Orson Scott Card Rewrote Hamlet With Gay Characters, So Why Does Everyone Hate Him?

Writer Orson Scott Card wrote the seminal sci-fi novel Ender’s Game. He also wrote a rant in the Mormon Times telling Americans to rise up and destroy “any government that attempts to” redefine marriage. So is it any wonder that in 2008 he wrote a homophobic version of Hamlet? It’s called Hamlet’s Father and in it Hamlet’s gay dad molests all of Hamlet’s friends turning them all gay. Subterranean Press has just republished Card’s Shakespearean novella and the gays are not happy.

For those of you who are curious about the book, here’s a quick explanation of its twist ending:

Hamlet’s father was gay, and that this made him a terrible king. And his ghost was actually a demonic liar that misled Hamlet as to his cause of death. Claudius didn’t kill Hamlet’s dad after all — instead, it was Horatio, who was taking revenge on Hamlet’s dad for molesting him as a little boy. Hamlet’s dad also molested Laertes, and Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, and turned all four of them gay in the process.

Two different recent reviews have blasted Card for his homophobic version of the Shakespearean classic. The book site Rain Taxi called it “a nightmare of vitriolic homophobia and Publisher’s Weekly called it a book primarily focused on “linking homosexuality with the life-destroying horrors of paedophilia.”

What’s worst though is the book is also very badly written, lacking any of Shakespeare’s lyrical nuance or dramatic tension. Take this scene where Hamlet learns about Ophelia’s death:

Horatio brought him his sword. “Laertes is looking for you,” he said.
     “I don’t have time for Laertes. He must know I didn’t mean to kill his father,” Hamlet said.
     “It’s not his father,” said Horatio. “It’s his sister.”
     “Ophelia? I didn’t touch her.”
     “She killed herself. Walked out into the sea, dressed in her heaviest gown. A funeral gown. Two soldiers went in after her, and a boat was launched, but when they brought her body back, she was dead.”
     “And for that he wants to kill me?”

In Card’s rewrite, Hamlet has all the depth of a paper plate—he didn’t particularly like his molesty, dead dad nor does he have any good reason to avenge his death—he just does. But to nail his homophobic point dead into your skull, Card sends Hamlet to hell at the end of the book where his dad exclaims, “Welcome to Hell, my beautiful son. At last we’ll be together as I always longed for us to be.”

It’s kinda like the end of Chinatown except with lots more necrophilic Satanism.

Card has written anti-gay screeds as early as 2004. So it will also come as no surprise that Card joined the board of the National Organization for Marriage in 2009, a group that has no issue partnering up with folks who thinks that gay people eat poop and rape animals.

In response, Twitter users have begun using the hashtag #buyabiggaynovelforscottcardday in which they all suggest buying gay novels and great books written by gay authors. Furthermore, all the media attention has gotten The Guardian to pick up the story and the publisher, Subterranean Press, to issue the following response:

Let me first admit that these complaints about the novella have caught us flat-footed, in part because the work is a reprint. The novella had been published before in the 2008 anthology, The Ghost Quartet, edited by Marvin Kaye, published by Tor Books. Subterranean Press has had a fruitful publishing relationship with Orson Scott Card, and anticipated a collector’s edition of the novella would find an audience among his fans. We did not anticipate controversy for republishing a work which had received no controversy prior to our publication, and which remains in print elsewhere.

Nevertheless, as publisher of Subterranean Press, I am responsible for everything we publish, and that means being ready to hear any complaints and criticisms about what we publish.

It’s a real shame because sci-fi fans once praised Card as an influential visionary. Tons of geeks have read Ender’s Game and consider it a must-read in the genre. Now he’s tarnished his reputation as a futuristic thinker by participating in the retrogressive politics of NOM and their ilk.

Shakesqueer would be sighing in her grave.