Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ender's Game, chapter seven, part one, in which we just don't understand Ender's FEELINGS

(Content: racism, abuse, disordered eating.  Fun content: Camelot, Ben Folds, OSC being hilariously snobby about his writing.)

Welcome back!  Before we get down to the next chapter, it turns out there is even more fascinating and intricate Wrong to discuss in regards to last chapter's festival of gratuitous racism.  Y'all will recall that Chapter Six had Ender and his new black best friend bonding in a scene that inexplicably featured them laughing over racial slurs directed first by Alai at Shen (Ender's Chinese friend) and then by Ender at Alai.  I was not sure what the deal was there, but thanks to Steve Morrison, we have Card's very own explanation at his website.  I also checked the local bookstore's copies of Ender's Game, and can confirm that the new editions now have the exchange in question as thus:
They grinned.  Then Ender said "Better invite Bernard." 
Alai cocked an eyebrow.  "Oh?" 
"And Shen.""That little butt-wiggler?" 
Ender decided that Alai was joking.  "If you didn't hold yours so tight it would wiggle, too." 
Alai grinned.  "Let's go get Bernard and Shen and freeze these bugger-lovers."
Card made this change himself, voluntarily, but if you click through to his website you'll find he was swift to assure readers that he was not caving to special interests or aiming to be politically correct (he has only scorn for "the prudes") or any of those soppy damnable liberal things.  He just accepted that he had failed to write the passage well, because it was giving readers the impression that Ender and Alai might actually be racist, which OF COURSE THEY ARE NOT THAT IS SILLY.  What Card intended to show was that Alai was trying to be funny through racism (as so many people do) and Ender was telling him not to do that.  Which is something I am in favour of!  So what problem do I have with this now, aside from the flaw Card has already admitted (that it was distractingly clunky)?

Well, Alai is black.  I don't know if we ever find out where he's from, but in the Ender's Shadow series, we'll meet him again living in the Middle East, where he is beloved by many but even still occasionally targeted with racial hatred.  And that's when he's considered an incredibly holy and wise and compassionate leader.  So I have this wild speculation that maybe, as a child with no such recognition, he was also targeted with even more racism than that.  It's just a guess.  And I have a further guess that Ender, as the white middle-class boy from the United States, did not suffer from racism.  And yet, in order to emphasise how much wiser and more compassionate Our Hero is, we're going to have Ender teach Alai a Lesson About Race Relations, and he's going to do so by aggressively wielding the white privilege that puts him over Alai in the racism hierarchy.

God, I think I liked it better when I thought they were just supposed to be stupid kids using words with power they didn't comprehend.

Time to get into the new stuff.  What fresh horrors await in the plane of disembodied voices?

Ender's Game, p. 66--74
Chapter Seven: Salamander
"The player's deaths have always been sickening, I've always thought the Giant's Drink was the most perverted part of the whole mind game, but going for the eye like that--this is the one we want to put in command of our fleet?"

Graff observes that Ender handled the situation with Bernard perfectly (as if he hadn't argued against giving Ender that chance) and intends to move him on to a new situation immediately.  Graff's boss hangs a lampshade on these unrealistic children by observing that none of them act like little kids: "They aren't normal.  They act like--history.  Napoleon and Wellington.  Caesar and Brutus."  Is this weird to anyone else?  I feel like this is Card trying to weasel out of his unchildlike children by telling-not-showing us that this is because they act like great generals of a bygone age.  If Napoleon made as many fart jokes as these kids do, history has failed to record him as comprehensively as it should have.
"General Levy has no pity for anyone.  All the videos say so.  But don't hurt this boy." 
"Are you joking?" 
"I mean, don't hurt him more than you have to."
I feel like the only possible way of capping these intro bits is with Graff and his boss doing an Everybody Laughs Ending into a freeze-frame.  Just to let the sociopathy sink in.  (Unrelated, I'm pretty sure we'll never meet 'General Levy', but we will learn later on that in this futuristic society, 'brilliant military strategist' is now a Jewish stereotype.  Uh, yay for positive discrimination?)

