The reviewer neglects the structure of the academy breeding competition, instead assuming that everybody hated Ender just because he was better than them. The school is a crucible and it's not just Ender that's under pressure. I could go on here, but it seems like the reviewer's distaste for the author's viewpoints has heavily influenced how he read the book and interpreted the themes.
It comes up so often in fiction because it's interesting. And it's possible to get things more complex and keep it interesting, but it's much, much harder. Even Ulysses, which is famous for being about an ordinary person going about an ordinary day, has the main character a Jew in Ireland - which is rare - and adds Dedalus, who is too smart for his own good.
Difference equals interest. That's not masturbatory. That's fact.
But I think that Card needed that character for his story. I've read his original novella, and Ender's not quite as ridiculous in that one, and it doesn't work as well. Card needs a completely outstanding hero or his idea doesn't work.
edit: I have wanted to read Campbell for awhile though, maybe that will be my next book.
I can totally relate: I hate food that tastes good, and breathing oxygen.
Interesting works the same way. Something can be objectively interesting without anyone actually finding it interesting.
If this sounds funny, it's because words are defined as used. And there are certain words that are used differently than what they actually mean. For example, if I asked you for an interesting idea you wouldn't tell me the number of penguins in Antarctica, because we all accept that a fact is different than an idea. But if you look in a dictionary, you'll see the word idea defined as if it were a fact, even though we all agree that it's not. Why? Because in practice when people use the word idea it's almost always in the context of "give me an idea of how big this room is" or something like that. I.e., in most cases idea is used as a synonym for fact, even though we agree that this isn't what an idea is. You'd have to look in a really good dictionary and scroll all the way to the bottom of the list of definitions to even get a hint that this is the case, and even then they won't give you a good working definition.
So what is interesting? Unalone nails it when he says something different. That is, something that breaks with our mental models of how the world works, but without actually suggesting a new set of more accurate schemas (which would be insightful.)
I prefer reading insightful stuff to interesting stuff, which is why I say that reading stuff that's interesting (objectively) doesn't hold my (subjective) interest.
Also, "there are certain words that are used differently than what they actually mean." Huh? What is the inherit meaning of a word? Do words exist somewhere, true, pure, fixed in meaning, waiting to be used- and they are used, horribly, by every passing stranger, growing uglier and more cynical each day as they begin to believe the lies about the true nature of their "meaning?" (Yes, I just conflated linguistics and prostitution.)
I think your distinction between objective and subjective is really the distinction between popular and particular. For example, I know the Mona Lisa is popularly meaningful, and I acknowledge that, but I in particular am unmoved. It is a perfect way to avoid argument. Who tries to avoid argument on the internet? You are no sage.
However, your use of the word "funny" in the first paragraph to mean "humor," and then in the third paragraph to mean "a little off" is actually quite clever, as you were discussing novel breakages and the unexpected ways in which words acquire new meanings. You cunning linguist, you ;)
I don't think so. But I think when we talk about, for example, an idea, there is some consensus that we are talking about a mental model of the way something works, the way something could work, or the way something has worked previously. (For sufficiently large definitions of something.) And if I asked you whether or not a fact was the same as an idea, you would agree that it was not. So our collective agreement on what the word means doesn't differ from the dictionary definition because it comes from some platonic ideal, but rather the definition in the dictionary is wrong because of a quirk in the way dictionaries are made.
"Objectively... funny? As in, if the entire human race disappeared and no other beings capable of abstract thought existed, certain things would have the qualities of funny?"
All humor comes from something being novel or broken relative to a set of existing mental models. When I say something can be objectively funny, what I mean is that something can be objectively novel or broken in relation to an existing mental model, whether or not anyone else realizes it.
So, can something be funny independently of humans?
Imagine if you will something being novel or broken relative to a mental model that no one actually holds. Is this funny? Clearly it can't be subjectively funny to anyone, because the humor is relative to a belief that no person holds. But can it be objectively funny, in sort of a mathematical sense? I don't see why not.
