Orson Scott Card: the Tom Cruise of Sci Fi Novels

This one’s going to take a little bit of explaining.

With the trailer to Ender’s Game making the rounds, it’s only natural that Ender’s creator would get some attention as well. The problem is that with Orson Scott Card, the kind of attention he seems to attract in the media is never the good kind. Mind you, I’m not blaming the media for this; it’s not their fault that OSC has a tendency to say homophobic things in public, in earshot of a reporter, or to a reporter.

Look, let’s just get it out on the table: the man’s a homophobe.

Here’s where the comparison to Tom Cruise comes in. I’m not saying Tom Cruise is a homophobe or that Tom Cruise is gay. That’s beside the point.

The Last Samurai is one of my favorite movies. Yes, I know it’s a samurai movie where white-bread Tom Cruise somehow manages to be the last of the Japanese samurai and that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yes, I know it’s basically the plot to Dances With Wolves. I don’t care. I like the movie a lot. The score is kick-ass and I like the part where he kills all of the ninjas.

The problem is that, although Tom Cruise does a fairly good job acting the part of his character, there’s never a moment where I forget that final-samurai-aspirant Nathan Algren (Cruise’s character) is anybody other than Tom Cruise. I can’t get into the story the way I could with a lesser known actor or an actor who’s better at concealing himself within a role. It’s always “oh, hey, there’s Tom Cruise.”

I understand why you don’t want to hide Tom Cruise in your movie. He’s fucking Tom Cruise. You have to pay a billion dollars just to use that name and face; you better get your money’s worth. But it’s still a distraction. That “hey, it’s Tom Cruise” reaction is going to diminish my experience of the story, no matter how good of actor Cruise is. It’s just going to happen. It’s the curse of superstardom.

Orson Scott Card’s homophobia is the same kind of distraction. I love Ender’s Game. It has a special place in my heart, because it’s a book that my little brother recommended to me. He doesn’t know this, but it’s one of those little things; he doesn’t read much, so when he suggested a book that he really enjoyed and I read it and really enjoyed it, it became a special thing to me. Ender became more than just a good book; now it’s a good book that also has a personal memory for me.

But now there’s this distraction. It doesn’t matter to me that I loved the first book and would probably like the later Ender books. When I see OSC’s name on the cover, I can’t help but think about all the homophobic opinions he holds, opinions that offend me on a deep and personal level.

He’s allowed to have his opinions, of course. It’s just unfortunate that they’ve eclipsed his work and become a distraction. Just like Tom Cruise’s recognizability  distracts from my enjoyment of the Last Samurai, OSC’s public homophobia distracts me from immersing myself in Ender’s world.

OSC is free to express his opinions. It’s just unfortunate that his particular opinions constitute a barrier me for towards the enjoyment of his work.

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