The attacks on the novel -- and on me -- were astonishing. Some of it I expected -- I have a master's degree in literature, and in writing Ender's Game I deliberately avoided all the little literary games and gimmicks that make "fine" writing so impenetrable to the general audience. All the layers of meaning are there to be decoded, if you like to play the game of literary criticism -- but if you don't care to play that game, that's fine with me. I designed Ender's Game to be a clear and accessible as any story of mine could possibly be. My goal was that the reader wouldn't have to be trained in literature or even in science fiction to receive the tale in its purest, simplest form. And, since a great many writers and critics have based their entire careers on the premise that anything that the general public can understand without mediation is worthless drivel, it is not surprising that they found my little novel to be despicable. If everybody came to agree that stories should be told this clearly, the professors of literature would be out of a job, and the writers of obscure, encoded fiction would be, not honored, but pitied for the impenetrability.I find myself agreeing with much of Card's analysis, even though I still believe that the majority of speculative fiction comes off as compositionally tone deaf. See, the difference seems one of degrees. Beauty catches one's breath, stops you in your tracks, makes you stare. But an obsession with personal vanity or an overdeveloped fashion sense yields results that are striking for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps that's what Card is criticizing here, a piling on of technique that turns loveliness into narcissism, charm into impenetrability. Like him, I wish that works exhibiting such obsession would become objects of pity rather than approbation. Still, is it too much to ask that genre authors value beautiful prose? I grew to love Bradbury, Tolkien and Gibson not only for their characters, settings and ideas, but also for the elegant ways in which they communicated those very things.
(Picture: CC 2008 by digitalthom)