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May 2013

Flashback: Nitpicker's Guide to the New Star Trek, Pt. 4

In preparation for discussions of the new Star Trek movie, CultureGeek offers you the four-part review of the 2009 reboot, which I dubbed Star Trek 2.0. This is part four.


May 14, 2009

Whew. Now you guys know why you're getting this on Thursday - it takes some energy to complain this much. But hey - we Trek fans are masters.

On to the people stuff! You know, the heart and soul of science fiction.

• Spock's family matters. Presumably the destruction of an Earth ship and death of a human officer had no appreciable impact on family life on Vulcan. Why, then, is Spock's family dynamic markedly different than it was in the original timeline?

Don't get me wrong - Spock's intonation of "live long and prosper" to the Vulcan Science Academy was pretty much awesome, and exactly what I would have imagined for the moment in which he chose Starfleet - where he will always be alien - over his home planet, where he will never be accepted.

However, Spock Prime was shunned from his family for this choice. His father refuses to speak with him because of it until "Journey to Babel." Sarek Prime was as proud and stubborn as his son, refusing to acknowledge Spock's existence. Where did Sarek Beta come from, this kind and supportive Sarek who says Spock must choose his own path, who supports his decisions without question?

It doesn't even make sense from a dramatic point of view. Spock could have been faced with his angry, disappointed, grieving father at the same time he's fighting with Kirk and McCoy and dealing with the Romulans and his mother's death and his first command ... now that's drama. Instead, we get a pale shadow of Sarek who essentially exists to give Spock someone to talk to when he's mulling his thoughts.

• The entire Delta Vega sequence. This one deserves a nitpick all its own, and some of it belonged in the "science" portion. Now, I will put up with a lot of things changing due to the altered timeline, such as why the Enterprise is still under construction when Kirk is 22 instead of 13 years in service at the time of his enlistment at age 17 in the original timeline. And yes, it galls me that we lost Finnegan, Gary Mitchell, Carol Marcus, Professor Gill... though some of the above were in earlier script drafts and they were cut WHY??

But explain to me how a remote planetoid moves from the literal edge of the galaxy to "within eyesight of Vulcan"?

I think Abrams picked a Trek Prime planet name because it was cool, and whenever he does that it glares through. "Hey, let's name the planetoid after that mining colony in 'Where No Man Has Gone Before' where Gary Mitchell died!" Cool, yes. But nonsensical. Delta Vega was the closest planetoid after the Enterprise attempted to cross the barrier at the edge of the universe. Now it's next door to Vulcan, and apparently moon-like orbiting it, because wow, was Vulcan huge in the sky - closer than our moon, it seems. So it didn't get drawn into the singularity because... ?

Then we have Spock Beta literally ejecting a crewman onto the lifeless planet. A cadet who had done nothing except annoy him, who had not tried to take over the Enterprise like everyone else does, and was no threat to the people on board. Sure, we've all wanted to eject some of the guest stars (Joe Piscopo, I'm lookin' at you). But it makes no sense. Toss him in the brig. Don't strand him on a hostile planet.

P.S. George Lucas called. He wants Hoth back.

So Kirk crash-lands a short walk away from the very cave where Nero stranded Spock Prime, letting the elder watch his planet get destroyed.. and I know I already hit this, but really? Mars is in the same solar system with Earth and we can barely see it as a speck in the sky without a telescope.

In the meantime, Kirk gets chased by the Ravening Bugblatter Beast of Traal and a half-size escapee from Cloverfield. Why? Because nothing has blown up for ten minutes and we needed some excitement.

Oh, it's so that Spock Prime can give us a five-minute visit from the Exposition Fairy, using a mind-meld because that's easier than talking, which he also does anyway. With a weekend bonus of, "What Temporal Prime Directive?"

Cheating. Not just for a Trek movie. For any movie. It would have killed them to have Spock Prime drifting in space, in a Nero-designed pod carefully oriented so he could watch his planet blow up and slowly die? The Enterprise picks him up and he meets Kirk in sickbay or the brig. QED.

• Women. This is supposed to be a 24th century for the 21st century. At least Abrams tried with Uhura - instead of relegating her to the glorified phone operator, she's a skilled linguist with the knowledge of many languages. That includes all three dialects of Romulan, thereby putting her on the bridge even though she's still a cadet. Good thing that comes in handy! What? Nero speaks English? Drat.

