Sunday, January 12, 2014

Speaker for the Dead, chapter three, in which Novinha ruins science over her boyfriend

I wondered why this chapter was named for Libo, given that it's 100% Novinha's point of view, but in time I realised that it was all about him.  Novinha does eventually get a chapter named for her, much later in the book; I wait in anticipation to discover why Card saved it for then.  In the meantime, buckle up, because it's time for a woman to make bad decisions because of her unscientific emotions.

(Content: sexism, invasion of privacy.  Fun content: Gwen DeMarco knows what's up.)

Speaker for the Dead: p. 41--55
Chapter Three: Libo

This chapter opens with some of Pipo's working notes on the Little Ones' diet (primarily worms, with occasional leaves that might just be sort of recreational snacks), which lacks in a lot of proteins, trace elements, and calcium, leading Pipo to hypothesise about whether their bones use calcium differently from humans.  The only things they know about actual physiology are from the photos of Rooter's corpse (which, as others have noted, he shouldn't have had, since it meant taking a camera beyond the perimeter).  Their complicated tongues and climbing spikes also have no clear evolutionary purpose; Libo suggests maybe they evolved elsewhere and were forced to migrate by some catastrophe.
There's no competition for them.  The ecological niche they occupy could be filled by opossums.  Why would intelligence ever be an adaptive trait?  But inventing a cataclysm to explain why the piggies have such a boring, non-nutritious diet is probably overkill.  Ockham's razor cuts this to ribbons.
SCIENCE MYSTERY!  I don't, offhand, have any theories for this either, unless it's some kind of guided evolution by a further biological overmind force, but then we'd just have to explain where that overmind came from.  'God as first cause' is not a useful system of thought.

So now Pipo is dead and Mayor Bosquinha arrives to take charge of the situation; she's already got the bishop preparing a place in the graveyard.  Libo insists he needs to be there to help photograph the body for all forensic purposes, but the mayor reminds them both that they should be writing their reports immediately, which is followed by maybe the stupidest use of the ansible ever:
The computer had already been alerted, and their reports went out by ansible even as they wrote them, mistakes and corrections and all.  On all the Hundred Worlds the people most involved in xenology read each word as Libo or Novinha typed it in.  Many others were given instantaneous computer-written summaries of what had happened.  Twenty-two lightyears away, Andrew Wiggin learned the Xenologer João Figueira "Pipo" Alvarez had been murdered by the piggies, and told his students about it even before the men had brought Pipo's body through the gate into Milagre.
For what possible reason could it make sense to literally beam these reports out letter-by-letter?  I understand Card is trying to convey urgency here, like old movies where vital plot-changing messages get telegraphed out beep-by-beep, but there isn't any urgency.  Everyone else in the galaxy who cares is light-years away; they could literally raise children in the time it would take to get to Lusitania.  Plus you've got Libo and Novinha stumbling over words as they go, no second draft, no proofing, no double-checking with each other to see if they misremember details.  The ansible is so expensive that sitcoms are a big deal, but not so expensive that they can wait for spellcheck?

Also: it occurs to me at this point to wonder who the other xenologers in the galaxy are.  Of course there will be some people who spend time pouring over Pipo's reports and becoming experts on the Little Ones as well, but logically, the majority of xenologers will be students of the better-known alien species: the formics.  The formics who left their cities empty of all but their bodies three thousand years ago.  Why do they need this update at midnight rather than, say, the next morning when Libo and Novinha could read over their first drafts again?
His report done, Libo was at once surrounded by Authority.
Not legitimate authority, like super-geniuses and generals who intuited which enemy ship to shoot first seventy years earlier, but false, harmful authority, like bishops and elected officials.  Bishop Peregrino 'comforts' Libo by telling him the Little Ones are probably just soulless beasts, but by nodding along Libo manages to ditch him quickly.  Dom Cristão asks questions, helping them find stability in scientific analysis, but Novinha falls silent because she knows what happened, and she's terrified that if anyone else sees the data from which Pipo got his revelation, they'll end up dead too.

