Sunday, January 26, 2014

Speaker for the Dead, chapter five, in which loving siblings trying to destroy each other

I was researching the relativistic physics from last week's footnote further, and in doing so, noticed that the time dilation effects of travelling at relativistic speeds are all crammed up at the fast end.  What this means is that if we assume humanity can get up to any speed short of lightspeed, Ender's average of 133 years per spaceflight could be on trips that take (from his perspective) a year or two weeks and the speed is still going to be roughly the same (0.99999~ c).  So my conclusion that Card had actually done meaningful math is unfounded, because he could have justified Ender aging ten years or one or fifty with just about exactly the same calculations.  My apologies, folks.  I didn't mean to mislead you about how much science Card actually put in his science fiction.

(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." 
"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 Duty Plikt starts to investigate.

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.

52 comments:

  1. Everyone in this galaxy is a colossal twit.


    This just kind of sums it all up, doesn't it?

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  2. I'm sorry, but every time I see the word "ramen" I gigglesnort because that is of course the blessing of the Pastafarians (ramen = amen)....

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  3. 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.

    Wait, what? There are still historians in this universe? How does that work?? You have Ender Wiggin and Demosthenes, the two people who have influenced humanspace more than anyone else in all history, and yet no-one knows anything about them! After three thousand years, no-one knows that Ender is still alive or who Demosthenes is. What do these supposed historians do!? Do they just sit on their thumbs until Valentine publishes another treatise as Demosthenes (waiting decades to do so because of her interstellar travels) and then fall over themselves declaring it the infallible word of god?

    No-one does any history of their own, or (heaven forfend!) disagrees with Demosthenes' writings? No-one writes biographies on Ender or Demosthenes and tries to figure out who they are? It can't be that no-one was able to figure out their identities, since Plikt the Undergrad was able to suss it out all on her own! None of this makes any sense!

    Everyone in this galaxy is a colossal twit.

    That would appear to be a massive understatement.

    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.

    Uh... Ender isn't any of those things. Savior? Who did he save? It wasn't the humans, since the formics weren't going to attack them again. Was it the formics? That would make even less sense. Ender was the one who wiped out their entire species; the formics were the ones who had the foresight to hide a single queen somewhere Ender wouldn't blow them up (but apparently not enough foresight to not have a breeding population elsewhere?). Is he supposed to be their savior because he's bringing the egg around with plans to let her hatch somewhere? That shouldn't even count, because he's had three thousand years and not actually let her hatch yet! And instead of focusing on doing that, he's now apparently decided to go from planet to planet solving crimes.

    Is he a prophet now? What exactly has he prophesied? Is... is Hive Queen and the Hegemon supposed to be prophecy now? Does that mean that the formics are gods?

    And martyr? Martyrs are people who were persecuted and died for their beliefs. Ender, by contrast, is apparently (one of?) the richest men in the universe; is respected and worshiped by everyone who meets him, who all bow to his ineffable brilliance; has lived for over three thousand years--the exact opposite of dying; and his beliefs, rather than being persecuted, have spread to be the only religion in the universe except when it's not.

    No, I'm pretty sure that monster is closer to the mark.

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  4. This insight (if we can even use that word) comes solely from them being surprised that Pipo is a father?
    Not entire that; it’s also that their respect for him increased once they knew he was a father.

    As for the race part, I don’t know why Card mentions it here at all. There are only one or two times in the course of the novel when Ender’s racial difference from the Lusitanians is mentioned; at one point, a character who sees Ender approaching muses that he is several shades whiter than even the lightest-colored Lusitanian colonists. And it is phrased so as to imply that the colonists have a range of skin colors, too:The skin of his[Ender’s] back was shockingly white; even the few Lusos who were light-complected enough to be called loiros were much darker-skinned.

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  5. ...
    ...
    Never google anything from a Card book. Never. Unless you want to want to Hulk Smash! things.


    So... loiros? It's a real word. A real Portuguese word. Do you want to know what it means? Are you sure? Are you very sure? Okay then.


    It fucking means BLOND.

