The more subtle irony of Orscon Scott Card’s plea for tolerance

Ender’s Game is coming out later this year — not to be confused with Hunger Games II, which comes out three weeks later — and I’m pretty excited. I first read the book for fun, then I read it for an assignment in high school, and then I read it again for an assignment in college. But not everyone – including some fans of the book – share my sentiment. And it’s not just the usual litany of concerns, like “Will your movie be as good as the book?”, “Why did you pick a 16-year old actor to play 6-11 year old Ender?”, and “Why did you show the movie’s epic conclusion at the end of the first trailer?” [I trust my readers are astute enough to recognize that clicking on that last link is just asking for a spoiler.]

Instead, Ender’s Game has gotten some flak because the book’s author, Orson Scott Card, is — according to one online petition — “an anti-gay activist, writer, and board member of the National Association for Marriage.” It’s unclear why “writer” qualifies for strike II, but questions of sentence structure aside, I have to admit: I couldn’t care less about who wrote the book and what he thinks about gay marriage. We’ve all read books written by people we disagree with, and I’m hardly the only one who feels this way. Get over it, grab some beans, and get ready for Ender on the big screen on November 1.

Still, there are some people upset about the whole thing, and movie studio Lionsgate publicly distanced itself from Card and promised to host an “Ender’s Game”-themed benefit for the LGBT community, so Card felt the need to respond to his critics. He wrote in Entertainment Weekly:

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

Headlines seized on the irony of the author’s plea for tolerance regarding his own intolerance:

Orson Scott Card Responds to Ender’s Game Boycott With Ironic Plea for ‘Tolerance’ – Wired

Poor Hateful Homophobe Orson Scott Card Is Tired of Being Picked On – The Stranger

But I want to point out another irony: Card’s work is part of a long line of science fiction authors who have taken it upon themselves to reimagine marriage in future societies. In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein introduces us to the line marriage. In The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula le Guin imagines a society without any real conception of gender. Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, if my memory serves me correctly, has all sorts of freaky things going on socio-biologically. And these are just the examples that popped into my head first.

Orson Scott Card’s work is no exception. In Children of the Mind — the third book in the post-Ender’s Game trilogy that follows the story of Ender himself — he envisions what opponents of gay marriage would characterize as the inevitable outcome of the legalization of gay marriage: the marriage of man and machine (though to be fair, George Lucas almost got there first).

I haven’t read the trilogy in a while, but I remembered the story in broad outline and knew just where to turn to to fill in the details: Wikipedia. These scattered excerpts should do:

Jane is first introduced in Speaker for the Dead as an advanced computer program. She is extremely complex, capable of performing trillions of tasks simultaneously, and has millions of levels of attention, even her most unaware one being much more alert than a human. Jane is hesitant to reveal herself to humanity, because she knows that she is the epitome of humanity’s fear: an intelligent, thinking, computer program that cannot be controlled . . . In the conclusion of the Ender Saga, Jane finds herself rapidly running out of processing power due to Starways Congress shutting down her active ansible connections one at a time in an attempt to deactivate her for good . . . In the end, Jane is given corporeal form in the body created in the form of young Valentine, made of a portion of Ender’s aiúa . . . Jane, now in the possession of Val’s body, marries Miro in a double-wedding ceremony along with Peter and Si-Wang-Mu.

In other words, Jane’s story wraps up with a happy ending. But all that hardly sounds like traditional marriage to my ears. I guess, for Orson Scott Card, the changes he was happy to envision hundreds of years in the future came sooner than he thought.

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