Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Enemy's Gate

This piece was originally written - and performed - for The Paper Machete at The Green Mill Tavern on April 6, 2013.

If you’re excited about seeing Ender’s Game when it gets released in theatres this November, your long-awaited elevated dopamine levels may be blinding you from every reason it’s set up to disappoint you.  The two most (admittedly subjective) positive qualities are the casting of (holy shit) Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff, and Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham, the latter of which fans of the novel will recognize as a something of a spoiler right out of the gate. 

If you’re planning to see Ender’s Game, chances are you’ve been waiting for it since before George Lucas consistently and repeatedly started disappointing fanboys with altered special editions of his original work, contrived prequels to force-feed us into believing those stories were compatible with the originals, and then altered the altered special edition originals to be compatible with material he came up for the prequels with twenty years later.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just do a quick Google search for “Boba Fett’s Voice”, “Anakin’s Ghost,” and “Han Shot First”.  That’ll get you started.

If you DO know what I’m talking about, you’re either pissed off or an apologist.  Either way, you’re prepared for the same level of shoehorned storylines and revisionist history you might not have noticed within the “Enderverse”.

To date, Ender’s Game is one of fifteen novels that function as sequels, spin-offs, sequels to the spin-offs, prequels, interquels, and midquels to the original story, some of which are still in development nearly thirty years later.  And when Card changes his mind about how the story unfolds, he changes the source material along with it.  In the afterward of the 2008 novel Ender in Exile, Card admits an inconsistency with how Ender’s Game ends, complete with justification: “Why should I be stuck now with decisions carelessly made twenty-four years ago? What I've written since is right; those contradictory but unimportant details in the original novel are wrong.  Therefore I have rewritten chapter 15 of Ender's Game, and at some future date there will be an edition of the novel that includes the revised chapter.”

Sound familiar?  Consider what someone recently said about Lucas: “A few years ago George Lucas made and ate a sandwich. To this day he's still throwing pepper and mayonnaise down his throat to 'improve' it.”

Sometimes the changes are more subtle.  The first copy I read of this book was bought from a used bookstore in about 1997.  I don’t know when that copy was published, but the most striking memory for me was use of the N-word (once, in one scene).  The way it was used and laughed off was stunning, because I believed Card was portraying a world that had evolved to a level of enlightenment beyond racism.  That our social evolution was moving forward in tandem with our technological evolution.  It turns out that’s not exactly what Card intended at all, but my point is in later publications the word was omitted, and thus the scene altered, and thus the point lost.

It may be you don’t give a shit about storytellers changing their stories.  It happens.  And when the story switches mediums, you recognize it’s the same story told by a different storyteller; just like when you and your significant other describe last Valentine’s Day.  If you’re going to care about this movie at all, then much like The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you have to be prepared for two things.  One:  it’s not going to be just like the book, and two: people are going to be complaining incessantly that it’s not just like the book.

But if none of that bothers you, consider this.

Spend enough time enjoying art made by a particular artist, and sooner or later you’ll come to discover their biography as well as the facet(s) through which they view the world.  Within music and poetry this breakdown can be rather obvious, and if a musician takes flak for a controversial opinion, it’s not uncommon for him to cry “satire” and pretend he really meant the opposite of what he said. 

But a novelist will always write through the voice of a character, so it takes greater time and determination to discover the values, beliefs, and opinions of your favorite writer.  Read enough Stephen King, for example, and it’s safe to assume he’s personally familiar with substance abuse, infidelity, and has a fondness for radio serials of the pre-television era.  Read enough Neil Gaiman and you come to believe he’s actually from another dimension.

Some novelists make it easy on you.  Orson Scott Card tends to have main characters with similar values, temperaments,  and familial relationships.  They’re kind souls with big hearts, boundless determination, and so vanilla you could choke.  But Uncle Orson makes it easy on you to find his viewpoints, because he’s written freely available essays as well.  One shoots down the recording industry claiming they’ve been screwing recording artists harder than pirates ever have, and another calls JK Rowling “a pretentious, puffed-up coward. When I have a gay character in my fiction, I say so right in the book. I don’t wait until after it has had all its initial sales to mention it.”

And that’s why it feels like such a betrayal when, in 2009, he joined the board of directors for the National Organization for Marriage, which is exactly what it sounds like it is, which is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization providing “organized opposition to same-sex marriage… …to impact state and local politics in a coordinated and sustained fashion.”

This is no accidental association, like signing an on-line petition and getting 37 emails a day from MoveOn.org.  He’s on the board of goddamn directors.  The site has a page of Marriage Talking Points which provides paragraphs to memorize and recite when someone asks you one of the Frequently Asked Questions like “What’s the harm from SSM?” , “Why do we need a constitutional amendment?”, and “Are you saying gays cannot be good parents?” 

Whether or not you agree with same-sex marriage certainly we can come together and recognize that this organization doesn’t teach people how to think for themselves, but rather how to perform half of a script without reflection or introspection.

If seeing this movie scratches an itch, go into it with eyes open.  The supreme court is supposed to rule on same-sex marriage several months before the release, so Card’s personal views and organization affiliations may not even matter by then.

But there’s no fucking way those kids are only five years old.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mystery Guest, Sign In Please

I've been wondering this for months.

There's a statistic count that comes with www.blogger.com that shows traffic sources.  I can view who looked at my blog using what operating system, or web browser, or country.

The bulk of my readers are American.  I assume they're all my personal friends, as I myself am American.

Two people in Canada read my blog.  I've met them.

Three people in England read my blog.  I can only think of three people I know who live in England, and I've met them, too.

Sometimes I get hits from Slavic nations, like Ukraine.  On rare occasion there have even been hits from Russia, and I have myself BEEN to Russia and made some friends there.

Some of my hits are coincident with unusual reference sites, which (when I visit them) are obviously spam sites.  When I visit them my virus detection software flares up more alarms than my mother did on prom my night.

But there is one source that kind of boggles me.

It is a country.  I have never been to this country.  I don't recall meeting anyone who speaks its dominant language.  I don't know if I know anyone who has ever been there.  Yet nearly every time I post a post there is one reader who is supposedly reading my blog from this particular European nation.  Every time I post a new post, there is one - and only one - attribution to this particular country.  When I view the all-time breakdown views by country, your country comes in at #2 behind the USA.  In the last 24 hours, you've nearly doubled your viewings of my blog.

I see this statistic, and I ponder:  Who are you?  Have we met?  How did you discover my writing?  Is it a matter of an IP address being misattributed?

And I wonder whether I actually want to know, or would I rather keep the mystery alive? 

So I proffer this plan.

Contact me.  Tell me any amount of information you wish to tell me.  If you can read this post, you have access to my email and my phone number.  Send me a message, and tell me which country you're from, and - pretty please - how you found me.

If you send an email, put the title of this post in the subject line.  Also, do include in which country you live for verification's sake.  I have other plans to prove it's you, and we'll get to those as time permits.

But really, for the record . . . I love the idea of having a conversation with a stranger.  Especially one who seems to enjoy my writing.