Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ender's Game, introduction, in which we contemplate empathy

One last Ender's Game post.  Think of it as the bonus scene after the credits.  Most of y'all have expressed a wish to see Speaker next rather than Shadow, and thanks to a friend oft called Mad Scientist Alex, I will have my hands on a copy of Speaker next weekend without letting Card have any more cash.  Not sure how much I'll actually manage to get done, what with Erika getting married next Saturday (and her continued efforts to hook me up with one of her friends just because she thinks it would be funny), but I shall try to get something started.

Ender's Game: p. xi--xxvi

It's not really the point, but I'm kind of amused that Card opens the introduction by saying the first thing he wanted to do for the new hardcover edition of Ender's Game was to "fix the errors and internal contradictions and stylistic excesses that have bothered me ever since the novel first appeared", and I wonder if no one else has ever pointed out that, for example, Bonzo's timeline is complete nonsense.  There, now we've got the pettiness out of the way.

Card says that Ender's Game started with speculation fuelled by Asimov's Foundation series and trying to imagine what the future would be like if technology advanced but people mostly didn't, except for the few people "who, not through genetic change, but through learned skills, are able to understand and heal the minds of other people".  Not sure what to make of that when there's such a huge undercurrent of 'breeding true' in Game which gets bumped up to literal genetic engineering in Shadow.  The healing, I assume, doesn't refer to Game but to Speaker, because if it refers to anything in Game that is hilarious.

The military side of Game, Card explains, was largely drawn off Bruce Catton's "Army of the Potomac" trilogy, which involved the Union having a fantastic army but no general to match Lee until Grant, who lost so many soldiers but always made their deaths count.
It was because of Catton's history that I had stopped enjoying chess, and had to revise the rules of Risk in order to play it--I had come to understand something of war, and not just because of the conclusions Catton himself had reached.  I found meanings of my own in that history.
If you stop enjoying chess because you realise it bears no similarity to real war, I'm not sure you ever really understood the point of chess, or games in general.  (Okay, I lied, the pettiness is not out of the way.)  I will refrain from commenting on the meanings that Card drew from military history any more than I already have, which you may recall was when I pointed out that Card/Ender determined that the best soldiers are isolated, lonely, afraid, angry, and untrusting.
And even though I could not then have articulated what I understood of military leadership, I knew that I did understand it.  I understood, at levels deeper than speech, how a great military leader imposes his will on his enemy, and makes his own army a willing extension of himself.
This actually does match up okay with military modern theory as I understand it--the goal of combat as the Canadian Forces phrase it is 'to impose our will upon the enemy throughout their depth', basically meaning that the fighting is over once you are in such a good position that you can demand the enemy stop fighting.  This is what they teach you in some of the very first officer leadership courses, so I'm not sure it's quite the level of numinous epiphany that Card is phrasing here, but I haven't read Catton, so I can't comment.

Card then goes over his thought processes in creating the battleroom, which he states will clearly be used in real military training some day if there is "a manned military in space", leading me to wonder why it's in use in Battle School when they don't seem to have any use for footsoldiers.  He pauses to tell us all how unbearably boring archaeology is (sorry, Alex) before summarising the rise of his writing career in plays and short stories, leading to the publication of Ender's Game as the unexpectedly-improved retroactive backstory for the story he really wanted to tell, Speaker for the Dead.

