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When the blogosphere began discussing Orson Scott Card’s rewrite of Shakespeare, Hamlet’s Father, I found myself with little to say that hadn’t already been brought up.

As you might imagine, I have Opinions. But I haven’t read the book, so I can’t speak to that in any honest fashion. But I did want to post some links, and to respond to some of Card’s own words on the matter.

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The Links:

William Alexander’s review in Rain Taxi: “The extent of the novella’s failure is surprising… the revelation in his ‘revelatory new version’ turns out to be a nightmare of vitriolic homophobia.”

The Publishers Weekly review: “The writing and pacing have the feel of a draft for a longer and more introspective work that might have fleshed out Hamlet’s indecision and brooding; instead, the focus is primarily on linking homosexuality with the life-destroying horrors of pedophilia…”

Orson Scott Card’s response: “…there is no link whatsoever between homosexuality and pedophilia in this book. Hamlet’s father, in the book, is a pedophile, period. I don’t show him being even slightly attracted to adults of either sex. It is the reviewer, not me, who has asserted this link, which I would not and did not make. ”

Subterranean Press responds: “…as publisher of Subterranean Press, I am responsible for everything we publish, and that means being ready to hear any complaints and criticisms about what we publish. So write to us at subpress@gmail.com.”

The Offensiveness Grenade and Official Statements from Rose Fox at Genreville: including statements from Tor and from Marvin Kaye, who originally published Card’s story. From Tor, “We do not attempt to censor the political or religious beliefs of any of our authors, and make our acquisition decisions based on commercial potential.”

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Jim’s Long-winded Thoughts:

Orson Scott Card speaks for Orson Scott Card. Card identifies as Mormon, and I’ve come across a few instances lately of people condemning an entire religion (The LDS church, Christianity in general, Islam, etc…) based on the statements or actions of an individual member. Don’t do that.

Like I said, I haven’t read Hamlet’s Father. I’m more interested in Card’s response to all this, in his own thoughts and his own words.

I appreciate that he makes such a strong distinction in his blog post between pedophilia and homosexuality. It’s rather disgusting when homosexuality is linked to abuse, and suggested to be caused by such. Props to him for that (but remember this point for later).

Card goes on to say, “I have been targeted as a ‘homophobe’ by the Inquisition of Political Correctness” and “I have become a target of vilification by the hate groups of the Left, I am increasingly reluctant to have any gay characters in my fiction.”

This gives me flashbacks to Racefail, to authors who said (paraphrased), “You criticized me, so I’m going to stop trying at all. It’s your fault I’ll be writing all-white fiction from now on!”

I wasn’t impressed with this rationalization then, and I ain’t impressed now. The writer is responsible for what he or she chooses to write about, and for what he or she chooses not to write about. Blaming the PC police for your choice to stop writing about gay characters strikes me as cowardly.

As for the claim that “haters” are making up evidence for Card’s attitudes against homosexuality…

“Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.” -OSC, 1990

“The dark secret of homosexual society — the one that dares not speak its name — is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse.” -OSC, 2004

“That a few individuals suffer from tragic genetic mixups does not affect the differences between genetically distinct males and females … How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down.” -OSC, 2008

I don’t know what is or isn’t in Hamlet’s Father, but if your writings against homosexuality span two decades or more, there really isn’t any need or reason for people to make up evidence. Your words speak for themselves just fine.

I’m not writing this to attack Card’s religion (and will be freezing or zapping comments that attack the LDS church based on Card’s statements). And I’m not writing it to encourage name-calling and personal attacks on Card.

I’m writing it because I have a deep-rooted belief that bigotry is not okay. That when these issues arise, they should be talked about. They must be talked about. That when someone makes consistent and ongoing public statements in support of bigotry, these statements should be publicly challenged. That when that same person attempts to play the victim, it should be pointed out that he — along with so many others — is in fact a victim of his own words.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

( 216 comments — Leave a comment )
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jhetley
Sep. 12th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I remember the old saying, "The only bad publicity is no publicity" . . .

