Recently, I carried an armful of recycling to the big blue bin outside. My arms full, I nudged the lid with my elbow, pushing and prodding until it opened all the way.
Deep within its recesses, something caught my eye. There they sat, two good-as-new paperbacks, glaring at me. “Why are you tossing us?” they said. “We have so many stories left to tell. Can’t you at least send us to Goodwill along with your other castaways?” (Don’t mind me. I like to anthropomorphize things.)
I let the lid close with a satisfying thud, silencing their voices forever.
I’m nobody’s book burner. Please understand that. My husband and I? We’re book collectors. We have a house full of them: pristine hardcovers, tattered paperbacks, graphic novels, and comic books too. Our personal library is full to bursting.
But these two paperbacks, sure to start decomposing quickly in this balmy Southern autumn, were Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, penned by the infamous Orson Scott Card. I first heard of the two novels ages ago, back before Card’s anti-gay reputation took on such epic proportions. Knowing my love of sci-fi novels, a friend who’d read Ender’s Game mentioned it in an email. “You’d love it,” he said. “You have to read it.”
A few years ago my husband picked them up, despite my protestations. By then, I’d heard rumors of Card’s considerable and vociferous personal politics. Still, as I had no proof to support my claims, the books were purchased and brought into our home.
My husband takes his time with books, often reading two or three at once. But the Ender books? He blew through them both at record speed. “They’re amazing,” he said, numerous times. “You’ve got to read them.”
I’d make a face, shrug, and change the conversation.
The reason: Card’s personal politics — you know, those considerable, vociferous ones — they’re completely antithetical to my own beliefs. I support marriage equality for all; Card has written and spoken against it, time and again. In fact, in a 2008 treatise against the overturn of Proposition 8 in California, he wrote, “No matter how sexually attracted a man might be toward other men, or a woman toward other women, and no matter how close the bonds of affection and friendship might be within same-sex couples, there is no act of court or Congress that can make these relationships the same as the coupling between a man and a woman.”
At the core of his argument was the fact that a same-sex relationship is inherently different — presumably bad — and thus is not protected by law. The sci-fi author has since backpedaled from this opinion. As the movie version of Ender’s Game readies to open in theaters everywhere this fall, Card has distanced himself from that comment, but the timing is convenient, even calculated.
I’ve heard it argued that I should let myself read the books, as Card’s personal political opinions don’t affect the quality of his writing. That argument has merit, too, at least until he uses his fame as a platform to spread his beliefs. That forces my hand. As a consumer, I have a choice to make: support him by purchasing his products while he continues to support causes I find offensive, or take my business elsewhere. I always choose the latter.
It’s the same reason I don’t eat at Chick-fil-A. Its CEO’s comments against marriage equality and his donations to organizations I abhor are reason enough to take my business elsewhere. It’s true that I have gay friends who still eat Chick-fil-A, and others who read Card’s books (and who argue they’re just that good). But I’ve made a different choice. A choice that feels right to me. There are plenty of other options in this world than Chick-fil-A and Orson Scott Card.
Of course, I’ve created a bit of a paradox here, I admit. I, too, write novels, and should a novel of mine one day break out and become well-known, I’ve just given you permission not to read it if you don’t agree with my statements. By writing this column, I’m potentially hurting myself.
Know what, though? I’m OK with that. Everybody has a choice to make, and I’d rather be open and honest with who I am before anyone invests their time in getting to know me.
So this November, I won’t be going to see Ender’s Game. I’ll try to ignore the betrayal I feel by Harrison Ford’s participation in the film (Han! How could you do this to me? After the way I cried the first time I saw you frozen in carbonite?), but I don’t know if I’ll succeed. Then again, I haven’t watched a Mel Gibson flick in years.
For now, well, I still smile when I think of Card’s books in my recycle bin. At least we’re not spreading his books any further.