You may have missed the news amid the turmoil in the Middle East, but last week Salt Lake City hosted its first ever Comic Con sci-fi and comic book convention. Perhaps it was the energy generated at Comic-Con San Diego last month, or perhaps it was a particular resonance with the city’s interstellar eschatological hopes—whatever the cause may be, with over 70,000 attendees, the Salt Lake City event was the largest first-year comic book convention in American history and the largest convention of any kind ever held in the state of Utah. Be that as it may, if you had scanned the crowd of Trekkies, geeks, and booth babes, you would notice that one man was conspicuously absent.
That man was Orson Scott Card.
Orson Scott Card is the author of the Hugo-award-winning Ender’s Game, a science fiction novel set in an orbiting Battle School for children bred and trained to be humanity’s best hope of surviving an apocalyptic alien invasion. Since the book became an international best seller (and mandatory reading for enlisted U.S. Marines), Card held tight to his film production rights on grounds of artistic integrity. After co-founding a film company in 1996, Card set about crafting a screenplay himself. Over a decade later, Odd-Lot Entertainment finally picked up the production, Summit Entertainment (since bought out by Lionsgate) picked up the distribution, and Gavin Hood (X-Men, Wolverine, Tsotsi) joined on as director.
At both the San Diego and Salt Lake City conventions, Lionsgate heavily promoted the film adaptation of Ender’s Game, which will open in theaters November 1st. Lead actor Harrison Ford even fielded questions at the San Diego presser. While most geeks would have been thrilled to meet the legendary sci-fi author, Orson Scott Card was not invited to take part. A geeky LGBT group known as Geeks Out had gotten wind of Card’s opposition to redefining marriage; they called for a boycott of the film, and suddenly Card became a liability for the film’s promotion. Amidst the drama, Card issued a call for tolerance and humility in victory:
Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
Card uttered this plea for tolerance in Entertainment Weekly, but arguably he wrote his most powerful plea thirty years ago when he created Ender Wiggin, his most brilliantly crafted character.
Born under military contract and monitored from birth, Ender is taken by the International Fleet to Battle School at the age of six where he is deliberately subjected to extreme mental and emotional anguish to prepare him to defend the human race against the invasion of the alien Formics. Ender’s chief torment is that while he never wants to harm anyone, he is manipulated into situations in which he must attack for survival. His compassion is overruled by his instinct of self-defense, and the burden of humanity’s hope placed on his shoulders. Every time he is manipulated into conflict, Ender’s brilliant mind studies his enemy and achieves a deep bond of sympathy precisely at the moment he discovers and exploits his enemy’s weakness. This is why he is humanity’s hope—and humanity’s victim. By the end of the novel, Ender’s greatness is vindicated by his compassion and sympathy towards his enemy, a greatness played out to less dramatic effect in the novel’s sequel.
Same-sex marriage proponents may think of Orson Scott Card and the National Organization for Marriage as Formic invaders. And there are those on the other side of the fence who view the LGBT lobby the same way. Whatever side of the fence one is on, hopefully all can agree that a little bit of imaginative sympathy would go a long way to judging the matter rightly. As Ender Wiggin would attest, hate sees monsters where there are men, and fear sees enemies where there are brothers.
Image: Orson Scott Card at Comic-Con 2008, photograph by Alex Erde