So Why Not Just Pirate Ender’s Game?

Since posting my response on why I choose not to support Orson Scott Card, I’ve recieved a few emails and comments that all ask, essentially, the same question:

If you don’t want to support Card, why not just pirate the book/film?

One commenter, who I will keep Annon out of courtesy, politely suggested this:

Have you thought of looking into pirating pdfs of books by authors you wish not to support? You may be one of those people who prefers hard copies of books, but as a last resort, pdfs are readily available on the internet in ways that let you avoid supporting the author.

Here is my reply:

Thank you very much for your suggestion. Yes, I know what pirating and torrents are. I used to use them when I was young, before I realized I could stream TV shows legally from the broadcaster’s websites, and that there were cheap, quick ways to get ahold of digital copies of media legally. (Or, in the case of many libraries, for free. I know the Toronto Public Library lends ebooks, emags, and films/TV shows for free. And using the library means that creators, at least in Canada, get Public Lending Rights cheques.)

Pirating sometimes can have a positive effect – in situations where the media text is being passed on because it’s unavailable in a certain region, it introduces a media text to audience members who would otherwise have no access or idea that the text exists. In that way, I see it as no different than handing your friend your copy of a book and saying “Read this, I know you’ll like it.” When passing around a digital copy happens like that, I think that’s fine, because it’s a personal interaction and it’s meaningful. It comes with a reccomendation, a word of mouth endorsement, and the potential for an expanded audience and readership for the creator. Often the pirated media text is later bought, or inspires the reciever to buy other texts by the same creator.


But more often than not, pirating happens in situations where there are many legal means of acquiring a media text, and usually for very little cost or for free. This sort of pirating is the kind that takes money out of the pockets of the Little Guys of Hollywood, or the publishing industry, or the Boots-On-The-Ground jobs in television.


I especially cannot condone pirating as I am a professional creator who relies on people buying my art so I can pay off my student debt, buy my medications and groceries, and keep a roof over my head. And I am friends with other professional artists who require paycheques to pay their mortgages, feed their kids, and take care of their health bills.


I cannot in good conscious pirate films, books, music, or other creative media. Anyone’s. Even Card’s.

(“But JM!” I hear you cry, “These corporations have millions of dollars! They can afford to get pirated!”  The answer is – yes, they have millions. And they use that millions to pay the wages of everyone who works on a film/TV show/Book. Which means their pockets are essentially empty when the media text launches. If they don’t recoup that money at the box office/in sales/in residuals and royalties, then they don’t have enough money to make the NEXT project. Which means people having no jobs, or losing the ones they have.


“You hypocrite!” I also hear you cry. “You complain about piracy and yet you want us to boycott Ender’s Game!”


It’s not hypocrisy. The failed box office of one film sends a corporate message to studios, and does not endanger anyone’s job or position except, perhaps, Card’s. Everyone else who worked on that project has been paid and moved on. It’s a bummer for the studio, but now they know that the rainbow dollar is not impressed with Card’s work, and that it might not be a worthwhile investment next time. Every film comes with failure risks and, in fact, insurance in case it fails.


But pirating hundreds of films, shows, albums, and books means thousands of people not getting paid, and not getting paid regularly. Which means they have to stop creating for a living, because they’re not MAKING a living, and have to take a different job to get by.


You love your favourite band/author/filmmaker/TV show/artist? You want more of their work? Pay for the work they have out so they can keep creating. End of.)


TL;DR – So, while I may not choose to buy Card’s work, I will not steal it. I don’t like the jackass’ views, but I’m also not going to break into his house and steal jewelry from his bedroom, or steal the car from his driveway. Theft is theft. I know how much effort goes into creating an artistic work and I cannot reward the creators whose work I love by robbing them of their rightfully earned dollars, viewing statistics, ratings, and sales. Especially when I want the artist to be able to afford to create more. In the case of Card: I’m perfectly content to just not read it. And, forgive me, but now I have to address what a lot of people seem to be saying without actually saying it. What they are saying is this: “But how can you possibly be okay with such a large and important gap in your reading history. You HAVE to read Ender’s Game. How can you not? How can you hate the book? The book is so good. The book is WORTH READING.”


And… well… no. Everyone who has commented about how I can read the book and still not support Card if I steal it is MISSING THE POINT. I don’t WANT to read it. Everyone seems to be a bit hung up on the idea that I would really like Ender’s Game if only I read it, if only I gave it a chance. Everyone seems to think that it’s a book worth reading, that one MUST read. That I, and every other person who considers themselves a geek HAS to read. And while that might be some people’s opinion, I don’t share it.


I don’t believe that there is a SF/F cannon of books that one ABSOLUTELY MUST READ OR ELSE.


There are books that are good, and have become championed classics for a reason. Books that are worth reading, worth recommending, worth passing on to younger generations. We all have those books, but there’s nothing saying that all those books will be the same for each person, nor that they SHOULD be.


I believe in the power of a good book to touch many people, but do I believe that there are books that you MUST read in order to become a proper geek – like articles you must understand to get your PhD? No.


Everyone’s personal taste is just that. Personal.


And I personally do not like military SF. I don’t like reading it. Even if Card wasn’t an abominable human being, I would not choose to read Ender’s Game. In fact, before I ever knew about Card’s views, I read one of his books, “Enchantment”. It was good enough that I wanted to find more of his work to try out, but when presented with Ender’s Game, I declined it.


The number of awards it’s won, the number of people who enjoy it and recommend it will not change the fact that it is still militaristic SF and I don’t like reading things like that.


I haven’t read Dune, I haven’t read Starship Troopers. I just barely like Star Trek, and my favourite episodes are the culture-based ones. I stopped watching DS9 when the war started because I lost interests. It’s just simply, and honestly, not my bag. There are many books that I feel that people MUST read (Shapechangers by Jennifer Roberson, The Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley) but would I ever pester and condemn and shame people for choosing not to read these books because they just don’t match people’s taste. Not every book will appeal to every reader. As an author, yes, I hope I write a book that appeals widely to a vast swath of readers; as a professional writer whose paycheques pay my rent, yes, I hope it hits big so millions of people buy it. But as an artist I understand that all I can do is create something that speaks to me and hope that it touches at least one other person.  So yes, thank you for your suggestion but I do not want to read Ender’s Game, and I certainly will not be pirating it to do so.

JM FreySo Why Not Just Pirate Ender’s Game?