So you're saying that something can be objective subject to its relationship with something else. Isn't that subjective?
"I don't see why not."
Well. Going along with your definition before, the one regarding that study, you need to realize that there is no way of quantifying the unexpected. Take Monty Python. They and their fans showed that you can take something unexpected and, by repeating it, make it more expected and therefore less funny, subjectively, over time. So the joke is subjective in terms of who it appeals to.
Now, you couldn't quantify something like the humorous value inherent in the Spanish Inquisition Sketch, and here's why. The primary punch line relies on the knowledge of the fact that "I didn't expect the bloody Spanish Inquisition" is a snippy, commonplace response to somebody's becoming overreacted to something. In order for "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" to be funny, you need to understand a) the perception that the preceding dialogue is indeed snippy, b) the understanding that the lead-up line is a gross exaggeration, and c) the knowledge of what the Spanish Inquisition was, and why they are, in fact, unexpected.
The problem is that all three of these things are subjective. You said it yourself: animals wouldn't find it funny. And the reason for that is that our humor is largely based on notions about our society. They're only funny subjectively within our society. Without the society, there is no humor inherent in many of these things. That also explains why infants laugh so much at funny noises. When you're young, these things are entirely unexpected. The older and more sophisticated you get, the more you come to expect from things and the harder it gets to produce a funny response. And people evolve their responses at different speeds. I don't laugh at very many jokes anymore, because between dedicated study and a set of rude friends, I've heard an incredible variety of jokes and humorous situations. The comedic shows I watch tend to be the ones that are more focused on craftsmanship rather than on the unexpected. When I do find a new type of humor, my response is delightedly juvenile - and usually, my responses to other forms of humor are lessened. This is all entirely subjective. You can't define it. You can monitor it, as that study did, but that's something different entirely.
Two is larger subjective to its relationship with one, but two is objectively larger than one.
But humor isn't as harshly defined as the number system is. Rather, defining humor like that would be like saying "the sound of the word 'two' is objectively greater than the sound of the word 'one'." Once you say that, you need to define what those sounds actually mean, determine the numeric value of each, and then make the comparison. Until you do all those things - and all of those things require subjectivity within the confines of a language - then the sound of the word "two" has no meaning. The concept of two is objective, because mathematics deals only with objectivity. But humor doesn't have such harsh definitions, none of it is objective, and you can't limit it in a way that makes it objective.
I mean, thanks for agreeing with me, but from what you're saying here I think that you're saying something pretty nonsensical. "Interest" and "insight" aren't objective standards. It's entirely subjective, through-and-through. If you don't like reading because you don't find it interesting, then it's not interesting to you. It's not objectively interesting whatsoever. And usually, insight and interest are matched. If something's saying something new, then it's both insightful and interesting, precisely for the "different" argument that I made before.
From Paul McGhee's paper Cognitive Development and Children's Comprehension of Humor:
This study investigated the relationship between children's level of cognitive functioning (according to Piaget's theoretical framework) and their comprehension and appreciation of humor based on violation of cognitive expectancies. A distinction was drawn between novelty and incongruity humor, differing in the nature of expectancy violation represented. [...] Analyses of age differences indicated consistent significant increases in comprehension with increasing age for all humor stimuli. Similar analyses for humor appreciation yielded no significant age differences.
This was done in 1971, when we didn't know nearly as much as we do now about the validity of Piaget's framework. If this research was redone today with more modern techniques and cognitive development theories the results would be even more telling.
And if you look at the prior research this paper cites, it's clear that there is an objective basis for humor and it's been carefully studied.
For instance, there's slapstick humor, which derives from being over-the-top. There's absurdist humor, which relies on the unexpected. There's clever humor, which is funny because it requires effort to understand it, and so there's a congratulatory aspect to it. There's dark humor, which - at points - doesn't trigger any laughter at all, but which still must be included under the umbrella.
