Last week there was renewed talk of the upcoming “Ender’s Game” film. Specifically, there was a renewed call to boycott the film by Queer SF fans and their allies. This is because the author of the original novel, Mr. Orson Scott Card, is most decidedly NOT a friend to the LGBT community. Mr. Card, using his religion as reasoning, has often made absolutely horrific statements, both in interviews and on his blog, concerning LGBT people. He has advocated for their arrest, and advocated for armed insurrection against any governments that sanction marriage equality. He wrote a novella based on ‘Hamlet’ smearing gay people and equating homosexuality with incest and pederasty. He sits on the board of NOM, a group with lobbies against marriage equality and spreads misinformation about LGBT people.

But of course Card has the right to say what he wishes. He made his bed, and well and good for him. The problem is, he doesn’t much feel like sleeping in it. Last week, Card gave an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Therein, he hoped that supporters of marriage equality would ‘show tolerance’ and go and see his movie.

Tolerance. You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

This petty little swipe, maybe meant to bolster his reactionary religious base into getting the word out, maybe an accurate portrayal of his thoughts on not boycotting his film vs. being thrown in jail for being with the person you love, certainly had an effect, just maybe not the one he wanted.

Card’s comments had the effect of pouring gasoline on a pile of embers. When trailers for the film first came out, SF fans had a generally quiet and civil discussion about the movie. On the one hand, it looked cool, and was the work of a whole team of people, many of whom were strong allies of the LGBT community. In any case, the novel is much beloved, and was it possible to separate the work from the creator? This had all simmered down when Card threw his dunce cap into the ring with his comment. Some people weren’t going to see it, other people were. Some people were going to see it but assuage their guilt by donating the ticket price to a charitable organization, because darn it, the trailer did look cool. Most people behaved like adults. They considered the options, and they decided on the one that was best for them. All was well.

Card’s comments set off a new round of anger in his adversaries. New calls, much louder this time, came for a boycott, with the clear evidence of his snide little remarks to back them up. Lionsgate, the film’s distributor, went into crisis mode, demonstrating their solidarity with the LGBT community with PR statements, celebrity supporters, and even promising a special LGBT-friendly premier of the film.

I’m still not going to see it, and my reasons have more to do with Card’s foolish interview comments than his politics. He is entitled to his opinions, but an author should know better. Card acted in an abominably unprofessional manner. Here is what he did wrong:

1. Never, never, EVER feed the troll. Even if you think you’re right. Even if you are right. Even if your opponents are godless commie mutant traitors, ALL HAIL FRIEND COMPUTER! Don’t do it. Don’t get that last word in. A troll pokes the bear. A professional cuts their losses and moves on. Don’t get that last punch in. Because it won’t be the last punch.

2. Accept that you have haters and you have fans. Engage the fans and ignore the haters. Dude is a New York Times best-selling author. He has been for decades. The SF community has seen example after example of authors trying to directly challenge their critics. In some cases, literal critics writing bad reviews. SF has never been the darling of the publishing industry anyway. We’ve long been considered literary fiction’s dorky little brother, hanging around where he isn’t wanted, swinging toy swords and making lightsabre noises with his mouth. You get the audience you get, and you cherish it, feed and water it, make it grow like a money tree. Don’t shout at the brambles. They aren’t going to do anything for you.

3. To quote another recent SF flick, “It’s not about obedience, it’s about respect.” Audiences go to your film, or buy your latest book in hard cover because… drumroll please… they want to be entertained. They see what you have to offer, and decide that it’s worth their money. Maybe they go because they’re fans, and they like you. But they don’t owe you a thing. This is the great secret I’ve learned about being a writer, slinging words out into the dark aether and hoping they land on the desk of someone who wants to read them. Nobody owes you shit. Not the industry, not your fans, and certainly not your detractors. It is the height of arrogance to expect otherwise.

Tolerance means accepting your film exists. The boycott isn’t about picketing the theaters or shutting down the studio. It’s about not paying twenty dollars to watch an earnest white boy kill buggers. And that’s fine. The film might have needed to reach a wider audience to be profitable. The negative attention might convince potential theater goers to wait for the blue ray. But that money wasn’t promised the film, and it certainly isn’t owed. Any shred of attention, anything cent spent on merchandise, or any tiny fraction of a ticket price, is the goodwill and respect of your audience. To imply that people outside your audience are being intolerant by withholding their dollars is not merely unprofessional, it’s disrespectful to them, and to your fans.

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