Censored

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Here is another snippet from the larger piece I am working on which at the moment I am calling, The Misterious. At this point it is not necessary to read these in any sort of order, but if you go to the menu bar at the left and click on stories, you will find a tab that gives you all the posts related to this story. Sometimes deciding what to post is tricky because at some point, things I would rather leave out now will be plugged in later. For one, the place I am writing about, I think I intend to base on a real place, but I want to leave that out now.  Just think of it as a journal of sorts written by a person in a place that may or may not exist as we would know it. Okay. I am explaining too much. Enjoy!

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CENSORED


Despite being physically isolated, we do get physical things from the outside world and communication isn’t completely cut off. It’s just spotty. As I write this, I’m not sure that anyone out there will ever read it. Getting through to someone via the phone or internet is an unpredictable venture and once you do get signals you can’t count on them to go as far as you would like. You can get on the internet but you can’t see everything. Strangely enough, you can almost always get communication within the city itself, just try to reach anywhere outside and success is a toss up. There’s no explanation or even acknowledgement of this. When you try to talk to anyone from out there about the weird things going on in here or if you ask, what the heck is happening where they are, the connection drops or you get interference. I suppose it’s a bit like what people have dealt with for years in countries where the government controls everything. There’s no, “access denied message” or warning. What you are looking for is simply not there.

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It would be nice to find out something tangible. Coming up on two years and I still don’t know who’s in charge out there, why we’re stuck here or whether that weirdness is really anything to be concerned about. After all, it hasn’t made me sick. I think I’m still sane. I haven’t seen zombies or anyone with an arm growing out of their forehead. Then again, I stay the hell away from that part of town! Why take chances?

Today, I talked to Quinn. Quinn was lucky enough to be visiting family down south when the barricades went up. I say, lucky, assuming that things aren’t as screwy out there as they are in here. But I don’t know because every time we try to talk about it; static. This time, he was trying to ask me questions and the line kept cutting in and out. When we discussed more benign topics, however,  we heard each other perfectly.

Quinn has two cats, Beans and Lucy. For all practical purposes, they’re my cats now. Lucy, a small black ball of plushness is ancient. Lately, she seems to be failing and I don’t know whether it’s time to tell him or if I should just avoid giving him something to fret about that he can’t control. Quinn is not generally a worrier, but I am sure this situation tests that enviable trait. I am not even sure we have a veterinarian here anymore to take her to, but I am searching. The city is so empty now. I told Quinn I had loaded up some photos to my web page, but he said that parts of my posts were just blurred out. He didn’t see any photos.  Owl can see them. I can see them. But outside, they are out of focus. Owl says he is working on a way to circumvent this. I’m not tech savvy enough to begin to think about how to do that. I probably shouldn’t mention this. Will they, whoever they are, be watching us now?

tumblr_inline_nm0avoT28s1smxh5i_500It’s strange. It’s frustrating. Still, I take what I can get. It’s good to talk to Quinn. It’s nice to hear his voice. There is comfort in the connection. Even if it is censored, it’s grounding. I suspect the news is edited, but it brings a sense of normalcy. Though I can’t find everything, I’m able to boot up my computer to search the web for information and giggles much the same as before. For now, some things remain hidden. I hope they won’t always be that way. While I generally enjoy a bit of mystery, being left entirely in the dark is wearing thin. I have no idea if my words will find their way out. I just write because it seems someone should be keeping a record of this. Even my trivial words feel weighty, like evidence of my existence. We are here, those of us left behind. We matter.

For now, we live indefinitely in a figurative bubble. Sometimes I like to pretend that I am actually alone, that there is no other human living within the miles of rectangles that dot the landscape. I think about what it must have been like when this place was untouched by humans, primordial and blanketed with trees. I wonder if the trees will someday find a way to reclaim the territory; libraries, houses, schools and supermarkets buried like ancient temples under the roots of the jungle. I tell myself that I am the last human on earth. Sometimes, I even think I would be fine if that were true. It’s a peaceful place to go in my head, but in reality, I’m glad for the connection, any connection. I am here. You still see me. I see you. We are separated but not alone.