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  6. Indeed, why is the conclusion inescapable? Look at all the things we (broadly speaking) have gotten wrong about creatures here on earth: assuming two birds were different species because of their different appearance (can't remember what species; anybody know?); assuming that drab-looking bird that's taking care of the eggs is a female(phalaropes); thinking all those offspring were sired by that big male who's making all the noise (too many to count). And that's only a start. Why does Pipo think he inevitably has this right?
    It's only with looking at these books years - decades - after I first read them that I realize just how much you can feel the invisible hand of Orson Scott Card shoving the storyline over to make it end up where he wants it to end up. Why does Val's writing inevitably change a world? Because it does! Of course there were never any worlds where the people looked at Demosthenes' essay and said "Eh, it's okay, but I think D. missed the significance of the retro-agricultural shift of the year whatthefuckever."
    I mean, OSC, it's your story. You wrote it. Write it so it goes where you want it to go, but don't pick it up, drag it over, nail it to a tree, and then tell us it's a natural progression. We can all see the nails and the duct tape and the way your storyline kind of looks like a connect-the-dots puzzle. When these people, whom you repeatedly inform us are supergeniuses with the sort of empathic understanding of even quite alien cultures that allows Ender to write a book that makes people feel pity for a species that tried to wipe them out, are sniping at each other in this sort of ridiculous way, you have lost credibility as to the accuracy of your descriptions.

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  7. What the hell does Card have against Calvin? Did Bill Watterson sleep with his girlfriend back in university?

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  8. Calvinists are strictly a subtype of Lutherans, so yeah, essentially Trondheim is a perfect illustration of how trying to divide populations into categories 1) fails when their society continues to evolve and 2) can't really be done to begin with.

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  9. No-one does any history of their own, or (heaven forfend!) disagrees with Demosthenes' writings?

    Presumably they do, but they're only relevant when Demosthenes hasn't written anything recently. If she has, then everyone's busy falling over themselves to appreciate its truths.

    I'm still trying to figure out how she started out thinking "I will write the history of this fjordtastic blondcellent ice-fishing colony" and ended up having such tremendous insights into the orders of foreignness from neighbour to 'alien that communicates in ways we don't recognise, let alone comprehend'.

    Is he a prophet now? What exactly has he prophesied? Is... is Hive Queen and the Hegemon supposed to be prophecy now?



    I think maybe this is 'prophet' not in the sense of 'foreteller of the future' but 'person who speaks divinely-inspired truth'. In Ender's Game, there's talk of prophets when Graff comes to Valentine asking her to interpret what's going on in Ender's head and how to fix his apparent depression. I think that makes Card the god in question, although that's a comparison that can be made between any author and their work.

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  10. "assuming two birds were different species because of their different appearance (can't remember what species; anybody know?)"

    Eclectus parrots? The males are bright green, while the females are blue and purple.

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  11. I'm still kind of confused regarding the goals of Ender's travels. They don't seem at all compatible. On the one hand, he's roaming the galaxy with Val - going to human colony worlds and mucking with them like a great social science experiment. On the other hand, he's trying to find a safe place for the Formics to repopulate. Does Ender think that a human colony world would be a good place for that? If he realizes that might be, oh, just a smidge problematic, then he's faffing about and putting off that goal that he's supposed to be so emotionally invested in. If he doesn't realize that there might be problems with that, he's not exactly the supergenius he's meant to be. (Or Card understands humans even less well than I thought.)

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  12. I *think* his goal has been to find a world with space to include the formics, and since they need environments much like humans do, and worlds that are suitable for human habitation get colonised pretty quickly, he's been hoping to find a colony world where humans haven't filled up all of the possible apex predator space. Which is tricky if you say "Hey, that looks like an option" and hop in a shuttle but have to cope with 133 years' progress by the time you arrive.


    At the same time, he's been doing his Speaker thing, which I expect the book would tell us is a vital ongoing process in maintaining and increasing humanity's capacity for empathy, and if nothing else ought to keep his book sales pretty high, so that if he reintroduces the formics someday people will first think of HQ&H and not the Scouring of China.


    None of this explains why he hasn't used his enormous wealth to buy his own ship, scout out planets himself, and raise the formics up on a world that humanity hasn't discovered yet. Hell, that would allow him to break the news to the galaxy in the form of "Hey, we didn't kill them all after all, I've discovered a planet with peaceful formics who survived the war!" and elide the rest of the details.

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  13. I know of no explanation. It seems strange enough that Ender keeps his supposedly adored sister in the dark about his compelling reason to roam; but it’s even odder that the supposed supergenius Valentine never realizes he is keeping something from her, or has more reason for his actions than he’s shared!

