Sunday, April 27, 2014

Speaker for the Dead, chapter fifteen, upon which everything depends

I'm tackling this chapter slightly out of order, because for some inconceivable reason Card didn't lay out his chapters with the explicit intent of helping a blogger dissect them on the internet thirty years later.  This is a big one (thirty pages) and Ender's monologue makes up half of it, but it's the middle half.  So I'm going to tackle all of that this week, and then go back and do the first quarter and the last quarter next week.  The only thing you really need to know going in is that all of the most important cardboard cutouts authority figures prod each other into going to the Speaking even if they don't want to accidentally legitimise the devil agnostic terrorist.

(Content: ableism, victim blaming, family violence, abuse apologetics and statistics. Fun content: the Bishop, Fred Clark, and speechwriting tips from April Ludgate.)

Speaker for the Dead: p. 256--270
Chapter Fifteen: Speaking

This is it: the Speaking of the death of Marcos Ribeira; the pivotal event that must, in its way, stand as the defence of this whole book.  This is the sole responsibility of a speaker, the demonstration of Ender's mastery of human understanding, and the most complete account we have of what it means, in Ender's estimation, to tell the whole truth about someone who can no longer speak for themselves.  We have been told, more than once, that Ender does that which seems outrageous but is ultimately right.

People show up to hear him based on the compelling power of rumour, because they're all really superstitious:
So word spread that Marcão's little girl Quara, who had been silent since her father died, was now so talkative that it got her in trouble in school. And Olhado, that ill-mannered boy with the repulsive metal eyes, it was said that he suddenly seemed cheerful and excited. Perhaps manic. Perhaps possessed. Rumors began to imply that somehow the Speaker had a healing touch, that he had the evil eye, that his blessing made you whole, his curses could kill you, his words could charm you into obedience.
Card explains that this is partly the Bishop's fault, because he made Ender sound like the devil's personal servant, and the villagers are less interested in good versus evil than they are in strong versus weak (and God is mighty and therefore scary) so checking out what this supposed miracle-worker is offering.  Space-faring colonists with some of the most brilliant scientists ever, almost four thousand years in our future, are comparison-shopping Satanism on the basis of what they heard down at the pub.

They gather in the praça, where the mayor has provided Ender with the Legally Mandatory Microphone.  We get a roll call indicating that every named human on the planet is there, including Conceição (Pipo's widow), Bruxinha (Libo's widow), and, spurring a flurry of whispers, THE BISHOP in simple priestly robes rather than his fanciest vestments.  They start wondering if he's going to engage Ender in divine battle like an outtake from St John's Apocalypse, which would frankly be twelve million times better than what's actually going to happen.

Ender shows up, looking "ghostly" because he's so white in a huge crowd of black people.  He starts by listing Marcos' "official data. Born 1929. Died 1970. Worked in the steel foundry. Perfect safety record. Never arrested. A wife, six children. A model citizen, because he never did anything bad enough to go on the public record." I seriously question the claim that 'not arrested' is the sole criterion for considering somebody a model citizen. If you're not an avid reader of Fred Clark, this is as good as time as any to read his post on "God's battered wife", a character (in books which outdo even these for awfulness) who blames herself for forcing God to smite her, and who, in that world's bizarre theology, managed "to act like a good person without actually being a good person".

Throughout this passage, Card rejects the 'show, don't tell' dichotomy and creates a third malformed option, wherein he tells by showing--members of the audience analyse Ender's speech as he goes, to explain to us why it works.  For example, Ender doesn't Orate, preferring a conversational tone: "Only a few of them noticed that its very simplicity made his voice, his speech utterly believable. He wasn't telling the Truth, with trumpets; he was telling the truth, the story that you wouldn't think to doubt because it's taken for granted." (If this does need to be said outright, it's a rare moment when I think it would work better in Ender's own thoughts, reminding himself to keep a casual voice in hopes of compelling them, showing his strategy rather than stating its effects.)

Ender goes on about the strength of Big Marcos, Marcão, whose might was so important in manual work in the foundry, where people's lives depended on him.  Marcos' colleagues nod sagely to each other:
They had all bragged to each other that they'd never talk to the framling atheist. Obviously one of them had, but now it felt good that the Speaker got it right, that he understood what they remembered of Marcão. Every one of them wished that he had been the one to tel about Marcão to the Speaker. They did not guess that the Speaker had not even tried to talk to them. After all these years, there were many things that Andrew Wiggin knew without asking.
Oh my goddamn stars and fucking garters. Ender, without the slightest information beyond 'Marcos was a burly steelworker', has correctly guessed the entirety of his co-workers' perceptions of his entire twenty-year career.  Not one of them is like "Okay, yeah, he was a competent assembly-line worker but he was a terrible conversationalist, and he skewed the whole the team, because I once tried to get the guys to confront him about beating his wife and they were like 'mind your own business' and then I got passed over for a promotion because they thought I didn't have their backs in case word ever got out that their home lives weren't all rainbows and unicorn giggles".  Nope.  People aren't that complex.  People don't have histories and independent thought and secret judgments like that; those are for main characters.  Factory workers who aren't plot-relevant enough to have names form a two-sentence opinion of a man and then it remains immutable for decades.

