Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ender's Game, chapter eight, part one, in which Jjjjeeeewwwwwws

Good news, everyone!  You'll be making a delivery to According to my calculations, we have less than twenty weeks between here and the release of the Ender's Game movie (release dates vary a lot by country), and I would like to wrap this up by then.  Since we've got 227 pages to go, I can either start doing double-length posts (which would require a base camp to even attempt to read) or I can go to double speed, and that means Ender's Game posts will now be every Sunday!  Are you excited?  I AM EXCITED.

(Content: antisemitism. Fun content: Mel Brooks, cursed frogurt, Kirk.)

Ender's Game: p. 97--107
Chapter Eight: Rat

The voices in the Featureless Plane of Dialogue (this week, Graff and Anderson) are once again showing that their priorities are absolutely the best ever.  Graff has asked Anderson to start preparing unfair game plans for Ender in the battleroom, intentionally weighting the odds against him.  He recommends unfair star arrangements to start, but also late notifications and unequal forces*.  Anderson doesn't like this.
"You're getting too close to the game, Anderson.  You're forgetting that it is merely a training exercise." 
"It's also status, identity, purpose, name; all that makes these children who they are comes out of this game.  When it becomes known that the game can be manipulated, weighted, cheated, it will undo this whole school.  I'm not exaggerating."
This does not make sense to me.  The smarter students know that the teachers control everything--Petra's already made that point, and Dink will again shortly.  Why would it be a devastating shock to the student body to discover that the people in control of their whole lives are exerting control over an aspect of their lives?  If one high school soccer team in the league were always forced to play in the snow, would every other team suddenly lose all sense of trust and confidence and start sacrificing goats to a golden calf?  I'm just having a really hard time with the idea that the students are basing their whole lives around the conviction that the game is an untouchable, objectively fair representation of everyone's value in the universe and no one can ever have the odds stacked against them.
"I hope you will forgive me, Colonel Graff, but I feel that I must report your orders and my opinion of their consequences to the Strategos and the Hegemon." 
"Why not our dear Polemarch?" 
"Everybody knows you have him in your pocket."
For some reason, the ruling triumvirate of the entire world only uses ancient Greek titles.  'Strategos' is 'army leader', 'Hegemon' is 'ruler', and Polemarch is 'warlord' and it turns out is pronounced 'pol-em-ark', not 'pole-march', which is taking some getting used to after saying it wrong in my head for fifteen years.  These titles seem like they overlap a lot (even in ancient Greece).  Apparently the Polemarch is commander of the International Fleet and the Strategos is in charge of the defence of the solar system, but since there are no humans outside the solar system at the time of Ender's Game... yeah, I dunno either.
"So you won't mind if I notify them?" 
"Of course I mind, you meddlesome ass.  This is something to be decided by people who know what they're doing, not these frightened politicians who got their office because they happen to be politically potent in the country they come from."
In five books I have never understood how politics on Earth work here.  Countries are democracies (mostly?) but the Hegemon is basically President of the World with unlimited power.  Naturally, in a series that's all about how wonderful the special select few people are, democracy is not really anyone's favourite thing--no thank you sir or madam, we will have some nice military meritocracy please.  Those are totally unbiased and have no downsides.**
"Ender Wiggin is ten times smarter and stronger than I am.  What I'm doing to him will bring out his genius.  If I had to go through it myself, it would crush me."
How do you know that it will bring out his genius, Graff?  It's never given you what you needed before.  You've only had near-misses and flameouts.  Is this how Mazer Rackham was trained?  Actually, why isn't Mazer Rackham in charge of this training?  What qualifications do you have that make you so sure your technique is the perfect recipe to make the ultimate military genius?  In short, Hyrum Graff, who the fuck are you?