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  14. I’ve done a search for “translate söndring from Swedish to English” and it appears to mean “splitting” (sundering? don’t know if it’ a cognate or not). Perhaps it refers to physically separating yourselves from the rest of the human race for a time.

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  15. The translation I got was 'difference', but it sounds enough like 'sundering' that I figured that was the implication--physical separation, creating intellectual separation.

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  16. So... Valentine named her first daughter "Purpose" (Syfte) and her first son "Pure" (Ren). This is getting very, very ridiculous. o.o


    As for "söndring", it's not an everyday word in Swedish, but the most literal translation would be "breakage"? It's a noun for things splitting apart. For example, you can say that Luther caused a "söndring" in the Church. I guess Valentine could mean that she's causing a "söndring" by teaching her students in unconventional ways, but it's very awkward usage.

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  17. Thank you for continuing to suffer through with the translation. Card makes such a hash of so many cultural 'influences' that I shouldn't be surprised that he butchers Swedish so consistently, but it's really just the same thing white people do when making up names out of Chinese or especially Japanese words. This man is to multiculturalism what Dan Brown is to art history.

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  18. It's also gross as hell if we have the Hierarchy of We Don't Talk to Those People built by Immortal White People who travel around to worlds full of white people and can't go to worlds full of Black Brazilian People because then their white babies won't fit in.

    Gag. I think I need to go wash my keyboard out.

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  19. Sounds right. Pretty things.

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  20. Something that I just noticed that is now bugging me: What university teaching position allows you to leave with absolutely zero notice? Seriously shouldn't he have a contract or something for through the end of the semester at least? Also for someone who is supposedly defined by being super empathetic, does Ender ever consider the position he is leaving his students in by jetting off like this? Seriously, way to be an ass to your students as well as your sister there Ender.

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  21. Actually, that opens up a whole new can of logistics worms. How can Ender work at all without outing himself as, well, himself? He'd have to apply for a job - and I cannot believe that in the future this would no longer involve any sort of qualifications (especially given the impression Will gives of how the book talks about Jakt) - and then, once hired, he'd have to be paid. Unless in the future all university work is under the table and teachers come and go like modern day laborers, I really don't see how this is working.


    Does Ender just say "Oh, no, I'm not that Andrew Wiggin. I'm another Andrew Wiggin who just happens to also be from 3000 years in the past." a lot or what?


    Also, wouldn't his training be kind of...out of date? Unless he's kept up on whatever subject he's supposed to be teaching over the 3000 years... Wait... did Ender ever even go to college? I mean, he's had 3000 years to do correspondence school, but that doesn't mean he did.


    As for his being an ass, I think it's well established that Ender's super empathy doesn't mean he's nice, decent, polite, or any of the other things one might expect, just that he feels and what he feels is magically true and magically erases all sin from his actions. Because he has feels.

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  22. Ender is Gilderoy Lockhart. That's...that's perfect.

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  23. He took the skrika with him; tune in next week to hear Bosquinha say: “Your kind offer to let us have your cargo of skrika will make you popular enough in the bars, and you can be sure you’ll see plenty of vain women wearing the pelts in the months to come. It’s coming on to autumn.”

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  24. @ skrika:


    Bugs are people and wild pigs may be people, but seals are food. Got it.

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  25. I'm beginning to believe the source material reads like bad Rand fanfic, with the way it insists on first principles and has an unhealthy distrust and racist attitude toward anyone not a white male. There is so much wrong here, it's hard to find an angle to get at it with. Ender leaving Valentine near the end of her pregnancy, though, qualifies. Because she's right - for something that will take years, a few months shouldn't be an issue. Also, can't Ender do some work by ansible for this sort of thing? The background reading on this will likely take a while...

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  26. "And why, several thousand years in the future are people still dividing themselves up by skin color more than anything."



    To be strictly fair, and going on the strength of this passage alone, and totally ignoring what the Colonization Ministry's policies might or might not be, nothing Valentine and Ender say to each other implies that people in the Starways Congress society still think primarily in terms of skin color. What it implies is that they (Ender and Valentine) still think in terms of skin color; at least, it implies that Ender does.

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  27. JMO, but I definitely think this is the point at which he has to choose between Valentine and the Hive Queen, and when the impasse comes up Ender chooses the Hive Queen. I'm not sure what that's supposed to indicate, though. Ender's alienation? His status as the Flying Dutchman? His status as the Wandering Jew? His status as a Really Smart Guy in a universe where genius is always misunderstood? Is this supposed to be understood as some kind of test which Ender passes? There does seem to be an element of deliberate martyrdom involved.