The men who carried Pipo's body away return, and show a strange amount of reverence to Libo, now recognising him as Zenador.  No real authority (obvs), but he's important--"his work was the whole reason for the colony's existence, wasn't it?"  Which: I don't know if Card is particularly familiar with scientific outposts in remote locations here on Earth, but I don't think even half of them have their own monastery.  Nothing we know about this colony is optimised for science.  They only have two people actually studying the Little Ones!  They have a trailer-sized Zenador's Station and no other research support staff beyond one medievalesque 'apprentice'!  They have no satellites or surveillance!  They went for a decade without xenobiologists!  THIS COLONY WAS BADLY WRITTEN!
"We'll not harm the piggies," he said, "or even call it murder.  We don't know what Father did to provoke them, I'll try to understand that later, what matters now is that whatever they did undoubtedly seemed right to them.  We're the strangers here, we must have violated some--taboo, some law--but Father was always prepared for this, he always knew it was a possibility.  Tell them that he died with the honor of a soldier in the field, a pilot in his ship, he died doing his job."
Pretty solid woobification.  Novinha has to look away, and instead meets the eyes of Marcos "Marcão" Ribeira, whom she defended from accusations of bullying (when he was the real victim) years earlier.  Marcos has a pretty good 'brooding bad boy' image going, with the rain-plastered hair in his face and the mud and blood from carrying Pipo.  Novinha hasn't thought of him in years, but it occurs to her that he might think of her as the only person who ever stood up for him.  (For a colony of thousands, there are a remarkable number of people here who have zero social connections.)
Her action in defending Marcão meant one thing to him and something quite different to her; it was so different that it was not even the same event.  Her mind connected this with the piggies' murder of Pipo, and it seemed very important, it seemed to verge on explaining what had happened, but then the thought slipped away in a flurry of conversation and activity...
Novinha 'intuits' something vitally important to the thematic premise of the book, then gets distracted by shiny objects.  (My guess at this point is that, as the Little Ones kill smart people in order to reproduce, and whatever Pipo said to them convinced them that they wanted his brain, so they tried to pregniscerate him.)  The Arbiter (judge, it seems) explains that Libo's family is staying with him now, and takes him away, not extending the invitation to Novinha because no one likes Novinha.  There're a lot of odd mental tangents for Novinha in this chapter, but some moments are good:
Now she felt the magnitude f Pipo's loss.  The mutilated corpse on the hillside was not his death, it was merely his death's debris.  Death itself was the empty place in her life.  Pipo had been a rock in a storm, so solid and strong that she and Libo, sheltered together in his lee, had not even known the storm existed.  Now he was gone, and the storm had them, would carry them whatever way it would.
The mayor is still there, uploading all of Pipo's remaining data to the ansible for other xenologers to try to figure out what the hell is going on, but Novinha knows it was her data that caused it all, and she stares at the hologram of Little One DNA, trying to yank the truth from it.  In time she sinks out of her analytical mindset and into guilt, accusing herself of having killed him by finding this biological anomaly.  The mayor finally notices her distress and acknowledges that Pipo was "like a father" to her, but Novinha has reached that kind of self-destructive guilt where she feels she doesn't deserve to be comforted.  The mayor takes her to her home, where the mayor's husband manages to coax some food into her and then gets her to bed, which I note only because it's the sole example of a nurturing man I can recall in all of Card's books I've read.

She wakes not long after, uses the Mayor's home terminal to remotely log off from the Zenador's Station, and then walks out through the early morning to the Biologista's Station, her home-on-paper, though she hasn't slept there in months, maybe years, only ever coming to use the lab.  She purges the lab: destroys every sample and note on cell structures that led to Pipo's discovery and death.
Even though it had been the focus of her life, even though it had been her identity for many years, she would destroy it as she herself should be punished, destroyed, obliterated.
Reason #36 why teenagers aren't generally given sole responsibility for all scientific inquiry and conduct in vitally important fields.  I do think this is a realistic sort of teenager move for Novinha--but practically nothing else about her prior to now has been normal or realistic for her age, and Libo is the same age but immediately took up the mantle of merciful and responsible decision-making authority after finding the shredded body of his father, so... still actually kind of sexist here.
The computer stopped her.  "Working notes on xenobiological research may not be erased," it reported. [....]  The sacredness of knowledge was deeper in her soul than any catechism.  She was caught in a paradox.  Knowledge had killed Pipo; to erase that knowledge would kill her parents again, kill what they had left for her.
(That is not a paradox oh my god Card this isn't difficult.  A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself.  This is just two undesirable options.)

Novinha realises that she can keep the data secret herself, remain xenobiologist but refrain from sharing the data, keep it sealed behind security systems so that no one but her eventual successor can find it.
With one exception--when she married, her husband would also have access if he could show need to know.  Well, she'd never marry.  It was that easy.

