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May 29 2005

Orson Scott Card with more praise for Whedon shows. In the midst of bashing Star Trek, he praises Buffy and Firefly...

Cool, I'll be checking out the game he wrote the plot for (Advent Rising) if it gets good reviews next week.
Wasn't this posted here before?
I don't think so phlebotinin. I just searched the archive for his name.

Now that I've read what he wrote - he was little harsh wasn't he? I mean, I personally cannot stand Star Trek, but I figure it has so many devoted fans it really must have something going for it I just don't see. He seems kind of arrogant (or maybe I should say overly self-assured?), he makes his opinion of it sound like a stone cold fact for everybody. I'm all for being confident in what you like and dislike, but he kind of sounded like an... well you know I mean.

[ edited by Odysseus on 2005-05-29 04:09 ]
This was posted back at the begining of May but it was on another site.
Orson Scott Card is a great writer; his primer on writing speculative fiction is one of the best around. Ender's Game is also one of the best sf novels ever. But if you ever read the man's editorials, you will lose all respect for him (he knows what he's talking about when it comes to quality of sf & fantasy media, but his political opinions are amazingly horrible. I'm surprised his homophobia alone hasn't driven him away from everything Whedon).
I get the feeling he doesn't actually watch Whedon's shows, much like it appears he didn't actually watch Trek.
Sounded like a back-handed compliment to FIREFLY to me.
I thought it was on this site too Phlebotinin.
He lists Harlan Ellison as one of the great SF novelists of The Original Series era but fails to mention that Ellison actually wrote for the series as well.
Yup, here it is:

Strange New World: No Star Trek

It was posted on Whedonesque on May 3 with the title of the article. You searched for the author's name so it didn't show up. The link is dead now from the original thread.

[ edited by Firefly Flanatic on 2005-05-29 05:43 ]
Thanks for doing the research on that original link, Fflan. I'm glad I wasn't imagining having seen it.

I agree that this is an unnecessarily harsh essay by Card. I can't speak for Trek, although using contemporary hindsight to dump all over something that began 40 years ago seems too easy. His "complimenting" of Firefly was indeed backhanded. He allows that Firefly is well-acted and tells a compelling story even if it is "1930s sci-fi," which according to his definition is "spaceship adventure stories with little regard for science or deeper ideas. It was sci-fi as seen by Hollywood: all spectacle, no substance." Hmmmm. No deeper ideas? Not so much. Glad he liked Firefly but I don't think he saw all there was to see.
Yeah this is an old article. And indeed it's unnecessarily harsh. It seems the writer has an ingrained contempt for many of the elements connected to certain types of Sci Fi. It reminds me of movie critics concemning out of hand any movie that somehow has comic roots, refusing to admit anything good can ever come out of it.

This article's condescending look at Trekkies also annoys me. Sure many of them take things a bit too far for most people's tastes with their outfits and their mastery of the Klingon language, and I don't really see te attraction either, (never been a huge ST fan) but quite frankly, so what?

If that's what they want to do, let them. They're not hurting anyone. They're enjoying it. They're often being quite creative with it. They find like-minded others to share it with. What's the problem?

People have always worn clothes that they associate with what they love. It's really the same principle when someone who is not a professional baseball player whatsoever still wears a NY Yankees shirt. (And knows exactly who batted what all the way back to the 50's) He's proudly showing his love for his hobby and dressing like one of the players. People wear shirts of bands when they go to concerts. As a concept it's everywhere. And while Trekkies (or SW fans for that matter) often take it further, its the same principle. I honestly don't see what's so wrong about it, or why it has contemptuously has to be dismissed as 'madness'. I've never heard of drunken ST fans dressed as Klingons engaging in vandalism or bar fights, which, frankly is more than I can say for quite a few sports fans in the world.