Still, Zoe Saldana quietly underscored Uhura's status as a professional, the equal of her male colleagues, a worthy successor to the groundbreaking Uhura Prime as the first black woman officer on television.

I can even forgive Uhura Beta for not throwing a single punch in the bar fight until Kirk stumbles into her, even though as a cadet she should be equally capable of physical deterrence, because the fight was really dumb and she said so.

I also - after long consideration - approve of her clandestine relationship with Spock, because he's really the only one on the ship matching her in intelligence and emotional maturity. They sold it to us.

And I do tire of the stereotype that women with intelligence and leadership must sacrifice any romantic entanglements because once she gives in to that weak womanly stuff she's less like a man and therefore can't do her job. Uhura managed to serve capably and well, even with her lover on board and in harm's way. Brava.

Then she sucks face with Spock on the transporter pad.

So much for professionalism. This pretty much reduces Uhura from "officer" to "officer's girlfriend," even if it does end with Quinto's brilliant line, "I have no comment on the matter." Also, please note that practically everybody gets to sit in the captain's chair at some point in the Prime and Beta universes... except Uhura. I want to see that in the next movie.

So let's deal with the rest of the women.

We have two virtually absent mothers. Kirk's mom gives birth to him and vanishes for the rest of the movie, clearly having abdicated any Jimmy-discipline to a disembodied Greg Grunberg and obnoxious Noxia product placement. Spock's mom has about six lines before she dies, refrigerated only to provide Spock with "emotional compromise" to get him out of the captain's chair - apparently for good.

We have Uhura's Orion roommate, which I liked as compensation for the Orion slave girls. But does the movie pass the Bechsdel test? You know: a movie needs a) more than one woman, b) who talk to each other, c) about something besides a man. It passes... barely. Because Uhura and her roommate talk about the strange transmission for ten seconds.

You know what would have been fun? Let us meet Winona Kirk for real, because maybe it's her job that takes the family to Tarsus IV. Let us see young Jim and Kevin Riley watch Kodos the Executioner kill all those people. It would have been scary, exciting and ties to continuity, and we can cut the whole Delta Vega nonsesne to make room for it.

Seriously, wouldn't it have been fun if Winona Kirk turned out to be rather tough in her own way, having survived the death of her husband and raised two boys on her own? Winona Prime essentially raised them alone anyway, with George in space almost all the time. Winona Beta was out in space with George in the first place (bizarrely without elder son George Samuel, whom we saw for a nanosecond along the dusty Iowa road).

Or does that violate the sci-fi rule that dads are powerful, disapproving and absent, and all moms are weak, sweet and brainless, and either (or both) must die solely to motivate their children to reeeeevenge!

Even more, there was an easy way to a) make the movie loads better and b) solve this women issue to shut up annoying feminists like me.

Her name is Number One. We never got her given name.

She was Captain Pike's first officer, serving under him in the original timeline and portrayed by the wonderful Majel Barrett. And unless she was the random crew member on the Kelvin sucked into space, I have yet to hear any plausible reason why she is completely absent from the Enterprise.

Yes, it's a different timeline. But how much better would it have been to see her working with Pike and Spock, adding another person to the mix that would have been absolutely awesome and, as a weekend bonus, give Abrams someone he could kill? I personally have no problem imagining Number One giving her life to save Captain Pike and in performance of her duty, because she was that kind of officer.

In 1962, the studio heads informed Gene Roddenberry that he had two problems on his starship's bridge: a woman officer in command of men, and a Satanic-looking science officer. He couldn't keep both. In a decision that probably saved the show and set us all back another fifteen years, he kept Spock and demoted Barrett to head nurse.

Even when TNG came back around in the 1990s, women originally were in caretaker roles for the most part - ship's counselor, doctor - and the sole female warrior was killed off halfway through Season One. Even then, Tasha Yar was a "damaged" woman, having survived a hellish planet with rape gangs, because "normal" women don't fight or lead. It really wasn't until a few years into TNG that we started to see women in leadership roles, slowly shaking off the stereotypes until we finally see that the commander of Enterprise C was a woman. Brava.