Just so's we're clear: scientists do not have a right to keep scientific findings secret from their spouses (I'm going to assume it's spouses and not just wives having no privacy from their husbands).  No one has a problem with this?  'Need to know' is a thoroughly subjective concept, and why should a spouse have that right when apparently other scientists don't?  I just--WHO WROTE THESE LAWS?!

Despairing over her bleak, lonely future stretching out ahead of her, Novinha decides even she won't think about what it is that Pipo discovered, lest she figure it out and tell someone else and get them killed.  But then, for some reason, she decides that some day she does want people to know, and so she will call for a Speaker, who might arrive decades from now and determine the truth about Pipo's life and death.

See whatnapple above.  Welcome back, whatnapple.  You're doing an important job.

This is a scientific problem and she is a scientist but her solution is to hermit away, cut off all contact, cut off the part of her work she is most passionate about, and summon a priest to make a decades-long trek to hopefully sort out what's actually happened here.  This is a terrible plan that makes no sense and even if it works it will lead to exactly the conclusion that she is supposedly purging her lab specifically to avoid ever occurring!

And though she hasn't said as much, she is doing this for Libo.  She doesn't care about anyone else; she doesn't know anyone else.  She was good at her job and she helped her boyfriend's father make some discovery that he was killed for understanding, so she's ditching her job and protectively ditching her boyfriend forever more to punish herself for daring to science.  What am I even reading?  (I suppose it could have been even worse: the revelation could have come from looking at an alien apple that the Little Ones had forbidden them to study.)

She awakens flopped over her keyboard, with Libo whispering in her ear.  She thinks he's come to comfort her and gets defensive, but he remembers what she said about the simulation that spurred Pipo charging out into the night, and he wants to see it.  She tries to play dumb, but he's not buying it, and accuses her of wanting credit for the discovery, but she makes it clear she doesn't care.  Libo is furious, but all she will say is that she doesn't want him to die.
She saw comprehension come into his eyes.  Yes, that's right, Libo, it's because I love you, because if you know the secret, then the piggies will kill you, too.  I don't care about science, I don't care about the Hundred Worlds or relations between humanity and an alien race.  I don't care anything at all as long as you're alive.
Well, that sort of makes what I said earlier redundant.  Okay then.  Anyway, he's an emotional mess, so she takes him to her bedroom, half-disrobes him, tucks him in, and lies with him while he falls asleep.   And then--oh fuck, Card went there after all.
She might have been thrust out of the garden because of her ignorant sin, like Eva.  But, again like Eva, she could bear it, for she still had Libo, her Adão.
And then she realises again that she can't marry him or he'd have access to her data whether she approved it or not: "The Starways Code declared it.  Married people were virtually the same person in the eyes of the law."  This isn't even some kind of hardcore-Space-Catholic oddity, this is secular interstellar law.  Card is playing this like a soap opera when it's screaming to be a dystopia.  "Oh no, I mustn't marry my true love or I fear his sciencelust will lead him to his doom!  Also we aren't allowed to live together unless we get married if we get married I literally have no right to privacy because I'm only half a person!"

Now, I'm not an engineer, so I can't be sure what kind of storage media they're using, but if she's counting on a Speaker to one day come and solve all the mysteries, why not ansible out all her data to the Speaker Index or whatever repository lets her request one to come to Lusitania, and/or beam it all out to some secret dropbox with tons of security where no one will ever think to look for it, and then--stay with me here, because this is where it gets technical--delete all the local copies of that information by crushing them with a hammer?  (The best kind of hacker is the kind that brings their own axe.)  If she can't bear to destroy all the data but doesn't dare let Libo have it, why not give it to someone else?  You're already planning to do that, Novinha, so this would just speed the process up.  No?  You're a female character in a Card novel and required to make bad decisions?  Okay then.  Sorry to hear about that.  Let me know if I can get you anything.

Next week: Ender's girlfriend is literally the internet, because he's the only person special enough to deserve her.  No, really.  This is my serious face.

And come back Thursday for Lullaby, chapter one!


  1. "(That is not a paradox oh my god Card this isn't difficult. A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself. This is just two undesirable options.)"

    Yeah, Card, that's actually a dilemma: a bad situation where you have two or more options, and none of them are acceptable.

    Orson Scott "My Worldbuilding Comes Out My Anus" Card

  3. Aashyma Never WouldJanuary 12, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    Cripes, Card is quoting William Blackstone.