Overall the article kind of reeks of snobbery that some people automatically have for any story genre (and its fans) that has an 'adventure' feel for it in any way. Early Star Trek actually had quite a few intruiging ideas in it, especially for it's time. Just because there's some action and drama too, doesn't detract from that.
I'm not a huge Card fan. He's a prime example of why knowing too much about an artist, performer, writer, etc., can be a bad idea. Between his article against gay marriage and some other, more recent jingoistic pieces, he mostly comes off like a fairly literate troll who spends too much time looking for something to bash.
Between his article against gay marriage and some other,

Oh man, I'd even forgotten about that! Yes sometimes it's better not to know more of the person behind the work. I've had more than a few instances where I've been very dissappointed like that about some creator.

I know someone's work should be seen separately but I can't always manage to do that I'm afraid.
When I was a teenager, I read and enjoyed several of Card's novels. But since I met him, I haven't read a single thing of his. About 15 years ago, he did a book signing at a place I was working in Winston-Salem, NC and he really came off as being quite arrogant. It really turned me off to his work. Not many people of celebrity live in the area (he lives in Greensboro, if memory serves) and I think it's gone to his head.
I'm no die-hard Trekkie or anything like that (I've enjoyed some of the shows, I've followed some of them in the past, but I don't care what Kirk's safe combination was on episode 29), but I find articles like this one absolutely pompous and smacking of belief in one's own hype. Who gives a tinker's damn if its "right" science fiction or not? All that should really matter is if it keeps the reader/watcher/listener entertained and engrossed in the characters and the story. Besides, Roddenberry never made it a secret that Star Trek (at least the original series) was designed to be "Wagon Train in space." That underlying ideaology sorta makes it a pseudo-great uncle to Firefly.

Maybe Card's just bitter because Roddenberry's work has been on the airwaves and theaters consistantly since the late 60s while the Ender's Game movie is STILL in development hell.
Orson Scott Card just popped up on metafilter because of his recent writings on muslims. In resulting conversation however, there was a link to John Kessel's great essay on Ender's Game. When reading that I had to think constantly '..Yes, it seems he does, but Joss Whedon instead...' - I think that Ender's Game and Buffy always have touched same feelings in their audience, something that we're not very comfortable: our teenage feelings of speciality and uniqueness and they both have built a fantasy on that. If you have liked both Buffy and Ender and wonder how can the creator of another be such a tool without you not noticing it in Ender, read that essay. Differences are subtle but another path leads to the dark mind of OSC and other into the Jossness. :)
Folks, the JewishWorldReview is a hard right wing screed online that regularly offers the rantings of people Like David Horowitz and Ann Coulter, so you have to consider who would publish in its pages. Card has shown his political leanings to be to the far right- fine if that is where your heart lies, but it ain't where mine does.
I've only read a little of his work and have always felt bad about not trying more. Now thanks to Ocular and jewel I don't have to. Thanks! And, like Dana5140, I was going to point out that this is a seriously conservative paper so that gives some perspective on the dude.
Yeah, Joss Whedon is basically the only storyteller who I've learned about and not lost all respect for. Card... I can't even read his stuff anymore (although his book on sf writing is still invaluable for anyone who wants to write science fiction and fantasy).
Dana, I really don't think liking Card would have much to do about politics. I'm pretty much middle of the road in my politics, but I lean to the right a bit (don't agree with Card about gay marriage though). Thing is, I also don't agree with some of Joss's political views, but I've never read anything that Joss has said that would make me feel stupid for not agreeing with him. I think even if Card was saying something I agreed with in such manner I would still dislike him.
Yikes, pile up the books and start the burning, eh? I don't agree with everything OSC or Joss say, I end up slightly right of center libertarian. Full disclosure and all :) If I didn't read/watch the work of people I disagree with politically, it would be a tiny pool to choose from. When the rallying cry is openmindedness, perhaps we shouldn't then declare how we are not going to read potentially wonderful and thought provoking works because the author disagrees with our views on immigration or civil unions or any of a number of other things.