One night at dinner, Alai tells Ender that he's finally figured out how Ender impersonated Bernard on the student messaging system, and explains that he's hacked the system enough to know that Ender has now built his own security system to protect himself.  Alai wants Ender's security because he's just hacked another student for fun and fears that retaliation is imminent, and after a little needling, Ender agrees to help.  Ender continues to be completely okay with electronic bullying, I guess.  It's possible to read this scenario as Alai having a friendly hacking competition with a classmate, but it's hard to be sure.
Ender laughed.  "I'll set up a system for you." 
"Can I finish eating?" 
"You never finish eating." 
It was true.  Ender's tray always had food on it after a meal.  Ender looked at the plate and decided he was through.
This isn't much of a recurring theme for Ender specifically, but it's a recurring theme in Battle School--Bean will also have ongoing issues with the approved nutritional allotments and feeling like the school is trying to overfeed him.  I don't know what this is supposed to signify, other than that authorities are trying to stuff them with more than they can take in every way, and/or that Our Heroes are all skinny kids with possible indicators of disordered eating.  (Well, Bean pretty clearly has disordered eating, but that's not surprising.)  I had forgotten what these books are like about food and fat--just wait until we start seeing the toll of the stress on Graff, who apparently 'self-medicates' with extra food.  Sigh.  It's like Twilight up in here.

Anyway, Ender can't help because his desk has been shut down and lockers permalocked, and Alai finds a transfer order on Ender's bed--he's been assigned to an army, despite only having been at Battle School for three months instead of the usual two or more years that kids spend in their 'launch' class.

Ender is upset, of course, on the verge of tears (more 'mustn't cry' stuff) but Alai pretends not to notice and jokes with him until he calms down, which is a reasonable good friend move.  He hugs Alai, "almost as if he were Valentine", and talks about not wanting to go, but Alai states that they can all see Ender is the best and they want to teach him everything.  Ender says he just "wanted to learn what it was like to have a friend", and Alai assures him they will always be friends.
Alai suddenly kissed Ender on the cheek and whispered in his ear, "Salaam".  Then,red-faced, he turned away and walked to his own bed at the back of the barracks.  Ender guessed that the kiss and the word were somehow forbidden.  A suppressed religion, perhaps.  Or maybe the word had some private and powerful meaning for Alai alone.  Whatever it meant to Alai, Ender knew that it was sacred; that he had uncovered himself for Ender, as once Ender's mother had done, when he was very young, before they put the monitor in his neck, and she had put her hands on his head when she thought he was asleep, and prayed over him.  Ender had never spoken of that to anyone, not even to Mother, but had kept it as a memory of holiness, of how his mother loved him when she thought that no one, not ever he, could see or hear.  That was what Alai had given him; a gift so sacred that even Ender could not be allowed to understand what it meant.
I kind of hate to nitpick, because that is, to my mind, a fine turn of wordcraft right there.  That's the way I hope my writing sounds, the flow of language and the careful tone.  Unfortunately, none of this content makes sense.  Ender has apparently been sheltered from religion his whole life (he didn't know that his parents were Mormon and Catholic, he didn't catch that they named their kids for saints), but other peoples' religions have tremendous impact on him, apparently?  Not that this is an unusual thing for people like Card to presume about atheists, but it's really tiresome.  I can appreciate the good intention if a religious person offers me a blessing, but that's all it means to me.  I don't keep 'memories of holiness' and there's no clear reason Ender would either.*  In particular, given that Ender is constantly being told things and made to do things that he can "not be allowed understand", which will include rather a lot of unnecessary killing, I wonder if this mystery is supposed to parallel those--Ender is thoroughly appreciative of not having to understand what other people think of him and do for him.

Ender also knows nothing at all about Islam, enough so that he thinks it might be a secret religion.  Maybe at this point in Card's mind it was--it's not until the Shadow books that we see they are one of the strongest and most numerous religions on Earth.  Ender apparently never heard 'Salaam alaykum' growing up, since he was far too busy learning the rules of manly warfare (#12: Only one messianic/innocent killer child at a time).

Alai leaves.  There's a bit of angst that Ender can't take anything that he owns, but he didn't bring any possessions up from Earth and we don't know of any that he's acquired on the school, so I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean, other than to emphasise again that the teachers are cold heartless beings.  WE KNOW, CARD.  I am less sure that Card knows.

Ender apparently has some time before he's got to report to his new group, Salamander Army.  He goes to the game room and logs into the mind game again, and so it is time for metaphors.  Lots of them.  Ender starts out at the corpse of the Giant, which has now been pretty much picked clean and merged with the landscape, which frustrates him because he thinks it would help let off tension if he could kill it again now.  Instead he wanders off, skips the path to the castle of the Queen of Hearts (apparently he's already spent a lot of time there) and finds himself in a playground instead, swings and slides and laughing children.  The playground gear doesn't work for him (he falls through the slide, the merry-go-round throws him off) and the other kids laugh, so he wanders off into the woods and finds a well, but before he can climb in (like you do when you find a well in the woods) the children reappear, human faces on wolf bodies, and devour him.  Ender realises that he can incapacitate them while they're all human by using the treacherous playground gear as traps, but they rise up again if he leaves them lying around too much, so he drags their broken bodies into the nearby stream, where they froth and dissolve.

