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View Diary: Orson Scott Card: What's Mainstream in the Madness (144 comments)

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  •  Ender's game is in my top 5 books of all time (10+ / 0-)

    And Speaker for the Dead is probably in my top 20. It kills me that a man like Card wrote it but it doesn't take away from the fact he's a brilliant writer.

    •  David Brin, who posts here, loathes Card's work (6+ / 0-)

      This reddit thread explains why.

      We don't want our country back, we want our country FORWARD. --Eclectablog

      by Samer on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 09:39:05 AM PDT

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      •  Brin writes: (23+ / 0-)
        Unless Scott Card comes here to speak up for himself, I must be restrained. Except to say a few careful things.
        Yes, we have overlap in our fan bases. Because both of us do sci fi adventure very well. Where we disagree is over some very large basic assumptions:
        1) Almost every OSC tale is about a demigod who - after some life abuse - gets his "Hogwarts letter" informing him that he is actually an ubermensche demigod, not just above average but exponentially better and wiser than humanity as a whole. Don't knock the formula! It appeals to many nerdy-male readers and AE Van Vogt, Hubbard, Geo Lucas and others used it to craft effective wish fantasy entertainment.
        When I caught myself doing it, I swore never! I prefer Star Trek in which lots of merely way-above-average folks have to team up and pool skills to get stuff done.
        2) Note how this meshes with Scott's pessimism vs my "optimism". I believe the enlightenment/tech/west/american/ experiment has accomplished a lot, taking us about halfway from traditional feudalism to Star Trek. We are still in TERRIBLE PERIL! And my new novel EXISTENCE talks about crossing that minefield and doesn't promise that our modern methods will get us there!
        But I believe they are the only ways we CAN get there. In contrast, every single Card tale shows a demigod (standing in for Card) stepping up and saving us from ourselves. Because we're stupid and awful.
        While this portrayal may be biased, I doubt anyone can contend that I get the basic facts wrong.

        "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10 UID: 8519

        by Bob Love on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 10:16:17 AM PDT

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        •  Brin has the formula nailed. I would just add that (10+ / 0-)

          Card's "demigod" heroes are TERMINALLY ANNOYING!. The only reason any one of them would be allowed to live beyond the age of 6 is their superpowers.

          I know that sounds grumpy for which I apologize. But really.

        •  Hmm, let me think about Brin's comments (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jeopardydd, caul, kyril

          Let's see. Things of Card's that I've read:

          Most of his old short stories and novellas. I don't remember any "ubermenshce demigods" in those.

          All the Ender books. Brin's right here, though I don't really recognize a "demigod" in Speaker, Xenocide, or Children, depending I guess on your views of Peter and maybe Wang-mu in Children. Jane shouldn't count. It doesn't help Card that he (like so many writers) went back to the same well time after time.

          Wyrms. Well, I don't agree with Brin on this one. Yes, Patience is the subject of the prophecy.  But she doesn't really do all that much herself.

          Treason (Card's 1988 revision of the 1979 novel A Planet Called Treason). I'll give Brin that one, but it's a whole planet filled with people with crazy abilities. The protagonist just manages to learn more than he was born with.

          Part of Homecoming. A book or two, no more than that. I got bored with it. Can't comment on Brin.

          Alvin Maker. Have to give Brin that one. Personally think it got worse after Prentice Alvin.

          Pastwatch. Whatever you think of the book, I don't remember any demigods there either.

          •  pastwatch (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bob Love, stevemb, caul

            super scientists travel to the past, loaded down with exact knowledge of future events, a miracle virus, and scientific knowledge far in advance of the time. that's pretty demi-goddy to me.

            •  I disagree as I liked this book a lot.... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              caul, kyril

              The 3 main characters are African, Mayan and Muslim... Kinda odd for a guy whose gone off the racial deep end. The person who figured out the past was messed with wasn't special at all. She just happened to grew up in the Pastwatch program and figured out ways to manipulate the machines. The characters are smart but so are most people who work in such a program, normal scientists.

              They come to the conclusion that a European dominated society or the hypothetical Native American dominated society both end in disaster but for different reasons and try to set a course where both end up winning by cooperation.

              I found it fairly brilliant that some white person didn't come save the day. In fact, the vast majority of white people in the novel (Columbus's crew) were the villains. Even Columbus was portrayed as far from saintly but he learns the error of his ways and marries the African woman.

              As for Ender's Game. I liked the book as well but not as much as Bean's version of events in Ender's Shadow. I won't go see the movie because I think it's going to suck compared to the book, like most adaptations and especially because OSC is plain friggin loco. I'll rip the torrent, watch and delete.

          •  What disturbs me is that so many of Card's books (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            caul, stevemb

            are about ephebes.

            "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10 UID: 8519

            by Bob Love on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 09:04:18 PM PDT

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        •  Brin's reading is superficial. (0+ / 0-)

          Of course, that applies to most readings of social science fiction, especially when the main characters are children and teens; people's preconceived notions about speculative fiction get in the way of any attempt to take the work seriously.

          I don't mean any insult to Brin's intelligence. He knows his stuff and I love his work (and he has great politics too!). But he is a writer, not a literary critic, and he writes in a sub-genre (hard science fiction) where the more subtle literary devices are avoided because they cause confusion.

          But he's reviewing social science fiction - a sub-genre where those same subtle literary devices are embraced. Card in particular makes extensive use of metaphor and allegory in all his work. And Ender's Game is a prime example. The entire novel is a multilayered allegory.