I'm certain that you can measure certain parts of humor. But at the same time, while there's a physical part of us that derives humor, that does not make humor itself objective. The fact that every single person has different objective reactions makes humor inherently subjective, even if there's a physical element to be studied and torn apart.
It's like - I said this in another thread - the testers who try to analyze creativity. There are certain ways that you can identify a creative person. The problem is, none of those ways are perfect and all of them are thwarted by different studies. While you can test creativity and create an objective model, you'd only be fooling yourself.
Also, I understand that humor, as experienced, is subjective. But if you look at a piece of text it is also possible to objectively say whether there is something novel or broken relative to a given set of existing mental models.
Nabakov's style in Pale Fire similarly defies description: it's never once laughable, but it's certainly humor. The comic Achewood has moments like that, also: you find yourself laughing but there isn't any quick analyzable reason. It's not always about a broken situation.
edit: So a few years ago I was attempting a startup with a cofounder who I really liked. Within about two months of starting his mom committed suicide, his high school gf died, and he came down with mono. True story. Is it funny? It's fucking hilarious. Why? Because people aren't supposed to be that unlucky. It shouldn't happen. It violates our beliefs about how the world is supposed to work.
As you're arguing this you're changing your definition. You began by arguing that humor's objective and capable of measurement. Now you're saying that you can achieve it without ever having a singular funny moment. The problem is, your making that argument is countering your claim that there isn't any subjectivity to humor. You're splitting what humor is into several categories, and that invalidates the original claim. Plus, see the statement that I made before about the definition of humor: it doesn't just mean funny.
This is the problem we get into: while the English language can be said to be objective, it's only objective because words can mean many things at once. It's objective in a very complex way. And because of that, attempting to prove a point about objective humor like you did by citing that study is proving the point by ignoring everything but a very slim definition of a single word. That's not a good point to make, if you're losing out on the broader connotations of what humor is.
And your original point wasn't about humor. It was about interest. The two pertinent definitions: "The state of "wanting to know or learn about something or someone," and "The advantage or benefit of a person or group." You claim that fiction holds objective interest. That statement is false on both definitions. A person's want to know something is subjective. I find Ulysses a fascinating read because I think that Joyce's hypothesis that the human mind is in and of itself a heroic triumph is one that makes for incredible prose. You wouldn't think that. Therefore, you lack that subjective interest. Similarly, if it bestows an advantage to particular people (as the other definition goes), then it's not objective, because it happens differently for different people. So interest is subjective, same with insight and humor.
(As for this humor study: while I really do love the fact that science discovers more and more about the human mind, you can't cite a 30-year-old study and say that humor's been defined. Creating an objective study of humor is only valid if the result is a method of quantifying humor. And you can't quantify it by looking at reactions to already-formed comedy: you'd have to prove that it's possible to produce humor and predict the reaction ahead of time. So even if humor was only "funny" and not any of the other branching definitions, that study would prove a very slim aspect of humor's definition true and nothing else.)
I'm not claiming there isn't any subjectivity to humor, I'm claiming that it is objective as well as subjective.
When I say that humor is objective, I mean there are several patterns underlying what can make something funny. (You yourself said you enjoy discovering new kinds of humor, and kinds of humor implies underlying patterns.) I believe that it is possible to discover these underlying patterns, and then make a determination as to whether a statement falls into one of these patterns or not. This can be done independently of whether or not a person exists who can see that the statement falls into one of these patterns.
But I also believe that humor is subjective, in terms of the feeling we get when we hear something funny. I don't believe that this can be quantified or measured-- when I say that humor is objective, I simply mean that a binary determination can be made as to whether or not a statement falls into some underlying bucket.
"And your original point wasn't about humor. It was about interest. The two pertinent definitions: 'The state of 'wanting to know or learn about something or someone," and 'The advantage or benefit of a person or group.'"
My belief is that the first dictionary definitions you list is a symptom of interest, but not what makes something interesting.