Ender arrives at his new dorm in Rat Army, which is a disorganised mess that makes him uncomfortable after a few weeks in Salamander's tyrannical order.  The commander of Rat Army is sprawled in his bed naked [drink!] except for his desk in his lap.  The commander is... how can I... look, I'm just going to let Card and Brooks explain it.
"We doing okay, Ender Bender.  I Rose de Nose, Jewboy extraordinaire, and you ain't nothin but a pinheaded pinprick of a goy.  Don't you forget it." 
Since the I.F. was formed, the Strategos of the military forces had always been a Jew.  There was a myth that Jewish generals didn't lose wars.  And so far it was still true.  It made any Jew in the Battle School dream of being Strategos, and conferred prestige on him from the start. [....]
If Mazer Rackham could save the world, then it didn't matter a bit whether you were a Jew or not, people said. 
But it did matter, and Rose the Nose knew it.  He mocked himself to forestall the mocking comments of anti-semites--almost everyone he defeated in battle became, at least for a time, a Jew-hater--but he also made sure everyone knew what he was.  His army was in second place, bucking for first.
Ye gods, this stuff.  It's actually a pretty fair representation of how screwed racism is in the real world.  The Jews are superhuman but they're also not actually special, and the kid who dares to do well in school While Being Jewish has to mock himself with his own marginalising humour in hopes of appearing less threatening and so getting less racism directed his way.  This is much better than the zero-G racism from a couple of chapters ago.  It's also pretty much the only time in the book that we will hear about how super-important Jewishness is in this world.  I've edited out quite a chunk in the middle there; it's basically a solid page of Space Jews out of nowhere and then I'm not sure we'll ever really talk about race (or religion) again for the rest of the book.  The focus makes me vaguely uncomfortable, in the same way it does when Tim LeHaye and Jerry Jenkins write about the super-important and actually-all-wrong Jews.  Especially when we're going to be shown and then told outright that Rose doesn't actually know how to be a good commander, and have it vaguely implied that his victories are actually because of his brilliant subordinate.

Just, like, as a rule, I kind of think conservative Christian SFF writers should not opine on the place of Jews in the world.  It doesn't seem to go well for anyone.
"And you are forbidden to use your desk again until you've frozen two enemy soldiers in the same battle.  This order is out of self-defense.  I hear you're a genius programmer.  I don't want you screwing around with my desk." 
Everybody erupted in laughter.  It took Ender a moment to understand why.  Rose had programmed his desk to display and animate a bigger-than-lifesize picture of male genitals [drink!], which waggled back and forth as Rose held the desk on his naked lap.
Rose explains that Ender has been placed under the command of toon leader Dink Meeker, so Ender goes to find Dink hanging out in the arcade.  Dink is laconic, but bit by bit Ender finds out what's going on--Dink was actually watching Ender's training sessions with his friends and decided he had promise, so he requested that Rose trade for him.  He also tells Ender to ignore Rose's orders about using his desk (and about stopping the launchy practices):
"Listen, Ender, commanders have just as much authority as you let them have.  The more you obey them, the more power they have over you."
This is one the one hand very deep and on the other painfully stupid.  Yes, human systems only work smoothly because people constantly quietly agree to follow the rules set by those more powerful than them, so we don't constantly need enforcers.  Social contract, et cetera, important realisation; fundamental concept behind the works of Gandhi.  On the other hand, people who disobey, who protest, who insist on confronting the people with power (whether their CO or a politician or a schoolyard bully) can also get enforcement right up in their face.  This line of logic can be used to set a person free or just to tell them that it's their own fault if they get oppressed, and it needs more nuance.

Also, as I've mentioned before, Ender never really disobeys, especially when it might prevent tragedy, so I'm not sure why we keep getting this theme popping up.

Ender finally gets to train with his whole army, unlike Salamander, except that... oh sweet Buddha... CAAARRD.
Dink trained his toon independently from the rest of Rat Army, with discipline and vigor; he never consulted with Rose, and only rarely did the whole army maneuver together.  It was as if Rose commanded one army, and Dink commanded a much smaller one that happened to practice in the battleroom at the same time.

MILITARY TACTICS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY.  I just--I don't even know where to start on how stupid this is.  Coordination is victory--knowing who will be where and when and what they're doing, being able to move together with a single purpose.  And now Rat Army, second-highest-ranked team in the school, commanded by a Magical Jew, is apparently winning even though/because it intentionally abandons 25% of its ability to coordinate.  This lines up perfectly with the prior bit about lower officers sometimes being able to make better decisions than their commander, and lines up atrociously with reality.

Dink is of course brilliant, and immediately wants his soldiers to start practicing Ender's kneeling attack, but neither they nor he realise that it goes along with Ender's 'the enemy's gate is down' perspective.  Which makes sense, given that everyone sticks with the corridor-gravity perspective and it's not possible to see just by watching how a person is envisioning zero gravity.  What doesn't make sense is that Ender doesn't correct them either.  He keeps his mouth shut and lets them continue talking about 'attacking lying on our backs'.

