With today’s release of Ender’s Game, a whole shitstorm’s been a’brewin’ about what a terrible person Orson Scott Card is. His virulent homophobia has been recently widely publicized, leading to people calling for a boycott of the movie so as not to support any project Card is even tangentially involved in. I’ve fallen on both sides of this argument before. For example, when the Tom Cruise being crazy stories were breaking left and right, and people were up in arms about his beliefs in Scientology and his treatment of Katie Holmes, I was able to differentiate between the man and his work. It helped that A.) he’s really never been in a bad movie, B.) he’s always seemed like a genuinely nice guy, regardless of his beliefs, and C.) most of the rumors seemed unfounded or inconsequential.
That may be a poor example because Card is a homophobic activist, which can be argued is much more harmful than Tom Cruise and his Scientology beliefs. So where do I fall on this spectrum? I think Card is an awful person. I think his beliefs stem from a place of ignorance and fear, and that actively trying to prevent people from expressing something as pure as love is absolutely ridiculous.
However, as it relates to Ender’s Game (or the Ender series as a whole, extending to the Shadow series) I’m torn. I very much enjoyed what I’ve read of both the Ender series and the Shadow series, but I do feel a little icky reading, and supporting, something from such an awful person. What it comes down to, for me, is how much of Card is in his writing. This is tricky because every author leaves a lot of him or herself on the page. That’s just how it works. But the truth of the matter is, neither the Ender series or Shadow series have even hinted at anything homophobic. The themes and messages in the books I’ve read up to this point have been centered on the morality of war, and the way children relate to one another as well as adults.
The conflict, then, lives in a gray area for me. While I wholeheartedly disagree with his believes regarding gays, I don’t disagree with his views on wartime morality. I find his writing engaging, and his ideas interesting enough to make me think. If I were to pick up a book that was laced with his intolerance, I wouldn’t read it. But I would drop a book preaching intolerance from any author. It is well within any person to have beliefs both good and bad. For Card and his writing, I’ll choose to focus more on the good beliefs than the bad ones until I read or hear something that convinces me otherwise.
Even though there is a lot of an author in each thing he or she writes, I think that any good author (and Card is a good author) can separate themselves enough from their perspective that a reader can afford them the benefit of the doubt.