None of this appears to bother him much, despite seeming quite as hideous to me as the attack on the Giant, nor did his earlier remark about killing a rat with a giant pin because it creeped him out to see it chewing on the Giant's corpse.  Maybe the Giant was supposed to be unsettling because it represented Ender's loss of innocence and transition to being a perpetrator of violence, except: Stilson.  Gah, everything in this book would make so much more sense without Stilson.  I could buy Ender as basically peaceful, and the Battle School teachers as breaking a sweet kid to make him effectively violent, and Peter as Ender's best reference point for what brutality looks like.  But Stilson screws all of that up.  How did editors not see this?

I'd have critical things to say about the way Ender so easily figures out how to deal with the wolfchildren, dragging them into the river to destroy their bodies and all, but this is 'the mind game' and the important thing, from the designers' point of view, is that they see Ender's brain work, so it makes some sense if the game is making up the rules on the fly based on what makes sense to Ender, like a semi-independent dream.  So I see it less as Ender guessing right on the first try how to destroy the bodies, and more the game saying "Eh, cool enough, let's go with that".

Under the well he finds caverns full of more games that he passes--figures hidden in the shadows of a treasury; a menagerie of playful animals--but he wants to see what's at the end, and after a long time finds a door: The End Of The World.  It leads to another fantastical landscape, green forests and farmers' fields and a distant castle and a sky that is just one vast jewel-encrusted cavern roof, so Ender decides to leap off a cliff because... hell if I know; the point is that a cloud catches him and sweeps him away to a tower with no doors, where the rug in front of the fireplace turns into a snake:
"I am your only escape," it said.  "Death is your only escape."
And then before Ender can do anything to repel it, the game stops itself and tells him that he's late to report to his new army.

To recap: having reached the promised land by killing the thing no one ever thought to kill before, Ender grows bored with the normal games and instead explores, but is beset by things that pretend to be harmless children but are actually monsters, and so is forced to slaughter them by using his vast intellect, and the laws of the universe bend to ensure that he is brought to the final inescapable conflict at the end of the world.

Remember all the way back at the beginning when Card said that "I deliberately avoided all the little literary games and gimmicks that make 'fine' writing so impenetrable to the general audience [....] Since a great many writers and critics have based their entire careers on the premise that anything that the general public can understand without mediation is worthless drivel, it is not surprised that they found my little novel to be despicable"?  We can confirm that he wasn't kidding.  But I'm not sure what the narrative value is supposed to rise from barely-veiled analogies that remove all nuance and ambiguity from the story, either.

Ender angrily switches off his computer and goes off to meet his commander, musing on how he might escape the tower and get down into the fields:
Perhaps it's called the end of the world because it's the end of the games, because I can go to one of the villages and become one of the little boys working and playing there, with nothing to kill and nothing to kill me, just living there. 
As he thought of it, though, he could not imagine what 'just living' might actually be. He had never done it in his life.  But he wanted to do it anyway.
Oh how Ender wishes he could just be one of the simple folk.**  Y'all don't understand what it's like, being male, middle-class, white, and a spectacular genius brought into space to a school where every need is provided for and days are filled with infinite games.

What does he mean, he's never been 'just living' in his life?  He's not quite seven years old.  He has spent all but the last three months of his life living at home with his parents and siblings, playing and going to school and dealing with normal people problems like bullies.  There's a bit of extra stress in that he's always known he might be taken to this school to become a soldier, but the threat of alien invasion looms over every human right now.

Ender's getting badly treated, yes, and I sympathise with him, but this 'woe is me for I am special' nonsense infuriates me, because it's the exact opposite of empathy--it's founded in the ideas that other people's lives are as simple on the inside as they look at first glance as a random bystander, that other people don't have pain and problems like you do, that they can't understand your anguish, that they are scenery and you're the main character.  This wish is founded in the exact opposite of the compassion that is supposed to be Ender's greatest strength.

The chapters start getting long at this point, so we will cut off here for now--come back Thursday for the next Fifty Shades post (it's so close to being over!) and look forward to the second half of this chapter, in which we finally meet Petra The Exceptional Girl!  (Petra will be fun.  Everything else will be terrible.)


