Like many people, I loved Orson Scott Card's novel Ender's Game, first published in 1977 and soon to be a major motion picture. It's the story of a remarkable boy manipulated by his government into using his talents and skills in a faraway war. I really want to go to the movie, but I really, really don't like the idea of supporting Card, who is anti-gay, in any way. So, what to do? I'm rereading the book, wary of a hidden anti-gay message. If I find one, I can't go to the movie.
So far, I have to laugh, because I'm finding -- big surprise? -- gay overtones throughout the book. Battle School is an almost-all-male world, and closeness between males is a comfort. It's like ancient Greece -- in more than one way.
When Ender must say goodbye to his friend Alai, the boys share an intimate moment (p. 51 in the 1991 edition): "Alai suddenly kissed Ender on the cheek and whispered in his ear, 'Salaam.' Then, red faced, he turned away and walked to his own bed at the back of the barracks. Ender guessed that the kiss and the word were somehow forbidden ... After such a thing nothing could be said. Alai reached his bed and turned around to see Ender. Their eyes held for only a moment, locked in understanding."
I'm not implying that Ender and Alai have a sexual relationship -- they don't -- but language like this seems loaded, to say the least. Similarly, here's Ender's reaction when he meets another boy, Bonzo Madrid (p. 55): "A boy stood there, tall and slender, with beautiful black eyes and slender lips that hinted at refinement. I would follow such beauty, said something inside Ender."
Oh, and did I mention the so-called "sleep-uniform" (p. 54)? "Skin from head to toe." The book takes place in a world where young boys (and a very few girls) sleep naked in communal bunk rooms. Fraught with contradiction much, Mr. Card? Presumably, the sleep-uniforms will not show up in the film.
Not only do they sleep naked in the book -- they jog, work out in the gym, and wrestle in their sleep-uniforms (p. 125 and p. 147). Ender and his friend Bean share a bed at one point (p. 140). For no reason I can fathom, part of the novel takes place on a small planet called Eros (first mention p. 173). On this planet, Ender's teacher tells him " 'In this school, it has always been the practice for a young student to be chosen by an older student. The two become companions, and the older boy teaches the younger one everything he knows. Always they fight, always they compete, always they are together' " (p. 185). The companions sleep in the same room, too, though in this case the teacher sleeps on the floor.
I'm not the first one to notice homoeroticism in Ender's Game. A quick Google search shows that many readers have noticed homoerotic overtones in the book. Librarian and writer Emily Lloyd articulates her mixed feelings about the book (similar to mine) in the online comic Shelf Check, here.
Scholars, too, have written on the topic. In 2009. James Campbell published "Kill the Bugger: Ender's Game and the Question of Heteronormativity" in Science Fiction Studies (Vol. 36, No. 3); he says "I read the Ender's series as being at odds, on matters of sexual identity and desire, with Card's public stance as a Mormon fundamentalist." 19 pages later, Campbell concludes: "Card’s fiction provides a more nuanced and tolerant response to homosexuality than his more direct social commentary ... [science fiction] allows people, both writers and readers, to say things they would never articulate without the mask of genre."
So maybe I can go to this movie after all.
Addendum, August 14, 2013: Here's a related article by Kate Bonin, "In the Bugger Tunnels of Planet Eros: Gay Sex and Death in the Science Fiction of Orson Scott Card," first published in the New York Review of Science Fiction, December 2002: http://www4.ncsu.edu/~tenshi/articles/Boninessay.htm