It's not hard to find a record of how incredibly popular Ender's Game is.  Card recognises that there are some people who also hate the book--the degree of hatred astonished him.  As noted before, he says he expected some of it because, while he wrote in 'layers of meaning' for anyone who cared to analyse them, he also made it as accessible a book as he knew how, and thus those ivory-tower snobs felt that it was crude and were terrified of literature that didn't need them.  Et cetera.
[...] A guidance counselor for gifted children reported that she had only picked up Ender's Game to read it because her son had kept telling her it was a wonderful book.  She read it and loathed it.  Of course, I wondered what kind of guidance counselor would hold her son's tastes up to public ridicule, but the criticism that left me most flabbergasted was her assertion that my depiction of gifted children was hopelessly unrealistic.  They just don't talk like that, she said.  They don't think like that.
Card goes on to explain how Game scares people because it asserts that children are people and not just simplistic little monkeyfolk; how he is writing from his own sense that he has always been a complete person with fully developed thoughts and feelings.  I agree that what changes in us is our ability to predict, to express ourselves and--I might argue most importantly--our ability to empathise with others.  What's unrealistic about the children of Ender's Game to me isn't their complexity but their narrative convenience: the way Bonzo looks at Ender and on sight, without a word, knows that he has met a great and compassionate leader who will crush his dreams.  The way Ender can be at school for a few months out of his seven years of life and suddenly not know what it means to 'just live' like an ordinary civilian.  The way Graff (not a child, but no more realistic) can somehow know the perfect way to raise the perfect general despite apparently no one else approving or even recognising his strategies which have never worked before.  There are reasons that these people don't feel like people to me, and none of them are Petra Arkanian using the word 'polyglot' at age nine.

Also, I think there might be a difference between saying 'my son loved this book but I hated it' and 'hey everyone my son has terrible taste in books', and Card's inability or unwillingness to consider this might say something about the objectivity of aesthetics in his views.
Because the book does ring true with the children who read it.
He includes a letter from a girl named Ingrid on behalf of a dozen friends, all gifted teenagers at a two-week summer residential program at a university.
We are all in about the same position; we are very intellectually oriented and have found few people at home who share this trait.  Hence, most of us are lonely, and have been since kindergarten.  When teachers continually compliment you, your chances of "fitting in" are about nil. 
All our lives we've unconsciously been living by the philosophy, "The only way to gain respect is doing so well you can't be ignored." [....] However, in choosing these paths, most of us have wound up satisfied in ourselves, but very lonely. [....] 
You couldn't imagine the imapct your books had on us; we are the Enders of today.  Almost everything written in Ender's Game and Speaker applied to each one of us on a very, very personal level.  No, the situation isn't as drastic today, but all the feelings are there.
I don't want to single these kids out--that would be stupid, millions of people have read this book and I think Card is not wrong when he says that the people who love it best are the people who feel that it is deeply personal, that they are Ender.  Card also says that adults tend, not to identify with Ender, but to love or pity him.  One option is that this is a matter only of condescension, but another is that people don't stay one way for their whole lives.  As the popular wisdom goes, when we think about who we were a decade ago, most of us will agree, perhaps with reluctance, that we were bloody stupid.  And all probability is that a decade from now, we'll look back on our current selves and think we were/are bloody stupid.  This, in my opinion, is a good thing and vastly preferable to the alternative, that we never grow and improve.

And just maybe it's a good thing if we grow up and we stop thinking of ourselves as the forever-shunned unmatched genius on whom everyone is counting to save the entire world because they're all so inept and they need us even though they hate us.  Yes, kids need someone to identify with, and maybe that means they need to identify with someone who has the same misconceptions they do.  That's not something to be ashamed of.  But I wonder how much people remember that the ultimate secret of Ender's Game is that everyone was wrong the whole time, they were saving the world from a threat that didn't really exist, and they were so focused on their own egos and their imagined victories that they hurt and killed other children along the way.

Maybe sometimes people pity Ender, not because they don't understand him, but because they know what's coming when he gets some perspective.

There is a second letter excerpted, from an army helicopter pilot in Saudi Arabia, written during the first days of aerial assault in the Gulf War.  Ender's exhaustion in the book resonated with his own experiences in training and gave him inspiration to keep going.  He tells Card of their conditions, of the way outdated equipment keeps betraying them and people die from stupid mistakes, and suggests that maybe Card and his other favourite military author, John Steakley, could collaborate on a story of helicopter pilots of the near future.