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Ghost Town

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(At this point it is not necessary to read these in any particular order)

I’ve been on a roll of late posting a lot of things that aren’t stories or even bits of stories. I have been writing fiction, I just haven’t been posting it. I suppose if I ever get in the habit of posting daily or a few times a week with regularity, more will get here.

This is the first thing I’ve posted from a longer work that has been percolating for awhile. I have decided that I need to do some research on things like climate change, natural disasters, geography, politics and economics, among other things before I flesh it out in any serious way, not because I am going to need them all that much in the story, but because I personally want the foundation to build it on. I guess it’s sort of SciFi, maybe more speculative fiction. I’m vacillating between it taken place somewhere that exists now vs somewhere completely imaginary. Oh, it’s a hot mess that wants to come out!

Anyway, the title for working purposes only, is, The Misterious, so that’s what it will be tagged as when I post other fragmeants of it! I’m not entirely happy with this bit, but it wanted out of my head desperately so, here ya go:

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GHOST TOWN

I try to time my late night ramblings so that I will have the lowest chance of running into another soul. If I head out too early in the morning I’ll likely catch maintenence, blowing off the sidewalks, cleaning the glass and storefront trims, watering plants  or hosing off the benches. Sometimes during the day or early in the evening  I’ll see a lone vehicle or run into an actual human being on the street or sweeping their porch. Too early in the late evening and you might run into a PigBot, have to explain yourself or worse. Too late in the late evening and you might run into a wild animal you can’t handle or the Red Eyes. Jimmy likes to call them the Cylons. That makes me laugh.

The perfect time for me is the middle of the night. Lights might still be on in some of the buildings. I make a game of guessing which yellow squares of light are actually occupied and which simply had lights on when the inhabitants left, with no reason to suspect  they wouldn’t return. Building lights are mostly on automatic, but individual apartments and houses are more intriguing puzzles. For weeks, after it happened, my attention was fixed on a large television screen visible through an upper window in a building about a block from my place. It must have been set on a timer as  it came on early every evening and shut off at one every morning. I walked past the apartment building it sat in nearly every day. It’s my habit to scan windows, doors and porches in particular.  One day, I could see it was gone. Presumably, a neighbor finally decided they might as well have it.


There are small clues. Sometimes bulbs will burn out and you know there is no one living there because once they go dark, they stay that way. Keep watching and more lights in the same place will go out and stay out one by one. On the floor below the place with the TV is another apartment that caught my eye.  It has four long curtains, knotted at the bottom which make striking silhouettes at night. I assumed it was unoccupied, especially after one evening seeing the window was dark. I assumed the light had gone out. But the next day I  looked up to  realize someone had merely closed all the drapes. A few days later, I noticed they were knotted up again. Hello neighbor! Were you hiding your new TV?

When I decide to stay somewhere else for a few days or head up to The Bunker, I always set lights and things that make sound on varying timers. Owl showed me how to rig up some techy things that sound like conversation, cooking sounds, a dog. So far, no one has broken into my place, only another neighbor would be a likely burglar anyway and they all know I’m here, but I have gone many places I did not belong. That concept is slippery for me though. I’m not sure it’s breaking and entering or stealing when the likelihood is, no one’s coming back.

In the middle of the night benches look inviting, yet eerie. I find myself wanting to sit on them, but at the last second, I balk, feeling like an intruder.  A presence is there, the heavy presence of nothing.  It’s become a ghost town, except that it isn’t. I think everyone has to leave for a place to become a ghost town; population zero, only ghosts. Our populace has been dramatically reduced, but people still occupy the buildings. They live, but they aren’t really living. How do you get up and go to work when you can’t leave the city or your job in the city no longer exists? Few of us know what to do with ourselves. We shuffle about this place that isn’t  an actual ghost town. The city is a shell, populated by shadows of lives that once vibrantly filled it. We are the ghosts.