The Baillargeon paper I cited talks about how babies look longer at impossible events. For example, if you create an illusion whereby you drop a toy and it appears to fall through a table, the baby will look at that longer than if the toy lands on the table like its supposed to.
Interesting is very easy to define: Anything that violates our expectancy of how things are supposed to work. (Insight and humor are specific subsets of 'interesting'.) In practice you wouldn't describe something that was insightful or funny as interesting, for the same reason you wouldn't call a senator a congressman even though a senator is a congressman.
Anyway, it is this violation of expectancy that makes us want to know or learn something. In other words, when our expectancy is violated we naturally want to either find some new schema, or else amend our previous schema to make it more accurate.
Anything that violates our expectancy is interesting in an objective sense. And things that violate expectancy do generally hold our attention. But not always. The reason being that insightful writing is even more compelling than writing that is merely interesting, so it tends to steal our attention away.
Okay, then. That makes sense. I don't know if from that you would be able to quantify humor like you mentioned before, but yes: there is rhyme and reason to it.
Anything that violates our expectancy is interesting in an objective sense. And things that violate expectancy do generally hold our attention. But not always. The reason being that insightful writing is even more compelling than writing that is merely interesting, so it tends to steal our attention away.
I still don't agree with that - I think that there's more to "insight and interest" than just declaring objective tags to things. I have easily learned more from reading fiction than I have from reading nonfiction. But I see where you're coming from.
Now I have to go and upvote this whole discussion. This was one of the best I've had on this site. Thanks a ton.
What makes something insightful is a whole other discussion, which probably it would be best not to go into here lest pg shit himself when he checks his threads page.
"Now I have to go and upvote this whole discussion. This was one of the best I've had on this site."
Same on both counts. Thanks. Discussions like this help immensely to strengthen my writing, in terms of having someone to try to break my ideas and force me to express things with more clarity and precision.
But that makes it subjective, doesn't it?
To illustrate, the phrases "The audience finds this interesting," and "The audience finds this insightful," are both subjective in the sense that their truth-value is dependent on the subject (different speakers likely would have different perspectives,) but they are objective in that, given a particular subject, they are either true or false. So: ojective in the particular, and subjective in the universal. The difference is that the later can depend on factors that are external to the subject, are objective and can be shared.
A phrase (or whatever) can be insightful with respect to a particular context if it adds something that was not previoulsy present in that context. So an analysis of Hitler (for example) revealing him to be a raving ego-maniac would have been insightful in the early thirties when most people had rather more benign opinions of the Nazi party. Released today, the same analysis would be rather less insightful. Given that when people use the word 'insightful,' they usually are speaking from a particular context (usually shared with the listener), the word can be said to be used objectively.
My only objection to that would be that again, an audience can vary wildly in different conditions. My professor gave an "enlightening" lesson on Delicious to my class, that the audience (college freshmen) on a whole found insight from. But the same lesson to, say Hacker News, would be far less insightful. You could get two different objective readings for the same material. Or am I missing something in what you said?
I just annoyed when people are too quick to insist that something is 'subjective' as a means of dismissing it's relavence or importance, so I tend to be picky about it.
In the same way that one mathematical object can objectively be larger than another mathematical object, one mental object can be objectively insightful in relation to another mental object.
Baillargeon, R. (1994) How do infants learn about the physical world? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 3, 133-140.
You read fiction for the things that interest you. If an "interesting" thing doesn't hold your attention, it's not interesting. I find that some authors remain interesting upon multiple rereads, while others fall apart rapidly. But fiction can say things that nonfiction can't, because with fiction you can create an entire artificial construct just to prove a point.
Yes. We methane-breathing anti-gourmets are known for our occasional lapses into snarkishness.
Well, maybe not the dictionary definition.
Take for example The Matrix - I really liked that movie when it came out, and part of what I enjoyed was the story of Neo turning out to be The One, and I certainly identified with that character. But so did everybody else who enjoyed the movie. If it were pure egotism, the enjoyment wouldn't be shared. Instead, you'd get arguments like "I'm Neo!" -- "No you're not, I am!" That doesn't happen with the best of these stories.
