Sunday, December 8, 2013

Speaker for the Dead, chapter one, part one, in which nothing ever changes

That hiatus went on a bit longer than intended.  November wasn't a great month.  (Parts of it were good!  The blogqueen got married and it was pretty awesome even though I didn't get to swordfight anyone as had been suggested!)  But things have calmed down again and I am in possession of a borrowed copy of Speaker for the Dead, the book whose essence was apparently so wonderful that the author wrote Ender's Game just to give Speaker its hero.  Unlike Ender's Game, I've never read this book before and I only know tiny fragments of what happens, so rather than the kind of long-view thread-picking I was doing with the last series, this is going to be a much more as-it-hits-me analysis and I may make hilariously wrong predictions or interpretations along the way.  Sound good to everyone?  Cool.  Let's roll.

(Content: colonisation, racism.  Fun content: I'm just going to link everything ever.)

Speaker for the Dead: p. 1--7
Prologue

The book doesn't quite start with the prologue; first there's the introduction again (which I'm skipping because it again has spoilers and because doing the Ender introduction at the end of the book was far more effective), then some family trees of Portuguese-named cast members, then some explanation of how to pronounce letters in Portuguese names, which kind of hilariously devolves into 'this is obviously all much too complicated for you readers so don't worry about it, ahah'.  Card keeps on keepin' on.  Then we get to the prologue.

The calendar was apparently reset when the Starways Congress was established, which I'm going to assume is the Space UN, so it's the year 1830 when a robot scout ship identifies a planet suitable for humanoid life and Congress gives the high-population planet Baía (that i is accented, but it's hard to tell in this font) permission to explore and thus spread out some of their excess people.  They land 56 years later, 1886, relativity being what it is, and they are all Portuguese-speaking ethnically-Brazilian Catholics, because if we can be sure of one thing it's that three* millennia into the future we will definitely still have the same nationalistic, religious, and linguistic categories that we have today.  (English has mutated into 'Stark', probably short for 'Starways Common' or something, and it is everyone's first language, obviously.  Portuguese is still Portuguese, though.)

I suppose from their perspective it's been less than three millennia by some degree, since people keep losing decades whenever they travel, which should lead to interesting situations for some people and terrifying transformations of the universe from the perspective of others.  I mean, imagine that back in 1900 CE we were all in contact by magic instant radio with England, and they're all "Oi, Germany seems like it could be the centre of some big trouble, want to pop over and help keep an eye on things" and we're all "Hell yeah,let me get in my relativistic boat", and then we arrive a century later and now they're all "No worries, nothing a couple of world wars and the devastation of Russia couldn't solve, too bad you missed the Beatles, but have you heard of One Direction" and in a panic we radio home and Canada is like "We're still super-racist to First Nations and Inuit but check out this marriage equality" and then the USA busts in with "Check out mah nukes I'VE BEEN TO THE MOON" and this is happening all over the galaxy all the time.  You might as well have Leifr Eiríksson trying to make conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson.  The idea of 'history' becomes a complete mess.  God, I hope that's what this book is about.

Anyway, the people of Baía aren't quite in that situation, since they presumably descended from a single Earth colony ship and spent less than 2500 years of Earth-time travelling through space, so the implication should still be that their planet is well-established and old and they're just very set in their ways.  (It occurs to me that it must be kind of hard to be Catholic when contact with the Vatican is disrupted by time dilation.)  They are so dedicated that when these Portuguese-speaking ethnically-Brazilian people land on this new planet they name it Lusitania, last used as the name of Portugal in 891 CE.  Four thousand years later they can't think of a better name for this planet they're colonising that already has native sentient life.  Well.  That seems appropriate, but probably not for the reasons that Card thinks it does.

