Although I’ve put this is the section for Book Reviews, and I will mention spoilers, this post is not a review of Ender’s Game. Its alternative titles could be ‘Don’t Judge a Book By Its Author’, or ‘The Time I Was Tackled Bodily By Death of the Author‘.
Let me tell you a story, from the distant age of 2013 …
The film of Ender’s Game was just about to come out, and the Internet was divided. Not in the way that some people expected it to be good and some for it to be bad – no one seemed to really care how good an adaptation was. The debate came in the fact that no one knew if it was morally correct to go and see Ender’s Game.
For those of you who weren’t online back then, or just never saw the kerfuffle, the author of Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card, had talked about his political beliefs way back in the 90s. Specifically, his political beliefs about homosexuality. Very specifically, that he thought it was Bad and Wrong and Should Be Illegal. Whatever your own stance on homosexuality, I’m sure you can understand that, when 2013 rolled around and Orson Scott Card stumbled back into the limelight, his beliefs were extremely controversial.
I’m not here to vindicate Orson Scott Card, or to discuss the extent of his sincerity in 2013 when he said he no longer felt homosexuality should be illegal. But I was very much opposed to his beliefs. Many of my friends at university were gay. I was a supporter of same-sex marriage. And I, like many other people, didn’t want to give my money to an author who might use it to fund anything that went against my beliefs.
This was a shame, because I’d wanted to read Ender’s Game for years.
Eventually, I bought it in a Sue Ryder Care shop thinking, Sod it, at least this way my money goes to a good cause. But I didn’t read it and didn’t read it, and when my boyfriend asked I said, ‘I just can’t pick it up without thinking of Orson Scott Card and how I disagree with his politics, and how much I don’t want to read anything he has to say.’
So my boyfriend read it instead. When he finished, he planted the book in my hands and said, ‘You have to read this. Right now. Seriously.’
I sighed and grumbled and read the damn thing.
I put the book down and stared around in total and utter confusion.
I opened my laptop and typed, ‘did orson scott card really write ender’s game???’ into Google.
‘Yep,’ Google, essentially, said. ‘He did.’
I boggled. I couldn’t believe a man who campaigned against homosexuality had written Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game says you should not war with anyone – even aliens – until you really understand them. When you understand them, Ender says, you love them. And you hate yourself for defeating them. At the end of the book, when Ender has (apparently) killed every alien in the universe, he atones for his crimes by taking the last egg of their species and protecting it.
The message of Ender’s Game is one of peace, understanding, and tolerance.
The author of Ender’s Game has fought for what, in my and many other people’s opinion, is the very opposite of that.
After reading Ender’s Game, I couldn’t help feeling like I’d been backhanded by Death of the Author. Orson Scott Card’s beliefs, his politics, anything he’d ever said outside of Ender’s Game … held no weight at all within the text of Ender’s Game. It didn’t matter that Orson Scott Card had written it. What mattered was that it was written.
There were plenty of other books I’ve avoided reading because I don’t like the author. After Ender’s Game, though, I’m curious. I want to go out and find those books – preferable also in charity shops, I’ll admit – so I can read them, and compare the book to the author. So I can see if Death of the Author holds up.
So, are there any books that you guys avoid reading because of their author? Is there any chance now that you’ll give those books a go? Let me know!