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  28. and then, once hired, he'd have to be paid.

    Actually, I think you've hit upon it. Ender doesn't need to be paid--he's independently wealthy, and he only calls in his medical benefits once every couple of centuries. Sure, he can't make it through a conversation with a teenager without belittling their most cherished religious figures, bursting into tears, or trying to beat them to death, but I'm pretty sure a lot of deans would consider that a perfectly acceptable tradeoff in an adjunct faculty member they're getting for free.

    Come to think of it, Jane probably bribes each university with a fat endowment while he's en route to the planet. She never tells Ender, of course.

    Unless he's kept up on whatever subject he's supposed to be teaching over the 3000 years...

    The subject he's teaching is apparently "Pop Philosophy, History and Sociology, with an emphasis on whatever Demosthenes wrote this year." If anything, he's overqualified.

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  29. With the caveat that I am neither Brazilian or a sociologist, "black Brazilians" are so incredibly non-monolithic. Here's the thing: barring the isolated cultures in the Amazon, Brazil has one of the most integrationist multiracial societies on the planet. I don't mean that they don't have racism, or severe racial inequality--they do. But it's generally of the "Everyone has their place; yours is just at the bottom" variety. Racial separatism and segregationism have never been nearly as popular as they have in the US, among both white racists and black activists.

    Plus, racial categories are very fluid, fine-grained and cut through half the families in Brazil. It's understood that almost everyone is of mixed ancestry, and white and black are simply ends on a continuum. I might be labeled as "brown" (there's like a dozen different shades of "brown" and "mixed" and "sorta yellow") while my father or brother is labeled as "black", because his skin color's a little darker than mine and he acts a little more culturally native or African. If I'm brown, I can potentially "whiten" my family by marrying a lighter-skinned person and raising our kids properly. (This package of racial attitudes is particularly strong in Brazil, but you can find it to some degree across Latin America, as well as in the New Orleans region.)

    So pretty much nobody would respond to population pressure in an ethnically Brazilian society by trying to separate out the black people and shipping them away. It wouldn't be desirable, it wouldn't be politically or socially feasible. (They're also not that numerous--"black" Brazilians make up less than 10% of the populace--so it's not like getting rid of them would particularly help with overpopulation.)

    Oh, and they sure as hell aren't going to ship all the black people to a place called Lusitania. Culturally, that has about the same resonance as if we deported a bunch of Native Americans to a planet called New New England.

    I can imagine a Brazilian colony world ending up much darker than their parent country, mostly because black Brazilians are poorer on average and it's probably the poor people who get shipped into space. And who knows how ethnicities would fluctuate over the millennia. But as long as Card's playing the Epcot Galaxy game, I get to grouse about how badly he's misrepresented modern Brazilians, let alone future ones.

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  30. Oh, and they sure as hell aren't going to ship all the black people to a place called Lusitania.


    There, yes, thank you; I knew there was something logical still bothering me about what we'd been told about this planet's demographics, but I couldn't quite find it. That's it. They named their planet for ancient Portugal, but their introduction to Portuguese language and culture, as ethnic Africans or South Americans, would have been European imperialism and genocide. How does that make sense? The only option that makes any sense to me is that the planet was named by the whiter majority of Baía before the colony launched, but then the ship was filled with the darker-skinned underclass. I am desperately open to alternatives, because that's just wretched.

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  31. Clownfish and barnacles also have interesting setups. Also of course anglerfish.
    Pipo has not even, it occurs to me, verified that what the Little Ones meant by male and female was the same as what he meant. He could have been making a huge mistake simply by assuming that these categories exist in their society/species.

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  32. Also happened with black howler monkeys. Only the adult males are black, while the young & adult females are yellowish. It was initially assumed they were separate species, the females being Mycetes stramineus and the males Mycetes caraya.

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  33. I learned Portuguese last week, convenient how it's just like Spanish with a broken nose.
    Have you… read this book already? Because Ender actually does learn Portuguese in eight days, helped by his prior knowledge of Spanish – and I wish I were kidding.

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  34. The book has already shown Ender using his millenia-old Spanish expertise as an aid in Portuguese.