Ender, you jackwagon.

He's part of this army, Dink got him out of an abusive situation and gave him a real learning environment, and Ender is still holding out on his ultimate techniques--the only possible reason I can think of is that he knows he'll be in charge of his own army someday and wants to still have some advantage over this lot.  He practices with them, not speaking up at all as they suffer from gravity vertigo when Dink makes them repeat maneuvers in multiple orientations.  What a tool.

This is getting long, so let's skim a bit--Ender insists on practicing with his friends, and using his desk to do his trigonometry homework, which makes Rose angry.  Ender slams Bonzo's strategies as well (which Rose had thought were intentional and brilliant) and takes credit for 'turning defeat into stalemate, all by himself', so Rose decides that in their next game, Ender should once again see what he can do all by himself.  Two days later:
"We'll see how well you do now, Ender.  As soon as that door opens, you jump through, go straight ahead toward the enemy's door." 
Suicide.  Pointless, meaningless self-destruction.  But he had to follow orders now, this was battle, not school.  For a moment Ender raged silently; then he calmed himself.  "Excellent, sir," he said.  "The direction I fire my gun is the direction of their main contingent."
Ender launches and is halfway across the battleroom by the time Centipede Army has begun to deploy, firing furiously between his protective legs, and substantially carves up their forces in the few seconds he has before they get their bearings and freeze him.  Rat Army is now at a considerable advantage, and wins the rest of the fight easily.  Word gets around fast and every team in the school starts practicing rapid deployment, because Ender has once again Done A Thing and so The Game Is Changed.  Several decades in operation with the smartest kids in the world and no one in the whole school has ever thought 'hey, what if we shot the other guys first?'

Some days later, Ender sticks around after Rat's practice session, because he's noticed Dink always stays behind and Ender wants to find out what's up with that.  The answer, obviously, involves nakedness.
It was plain Dink expected Ender to leave.  It was just as plain that Ender was saying no. 
Dink turned his back on Ender, methodically took off his flash suit [drink!], and gently pushed off from the floor.  He drifted slowly toward the center of the room, very slowly, his body relaxing almost completely, so that his hands and arms seemed to be caught by almost nonexistent air currents in the room. 
After the speed and tension of practice, the exhaustion, the alertness, it was restful just to watch him drift.  He did it for ten minutes or so before he reached another wall.  Then he pushed off rather sharply, returned to his flash suit, and pulled it on.
I was going to finish this scene, but we're about halfway through the chapter, so let's just leave it here, with our intensely homophobic author musing on how relaxing it is to watch a naked boy float on the breeze.

Remember, we're shifting to a weekly schedule now, so there'll be more whatnapple for you next Sunday!  Tell your friends!  (You know, in case you wanted to get back at them for wronging you.)

*I'm not sure if this is a fair criticism or not, but there are basically four or five ways that we hear about the battles getting weighted against Ender, and we've just been told three of them.  If Anderson has a couple of years to sort everything out, I'm a little disappointed that he apparently only has one more good idea after this meeting. Which, in turn, is a criticism of Card and show-don't-tell, I suppose.  Telling us that this training program will take years to develop sounds really impressive, but the payoff kind of needs to be equally impressive, and 'my boss's offhand ideas plus one other thing' is... not.

**The thing about Ender's Game is that the final chapter changes everything that came before it, which makes me wonder whether it's ultimately meant to criticise the things that it apparently valorises.  Ender is the best and he wins because Graff takes risks without worrying about whether they're politically popular, go not-team!  Except all of these things lead to unspeakable tragedy.  But then in Card's morality, consequences don't actually matter.  MY BRAIN.


  1. I'm predicting for this movie exacly 0 shots of naked boys going commando on the breeze in the middle of the battle simulator. Or in the shower. Or anywhere else for that matter. And I'm wiling to put money on the complete lack of holographic dongle erupting from some guy's 25th century iPad.

  2. — ohg rirelobql pna frr lbh fgevc.