I expect better, not just from the groundbreaking Trek, but from all science fiction. Women are half the species; get over it and put them in real uniforms while you're at it. (CultureGeek Jr. wants it known that he doesn't mind the miniskirts. I do.) Women are warriors, officers, soldiers and diplomats. And the best part is, it's not too late. Maybe Number One transferred out right before the movie happens and she can still show up in the next movie. Abrams, do you hear me? (Probably not.)


If you've read this far, you probably figure I hated the movie. I didn't, not by a long shot. Trek is like chocolate - even when it's bad, it's pretty good. And this wasn't too bad. It did what it was supposed to do and made us all look at Trek again, which isn't a bad thing for those of us who love science fiction.

Maybe next time, it'll be better. Because if he didn't know before, Abrams definitely knows now: The Nitpickers Are Watching. Live long and prosper.

Flashback: Nitpicker's Guide to the New Star Trek, Pt. 3

In preparation for discussions of the new Star Trek movie, CultureGeek offers you the four-part review of the 2009 reboot, which I dubbed Star Trek 2.0. This is part three.

May 14, 2009


I say these things with love, folks. I say them not only as a Trek fan and therefore by nature a nitpicker, but as a writer. Yes, I belong to the Heisenberg Compensator School of Science Fiction: Hand-wave at the physics and get back to the story, which is about people, ideas and emotions, not gadgetry.

For those who are nerd-impaired: Heisenberg's theories pretty much made the transporter impossible. So at some point, throwaway lines referred to the Heisenberg Compensator, installed in all transporter devices. Famed Trek-gadget guru Mike Okuda was once asked how the Heisenberg Compensator works. "It works very well," he replied. My admiration for such inventiveness knows no bounds.

But a writer knows whether s/he's cheating or not. We all know, and there's no excuse. There's a great moment in Stephen King's Misery, when the author first attempts to resurrect the character Annie Wilkes adores by simply pretending she never died. Annie may have been crazy, but she wasn't dumb. She makes him do it over, because he was cheating. And what's more, he knew it.

You always know when you're cheating. And what's more, you're always gonna get caught. That's why I have a small group of First Readers for my books, people who take a look at the roughest of rough drafts and point out where I'm going astray. Half the time they point out something that I knew was a cheat, I knew it, but I hoped no one would notice.

Mr. Abrams: You are dealing with Star Trek now. We notice everything. Here is a Nitpicker's complaints about your new movie.

• The incompetence of Starfleet. I think this is the one that chaps my rubber ears the hardest. I could almost forgive the return of, "We're a shipful of trainees, and we're the only ship in the quadrant!" I mean, it's kind of tradition by now. The Enterprise is always the only ship in the quadrant, by which we mean the Alpha Quadrant. The entire fleet is partying in the Laurentian Abyssal or something, even though that's in Earth's oceans and not in space, but hey, Abrams is God!

But... no one can shoot. No pilot understands the concept of "evasive maneuvers," which we've heard ordered on so many bridges that there's really no explanation for the Kelvin to sit there and take all those hits. It takes about 30 seconds for what little Fleet shows up at the Battle of Vulcan to be utterly decimated.

And yet Spock manages to destroy the SuperDrill in about six shots. Someone explain to me why the entire blasted Fleet couldn't do that in the Battle of Vulcan, or why we had to send two regulars and a literal red-shirt (hee) skydiving onto the drill to do it by hand. "It was cool!" It was. It also made no sense.

Better than that, we can beam things all over the place now, so how about beaming an explosive onto the Romulan ship and beaming Captain Pike back while we're at it - he's the only human on board a shipful of Romulans, after all.

Speaking of which, what exactly was Nero and his crew doing for 25 years? They never bumped into anybody? Nobody noticed them just drifting about for a quarter century? How did they know exactly where to be to catch Spock Prime? Sorry, I'm using my brain again.

Finally... there is no reason whatsoever why Cadet James Kirk should be given command of the brand-new flagship he commandeered and nearly destroyed. Yes, he had a battlefield promotion to first officer, and Pike is apparently out of commission. But Spock is a line officer with actual experience, not a cadet who lucked and cheated his way out of a few scrapes and barely avoided disaster because he happened to be surrounded by brilliant people.

