Dear Battle Schoolers,
I apologize for the consternation that some of you are feeling over recent events. The fault is entirely mine - if I had been paying closer attention, certain habits would never have arisen and no one would be surprised now by the policies that have always been in place on all my forums, but which have not been enforced in Battle School until recently.
When I was writing the first draft of the novel Ender's Game, I had the children speaking the way some children speak - especially immature children who are trying to sound tough. Lots of swearing and blasphemy because they would think it sounds cool. Of course I never had Ender speak that way, because he didn't care about "sounding cool." But even so, as I reread it I found the coarse language oppressive. Nor did I want it in my book. Not because I was afraid people would learn the words from my book - for heaven's sake, of course you all know all these words. But the more such words are used, the more oppressive and unpleasant the environment becomes for everyone living in the world of the book. Even those who think it's cool are in fact distracted from the story by such language. It doesn't help anybody, and hurts many.
So I took it out. I left in just enough mild stuff - "fart" and "butt" jokes - to keep the flavor of childish interaction. But I tried to remove all examples of using the name of God or Christ, and all the truly offensive words. Did you miss those words? I don't think so. If I can write without using coarse language to an oppressive degree, is it really so hard for you to do the same? Good writers don't have to write in such a way as to unnecessarily offend others.
Sometimes, rarely, an offensive term is simply unavoidable - I have often said that there are no "bad words," merely words put to bad use. In this case, however, what my forum policy reflects is the fact that many people who come to my site - and the parents of many kids who might come here - are hurt or offended by such language. To use that language closes the door to those people, while NOT using that language doesn't hurt anybody, except for those who use such language as a crutch. You folks don't need such crutches.
As for the bar, well, please. What were you thinking? In your wildest imagination can you conceive of a possibility that in a battle school designed for children under 14 years of age there would be even the remotest possibility of alcohol or any other drug being served? Maybe some of you thought it was cool to pretend that these under-age kids, under military control, would relish a chance to act like sailors on shore leave, but there IS no shore leave from Battle School, these kids are under-age, their body weight is such that the slightest alcohol could be dangerous, and ... the point of this school is to preserve their genius, not allow them to introduce poisons that kill brain cells. I can't believe anything as dumb as a saloon would ever be invented on this site. But you all know that a fundamental rule here is that you have to stay within the reality of Battle School as depicted in Ender's Game (and, now, Ender's Shadow). We've allowed a lot of leeway, but alcoholic beverages for children? Don't embarrass yourselves by arguing any more about this one.
GUNS, PARTIES, BRAWLS
The out of character area is primarily for discussions, out of character, about rules and decisions concerning what goes on in the IN-character area. Of course you should be able to post personal discussions as well, about ALMOST anything.
But in this world where kids sometimes get guns and shoot up schools, do you think for one second that I or any other rational person would host a site where people could fantasize about carrying guns, shooting at people, brawling, or going to drunken, violent parties? Someone might think, Well, isn't it better to get it out of your system harmlessly online? The answer is simple: We know for a fact that fantasizing about such things does not REPLACE them or PREVENT them, but rather ENCOURAGES them and brings people ever closer to actually DOING them. If you find you are having fantasies about personal violence and shooting people, don't act out the fantasies here or anywhere else. Talk to your parents or some other trusted adult - a counselor, a teacher, a minister, a priest, a rabbi - and try to GET OVER those desires and fantasies. That's what it means to be civilized - that you control and do not act on or act out your harmful desires.
One thing is certain, though: I will never sponsor a forum where such things are encouraged. Ender's Game was not written to be an encourager of personal violence. It is about a hero who has violence thrust upon him against his will, by people with severe psychological problems. The hero is Ender, not Bonzo. This is a community for people who admire Ender, Bean, Petra, Dink, Alai, Shen, people like that. Those who admire and want to emulate Bonzo should find another community that will welcome them.
WHOSE FAULT IS IT?
It's my fault that these things were not nipped in the bud. I used volunteers that I did not know well to supervise this area and did not have anyone from my regular staff check in, and for many months there was no supervision at all. Shame on me. If I had been doing my job no one would be angry or hurt or disappointed right now because these things would have been stopped coming out of the gate. Everything Cuchulain did was at my direction. And I should have come on and given you a clear message about these things before Cuchulain started editing and clearing out illegitimate practices.
Cuchulain was the one who decided to be nicer to you than my normal policy on my forums, which is to remove ENTIRELY any post that contains offensive language. Instead, Cuchulain merely edited out the offensive words.
We can do this several ways. We can treat you as we do participants in the other forums, and remove offending posts entirely; we can edit your posts "invisibly," so that no one can tell a word has been removed; or we can edit with asterisks, replacing every letter of offensive words with ******. I actually don't care which we do. So please let us know your preferences and let's see if a consensus emerges. If it doesn't, I'll just decide. We can't have different policies for different people, however, simply because that would double or triple the expense of running the forum. (It's not like we're generating income here, folks.) Of course the best solution is for everyone to obey the rules and not use offensive lanuage in the first place.
Please understand that I am not criticizing any one individual. I don't know you and I can't possibly know you, not even by reading every post here (if you think you really "know" somebody through online contact, think again - virtual reality makes truly knowing somebody impossible, and deceiving others extremely likely, even if you don't mean to). So I'm not judging any individual. I am, however, judging the possible or probable consequences of allowing certain practices to continue. I base my decisions on the best evidence available to me, the counsel of the best advisers I can find, and my own sense of what is good and right. Just like you, that's all I am able to rely on.
I would be disappointed if any of you feel so restricted or confined by these rules that you quit taking part in Battle School. I will regret the departure of anyone who feels they can no longer continue here. But I will not change these fundamental policies, and my deepest regret is that I was so lax that these policies are taking some of you by surprise. For the surprise, I apologize. For the rules, I do not.
And don't heap abuse on Cuchulain. The policies are absolutely and completely my own. Cuchulain is acting on my instructions entirely. I'm the bad guy, if you think I'm wrong. But then, I'm the good guy if you think I'm right <grin>.
I hope all of you will realize that these rules do not restrict you from doing any of the good things that this site is designed to accomplish, and that these rules will keep the door open for many to participate who would feel excluded by the oppressive atmosphere caused by coarse language and talk of drinking, brawling, guns, and other inappropriate things. This forum is meant to be a place where you can dwell in the world of Ender's Game - which includes pain and danger as well as fun and games. But nothing that happens here should cause REAL pain and REAL danger - only the fictional kind.
- Orson Scott Card
p.s. If Cuchulain has seemed unresponsive at times, blame AOL. For a shockingly long time, Cuchulain and others on my staff have had a devilishly hard time getting to Hatrack at all. We are currently looking for another ISP. AOL has finally become too much to bear. Meanwhile, we are reading your posts and responding to them as quickly as we can. Thanks for your patience.