Card goes on to tell us what this means--that this aviator did not read the book as a scare-quotes "work of literature" but "as epic, as a story that helped define his community", which... is not actually something the guy says in the portion of the letter that gets excerpted.  Hm.  Anyway, Card sees this as the man hoping for "a 'speaker for the dead' and for the living".  Author as eulogist.  It's an interesting idea, at least.

Card dismisses the idea that we read fiction "to be impressed by somebody's dazzling language--or at least I hope that's not our reason", because apparently fuck Shakespeare.  (This might explain why he was apparently unconcerned about the atrocities he visited upon the play Hamlet in his inconceivably homophobic fanfic, which is so incredibly disgusting that I will not link to anything about it and I advise no one to google it.  If it's too late for that, then you know what I mean.)  Anyway, he starts waxing on the mythic truth of fiction that allows us to identify "our own self-story" and then lists many examples of different people using Ender's Game as a text or subject for analysis in schools and papers and suchlike, which is a little funny after his earlier dismissal of angry lit profs who hated him for not writing something indecipherable.
All these uses are valid; all these readings of the book are "correct."
The story of Ender's Game is not this book, though it has that title emblazoned on it.  The story is one that you and I will construct together in your memory.  If the story means anything to you at all, then when you remember it afterward, think of it, not as something I created,but as something that we made together.
This, ultimately, is actually what I hope for more than anything.  Because this book is so very popular, and we have just spent eight months looking at all of the reasons that is terrifying, but "Ender's Game" as a cultural phenomenon isn't the words on the pages, it's the storystuff bouncing around inside millions of heads.  And if those people are better than Card, then there's a chance they were in it for the lessons that it mostly doesn't teach, about remembering that communication can change everything and that trying to be someone's friend when no one else is willing just might be a small and vital step on the path to saving the world.  Or destroying the world.  Just... be careful with the world when you're making friends, I guess?


  1. The self-righteousness of the introduction, which I read many years after I read the book, is enough to turn off any thinking and feeling person. His glee in quoting people who loved his book, and his sneers for anyone who didn't see it as the great work he clearly believes it to be, is nauseating.

  2. I haven't read the introduction-- the copy I had was one I bought shortly after the novel came out. It looks it's not a great loss that I missed it.

    Best wishes for Erika's marriage.

  3. *stares*
    I... I just can't get past his ego. Holy hell. O_O I wish I had some more intelligent comment, but he's so egotistical I just can't. There are cartoon characters less cartoonishly egotistical! WTF!?

  4. Wow. Do you think he sprained his arm while patting himself on the back so hard? Also, apparently he has collaborated with us in this deconstruction. Somehow I doubt that's what he intended with his "something we made together" but the idea makes me smile.
    And hurray for Erika!

  5. His self-congratulating smugness and dismissal of everyone who gives his writing the consideration it deserves reads to me like Terry Goodkind.

  6. Kermit is the default avatar for anonymous comments on this site, because the blogqueen identifies with muppets on a fundamental level. If we had animated avatars, Kermit would be flailing wildly the whole time.

  7. Yeesh... so a random author knows more about gifted kids than a guidance counselor. This is a man who has an overly healthy opinion of himself.

  8. He basically implies that it's in the best interests of guidance counselors to believe that children are not real complete people because they're so invested in telling them what to do. I don't think he understands how the job is supposed to work.

  9. Many conga rats to Erika! I hope the wedding goes wonderfully. :)

  10. And if those people are better than Card, then there's a chance they
    were in it for the lessons that it mostly doesn't teach, about
    remembering that communication can change everything

    On that note, the biggest problem with Speaker - aside from a certain plot device regarding file permissions - seems pretty easy to fix in principle. But see what you think of this when you get to the actual Speaking.

  11. There's an axiom that goes something like, you're not really wise until you've come to appreciate how stupid you really are.

    In retrospect, I'm probably lucky I didn't meet Ender until college. I was a "gifted" child, best grades in everything, national merit, etc. Lotta bullshit, I now think. For all that I thought I was empathic (like Ender!), I was mostly projecting. "*I* would feel this way in their situation; *I* would do thus for these reasons."