*My views on holiness are perhaps best expressed by the golem Dorfl in Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay, when he is asked about holidays and says: "Either All Days Are Holy Or None Are.  I Have Not Decided Yet."  Dorfl also makes the argument that atheists think about the gods constantly, in the form of denial, and therefore should count as religious, but give him a break, it's his first day.  Also, on his world, the gods absolutely do exist.  So he's in a bit of a bind.

**That version of the song ends in a weird way.  In the original, the dancing fails to impact them at all and she asks again, and he says "They sit around and wonder what royal folk would do", and that is when he delivers the line "I have it on the best authority", since he used to be a commoner.  Which gets at the point better, I think--there is no actual difference on either side, because they all have the same problems.  Hmph.


  1. "Unrelated, I'm pretty sure we'll never meet 'General Levy', but we will learn later on that in this futuristic society, 'brilliant military strategist' is now a Jewish stereotype."

    Trope = Badass Israeli.

    "Since a great many writers and critics have based their entire careers on the premise that anything that the general public can understand without mediation is worthless drivel, it is not surprised that they found my little novel to be despicable."

    Hmmm..."despicable". (For some reason I keep hearing this passage pronounced in a Daffy Duck voice.) Why would Card use this word? Ender's Game is a work which a great many writers and critics would find inaccessible and which they would fail to appreciate. Does it follow from that that they'd find it "despicable"? Card's gotten plums and plaudits aplenty from SF Central from the moment this book was published; what more did he expect? To be hailed as One Greater Than Shakespeare? To get a secret invitation from the Vatican imploring him to hook on over and discuss world peace with the Pope? That the entirety of Salt Lake City would be municipally assumed into Heaven (suburbs included)? What? (Just asking.)

  2. I thought General Levy was an anthropomorphism, who could as easily have been called General Conscription of General Draft.

  3. Aashyma Never WouldJune 25, 2013 at 2:07 AM

    "Salaam" as a word is independent of religion. Like "Allah" simply means God, salaam is an informal greeting used by Arabic speaking people and in some parts of the Indiian subcontinent.

    I'm not sure why Ender equates it to his mother surreptiously praying over him-is arabic illegal in this universe?

  4. I thought the same thing. Alai said salaam and then left, so he was likely just saying goodbye. Not especially holy, or mystical.

    I don't know whether to go with a Watsonian interpretation - Ender has had so little exposure to religion/other cultures that he assumes a non-English word is being used in a religious context (but why would he make that assumption? Why wouldn't he just assume that's it's a non-English greeting without religious connotations, since he knows next to nothing about religion and it doesn't seem at all important to him?) - or a Doylist one - Orson Scott Card knows so little about Arabic (and the languages that have adopted 'salaam' as a greeting) and Islam (I can't recall hearing any Arab Christians use salaam as a greeting, but that doesn't mean none ever do) that HE thinks it's necessarily sacred and not just an everyday greeting.

    And why does Alai even use the Arabic equivalent of 'bye,' when speaking in English to a white boy who knows nothing of Alai's religion.

  5. Aashyma Never WouldJune 25, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    Arab Christians use salaam, just like they use allah-it is the Arabic equivalent of aloha.

    Personally,I've only heard it used as a greeting,so I am doubly baffled at Akai's usage.

  6. Ender does briefly consider that it's not a religious thing, but just a word with special meaning to Alai--still ignoring the possibility that it's actually just 'good-bye', of course, which would make a lot more sense. For all that Card was very intent on Battle School being clearly international, I get a strong impression that he was looking more for exotic flavour than serious multiculturalism. Reminds me of fanfic writers who would have their characters pondering how much deeper and more meaningful words were in Japanese, even in fantasy settings that didn't seem to have a Japanesque language.

  7. I thought the Israeli stereotype was deadly soldiers rather than genius generals. ...Have we gone far enough into the future that their stereotype got a promotion?

  8. Trying to imagine how a game like this would work on a tablet gives me a headache. I'm now imagining Ender just touching the screen at the giant's eye to poke it out, which... really doesn't seem nearly as disturbing as anyone in the book makes it out to be. =P

    Of course, the whole thing is rendered obsolete by the videogames we're used to dealing with... who wouldn't go for the obvious weak point if they'd ever played a game like Shadow of the Colossus? XD

  9. There are quite a few games where you WILL die many times, often rather gruesomely.

    Oh yes. I'm personally reminded of the XBox Arcade game Limbo. That game is REALLY creative in its possible methods of killing you. If you weren't playing as a super-simplified silhouette the graphic death would be really hard to bear-- and I know for a number of people it was still too much; they had to play with the 'cut to black' option on instead.