• Kirk can't throw a punch and grew up a brat. Oh, he'll fight. He gets bloodied up so many times the makeup artist must have had a cheatsheet pages long as to which injuries would appear on Chris Pine's face next. But he loses just about every fight, from the barfight to wrangling some Romulan muscleheads, and spends half the movie danging from precipices by his fingertips.

Granted, Kirk Prime also rushed in where angels feared to tread on a weekly basis. But Kirk's attitude was so awful, I wanted him drummed out of the Fleet. Cheat, yes - we know that from Wrath of Khan. Do it to make a point about the no-win scenario. Don't thumb your nose at the Fleet you believe in and respect.

And the thing that drives me so crazy about both these points is that it could easily have been fixed, with just one person who knew and loved Trek reading over the script and making suggestions. Even the ending: have this adventure end with Kirk's field promotion becoming permanent, to Lt. Kirk of the U.S.S. Farragut under Captain Garrovick. I understand an original draft of the script actually went that way, and they changed it.

Come on, Abrams - you could still flash forward to the commissioning ceremony. You know Spock Prime would still sneak onto the balcony to watch. He's that sentimental.

Kirk Prime achieved his captaincy at a relatively young age - 31. He earned it. He grew up on a farm, but he also witnessed the deaths on Tarsus IV. He fought his way through the academy, studied under famous historians as well as military trainers, and served under Captain Garrovick with distinction before receiving his command. This Kirk has barely tried on his uniform and averted one near-apocalypse. That does not a commander make.

• The science, again. I went over some of that in the unspoiled review, but let's recap: the plan to save Romulus was to turn its star into a black hole? And that's not worse for the Romulans than a supernova? Also, a supernova that would destroy the universe? Really? That's one big star. Methinks the Roms already had problems.

Then let's add a black hole where Vulcan used to be. Great effect, by the way, really top-notch. Good thing Vulcan doesn't have a giant moon/double planet... oh, it does? Not anymore. This all gets accomplished by a drop of the Red Whatchamacallit.

So now we're going to dump gallons of the Magic Singularity Barbecue Sauce on the giant jellyfish ship. And we're going to create yet another black hole here. Is it the sauce that makes it big? Because i so, that's a singularity the size of a solar system. Or is the size of the hole based on the stuff it swallows? In which case, star=giant, planet=big, jellyfish ship=eh, who cares.

Why are we talking about this? It's impossibilium, less than a hand-wave at the "science" part of science fiction, hoping we've all shut off our brains because of the shiny hardware and half-naked Zoe Saldana.

Note to those complaining about a black hole in Earth's orbit: I caught on the second viewing that the actually warped away from Earth after Spock destroyed the SuperDrill. Of course, half the audience missed that little detail.

Coming next: Nitpicker's Boos, People Edition.

Flashback: Nitpicker's Guide to the New Star Trek, Pt. 2

In preparation for discussions of the new Star Trek movie, CultureGeek offers you the four-part review of the 2009 reboot, which I dubbed Star Trek 2.0. This is part two.


May 14, 2009


To be fair, I'm going to start the spoileriffic Nitpicker's Guide* with the stuff I liked. Spoilers! Spoilers! Don't read if you haven't seen it.

A real ensemble cast. For the first time, everybody got something to do. One of the downsides for the original cast was simply sitting in their eternally un-seatbelted stations, frowning and looking scared and occasionally throwing themselves out of their seats while the Big Three had all the fun.

Sulu got to actually fight with his sword! I can just imagine George Takei grinning from ear to ear - lore has it the "Naked Time" episode was his favorite because he got to fence through the halls of the Enterprise. Yes, I've heard people complaining about Sulu's Chinese fighting style when he's really Japanese and the actor is Korean and... y'know, chill. It was awesome, and Sulu got to save Kirk's life, so you know Takei was eating that all up.

Of course Chekov is a talkative young Russian who can save the day at age 17 because he ran off to join Starfleet. He's a nerd. C'mon, you were once a nerdy teenager and don't tell me you didn't want to run off and join Starfleet. I would've done it in place of college if it existed. In fact, CultureGeek Jr. informed halfway through the movie that it is his new career goal, so he would like someone to go invent Starfleet already.

