Worlds & Time

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Refutation of Ender In Exile in OSC's Style

First off, I don't think that I'm remotely good enough to convincingly emulate Orson Scott Card's style but this is my attempt to do so anyway. I've noticed that there are often scenes in which someone intelligent explains something to someone not so intelligent, and this is my attempt to riff off of that.

Second, I loved Orson Scott Card books . . . once upon a time. But I picked up
Empire, flipped through it, and didn't like it. Didn't like it enough to tell myself that I wouldn't buy them new anymore. It's tough enough to make ends meet without second hand book stores. So when someone offered me a copy of Ender in Exile, I was quite ecstatic.

Then I read it. And most of it was good. But there were certain sections that were . . . very bad. Including some that were thinly veiled attacks on gay marriage (and adultery [by a women], and premarital sex [by a woman]). Of course, with the defeat of prop 8 by Mormons (Orson Scott Card is a Mormon) I decided to focus on the gay marriage attacks in
Ender In Exile.

Considering that his books are set in the future, and so many other cultures are given a more balanced treatment in the books than OSC gives gay people in real life, I've been thinking recently, "What would Ender say to a gay couple?" Of course, Ender is a copyrighted character, so here's my attempt at a OSC scene from my perspective instead of OSC's.



Andrea went searching for Dad Derrick because he was much more likely to give her a real answer to her questions than Dad Christopher. Dad Chris sometimes avoided the answer to questions he didn't want to answer but Derrick always spoke to Andrea as an adult and had ever since she could remember. If she'd scraped her knee she called for Chris and if she wanted a serious question answered she went to Derrick.

Derrick was sitting at his desk his office, which overlooked their courtyard garden and didn't look up when I came to the door.

"Dad?" I asked after a moment and he looked up momentarily.

"Hey sport," he said before turning back to ruffling through his papers. "What is it?"

"Could I ask you a question?"

"Always. Shoot."

"Why are you and Christopher in a relationship if it isn't the optimal social arrangement?"

Dad Derrick looked up sharply and looked at Andrea, the papers forgotten. He looked genuinely shocked and suddenly Andrea regretted asking. She hadn't realized that this was going to be a big deal, but she could tell already that this was going to be a Big Issue.

"Whoa now, Andrea. Where did you hear that?"

She hesitantly pulled out the book that she'd taken from one of the office bookshelves and read over the previous week.

"Ender In Exile," he read from the title and then leaned slowly back in his chair. Andrea knew the expression on his face; he was trying to remember everything from the book and keep it from mixing up with the rest of the books that he'd read.

It was one of the expressions that defined Derrick to her because she never saw it on Erik or on people on television. She thought it was because Derrick had so many books. Not just book files, but actual bound paper books, and they covered the walls of his office and filled boxes that he kept up in the attic. He'd read so many books that Andrea sometimes thought that he must have lived for a thousand years, even though he was only in his early forties and was younger than most of her friends parents.

"Where did you come across this?" he asked Andrea. He'd lost the tone of shock and now seemed more amused than anything so Andrea relaxed a bit and realized that he'd probably just been really surprised by her question.

"You said that anything not on the top shelf was okay for me to borrow, as long as I put it back. You even recommended the first one and I just kept reading them all until I got to this one."

"I guess that was more of a rhetorical question," Derrick smilingly said. "Pull up a chair, sport. Let's talk about this."

There was an easy chair in the corner that tended to attract books like garbage attracted flies but Derrick pushed them off and offered the seat to Andrea, who climbed up and sat on her feet. Dad Chris would have been annoyed, but sometimes Andrea had seen Derrick sitting the same way and he didn't say anything about it and she saw a flicker of a smile. Maybe Chris said the same thing to Derrick sometimes.

"Tell me what the book says," Derrick suggested.

"There's a part that talks about relationships and it says . . ." Andrea twisted up her head and thought about it for a moment, " . . . monogamy is what works best for any society. That that's why half of us are men and half are women, so that it comes out even. So why are you and Chris in an relationship when it would be better for the society if you were with women instead?"

"There are actually lots of answers to that question," Derrick began. "The one that I have to tell you about because you don't have the experience to figure it out for yourself yet is that you can't choose whom you fall in love with."

"I picked out Charger when we went to the pound and I love him." Charger was her little white puppy, still only a few months old.

"But if you hadn't liked him or if he hadn't liked you we could have returned him or found him another home. You chose to bring him home but you didn't necessarily choose to love him, did you?"

That was a line of thinking that she hadn't expected. He'd replied so quickly that at first she didn't know what to say.

"I guess."