  10. I get that this was written when video games had much cruder graphics, but did Card really think people were going to be upset by video game violence when it looked more like a movie? I find myself wondering what he thinks of being oh so very wrong.

    Then again his generals are more horrified by a kid committing video game violence than they are by the kid killing someone. Me thinks something is a bit skewed here.

  11. I suspect his use of "despicable" could be in response to this article

  12. The problem is, even if video games didn't allow choice yet, role playing games - which do - most definitely existed when the book was written. Granted, some people were busy being very confused about role playing games, but plenty of others weren't. (There's a first year episode of Simon and Simon that is one of the few cases of general popular entertainment portraying an rpg positively. That aired in 1981.) And Duck Hunt (I'm pretty sure everyone did try to shoot the dog.) was released the same year as Ender's Game.

    Also, while arcade games seem to have been pretty low on choice, MUDs existed before 1985, as did games like Zork. Its hard not to feel like, given that he could put two and two together and create games that sound very much like modern games, he should also have realized that they'd still be, well, games.

    (Then again, this confusion about games vs. reality isn't unique to Card. Has Star Trek realized that one of the (many) flaws with the Kobyashi Maru is that people know it's a simulation?)

  13. I like the Kobayashi Maru test, but I think it gets interpreted very narrowly a lot of the time. It isn't a god test of how a crew will react in the face of their certain doom, but it is a test of how they will choose to fail when the type of failure is their only choice. (I recollect that the 2009 movie says that it's about facing certain death, but I prefer the Wrath of Khan clarification that it's a test of character rather than a test of fear.) There are lots of ways to have no-win situations that don't involve death, and those are relevant as well, so focusing on death alone seems limiting.

    (I'm also amused that in the 2009 movie they didn't have a sim technician on hand who could just start copypasting more Klingons into the simulation after Kirk hacked the first five. That could have been just as interesting to the instructors, since they'd get to see how Kirk reacts when he smugly thinks he's found a third option and then it gets snatched away from him.)

  14. The 2009 version is the version that makes the least sense, like none. And that was written in the here and now, when people (myself included) routinely play video games that involve our virtual selves getting splatted. Not to mention play laser tag or paintball. Virtual death has no relevance to the real thing, so far as I can see.

    I like your explanation for it, though. That actually makes sense - how, of a range of options, will this person/crew choose to fail? That does seem like it could work as insight into someone, despite it being a simulation.

  15. Oh individual characters do, yes. But Starfleet is generally portrayed as acting as if people treat simulations the same way they would reality. Which, er, they don't.

  16. Really, Starfleet isn't any different than any military, or other organization which has to train people by running simulated exercises (because the real thing is too rare/expensive/dangerous). Trainees are *expected* to act as if the exercise was real to the best of their ability - if they make an obvious "break", then there's a penalty. (In the KM novel, both Scotty and Kirk faced disciplinary hearings, and Scotty was forced out of the command track.)

    Training via simulation takes place all the time in the real world - for some types of training, it's really the only possible method. Starfleet, at least in the media I've seen (primarily TOS, TNG, and older novels), doesn't seem to be more oblivious to the difference between exercise and reality than normal.

  17. My problem comes with what it's meant to be testing. Will's take on it, that makes sense. The explanations in Wrath of Khan and (worst offender) 2009 NuTrek do not make sense as something you can test that way.

    It's a bit the problem of Card's giant test having some insight into Ender, though not as bad. (Close in the 2009 version.)

    But perhaps the novels explain it more the way Will sees it. It's not about the emotion of failing, it's about seeing how the cadet chooses to fail - do they abandon the ship, fight, try diplomacy, etc.

  18. So this isn't related to this specific chapter, but I just finished a reread the novel and something occurred to me: I generally excuse inconsistencies in the novel's setting (eg., Ender not knowing what Salaam means even though the Muslim faith is prevalent) since, you know, you write more novels in the same world, you solidify some details or come up with ideas that don't fit the original installment, stuff happens. Understandable. But there are some pretty glaring internal consistencies.

