Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card’s Nebula- and Hugo Award-winning 1985 novel is getting a big-screen adaptation courtesy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine director (hasn’t he done enough?!) Gavin Hood. Hollywood’s lining up behind this as The Next Big Sci-Fi Movie Franchise, counting the geeky readers’ dollars from the Twilight series and The Hunger Games.
The impressive cast so far includes Hugo‘s Asa Butterfield as Ender, as well as Abigail Breslin, Hailee Steinfeld, Sir Ben Kingsley (if you’re nasty), the otherwise flawless Viola Davis, and Han Solo himself, craggy icon Harrison Ford. That’s serious money. Lionsgate recently moved the film’s release date back to November 2013, closer to that of Catching Fire from the same studio.
Awesome, right? The book’s regarded as a modern classic and its many devoted fans often call it “formative,” one of those early reading experiences that cement a lifelong love of sci-fi. It’s provocative, exciting, and it was chillingly prescient in an alarmist way about youth, violence and video games. Lots and lots of people love it and are excited for the movie.
Personally, meh. I read it in my favorite teacher’s social-studies class in seventh grade. I liked it well enough, it didn’t change my life. The xenophobia and naked kids were a turn-off and I didn’t quite buy the ending (now long-forgotten), so I didn’t read the sequels. And “hard” sci-fi wasn’t (still isn’t) my brand of soda—I preferred the superhero escapism of The Uncanny X-Men, Terry Brooks’s ersatz-Tolkien Shannara books and Piers Anthony’s tortured puns in the Xanth series. So, for me, the controversy is pretty one-sided.
Oh right, the controversy! You see, Orson Scott Card, “sci-ficon” and ma-jillionaire author of Ender’s Game, is an awful, gay-hating bigot! He’s on the board of the National Organization for Marriage (that bunch of funsters) and has published some pretty explicitly anti-gay screeds. I’ve gone round and round with some very close friends on the issues of separating an artist from his politics and whether the lasting contribution or widespread enjoyment of one’s works outweighs one’s personal beliefs or actions in the past. To me? Nope, and especially not if you’re alive today working against gay rights. As I said, I don’t really care about the books, so for me it’s easy: This man is our enemy. As a board member of that hate group, he’s actively campaigning against my rights.
“Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage.”
—Orson Scott Card
Hi! So that’s definitely beyond just having one’s opinion or respecting one’s faith (Card is a Mormon). That’s against us.
What that means for the film—and the books and the comic books and any eventual merchandise—is that my Gay Dollar ain’t goin’ anywhere near it and I would very, very actively and loudly encourage yours to do the same. So, why isn’t this being talked about? Hollywood’s gayer than a flamingo on fire but it’s show “business,” okay? I mean, the movie’s gonna be made. No corporate studio is going to pull the plug based on the kooky, ugly rantings of a sci-fi author when a potentially huge movie franchise is developing.
The topic remains, for the present, confined largely to queer blogs and predictably contentious comment sections on nerdy websites. Tor, Card’s publisher, has some interesting posts on the subject, also with the comment culture wars. Hopefully, nearer to the film’s release and the eventual media circus surrounding it, some bear-poking journos will ask the filmmakers, actors, and executives behind the film—as well as Card himself—about these connections.
It’s not that I begrudge the livelihoods of the actors or the many hundreds of people employed by a film production this size, nor those of anyone from Card’s publishing house. Far from it, but my dollar is my vote in these mercenary times and I’ll be damned if I’ll give it to one of the board members of NOM. Ender’s Game director Gavin Hood adapted the novel for the film and I have no info on Card’s deal with the studio, but it’s impossible to imagine the potential financial success of the movie and future book sales won’t further enrich him. Queer fans of the book who overlook Card’s actions and affiliations are putting gay money in NOM’s pocket. Those who insist the film’s got nothing to do with the source material’s author’s politics are rationalizing. A rising tide lifts all boats—good folks will benefit from the movie’s success (Viola Davis!)—but let’s get real.
Defenders can sagely point out that if you researched the politics of your favorite artists and only read/watched /listened to those whom you agreed with 100% you’d have no one left. That’s a conveniently reasonable generalization and it’s not on me to prove a negative, but it’s not entirely untrue nor beside the point. As a concept or a discussion point it’s well and good, but here and now, in these very real times, this guy’s on the fucking board of NOM and I’m not giving him any of my money. Are you? That’s what the Gay Dollar is about, that’s what it’s for. In modern politics, being a demographic with spending money is power. Geeks OUT! itself is about finding and utilizing the power of this community.
How responsibly are we using our power if we’re enriching our enemies?
I have no problem whatsoever totally passing on the movie and vowing never again to purchase (firsthand) another of Card’s books. It’s my money and I can decide not to support those who would see me and mine oppressed or slandered. But I know many fine, upstanding queer geeks who live for these books and are psyched for the movie. They’re conflicted, their betrayal and bewilderment run deep. What to do? Support your local library! Borrow a book or buy it from a used (and queer-run, irony!) bookshop or off of eBay. Go to the film if you’re moved to, but, without explicity or implicitly endorsing or suggesting any illegal activity, I hope you at least sneak in.
Jono Jarrett is the co-founder of Geeks OUT!, a community devoted to to connecting LGBT fans of science fiction, gaming, comic books and other genres. This post originally appeared on the Geeks OUT! blog on April 18. Photos: Nihonjoe, Tor Books