    I knew nothing about - nor was I encouraged or guided to learn - being poor or homeless or differently-abled or being black or brown or any color other than lily white. I didn't understand that persecutions of me for being fat, curly-haired, and disabled fit on a larger spectrum than just me ruling and them drooling.

    I look back on who I was with embarrassment not because I didn't know these things, but because I didn't know there was more to know. I GOT GOOD GRADES, WHAT MORE IS THERE? Quite a lot, actually, and most of it never even hinted at by my teachers and caretakers.

    I'm glad I grew out of that ignorance before I met Ender. Knowing that I don't know this stuff is invaluable to actual empathy rather than me-projection.

  12. "The story is one that you and I will construct together in your memory."

    "Never mind what I wrote; it's what I can get you to think I wrote that counts."

    (I am uncharitable.)

  13. First and foremost, big thank you for this decon. It was enjoyable, enlightening, and thought provoking. I struggled with parts of your analysis because I originally read this book as a 10 year old pudgy nerd boy with no athletic inclinations and far too much golden age humans-are-fundamentally-good SF to reconcile why all of the other kids treated me...less than kindly. This book is crack, as you pointed out in an early comment, for someone fitting this profile. It was heady revenge wish-fulfillment that, to this day, I still have lingering nostalgia for and, at times, it felt like you were dissecting my woobie with gleeful malice.

    That being said, I am starting to believe that this book may have had some deleterious contributions to my psyche and I do question the merits of this book as YA fiction. Books were my friends for some lonely formative years and this story had a strong impact on me at an impressionable part of my life. I don't think I ever consciously thought "I need to be more like Ender!" but, as a child, you create mental models based on your limited experiences and try to emulate what you see.

    In my experience, trying to emulate Ender's coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and abuse will not, in the long run, make you very happy nor mentally healthy. Embracing the notion that I'LL SHOW THEM by being the best, might make you feel sanctimonious and smarter-than-thou. However, that is cold comfort once you realize that just such an attitude maaaay be contributing a bit to why people are being jerks to you.

    It's hard to say how much it had to do with this book but I really internalized the "letting other people see my sadness and anger is a weakness" concept. At first I did so in order to try and spite my tormentors. Because ten year olds are super great at hiding their emotions. When I finally broke down and sought help from my dad I got the faintly-disappointed-in-you toned response of "you need to learn to deal with bullies" and "we're enrolling you in martial arts classes". Not OSC's fault that my father isn't so great with empathy and teaching conflict resolution skills but, Ender's Game does seem to happily advocate for violence when you feel your back is against the wall (as long as you're super remorseful about it). At least, this is what ten year old me brilliantly deduced.

    As it turns out, responding with disproportion violence to physical bullying has unsettling real world consequences that the book fails to cover.

    Lastly, I really liked what Ana Mardoll said about real empathy versus the hollow empathy that this book panders.

  14. Mazel Tov on the wedding, Erika!

    As for this introduction, well, I tried living it the Ender way, for the most part, but the good thing was that I had multiple people who were quite skilled at driving pins through any balloons of grandeur or depression I might have had. So I didn't have to do quite so much of SHOW THEM ALL, and when I got to university, I was able to take it all in stride a lot better. As Ana says, real empathy is better than any substitute we can create.

    I remember reading Ender's Game, and I think I was more interested in the plot twist at the end than any of trying to empathize with Ender. Missed opportunity for OSC, I suppose.

    This introduction certainly seems like retroactive justification and quite a bit of self-ego-boosting about how wonderful the book must be because the kids like it and the critics and adults don't. I find it interesting, because when authors usually go for the "kids are the important audience" justification, warranted or no, it's because they believe the book helps give voice to those who are normally voiceless, or helps assure those kids that there are others like them out there. If your main character is a misanthrope who seeks to be better than everyone else and in the end is still tricked into doing a horrible thing, I'm not sure you'll get much of a draw. Even if they forget that last part, it seems odd to be bragging about how well your book works with people who appear to hate everyone around them, yeh?

