, no one would buy Nike sneakers or drink Coca-Cola. Lots of people around the world (as well as right here at home) despise American imperialism but we all buy American products. You'd have a lot of work to do to avoid purchases which don't bring any ethical taint with them, in this day and age.

There's some great responses in this thread; better than I thought I'd see. The disturbing, fanatic urge to 'police everybody'--seems to have grown exponentially with the internet itself.

Does it matter? OSC hates gays. Ender's Game does not. You might as well just put masking tape over his name and enjoy the book. Worried about him 'earning money' from you reading the book because you don't agree with him? Well, every person has the right to make a living, and he made the content for that, not to make money for killing off gays. I have no doubt that the parents of many people here are homophobes. Mine are. I would never deny them the right to live and think, and I would never deny them the chance to earn money off their work. Boycotts aren't the way to protest; demonstrations are, public showings or petitions. Boycotts are just interfering with a person's ability to pursue happiness because you disagree with them.

Robert Indeed, it doesn't appear it would hold up in a real world, yet democracy with more than a small and select voting group would have seemed to be insan ...more
Sep 21, 2013 04:11PM · flag
Benjamin Uminsky I think for your approach to have any meaningful acceptance in a heterogenous society would require a mass labotimization of the populace. No? ; )
Sep 21, 2013 07:40PM · flag

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