OSC is getting a lot of "air time" out of this.
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
If you believe that saying, then I guess OSC's statements against homosexuality are a great marketing strategy.

I'd hold up Charlie Sheen as one of the more recent rebuttals to the idea that there's no such thing as bad publicity.
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sylvanstargazer
Sep. 12th, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
I get the distinct feeling that Orson Scott Card is not annoyed that he is labeled "homophobe", but rather that he is annoyed that people see that as a *bad* thing.

The only gay characters I can think of that he had written was the "I am unhappy and lonely and have sex with a woman to propagate the species" guy in that one series (I don't remember what it was called, since it was the last book of that I read; I think it was a SF rewrite of the book of mormon.) If he is discouraged from writing about gay characters from a bigoted perspective, passing his outsider's judgments and chastising his readers? That's a good thing.

Also, I am forever amazed at how "stop disparaging us and/or people we care about, or we won't read your books or invite you to conferences" becomes a "hate group". It suggests to me just how privileged and free from true violent, virulent and destructive hatred his life has been. It's freedom of speech, not freedom to speek without consequences, especially not when your speech has a real, tangible, hate-fueled effect on the lives of other people.
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
It's possible, even likely, that Card has received comments and e-mail that go far beyond refusing to read his books. Every group has over-the-top members. Heck, I consider the commenters here to be awesome people overall, but I've been called names, told to die in a fire, etc.

But it seems as if Card is using those extreme comments to justify ignoring all criticism, claiming it's all a liberal hate-group conspiracy, or whatever. And that's unfortuate.

"It's freedom of speech, not freedom to speek without consequences..."

Yep.
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rose_griffes
Sep. 12th, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC)
Today I'm particularly grateful for your conscientious moderating of comments, since I'm LDS. (I've always appreciated it but it's rarely been on a personal level.)

Weirdly enough, the subject that has inspired the most altercations* (for lack of a better word) involving me and my religion on livejournal hasn't been Romney's presidential bids, nor my church's involvement in Proposition 8, nor the writings of Orson Scott Card. It's been the Twilight series. How a YA romance can spark more inflammatory and incorrect statements about my religion than politics or sexuality is beyond me...

*Not in my own LJ. People commenting there have been judicious in the statements they make.
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 02:05 pm (UTC)
I can see how that would happen ... people have such strong feelings about the Twilight series. That book often seems to generate much more passion than I've seen directed at Card, Romney, or Prop 8. And given human nature, I get where those would spill onto the author and her religion. Which is unfortunate.

I feel uncomfortable that this is the third LDS author I've criticized in the blog over his views on homosexuality in recent months. I don't think that's a reason to silence myself, but I worry about sending messages I don't intend to send, or being misread...
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la_marquise_de_
Sep. 12th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
I had bounced off the novella when it first came out, but I've never been a Card fan anyway. I will own up to relief at Kaye's statement -- he's an editor I respect, by and large, and co-author of one of the books that most marked me in my teens. (The Masters of Solitude.) I'm shallow enough to be relieved that his feet are only somewhat clay-ey.
As to the commercial aspect... It says things I dislike about modern society that this sort of novella is perceived as commercial. The solution to that, of course, is what you propose: challenge bigotry, discuss why it's not acceptable, and work to bring about change.
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
I wonder if the story itself was what was perceived as commercial, or if it was more the fact that Card is an award-winning and bestselling author, which means anything that has his name on it is automatically comercially viable (at least for the moment).
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jonhansen
Sep. 12th, 2011 02:41 pm (UTC)
Your long-winded thoughts are incorrect. That is, they are not long-winded at all. I found them to be concise, well organized and well said. Please make a note of it.
cathshaffer
Sep. 12th, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
I, too, have not read the book, so I don't feel I have much basis to criticize. I don't really have a desire to read the book, either, so there's that. I am a bit concerned about the anger directed toward the publishers. There is an audience for that book, and publishers are in the business of entertaining, not acting as gatekeepers for truth or fairness. I'm sure there's a point for every publisher where offensiveness of material might outweigh any profit potential. But I also think there's value in getting the ideas out there where they can be examined and criticized. So OSC believes that childhood sexual abuse predisposes people to homosexuality in adulthood, and he's explored that theory in fiction using Hamlet as a framework. Excellent. That's actually a great opportunity to present other viewpoints and counterarguments. Much better than each group privately holding its own beliefs and prejudices and then pretending that everybody is getting along just fine.