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  35. Hmmm. Years ago I was on a foreign exchange trip and we had a few people from Mexico and a few people from Brazil, and they carried on whole conversations that were (mostly) mutually intelligible, even though one side was speaking Spanish and the other Portuguese. So the situation seems... possible*. I'm not an expert by any means, though; I know a handful of Spanish 101 stuff and not much else.

    Learning a language completely in eight days is ridiculous either way, but
    fluency in the basic everyday stuff might not be that farfetched.
    (Especially for Ender, Instant Expert at Everything.) Though I do question why he waited until he arrived on the planet to start studying. Why not do intensive language classes during the couple weeks of travel time?

    Doesn't he also have Jane translating stuff in his ear to fall back on?

    (*I would imagine that 3000 years into the future, with the languages separated onto individual planets, there would be a LOT more linguistic drift and this would not be the case, but Card clearly is not playing by those rules. There's no linguistic drift Because Internet and cultures are all weirdly frozen in antiquated setups with no change over millennia. And of course there are no NEW human cultures or languages, either.)

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  36. I read it long ago, when I was wee; now I'm skimming along to refresh my memory.


    Spanish is certainly helpful for learning Portuguese, or puzzling it out from scratch for that matter, and a gifted Spanish-speaker could definitely be able to make themselves understood with a few days of practice. I just like that Ender basically figures out one very easy word in Portuguese and Jane's like "You know Portuguese! You're brilliant, you brilliant man," and Ender's like, "Well, I did learn Spanish in five minutes a while ago so I could visit yet another planet and instantly become their greatest poet/detective/investigative journalist, so y'know, no big D." The egos on these people.

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  37. I think the army covered up Ender's identity at the end of Ender's Game. So, the general public knows that "Ender" is the one who killed all the Formics, but no one knows that Ender = Andrew Wiggin. Which is itself stupid-- why was his official identity at a military school his childhood nickname, and not his legal name? And of course, even if his identity was classified afterwards, 3000 years on the documents would be unclassified and easily accessible. Unless they were "mysteriously destroyed" or Jane has basically buried them somewhere and done covering up of her own? I guess Jane could also theoretically be forging a new identity and appropriate documents for Ender, since she seems to be an all-powerful AI. Though he never seems to go by any other name.

    As for the teaching position-- the only thing I can think of is that maybe Ender's position as a Speaker gives him some kind of prestige that the university would hire him on as a visiting lecturer doing private seminars. So he could show up, talk philosophy with whoever signs up for his classes, and maybe the school gives those students an elective credit or something. In that case the school could just pay his speaking fees (which might be quite low, or free, since he doesn't need the money) and he wouldn't need the background check or contract that an actual professor would.

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  38. How widespread is Calvinism, anyway? I'd never even heard of it in this context, and I grew up in a Lutheran church. Granted from what wikipedia tells me the Calvinist ideas are fairly extreme, and I'm not that familiar even with my own congregation's positions since I drifted away from religion at about age 13, but... it's really weird that Card is making such a point of denouncing this one branch of religion over all others.


    And of course: putting only one religion on a planet is a terrible guarantee of keeping a homogenous culture. Religions change over time, which usually means splitting into different groups as new interpretations emerge. And there's no guarantee that other visiting priests won't show up and convert your population or merge their religion with your own into something new.
    :/

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  39. And of course, even if his identity was classified afterwards, 3000 years on the documents would be unclassified and easily accessible.

    Not according to chapter 2. Because space-governments last three thousand years and can keep things classified for that long.

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  40. Also a major theme I'm seeing is that Ender's super empathy in no way resembles our earth empathy.
    I find everything becomes much more acceptable if you preface everything with "space". So Ender doesn't have empathy, he has space-empathy, which, as you've pointed out, has no relation to our earth empathy.

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  41. I'm not sure if that's government-classified or Ender-classified. Given that we know he's also got super hacking skills, I halfway suspect that Ender is supposed to have locked away his own files so that no one (including governments) can access them.

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  42. Is he a person or a Swiss Army knife? He slices, he dices, he does julienne fries!


    *hem*


    In any event, this would be a lot less WTF if Card had had the good sense to give him a new identity rather than just have him use his given name of Andrew and magically somehow be both able to teach (qualifications?????). Unless he's just supposed to have gotten his qualifications enough after Andrew Ender Xenocide Wiggins's time. (In as much as one can say something's after someone's time in the world Card has given us.)


    Or maybe he just shows up at universities and geniuses at them and they fall all over themselves to get genius boy to share some of his profundity with their students.


