When Ender’s Game takes its turn in San Diego Comic Con’s Hall H this Thursday, Harrison Ford will appear with producer Bob Orci, director Gavin Hood, and co-stars Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, and Abigail Breslin.
Orson Scott Card will be somewhere else.
Card’s brand now is as much identified with his anti-gay rhetoric as with his award-winning fiction, and in his capacity as a director of the National Organization for Marriage he is a leading opponent of same-sex marriage laws. He is a target of protestors, who succeeded in running Card off a Superman comic he’d been signed to do for DC. Now they are building support for a boycott of the movie based on Card’s novel due out in November.
Since witnessing the Superman debacle movie executives have decided they need to keep Card away from this year’s Comic Con. The Hollywood Reporter concluded —
Promoting Ender’s Game without Card would be like trying to promote the first Harry Potter movie without J.K. Rowling. But having Card appear in the main ballroom in front of 6,500 fans could prove a liability if he’s forced to tackle the issue head-on during the Q&A session.
However, the latest efforts to avert bad publicity for Ender’s Game display none of Hollywood’s usual flair for faking sincerity. Consider two statements released last week.
Orson Scott Card himself tried to separate the story from the contemporary political landscape in a statement rife with the odor of special pleading:
Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.
Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
The distributor, Lionsgate Entertainment, identified itself as “proud longtime supporters of the LGBT community” and asserted —
[We] obviously do not agree with the personal views of Orson Scott Card and those of the National Organization for Marriage. However, they are completely irrelevant to a discussion of Ender’s Game. The simple fact is that neither the underlying book nor the film itself reflect these views in any way, shape or form.
The company even promised to host a benefit premiere for Ender’s Game. Proponents of the boycott at Geeks Out were quick to spurn the offer as a cynical business maneuver:
A benefit premiere, indeed any outreach to the LGBT community by Lionsgate, ought to be much appreciated. What’s clear is that whether or not they support his views, Lionsgate is standing by their man and their would-be blockbuster. They made the common, perhaps cynical, calculation that audiences wouldn’t connect Ender’s Game with Card’s very public homophobia—or wouldn’t care. Geeks OUT appreciates that most American families work for every dollar and care deeply about where that money goes and what it supports.
Geeks Out urged readers to go to its new Skip Ender’s Game site and sign a pledge to spend no money on the movie:
Skip Ender’s Game is a call to action. Do NOT see this movie! Do not buy a ticket at the theater, do not purchase the DVD, do not watch it on-demand. Ignore all merchandise and toys. However much you may have admired his books, keep your money out of Orson Scott Card’s pockets.
The NY Times reports only around 2,000 people had signed up in the site’s first 6 days online. Geeks Out says hundreds more are signing each day. Even so, that is not a material part of the movie’s potential audience.
Despite the studio keeping him away from Comic Con, Orson Scott Card has been busy reasserting his identification with Ender’s Game. This month production began on a 6-hour audioplay Ender’s Game Alive to be published by Audible.com – which Card calls the definitive version of his story. More than 30 actors voice over 100 characters, with Kirby Heyborne as Ender Wiggin, Emily Rankin (Orson Scott Card’s daughter) as Bean, Alison Bews as Hot Soup and Jim Meskimen as Dink Meeker.
Providing four or five other voices in the spoken-word recording are Harlan Ellison and Janis Ian.
Ellison’s participation came up in John Rabe’s interview for the Pasadena NPR outlet. Ellison frankly disapproved Card’s views, though said he still found him personally likeable:
[Some of Card’s opinions are] wrong, ultimately destructive, anti-human and anti-peaceful. But he’s never done me any harm. And he’s a smart guy…. What Scott Card believes is what Scott Card believes, and what I believe is something entirely different.
At a public appearance over the weekend the writer angrily objected to the way his comments had been used, for in addition to posting the full 15-minute interview, the station cut a separate 2-minute excerpt of Ellison’s responses about Card and drove traffic to it with a headline “SF author Harlan Ellison on juvenile delinquents, gays and Orson Scott Card” as if he was part of the controversy. (“Juvenile delinquents” because of the signing party for two early Ellison novels reprinted by Kicks Books.)
Ellison feels he is able to relate to his friend Scott Card without agreeing with his views, an attitude not uncommon among sf writers of his generation whether on the left or right. But the shame-and-shun culture of the internet doesn’t accept that as an option, feeling it is more than a petty inconsistency.
Ender’s Game Alive promotional videos. (1) Harlan Ellison and Janis Ian end their recording session with a selfie.
(2) Author Orson Scott Card discusses the creation of the audioplay for Ender’s Game Alive.
[Thanks to Steven H Silver, John King Tarpinian and Andrew Porter for the story.]