So I guess I'm saying that OSC has volunteered for dialogue and criticism in his writing, but I don't agree with the attacks on the publishers.
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
Two questions for you. One is at what point does something become an attack on the publisher? I'm not saying there haven't been any; I just want to understand when criticism or complaints cross the line into attack.

And at what point would you feel it was justified to attack a publisher, or since the publisher's motivation is entertainment/commercial instead of political (in this case), is there ever such a point? Or is this an instance where if the publisher goes too far, they won't sell any books, and that will be the consequence of their choice to publish that material?
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rowyn
Sep. 12th, 2011 02:56 pm (UTC)
I admit to being kinda curious about Hamlet's Father now. Not curious enough to actually read it, much less buy it, but ... curious. It's hard to imagine it's as irredeemably awful as the reviews have painted it. O.o
funwithrage
Sep. 12th, 2011 03:00 pm (UTC)
I'm...torn, on the LDS front.

On the one hand, I know there are a lot of LDS members who don't agree with Card on homosexuality, or sexuality in general, or on the place of women.

On the other hand...the leadership, from what official statements I've heard, really does seem to take that line.

So...I think criticism of the official religion is warranted and appropriate. How much can I do that without criticizing everyone who's a member, whether they agree or not? And how much responsibility do people bear for belonging to a religion whose leadership says or does vile things?
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
Those are good questions, and I have no answers. This is partly due to lack of knowledge on my part regarding the LDS church.

I've been thinking about either looking for public statements or blog posts from LDS members who disagree with Card, or possibly inviting a guest blogger to talk about this. (Or both.)

It reminds me a bit of some of the Pope's public statements on a variety of issues. If he's issuing decrees, that seems to be a valid basis for criticism of the Catholic church. Likewise, if I'm understanding my back-and-forth with Brandon correctly, if a prophet of the LDS church issues a statement against same-sex marriage which is supposed to be God's will on the matter, that would seem to be a more valid basis for criticism of the church.

But ultimately, I just don't know enough, and I don't know how to answer those questions yet.
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lady_fellshot
Sep. 12th, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
That when someone makes consistent and ongoing public statements in support of bigotry, these statements should be publicly challenged. That when that same person attempts to play the victim, it should be pointed out that he — along with so many others — is in fact a victim of his own words.

Or to quote the Bard (from Hamlet no less) he is "hoisted on his own petard."

Perhaps OCS might want to re-read those plays, if they are that easily used against him.
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
Now see, if I were a much smarter person, I would have used that line in my original post!
roseaponi
Sep. 12th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC)
Today's post seems slightly less carefully thought out than usual (though your responses to comments are more in line with your usual acuteness) and I can't quite pinpoint why.

I'm not having a good morning with my own communication skills, or I'd have something better to say. I do appreciate your disclaimer about not attacking entire religions based on one member (I'd say "vocal minority," I think).

I'm not a Mormon, but I thought they shared a basic tenet in line with my own religion, namely, that God disciplines His own. This means that the church may not be the Righteousness Police for the world, and has a whole host of other implications which ought to kill the entire debate. (Humans being what they are, there's always somebody stirring up trouble anyway.) But I'm not certain what exactly all their beliefs are, or what OSC's particular issues are, or even anything about the work in question, so I'm not qualified to say exactly what's going on.

