Tuesday, March 3, 1970

Author - Card, Orson Scott

Birth: August 24, 1951.

Death: He's had a close call, but he's not dead yet.

Comments: Orson Scott Card is a prominent American science fiction and fantasy author who won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novel Ender's Game and also for its sequel Speaker for the Dead. His official website is Hatrack River (a reference to his Alvin Maker books). Over his career as an author he has been very prolific. Despite having read two dozen of his books, I don't think I have read even half of his oeuvre. Card is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and draws upon themes from Mormon teachings in many of his books. Sometimes he just touches on this sort of element. Other times Mormon-influenced themes dominate his books, such as with the books of the Alvin Maker series. In some, the connection is explicit, as in The Folk of the Fringe. He's also a big fan of Firefly.

However, Card poses something of a problem for many science fiction fans. Despite his skill as a writer and the high quality of many of his books, he has some fairly objectionable personal views. He is adamantly opposed to legalizing gay marriage, serving on the board of the National Organization for Marriage (which really would be more accurately named the "National Organization Against Gay Marriage"). He has also stated that although he thinks that laws against gay sex should not be enforced, they should be kept on the books to reflect societal disapproval of gay sex which is a truly nonsensical position. He has stated that any government that approves of gay marriage is the "mortal enemy" of all heterosexual married people (presumably including himself in that number) and it should be violently overthrown. Paradoxically, he is also something of a statist, strongly supporting the almost paranoid level of security imposed following the September 11th attacks, even when those security measures seriously impinged upon personal rights.

Card's relationship with science is, well, interesting might be the word to use. Based upon pretty much nothing, Card is a global warming skeptic. He has suggested that evidence against global warming has been suppressed by the "orthodox" scientific community. If that sort of conspiracy thinking sounds familiar, it should, since he is also a "Darwinism" skeptic. Oddly, he has stated that Intelligent Design, which he seems to half-heartedly favor, is not science and could never be proved to be true by science. So while he apparently doesn't believe in the usefulness of the theory of evolution by natural selection in describing the diversity of flora and fauna we see today, he doesn't believe Intelligent Design is science. Presumably he also doesn't believe that creationism is science. Card and science don't seem to mix together well.

Against this backdrop it should come as no surprise that Card recently came out and said he was more comfortable as a fantasy author. Apparently he always wanted to be a fantasy author, but elected to write science fiction stories because that was where the money was to be found in genre fiction. And to a certain extent, he's always written fantasy. Card's putative science fiction books have the trappings of science fiction - spaceships, aliens, zero-gravity combat, and so on - but they are almost never about the science fictional element, usually focusing on something that would best be described as fantasy - magical mental powers, magic created through song, and so on. That doesn't make them bad books, but his uncomfortable relationship with science serves to explain why his science fiction books are fairly light on the actual science fiction.

So, what is a science fiction and fantasy fan to do with Orson Scott Card? I know several people who refuse to read any of his work following their discovery of his anti-gay rights stance. I won't go that far - doing that merely robs you of the pretty good fiction that he has written over the years. But overall, his fiction has, in my experience, been a pretty mixed bag. And fortunately the quality of his output seems to be declining, which means that you can probably safely ignore most of his more recent books and go hunt for his older, better books in used bookstores so as to avoid handing him any new royalties.

My reviews of Orson Scott Card's books:
The Folk of the Fringe
Hart's Hope
The Lost Gate
Women of Genesis: Rebekah
Women of Genesis: Sarah
The Worthing Saga
Zanna's Gift: A Life in Christmases (writing as Scott Richards)

Other books by Orson Scott Card that I have read but not reviewed:
Alvin Journeyman
Characters and Viewpoint
Children of the Mind
Ender's Game
Lost Boys
Lovelock (with Kathryn H. Kidd)
Monkey Sonatas
Prentice Alvin
Red Prophet
Seventh Son
Speaker for the Dead

Books edited by Orson Scott Card that I have read but not reviewed:
Future on Fire

Short fiction by Orson Scott Card appearing in works that I have reviewed:
America found in The Folk of the Fringe
The Fringe found in The Folk of the Fringe
Pageant Wagon found in The Folk of the Fringe
Salvage found in The Folk of the Fringe
West found in The Folk of the Fringe

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  1. My only personal experience with Card's work is the Alvin Maker series, which I thought was pretty intriguing and entertaining. I could never get past the first couple chapters of Ender's Game, though I tried.

    Great reviews, btw. I'm enjoying digging into this blog!

    1. @MitziTee: I read most of the Alvin Maker series, and it was pretty good. I have found that the more one reads of his work, the more one notices the themes and patterns that recur over and over again in his work. I think he only has about two or three stories in his repertoire and he's made a career out of rewriting them multiple times.

  2. You should try and get the book Wyrms, especially if you liked Hart's Hope.

    1. @Randy M: I own a copy of Wyrms, but I'm a little burned out on Card these days. I might get back to reading his stuff at some point in the future and I'll be sure to put that on my reading list when I do.