Going Godwin on Orson!!
Like most reasonable people, I don’t jump straight to Nazi references when talking about people I disagree with. OK, I know this makes twice for Main Street Plaza within two months. 😉 But while reading for SiOB a few weeks ago, I found this interesting article in which the author made this rather compelling argument:
To this day, the most common response by Card fans to my essay is that they just don’t see it. My goodness gracious, why should anyone imagine that hundreds of pages of meditation on genocide and forgiveness wasn’t just pure science fiction, with nothing to say about the twentieth century or its most notorious genocide? To which I can only shrug and say, Hmm-kay, I start with the assumption that the guy is not a complete idiot and that he knows what he’s doing and that he actually had something to say. I don’t agree with what he had to say, but he did have something to say. The argument that he’s an oblivious airhead is not particularly flattering to either you as a fan or Card as an author.
Since reading this statement, I haven’t been able to get this question out of my head because — I honestly can’t decide which it is. Did Orson Scott Card write hundreds of pages of meditation on genocide and forgiveness without once pausing to contemplate how it might relate to the twentieth century or its most notorious genocide? Or did it seriously not occur to him? Do any of you who are (or were) his fans have an opinion on it?
The whole essay was interesting (as is this one, in case you haven’t seen it), but the other bit that really made me think was also from the epilogue:
Very occasionally I get the question I expected in the first place: “So? What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it a perfectly valid enterprise to try to understand these monsters? What’s wrong with using art to get into that kind of brain and figuring out how it works?”
Well, there you go. That’s the answer. There’s nothing wrong with that. Why do we read if not to get into other people’s minds? I think Card took on a most ambitious project — to see if he could get us into the mind of somebody that we would normally never dream of identifying with in a thousand years.
I’d have to agree that it’s an impressive work for this reason. I have not read it, but — given the legions of people who love and identify with the main character — it teaches us an important lesson about human nature and our ability to justify evil. Our natural expectation that evil should be easy to spot because it is so different from our ordinary experience leads us to false complacency.
However, I would guess (pure speculation alert) that if OSC thought about the comparison with Hitler, he ultimately rejected it. I think that (like many authors) he fell in love with his character, which affected his assessment of what he’d created.