All I have is: something's unusually vague, and while something seems very wrong about OSC's POV and his work could very well be contributing to a hateful atmosphere toward homosexual people, I really don't have enough to go on to judge him for it and I'm not qualified anyway.

(Not that I don't care, but my powers of analysis are just not up to this today)
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)
I'm not exactly sure how to respond to this. If you're able to pinpoint what's bothering you about the post itself, I'm happy to listen. But I also understand what it's like to have an off day...
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blpurdom
Sep. 12th, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC)
It's interesting that Card decided to write what amounts to fanfiction at all (a work taking place in another author's universe that features characters created by that author) when this is evidently how he feels about fanfiction of his own work:

I'm flattered; and then, if they try to publish it (including on the net) except in very restricted circumstances, I will sue, because if I do NOT act vigorously to protect my copyright, I will lose that copyright -- and that is the only inheritance I have to leave my family. So fan fiction, while flattering, is also an attack on my means of livelihood.


Of course, no one can technically be attacking the livelihood of a writer who has been dead for nearly 400 years, but then he goes on to say this:

It is also a poor substitute for the writers' inventing their own characters and situations. It does not help them as writers; it can easily harm me; and those who care about my stories and characters know that what I write is "real" and has authority, and what fans write is not and does not. So it's all pointless.


So perhaps the best way to review this work would be to send his own words back at him. Or put him in a cage-match with Gregory Maguire and see who walks out afterward. ;)
firynze
Sep. 12th, 2011 04:45 pm (UTC)
OSC is incorrect about many things, and copyright enforcement is one of them. Trademarks can be lost if not protected vigorously; copyright cannot. If he can't get his terminology straight there, well...draw your own conclusions about the accuracy of other statements he may make.

But I suspect that in his head, he is engaging in "transformative fiction," not "fanfiction or plagiarism" that is "pointless." *shrug*
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evewithanapple
Sep. 12th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
In a way, I feel really sad for Orson Scott Card. He's undoubtedly a raging homophobe, who wrote a massively homophobic book, and yet . . . his statements on the subject indicate (to me) that a lot of his feelings on this issue stem from deep-seated self-loathing and terror of his own desires, and he's subliminating them into this very public anti-gay stance. Harmful as his words and actions are, I can't help hoping that he finds some peace with himself.
sylvanstargazer
Sep. 12th, 2011 08:00 pm (UTC)
I'm also betting it is tied to his misogyny (I recommend reading http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2006-02-12-1.html for some broader-applied hatred and fear on his part, especially the virulent anti-feminism and anti-existence-of-truth: his beliefs appear to be post-post-post-modern and doesn't appear to understand that discredited ideas might actually have been discredited.) It is clear he believes people are inherently evil and that if men and women aren't forced to reproduce the world will end and thus is terrified of allowing people freedom.

I would not be surprised if this reflects his own struggles, but I think the root of his problem is his devaluation of women except as mothers and feminine things in all cases. Homophobia is a clearer expression of the same terror that humans might not be defined by reproductive capacity, but I think it is still rooted in a fear that women might not be perfectly controlled by men (in this case, because the men don't want to participate).
biomekanic
Sep. 12th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
Totally aside...
Now I have a completely different association when I see Buggers and OSC in the same sentence.

So, was choosing Bugger for the "villains" of Ender's game a concious choice, or a Freudian slip?
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Totally aside...
There's no real way to answer that question. But if it was a completely coincidental term (which is possible, given the history of "Bug-eyed Monsters" in the genre), it was a highly unfortunate one...
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valarltd
Sep. 12th, 2011 05:51 pm (UTC)
Orson Scott Card is a board member for the National Organization for Marriage. That alone makes him a homophobe. NOM is dedicated to stamping out any sort of rights for gay people, repealing rights where we have them and preventing rights where we are working for them.

From one of the Gay Jihadi sites:
http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2009/04/21/10865
note the date.


