Critics, community and 'Ender's Game': An interview with Orson Scott Card

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31 2013 9:50 a.m. MDT

It’s really an odd thing. When you write communitarian fiction, what happens is, the fans that show up at your signings are people who respond to community values. I’ve had bookstore people — widely separated; it’s not like they get together and chat about Orson Scott Card signings — but I’ve had the remark in awe, “Boy, the fans in your signing are so patient and ... they're so nice to each other, and so many friendships begin in line, and people exchanging emails and phone numbers and so forth and taking pictures of each other’s cameras ... people who've never met before." … Because the people who respond to my fiction tend to be people who want to build community.

That’s not the elitist literary view. Those are people who are about writing fiction that will impress people, that will make them rise above the community. I write fiction that’s about people who immerse themselves in community and who don’t think that they're better than everybody else and who aren’t trying to impress everybody. A very different set of values, and I get the results.

I don't read the criticism of my work. Every now and then, my wife or someone else will say, "Here’s one you want to read." So I’ll read it. And it’s nice to have people say nice things or to say interesting things. They don’t always just give me just praising things because frankly I’m not interested in foolish praise either. It makes me feel like I failed because they misunderstood my book. ... If the things they’re liking are things that I don't think are in there, then that’s just as frustrating as if they hate it for things that aren’t in it.

But if there’s something interesting being said, then I’ll see it. But I hate to give offense to anybody who has written careful reviews, but I really don’t hold those in memory, and I certainly don’t think about them while I’m writing my next work.

DN: When did you develop this approach or protocol?

OSC: There was a lot of nastiness in the science fiction community over "Ender's Game's" awards. The elitist, the exclusivists, the people who actually despise the reading public, were hostile to "Ender's Game." They are people who have made it almost a career to write anti-"Ender’s Game" articles.

It’s kind of pathetic and sad. My answer to them has always been, "If you think it's not good, write something better. See how the audience responds. Don't keep sniping at mine. Get a life." But that’s neither here nor there.

It became clear very quickly that I didn’t belong in Science Fiction Writers of America, the professional association. They give you an award with one hand but they slap you silly with the other. I realized that if I stayed involved in that community, I’d start caring about the things they cared about, and I didn’t care about that, didn't want to become that. So while I have many good friends in the science fiction writing community, I’m not a member of any organization there. I don’t take part. I’ll go to an occasional science fiction convention when I’m invited by people who actually want me and not Ender Wiggin. But those are extremely rare, as in one every five or six years, or abroad where American political concerns don’t interfere. (If) somebody wants to invite me to a convention here in the States, they’re immediately going to have intolerant fascists of the left start threatening them: "We’ll boycott your convention. Nobody will come if you have Card there. Nobody wants to hear anything he has to say.” In other words, the opposite of liberal. That sort of thing comes up all the time. So it’s just easier not to even try or worry about it.

DN: Have you considered ... "Maybe it would just be easier to kind of soften my beliefs that offend people."

OSC: My beliefs don’t offend people. If you vary from the line, then they treat you as if you are the opposite of them. I am actually more liberal than any of the liberals who have attacked me.

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