Within five days of landing, they have found the indigenous people, whom they originally considered animals, named them porquinhos/piggies, and realised they're actually sapient and "not animals at all".
For the first time since the Xenocide of the Buggers by the monstrous Ender, humans had found intelligent alien life.  The piggies were technologically primitive, but they used tools and built houses and spoke a language.  "It is another chance God has given us," declared Archcardinal Pio of Baía.  "We can be redeemed for the destruction of the buggers."
Really, first 'buggers' and now 'piggies'?  Can I suggest humanity put someone else in charge of naming alien species?  Maybe a sociologist should hang out with these scientists to point out that dismissive and diminishing nicknames are squished right up against slurs and both already contribute to the devaluation of humans so they'll probably do a real number on our views of 'primitive' aliens?

Also, modern North Americans mostly don't give a fuck about the genocide that their ancestors and country-founders conducted on this very continent less than five hundred years ago.  Here we're given to believe that the people of the galaxy are still super-guilty about Ender's single-handed destruction of the Formics from three thousand years earlier, the only evidence for which is an anonymous biography/eulogy also from three thousand years earlier?  But at the very least this apparently plays well politically, so everyone agrees that above all else "the piggies were not to be disturbed".  Of course, the Lusitanians are still allowed to form a colony from Baía on that world, guaranteeing that sooner or later they're going to run into each other and there will be disturbance.  They're not quite in Prime Directive territory yet.  If they're that concerned, settling at all seems like a hugely unnecessary risk.  A scientific outpost at most.  Goddammit, humanity.

Chapter One: Pipo

In place of the old Featureless Dialogue of Faceless Voices, we have a fragment of a letter from Demosthenes "to the Framlings", which I understand better than I should because I've encountered the words 'raman' and 'varelse' before.
The difference between raman and varelse is not in the creature judged, but in the creature judging. When we declare an alien species to be raman, it does not mean that they have passed a threshold of moral maturity.  It means that we have.
'Raman' are beings we can understand and value in the same way that we do humanity; 'varelse' are aliens that are more foreign and so harder to empathise or interact with.  This is, broadly, a good point.  I just find it so weird coming from a sexist, racist, homophobe who named his innocent and worthy aliens 'buggers' and 'piggies'.

Despite the whole 'they are not to be disturbed' deal, we now join Pipo, who apparently meets semi-regularly with a porquinho (god, I hope we get a better name for them) called Rooter (get it, like pigs?) in a clearing somewhere and they talk, although Pipo apparently isn't allowed to ask direct questions.  Rooter is basically a rebellious teenager, but smart enough that he apparently manipulates Pipo as well--into doing what, it doesn't say.  Also, he's already learned Portuguese.  Portuguese.  Either they really, really suck at this 'no disturbing the indigenous people' law or Rooter is a linguistic genius who would put most humans to shame.
The earliest visitors to this world had started calling them [piggies] in their first reports back in '86, and by the time Lusitania Colony was founded in 1925, the name was indelible.  The xenologers scattered among the Hundred Worlds wrote of them as "Lusitanian Aborigines", though Pipo knew perfectly well that this was merely a matter of professional dignity; except in scholarly papers, xenologers no doubt called them piggies, too.  As for Pipo, he usually called them pequininos, and they seemed not to object, for now they called themselves "Little Ones."  Still, dignity or not, there was no denying it.  At moments like this, Rooter looked like a hog on its hind legs.
The correct name for a person is what they say it is.  Little Ones.  Gotcha.

Rooter has been clambering around and Pipo calls him an acrobat, from which he quickly deduces that humanity must have people whose job it is to leap and tumble for show.  Pipo sighs and curses himself because he's let loose information about humanity and that is verboten.  I'm not sure how the hell the existence of acrobats is a state secret but the existence of interstellar-venturing aliens is considered okay.  He changes the subject, but Rooter quickly gets back by asking Pipo to show off his hovercraft to Rooter's friends, trying to put Pipo in the position of either breaking the law or humiliating Rooter and showing disrespect.  Oh, and apparently Rooter speaks Stark as well as Portuguese and at least one of their own languages.  Rooter quite reasonably asserts that this is because his people are smarter than humans, and then tells Pipo to shove off, which he quickly does, picking up his teenage son/apprentice as he goes.