It should creep me out walking around my neighborhood in the wee hours thinking about this stuff. But the buildings in daylight are much more disturbing. They all look abandoned so of course, you can just feel someone watching. You squint at the squares of grey and you think you see a shadow staring back. The emptiness is pronounced. The loneliness is oppressive. At night, it’s peaceful, a perfect stillness. All I can hear are the sounds of water, wind and night birds. Sometimes I even hear the occasional car. It’s not that different from the way it was before. I’m lulled by the comfort of warmly lit apartments, the illusion of life. I can almost forget.

Almost.

Thoughts On: Effective Protests VS Throwing The Baby Out With The Bath Water

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I spent a couple hours of my Labor Day weekend doing something that would displease many of my friends. I (gasp) watched Ender’s Game.

There was a good amount of hot debate, even some foaming at the mouth, unfriending or threats thereof, on social media in the months leading up to the movie’s release, continuing when it came out in the theaters. The controversy had nothing to do with the book the movie was based on, the people who made the film or its subject matter. It had everything to do with the author, Orson Scott Card, who actually stood to make no money from the film’s box office revenue. He had been paid up front for the rights some years previously. The studio even distanced itself from Card, dropping him from any promotion of the film.

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I kept relatively quiet as I watched the frenzied arguments on my friends’ Facebook walls and other social and news media. Though I am not much of an activist, L.G.B.T. issues are important to me and I don’t keep silent when it comes to bigotry. I have long considered myself to be queer, bisexual and many of my friends hit some aspect of the queer spectrum. In somewhat a move of solidarity, I decided not to see the film in theaters. What I kept to myself was my opinion that the boycott of the film, not of Card, was frankly, stupid. I still think so. Stupid is a harsh term. Perhaps I should have used short-sighted, ineffective, misguided or misplaced.

Anyway, if you can get past the offense, here’s some of my reasoning behind this judgement and my thoughts about Card and the film:

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I didn’t see the boycott hurting Card one little bit. And, it didn’t. His book sales continue to climb.

While I think it was excellent to expose Card’s hate speech and misguided politics and educate the ignorant, boycotting the film achieved little of this. Boycotts may be effective against corporations who are worried about their reputations, and they may raise awareness of issues but they generally don’t seem have an impact on American consumers. When we want something bad enough, we buy it. The boycott, despite claims to the contrary, may not have affected the box office sales at all. We’ll never know unless we can poll every single person who chose not to see it, asking them why. However, I do think that a combination of the boycott, mixed reviews and disappointed consumers thinking they were going to get a major action film or something more like The Hunger Games thanks to misleading marketing, probably kept the film from being successful in America.

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So when is the artist inseparable from their art? It’s a dilemma if you have a conscience. When is boycotting the work of a human being we find offensive, appropriate and when is it simply throwing the baby out with the bathwater? In my opinion there’s a big difference between an artist like Card, who is a product of his generation and of his religion (The Mormon Church), someone who’s homophobic rants I find offensive, but not surprising and someone like Woody Allen, who I believe is a pedophile who will never be held accountable for the crimes he committed against Dylan Farrow, an incest survivor whose account I find highly credible.  People find all kinds of reasons to justify padding the bank account of this abusive predator (who also appears to be racist by the way), yet essentially they want to punish Card for expressing his, albeit offensive, first amendment right in an arena that has nothing to do with the book he wrote about 20 years ago. So how do you pick and choose? What limits do you set? I choose to not see Allen’s films anymore because I can’t separate my distaste for the artist from the art, but if I did, I would not pay to see a first run film or anything he might profit from and I think that’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to Card as well.