We'd probably have to not read any of what are considered great works of literature. There are plenty of people I watch and love who cause cringeing when they open their mouths to say anything political, but I'm still going to enjoy their work. Some of my best friends and I disagree heartily on everything political, but yet we are very close, so why let it bother me when it comes to what are essentially strangers?

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2005-05-29 16:16 ]
Well, sometimes that's true but if the thoughts a work is trying to provoke are designed to be exclusionary or derisive towards particular groups of people then I don't feel as though I'm especially losing anything by not reading them.

I like what Ocular said above about how it's better not to know too much about some artists. Because if you don't know then you can read a piece and take something from it, but once you know the values that inform it, it sometimes becomes something completely different.

[ edited by marmoset on 2005-05-29 22:02 ]
I agree Zeit, I still plan on reading his books someday. I'll probably play the game if the game play turns out good, and I'll admit the story I saw in the trailer is what makes me want to play it. But still I won't be reading any of his opinion pieces from now on lol.
Before this turns into a political debate, let's just stick to the context of the review and what Mr Card had to say about Trek etc. Your co-operation in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
Wasn't trying to turn it into a political debate, Simon. I said what I had to say about his piece the last time it was posted. Let's also remember that we have a rule around here about not slagging on the authors of pieces linked. Even when they are Conservative :)
Well, I have to say that I tend to agree with Card on Trek. I also have a policy of not bashing what other people might like, though; I'll just say that I agree with him that Firefly is way better than Trek.

Also, about the Firefly comment being "back-handed" - if you've read Card's "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy", you'll know that he has no problem with character-driven action SF. And he's right that Firefly doesn't pay any attention to the hard science. It doesn't. I think we all knew that when everyone flies from planet to planet the way they do, and it's all in one system. There's nothing at all wrong with that, it's just that Firefly focuses on something different.

Personally, I LIKE that Firefly doesn't worry about the hard science; that's not what it's about. And coming from Card, I don't think that's an insult. He wrote basically two good novels, Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, and they are only slightly more science-oriented than Firefly. Card, like Whedon, prefers to focus on his characters; some of his other novels don't use hard science at all.
I've never really watched Star Trek at all, seen brief moments of it, but it never caught my interest, but I think there must be some redeeming features to endear it to so many people.
Nice follow-on Pseudopod, and /agree 100%. DS9 was the Trek that really kept my interest. Why? Character centred, for the most part :)
Yes, I've heard good things about DS9; never seen it, though. Should put it on Netflix.

I would love to see Card and Whedon collaborate on something. It would never happen, but it would be cool. I'm imagining Ender's Game, the movie, with Whedon dialogue...

As for Star Trek's redeeming features, if it's the first sf you're exposed to, you are likely to get really into it. Plus, since there have been so many episodes, there's a big, fascinating world to get into. Parts of it are really cool, and there HAS been good Trek stuff (for example, the second, third, and fourth movies) and I can totally get how people can be Trekkies.

It's just that I, myself, never found the Star Trek world as fascinating as Whedon's worlds, for example, or Star Wars. I do agree that Card is a bit harsh in this editorial. But like I said, I like Card when he's writing sf, and when he's writing about writing sf, but beyond that, I prefer not to listen to what he has to say.
DS9 gets particularly spectacular when Berman etc go away completely and its left to Echevarria (sp?), Hewitt-Wolfe, and Behr to take care of. Long arcs, stretching over entire seasons or more, subplots, complex intrigue and character relationships. Great stuff. Ender-Whedon would be vastly entertaining.

While Star Wars grabbed me as a kid I can't say I've spent a lot of time with it since then. I've watched the prequels so no one would revoke my geek card, but the only one I really find passable is EP3 and Serenity makes it look like garbage.
Well, not to get too off-topic, but I'm sure Serenity will beat Revenge of the Sith hands-down. Or up. I'm putting my hands down. What the heck does that mean, anyway?