On the way home, Pipo muses on words in Stark (xenologer) and Portuguese (zenador) and how the ansible is the only thing keeping all of humanity speaking a common language.  He muses that without constant outside contact, the Lusitanians would probably end up speaking some fusion of Stark and Portuguese and be mutually incomprehensible with any of the other hundreds of dialects that would form across human civilisation.  And this too is weird to me, because here on our one world of Earth we've already seen English transform into potentially-incomprehensible dialects within single countries (consider, for example, AAVE) and that's with people speaking the same language in the same city, let alone across a hundred different planets.  Stellar clusters don't have variation?  Language transforms all the time.  The introduction of a specific kind of blogging interface is arguably responsible for new vernacular grammatical constructions in English that make no sense when compared to the lessons we were taught at home or school.  The ansible is, for all purposes, the galactic internet, or more accurately the infrastructure on which the galactic internet resides, and it's not going to preserve Stark any more than Pinterest has contributed to the preservation and spread of Received Pronunciation.

Anyway.

Pipo figures it'll be the usual long evening of making notes with Libo and reviewing each other's reports before uploading them to the ansible network for the benefit of xenologers across the galaxy.  Instead, he finds the monastic Dona Cristã waiting to talk to him.
Dona Cristã was a brilliant and engaging, perhaps even beautiful, young woman, but she was first and foremost a monk of the order of the Filhos de Mente de Crista, Children of the Mind of Christ, and she was not beautiful to behold when she was angry at ignorance and stupidity.  It was amazing the number of quite intelligent people whose ignorance and stupidity had melted somewhat in the fire of her scorn.
I'm not sure if that's supposed to mean that she unreasonably thinks everyone is stupid, or if she's so smart that she even shows smart people that they're lacking.  I'm a tiny bit surprised that we've apparently abandoned the Ender's Game tradition, ignoring women to talk about beautiful adolescent boys, in favour of the more popular tradition of women needing to be beautiful and having their looks commented upon even when their defining characteristics are completely unrelated.  But I guess there's still time.

Dona Cristã is there to talk about Novinha, orphan daughter of the genius xenobiologists who cured the Descolada plague that almost wiped out the colony eight years earlier.  The description of the plague is beyond hideous, so no quoting of that--Pipo muses on types of grief, sharing his mourning (for his lost daughter Maria) with the community in requiem mass, whereas Novinha lost her parents while the rest of the colony rejoiced because they found the cure.
After the mass she walked in bitter solitude amid the crowds of well-meaning people who cruelly told her that her parents were sure to be saints, sure to sit at the right hand of God.  What kind of comfort is that for a child?  Pipo whispered aloud to his wife, "She'll never forgive us for today." 
"Forgive?"  Conceiçāo was not one of those wives who instantly understand her husband's train of thought.  "We didn't kill her parents..." 
"But we're all rejoicing today, aren't we?  She'll never forgive us for that." 
"Nonsense.  She doesn't understand anyway; she's too young." 
She understands, Pipo thought.  Didn't Maria understand things when she was even younger than Novinha is now?
Lady roll call!  We have: the aggressive beautiful angry teacher-nun, the wife who doesn't understand her husband or respect small children's maturity and awareness, and the memory of the tragically-dead smart daughter.  Awesome.  Top marks.

I see we're also keeping the Ender's Game moral that no one appreciates children as actual people, although instead of six-year-olds to save the day we've now got Rooter, Libo, and Novinha around.  Not sure when Ender will show up (not for a couple of chapters, I think), but he should be, what, in his mid-twenties now at least, so he probably isn't a good candidate to validate and vindicate unappreciated brilliant teenagers.  I wonder if that was always an aspect of Speaker, or if it came in after Ender's Game had already been written.  Or maybe it'll be dropped entirely after this acknowledgement.  I legitimately don't know!  It's exciting.  Are you excited?  I'm excited.  Come back next week when we find out exactly what Dona "Angry Hot Nun" Cristã has to tell us about Novinha and we muse further on the alienness of aliens!