I'd rather, given his views on gay people, that he NOT put us in his stories.
sinboy
Sep. 13th, 2011 12:02 am (UTC)
Card goes one further. He's in favor of sodomy laws so as to intimidate queer folks into being as closeted as possible.
deborahblakehps
Sep. 12th, 2011 06:41 pm (UTC)
Another great rant, Jim. I don't see anything less than your usual about it...

Lots of people don't have gay characters in their books, for one reason or another. Most of those writers don't feel the need to come up with a reason or an excuse.

And it sounds to me like maybe OSC had a traumatic experience in his youth. I don't know, of course, nor would it excuse his prejudice, but one does have to wonder.

Or, of course, he could just be a horse's arse. I could *almost* forgive a horse's arse who could really write, though--which Card used to be able to do. But it sounds like his skill is being subsumed by his ideology, which is just sad.
dionysus1999
Sep. 12th, 2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
As a reader/listener, I struggle with where to draw the line when an author of a work exposes a viewpoint I find vile.

I don't think OSC is a terrible author, but my enjoyment of his works has been tainted by knowing he's a homophobe, kind of like I can't appreciate Ted Nugent anymore since he's become a poster child for the NRA.

This doesn't change the fact that some of Card's novels were some of my favorites, or that Nugent is an amazing guitarist. Part of me wants to appreciate the artistic work despite the creators being people whose personal actions I find objectionable, but I can't.
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
I really liked Ender's Game.

It's a murky, messy boundary, and I've never found any easy or clearcut answers. Though the struggle might come up in a future blog post all its own :-)
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pantryslut
Sep. 12th, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC)

“The dark secret of homosexual heterosexual society — the one that dares not speak its name — is how many homosexuals heterosexuals* first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse.”

Fixed that for him.


* especially, but not exclusively, women. Just sayin'.
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 07:18 pm (UTC)
::Blink:: Wow. May I quote you on this?
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stormsdotter
Sep. 12th, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
I read Ender's Game and two of Card's America-with-Magic! books, and was unimpressed. I read the sequels to Ender's Game, and became so annoyed with his female character that I was about ready to stick him on my Disinterested list.

Then I read his thoughts on homosexuality, and wanted to disinfect my computer. I am tolerant of people who are not comfortable with homosexuality, as long as they are willing to live and let live. I am disgusted by Card's views, to the point where I refuse to support him in any way, or read any of his books.
dejadrew
Sep. 12th, 2011 10:13 pm (UTC)
I LIKED Ender's Game. But yeah, the stuff Card has said and written since has put him on the List of "People I do not want to have my money."

That list seems to be getting longer all the time. It's depressing. It doesn't curtail my reading any, there's always more great stuff out there than I could ever have time to finish, but it's getting harder to keep track. The List was so EASY to remember when it consisted entirely of Dave Sim.
snapes_angel
Sep. 12th, 2011 08:20 pm (UTC)
Would that be called "eating crow", or "eating one's own words"?
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC)
Or as lady_fellshot put it, "hoist on your own petard..."
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lenora_rose
Sep. 12th, 2011 08:44 pm (UTC)
Now I have exactly one reason to ever want to read Hamlet's Father, though. Because the first reviewer, the one everyone is responding to most, asserts that a significant part of the plot is that the pedophile, having raped several of Hamlet's friends, turned them gay. (An absurd enough assertion as it is). Including a quote about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that certainly sounds like a pretty clear declaration.

Then OSC himself says the book contains one pedophile and no gay characters.

One of the two is lying.

It seems to me this is kind of an important point on which the accusation of bigotry is based, and not just a fine point of disagreement. (If the reviewer is inventing reasons to find the book more homophobic, this rather udnermines his point. If OSC is denying facts about his own book in defending it, he's completely undermining what little credibility he can have). And other reviews/responses don't seem to me to clear it up, since they often seem to be taken from reading the review rather than the novella.
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 10:37 pm (UTC)
I'm curious to read the book, for exactly that reason.