As for those complaining about Chekov's accent - the kid grew up in Leningrad, people. As opposed to Walter Koenig, who grew up in Chicago. The only alteration Anton Yelchin made to his accent was to keep Koenig's replacement of V's with W's, even though that's more Polish than Russian.

Scotty was a bit more of a caricature, as though Simon Pegg was playacting at Montgomery Scott rather than really digging into him. Granted, he didn't get much time to play with the Enterprise, but we needed to see Scotty up to his waist in a Jeffries tube Scotty-rigging something to pull off a miracle, not running through the bizarrely empty engine room and pressing a button. However, bonus points for what he did to Admiral Archer's beagle. (Ha!)

Also, look fast for the guy sitting next to Scotty in the transporter room. That's Chris Doohan, son of James, who also appeared in Star Trek: The Motionless Picture.

I talked up the Big Three before, and Uhura belongs in the next part. I just want to add: Karl Urban is now my movie boyfriend.

• Hand-waves at the Prime universe. Did anyone besides me hear McCoy ask for a hypo from "Nurse Chapel"? Who responded, off-camera, "Yes Doctor." Oh, I expect - nay, demand - a truly uncomfortable love triangle in the next movie.

Lots of little touches: the tribble on Scotty's console at Delta Vega. Olsen as a literal red-shirt. The aforemention of Admiral Archer. "Fascinating," with eyebrow quirk. A way-too-cocky Kirk smacking his head on a low beam, knocking him down a well-deserved peg. Everyone got in their trademark lines, without too much ham-handedness. I had quite a few giggles.

 • The music. I realize this isn't a popular opinion. No, the new theme doesn't match either classic or TNG themes in its soaring dance. But the score itself worked for me very well.

• The design. No, it makes no sense for the bridge to look like an Apple Store and the engine room to look like an oil rig crossed with a brewery. I don't care. It was very shiny. I particularly like that Sulu's warp-drive is a big shiny lever instead of the flat panels of Enterprise D - a little throwback is good for us. 

Extra credit also goes for the space shots. It's one of the very few space operas that really gets the three-dimensionality of space from a visual and tactical standpoint. Choreographing a space battle is much more like planning an air assault than a naval battle; even classic Trek movies still tended toward sea metaphors. The stellar (heh) battle in Wrath of Khan was lifted almost entirely from The Enemy Below, a submarine picture. 

Abrams really gets all three dimensions, not just in the way the ships fly, but the way the camera moves over and under the ship. Excellent work.

• The old girl herself. The Enterprise gets her own mention, because she was a thing of beauty. A brilliant cross between TV-1701 and Movie-1701 with a touch of Next-Gen and a bit of the 21st century in her smooth lines, the Enterprise was art herself rising through space. Geek confession: in my youth, I built model starships, because my first best destiny was to be a starship captain and I was in love with space.

Seeing Enterprise Beta for the first time, I had chills. For the first time since I was fourteen years old, I wanted to build a model starship, because she was just that pretty.

And that moment where she flies out of warp and unleashes hell itself on the giant jellyfish? That was geek heaven. The goddess has fangs. It was right up there with the Enterprise Prime rising above Khan's ship in the Mutara Nebula and blasting him back to the 20th century. Again: A thing of beauty.

• Best line ever: "Out of the chair." Tone, timing, everything. I nearly killed myself laughing. 


Next: The Boos. Sorry, it wasn't the second coming of science ficton, folks. 


 * The title of this series refers to the excellent series of books by Phil Farrand, now sadly out of print.














Flashback: Star Trek 2.0 - Spoiler-Free

In preparation for discussions of the new Star Trek movie, CultureGeek offers you the four-part review of the 2009 reboot, which I dubbed Star Trek 2.0. This is part one.


May 14, 2009


To sum up: Star Trek is more fun than a boxful of tribbles on cordrazine and dumber than a collection of Janusian rocks.

I freely admit I had huge reservations about this series reboot. As the second of three generations of unabashed Trek fans, canon is all. In any system this complex, continuity becomes its own religion. Simply erasing the board and starting over seemed at best disrespectful to 40 years of history, and at worst a bastardization of a cultural phenomenon.

Surprisingly, that was not my problem with the movie.