---

*I originally got the times wrong; I assumed that the Starways Congress was established not longer after Ender's Game, but apparently it took something like a millennium just for that.  So, three thousand years since Ender's Game.  Not for everyone, certainly not for Ender, but for Earth, it's been three thousand years.  For a sense of scale, three thousand years ago from our modern day, the Phoenicians had just invented their alphabet, South Asians invented Tamil, the Kenyans started farming, and the Philistines stole the Ark of the Covenant.  Latin hadn't been invented yet.  It's a long freaking time.

23 comments:

  1. I'm so happy that you are starting this book!
    Speaker for the Dead was one of the first books I've read in English, some twenty years ago. At the time I was aware of the existence of something like the internet, but as I had no access to it, I found nothing weird about the ansible as described. Later as I started using the internet I would sometimes remember the book and how there seemed to be no privacy or anonymity in it, but thinking now 3000 years is a long time and we have today political and economical interests that would like nothing less than doing away with those same privacy and anonymity, even without Peter.
    I had fun trying to attribute the weird Portuguese in it to the time lapse instead of the superficial knowledge of the author, because the second interpretation would pull me right out of the story, but I'd not allways succeed.
    I'll try to comment on other things (race, sex, biology, catholicism as seen from very much the outside, etc) as they appear to avoid spoiling, but if I don't menage to comment very often, I would like you to know I'll be following it eagerly. Thank you for doing this.
    Patricia.

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  2. Thank you in return! I can't judge the Portuguese at all (except to say that I've learned more alt-codes for accented characters in the last two days than ever before) so if you or anyone else who actually knows the language can comment, that would be brilliant. Card seems to have a thing about that region; the Shadow series also features a Spanish nun/teacher in a major role.

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  3. Card did his stint as an LDS missionary in Brazil, so he presumably retains some interest in it.

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  4. Also, modern North Americans mostly don't give a fuck about the genocide that their ancestors and country-founders conducted on this very continent less than five hundred years ago.
    Here we're given to believe that the people of the galaxy are still
    super-guilty about Ender's single-handed destruction of the Formics from
    three thousand years earlier, the only evidence for which is an
    anonymous biography/eulogy also from three thousand years earlier?



    The previous book claimed that biography was the source of the main ("only") religion of the colonies. Which sadly makes a lot of sense, as Speaker Ender depicted the Hive Queen as giving people permission to settle her old planets (IZ COOL EVRYONE, JUST DUMP MA BODIES IN THE COMPOST). So his account of the genocide became the default. Like our fictionalized-Squanto but theoretically harsher and more accurate.


    Card does not seem remotely consistent about the religious demographics of Starways Galaxy. But perhaps he has some weird ideas about how those numbers change over time. Or (human space being large) we may be seeing a series of exceptions, which are defensive for that reason. The fact that nobody has killed Speaker Andrew Wiggin yet actually supports that theory.

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  5. I have finally learned not to drink anything while reading your posts, so yay I didn't have to mop my screen. It's been years since I read this book and I missed a lot of the sexism. I do remember disliking the book because of how incredibly patronizing it was towards the Little Ones. I also remember wondering how any reasonably intelligent scientist could miss how brilliant Rooter clearly was. Having learned a second language I know exactly how hard it can be even with a patient teacher helping you. For an ALIEN to learn two human languages from a human who doesn't appear to be trying to teach him and who is trying hard to give him no information or cultural background is beyond amazing.

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  6. "Piggies" seems more a POV thing. Card is establishing straight away that humans still haven't shed their dehumanizing instincts, even when the natives they're dehumanizing are clearly more clever than the humans. It doesn't mean readers are supposed to think of them derisively.