I don't agree that it *necessarily* means one of the two is lying, though. Having spent two years in grad school for English, you can build a valid argument that a text does or doesn't suggest something, regardless of authorial intent. OSC might genuinely believe what he's saying, and it may be that the text never explicitly says the pedophile turned everyone gay ... but that doesn't mean the reviewer is lying if they read that in the text.

And given that the initial review and the Publishers Weekly review both say the same general thing, I'm inclined to believe there's something there. But again, I may check the book out from the library to read it and decide for myself on that point.
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dejadrew
Sep. 12th, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
Upon reading the Rain Taxi review, my inner social justice advocate and my inner drama nerd are at war trying to decide which of the two of them is more pissed off...

If the review is accurate, then OSC's Hamlet is a character who is completely sure of what awaits us in death and the difference between right and wrong. That's...

Hamlet's doubt, indecision, and hesitation... That's Hamlet's THING. That's his defining trait. That's what either make people identify with him if they like the play, or want to smack him if they don't. It's what parodists CARICATURE when they're MAKING FUN of Hamlet.

Just... all of Hamlet's best speeches, his most poignant and memorable STUFF... the undiscovered country? What dreams may come? All of that cast aside in favour of... what, exactly? Taking out the whole point of Hamlet, in order to make a completely unrelated and possibly reprehensible point? Why did he even use Hamlet?

I'm trying not to go all "it's different now it sucks" angry nerd here, but this 're-imagining' sounds like... "Oh, I have reimagined this vegan curried rice recipe. It is now a corn dog. Seasoned with ground glass."
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 10:42 pm (UTC)
Heh. OSC's post (linked above) includes his forward to the book, where he says, "I have little interest in a dithering hero; nor am I much inspired by revenge plots..."

I get that he was trying to rewrite Hamlet to make it interesting to him, and having messed with Shakespeare in my own writing once or twice, I don't object to the principle.

But it does pretty much cut out the very heart of the story, doesn't it.
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lavidaessueno
Sep. 12th, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
As long as OSC is a board member of NOM, which takes an active political role in our country, I won't buy anything that could possibly result in OSC having more money to donate to his cause. OSC himself has blurred the relationship between author and politics, between politics and entertainment, and I think it's perfectly reasonable for readers to reject his work because of his politics.
mgsmurf
Sep. 12th, 2011 11:29 pm (UTC)
Good for you to making sure that the LDS aren't being bashed over one member's thoughts. I know several Mormons who are left bending and would likely disagree with OSC's opinions on gays. Also, not the only religion that has issues with gays. I've lived in the South where likely every church has homophobic members.

As for the review, yet another reason I may remain someone who has never read one of OSC's books. That, and I think Hamlet might be my fav Shakespeare play because he is a brooding and moody character. Why mess with that, if it's the one play one doesn't understand?
jimhines
Sep. 12th, 2011 11:56 pm (UTC)
"Also, not the only religion that has issues with gays."

Heh. Now that there is what I like to call an understatement...
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tygerversionx
Sep. 13th, 2011 05:45 am (UTC)
I think I read Ender's Game wayyyyyy back when, but have forgotten about it. But every time someone brings up OSC's ... viewpoints ... it reminds me why I'm not sure I could enjoy any of his works ever.

I once again thank you for presenting information for me to make up my own mind about in a way that lets me do so. You're really good at that. Don't let anyone tell you different. I find it no more pushing an agenda than, say, the news presenting clips of Michelle Bachmann or Rick Perry.

If the thing was ever free and I had a few minutes free with nothing else in my reading list, I might take a look. But both his statements and the reviews definitely put this wayyy down on my list of stuff.

I'd have to reread Hamlet first and then do a compare-and-contrast.

I love how much I've learned about how you think by what you share with us. It's created a greater link with the books of yours that I have read, and makes me feel like I can sense when you're pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone in some of the novels, and that's cool. And then there are the authors that I start getting the feeling like they're NOT pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone. I generally give up on those authors after a while.