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Not only did this boycott not hurt Card or change his homophobic rhetoric, though he did insincerely squirm around and try to soften things a bit, it probably launched book sales by curious readers. And this is where a bigger impact could have been made, by not feeding Card directly through new purchases of his material! Ender’s Game doesn’t promote any homophobic attitudes. Ironically, it’s largely about tolerance and understanding. In the past, Card has gone to great lengths to keep his politics out of his work, not that that negates the real pain and conflict experienced by readers who have since discovered who Card really is at heart. Card has more recently written some clumsy and inflammatory work, such as 2008’s, Hamlet’s Father. It wouldn’t surprise me if this writing was spurred on by criticism. Often the work artists are most emotional about is their worst.

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The failure of Ender’s Game at the box office could have hurt the careers of really interesting talent, Asa Butterfield, for example. I hope not. It also makes it less likely that more interesting, original or thoughtful science fiction will be produced in the future. I am a firm believer in, let’s not just bitch about how Hollywood won’t step outside of the formula or gives too many strong or leading roles to white men that could go to women and people of color or how Hollywood perpetuates stereotypes, bigotry and rape culture. let’s vote with our wallets! That’s why I spent money on Lucy, and I’m glad I did, despite some of the whiny criticisms. In fact I find it interesting that critics panned Lucy and Maleficent, actually two really good films with strong, independent, well developed female characters. If we don’t continue to pay to see movies like that, more and better ones will never be made.

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Same goes for Ender’s Game. Not going didn’t prevent a “homophobic film”, which it wasn’t, from succeeding. It was ultimately a vote against sci-fi stories that were out of the Hollywood norm being told! In fact, you may have read the poorly written or B.D.S.M. inaccurate book or be pining to see the upcoming film of Fifty Shades of Grey (or the soapy & sappy Twilight series it spawned from) thus supporting with your wallet a story that normalizes abuse behavior and the throwback mentality of a woman’s worth stemming completely from her man.  And I bet you’ll make all kinds of excuses to justify spending your money on that twaddle and skip movies that might be a step in the right direction. For a much better, actually brilliant film about S&M, I refer you to Secretary, the 2002 picture with James Spader (his character is, curiously, Mr Grey) and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

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While Ender’s Game doesn’t have a female character or non-white character as a centerpiece, many of the supporting characters are not white males. In fact, specifically, some of the less likable characters were white males. There were not only some interesting female characters, but the three that were highlighted were crucial to Ender’s success in the film; Viola Davis as Major Anderson, a male character in the book, recast as a woman of color (whoot), Abigail Breslin as Valentine, Ender’s sister, who helps bring out his empathy and conscience, and Hailee Steinfield, Petra, his fellow cadet is clearly an equal and in some cases a more important part of the team (she is the best sharpshooter). There are no signs that she is dismissed or picked on because of her gender by other cadets and she isn’t reduced to a romantic interest.

"There’s good news for those of us without talent in the world. Michael Bay is our Hero, our Saviour, our Douche-in-Charge. Not only has he shit out three painful, vapid, racist, sexist, snorecore shit fest Transformer movies, but the Bovine of the World have spent enough money to land him in the chair for a fourth installment." -Caffeine Powered

“There’s good news for those of us without talent in the world. Michael Bay is our Hero, our Saviour, our Douche-in-Charge. Not only has he shit out three painful, vapid, racist, sexist, snorecore shit fest Transformer movies, but the Bovine of the World have spent enough money to land him in the chair for a fourth installment.” -Caffeine Powered

So, what’s the takeaway for Hollywood here? Let’s just make another Transformers film, shall we? It doesn’t have to be good storytelling to guarantee success. We don’t have to be socially responsible. We can even do a little padding of rape culture in the process. People will just gloss it over because, yaay Transformers.

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Ender’s Game failed at the American box office. Even if ultimately it makes a buttload of money in overseas markets and in DVD/Blue Ray sales, we will likely not see a sequel. An example, despite doing poorly here, The Golden Compass was very successful world wide however, we will probably not see the rest of the trilogy ironically because of the Catholic Church’s campaign against the film. The Ender series which, I think would have been interesting if produced is probably toast.