Citing Jesus and mocking Christianity as part of reviewing Ender's game totally jumps the shark. This is such an obvious troll, I am utterly disappointed that Hacker News has collectively up-modded this close to the top of the front page (as I write this). I thought this community was better than this.
Yeah, I thought the same thing. I considered killing it, but it didn't seem quite deliberately dishonest enough.
I just took "it's porn" out of the title. I suspect that's why this got so much attention.
There are very few movies with 100% positive ratings, because people always disagree. If a person disagrees eloquently, then he should be given forum to make his point. Diversity of opinion is the engine for progress.
I'm sure that an eloquent, thoughtful critique of Ender's Game worthy of discussion can be written.
This is not it.
This reads like someone who made an incorrect guess at what the novel was about, and was offended by that guess.
I am a much more sociable, confident person than I was at age 11 or 12, when I first read Card's writing. Even without knowing as much as I do now about his particularly distateful (to me, at least) political and social views, it was pretty apparent that Card and I disagree on many critical ethical issues: eugenics, whether the "ends justify the means," and when (if ever) armed conflict is a noble activity.
However, the Ender's Game series (like Dune, Wizard of Earthsea, and other young adult Sci-Fi and fantasy I read as a child) still served a valuable role for me in that earlier, more difficult time in my social development. By providing role models that were not, in fact, the typical action hero, athlete, or rich businessman, they showed me a glimpse of a world (however unrealistic and disfunctional) in which a geek could get ahead.
For that (and for teaching the ever-valuable lesson of questioning the motives of even respected authority figures) I still owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Card and his menagerie of characters.
Anyway, the amount of open hostility displayed by children shapes how you view the world. As an adult you rarely feel you are surrounded by monsters, but most young people feel this way. I think this is why overt violence is so appealing to young people they live in it's shadow everyday and it becomes what you know.
It depends on the sort of read it is. Ender's Game is a book that has an emotional impact on you when you first read it, but not a very intellectual one. Stories that base their punches on emotions without firm concepts don't hold up as well.
A book should be irrelevant of its author.
I don't think it's possible to create something that is different without being a little unusual. Could anyone work a nine to five job be a good stable citizen and then come home and write a stephen king novel, or an enders game?
Phillip K Dick is an example that always springs to mind, he wrote so many books, and was diagnosed with mental disease. I have read a quote that aliens dictated his books to him, can't track it down now. Where would Hollywood be without an endless supply of phillip K. Dick novels?
Robin Williams has been diagnosed manic depressive, when he take his medication he is no longer funny he has said.
The idea that creativity is neatly pigeon holed without spilling over into the rest of your life, for good or bad, is just as nonensical as that review (I always thought the book was a standard teenage angst sort of thing).
Creativity can't be pigeonholed, and it's silly to ever assume that it can be. I agree. The fact that it can't be neatly sorted is what makes it creativity. (A teacher once told my classmates and I that CollegeBoard approached his top class to give them a set of multiple-choice "creativity" tests. What a sickening idea. Luckily, the idea was wholly scrapped because all of the top kids gave radically different answers.)
...by comparing it to porn. That was the brilliant part.
Is money the only motivation? A ton of people blog for the attention, to feel smart, SEO for future endeavors etc. Forums, blogs, and blog comments are full of people tossing out trollish or evocative statements for all sorts of motivations. This post exists for the same reason that any trollish forum post exists.
However, my troll detector is silent on this one. I agree with pg that the author isn't deliberately dishonest.
And then it's easier to be negative. The language seems primed for complaints. Anagram programs always turn up ten times as many insulting phrases as compliments: there are simply more words with negative connotations. This is probably because when people enjoy something, they want to experience it rather than natter about it. But whatever the reason, the result is that it takes a lot less effort to be snarky. Praise, unless you put a lot of work into it, tends to get dull and a bit samey.