Rambling. Sorry.
sylvanstargazer
Sep. 13th, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC)
I actually read the story!
Finally, legally and without giving him money.

First of all, it's not particularly well-written. The pacing is all over the place. He tries to imitate Shakespearian banter, but it mostly just sounds stilted. There's a lot of 60's comic book-style explication. Hamlet has a small piece of the sibling-of-an-abused-child thing going on, but it's so one-dimensional and spelled out in excruciating detail over and over as to be uninteresting. The whole thing turns into a morality tale about how put-upon Good people are by the Evil world. Well, actually, mostly it's a story about how hard it is for a Good Christian Man to convince himself that he's straight when he really wants to jump his teenage friends, but to do that well would require a level of insight that is lacking. Also better prose.

It isn't a straight-forward anti-gay rant. The homophobia is secondary, though it is explicitly stated that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are turned gay by being molested and Laertes is turned asexual (can't forget that asexuality is also an unnatural abomination now, can we!?!). Hamlet's dad isn't only a pedophile; he also has sex with teenage boys with the apparent implicit permission of their fathers. He is portrayed as simply a monster with no redeeming characteristics; he is petty, rude, bitter, a terrible king and a child molester.
Hamlet's mother is an enabler, but there's a lot of apologetic thrown in to try to excuse her role: she had No Idea that when he went off with little boys in the woods it was to rape them! Even if she had caught him with their own son as an infant and didn't tell anyone! She wanted to kill herself when she found out! This part at least was realistic; it's all the excuses I've heard in real life from the wives of child molesters. In the end (spoiler!) she goes to heaven (despite having committed suicide? That part didn't make sense given the Christian mythos). Anyway, it's a bitter pill to swallow after how she protected the guy who is being portrayed as pure evil.
The original question of adultery in the play is swept aside entirely, with Hamlet saying he doesn't care. It is clear the only reason it came up at all was because Card was rewriting Hamlet and had to explain why he was ignoring the original source material entirely.

Which brings us to Hamlet. After returning from college Hamlet tosses in a random misogynistic speech about how women are all money-grubbing, conniving whores attempting to entrap men, and another about how women are like pudding: they look appetizing as long as you are hungry, but once you are full the dregs look disgusting and you can't wait for them to be taken away. He has no empathy for women, but plenty for the men around him. He goes on at length about how "beautiful" his male "Companions" are, how "Strong, vigorous, lovely of face". He's watching them all swim at the time, and although Card doesn't mention their state of dress, given the time period my presumption would be that he's staring at a bunch of naked men while admiring their beauty. It is pretty clear that he's not straight, but never acts on, or even contemplates acting on, his homoerotic desires: he is as oblivious to his obvious and explicit interest as the writer seems to be.
Further evidence can be found in his contemplation of the still totally personality-less Ophelia (she gets one quote in the whole story: "Your Highness!"). When he fantasizes about the life he might have had with Ophelia he doesn't fantasize about her, or loving her, or even getting to know her, but rather about getting her pregnant and having her raise more than one child.

Basically, Hamlet is clearly a gay man who can't reconcile that with his faith and so sublimates it entirely in an attempt to be the man society tells him to be.

That would be an interesting story, if I thought Card was aware he was writing it. Instead, he insists on glorifying Hamlet, making out his lack of self-awareness, his misogyny, his desperate need for a good therapist, to be strengths and evidence of religious virtue.
roseaponi
Sep. 13th, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
Re: I actually read the story!
Oh, good, you read it. Now I don't have to ;) Your interpretation stands well enough for me, except I'd say " Catholic" mythos, not "Christian." As Card is actually Mormon (LDS), I'm not sure if "Christian" in the broader sense applies.
Re: I actually read the story! - sylvanstargazer - Sep. 13th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I actually read the story! - roseaponi - Sep. 14th, 2011 12:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I actually read the story! - sylvanstargazer - Sep. 14th, 2011 12:48 am (UTC) - Expand
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