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Orson Scott Card seems to be one of those intractable bigots who can’t move past their tiny and archaic world view, usually a world view that makes people like them the most important. Certainly, he is a fine  candidate for a blast from the point-of-view gun! To find compassion for Card, I try to picture him as that difficult relative clinging to ignorance, maybe even a parent or grandparent, raised in a more conservative, closed minded time, whose religious or political views differ vastly from our own. We’d find him embarrassing at social events, do our best not to engage in fruitless arguments and try to be tolerant.  All the while we’d be kind of horrified at the things that come out of his mouth (crazy old coot) and he’d probably feel the same about our wacky (flaming liberal) ideas. Screaming at him will do little to change his opinion. In fact it will act like cement. Slowly easing him into experiences that might make him rethink things may help. Definitely, firmly telling him you disagree and why is important. But fanning the flames never put out a fire.

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Sometimes no matter what you do or say people won’t change. They’ll just dig in their heels. Luckily, most of us are not likely to have to put up with Mr Card at our table come the holidays. However, we can send him the message by refuting his comments publicly, in blogs, letting friends know, letting people who want to hire him know why they shouldn’t, and of course, by refusing to do things that directly line his pockets like buying new copies of his books or taking his writing workshops!

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I have some friends who have some attributes that annoy me, turn ons that leave me cold or have some views that completely clash with my personal beliefs. Here are a few things that butt up against my nerves:

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I am friends with these people because I see other things of value in them that outweigh the things that annoy or offend.Sometimes I need to point out that the words they think are innocuous are harmful. I do my best to gently explain my point of view and to understand theirs.  Often we just have to agree to disagree. I recognize that they are good people and their views are the sum of indoctrination, age, religion and experience. Often, the emotional argument really boils down to either, “I don’t understand” or “I’m really uncomfortable with this, therefore I don’t want you to do it.” It mostly boils down to, “It’s all about ME.”

Unlike an acquaintance of mine who once horrified me by insisting that, there’s “no valid reason” for someone to have surgery to change their gender. If they feel like a woman, “why can’t they just wear a dress?” Card’s rhetoric is potentially more dangerous because he has an audience. He gives interviews, talks, he publishes essays. On one hand, much of that audience already agrees with him, however, the times they are a changin’ and more and more people are likely to call him on his foolishness.

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It may seem that I am making excuses for Card or even defending him. Oh, no I am not! Still, I refuse to believe, with a few obvious exceptions, that some people are disposable and irredeemable. I find Card’s beliefs and statements about homosexuality and same sex marriage repulsive and ignorant. In contrast I find his opinions about cutting back the use of fossil fuels quite sensible. I’ve learned when I take context into consideration my thoughts are less clouded by anger and I can think more constructively. When I read his rants about same sex marriage I also consider at his demographic: He grew up during the 40’s and 50’s  in mostly white affluent communities, lives in the heavily Christian south and is a devout Mormon. Given this, I think his mind set is pretty typical. Clearly, this doesn’t make his ideas any less odious, it just helps in understanding where they came from.

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I give the greatest amount of weight to his programming, yes I said programming, by the Mormon Church. A great many Mormons, and also members of any cults or religions that suppress free or critical thought, are mouthpieces for their church propaganda. The Mormon Church is one of the biggest proponents against same-sex marriage, period. Why should we expect Card to be different? Now, what’s the best way to change his mind? Certainly not a boycott that won’t hurt his wallet. In contrast, Paula Deen got called out for her racist language and her real profits were targeted. She may not have learned to not be racist. She’s probably still in the feeling sorry for herself stage, but ultimately, a real message was sent.

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I do find it interesting that for the most part, Card’s writing does not reflect his ugly politico-religious sentiments. He does have religious overtones in places. Much of this was dampened in the film. I’ll admit, this observation is not based on personal experience, but on  things I have read about his writing and comments by friends who have read his books.