Anyway, the reason I always loved Star Wars is the expanded universe, a lot of which was built in roleplaying game supplements from West End Games back in the nineties - it's where a lot of the novels got their material from. You could look, and see the difference between the X-Wing and the X-Wing prototype, or an R2 droid and an R5 droid. For me as a kid, and to some extent even now, that was a great, geeky thing to do. So, I think that why a lot of people love Trek - it's even more like that, with endless bits of trivia, so it feels like a real universe.
Well, not to get too off-topic, but I'm sure Serenity will beat Revenge of the Sith hands-down. Or up. I'm putting my hands down. What the heck does that mean, anyway?


I shouldn't say that DS9 was the only Trek to hold my interest. TOS did partially due to my young age and in large part due to a point you bring up Psuedo -- the novels! I must admit to having read an alarming number of Trek novels. People like Peter David and A.C. Crispin, Diane Duane, etc. made the universe that much more real to me and they fleshed out things that otherwise wouldn't've been. It made it feel like a real universe, as you say.
Hands-down - I had thought it was a card playing reference but no, the Oxford English Dictionary states:

hands down: with ease, with little or no effort; unconditionally, submissively; orig. in the racing phr. to win hands down, referring to the jockey dropping his hands, and so relaxing his hold on the reins, when victory appears certain.

Psuedopod here's hoping your eactly right!
I see. *puts his hands down*
Huh. I always thought it was a card playing reference too. See all the things you learn when you're a Whedon fan!
It's not so much OSC's dislike Star Trek that's annoying. He's perfectly entitled to his opinion on that. It's just his sneering condescension toward those in its fandom who passionately embrace it, and his apparent total lack of understanding of ST's significance in broadening the mainstream acceptance of SF on TV, especially the precedent-setting original series, that both turns me off and astonishes me. Considering he's a SF writer, could it be he's nursing a serpent of bitterness at his breast because his own work hasn't attracted such a fervently loyal and devoted following?

Also in the name of full disclosure: I am a first generation "Trekkie". I grew up watching ST:TOS as a child, during its first run and then all through the '70's when it was syndicated. It became an enormous cultural touchstone in my young life, its optimistic message helping me get through some very difficult times growing up. In fact, it was admiration for the character of Spock that informed my early love of words and helped foster a respect for others different from myself (which was sometimes at odds with other messages from my strict, conservative upbringing). I still regard the show with warmth and enormous fondness, even though all the subsequent series have left me further and further estranged from the ST fold. I bought all the original episode novelizations, the action figures, the poster books, blueprints and everything else that came out with every dime I made back in the day (most are still in good-to-perfect shape -- from the interest I've gotten from casual collectors, I suspect they could earn me a pretty penny on Ebay one of these days).

Here comes my argument: Although the budget was miniscule*, the sets flimsy, and Kirk's magnetic attractiveness to alien females often implausible, Star Trek was one of the first SF series on TV to seriously tackle many of the difficult contemporary issues of the time (racial warfare, class struggle, women's equality, etc.) in a way that didn't underestimate its viewers' intelligence. While it struggled with an uncomprehending studio, labored against incredible odds of survival in a hostile broadcast landscape, and wasn't taken seriously by anyone except those who stumbled onto it and found it a refreshing oasis, ST:TOS was often hilarious, thoughtful, provocative, touching, smart, meta-aware and even, occasionally, brilliant. It was also one of the first SF shows on TV to give female writers powerful positions in the creative hierarchy, and many well-respected SF writers, both male and female, wrote for the series in its three- year run. Robert Bloch, D.C. Fontana, David Gerrold and Harlan Ellison are just a few who come to mind.

Additionally, it broke ground with casting members of nationalities not usually given roles on TV in the '60's and, despite what OSC says, was incredibly progressive in its vision of technology and what those advances could accomplish in the positive service of all mankind. The U.S. military used the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise as inspiration for the bridge design on some of its nucleur submarines. And of course, there was the concept of warp travel, which is based on elements of quantum theory that are today considered the cutting edge of science. Let's also not forget it basically drafted the template for many aspects of modern fandom (including fan fiction, fan 'zines, conventions and organized signings), as well as that fandom's collective awareness of its own power (over one million letters to NBC did get the series renewed for its third season, after all).