    "By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing; and is therefore called in our law-French afeme-covert, foemina viro co-operta; is said to becovert-baron, or under the protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord; and her condition during her marriage is called her coverture."

    Read the whole here:

  4. It kind of seems like the ideas in the novel would work better in short stories rather than in a novel. I mean, short stories just dump enough of a world on you to make the story work, right? So he could dump weird religious colonies as scientific outposts on us and we wouldn't be looking at a galaxy-spanning government and wondering why. He could have only a handful of scientists studying a new species because we wouldn't know what the rest of the worlds' scientists would be doing.
    But he decided to do a multi-book epic with rewrites from different character perspectives. It's like he had a bunch of short stories that he mashed together and stretched into a huge, long, rambling mess without making any effort to fit the ideas to the longer format.

    Kids in space + accidental genocide + sentient computer program + culture confusion with aliens etc. Bits of things glued together.

  5. WTF? Does Card think people act like Monty Python sketches? Unless Novinha believes that her data triggers some sort of compulsion to rush off and tell the Little Ones "Kill me!," I really don't understand why she's so determined to hide her data. She has the answer, probably, to why Pipo was killed. Why hide it? And, especially, why hide it to the extent of not getting married, yet also send for a Speaker. Does she think it's okay if everyone turns into Scotsmen and runs into the woods to be eviscerated as long as it happens after she's dead? (Or at least at some indefinite point in the future.) I'm just not following her reasoning about any of this.

    And, since even she doesn't know what in her data led to Pipo going and doing whatever he did that led to his death (Assuming he did not, in fact, run into the Little One equivalent of Jack the Ripper.), doesn't hiding her data actually make it more likely that someone will accidentally say "Asparagus!" to the Little Ones and be killed. (Or whatever it was that happened.) Yeah, I know, people aren't supposed to have contact with the Little Ones, but you'd think even she'd know enough about people to know that rule following is not humanity's strong point.

  6. Yes! Knowing what happened, figuring out why what happened lead to killing, that seems like the best route towards not having anyone else killed. I think a more believable human response would be to hide the fact that she gave Pipo the information out of a feeling of guilt that her info got him killed. If no one knows she had the info and gave it to him then no one will know that she is (in her opinion) responsible for his death. She's already a social outcast so having it be general knowledge that she got such an important person killed would be even worse for her.

    Letting people know that she has secret info that got Pipo killed, and then not sharing the info is a weird, weird choice.

    Side note: on the topic of no married person having secure personal files. She can't even believe for a second that she could ask him to respect her privacy and he would do so. That's kind of a red flag for a not great relationship to me. You're going to invade my privacy no matter what I say as soon as you have the first opportunity! It's true love!

  7. Novinha almost comes off like she has movie!multiple personalities. "I have the information!" "No one can have it!" "I must keep it secret to the point of never marrying!" "I'll send for a Speaker!" Make up your mind!!!

    If Card is trying to portray a conflicted person, he's doing it all wrong.

    On the side note: That actually seems fairly human. I can believe that even a person who would ordinarily never dream of invading their spouse's privacy would be tempted to do so to find out why their father died. Not that that's how Card is presenting it, of course. No, he does just assume that, of course one would violate one's spouse's privacy. That's just how it works!

  8. she will call for a Speaker, who might arrive decades from now and determine the truth about Pipo's life and death.<"BLOCKQUOTE>

    You know, last week I thought Ender was the worst history professor ever based on his assertion that, due to his religious beliefs, he could just make up what historical figures thought. But now I see that Speakers have necromantic powers that allow them to literally speak to the dead, since Novinha decides that one of them can determine the circumstances of Pipo's death.

    Or is she planning on telling the Speaker the horrible secret she knows got Pipo killed, and just figures "Since he's not the guy I want to bone, he can get killed by aliens for all I care"?

    And once the Speaker does use his space-religion powers of murder investigation to figure out what happened, then what? I assume he then tells everyone, which... why doesn't Novinha just do that right now? What is even going on?

  9. This...does not make sense. Novinha has witnessed that some sort of knowledge got someone killed, but she seems not very determined to either find that knowledge (or branch of knowledge) so that she can plant warning flags on it or call in the minesweepers so nobody else has to die, or to endeavour to make it so that nobody can discover that knowledge. The easiest way would be to cut off contact with the Little Ones and quarantine, which she could presumably do, being the xenologist of the colony. (Although she apparently lacks superuser access to delete files, so maybe she can't lean or outright declare quarantine.)