  3. Well, given how much I love this deconstruction, I'm pretty happy about getting it every week. So yay!
    As for the movie, I predict zero nekkidness, zero 6-yearold brutal stomping murders and, (I'm going out on a limb with this based on the horrible preview I saw in a movie theater last weekend) zero 6-year olds. The preview only made sense if you were a fan of the book and expecting the movie and it had a silhouette of a kid entering the battle room and that silhouette was not a 6-year-old. I'm guessing 8 to 10ish, maybe 12.

  4. If one high school soccer team in the league were always forced to play in the snow, would every other team suddenly lose all sense of trust and confidence and start sacrificing goats to a golden calf?

    This is the wrong analogy, I think. Imagine if it were discovered that the staff of a school were manipulating student grades. Finding out that your supposed successes and failures were the result of other people's number fudging or the fact that you had 2 hours to write your essay and another person had 10 minutes or whatever. That would be fairly demoralizing and cast into serious doubt what the hell was going on with that school. At least I think that's the type of thing Card is going for. Of course Card seems rather hazy on how schools work, never mind how a military works.

    How do you know that it will bring out his genius, Graff?

    Setting aside that Graff's training seems to be a case of you (Graff and Card) fail psychology forever, this is the core of my problem with the entire concept. No part of this find a super special boy and train him to be a super special commander makes any sense whatsoever. If there were better explanations, like an in depth study having been done of military geniuses and then the selection of all kids who met whatever common traits were found (human?) followed by whatever training has been scientifically proven to create the best military commanders, I don't think I'd have so much trouble with the concept. Hell, as you point out, the school isn't even being run by Rackham, or according to his ideas, or... anything that might make this seem less fantastical. Card has just flat out taken The One out of fantasy, changed a few words, and hoped no one would notice that it all boils down to "a wizard did it."

    "this was battle, not school"

    What is that even supposed to mean? Especially since it IS school (not that their training seems to involve any actual, you know, training). This was a ball, not a sphere. This was an apple, not food. They are not in a real battle, they are training for battle. Is he making a distinction between the (never seen) academic side of things and the battle room?

    And why is Ender so pissed at being asked to charge the enemy? It's a GAME, a simulation, not actual suicide. Hell, some people might even view it as an opportunity to just have fun, since the expectations are pretty well out the window on that order. Leeeeeroyyyyy Jenkiiiiiiiiins!

  5. There's a longer trailer and, yeah, 12 looks about right. (The actor seems to have been ~14 when it was filmed.)

  6. "The smarter students know that the teachers control everything -- Petra's
    already made that point, and Dink will again shortly. Why would it be a
    devastating shock to the student body to discover that the people in
    control of their whole lives are exerting control over an aspect of
    their lives?"

    Actually, I think that could make sense: The kids know that teachers meddle with every aspect of their lives, and the Battle Room was their one escape from that, the one situation whose outcome depended solely on their own actions.

  7. For being supposed military geniuses, there's a distinct lack of military genius going on. Then again, these are six year-old boys and girls, so I suppose we might want to cut them a little slack for not having come up with the idea that taking the strategic ground is a really important part of warfare.

    I wonder whether the star placement is randomized between battles or not. If it isn't, then things are really weird - given the same scenario, one can easily figure out what works and what doesn't. Even more so if you watch what everyone else does, too. (Ender should not be a super-genius for pointing out that you can learn from watching others.)

    Also, Graff? If you want your commanders to be effective, you run them through all sorts of scenarios, including ones where they're at varying degrees of disadvantages, and ones where they think they're at advantage, and ones where they actually are at advantage. This is not some secret awesome technique for creating The One, it's how you create a second lieutenant.

  8. Jeeewwwwssss iiiinnnnnnn spaaaaaaaaaace!

  9. So was there any point at all to the whole thing with Dink getting naked and drifting around?

  10. Man, think of the most annoyingly drawn-out, over-the-top gratuitous nudity you can, triple it, and make it 100% grade schoolers. That's Ender's Game.

