The first three episodes can be found here, and new ones go up on Thursdays. (My first appearance is episode 3, but start from the beginning or you won't have any idea what's going on and you'll be missing out on their brilliance. You'll know it's me when you see a low-quality video of a guy in a bowtie spewing the most ridiculously pseudo-academic jargon he can improvise. They say to write what you know.)
(Content: death, terminal disease, discussed rape of prisoners. Fun content: did you see that YouStar link?)
Speaker for the Dead: p. 84--97
Chapter Six: Olhado
We have left behind Pipo's incredibly bad science notes in favour of grown-up Libo's notes. Unfortunately, these are no less awful. Libo writes of the Little Ones' storytelling, which is almost always about war, and how war seems to be their only form of interaction with other tribes. Everyone dies, and bafflingly they never seem to have any interest in enemy women "either for rape, murder, or slavery, the traditional human treatment of the wives of fallen soldiers". It might be three thousand years in the future and humanity might have all but forgotten the concept of war, but that's no reason to stop defaulting to ancient sexism and rape culture-derived assumptions!
Does this mean that there is no genetic exchange between tribes? Not at all. The genetic exchanges may be conducted by the females, who may have some system of trading genetic favors. Given the apparent subservience of the males to the females in piggy society, this could easily be going on without the males having any idea; or it might cause them such shame that they just won't tell us about it.How could you have 'genetic exchange' that the males don't know about, given that males are presumably the people being exchanged? I think they're going to notice getting traded. Is he hypothesising that the women just trade men for an afternoon sometimes, or keep harems, and/or that the 'traded' men are then killed? Has Libo considered that maybe the reason the Little Ones are so enthusiastic about war is that they consider it the vastly superior alternative to slavery and rape? That maybe they glorify death in battle because it always carries the implicit notion of "He got honor, and then he got out before the worst could happen"? (I mean, I'm sure that we're going to find out war is actually part of their reproductive process, but if Libo's not going to go near that idea, he could at least try harder with the theories he has got. ...Wait, if war does turn out to be part of reproduction, does that mean that all their tales of battle are basically porn?)
Does he know of anything yet that the Little Ones have indicated shame about? For all that the error of the Lusitanians is supposed to be that they're treating ramen like varelse, it seems to me that their actual mistake here is that they're treating aliens like humans and then aggressively rejecting any motivations that don't come from stereotypes about ancient humanity.
Libo's apprentice is his daughter Ouanda, who apparently took notes on a storytelling session (I guess from memory, since they're not allowed to write things down?) by one warrior speaking of another who brutally slew several of the first one's allies before getting killed himself. There are various remarks that I suspect might be hints, like the storyteller showing his enemy a handful of grass, and singing a song "of the far country", and then the whole group breaking out into a chant in the Wives' Language, despite there being no women present. The Little Ones also speak Stark most of the time and slip into Portuguese for emphasis, a pattern they apparently picked up from Libo. (Why, again, did they teach the aliens two languages when they're trying to avoid contamination--never mind, we're all bored now.)
Ender's in space again and hasn't got much to do. I actually kind of like their warp drive, if only because it's so bizarre--the ship makes an instantaneous "Park shift" to high speed, but apparently can't predict how high, so once it's in motion it figures out its velocity and then sets a timer for the appropriate moment to downshift back to normal speeds. I think that's the first bit of SF I've liked in this book.
He starts from Spanish (he's fluent, obviously) and learns Portuguese, but talking to the ship gets boring after a couple of hours every day. Apparently Jane can't talk to him while he's in flight, nor can the hive queen, due to the sixteen-hours-per-minute time dilation, which you will recall he only had explained to him yesterday despite this being the twenty-fourth time he's done this exact thing. After eight days, he's functional in Portuguese and "desperate for human company--he would have been glad to discuss religion with a Calvinist, just to have somebody smarter than the ship's computer to talk to." Gettin' tired of your Super Bowl Day WOO SUCK IT CALVINISTS routine here, Card.
The starship performed the Park shift; in an immeasurable moment its velocity changed relative to the rest of the universe. Or, rather, the theory had it that in fact the velocity of the rest of the universe changed, while the starship remained truly motionless. No one could be sure, because there was nowhere to stand to observe the phenomenon. It was anybody's guess, since nobody understood why philotic effects worked anyway[....]. Someday a scientist would discover why the Park shift took almost no energy. Somewhere, Ender was certain, a terrible price was being paid for human starflight.If the starship is remaining motionless and moving the universe around it, Futurama-style, wouldn't that prevent two starships from moving at the same time, since each would gain velocity relative to the other one? Or am I being too Newtonian here? Someone who understands real physics better than I do, please let me know if this is less stupid than it sounds. (Not the part about Ender's intuition and his nightmares that every Park jump is fuelled by the death of a distant star--I'm sure that's stupid. And prescient, somehow.)