    Also, is anyone else disturbed by the insistence that the Little Ones' action not be called out or responded to? That's a very non-human reaction. They don't have to fly into a pitchfork mob or anything, but it seems to be treated like Pipo was killed by a wild animal or some other non-sentient creature that didn't know any better. If they're treating the Little Ones as non-sentient, hello, fantastic speciesism. Otherwise, now might be a good time for some forbidden cultural exchange.

    Lastly, what is this whatnapple-inducing crap that gives a spouse unfettered access to everything? And why do I feel like it only goes one way, where women are merged into men, and not both ways?

  10. Treating the Little Ones as non-sentient makes absolutely no sense. (Not that anything else here is making much more sense.) Rooter had learned at least two human languages, and even Pipo's death seems pretty clearly the act of a sentient.

    But everything about how they're relating to the Little Ones screams fantastic speciesism. Except, I really don't get the impression from the excerpts that Card intends that. Though Card writes humans so strangely that I'm never sure what's intended. And he's only gotten worse - these people seem further off than the people in Ender's Game, who had some pretty far off moments.

  11. [i]Married people were virtually the same person in the eyes of the law.[/i]

    The wording seems to imply it goes both ways.

    (Of course, the wording also implies marriage equality: [i]But Libo was the one person she could never marry.[/i] Not one man. Person.)

  12. Everyone else seems to have the Novinha stuff covered, so I'm going to tackle the Science Mystery!

    1) We don't know how the Little Ones reproduce. They have females but their sexual dimorphism is not necessarily similar to ours.
    2) We know that the Little One women kill smart men, in a very ritualistic manner.
    3) We know that the Little Ones have evolved to have certain traits, including intelligence, that can't be explained just by outside factors.

    For a moment, I felt like these details might be related, but then I was a woman and got distracted by the other part of the science mystery.

    The Little Ones' diet is apparently nutritionally lacking, but Pipo only knows what he has, personally, happened to see them eating. He speculates that they eat the leaves accidentally, and it's phrased as speculation. He hasn't tried asking them, presumably because this risks exposing them to the concept of ??? A varied diet? Logical conclusion: they eat other stuff but not while he's around, they've never told him because it hasn't occurred to them, he never asked because what xenologists are allowed to talk about is wildly inconsistent. Maybe the women are responsible for the other food.

  13. I think she might have chosen a speaker specifically so that he tells everyone, on the theory that by the time he arrives she won't care because she'll be old and gross and like, forty, eww. /teenager

  14. Wall-o'-texting is not forbidden, and is therefore mandatory!

    I have a hard time imagining what it is that Pipo and Rooter would talk about for four hours a day every day if things like "So, what's good food around here?" never come up. That seems like the easiest and most innocuous kind of question to ask--"Hi, now that we've learned to speak each other's languages, do you locals have any tips on what to eat or not eat?"

    For that matter, even the migration theory seems easy to test--the Little Ones know that humans are new to the area, which implies migration, so "Hey, Rooter, you know humans haven't always lived in this forest; did y'all ever live anywhere else?"

    I'm struggling to think of anything they do know, or even questions they've made any progress on in the last five years.

  15. I'm guessing the non-reaction to Pipo's death is going to be identified as another human mistake in Ender's estimation, although it seems like the reactionary response to Xenocide Guilt, so Ender might not be the best at spotting that?

    As far as spousal privacy, it's supposedly not quite 'unfettered'--they do have to prove 'need to know'--but on the other hand that's apparently something the computer decides (Novinha says it would be easy for Libo to convince the computer he needed her data), so it might as well be.

    On paper it's equal, but we're only seeing it going one way and I'm guessing that in practice we won't see an example of the other way. Plus, you know, an equal mechanism attached to an unequal power structure is going to remain unequal, so if husbands have more authority than their wives in this culture, the equality of non-privacy is going to hurt women more than men.

  16. ha, excellent use of Gwen De Marco! I knew what it reffed before I even read the article.

    Reading these breakdowns rather than the actual books is saving me from actual breakdowns. There are a finite number of times one can throw a book against the wall before either the book or the wall takes damage, and I'd like to keep my security deposit, so... yeah. Whatnapples all around then.