    Wow, I just defended OSC's intentions without a single qualification. Weird. Oh well, if you get to Xenocide, I'll be throwing in my fair share of whatnapples.

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  7. I don't know but already I'm having bad feelings about it when the author knowingly names his great colonial experiment after a torpedoed cruise ship, you know, the one sometimes mentioned in the same breath as Titanic? Don't tell me he didn't mean to do that.

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  8. It's not so much that I think he explicitly thinks "I will call them this so the readers look down on them" so much as I'm not sure he does think there's anything wrong with the name. If he does, I'll be looking to see that called out in-text, and I will be pleased if/when it does. So far, the narrative also calls them piggies, which suggests it's either supposed to be a neutral name or the narrative itself is meant to be so close to the characters' thoughts as to be unreliable.

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  9. Awesome beginning.


    But now I have to change how I looked at the series, I've read the entire series (even some of the side offshoots about bean), but sticking to the main books (Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Dead) with a 3000+ year gap between Ender's game and Speaker for the Dead the religious aspects of the latter two books really begin to make no sense whatsoever. The cultural split to differing planets generating "Cultural Planets" was bad enough. But add in to that 3000 years of change with at least the assumption that most people would go to one planet and stay, religion should be far far different.

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  10. Depends on how tight the third person is.


    If memory serves, the book won't be switching to "Little Ones" any time ever. Not even when we're in Ender's POV ... which does support your point.

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  11. Oh boy, Sci-Fi writers and their lack of sense of scale! Whaddaya wanna bet technology has not changed at all since Ender's Game?

    I'm still with the 'proto-40k' theory. They don't change in forever either! (it's set at least 25,000 years in the future...)

    The ansible makes the world here kind of odd. You have a society that cannot travel among itself, but *can* communicate readily. In that sense, it sorta makes sense for their to be a 'galactic language', used across the ansible, which is mostly consistent. Perhaps not 'preserved', but consistent.

    "Of course, the Lusitanians are still allowed to form a colony from Baía on that world, guaranteeing that sooner or later they're going to run into each other and there will be disturbance. They're not quite in Prime Directive territory yet. If they're that concerned, settling at all seems like a hugely unnecessary risk. A scientific outpost at most. Goddammit, humanity."
    Since they didn't realize they were sapient until *after* they started the colony, it's entirely possible they can't stop. Remember the hueg energy demands? The ships are already on the way, they were sent hundreds of years ago as far as Baia is concerned, and they can hardly turn back. How does the ansible even interact with relativistic speeds?


    Also, is it 56 years Earth time or 56 years ship time? Wondering how big the Starways Congress actually is...


    Though, honestly, I'd say 'leave them alone' is probably a terrible attitude towards other species. If they have common needs - which they probably do, if only in the form of raw materials, they'll inevitably come into conflict over resources, and that really can't end well. They only way to prevent this conflict is to make their interests synonymous...

    Actually, given the ansible and whatnot, it seems like sleeper services (or whatever pseudo-generation ships they use) shouldn't be a thing. The Ansible is already a form of telepathy. Given 3000 years, I can imagine it'd be perfected to the point it could be used for 'beaming'. If it can send thoughts, what's to stop it from sending an entire mind, with the proper refinement? Worst case scenario you just need a seed ship to build a reciever on the to-be-colonized world. Has the advantage of being a heck of a lot cheaper, too.

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  12. Whaddaya wanna bet technology has not changed at all since Ender's Game?

    Their stardrives certainly don't seem to have improved, presumably because relativity and the absolute speed of light are being treated as insurmountable barriers, although they're already in the scale of impossible energy demand as you pointed out previously.

    The ships are already on the way, they were sent hundreds of years ago as far as Baia is concerned, and they can hardly turn back. How does the ansible even interact with relativistic speeds?