Jane explains that Lusitania has no landing authority, just an automated shuttle that takes people down to the surface when needed. It might not fly often, but do the Little Ones not notice the huge metal sky-boat rocketing out of the clouds when it does come? We've discussed before how humanity must not have cloaking technology, or else they'd never be so stupid as to approach aliens like they have. Jane also notes that, since Ender is the Speaker, he literally can't be refused access to the planet, which sounds like a terrible idea, given that there are literally no background checks or overseeing authorities to become a speaker. Are they even going to check his bags?
Plot twist: Novinha cancelled her call for a speaker five days after she sent it--from Ender's perspective, about six minutes after he went to warp speed. Starways Code says that you can't cancel a speaker once they're in transit, probably because, to quote Anton Mates a couple of weeks back: "
Ender seems bizarrely disinterested in this. It's not the Little Ones, but it knows of them. She's also super in favour of settling there; it looks totally sweet and woodsy.
I'm not sure I even want to know what Card means by 'semi-virgin'.
Ender and Mayor Bosquinha ride in a hovercar over the grasslands toward Milagre, and I wonder again what happened to the ban on ever letting the Little Ones see human technology. "Good god, man, do you really think that just because we launch shuttles in and out of orbit and sending anti-gravity cars cruising over the hills that you can just go and use a pen in front of them? We have no choice about the cars; are they supposed to walk the whole afternoon?!" That's basically how I figure that went down.
Bosquinha doesn't want to talk about the Little Ones, and manages to indicate (intentionally?) that the Bishop has named Ender a "dangerous agent of agnosticism", but notes that the cargo ship full of skrika probably won him friends, as "you'll see plenty of vain women wearing the pelts in the months to come." I'm now trying to tally any women in any of these books who aren't criticised for some intensely feminine-coded flaw. I can think of two candidates: Petra, who is of course too masculine, and one in the Shadow books who spends all her time supporting Bean and ends up getting fridged to make him sad.
The mayor instead talks to Ender about local life, such as the useless native grass that can't be turned to thatch because it dissolves in the rain once cut, and the herd animals whose meat has no nutritional value. But then there's an important moment:
The tone of her voice was heavy with concealed emotion. Ender knew, then, that the fear of the piggies ran deep.
"Speaker, I know you're thinking that we're afraid of the piggies. And perhaps some of us are. But the feeling most of us have, most of the time, isn't fear at all. It's hatred. Loathing."Ender intuited something, knew it, and was then immediately told he was wrong. Glory hallelujah praise be to Zalgo. It's moments like this that make me wonder if our third-person-omniscient narrator is supposed to be unreliable and Ender isn't half as smart or right as he thinks he is. Wouldn't that be awesome?
Bosquinha goes on about the bishop's theologising and whether the Little Ones are morally vacuous or simply unfallen, but then apologises because she's sure she sounds ridiculous to a speaker. Ender says nothing, just thinks to himself that religious people always think they sound absurd to nonbelievers, which, in my experience, is also incredibly not true, and then congratulates himself for appreciating sacredness in many forms and how the mayor will have to slowly learn to see the truth about people instead of her assumptions.
He starts by mentioning the local religious order, the Children of the Mind of Christ, and explains that he's heard of them before, when he spoke the death of San Angelo on Moctezuma. The mayor is shocked, not because Ender has just revealed he's been a speaker for more than two thousand years, but because it's supposed to be a heretical story that the now-sainted man asked for a speaker on his deathbed, afraid people were going to claimed he had performed miracles. Ender, however, attested the miracles himself, and San Angelo was canonised within a century.
...What? There had better be more backstory coming, because so far this makes no sense at all. Speakers are required to tell the truth, so if Ender attested to miracles he must have believed they were real, but Bosquinha implies that he thus "meddle[d] in the affairs of the Church". Ender just says that "where the followers of San Angelo are, the truth has friends", even though Angelo apparently called Ender to speak his death specifically to refute these miracles. So either Ender lied or Angelo wanted him to lie, and either way I'm not sure how these people are supposed to be truth's best friends.
Bosquinha sniffed and started the car again. As Ender intended, her preconceived notions of a speaker for the dead were now shattered.On the plus side, for once a religious author is writing a religious character being startled that their assumptions about an agnostic were wrong, rather than the reverse. On the downside, Card is no better equipped to write an agnostic than most fundamentalist Christians are to write an atheist.
Bosquinha's complete non-reaction to Ender saying he was there on Moctezuma two thousand years ago indicates to me that, as we've all been saying, incredibly 'old' people should be very common in this galaxy, so I'm even less sure why Ender's ancientness is still treated as such a big deal, and why it took Plikt four years to work out that Andrew Wiggin is Andrew Wiggin.
That's all I can take for this post; come back next week for Ender's detective work and Olhado's sweet robot eyes.