  17. I think we can safely posit that Male Privilege exists and is in force on Lusitania, just with the way Novinha has been treated in her want to become a xenologer, so I agree that the practical examples we'll see are most likely all going to be husbands accessing their wives.

  18. I doubt we'll see any practical examples of this, because I don't see OSC, virulent homophobe, writing any couplings other than straight cis male / straight cis female.

  19. Also, is anyone else disturbed by the insistence that the Little Ones' action not be called out or responded to? That's a very non-human reaction. They don't have to fly into a pitchfork mob or anything, but it seems to be treated like Pipo was killed by a wild animal or some other non-sentient creature that didn't know any better.
    Hm, how much to give away? I hope it doesn’t spoil much to say that all this is deliberate on Card’s part, and he even gave us a word to describe what the Lusitanians are treating the pequeninos as…

  20. I'm struggling to think of any questions they might have asked, apart from confirming the supposed existence of female Pequininos, seeing as they have apparently omitted all the ones that I would've considered obvious (and/or not too revealing for the restrictions).

  21. Card would probably say that we just don't understand his insight into human nature.

  22. I'm beginning to suspect that Card is to insight into human nature as Liefeld is to human anatomy.

  23. Of course there will be some people who spend time pouring over Pipo's
    reports and becoming experts on the Little Ones as well, but logically,
    the majority of xenologers will be students of the better-known alien
    species: the formics.

    Wait. Are you seriously suggesting that the Little Ones are the only living sentient species known to humans? Yet "communicator with alien cultures" is an established profession, to the point that there are specific laws regulating how they're allowed to work? Yet out of all these AlienCommunicators, there's exactly ONE fully trained one actually living on the Little One-planet?

    ...I think you're going to have to start paying the Whatnapple overtime compensation for this series.

  24. Actually, Novinha's behavior is not atypical for a teenager with a history of trauma and a minimal support system that just got halved. Non-traumatized teenagers frequently make decisions that result in whatnapples from the adults around them. They also still tend to believe that the world is centered around them, believe in absolutes, and flip from one extreme belief to another. When bad things happen to people they care about, it's not unusual for kids and teens to absolutely believe that they are responsible, regardless of reality. These are really important developmental stages and I'm not trying to hate on teenagers. But there are reasons teens can be difficult.

    Novinha has formed practically no relationships with other people since she was a child. She has had 1 adult and one peer (with whom she shares romantic feelings) and as far as I can tell, the vast majority of her contact with those two people has been focused on science.
    One of the ways teenagers get over the 'center of the universe thing' is to care about other people who also think the universe revolves around them. That dissonance helps them learn, oh heck, so many things I'm not going to add to this wall'o'text. Multiple peer relationships also provide a history of feedback to some of the really bad ideas kids and teenagers have and helps them learn to make better decisions. Not that that stops them from doing things that make adults ask "What were you THINKING!!!???" and the teen (or kid) responds with "I dunno."

    So this is one of the few parts of the book that rings true to me. Admittedly, I don't think OSC had a clue about any of this, particularly given how he has Libo acting.

  25. Yup, the Little Ones are the first sapient non-humans that humanity has met in 3000 years. Xenologers either study information collected by Pipo, or the ruins of the formics. This makes a little sense--human colonisation started with all of the former formic worlds, which are presumably free of other life for the same reason that the formics initially tried to burn Earth.

  26. Any given one of Novinha's decisions seems very humanly reasonable to me--"I must keep this secret forever or it will get Libo killed", or "I can't solve this mystery so I will call a Speaker in whom I have powerful lifelong faith to find the truth", but simultaneously devoting her whole life to keeping it secret while also pleading for it to not remain secret is just... it makes no sense. She even thinks the speaker might arrive as fast as possible, a mere twenty years in the future, but still talks about taking the secret to her grave. And she's apparently going to stick to this plan and never think about it twice?

  27. It would make Watsonian sense if Novinha went directly into an abusive relationship that kept her decision-making skills messed up. The problem is - well, I mentioned that apart from the plot device about file permissions, the actual Speaking seems like the worst part of Speaker. This allegedly represents an attempt to tell the truth about someone's life, by a man who believes in the power of words.

    Kirk voice: CAAAAAARD!