    We do know the ansible can handle relativistic interactions (it might take eight minutes to receive a one-minute message, but that's all), though I think I misread the wording of the book originally. I thought it was implying that they wanted to colonise this world because they thought it might have sapient aliens and they wanted to meet them. I think I was wrong and they actually just thought 'hey, this world can support humans, let's put some there' and were completely flabbergasted to discover aliens.

    Though--colony ships with no possible escape seem hella dangerous. Since fuel has never been discussed, we have nothing to determine whether return trips are an issue; our only example is Mazer Rackham, who spent fifty years accelerating and decelerating again in a one-person ship, eight years by his perspective. Unlike the Third Invasion fleet, Mazer had to end up where he started again. That means he was able to not only fuel the accel/decel, but maneuver a full circle (or whatever the most efficient course would be).

    We know the first ships landed 56 years (real time, not ship time) after the planet was discovered, and the colony was founded 39 years later, which... does not really give us enough information to determine how long the flight takes in undilated time, although the narrative implies that, once the scouts found the Little Ones, the Congress still figured there was time to cancel colonisation. If finding a habitable planet is so rare, it also seems like just having a colony ship lying around is unlikely, plus there's all the administration to go through to determine who can or can't go and what they should take and who'll be in charge, which I figure has to take a few years to sort out at least. So, on the one hand, it seems like the flight should take less than 39 years, but on the other, if that's true, I can't figure out why the scouts took 56 years, unless Congress is grossly inefficient and took a couple of decades to decide which planet was allowed to even send a scouting party. And given that the rationale given is that Baía is the only planet that's starting to feel crowded, 20 years to agree they have colonisation dibs seems absurd.



    Well, at least Card's been vague enough to avoid another Bonzo the Ageless scenario.

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  13. I'm still with the 'proto-40k' theory. They don't change in forever either! (it's set at least 25,000 years in the future...)



    Admittedly the Imperium of Man has the excuse that their entire culture is based around never changing, ever, while Ender's culture doesn't seem to have any justification for stagnating.

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  14. Wow. That explanation (Ender's biography being the foundation for religion) works, but with an implication that Ender's genocide has the same cultural/religious connotations as Jesus' death and ressurection.
    "Praise Jesus! He died for you!"
    "Praise Ender! He killed for you!"

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  15. Well, everyone supposedly feels deep and pervasive shame at the xenocide of the formics, and I don't think anyone's going to challenge that assertion (but maybe I'll be wrong). So it's not an exact parallel. I don't think anyone is supposed to realise that Ender is the one who wrote The Hive Queen, which is what allows them to simultaneously revere his 'scripture' and hate his legacy. Maybe we'll see those things clash later? Hoping so.

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  16. As I recall, the book doesn't seem to condsider the concept that, as Will said above "The correct name for a person is what they say it is." The choice presented is between the colloquial "Piggies" and the PC/anthropological "Lusitanian Aborigines." Which is odd in context, since the PC term "Formics" has won out over the colloquial "Buggers," but that point is never really discussed either.

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  17. Yes, that's what I'm getting at. Speaker indicates that, in humanity's distant future, everyone calls the aliens 'buggers'. Shadow (I forget if it's Ender's Shadow or Hegemon specifically) quickly gives us 'formic' and everyone only says formic ever again in the books after that. So it's a Watsonian/Doylist situation where either 'formic' falls out of fashion again or we can assume that everyone in Speaker is actually saying whatever their word for 'formic' is but it's written as 'bugger' because of the order the books were written in.

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  18. Admittedly I haven't read the book in a long time, and I'm probably not going to reread it now unless I happen across a copy somewhere in our bookcases, but I have never understood how colony ships are supposed to be a reasonable palliative for overcrowding. What percentage of your population can you reasonably send out? So many that the drop in population isn't entirely made up in a generation or two? Doubt it.

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  19. Y'know, I hadn't thought about that, but it's a really excellent point. Colony ships to a degree made sense for Earth because they were just planning to keep on sending them out indefinitely, but this is a one-time thing for Baía. The only way they could be sending a significant proportion of the population would be if their population was already small--maybe if they were just buying time to establish more infrastructure or something? But they'd be losing time building the colony fleet as well.