    Next up: How Ender got his revenge on the Goddamned Villains?

  15. Orson Scott Card routinely decries all forms of fanfiction and the fans who write fanfic.

    I noticed when he wrote three fanfic chapters to open his novelisation of "The Abyss" (which, like any good fanfic writer, he wrote from the screened version, not from the initial script) that in his introduction, he did not identify his fanfic about the characters as fanfic: he seemed to think he was doing something terribly splendid and unusual and difficult.

    (The opening three chapters of The Abyss are absolutely terrific fanfic, by the way: they take three basically unsympathetic characters from the movie and give them depth and backstory that makes sense of their characters. I enjoyed OSC's fanfic of the movie much better than I enjoyed the movie. This does not keep me from noticing Problematic Stuff about the fanfic and the movie, but I did enjoy it.)

    I noticed that when he wrote his "Foundation" fanfic story in tribute to Isaac Asimov, he very carefully explained that this wasn't REALLY fanfic.

    I noticed that when Ender's Shadow came out, he explains in the intro that he's doing something massively original and daring, going back to re-tell the same story from a different POV character... you know, what in fanfic we call a paraquel.

    Orson Scott Card denigrates fanfiction writers, loves writing fanfic, therefore whenever he writes fanfic, it's Special Snowflake Fanfic.

    And in Ender's Game he wrote a novel that's far more popular than any of his other output, that he received a prestigious award for writing, that's on the US Marines approved list of books for officer cadets to read - and the whole intro, I read as him bloviating from the depths of ego about how good he is, when the truth is, I don't think he has the least idea why EG took off in a way none of his other books did.

  16. I have just added a link to a DailyDot article I found which recs some OSC fanfic (and quotes some more egregious comments from Card on fanfic) and the whole comment went into moderation.

    (I'm delighted that you're delighted, Ana.)

  17. Fixed that. Disqus can be so touchy. I hadn't heard of OSC's rubbish about fanfiction but it really does fit so well with the rest of his narcissism and self-selection bias.

  18. It's kind of like, to me, how very hard Margaret Atwood tries to insist that her post-apocalyptic bioengineering-heavy future society explorations are NOT SF, because SF is that horrible gang-ridden ghetto of awfulness OVER THERE and what she writes is SRS FIKSHUN, YO.

    Handmaid's Tale is, apparently, also totally not SF. Because she hates SF and SF is always shoddy and her books are lovely crafted things, so that's not what she writes.

  19. Atwood has softened over the years, and is willing to accept 'social science fiction' as a reasonable descriptor of her works. She used dismissive language early on, but I think she also had concerns about the way people would approach the books, the aspects they would be paying attention to or not depending no how it was labelled. She may have been writing science fiction, but not in the tradition of sci-fi authors who came before her, such that if the reader is looking for robust worldbuilding and scientific hypotheticals to explain everything, they'd be disappointed. I do think there's reason to debate genre labels--I wrote about it once at my old blogs, ages ago. That said, Terry Goodkind apparently remains firm that the Sword of Truth books are not 'fantasy', and that's pretty clearly all about making people understand how much more important his books are than 'fantasy'.

  20. The other thing I never see brought up wrt to Atwood and SciFi -- and I don't blame people for not thinking this, because it's not something everyone is aware of -- is that SciFi is VERY MUCH an old boys' club. I mean, Harlan Ellison groped Connie Willis' breasts on stage in 2006.

    TWO THOUSAND AND SIX. Handmaid's Tale was published in 1985, i.e. 20 years prior to that. Isaac Asimov was still alive, and may well have still been going around grabbing womens' butts at conferences. I cannot for a moment blame Atwood for not wanting to be lumped in with a genre set which would pretty much require her to go to conferences with other scifi authors and be groped and pinched and man-handled.

    She's written extensively about how difficult it was to be a grad student and female and in literature and all the sexual harassment that went along with, and... if there were a genre MORE associated with sexual harassment of its female authors than SciFi, then I don't know what it could be. I love-love-love SciFi, but if I had a chance to be a Famous Author, I don't know that I'd want to be lumped in with that set, either.