    As far as the law goes: normally I'd think that Card has some weird model of people/reality which explains this. But his sequels have corporations in them, and the current book has a government which tried to keep secrets. None of these groups would even consider accepting a law that makes them hire two people instead of one for every sensitive position, or else hire only the unmarried and sabotage their relationships. (Finally, a rational reason to oppose same-sex marriage!) And the law is genuinely foolish and harmful to abused spouses (I'm talking here about logic, not the story), so it would take no effort for the powers-that-be to repeal or block it. I think this is simply a plot device. Too bad Card's used up his allotment of silly premises already.

  28. I guess the rules could've been in place just in case, but after failing to find another sapient species for 3000 years, you'd think most people wouldn't have expected to ever find one and that the xenologers (who would be more plausibly formic specialists) would've been stunned and amazed by the discovery of the Little Ones and fumbling to come up with how one handled actual alien contact after centuries of studying the remains of a completely different alien group.

    A lot of this seems to fall firmly into sci-fi has no sense of scale.

  29. Do teens make decisions and plans and think that they will never, ever, ever change their mind. Oh yes indeedy. If Novinha doesn't question her decision as she matures, then that is fairly unrealistic, particularly given the opposing plans she's made.
    And yes, any one of her decisions is relatively reasonable, all of them together scream abused child/teen to anyone who has worked with them. Err, I don't want to trigger anyone so I'm not going to give graphic examples but, in the years I've worked with trauma and abuse, I have seen multiple clients who have decided that they will never tell anyone about something and at the same time make conscious choices to do very obvious things that will reveal the secret. Not subtle signs, I'm talking things like drawing a picture in art class that has to be turned into a teacher. (that is not an IRL example as I'm not going to break confidentiality even a little, but that's the level of obvious that I have seen). It's not frequent, but it happens often enough and most of the people I have worked with haven't initially recognized the conflict between the two.
    My problem is that I now don't believe OSC has even remotely enough knowledge to do this on purpose. Without that specialized knowledge, Novinha's actions make no sense. I'm wondering how OSC managed to write so badly he got it right.

  30. Because irony is a natural law in my life akin to the law of gravity, just after I posted the above, one of the three people in my personal life who are doing the love-heartbreak cycle repeatedly passed me, read the post and said "You're talking about X! Man, I hate it when X does that, it's so annoying. You're the psychologist, can't you stop zir?"
    Just to note, none of those three people have any history of trauma, they are just typical teens.

  31. What in the napple, I don't even know where to begin...

    Unless Novinha believes that her data triggers some sort of compulsion to rush off and tell the Little Ones "Kill me!," I really don't understand why she's so determined to hide her data. She has the answer, probably, to why Pipo was killed.

    Does she actually *know* what the data is? Because if not... it could well be 'The Little Ones are actually the vanguard of an alien armada/telepathic super beings plotting to enslave us all', and he was killed because he knew too much...
    Also, if learning about the Little Ones is actually a memetic weapon that causes suicide, that'd *also* be nice to know, and also a good sign it's time to Get The Fuck Out

    I guess the rules could've been in place just in case, but after failing to find another sapient species for 3000 years, you'd think most people wouldn't have expected to ever find one and that the xenologers (who would be more plausibly formic specialists) would've been stunned and amazed by the discovery of the Little Ones and fumbling to come up with how one handled actual alien contact after centuries of studying the remains of a completely different alien group.

    A lot of this seems to fall firmly into sci-fi has no sense of scale.

    Not to mention, given that the xenobiologists presumably actually studied the xenocide, you'd think 'make darn sure you know how their society works before jumping to conclusions' would be near the top of the list of first contact priorities. I mean... the formics were not destroyed by cultural contamination. Humans blew them up because of... reasons, but mainly because they of a cultural misunderstanding. So shouldn't establishing what is and isn't considered acceptable in their respective cultures be priority number one?

    The only way the pseudo-Prime Directive nonsense could make sense is if they're worried about *being attacked* - that their actions unintentionally cause a grave offense that causes an alien power to destroy them. After all, that's what happened to the Formics.

    Treating the Little Ones as non-sentient makes absolutely no sense.

    If they're non sentient, they're very, very advanced imitators of such... and that *also* seems like something that'd be nice to know.

