(Content: dysfunctional family, victim-blaming, emotional abuse. Fun content: super awkward RPF.)
Speaker for the Dead: p. 71--83
Chapter Five: Valentine
I don't keep an actual list, but I think Pipo's notes have to be in my top five worst info-dumps ever. Not because they're so clunky (Card does a reasonable job of making them sound natural, and at least he found a justification for Pipo to tell the reader directly about the aliens) but because he gives us bits of information with no linkages. I can't imagine what kinds of conversations they could be having that would let him draw these conclusions and no others. For example, he let it slip one day that he was Libo's father, and the Little Ones were astonished and impressed:
The conclusion is inescapable. The pequeninos that we've known so far are not a whole community, or even typical males. They are either juveniles or old bachelors. Not a one of them has ever sired any children. Not a one has even mated, as nearly as we can figure.HOW?! How can that possibly be the only conclusion? How can he possibly have gained inconclusive evidence as to whether any of them have ever mated? He doesn't even know what mating means for their species! This is like an investigative RPG with a really inept GM who knows what information they want to feed their players but no idea how to hide it, so everything just comes in the form of rumours ex nihilo.
Pipo concludes (because it's true for all primate societies he knows of) that these Little Ones are powerless outcasts, which explains why they flipflop between speaking of females with worship and total contempt, never defying their wishes but still insulting their intelligence. (Personally, I think he should have realised that when all the Little Ones showed up wearing fedoras, but I'm not a xenologer.) He thus discards his theory that the females are nonsentient animals, and concludes that the males he knows are just bitter, which... well, to paraphrase Farnsworth, that theory is less stupid, although he came to it in a profoundly stupid way.
He doesn't quite believe it, though, because he's sure the Little Ones he knows are too smart to just be the least-desirable mates. And for whatnapple, he says he can't report any of this because it would mean admitting he accidentally revealed information. Even though he has admitted to revealing information at later times, like, say, chapter one. So instead he just hides these findings "in Libo's locked personal files, where even my dear wife wouldn't think to look for them", because apparently on Lusitania spouses break each other's trust and privacy six times before breakfast.
Back to Trondheim, to Valentine, eight months pregnant and frustrated that she can't help load the boat for her history class to go on a "söndring", which Google tells me means "difference". I dunno. She met Jakt on her first söndring. They had come to Trondheim like it was any other planet, where Ender would Speak someone's death and she would take a few months to write a history... oh god:
It was a game they played, pretending to be itinerant professors of this and that, while in actually they created or transformed the world's identity, for Demosthenes' essay was always seen as definitive.I just can't with these people anymore.
Card does finally address the whole 'all of these essays are written by Demosthenes' thing by saying that people believe Demosthenes to be a name taken up by a series of individuals, in the same way that there are many Speakers for the Dead. There are theories that some secret council of wise historians reviews sufficiently brilliant writings that are submitted to them and judge if they are worthy of the Demosthenes pseudonym. Apparently no one, despite relativistic travel occurring on a near-daily basis, believes that maybe one author could be skipping around space writing things periodically, and no one is correlating the trail of publications with the travels of the Wiggin siblings. I mean, Ender the Xenocide is supposedly the name everyone knows and hates, but no one has tried to investigate where he actually ended up in life? Did he fake his death a few millennia ago?
Everyone in this galaxy is a colossal twit.
At least Val notes that each world changes her as well, and none more than Trondheim. To get away from all those goddamn Lutherans and Calvinists, she decided to start taking groups of students on camping trips, to live off the land and have intellectual debates in the woods.
Her idea was to break the patterns of intellectual rot that were inevitable at every university. [....] When their daily food depended on their own exertion, their attitudes about what mattered and did not matter in history were bound to change.This is... weirdly Maoist for Card, but okay. First principles, away from the taint of books, not completely out of the ordinary. She hired a boat from Jakt, who fully expected to have to rescue the lot of them within a week, but they did well, built a little village, and produced a mess of brilliant publications on their return. Valentine keeps taking more students camping, and gets to know Jakt: not much education, but he's very Close To The Earth and knows the sea and ice and the skrika, which are apparently seal-like, given the way they're described flopping onto the beaches. (Y'all will recall that Ender just bought a starship full of skrika, of which Jane said some would be eaten and some would be worn. I assumed it was, like, a plant, and now I'm assuming she meant they'd be divided into meat and fur, but I'm enjoying the idea that they chew the fur and wear the meat.)
