linked me to an interesting article about gay sex and death in Orson Scott Card's work
. ...I definitely agree with some of it (probably more than not) and roll my eyes at other parts of it :)
I state the author's conclusions in italics and my own conclusions afterwards:Homoerotic desire is one aspect of the human condition that Card represents frequently and with a great deal of poignant detail.
Hm. Not sure I'd say frequently? But more so than the vast majority of writers in the 80's. I agree about the poignant detail. And an interesting point she raises about the, er, gay male gaze -- I only recently became aware of the "male gaze" as a thing, and... yeah, that's very interesting, you hardly ever get descriptions in Card's work of female breasts and hips and whatever; it's something that I (subliminally) actually rather liked about his work when I was snarfing through it in high school. But there do seem to be a lot of beautiful young men described in a lot of detail.Though gay sex is thus figured as intensely appealing, it is a resolutely forbidden fruit. Characters who “give in” to homosexual impulses are punished—and not merely by the villains of the novel. Villains, heroes, the dictates of the plot, the biological imperative to reproduce, even God: all conspire to torture, maim, shun, kill, and genetically annihilate any gay character so “misguided” as to be true to his feelings.
...I mean, this is true, I guess? Except that maiming, killing, and general physical and emotional torture seems to happen to men in general in Card's work, regardless of their sexual orientation. Let's see. Tortured to death without anesthetic? Two heterosexual humans and one heterosexual alien. All limbs cut off and genetically annihilated? The sexuality-undetermined protagonist of "Kingslayer." Head cut off, forced to live, and tortured with mental bladder pressure? (Really -- minor character in Wyrms.) Heterosexual, again. Forced to kill your own son (speaking of genetic annihilation)? Heterosexual. I mean, basically, if you're a male character in a Card novel, your odds are not good
regardless of your sexuality. I am not sure I can think of any books I've read by him where at least one male character, of various sexuality and marriage status, was not
tortured/mutilated/messily-killed. (This propensity was strongest in his earlier work, and has decreased over time, so it's possible that some of his recent stuff doesn't have it. But his recent stuff is also high on the crazy and the bad-writing, so I don't read it anymore.)
Actually, this is an interesting article because it makes me realize that this almost never
happens to women
in Card's fiction. I can think of exactly one example where a (heterosexual) woman is (physically) tortured/killed/genetically-annihilated: the wife of the slavemaster in Prentice Alvin
…I could say a lot of things about what this might say about torture as homoerotism and/or the way women are placed on a pedestal in Mormon culture, but I won't.
As I've noted in a previous post
, there is a part of Card, suppressed in his later years, that is deeply ambivalent about biological reproduction vs. other kinds of contribution to the world. Gay/bisexual boy gets to be -- spoilers, but I don't care anymore -- emperor of the universe AND give his non-genetic artistic heritage to the entire universe, which is presented as a much better (and more poignant) alternative than either being emperor or reproducing genetically. Yeah, fine, it would be better if he also had hot gay sex on the side, but let's see what happens to the other characters in the same book: gay guy is mutilated and tortured and hangs himself, okay, but let's look at the other characters: guy who kills the gay guy (of indeterminate sexuality) self
-mutilates himself to death (random thought based on propinquity of reading: oh hi there Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons, I hadn't made that particular connection before, though I've known for years that Card's early work is littered
with ideas he stole from Cordwainer Smith); het guy is driven insane and shot to death; woman who plays by the (sexual) "rules" and has het sex only within the confines of marriage is NOT tortured physically (probably because she is female, lucky her) BUT has already been condemned to exile and knowing she can't do what really matters, and is presented as possibly one of the most unhappy characters in the book... Oh, and a happy ending for four characters (two females (one het), one undetermined-sexuality male, one the gay/bisexual) in the book: three of them die of cold exposure and the fourth gets a job she hates which will one day culminate in her dying of cold exposure. Yes, those were the happy
The thing is, you just don't want to be in an OSC book, period.There is only one alternative for gay characters who wish to avoid genital mutilation and/or genetic death: to repress their desires, to get married and to father children, taking what comfort they can in the joys of parenthood and their passionless partnerships with women.
...yeah. I agree with the author's analysis of the Ender novels (and the Memory of Earth books, man) that way. It's true that Songmaster
(and to a lesser extent Ender's Game
) gives one more alternative: to transcend genetic death through artistic life. But in general yeah, and this message sort of gets stronger with time (until it turns into the crazy we have today).No matter how hard the narrative tries to pound home this last, official-policy message (repent and repress), there remains a lingering sense of the impossibility of ever finally killing desire. Individual bodies may be mutilated and torn apart, whole generations of buggers exterminated, yet in novel after novel, the longing returns, resurrected, and with it the choice: submit and sublimate, or die.
I can't argue with this one, actually. I find this kind of an interesting analysis, and rather perceptive.
I also like how the author ties it in to Card's being an outsider (which he also is in Mormon culture). I find that observation a perceptive connection that I didn't make myself but which I think is very interesting. (I've noticed before that his books with strongest Mormon explicit text -- The Folk of the Fringe
, Lost Boys
-- tend to be his best work, because he's sort of working counterpoint to the party message.)