    I just... the contact policy being used here makes *no* sense. It's like 'let the aliens know of your existence! But don't actually *share* anything, so they're constantly in suspicion of you! Any sort of exchange is bad! This totally cannot backfire at all!'
    Seriously, it's a recipe for disaster. The fact that both humans and Little Ones live on the same planet means they can compete for resources (well, the fact that any advanced society needs roughly the same materials ensures that, but the Little Ones aren't advanced... yet). Two species that need the same resources, and cannot communicate... are competition. Inevitably, they *must* come into conflict, and since they cannot physically combine, nor one annex the other...
    Are they going to carve out a section of space for them too? How big a section? And when they want more, say a thousand years down the line, how are you going to deal with that, given you can't actually talk with them? If this is your method of preventing xenocide, you might as well exterminate them now and save the trouble of doing it later.

  32. Here we get an interesting blip in communication because I've read the whole book before. I'm not looking at "teen responds immediately to tragic thing," I'm looking at "teen responds immediately to tragic thing and then grows up and never in any way changes her immediate response." Which is a quite different thing. Card isn't giving us a "teen response! hurried decision! time to reflect later!" He's giving us "woman responds with illogical emotions! woman never thinks better of it until a man comes and tells her otherwise!"

  33. It seems like there should have been hundreds of questions asked just to learn the languages. They would have to ask what words mean, right?

  34. Yeah, it's extremely convenient for Card's needs that we skip over the entirety of interactions between 'Little Ones are sapient' and 'fifty years later we have multiple common languages'. Again, I get that's not the point of the story, but it's a huge gap that's really vital to understanding the current situation. (Surely those are the kinds of things a Speaker will really want to know about?)

  35. "And she's apparently going to stick to this plan and never think about it twice?"
    No, she only sticks to the hiding information plan, not the call a speaker plan.

  36. The idea behind this law, as explained in the text, is that since women are the gatekeepers to sex and since sex outside marriage in undesirable, the best way to prevent adultery would be to make women dread it.

    *actual screaming*

  37. The ansible is so expensive that sitcoms are a big deal, but not so expensive that they can wait for spellcheck?

    I don't understand how the ansible can be that expensive. Every formic had a biological ansible in their body, with enough bandwidth to carry all the information in their group mind, so it must not require huge amounts of energy or exotic elements or building space. The ansible was reverse engineered from looking at a bunch of dead or dying formic workers, so it must not be impossibly intricate and complicated in design by human standards. And it's probably the most critical piece of technology in existence for interstellar civilization--infinite-range, instantaneous communication, that apparently can't be blocked, jammed or hacked en route?--so there must have been incredible effort poured into improvement and mass production over the last *cough* three thousand years.

    I don't imagine Card wanted to write a cyberpunk story, but it's almost impossible to imagine how 99% of the people in this culture could not be walking around with a pocket ansible (or a smartphone that links to a nearby ansible relay). It's just too ridiculously useful not to be wired up like that.

    The state should love it, too. It almost obviates the need for local data storage and processing, so it's an incredible boon to any government obsessed with surveillance, control, and maintaining the cultural and political cohesion of a humanity scattered across space. People all over the galaxy could be running their phone conversations and web searches through a single set of servers sitting back on Earth or wherever. Swarms of radio-silent spy satellites could be quietly positioned over each new colony. Starways Congress should be salivating at the prospect.

  38. I can maybe understand ansible hardware being expensive--human brains/meat computers are incredibly complicated beasts that we've not come close to replicating out of silicon--but that's very different from ansible use, as you've detailed. I'll have to go double-check if the gadget Ender's jammed in his ear is an actual ansible or just a smartphone that connects to the nearest ansible. Ender is of course stupid rich at this point, and so could probably afford it even if the hardware were ridiculous, but then he'd be broadcasting to everyone he meets "Hey, I'm a Speaker and I'm also a trillionaire, but pay me no mind, I'm just lying low".

    But yeah, between the ansible and the translator technology I hypothesised below and people hiding in lightspeed for millennia while bureaucracy spreads across the stars, this universe begs to be cyberpunk.

  39. Not to mention it raises the question of 'why not just have everyone in a few dyson spheres/matroshka brains and remote transfer over the ansible...'

  40. Married people were virtually the same person in the eyes of the law.


  41. None of these groups would even consider accepting a law that makes them
    hire two people instead of one for every sensitive position, or else
    hire only the unmarried and sabotage their relationships.

    Was thinking the exact same thing. Like, LEGALLY, your spouse has the right to access your company records? Um, how about NO. That would be a nightmare for all KINDS of corporate reasons.

    Unless, you know, the wimmens just stay home and raise kids and live as second-class citizens and the law never rules in their favor on the Need To Know question. Then the corporations just have to not hire women, and--oooooh.

    Fucking Card.