The Real Reason I'm Disappointed in Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card's homophobic views aren't exactly news — they've been a source of online controversy for years. It's only newsworthy when Card does something especially notable, like rewriting one of the world's greatest ghost stories into an anti-gay screed.

Top image: Cover from "Ender in Exile" comic book

And honestly, I wouldn't care what Orson Scott Card thinks about queer people — he's not exactly alone in having views I violently disagree with — except that I think it's a terrible waste. Because Orson Scott Card is choosing to grind his axe about a topic on which he has no particular insight, and about which nobody will listen to him except people who already share his views.

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And Orson Scott Card has opinions about which I'd much rather see him grind his axe.

Or at least, he appears to. I don't want to put words in his mouth. But I've seen him express these opinions a few times, and wish he would do it more. I'm referring to his views on fossil fuels, which are complicated and obviously thought-out.

Card is a conservative and vocal climate-change skeptic, but on the topic of fossil fuels his opinions seem to be rather more heterodox. He's advanced a few times the idea that we should be saving fossil fuels for things like space rockets — things which only fossil fuels are good for. In his book Hidden Empire, President Torrent moves to phase out cars with internal combustion engines and requiring all cars to be fully electric by 2020. Torrent says:

It's not about ending our dependence on "foreign" oil. It's about having some oil left in the world to do the things that only oil can do.

We can turn anything into electricity — sunlight, tides, rivers, coal, shale, corn, wind, garbage, the heat of the Earth. We will never run out of electricity. So every vehicle that can run on electricity, must.

Because there will never be a battery-powered airplane, so far as we can foresee. Nor will we ever have electric rockets any time soon. Even after all the oil we've burned in the past century, we still have enough oil left to keep all our planes in the air and put new satellites in the sky for thousands and thousands of years.

Torrent is also very concerned about creating an early warning system for detecting meteors that might collide with Earth, potentially ending all life on the planet. This is something that Card also writes about in this 2004 column, where he says:

We have to find alternatives before the oil is gone. And that requires government action, because the free market, left to itself, will burn all the cheap oil — whereupon there is a high likelihood of an unrecoverable crash, because science cannot take place on the same timescale as market forces.

And he also repeats the call for a program to travel to the asteroid belt, "where we can work on technologies to deflect or destroy asteroids."

Card thinks, more than many science fiction writers, about the fuel costs of going into space — he talks in a few of his books about the difficulties of transporting enough fuel to achieve orbit and avoid planetary bodies. And I could have sworn that one of his books includes a rant about the notion that we humans only have a limited amount of raw materials — including fossil fuels as well as certain metals — on our planet, with which to achieve a presence in space. And when that stuff is gone, it's gone, and so is our hope of becoming an interstellar civilization. (I couldn't find that rant this morning, so please let me know if you can identify it.)

But if it's true that Card believes the government should intervene to reserve fossil-fuel use for space and air travel, and he believes that we should have a huge new space program aimed at dealing with potential meteor collisions, then those are some views that he could actually make a difference by expounding. Especially for a conservative to call for more government intervention in the economy — it could be sort of a "Nixon goes to China" thing, and possibly galvanize way more support than these ideas would, coming from a liberal.

Card still has a huge following and a massive soap-box, and he's proved he's willing to use his fiction to advance his political ideas. I'd really love to see him spending more time advancing his unique ideas about energy policy — rather than wasting time propounding ideas about homosexuality that are neither original nor constructive.