    So the purpose of the colony ships can't be to reduce the crowding on Baía; it's got to be something more like 'your colony has proven that they're very good at expanding and reproducing, so you're the most qualified candidates to fill this next world'. Given that more than a few characters talk about how part of the purpose of the colony program is to make sure humanity can never be wiped out (like they might have been in the Second Invasion), and this has direct parallels to Card's philosophising on the need for everyone to have children, it actually all lines up.

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  20. Small point in favor of Pipo - according to google translate pequininos means 'little' in Portuguese, so unless they have expressed a preference for being referred to in English, pequininos could be arguably correct.

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  21. Thanks. I checked several translation sites:

    http://en.bab.la/dictionary/portuguese-english/pequenino
    http://www.wordreference.com/pten/pequenino
    http://www.translation-guide.com/free_online_translators.php?from=Brazilian&to=English

    and they agree. “Piggies” must be a translation of “porquinhos”, then.

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  22. So I think I mentioned that I bought a copy of Speaker just to be able to follow along. I'm already WTFing all over the place.

    It’s the funeral of her parents, she’s the last survivor in her family; yet all around her she can sense the great rejoicing of the people of this colony. Young as she is, does she understand that our joy is the best tribute to her parents?

    [...] Five hundred dead, and more than a hundred masses for the dead here in this colony in the last six months, and all of them were held in an atmosphere of fear and grief and despair. Now, when your parents die, the fear and grief and despair are no less for you than ever before—but no one else shares your pain. It is the relief from pain that is foremost in our minds.

    [...] Today everyone was rejoicing, except her.

    No. What? No. No, this is not how people work. Has OSC really done ZERO reading on community responses to plague? Has he never met, like, actual people? This is so fucked up.

    Everyone in the colony has either lost a friend or relative OR knows someone else who has. Whole families have probably been wiped out. OSC is seriously asking us to believe that peoples' relief at their being a cure would blot out any and all mourning. THAT IS NOT HOW PEOPLE, PLURAL, WORK. (Some individual people may work like that, but not every member of a few thousand strong community.)

    Some people at this funeral would still be in mourning for those that were lost. Some would be in morning that the cure came too late. Others would feel that the cure came too soon; that if they were going to lose their child or spouse or best friend to the plague, it would have been better for it to take them as well.

    Some people are going to be worried that a quarter of their community was wiped out by an unexpected illness. They're going to be worried that the illness might strike again--a different version, immune to this cure, or another illness entirely different from this one but just as deadly. They'd be in mourning for the xenologists for a self-interested, but genuine reason: the people who could best protect them from another outbreak are dead.

    Some people are going to be disheartened and disenchanted by this illness. No doubt they came to this planet to start over, to start new lives--now those new lives are indelibly marked with a tragedy they never intended to experience. The people they brought with them, the people they most wanted in their new lives, are gone. Some people will feel they've lost their purpose to go on.

    Some people are going to be flat-out terrified at this plague, regardless of whether a cure has been found or not. Bam! Here's a reminder that you are mortal. Here's a reminder that for all your science, your best-laid plans don't turn out the way you expected. Here's a reminder that even the best and brightest of your generation aren't immune to random bad chance.

    The assertion that everyone is doing the happy dance because penicillin has been invented or whatever is FLATLY FALSE.

    Pipo’s heart broke for her. Yet he knew that
    even if he tried, he could not conceal his own gladness at the end of
    the Descolada, his rejoicing that none of his other children would be
    taken from him.


    Having said all that, I *am* willing to believe that Pipo is the most terrible person in the entire universe. I'm not ENTIRELY unfair to Orson Scott Card, you see.


    (Seriously: Pipo is terrifyingly stupid. "Yay! The flu is cured so now none of my children will ever die because there are no other illnesses on this alien world!" OH. MY. GOD.)

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