There will be separate posts later on CultureGeek, one that details the many spoilerrific aspects of this movie, probably ad nauseum. See above re: continuity as a religion. But for now, let me say that they gave us a reason for the reboot, and it makes a modicum of sense, which is far better than I expected from otherwise-brilliant creators who made it a point to declare to everyone with a microphone that they weren't really Trek fans.

That said, blogger TheFerrett was right when he called the plot "dumber than a box of hammers." Granted, Trek fans will kill you on the science alone, but I personally belong to the Heisenberg Compensator School of Science Fiction: Just hand'wave at the laws of physics and we'll go with you.

The problem is, director J.J. Abrams doesn't even bother to hand-wave. He tosses around concepts like "black hole" and "singularity" and pays no attention to what those words actually mean. Hey, you like to use a big red ball in your movies? That's fine. After all, nobody doubts that adamantium is unbreakable by any force known to humans, and The Core won my love (briefly) by calling its mythical substance "unobtanium."

But you can go around creating black holes where planets and suns used to be, and you can't put a canyon in Iowa even if you dress it up to halfway look like a quarry, and you can't build a starship on the ground (oh shut up, it was in the trailers). Sorry, I get that some of this was explained in the Countdown comic, but a movie needs to stand alone without homework.

We can forgive a lot. There is no sound in space either, but we let the weapons go pew-pew-pew and the ships go whoosh because it's more entertaining that way. But pile enough impossibilium on top of your red matter and the eye-rolling starts to make you spacesick.

So forget the story and the many issues with Starfleet incompetence and convenient plot devices I will detail later. Instead, enjoy this alternate-universe Kirk and Co., because the plot is just there to see that the gang gets together. Fortunately, that's where the movie becomes strong.

I have to give Zachary Quinto major props, and not just for taking on a role beloved by millions of fans. I have never really dug the Sylar love, but Quinto absolutely nails Spock in a way that makes me understand how he and Leonard Nimoy have become friends. I don't even mind a Spock with a few rough edges, because I've seen Trek Prime's early episodes and even "The Cage," so I know that Spock of this time is pretty rough. It's a long way from Talos IV to Kolinahr and back again.

Close behind him is Karl Urban, who slides into DeForest Kelley's voice and mannerisms well enough that when Spock and McCoy have their inaugural bickering - "My God, man!" - it almost seems like the real thing. Almost.

Chris Pine as Kirk has to carry the movie, though, and he almost manages it. He plays a James Kirk who grew up without a father, and he pulls it off. He's a ladykiller - naturally - but he's got that touch of smarts and diplomacy hiding underneath the brash exterior that shows he would eventually become the Captain Kirk we knew. Unfortunately, this Kirk grew up far more rebellious - bratty, even - and that needs to be rubbed off a lot faster if we're going to buy Captain Kirk and not Ensign Kirk. The blame for this problem, though, should be laid at the feet of the writers, not Pine.

I guess I was vaguely dissatisfied, but not because it's a bad movie. It's not. It's great fun, I saw it twice and I'd see it again. But Trek has always been better suited for TV than movies, because Trek is brain food. It remained popular when other 1960s sci-fi vanished without the love because it is allegory, it is philosophy, it is stories about people and ideas, all those "nerd" things that have been relentlessly mocked over the last few weeks because Hollywood and the blogosphere seem to think you can't have a smart movie that's also entertaining.

I beg to differ.

This movie was intended to revitalize the franchise, bring in new fans and rocket us to a whole new line of movies in J.J. Abrams' alternate-universe Star Trek. It succeeded, blowing expectations out of the stars and earning fantastic buzz that I predict will demolish Angels & Demons this weekend. Much of that buzz is deserved - as a big summer action movie, it delivers. You'll laugh and ride the rollercoaster and at the end of the day, it was a good time. If you don't think too much along the way.


Coming up soon: The Nitpicker's Guide to the New Star Trek, with apologies to Phil Farrand. Spoilers off the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow...

Best. Car Commercial. Ever.

Yes, I owe you reviews on Iron Man 3 and Oz the Great and Powerful. Yes, I've got the season finales warming up and plenty of bad acting to trash. I even have a run-down on Million Dollar Quartet, a surprisingly fun romp currently at the Fox.