I could go on and on (really), but suffice it to say that OSC doesn't seem to have any real comprehension of what he's criticizing. Not being a fan of Enterprise myself, or of Berman/Braga's influence as a whole, I agree the ST 'verse needs a rest. But if OSC has to ask "why?" ST continues to be so loved, he hasn't really given the show a chance.

OSC's contention that ST lacked "science or deeper ideas" is really beside the point. That was never what it was really about (not that what he says is true), any more than Buffy was just about a girl killing vampires, or Firefly was about a bunch of people eking out a sketchy existence on the rim of societal respectability. With the world in the shape it is today, and those lessons of peace Roddenberry cherished so desperately needed, it's not surprising to me Star Trek still exerts a tremendous appeal. And people love the characters! They lived and breathed, just as Joss's did/do. We saw those characters every week, we got to know them, we watched them grow, and we fell in love. No mystery there. (Apologies to everyone for the length of this, but you can see he sorta touched blow-torched a nerve here...)

jewel was right; OSC lives in Greensboro, probably not too far from where I do. So, maybe one of these days I'll run into him, and he can explain to me why his 'verse hasn't managed to make it to the big (or small) screen yet ;)

* Anyone interested in learning about the trials and tribulations of making ST:TOS (an ordeal that can be applied to any TV series we know and love) should check out Stephen Whitfield's book "The Making of Star Trek". It's a fascinating read and a great look behind the scenes of TV production.
Wiseblood - well said. My sweetie and I love ST:TOS so much that we own all the first run video tapes and bought all the first run DVD sets. However, we did skip the multi-episode DVD releases :-)

When we bought the first DVD set, we introduced our 7 and 9 year olds to the series by watching back to back episodes over a few days. They were excited enough by the series to anxiously await the release of the next two sets. As a family, we devoured each set in just a few days.

Just like we did each release of Buffy and Angel and the one release of Firefly...
I'm too young for TOS and have never seen any Star Trek except Voyager, but I will fanboy that show until the day I die. Orson Scott Card, eat your heart out. They never put up a monument of a cynic.
That was really nice, Wiseblood.
Not a Trekkie, but TOS makes me feel warm and fuzzy, since I remember my mom enjoying it when I was a very little kid. Always liked it best and enjoy the occasional late late night on SciFi when I can't sleep.

I suppose if I can try to be fair, I'll perhaps tell non-fans that if Star Wars is like high school, then Serenity is University and Joss holds the Ph.D.
I'm sure that OSC has Star Trek to thank for many of his fans. I know that I would have never began reading SF literature if Star Trek hadn't caught my interest.
I completely disagree with OSC's opinion of "Star Trek." However, he makes a great point about the most unrealistic aspect of the show, other than the warp drive -- namely, that the ship's top officers frequently go on away missions -- in his excellent book on how to write specualtive fiction. I mean, c'mon, the man has a point there, at least...in the real world, you wouldn't send an Army colonel out to do field recon, so why should you send a starship captain or first officer?

Also, and not meaning to re-ignite the political debate, so I really hope I don't and I'm super-sorry if I do, but Card is a Democrat. I read an article he wrote in 2004 on why he was voting for Bush, despite the fact that he disagreed with Republicans on a range of issues and even though (I believe) he had voted for Gore in 2000. So anyone who thinks he's a Republican or a Bible-Belt conservative is simply wrong.

**********

After I wrote the above, I suddenly realized that I actually did want to discuss this issue further. But I don't want to do it here, because A) I don't want to abuse the thread and B) more importantly, I don't want to get banned for abusing the thread. So anyone who wishes to discuss any aspect of OSC's political philosophy, please e-mail me.

[ edited by BAFfler on 2005-06-01 15:35 ]

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