    I'm beginning to think Card doesn't like fanfic because your average 15 year old can write less obvious self-insert wish-fulfillment fic.

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  43. "And you can wear the pelts! Very popular on Planet Russia Cyrillia. Rich people pay many pesos for them. People much richer than you."

    "Sure thing, amigo; it's a powerful meme in our culture that we try to keep up with os Russos; that, and we always try to spend more money than people who are richer than us. It's part of the singing and dancing thing. (We also are excellent peelers of grapes.) But, are you sure you've come to the right place? I think you might be looking for Planet Nunavut, which orbits the second star to the right on the way to the Frozen Dimension. Right over there, see where I'm pointing? You might want to get in contact with them instead. Nobody has asked you? We have the solution to that; would it be enough if we asked you? If we asked you very politely, because we are polite people. Besides, you say your job is to speak people's deaths, and surely someone will die on Nunavut between the time you leave here and you arrive there — it's almost a certainty, na verdade, because conditions on Nunavut are harsh. Oh, and we have an extra idea, which we think is a good one. You know we're trying to get our industry started up here and that we have a limited population, no? Well, we have recently opened a factory which produces iceboxes, and our problem is that we produced too many. I can't exactly tell you how, but we happen to be suffering from an icebox glut. We would be heavily obliged to you (we are very polite people) if you would relieve us of our icebox overplus, special for you at a knock-down price. That way, your departure will be expedited and you'll have even more wares to offer the fine people of Nunavut. What's that? You don't know how you're going to sell iceboxes to Yupiks? But that is no trouble at all, my friend!! Last time I checked, most of the inhabitants of Nunavut were Inuit and besides that, any man who thinks that people who are sweltering away on a tropical Amazonian planet will go out of their way to buy seal pelts is surely clever enough to sell refrigerators to Esquimaux. You must have faith, my friend, you must have faith."


    (All the anachronisms are deliberate and are included as aphorisms which could occur in a Card novel but didn't occur in this one. The Portuguese grammar is catch-as-catch-can.)

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  44. Calvinist-influenced sects include the Reformed churches (including Reformed Baptists), Presbyterians and Congregationalists. They're pretty common. I don't know why Card dislikes them so much; historically they've had a fairly antagonistic relationship with Mormons, but then so have the other Christian churches. In the last few decades they've often allied themselves with Mormons on various social issues.



    Putting only one religion on each planet sounds like a great recipe for interplanetary hostility to me, which is probably a bad idea when humans have developed interstellar planet-busting artillery.

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  45. Yes, this. Thank you. I've being trying to compose something like this since this book began. Even when I first read this book, giving it all the benefit of the doubt I could, I was baffled because Card has been to Brazil. Yet his brazilians sound like something he would pick from a one paragraph pamphlet.
    Lookin now, his Brazilians have the same relation to real Brazilians that Ender's empathy has to empathy as we know it on Earth, it's the most sense I can make of it.

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  46. I guess I just haven't heard it referred to as "Calvinism," then--I'm familiar with the names of the denominations you mentioned, but not many details. Like I said, though, I started wandering away from religion as a teenager, and don't even remember much about the specifics of what my church believed, let alone the other branches.

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  47. Historically, it's more often been their opponents who called it "Calvinism." (Christian polemicists often refer to philosophies/sects they're attacking as "Famouspersonism," to emphasize that they come from mortal thinkers rather than from God and Scripture. E.g., creationists prefer to call evolutionary theory "Darwinism.")

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  48. He doesn't have to keep updated. The only things that ever change, that ever happen at all are the things that the narrator pays attention to. Which is to say, the things that directly affect Ender. Which makes him the default expert on all things every anywhere.

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  49. Oh, I think that after they actually experience his teaching they're probably all "Oh, you have to go? Right now? Can't even make your Friday class? Well, normally that would be a problem but I think we can make an exception in your case." Followed by a wild party in the professor's lounge.

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  50. Trondheim's very Norse.
    Many fine eateries here!
    Avoid the lutefisk.


    *literally dies laughing*

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  51. "Fantastic, welcome to Lusitania, please park your seal carcasses in a pile by the landing strip and ignore the bulldozer. We encourage you to sample all the alien plant life and go on long walks in the forest by yourself. If you see any piggies ask them to lead you to their native women, they love that joke."


    *resurrects self in order to die laughing again*

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