Praise also makes you vulnerable. Negativity is like a shield: you can keep throwing barbs at things without ever exposing yourself to attack. But praise is different. It's difficult to like something a lot without investing some of yourself in it, and without it becoming part of you. To praise something in writing is to reveal some of yourself, and face the possibility that there isn't much to reveal. And to praise something in public is to risk the ridicule of people with snarky websites.
In other words, he spends his time criticising people because he's afraid of criticism himself.
So I could understand it not being this reviewer's type of book. But to wax on like this takes a special type of person, someone who just loves to hate on (popular) things. I decided to check out a few other reviews this guy has written. This comes from the same guy who hated the lord of the ring movies...
and the matrix...
So who cares what he has to say about Ender's Game. His review adds little value here where there is, presumably, a majority who enjoy scifi and fantasy. His opinion is obscure at best and predictable based on his previous reviews.
So there you go, I've reviewed him the same way he's reviewed ender's game... Minimal thought about the material mishmashed with my opinion of the author.
I take it the reviewer didn't read the sequels?
Anyway, why would you expect the reviewer to read the sequels if he so dislikes Ender's Game?
In all honesty, I speculate nearly all 'bad' and 'good' goals undertaken by individuals are for at some level their own gratification, satisfaction, medication, pleasure, whatever the semantic of choice.
There isn't anything wrong with that. From deliberately catching a glance of a beautiful woman across the street to tirelessly working at finding a way to end world hunger, it's done at some level for your own satisfaction. It's what drives the world.
To those who feel so threatened by the idea of associating whatever endeavor with pleasure as a motivation, calm down. It's part of what makes us human. It certainly doesn't strip an accomplishment of it's value.
Summary: Ender's Game is an apologia for Hitler.
I think that if you look at the claims in the essay through the lens of Card's Mormonism, a very different picture emerges.
Ender's celibacy until marriage is [ostensibly] normal in Mormon society, and the age at which he married then is just a number, which falls within the realm of coincidence.
You'll note that Ender killed the Buggers without knowledge of what he was doing, then became wracked with guilt.
This hints at Enders Game as a defense not for Hitler, but for Brigham Young, and his (disputed-whether-he-knew) role in the Mountain Meadows massacre.
This would explain Card's unseemly rage at the author of the Ender-as-Hitler essay: she had effectively Godwin'd a revered patriarch of Card's religion.
I don't think Card is trying to excuse Hitler. I really don't think so. Not even subconsciously. And I thought upon reading that article that it was interesting, but rather misguided. The OP response made a lot of sense, considering Card is very likely a Mormon. But even then, I think it was subconscious on his part.
I don't entirely agree with the argument. The Battle School is supposedly full of overachievers, people who probably "excel at games" compared to their peers back home. They are all used to being top dog, so when you put a bunch of top dogs inside a competitive environment (or really just any long-term living/working situation), things get nasty.
"...the plot is contrived to make sure that other characters always hate Ender. There is no obvious reason for him to be so despised, at every turn, by his peers: he's a confident guy who excels at games, the kind of guy who would typically be well-liked at school."
"Geek wish-fulfillment is not the only fetish on display in Ender's Game: the other is self-pity, the lonely self-pity of the truly gifted and persecuted."
For the record, I like Ender's Game and the Harry Potter books. (But wouldn't claim they were anything more than an enjoyable read.)
But in both cases, it helps to look at why the authors make their heroes despised. Card does it to isolate Ender, to force him into being brilliant when he really doesn't want to be a hero. That's the theme that underscores the original four books.
In Harry Potter, it's done because Rowling marks Harry as this object of perfect good. Not as a perfect character, mind you, but a character that serves as a metric against which the other characters are judged. And so Harry finds himself disliked by certain other groups throughout the series, and it's almost always used to illustrate a certain vicious aspect of personality (be it class/race warfare, or glory-seeking, or bureaucracy).