  11. Firstly, I'm not 100% sure he was naked. The book says he takes off his "flash suit" but that is the term for the zero-g-battle-space-suit-esque thing that makes you get frozen when you're hit with the flashy light gun thing. I think they wear their standard uniforms under the flash suit. At least, if they don't that's another layer of stupid because the suit is described as something that wouldn't be terribly comfortable to wear next to your skin.
    As to the point of Dink's floaty antics, it serves as the lead in to a conversation with Ender about why Dink isn't a commander when he's clearly more awesome than the Space Jew TM and thus all but one of the other army commanders. The answer being that Dink considers battle school in general and commandership in specific to be a huge mind fuck on the part of the teachers and most of the army commanders (Rose and Bonzo are mentioned) to be seriously damaged. Dink tries to stay on the fringes to protect his sanity and the "float in zero g" thing is his version of therapeutic meditation.
    This conversation actually gets pretty close to much of what is colossally wrong with the premise of battle school but it's pretty much forgotten for the rest of the book.

  12. also while I'm thinking about it (and continuing with my Card's Animal Motifs series after Part One: Salamander) anyone else uncomfortable with the Jew-led team being team Rat? For reasons of see MAUS and the fondness for the wehrmarcht propaganda machine to equate Jews with rats... yeah...

  13. "this was battle, not school" is a reference to Ender repeatedly disobeying commander's orders with regard to class work and his extracurricular training sessions. He can do this because the commander isn't his immediate military superior in those contexts. During games, however, he is required to obey orders.
    As to Ender being upset over it, I think it's that Rose is deliberately sacrificing Ender to exert authority over him since Ender disobeyed his order not to use his desk and to stop his training sessions. It reads to me as a clash of egos type thing.

  14. Oh hell, I didn't notice that before. Uh, yeah, nice (not nice) unfortunate implications you've got there, Card.
    Incidentally, other armies we'll meet:
    Rabbit, led by Carn Carby who is Australian
    Phoenix, led by Petra

  15. Star placement is randomized, as is the lighting of the battle room. Both of these things are principally mentioned in the context of the unfair battles planned for Dragon army but, unlike the late notifications and unequal forces, they're treated as a normal part of the game (albeit one that doesn't usually favor one army over another.)

  16. Neither of those orders were actually valid, as far as I could tell (it would, in fact, be damn bizarre if the head of one of those groups could order their subordinates to not do their school work, but this is a millitary training school that doesn't seem to believe in training, so hell if I know). But that probably is what Card was going for.

    Ender's reaction just seems over the top, but then Ender generally reacts oddly.

  17. Exactly. I keep coming back to this problem and specifically the question, "Hyrum Graff, who the fuck are you?"

    I still think Card must disagree with his villain (Graff) on some allegedly fundamental point(s). And yet I keep accidentally using the author's name for the character. That suggests a failure of writing. (Or I'm missing something big.) Why does Graff act like he has a direct line to the author? How did he prove it to the Polemarch?

    As far as Ender's anger goes, I think he cares about his battle standings and doesn't want to see his numbers go down too far. (He may also have hoped to have left this abuse behind, though that would make him a slow learner.) As for why he cares - but Super-villain Graff manipulated him into caring. So we're back to Problem One.

    Thinking out loud: maybe this example can help us analyze the problem? Graff's allegedly an educator. So it makes some sense that he could manipulate a child in this particular way. More generally, educators and parental figures can easily find themselves arguing, correctly, against people who may be smarter than they are in certain ways. The adults have more information (and more developed brains). Card probably also believes that children should accept the absurd religious beliefs their adult authorities impose on them. Although his Alvin does share my experience of hearing an authority figure blather about God sitting atop the Topless Throne (even if Alvin doesn't try to interpret this by placing the throne on its side). And wait, if Graff has special insight into reality as a result of teaching children, then why does he fall down* at precisely the task of shaping Ender? We've already seen part of this with Alai. I could hand-wave this to save my reasoning, but I think this paragraph has lost its way.

    *Strand himself in the middle of the Battle Room with no momentum or rockets?

  18. No, no, the unfair training program needs to shape Ender in a precise way. And as someone who may be Anderson says later, "We told the computer that our highest priority was having the subject remain useful after the training program." The computer knows all about Ender's mind through the Mind Game.

    Now the punchline: Graff, who plans to impose stress on Ender beyond what the computer knows about, and do so without consulting his auto-psychiatrist, says he has misgivings. He pictures Ender worn out at the end. Guess what he does about this. Guess what results.

    I've been asking "However did they win." Maybe I should be asking specifically why the Mind Game program hasn't eaten the Solar System for computing power (since more power might allow it to answer Anderson's questions more fully). At least that one has an answer.