    But the story has been chalked up to nothing more than genre snobbery and I've never once seen someone say, "hey, maybe she just didn't want to play grab-ass with Asimov". Because, you know, that would require KNOWING about it, and sexism is SciFi's best kept secret elephant. (I didn't even know about Asimov until maybe last year? Yeah.)

  21. That's also a good point--and even if it had nothing to do with convention attendance, I can easily see her not wanting to be associated with a genre with so many sexist and misogynistic authors and narratives, and feeling that if anything she'd rather try to start a new speculative branch that wasn't laden with those kinds of problems.

  22. Right. And it's a book about women being dehumanized into sexual slaves. I can imagine, ahem, being concerned that the Classic Scifi audience might miss all the feminism given that stuff like that happens unironically in scifi all the time.

    I mean, when were the Gor books published, again?

  23. Slightly off-topic, perhaps, but does anyone know if there's a discernible reason that 75% of the time I visit blogspot, the comments are invisible to me & I can't get to them? Is this a known issue, or just my internet being uniquely weird?

  24. Disqus hates older browsers, if that helps at all. And mobile browsers.

  25. Hm. Using an updated version of Chrome on my laptop, so hopefully not an issue, but thanks.

  26. I have this problem using fully updated Opera (on Ubuntu). I suspect it’s related to the slowness of my connection (but don’t really know).

  27. By "invisible" do you mean you get the "Disqus is having trouble loading comments" message? If so, I see that fairly frequently. (Using current Firefox on a computer so new it squeaks.) If the provided "Try reloading" link doesn't work, reloading the page usually does.

  28. Ok, I know I'm forever and a day late, but can I just go on record as saying that everything Card claims is completely at odds with his statements on how he came up with the damn thing in his book on writing.

  29. I don't know, I mean, the first time I read The Great Gatsby, I thought the title character was black from the way everyone was treating him instead of just New Money. So in the story constructed in my memory, he's black. In all the bullshit of his intro, that line rings the most true for me. There's the creator's intent, the text of the story, and the consumer's interpretation. You can't remove the Self from the equation when reading a peice, and you can't remove the Text, but... you can definitely remove the Creator. :D

  30. No, you're right, that was a nasty crack. Let me cop to its nastiness. (It was meant to be short and snappy, what can I say.) The one caveat I would introduce is that you keep the power in the reader's hands, to the extent of "removing the creator." But listen to what Card says. He says that the story you end up with is the story you (because he can't leave you out of the equation completely) and he "construct in your memory." What you're claiming is the power to play with an author's text — good for you. What Card (as I read it, though as I've warned you, I'm uncharitable, particularly to this writer, which isn't a bit fair, but that's the way it is) is claiming is the power to play around with your brain. If I were to envision a scene in which you and Card were hanging around together in The Overworld, you'd be telling him "I can mess with you" to which he'd reply "Not really because I messed with you first." It's all about agency, IOW. Who retains the final power to pass judgement and say what's what? You and Card come up with two different answers to that question. (JMO.)

  31. I dunno. I mean, definitely, we bring ourselves to the reading. But I'm not sure that makes it a VALID reading, or even a problem-free one.

    [CN: Racism]

    Example: All those people who read Rue in The Hunger Games as white are factually wrong. And they're morally wrong to insist that Rue's actress in the movie should have been white because they felt they couldn't sympathize with a black girl. "But I read it that way" isn't necessarily a catch-all excuse -- some readings are objectively wrong (i.e., mistaken) and some readings are wrong in other ways (e.g., problematic interpretations).

  32. What'd he claim there?

  33. I sometimes don’t even get that much; just the post with no mention of Disqus or of comments.

  34. I assume you’re going to read the entire book first, then post about it? Or is it going to be “Will Reads Speaker for the Dead” like what Mark Oshiro does?