    What jumps out at me is the timeline: Peter is born, probably with the monitor installed at 1 or 2 years of age, and has it removed at five, and then the Wiggins are allowed to have a girl. The thing is, Valentine is two years younger than Peter and has her monitor removed at three years old. This means when Peter was disqualified from the Battle School program, she was already born. Unless the IF can somehow detect violent psychotic tendencies in a *toddler*, none of this adds up.

  19. They appear to be convinced that they can detect a combination of Peter's aggression and Valentine's compassion in Ender by age six, so the IF does at least seem to believe that they can read children's minds very well at a young age (except when they can't and therefore have to test people by risking children's lives). You make a good point about the timeline--Peter is about 2 years older than Valentine, and they lost their monitors about 2 years apart in age, so it must have been at around the same time, not long after Ender was born.

    We have indications throughout the series (not just in later books) that the Wiggin parents definitely wanted to have at least two kids, so it's not surprising that they would have had Valentine shortly after Peter regardless of the Fleet's wishes, but this gives us an interesting chronology. If we assume (and this might not be right) that they didn't conceive Ender until they had government approval, then Ender was requisitioned around the same time they started testing Valentine (at most one year later), Ender was born, and within a couple of years he was being monitored and both Peter and Valentine were booted from the program. Just in case Peter didn't feel sufficiently replaced by the new baby, there's a blatantly obvious chain of causation where the Fleet decided they don't need him or his sister as soon as they checked out Ender.

    I wonder if Card meant it to shake down that way. Kind of neat, really. (If you're willing to suspend your disbelief about their monitoring program that tells them both everything and nothing about the chipped person.)

  20. this 'woe is me for I am special' nonsense infuriates me, because it's the exact opposite of empathy

    Oh, how I love this line so. BECAUSE IT IS TRUE.

    This series is basically better than the best thing ever.

  21. there are a lot of naked boys in this book.

    I noticed this, too, back when I read it. The whole "don't be naked around Petra" thing was just WEIRD because in my conservative Christian culture, nobody was naked around anybody. Yes, the boys' locker rooms had changing cubicles.

    It still shocks me when I go to the gym and I'm supposed to change clothes, like, RIGHT THERE. Because that was not how I was raised and it feels very weird. I can handle it, but it feels very foreign to me.

  22. "Either All Days Are Holy Or None Are."

    ALL. Moar fun customs and tasty food.

    Also, this:

  23. King's Quest came out in 1984 & had a lot of fairy-tale violence & morbid humor--you could try all sorts of violent actions and they killed you over and over again in hilariously-scored cutscenes.

  24. I should add, you usually did better in the Sierra Quest games if you chose the non-violent path, you could get better endings that way. (Space Quest came out in '85 so it was probably already written before Ender's Game was released)

  25. First of all, let me say I've been a fan of Ender's Game for years, I've read a lot of critical scholarship of the novel and I also write literary criticism myself (at Coal Hill Review, Tottenville Review, CutBank and elsewhere) and I LOVE this blog: you sir have done a better job exploring Ender's Game than anything else I've read, and you've made it hella funny to read, too. Like, laugh out loud funny. It's wonderful. Beyond that, On a serious note, one kinda anti-gay thing I disliked in the film: obviously as described above, in the book, Alai kisses Ender on the cheek when saying goodbye to him whereas in the film he just hugged him. Considering how the film's producers keep apologizing and saying how very much they are not anti-gay and not like OSC, why did they remove something from the original book that can be seen as either strictly platonic or maybe more? Because it might gross out straight teen boys watching? I mean, really: OSC showed in that some very tender and appropriate male affection and it's also a bona fide custom in some parts of the world, yet it gets changed up in the film. Strange.

  26. Thanks for the kind words! I am actually kind of not surprised they cut the kiss--after Card already went through the horrifying experience once of people thinking his characters were racists just because they acted like racists, I don't doubt that he'd have supported removing the kiss in case it accidentally gave today's perverse audiences the impression that not everything that looks queer is eeeeeevil.

    And here I had been thinking it might make for an ironic first date with a guy I just met. Sigh.

  27. Now that I think it over, Card may have written that into the script—he did write the script over many times, toying with making Graff's role female instead of Anderson's and many other changes, after all. That would perhaps explain the lack of the kiss, or you may be right on that per your theory. I found it slightly upsetting but more upsetting how Petra was brought to the front and replaced Bean's role in the book in many ways. In OSC's interview with Wired he explains that Hood, not himself, moved Petra into a role he set up for Bean. (That interview, if you've not read it yet, is very good—if for no other reason than that it makes OSC's smug nature astoundingly clear.)