  19. Ye gods, I hadn't even thought of the rat propaganda aspect. That is so much worse than I realised.

  20. Yes, that conversation comes next and only got cut off from this post because I wanted to flip off Card, basically.

    But they are definitely naked under the flash suits--it's implied so far and outright stated later in Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow that the flash suit goes on instead of a regular uniform, not in addition to. And, as we've seen, the First Invasion devastated Earth's underwear-producing capacity so severely that to this day their most brilliant textile theorists haven't yet been able to recreate the thing once called 'boxer shorts'.

  21. For that matter, who's going to name their team after a pest like that, especially at a prestigious military academy? Is there an NFL team called the Rats? The Cockroaches? The pigeons? The Locusts?

  22. The problem isn't that Ender is getting scenarios that are stacked against him. It's that everybody else isn't. In real military training, especially for elite forces, they're going to get exercises where they're outnumbered, outgunned, and short on ammo, because training for when everything goes your way is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. And the extra platoon your opponents have may or may not be mentioned in the briefing, because on the battlefield you may not have the luxury of knowing you're outnumbered beforehand.

    To give you an idea how real combat school works, when my friend was in the navy, he was in a training exercise against Navy SEALS. His whole group was volunteers from various desk jobs. The idea was that a combat with guys who don't know what they're doing will unfold differently that combat with guys who do.

  23. If I were imagining a military school for children (ew), I could see an argument for keeping things as fair as possible for the younger ages, knowing they still have Tactical and Command Schools ahead of them when they get older, and knowing that actual young children don't always grasp big perspectives well. But even then, having 'non-season' games that were specifically meant to test unfair scenarios seems like a good idea.

  24. We never get a count of the total number of students or armies at Battle School, but it does seem like they mostly avoid the traditional obvious Warrior animals, only to randomly throw in blatantly fantastical ones when dramatically wanted. Trying to think of all of them--Salamander, Rat, Centipede, Badger, Ocelot, Spider, Scorpion, Condor, and then stuff like Griffin, Manticore, Phoenix, and of course Dragon for Ender (which Card tries to downplay by asserting that every past Dragon Army has been terrible and people got superstitious about the name being cursed, so clearly it's not blatantly improperly awesome).

  25. there's a pretty good state college football team called the "banana slugs." California, naturally. Their slogan: No Known Predator.

  26. Carn Carby? Seriously? What, was "Rory Stralis" taken? :-P

  27. Agreed. Of course, now we're back to "future military brilliance is totally something you can recognize in a six year old."

  28. "And why is Ender so pissed at being asked to charge the enemy? It's a GAME, a simulation, not actual suicide. Hell, some people might even view it as an opportunity to just have fun, since the expectations are pretty well out the window on that order. Leeeeeroyyyyy Jenkiiiiiiiiins!"

    You might think so, but I've seen people freak out in lesser situations. For instance, I play World of Tanks, and you'd be surprised how many people will absolutely refuse to risk their precious internet tanks, even when it might win the team the game (instead opting to hide behind a cliff as everyone is destroyed piecemeal). Or, say, the people in WoW who will *flip out* if something goes wrong during a raid. You might not be losing much anything of importance, but you're still *losing*. And if you're convinced you're awesome, it means they're taking away from the awesome stuff you could be doing instead.

  29. Hm, true. -I'm- not a very competitive person, so I have a lot of trouble relating to the super competitive. I just don't get it. But it's not clear to me if Ender is supposed to be super competitive - we get a lot about how he's smart and the one and what not, but he's willing to do things that potentially diminish his awesomeness (like telling Rose that part of his standing was due to stupid orders he'd followed). If Ender had been clearly played up as an egotistical must be first place sort of guy, I'd be less puzzled by his flake out over being ordered to charge the enemy. But he's taken other equally potentially bad for his image orders much calmer in the past, so I just don't know. He doesn't exactly have a consistent personality.

  30. I think there are two things at play that explain Ender's apparent inconsistency.

    First, he knew from the first moment in Salamander that he was going to be shoved to the margins and not given any real chance to participate, but he thought Rat was going to change that (Dink Meeker being awesome and all) and instead in his first game he's given what seems to be, once again, orders that take him out of the actual game (instead of being a nonentity, he's a free kill). So if we assume, as I think makes sense, that Ender actually wants to play the game properly, this is irritating for him.