So Jakt and Valentine were married (by a "Lutheran minister--not a Calvinist" because Card has some serious anti-Calvin grudge apparently) and she rapidly got impregnated and she's due very soon, so they must have been there for almost a year, if not two. (I went back and Ender did indeed say he hadn't spent more than six months on any world except Trondheim.) She has rooted, and she's grateful that Ender understands their wandering is over, so clearly nothing can possibly go wrong and they will all be happy forever.
Ender arrives, and she sees his bag and thinks he's intending to come camping with them, which she notes will kind of defeat the purpose, because Ender's incredible brilliance will infect the other students and the revelations they come to will be the ones he hints at, not their own. I'll give Card this--he's so dedicated to first principles that he's even stopped approving of Ender teaching other people. (Sometimes. Teaching his own classes is still okay. And telling everyone what the lives of dead people really meant. Look, I don't know anymore.)
They greet each other, and joke about whether it'll be okay if Valentine has her kid while camping (yes, because her father will Nordic at her and wrap her in furs), and then out of nowhere Valentine intuits that Ender is leaving Trondheim.
"I can have this baby on söndring, but not on another world."
As she guessed, Ender hadn't meant her to come. "The baby's going to be shockingly blond," said Ender. "She'd look hopelessly out of place on Lusitania. Mostly black Brazilians there."Oh god. I mean, okay, well done on keeping human diversity in the future, Card, but what this means is that lily-white Ender is leaving behind the peaceful world of blonds to go to an all-black planet and teach them how to empathise with the humanoid beings they think are actually just mindless savages. Given that we've already established that the Portuguese flavouring here was inspired by Card's missionary work... this just got so much more uncomfortable. I know it's a science fiction standard to have people basically interchangeable according to their planet, but that is the opposite of a good reason to make everyone black on Bad Colonialist Science World.
They argue a bit over whether things could have been any different, once Valentine met Jakt, given that wife and husband are (assuming all goes well) inevitably going to be emotionally closer than siblings. Plus Card needed to get his reproduction fetish in there somewhere:
"The Wiggin genes were crying out for continuation. I hope you have a dozen more."
"It's considered impolite to have more than four, greedy to go past five, and barbaric to have more than six."Somehow, Valentine saw Ender with his bag on his back and intuited that he was leaving the planet, but she's still shocked that he's leaving today, which I feel just highlights how much the magic intuition of these characters isn't 'extrapolation from small details to a comprehensive whole' but 'direct line to the author'. They might as well have all their brilliance come to them in dream sequences. Anyway, when he reveals that he wants one of Jakt's boats to the spaceport so he can leave in the morning, Valentine quickly turns furious.
"Why are you in such a hurry? The voyage takes decades--"
"Twenty-two years! What difference would a couple of days make? Couldn't you wait a month to see my baby born?"
"In a month, Val, I might not have the courage to leave you."In other words, "This is going to be really hard on one of us, so I've decided it should be you". Ender is a magnificent example of what it looks like one someone has enough empathy to understand other people's emotions but not enough to actually care. Valentine says Ender's done enough by redeeming the formics' memory and should just relax and stay and marry (Ender notes that he'd have to put up with obnoxious Calvinist proselytising), and reminds him of what it was like after their first trip, when they talked to 70-year-old Peter back home.
"It was an improvement, as I recall." Ender was trying to make things lighter.
But Valentine took his words perversely. "Do you think I'll improve, too, in twenty years?"
"I think I'll grieve for you more than if you had died."
"No, Ender, it will be exactly as if I died, and you'll know that you're the one who killed me."These are supposed to be incredibly closely-bonded deeply-empathetic siblings and they talk like dysfunctional co-dependents with a blood feud. It's realistic dialogue for completely different, intentionally awful characters, but these two are supposed to be the most enlightened beings in the galaxy.
Valentine, whom y'all will recall was rejected from Battle School for being too gentle, informs Ender that she won't even write to him for the twenty years he's in space, won't tell him about her daughter growing up, won't speak to him until she's old and she writes her memoir and dedicates it to him.
"To Andrew, my beloved brother. I followed you gladly to two dozen worlds, but you wouldn't stay even two weeks when I asked you."They rant at each other further. Valentine says she's only being cruel because Ender is sneaking away like a burglar in the night, so it's his fault and he can't turn it around on her. Which... I can't even decide who's doing more victim-blaming here, but I'm pretty sure they're both neck-deep in it. It is a fantastic idea for them to get the hell away from each other.