I'll say how I've always felt about sci-fi: the universe and the concepts in play are more important than any of the traditional literary mechanisms such as plot, character development, etc.. I feel that this guy is just comparing the character of Ender on the level of the "real" literature I mention above. By those standards, characters like King Arthur or Siegfried are ridiculous charicatures, devoid of any true humanity.
"Even though President Bush and his administration never said that Iraq sponsored or was linked to 9/11, you could not stand the fact that Americans had that misapprehension - so you pounded us with the fact that there was no such link. (Along the way, you created the false impression that Bush had lied to them and said that there was a connection.) "
When a simple Google search turns up this direct quote from Bush himself given June 17, 2004:
"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."
I hate to see celebrity writers aiding and abetting Fox News and their ridiculous tactic of playing the ref by decrying media bias. Even though I thought Ender's game was decent, Ender's shadow mediocre, and couldn't get through the next, I still had some respect for the guy, which is now gone.
Media bias is decried everywhere. Read any Howard Kurtz lately? Watch CNN's "Reliable Sources?" It's called media commentary. It's all about identifying and commenting on media bias, tactics, business models, etc. Work at the meta-level.
Personally I don't have respect or lack of respect for Card. I read his books and found them, well, mundane but better than the average sci-fi. His political opinions don't come into the discussion -- unless we're judging the man instead of his work. I believe the thread is about the work. If it were along the lines of "Orson Scott Card: Moron or not?" it should be flagged.
Ideas are not people. Bad people can have good ideas, and vice-versa.
Conservative TV and radio networks use it to play the ref. They get a segment of the population to watch them that way. Orson Scott Card should be smart enough to know better.
I wouldn't even mind if he pointed out factually accurate examples (though that's still mistaking anecdotes for data) but his article is riddled with blatant inaccuracies that can be disproven on YouTube in a few minutes.
Google "Conservative Media Bias" -- lots of folks see conservative media bias. We have a few liberal friends that fall into this category, just as we have a few conservatives lambasting the liberal bias. Try visiting Media Matters for America, an entire non-profit "dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media." Lots of folks think the media has a conservative bias -- usually because most media organizations are owned by large corporations with corporate interests.
Media bias (and the way news stories are put together) in my opinion is a fun topic in which all political views can play. Things like selection of stories to appear above the fold, the increasing use of commentators as anchors on some networks, the way most reporters vote, whether or not you can truly separate yourself from the story, or the competition between wire stories and local reporters -- it's all goodness. The idea that somehow we shouldn't "play ref" with media sources is rather odd. I usually multi-source any significant news. And people of like opinion would obviously "play ref" in the same way, right? Sounds like a natural thing for left/right entertainment people to talk about.
Let's break down the different genre's and see what belief systems they seek to gratify. Feel free to add your own:
1. Detective Novels - Sherlock Holmes is fun to read because his adventures take place in an environment in which the details of a man's appearance, speech etc. can predict with 100% accuracy his psychology and plans.
2. Horror novels - Many horror novels play on our desire to believe that we can overcome "the other" through some human act. In Dracula, for instance, the vampire is defeated by meticulous planning, organizing, and above all else, the sharing of information. Modernity vanquishes the old world scourge. For people who get off on organization, that novel tweaks your pleasure sensors left and right.
3. Science Fiction - Depends a bit on the sub-genre. Hard science fiction offers scenarios in which numbers and logic reign supreme. Softer science fiction, a la Star Wars, is often really just fantasy in another cloak...
4. Fantasy - Fantasy gratifies our desire to believe that those passing, semi-eccentric thoughts we all harbor from time to time, are really the laws that govern the world. Wish-fulfillment narratives are really just the exploration of ideas that pop into everyone's head from time to time.