"And it's not optimal for Charger to live with us. He'd probably get more exercise with a more outdoorsy family, and I know that Chris sometimes feeds him table scraps so his diet isn't great. He also costs a lot, not just in food but time and maintaining the yard. There are other places, other families, that would run him every morning and feed him the best dog foods and maybe train him so that he could go win medals at dog shows. So should we give Charger up to another family just because it would be optimal?"

"No!" Andrea was severely dismayed. "I don't want to give him away!"

"And I don't want to break up my relationship with Chris. Hopefully, he doesn't want to break up with me, either," he said in a joking tone but Andrea saw that he had a serious look in his eyes. "That's life. It's not optimal."

"In the book though, there's a section where two people want to have a baby but they don't because the man says that it isn't right, that they have to respect monogamy. If what you want matters more than what's optimal, then why did he have to do that?"

Derrick gestured for the book and Andrea passed it over to him. "Well, first off, even though I think that the man who wrote these books was brilliant, I disagree with him on several things. The situation that you just described is one of them. Allowing those people do what they wanted, with certain limits, would have been a better solution than the one that he proposed in the book. The reason that he wrote it that way isn't hard to figure out, especially for someone as smart as you are. Do you remember back when we were talking about what I do for a living and I told you that writers put a lot of themselves into the books that they write?"

Andrea nodded.

"This author is doing that when he wrote that. Can you guess what he meant?"

Andrea thought about it for a moment. "Maybe he wanted it to be like that?"

"Correct. I've read a few of his other writings and you're correct, he did want everyone to live in relationships of one man and one woman. Back in those days they had questions about whether two men or two women should be able to get married to each other and the author wrote letters trying to stop it."

"Why would he want to do that?"

"There are still people out on different planets that are trying to do that, although not many here on Prospero. Do you know what reason they usually give?"

"Religion . . . Christianity, right?"

"Right again, sport. This author is a Mormon, which is . . .," Derrick paused considering, "well, sort of like Christianity. For now we might as well consider it to be Christianity."

Andrea shook her head, "I don't understand that at all. If they're Christians, why would they care what non-Christians do?"

"Religion is a complicated and very difficult thing to discuss. People have been debating religion for thousands and thousands of years. Sometimes people get it in their heads that they're right and that everyone else needs to go along with them. So those people go out and try to covert everyone to live in a particular way and they usually hurt a lot of people doing it."

"What if someone decides that they're right and goes out and tries to force the people converting other people that they're right?"

"That's what causes wars, sport."

"Why do they think that they're right if it always leads to bad things happening?"

"This is why religion is such a tricky thing. People are afraid of things like death, or crime, or people that are different and one of the ways that they cope with all of that fear is by creating religion."

Andrea thought about that for a moment. "Like if someone's afraid of death they'll invent heaven so that even if they die they'll be able to think they're living forever?"

Derrick laughed. "You're too smart for your own good, sport."

An unpleasant thought had occurred to Andrea though. "What if we're not right? What if the Christians are?"

Derrick shrugged, his face now carefully impassive. "That's a good questions, and it's the hardest one in the bunch to answer. Unfortunately there isn't any evidence for all of their claims than there is for our—I should say my—lack of claims. Some day you'll probably have to weigh all of the things that people claim and make a decision about what you are going to believe. But there's a big difference between us and the Christians that told other people that two men getting married was, uh, not the "optimal social arrangement" and I think it's what defines us."

"We don't try to force our views on other people."

"Got it one. So even if we're wrong we aren't forcing other people to be wrong too. These days most people agree with that, and we let people live and let live as long as they respect everyone else’s choices to do the same thing." Dad Derrick paused one more time. He was always so careful about speaking and writing things. "I just want to make one thing clear to you. Do you remember Carol and Steven? They stayed with us for a few days a few years back?"

Andrea pinched her face together, but try as she might she couldn't recall them. Chris, and Derrick to a lesser extent, had friends from all over that would sometimes come and stay in their guest house for a few days.

"Okay, what about your friend Dustin? You know his parents?"

Dustin's birthday party had only been two weeks ago and he'd had a huge party in the desert biome on the southern continent with dino rides. She couldn't have forgotten his tall and pale parents as quickly as that. She nodded.

"Dustin's family are all Christians. So are a lot of people on Prospero. After the Neopagans and the Buddhists, they're next largest religious group on the planet."

Andrea's eyes widened, but Derrick wasn't done yet.

"What I'm trying to say is that not all Christians are the sort of people that try to impose their beliefs on other people. Most of them are really nice people, and a lot of Christians are people that will fight for the rights of people everywhere to keep living their lives. Just because a few of them are wrong, that doesn't mean that all of them are. Do you understand?" he asked seriously.

Andrea nodded.

"Okay. Well. Do you have any more questions about the book?"

Andrea considered that. "No. Not right now."

"Alright, but if you have any other questions, you can always come and ask me."

She smiled, "I know dad," and went over to give him a hug.

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