Ender admits that he's rushing because he thought it would hurt less, and says it hurts him to see Valentine growing closer to Jakt and further from him even though he knows that's the way things should be (love is zero-sum, I guess, so growing closer to Jakt while staying close to Ender is nonsense), and eventually he tumbles to a halt and they just hug and weep and he leaves. Valentine goes on the söndring and fails to fully hide her sorrow from her students, and the students wonder if there's some untold story there, so the girl named
Her research somehow takes four years, even though we have no indication that it's more complicated than getting access to a series of passenger manifests. Valentine's daughter Syfte is four and her son Ren is two when Plikt confronts her with a short story she's published, about the oldest people in the universe, a brother and sister and how they finally parted. Plikt has written Real Person Fic about Valentine and Ender. She's apparently missed some details, but on the plus side she hasn't decided there was some kind of terrifying Lannister-esque sex going on.
...She knew enough of their story to write the tale of their good-bye when she decided to stay with her husband, and he to go on, The scene was much tenderer and more affecting than it really had been; Plikt had written what should have happened, if Ender and Valentine had had more sense of theatre.Note that Card himself developed his writing skills as a playwright and editor, so I wonder if he's making sort of an in-joke here, saying that he knows what he's written doesn't look like polished stories normally do because he's made something more realistic. I'm not asserting that's what he did, but writers talking about writing are worth keeping an eye on.
Valentine tries to step lightly around the issues, but then Plikt reveals that she knows Andrew Wiggin is Ender the Xenocide. Val freaks, but Plikt assures her that if she meant to reveal it, she would have already. She's endlessly delighted that, once the Speaker for the Dead revealed Ender's crime, Ender took up the mantle of Speaker himself and travelled the worlds as penance. (Not to beat a dead civilisation, but the fact that everyone thinks HQ&H is absolute fact based on no evidence continues to baffle me.)
"Plikt, mybrother didn't imitate the original Speaker for the Dead. He wrote the Hive Queen and the Hegemon."
When Plikt realized that Valentine was telling the truth, it overwhelmed her. For all these years she had regarded Andrew Wiggin as her subject matter, and the original Speaker for the Dead as her inspiration. To find that they were the same person struck her dumb for half an hour.Does Card not get tired of telling us how casually Ender and Valentine transform and revolutionise everything they touch? I'm bored. How is Card not bored? Ender could make a fricking BLT and no one could ever eat a sandwich again without writing a ballad and ending a war and reuniting with an estranged relative. Valentine invites Plikt to be her co-writer and tutor to her children.
It became the family legend, and as soon as the children were old enough to be discreet, they were told the marvelous stories of their long-lost Uncle Ender, who was thought in every world to be a monster, but in reality was something of a savior, or a prophet, or at least a martyr.Okay then. Savior, prophet, and martyr. Card has declared Ender is Jesus. That's just canon now. Good to be on the same page. Plikt doesn't quite convert Valentine to Lutheranism, but teaches her to appreciate the stability of family life and her five children (so, an "impolite" number but not yet "greedy" according to her earlier assessment), and to understand Ender's destiny in religious terms, as "apostle to the ramen". The stories of Ender of course have mythic power to the kids, and Syfte grows up to aspire to join him on Lusitania and help him.
"What makes you think he'll need help? Your help, anyway?" Plikt was always a skeptic until her student had earned her belief.Conventional teaching and parenting might say that children need the support and belief of their adult guardians in order to have the courage to chase their dreams, but I'm guessing Plikt also read How I Totally Saved The World Through Consistent Child Abuse by Col. H. Graff.
"He didn't do it alone the first time, either, did he?"Oh my god. Syfte actually noticed that Ender's successes have always been incredibly dependent on the other people supporting him--Valentine, yes, but she'd be right if she meant Alai and Petra and Bean and Dink and Bustopher--and she fully expects him to need help again, and to save worlds with him, even if it'll take her twenty-two years to catch up.
Syfte is my new favourite.
She's still worshipful, but she would be, given the stories she was raised on. For Ender, it's only a week or two later, and the pain of losing Valentine is fresh, but the chapter ends with him thinking of Novinha, wondering what she'll be like when he arrives, "for he loved her, as you can only love someone who is an echo of yourself at the time of your deepest sorrow." I'll be looking forward to seeing if that 'wives and husbands are always closer than anyone else' holds true for Ender and Novinha, 'cause I'm guessing not so much.