  35. It looks like it will be more difficult to find the book than I would have guessed. So, going from memory:

    1 It started with the training room. That was the core, the center, the thing around which everything else grew.

    2 Gradually things got tacked on to training room to make a fuller story thus Ender's Game. Zero-G combat training first, everything else works outward from there, the result is Ender's Game.

    3 The idea of a speaker for the dead came to him but he didn't know who the dead were or who was speaking for them.

    4 He realized "Ender" and things just fell into place, thus: Speaker for the Dead.

    What you will note is not in there is this part of Will's post:
    Card says that Ender's Game started with speculation fuelled by Asimov's Foundation series and trying to imagine what the future would be like if technology advanced but people mostly didn't, except for the few people "who, not through genetic change, but through learned skills, are able to understand and heal the minds of other people".

  36. For Speaker, I'm going to go the Oshiro route and see how that changes things. The Ender's Game posts were obviously heavily influenced by my knowing the whole time where we were going; time to try the other way.

  37. The steps you lay out are not completely unlike what Card says; his speculative phase produced both the 'Speaker' concept and, separately, the battleroom, and then he mashed the two together because Speaker lacked a protagonist. (If I recall correctly, Card's wife was the one who actually suggested Ender, and Card then decided he would need to greatly expand the Game short story in order to have Ender ready to be Speaker.)

  38. I'd need to actually crack open the book I have, which I currently am not totally sure where it is, to check to see if that can fit what he said before, but until then I'll assume accuracy and say I was wrong about him telling two different stories. Sorry, OSC.

    If that is accurate, my (often faulty) memory was that he said that Ender's Game was basically/entirely completed when Ender was made speaker, then it really does mean that Ender's Game was written entirely as set up (which can work: see .hack//Sign, which stands alone just fine) that you've got to trudge through to get to Speaker where the speculation he says started the whole thing actually is explored (one presumes, I have not read Speaker for the Dead.)

  39. How does all this fit with the fact that Ender's Game started as a short story in '77? (The book is '85, and Speaker for the Dead '86, assuming wikipedia is accurate about all of this.) I mean, I can see elaborating on Ender's Game (the book) to give a basis for Speaker for the Dead, but I'm not sure how the short story fits into all this. (Though it may explain why the book is so disjointed, if it's the result of a short story being filled out to fit an entirely different concept he now wants to run with.)

  40. Though it may explain why the book is so disjointed, if it's the result of a short story being filled out to fit an entirely different concept he now wants to run with.

    Basically. The short story was well-received on its own, so someone said Ender would make a good hero for Speaker, so Card turned Game into its own novel as backstory.

  41. Ender's Game is gospel truth for plain honest folks who don't need no fancy book-larnin', and it's also super-deep holy writ that can only be properly appreciated by geniuses so awesome no one else understands them. That is a totally accurate description of this YA novel about space laser tag.

    Even when I was a teenager and eating up Card's persecuted-nerd fantasies like they were peanut-butter sundaes, I thought he sounded like someone who never got over the ego trip of being put in the gifted class in elementary school.

  42. Was Ender a murderer in the short story as well?

  43. There were no such characters as Stilson or Bonzo, and Ender never killed anyone except, unknowingly, the enemy. (BTW you can legally read the story for free at Card’s site, in the library section.)

  44. It is so much less nauseating than Hubbard's introduction to _Battlefield Earth_, though. At least Card doesn't call Ender's Game the best SF work ever the way Hubbard does his.

  45. That's what I've been getting. In fact, I couldn't even reply to comments in my inbox - this is the first time in 13 days the comments have loaded for me, and I check this site daily.

  46. My reply seems to have vanished. Anyway, he wasn’t; the characters of Bonzo and Stilson are only in the novel.

  47. Coming late to the party, but Samuel R. Delany has pointed out that one of the ways in which science-fiction is ghettoised is that a writer gets paid much less for writing science-fiction than they do for writing "mainstream" fiction. There are sound economic reasons why Margaret Atwood (and her publisher, and her agent) would not want her to be tagged as a "science-fiction writer".