Ender’s Stories and the problems of Literature

Following up on my earlier reading about the Ender’s Game universe, my fiction reading turned again to Orson Scott Card. First Meetings contains four short stories from various timeframes, ranging from Ender’s father through the Xenocide years. The stories vary in quality. My favorite’s when Ender’s parents meet, because I like intelligent flirting. The first story I enjoyed least. The most interesting from a literary standpoint is the thirty year old original short story of Ender’s Game. In the real war, Ender had his old toon leaders as assistants, not other army leaders. There’s much less tension, and substantially less need for backstory. The book Ender’s Game shows marked improvement from this first work. I want to thank Mr. Card for thinking as an instructor and showing us the older version, letting us see the changes on how an above-average author develops his work. The book as a whole gets a 3 out of 5; the shorter stories don’t suffer from Mr. Card’s tendency to pad plots to reach book length.

Another of Mr. Card’s efforts at being more than an author is hatrack.com, his Website. I enjoy the interesting name, though twelvefruits.com is still better. He publishes essays and writes columns for his local paper. He and I disagree on some things, since he’s a Mormon Republican, very Republican. I’m a Catholic without a party, though more anti-Republican than anti-Democrat.

That said, I fully agree with many of Mr. Card’s thoughts on writing. He and I both believe in the value of For instance, this quote from his November 29 column in the Rhino Times describes the appeal of the film Enchanted, though it could apply to many types of art.

The sweetness of strong or delightful stories to lure us in and hold us; the light of truth to make our understanding clearer and encourage us to be better people. Hollywood disdains the idea, even mocks it; but aren’t these the movies that we look forward to watching again and again?

A more pressing problem is that what falls under “Literature” in bookstores, and that taught in writing schools, is terrible by intentional design. Mr. Card has written and linked about this consistently, though more recently, it seems. It’s not surprising that people buy relatively few copies of literary fiction, and that section of Borders is shrinking. Instead, more shelves hold classic, romance, and science fiction books. I almost fully recommend the long webpage by Dave Wolverton. (Unfortunately, he likes Shakespeare.) Mr. Wolverton dissects the ideas behind modern literary fiction, with historical context. Literary fiction, the stuff of book reviews and the “Literature” section of bookstores, is designed under constraints that make it terrible. Here’s a good quote summarizing the situation.

By insisting that we write elitist fiction with powerful images, opacity, and a distinctive poetic voice; by insisting that the tales lack form; by limiting the types of characters, conflicts and settings; by favoring political correctness over other types of honest questioning or exploration of themes; and by insisting that tales lean toward existentialism rather than some more affirmative world view; a very restrictive genre emerged.

Unable to explore setting, conflict, characters or themes in their fiction, the mainstreamers wrote more and more eloquently about nothing at all.

Nothing at all leads to nihilism. No, it is nihilism, isn’t it? That will not do. I thank the owner of the hatrack for not just working against this end, but arguing as well. As he said, just because we disagree on some things doesn’t mean I can’t respect him and form an alliance on others.

About Adam

My quest is a world where calling someone "virtuous like a fairy tale hero" is routine, not fantastic or ironic. My vocation is the teaching and learning of statistics. My dream is a long happy life with a wonderful wife and kids. Who knows if any will become true? More information is at my homepage on the twelvefruits network: http://adam.twelvefruits.com
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2 Responses to Ender’s Stories and the problems of Literature

  1. anavidreader says:

    I read the entire collection of the Ender story (and those before and after him) during the last three weeks of the Spring 07 semester and absolutely loved them.

  2. reading science fiction books is the stuff that i am always into. science fiction really widens my imagination ~’.

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