Okay, so maybe that title was a bit extreme, but I simply had to let my anger fly before I could properly reply to the commentary article penned by Card for the May 3rd LA Times. It is clear that Orson Scott Card is not the biggest fan of Star Trek, by his own admission it is a “poorly imagined, weakly written, badly acted television series”. Again, that is fine. Before I go into why I found Card’s article so offensive, let me say this now: Ender’s Game was one of the first “novels” I ever read. I was a wee Geek of 8 years old. I don’t know what prompted me to grab the book off my local library shelf. I don’t know why I chose to ignore the librarian who said I was too young for the book. I took the book home anyway. The novel sat on my headboard unread for days and days. I stared at the great tome with its massive galactic battleship filling the entire cover. Finally, during a long, boring, and cold Susanville winter I opened the book. I fell in love. Dropping the book off the following weekend, the librarian grinned and reminded me that the book was too adult for me. I stood proudly and told her that I simply loved it! Not believing me, she gave me a quick pop quiz, to which I passed with flying colors. Every few years I go back and re-read the novel; the last time I read Ender’s Game being a few short months ago. I still love it. Strangely, I was never able to get into any of the other Ender novels, or any of the other works written by Card. I tried, I really did… None of them hit me the way Ender’s Game did.
With that being said, let me begin.
Orson Scott Card asks why Star Trek has lasted so long. He asks why a show locked into the “1930s definition of science fiction” has lasted so long. Clearly, Card understands that Star Trek has endured for so long because the fans enjoy the characters and how they interact with each other. Card clearly understands that Roddenberry was simply trying to tell dramatic and interesting stories and chose a futuristic setting to tell it. Card knows that while fantastic technology was an interesting aspect of the show, it was never intended to be the focus of the show.
Well, not really.
What was Orson Scott Card’s reason for Star Trek enduring for so long?
Simple, Star Trek fans were culturally illiterate and were more akin to ignorant children who were “people weren’t reading at all”.
These quotes read more like the words of a bitter unsuccessful writer, (I know, cause I can smell my own), not a statement made by a very successful and supposed learned author. It is true that Star Trek is not the hardest of science fiction. However, Roddenberry never intended the show to be that. He wanted a show that explored the most primal of human emotions and discovery. He wanted to write stories that would make people question their own cultural and societal mores. Placing the stories within the flashy visage of science fiction made telling the stories easier during a time of bigotry and social upheaval. Ask any Star Trek fan who is honest with themselves and they will tell you that their favorite episodes were the character driven ones, not the crap bogged down with endless amounts of techno babble. There is a reason why Voyager and the first three seasons of Enterprise are hailed as the worst Trek ever written. The characters and stories in both of those spin-offs took a back seat to jazzy special effects and piss poor science fiction techno-crap. Interesting characters and plot driven stories is the reason why many Star Trek fans consider Deep Space Nine to be the best of the Trek shows. And yes, I shall state for the record, Deep Space Nine is your friendly neighborhood Geek’s favorite of all the Star Trek series.
What upsets me more however is Card’s blanket statement that Star Trek fans don’t understand true science fiction. Card simply states that Star Trek fans wouldn’t know quality if it fell into their lap. Card seems to forget that without Star Trek many current science fiction authors may not have been inspired to give their vision and concepts life. Star Trek has inspired countless people in all walks of life and professions. While I don’t know the man personally, I have a strange feeling that Professor Stephen Hawkins might be a tad bit insulted to learn that Orson Scott Card believes his enjoyment of Star Trek to be due to not knowing real science fiction, to not reading at all.
If you don’t like Star Trek, that’s fine. If you find any science fiction that takes place in a giant ship or space station as juvenile that is fine as well.
However; when your last three hits are parallel re-telling of stories you wrote 21 years ago (Ender’s Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, and Shadow Puppets) you CAN NOT mock fans and writers of Star Trek for keeping the show alive so many years beyond it’s first broadcast.