Orson Scott Card’s right wing politics have inspired a certain amount of political hostility toward him. Of course branding the author of Pastwatch as a right winger is a touch simplistic, but Card’s position on the War on Terror and gay marriage stuck him in the right wing camp, and seem to have inspired some dubious attacks. Most notably from vastly overrated author John Kessel who tries to sell the rather weak argument that Ender’s Game is actually Orson Scott Card justifying genocide.
What should be obvious to a Science Fiction “author” is that drawing direct parallels between human history and a scenario taking place in an interstellar environment is a little two dimensional. Kessel charges Ender with genocide, but Ender had no way of being certain that he was taking out an entire race. And considering how easy it was to restart the species with an egg, it’s obvious that genocide wasn’t even committed here. Only the queen of the buggers represented an intelligent organism, which raises the question of whether genocide was even committed here, or can be committed against a hive mind at all.
The entire double blind setup in which Ender did not know he was fighting a real war and his commanders did not know what Ender was willing to do, was obviously intended as a commentary on war. Kessel instead uses it to psychoanalyze Card’s motivations. But if we’re to take Kessel and Card’s critics at face value then, in what humans thought was a zero sum game at the time, choosing humanity over the formics is a war crime. And that kind of attitude only contrasts Card with his critics. After all would we really want someone defending us who wasn’t prepared to make that choice?
If choosing to destroy the Buggers is genocide, isn’t choosing not to destroy them in a zero sum game genocide as well? If we were to take a less sentimental version of the war, in which only humanity or the buggers could survive, would Kessel argue that pulling the trigger is a war crime? And if so isn’t inaction the greater crime?