To put it in hacker terms, works of genre fiction create systems where the requirements never change. Much like video games, the rules are set in place early on and strictly adhered to. This is immensely comforting. On a personal note: it's also fairly disturbing. For about 20 years now, my mother has more or less read a book a day or so, from cover to cover. She has a full-time job (teacher) and was always around to do mom stuff when I was a kid, but she spends her nights up reading. One could argue that this is awesome, but it's not. Because she's reading genre fiction.
She gets the latest romance novels every Wednesday and has them finished by Sunday. That leaves her two days to work through other genres. A few years back, her Monday-Tuesday books were gay Vampire romance novels. Before that it was detective novels. Every time I visit, it's some new sub-genre I've never heard of.
We're all entitled to our quirks and interests, but I would argue that what she is doing is self-medicative and produces no other value. She never has anything to SAY about these books. They prompt no insights into life. She never wants to talk about them with us when we try to engage.
And I think that's what this article is getting at, tracing out this masturbatory impulse in an oft-praised work. We need to be aware of this stuff so we can appreciate and steer clear of it when we don't want it.
Now, I would argue that the best genre fiction can and often does create social good beyond medicating sad, frustrated people. The Harry Potter books created community and sparked copycats. That's more or less good. The Star Wars films stoked a lot of imaginative response and prompted a lot of people to make interesting films. That's good too. The trouble is the books that are meant to be held in.
By "comfort" if you mean "entertain," then yes, all (not just genre) fiction writers should tell a good story if you want a wide audience.
The attempt to boil down entire genres to a single fetish (belief system) gratification is extremely dismissive. Sure, you can find examples of formulaic, bad prose in genres, just as you can find excellent writing. A number of authors try to get their work classified away from science-fiction or another genre just because of this stigma.
The linked article claims Ender's game is "porn" but his definition of porn is not like mine. Porn has little narrative structure. There's almost no story. There's no 3D characterization or character development. There's no conflict.
If the definition of porn becomes any work with elements that gratify a reader's particular needs, then which successful works aren't porn? The most erudite, soul-searching work gratifies a philosophical fetish.
And if your definition of value is tied to creating insight or facilitating discussion, then that's a clear difference between a work like Ender's Game and the serial romance books your mom reads.
I agree that calling Ender's Game "porn" doesn't work, and it doesn't work because he's really arguing that it has pornographic elements in it, not that the entire work qualifies as "porn." I disagree with his central thesis but see some truth and value in the argument he's making. Ender's Game does and has provoked a lot of great discussion, in the original poster's POV though, those elements were drowned out by the more legalistic, fetishistic elements.
And I do draw a distinction between being provoked to thought and exploration vs. being provoked to feel warm and numb inside. We should dismiss neither, but recognize them for what they are. Sometimes you want and need to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sometimes you reach for Trois Coleurs: Blue. Sometimes you build a new killer flash game to run on Kongregate. Sometimes you build a robotic arm. Both serve solid, tangible purposes, but I think its important to recognize what those are and how they're doing it.
Last point: Jurassic Park is a book I loved dearly as a kid and I'd place it in a similar boat, some elements that provoke discussion, some elements that are there to get the reader off. Both have a place.
You might be interested in the concept of Monomyth:
Further, the writings of Jung (and his intellectual descendants) on Archetypes might interest you. A further offshoot on this front is the Masculine Psychology movement of the latter half of the 20th century.
If we view psychology as the study of a set of stories and the way that people relate to stories, it is much more useful than dismissing it because of its (often) poor or nonexistant scientific rigor.
Yes, even when you're right.
Check out this guy's other reviews -- he whines about everything. Just another Internet troll.
Who knows, maybe his writing is a form of repressed homosexual relief for him.
I still enjoyed Ender's Game very much, however. My problem with the review is that it can apply to any fiction that withholds gratification or attempts suspense and has a "super hero" type character. I think of Ender as a kind of super hero, in fact. Just one with geek qualities.
Do we then, call comic books a form of pornography?
But I don't care. He writes (mostly) great books and he'll keep getting my money so long as he keeps it up.
I hadn't thought of that before. I'll have to read over that chapter again and check that out.