    Second, though, is that Ender is very quietly self-righteous as hell. One of the reasons that he wants to play the game so much is that (regardless of his insecurities) he has the Wounded Loner Geek's bone-level conviction that he is totally awesome and other people are holding him back. The narrative lets him show this in other ways (his total overwhelming victory in the game room on day one, or the way people like Bonzo apparently recognise him as Dangerously Awesome on sight), but he is held back in the battleroom. Sort of. I mean, this is only his third game and he turns a suicide order into a game-revolutionising surprise attack, so whether he's being held back or not is kind of up for debate, but in theory he could still be even more awesome if they would just let him.

  31. I can't fault Card for aging up the characters for the movie. There are so many reasons--in practical terms, it's a lot easier to find a talented 14-year-old dramatic actor than a 6-year-old; in moral terms, it's a lot easier for audiences to potentially buy into the heroic necessity of the child soldiers if they're teenagers instead of primary schoolers. Just like the removal of Stilson from the movie, I think people would have a much harder time with 6-year-old students if they had to actually see them rather than just read about them.

  32. See, this is why when I first heard the rumor Hollywood was making this movie, I said no way.
    No way would Hollywood make a movie about naked 6-year-old murderers. And it looks like I was right. I completely understand why they are doing it, it's just irking me. I didn't know they were removing Stilson and I've got to wonder how much of Ender's "I'm the most special snowflake ever!" attitude is going to be present.

  33. You see this to an almost extreme degree in EVE Online. Well... you normally see it. Because every so often, there's an article in the gaming news (or frickin' FORBES, for crying out loud) about someone loosing what is (with a poor grasp of the exchange rate and method) 3000 real dollars in virtual ship(s). And then people are very very careful with their unique, unusual ships.

  34. Last I checked, the Titans were worth about $300,000, making a major action only marginally less expensive than an actual battle. That's a little bit different than WoT or WoW, since 'insane hell of libertarianism' is the designer's *objective*, and if you lose a corporation's expensive ship, there is a good chance you will be blacklisted and no longer be able to play. There is also an extant, although minute, chance that you will actually be killed - it has happened before!

  35. I may be misremembering the price; it wouldn't surprise me if titans cost about $300,000, actually, though I thought that was the total price tag of that unscheduled battle at the beginning of this year.

    Um... could you elaborate a bit on the 'extant, although minute, chance that you will actually be killed' part? I take it you don't mean being podded in the game. I mean, I know that one person was driven to suicide from harrassment instigated by one of an alliance's leaders, but has anyone really been killed -- I mean, really, RL, killed -- over corp drama in EVE?

  36. Students of WWII could note that another group called rats were the Allied Forces in the trenches. They responded by taking up the rat as a proud mascot.
    Some cultures have viewed the rat as a symbol of luck.
    Someone who's looking for an image that's, perhaps, subversively warrior. Rats have a reputation for being nasty fighters who do anything to survive/win.
    Someone with an understanding of evolutionary history could understand that the rat (or at least a rat-like rodent) has existed since at least the time of the dinosaurs and, through adaptive eating habits, breeding, and relatively simple behaviors, has survived longer than any known mammal.
    As a warrior role model, the rat has a lot going for it.

  37. > Apparently the Polemarch is commander of the International Fleet and the
    Strategos is in charge of the defence of the solar system, but since
    there are no humans outside the solar system at the time of Ender's
    Game... yeah, I dunno either.

    I know it's been a long time since I've read _Ender's Game_, but weren't there thousands of humans outside the solar system, patiently traveling to all the Bugger solar system to blow them up?

  38. Yes, but that fact is super duper double-comic top secret, so there definitely would not be an official Triumivrate position for their command. Official party line is that the entire human fleet is hanging out around the orbit of Saturn, waiting to intercept the inevitable Third Invasion of aliens (which isn't going to happen, and no fleet exists to stop them anyway).

  39. I am not sure that Card isn't very-very closeted homosexual, at this point. You know the type that is so closeted they get aggressive towards other gay people just for being gay? :D I love your re-caps.

  40. Leeeeeroyyyyy Jenkiiiiiiiiins!

    *snorts soda*