          Within the book's universe, Ender himself is a metaphor for humanity, which in turn is a metaphor for the United States and/or the industrialized West in the real world. He embodies us alternately at our best and our worst, our brilliance and our brutishness, our selfishness and our empathy, our fear of the unknown and our insatiable curiosity. His siblings, in yet another layer of allegory, are metaphors for the duality of his nature; their antagonistic relationship and their reluctant cooperation are metaphors for his internal conflicts and the uneasy peace he makes within himself. Peter's manipulation of Valentine mirrors Ender's rationalization of his own behaviour.

          The book invites us to examine our notions of morality, both individual and collective - our ideas about war, violence, self-defense, innocence, guilt, self-deception, and rationalization - as they play out first in Ender's life and then on a grand scale as a clash between civilizations. Much of the plot is supposed to be somewhat morally-ambiguous; Card consistently sets up situations where Ender believes he had 'no choice', and then in the aftermath makes us wonder if he really did have a choice after all.

          We're not supposed to like Ender. We're certainly not supposed to idolize him. He's as much a supervillain as he is a superhero. We're supposed to struggle to identify with him. In fact, Card's repeated heavy-handed reminders of Ender's status as a victim of circumstance are there because most readers would otherwise be hard-pressed to find any reason to empathize with him at all. And despite that effort to humanize him - or perhaps in part because of it - he still makes us feel uneasy, conflicted, and sometimes sickened. And that's the point.

          If you miss all that, the book is just a mediocre and overly-violent adventure story with an implausible and unlikable main character. There's not much to recommend it other than Card's generally-enjoyable prose. But it's hardly unique in that regard. A lot of books suck if you miss the point.

          Imagine reading Lord of the Flies or Camus's The Stranger literally without recognizing the allegory. I don't have to imagine; they were assigned in my high school freshman English class. I was an avid reader, so of course I read all my books in the first week. But at 12 I wasn't yet mature enough to recognize the subtexts on my own. So my memory of them is that they're absolutely awful, violent, gruesome, depressing books about horrible people. The Stranger also managed to be slow and boring.

          I was traumatized by the books and tuned out all subsequent discussion and assignments. But in reading about them as an adult (I'm still not brave enough to actually reread them) I've discovered that there's apparently a lot more to them than the superficial, literal stories that I remember from reading them when I was 12.

          Ender's Game has a lot in common with Lord of the Flies. In fact, it's actually a substantially more complex and challenging book. I don't think everyone necessarily has to like it, but it should at least be treated fairly.

          "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

          by kyril on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 11:57:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Oh Brin (6+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Samer, mattakar, stevemb, caul, Ahianne, kyril

        I was going over some paintings I did in middle school and came across one labeled TAASF Streaker.

        Space Dolphins FTW.

        It is better to be making the news than taking it; to be an actor rather than a critic. - WSC

        by Solarian on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 12:33:18 PM PDT

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      •  That was interesting (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        caul, stevemb, Samer

        I have never met David Brin and was not all that familiar with his politics, but I am friends with his brother Dan. In the reddit thread, David explains that he is not a lefty, but is a libertarian. Dan is definitely a liberal, which is one of the reasons we are friends.

    •  I majored in Philosophy (13+ / 0-)

      I even was in an MA program before I dropped out. So I read lots of philosophy. Including Martin Heidegger. At the time I was a graduate student it was still up for debate as to the extent to which Heidegger collaborated willingly with the Hitler regime. The issue seems to have been sorted out in the past 20 years and not in a way flattering to Heidegger. Heidegger was a brilliant thinker. He was also a Nazi. There's no getting around that. Whether or not his thinking was indelibly tainted by his political association or whether the two can be separated is still a matter of conjecture. It's certainly done nothing for his reputation. Nor has Hannah Arendt's association with Heidegger (before, after and even during the Nazi era) done much to enhance her reputation.

      It's really tough to decide when to separate who a person is and what they've created and sometimes it's entirely necessary (I've met plenty of writers whose work I adore but who were such loathsome individuals  that I was glad to have met them only once).

    •  Ender's Game is in my top 5 also (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Texnance, javan, caul, kyril

      i was so distressed when I found out he was a wingnut wackjob

      Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
      Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

      by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 04:05:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Really? Wow. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      apimomfan2, caul

      I urge you to read this and this, and see what you think of them.

      Personally, given how amazingly many similarities Ender shares with Adolph Hitler (as noted in the first of those two citations), I find it amusingly ironic that Card is calling Obama 'Hitler'... because even if it wasn't intentional, one of the characters he seems to identify with the most is eerily similar to Adolph Hitler. One would almost think Card was complimenting Obama, in an especially creepy way.

      •  I mentioned upthread about the short story of (0+ / 0-)

        Ender's Game.  It differs significantly from the novel in that Ender is never aware that he's not playing a game, one which, on the final screen, is simply unfair, so that the only option is genocide.  He can't even understand why all the military men present at this final level of the game are cheering when he does it.  

        A story with far more nuance and moral dimension was killed by a writer who fancied he had a novel in him.

        Is it courageous to propose tax cuts but not identify a single tax expenditure to rein in? Is it courageous to target your deepest cuts on the poorest Americans, who vote in lower numbers and provide little in campaign contributions?

        by caul on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 06:26:58 AM PDT

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