But because I'm swamped right now, you're gonna get this, and you're probably going to enjoy it a lot more than my usual ramblings. Because this is the best car commercial ever.



Note: If you actually don't know why Leonard Nimoy was singing about hobbits, here's why.


Art From Artist: Ender's Game and Orson Scott Card

Never before have I so wanted to know the details of a film rights contract.

Orson Scott Card's descent into political maelstrom is probably one of the most head-scratching conundrums for science fiction fans since the invention of Jar Jar Binks. I came to the Ender series late, having read almost exclusively in the Star Trek world through much of my formative years. But when I discovered Ender, I discovered him.

Even as a young adult, Card's work kept me enthralled. As a young newspaper intern in Tennessee, I once, er, extended my lunch break by ten minutes because I was that close to the end of the newest Ender book and I could not set it aside to return to the newsroom until I knew what happened. Shhh, don't tell my old boss.

I think Salon's Steven Lloyd Wilson captured best the conundrum facing fans: it's not just that OSC is a staunch conservative espousing extreme homophobic opinions. Heaven knows there are plenty of science fiction writers with controversial or unpopular opinions, and I think we all defend their right to say what they think as loudly as they like.

No, it is the nature of Card's work that makes his political stances so difficult to understand. Wilson encapsulated it better than I ever could:

What I cannot quite wrap my mind around is how the mind which wrote such a beautiful meditation on empathy can be the same one that argues for the violent overthrow of the American government because of its failure to ban gay marriage and to outlaw homosexuality generally. Card describes in a fair amount of detail the advocated program of state-sponsored shaming he is in favor of. There’s a cognitive disconnect here, of how someone can advocate the minimal government of libertarianism while in the next sentence saying with a straight face that the government should regulate the sex lives of its citizens, but that’s run of the mill hypocrisy as far as political conversations go. I’m more confounded by the cognitive disconnect between the empathy required to create Ender and the callousness required to insist that you have the right to use violence to tell other people how they should live their lives.

The exploration of religion as both a positive and negative force, the need for open-minded tolerance among those who are different, advocacy of people's rights to form a family of their choice... these are all themes in the Ender books. When Demosthenes writes that families should have the right to have a third child if they please, it is a violation of everything their society believes, and advocating the freedom of choice for families.

But the man who wrote that also wrote that a government that permits gay marriage should be taken down by armed rebellion, that every homosexual marriage is a direct threat to his own. "Cognitive disconnect" is the nice way to put it.

Most of the time I can separate art from crazy artist. I can recognize that Tom Cruise used to be one hell of a good actor (circa Born on the Fourth of July) and Mel Gibson still is (circa Braveheart). I can even get behind supporting art with which I do not necessarily believe, because it is good art. But there also comes a point where I need to keep my money from going to people actively using it to harm others, and Card is on the board of a national organization doing its level best to stamp out marriage equality.

Now Ender's Game will be a movie. Obviously the film execs are hoping to capitalize on what they are billing as the boys' version of The Hunger Games, but that's because film executives are soulless and don't know what they're talking about. They are smart enough, however, to keep OSC as far away from the spotlight as possible - I'd be stunned if they were stupid enough to send him to San Diego Comic-Con, which (as some have pointed out) is rather like promoting Harry Potter without J.K. Rowling. Still, it's safer than putting Card in front of a packed ballroom for Q&A.

Thus we come back to the contract. Because if Card has already been paid for the Ender rights, then the cost of my ticket will only go to the people who adapted, developed, acted and shot the movie. I'm okay with those folks getting my money.

On the other hand, if Card gets a piece of the back end (pardon the expression), I have to think twice about it. Not necessarily a deal-breaker, mind you: there's still a lot of people involved who may have made great art out of Card's novel, which was itself one of the greatest science fiction novels in the English language. Come on, producer-folk: tell us if it's safe to give you our money.

Because I want to see it, with every fiber of my SF-nerd being. Will Ender learn more than zero-G battle tactics? Or did they take a treatise on personal freedom and forgiveness of one's fellow alien and make it into just another adventure? Is this the real book that captivated me in the parking lot of my first newspaper, or is it just Tron-meets-Hunger Games?

Mostly, I want to see if the boy who learned the hard way that violence and intolerance gain us nothing but death survives onto the big screen.