I’ve always been a big fan of Orson Scott Card’s books. His creativity and style are very effective in his novels: be they set in the Hatrack River past or the Ender/Speaker future. I was hooked from the moment I finished the novel of his that I read: “Ender’s Game”: I think I first read it back about 1987. I remember several years ago discovering that he was and is a Mormon. That in itself was not a big deal to me: I remember thinking to myself, “Oh well. He’s a good writer anyway.” I have a degree from a conservative Bible College: believe me, I’ve dealt with it many times. I’ve thought very parallel things about many people when I’ve figured out details of their personal lives. So it didn’t surprise me to discover, some years later, that he is also fundamentally opposed to my same-sex marriage to my husband. The difference this time, however, was that this was more personal; Mr. Card’s writings about homosexuality are not only homophobic, extremist and legalistic, they are untrue and insulting. I should have expected that of someone who knows gay people only by reputation; but I would have expected Mr. Card to at least have done more real research than simply relying on general hearsay. For his work in fiction he’s obviously done a lot of work researching physics and science; I would have hoped that he would have done the same when it comes to the philosophy of sexuality. But then, reality might have been challenged by his religious convictions. We can’t have that, can we? “Equating homosexuality with pedophilia is, of course, sheer ignorance. Card is a great writer, but he has blind spot when it comes to gay issues.” (PJStar.com)
I’d read some of the reviews about the book: I’m not one who generally believes reviews… at all, quite honestly. I want to experience them for myself. So when I had the opportunity, I decided to read the book. With his current antagonism toward me and my kind, I did not want to add anything to the writer’s coffers, so I got the book out of the public library. It took me a while to read it; to say that it lacks much of the quality of his previous books is an understatement. Putting aside the underlying themes, I did not even like his writing. I even found some grammatical errors. Perhaps it’s just that he’s aged and become more jaded: but it would seem that in his desire to weave his writing around this aspect of his personal beliefs, Mr. Card’s muse left him. No disagreement from me.
According to one review of the book (which I enjoyed thoroughly): “All of this is as horrifying as it is ridiculous.” (Rain Taxi: William Alexander, 2011) That pretty much sums up my experience. Being queer myself, I found most of it to be the dramatization of some old stereotypes that I’d hoped had been washed away with the draining of anti-gay propaganda over the last few years. So it was, for me, both ridiculous (“he actually thinks gay people are like this?”) and horrifying (“Will anyone read this and think it reflects the truth?”). And it is actually because of this that I cannot help but feel a certain compassion for Mr. Card. As the truth about the average gay person becomes more widely accepted in society, there is more of a popular reaction against those who cling to old-fashioned ideas. It’s already started. And unfortunately, I truly believe that Mr. Card will be more remembered for this kind of homophobia (and this book) than the great writing he has done in the past. They were his actions: it is his fault. But the more he aligns himself with groups like the National Organization for Marriage (on which board he sits), the more he will be remembered more for his homophobia, and less for his writing. Think, for a moment: how many racist writers do you remember from the 1960s?
In his defence, Card writes about Hamlet’s Father: “But the lie is this, that ‘the focus is primarily on linking homosexuality with … pedophilia.’ The focus isn’t primarily on this because there is no link whatsoever between homosexuality and pedophilia in this book. Hamlet’s father, in the book, is a pedophile, period. I don’t show him being even slightly attracted to adults of either sex. It is the reviewer, not me, who has asserted this link, which I would not and did not make.” (Card, 2013) Interesting. And yet, strangely, in spite of Mr. Card’s claims, there is no abuse of girls in the book. In spite of propagation of paedophiles throughout, none of them go after the opposite sex. According to the above statement, Mr. Card may not have intended to put in the link that is painfully obvious to the rest of us: but it is what we have received. And that, perhaps, is what I mean about the deterioration in the quality of the writing. His earlier books were written so well that in spite of the fluidity of the writing medium, we all “got” the fundamental themes. I this book they’re at best confused, at worst misrepresented and strategic.
All this is very politically correct, a clumsy intersection of Card’s fundamental beliefs with the reality of modern capitalism. He can say whatever he wants: nd it’s up to us to filter it through the book and decide how authentic he seems to be. Because in spite of what he’s said, when Hamlet is damned to hell, he meets up with his father, who says: “Welcome to Hell, my beautiful son. At last we’ll be together as I always longed for us to be.” So whatever it was about Hamlet that made him attractive to his Father remains in Hell. I was not aware the we reverted to children when sent to the dark side: though I’ve always assumed we would retain our gender. And in Card’s mind, Hamlet-as-he-died was a suitable prey for his father: even though an adult. So much for the author’s paedophilia theory.