Ironically, it appears I really haven’t read any of Orson Scott Card’s material. As someone who has read books from most established writers in the science fiction genre, this seems crazy, but I double checked his bibliography and  my experience with Card is only  in the short story category. Ender’s Game is on almost every “must read, most important, ground breaking” science fiction list. The Ender series has always been on my, “someday I’ll read this,” list but I have so many things on that list I will never get to all of them. Maybe I will never read it.

The film:

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On one of my more ancient blog incarnations, my chinchillas, Gazpacho & Pele, were my movie reviewers by proxy. They reminded me of the Muppet critics, Statler and Waldorf, as they would sit up on the perch together and make critical sounds at the telly. They would rate things in raisins if they liked them and chinchilla poops if they disliked a film. They would have given Ender’s Game 6 ½ Raisins,  maybe 7 as a nod that it was interesting and at the very least it worth gnawing on.

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It’s said to be a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel. It has a wonderful cast: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Abigail Breslin, and the incredibly cool Nonso Anozie! The recent Dracula series (cancelled after one season, grumble, grumble.) could be enjoyed merely for Anozie’s wonderful take on Renfield! Recently, another movie, which also had an epic cast as well as a writer/director who has been consistently brilliant, Noah, wasted a couple of hours of my time; the exception being the few scenes with Sir Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah. I did not find Ender’s Game a waste of my time. On the contrary, I won’t be surprised if I decide to watch it more than once. Overall, I really liked the film, but I see why it might not have been that exciting to some audiences and what its failures are. None of them have anything to do with Card’s “politics.”

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I think Ender’s Game was a film for adults in which the cast is mostly kids. This is not how it was marketed. I doubt it played well to tween audiences and it seems obvious that’s what the target was. Clearly Lions Gate was hoping for another Harry Potter or Hunger Games Franchise. It didn’t have a sense of humor. There wasn’t enough BIG action. Romantic tension was only hinted at. It’s certainly not a sweeping adventure or action blockbuster. None of these things are flaws in my book but it is unusual for these attributes to translate to big box office. In Ender’s Game, most of the action is of the computer game variety. Even the training games in the film aren’t terribly violent. It’s all strategy. I thought that was refreshing. But I am not the audience the motion picture industry aims for, young males between the ages of 12-25.

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Gavin Hood lives up to his track record of being an earnest writer and director, if not the most consistent or the one who always makes the most interesting or edgy choices. There were a few scenes, one of my pet peeves, that were unnecessarily too ‘splainy. I also think it rushed over some of the military training stuff in a hurry to cut running time and get to the big climax. They really went through all of Ender’s promotions too quickly and if it wasn’t for Asa Butterfield’s excellent acting I don’t think the processes and changes in the character would have come across as successfully as they did. The big climax wasn’t what one expects of a film like this either. The very end was rather abruptly and neatly wrapped.

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One review I read of the film said something along the lines of Ender’s Game being successful when you left the theater and falling apart on the ride home. I can see that criticism, but I think Ender’s Game holds up better than that. There is a lot of post film thinking for me, about how it could have been better (and I must say, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it if they had taken a shot at Card by sneaking in an openly gay character and not having it matter or a shot of Colonol Graff’s desk with  picture of his husband sitting on it, chuckle.) however, I also found my thoughts successfully provoked about war in general, use of children in in battle (topical), combat becoming more like a video game while less and less up close and personal, cultural preservation and obliteration, and also about strategy and empathy, even bullying. I found the character of Ender Wiggin fascinating and overall it made me kind of hopeful there would be more of his story.

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In part, thanks to the boycott people, I’ll probably have to read the books for that.

Oops!

*I promise however, that if I do read anything by Orson Scott Card, I will either buy it at a used bookstore or at a yard sale or I will get it free from a friend or a book swap. He won’t get a dime from me.

*Here is a general timeline and summery of the unfolding of the Orson Scott Card controversy from book publication to film release.