Then Ender comes to Marcos' third name, Cão, Dog, for when he'd been beating his wife bloody.  The audience silently snarks at Ender for his lack of decorum in bringing this up, but they know they've all said the same in private. Ender goes on that none of them liked Novinha, but "she was smaller than he was, and she was the mother of his children, and when he beat her he deserved the name of Cão", as if her height or their lack of children might have excused it?  Novinha is right there in the crowd, of course, and people glance her way with a mix of fear and pity. (Why do they fear her? She has no power over them, and we're told that they care much more about power than good or evil; the worst she can do is make them feel guilty by saying exactly what Ender is already saying.)

Ender goes on about how Marcos had no friends, even in the bars, how he was always surly and short-tempered whether he was sober or about to pass out, had no respect from anyone as soon as he stepped out of the foundry, was "hardly a man at all", but they're all genre-savvy enough to realise that Ender is about to turn on them, because someone who is 'hardly a man' is still a man.  The other foundry-workers catch on first, thinking in unison as befits their interchangeable NPC status: "We should not have ignored him as we did. If he had worth inside the foundry, then perhaps we should have valued him outside, too."  Yeah, that's definitely where your priorities were skewed.  Well done, detectives.

Ender says they called him Cão "long before he earned it", when he eleven years old and already two metres tall, and they called him names because his size made them "ashamed" and "helpless", which are very weird reactions that, as an unpopular and very tall child, I don't recall ever having aimed at me by anyone. Dom Cristão (Ye Must Love Reapers) the COTMOC remarks quietly that "They came for gossip, and he gives them responsibility", in case readers are just as stupefied as Card's cast.

Ender goes on about bullies, about how they attacked young Marcos "because as big as he is, you can make him do things", and at last I see some justification for this atrocity, because in the same way that Ender invented the notion of Novinha and fell in love with her before they met, he's invented his own Marcos as well, and Ender hates bullying* and sympathises with the child who can't help being so far above his classmates that it makes them uncomfortable.  Ender is gracious, of course, and says that children can't be blamed for being "cruel without knowing better", which sounds like a lot of 'boys will be boys' rubbish that deflects all responsibility from parents or from children (in a series with a running theme that children are full people with complete and complex emotions and psychologies).

Ender seems to say that "You called him, a dog, and so he became one", and this is a feint, but first we get the less-genre-savvy plebes giving what Card considers to be the obvious and inadequate responses: Ela is furious that Ender is excusing her father's brutality, and THE BISHOP thinks to himself that people must be held responsible for their own sins or they can never really repent.  Ender strikes again:
"Your torments didn't make him violent--they made him sullen. And when you grew out of tormenting him, he grew out of hating you. He wasn't one to bear a grudge. His anger cooled and turned into suspicion. [....] So how did he become the cruel man you knew him to be? Think a moment. Who was it who tasted his cruelty? His wife. His children. Some people beat their wife and children because they lust for power, but are too weak or stupid to win power in the world [....] but Marcos Ribeira wasn't one of them. Think a moment. Did you ever hear of him striking his children? Ever? You who worked with him--did he ever try to force his will on you? [....] Marcão was not a weak and evil man. He was a strong man. He didn't want power. He wanted love. Not control. Loyalty."
It seems redundant, but:

Clearly, Ender argues, if Marcos only beat his wife, it wasn't proof of a failure of character, because he'd have tried to subjugate and hurt everyone else around him, too.  He must have a strong man who wanted love, and had some other reason for constantly abusing Novinha!  I'm struggling to find the words.  Is it inconceivable to everyone present that Marcos was a thoughtful abuser who beat his wife because it made him feel strong and he knew that she was the one victim no one would care enough about to save?  Because that's literally what happened: no one intervened, because it was only Novinha, not their sweet innocent children.  Abusers aren't uniformly compelled to try to dominate everyone they meet.  Ender is one step away from saying "But look at all the people the defendant didn't murder! Clearly killing that one person would have been out of character for him and so we mustn't jump to conclusions!"

There's a reason that vulnerable populations have higher rates of every kind of abuse: because if the victim is old, or not white, or queer, or disabled, or especially a woman, and god forbid you're more than one of those things, you have a lot less power to fight back, because most people won't care that much.  It's easier for abusers to get away with it, and people are so busy talking about how abusers must be these 'out of control' monsters that they don't dare imagine that they could be cautious, contemplative folks who pick their victims carefully, until they find the right vulnerable target.  They create a situation where people are more willing to say that there must be extenuating circumstances, that we need the whole story.  Which is exactly what Ender is supposedly giving us.  Real abuse, he assures us, would be the act of a senseless monster, and Marcos isn't a monster, so this must be something else.

Ender recounts the full story of how bullies ganged up on twelve-year-old Marcos one day, and when he struck back, they claimed he had attacked unprovoked, and young Novinha, the sole witness, gave the testimony that acquitted him  (I don't know how Ender got this story; he doesn't seem to have asked anyone for the details and Jane isn't at his beck anymore.)  Grego, in the audience, cheers at the story of his mother saving his father.  Ender explains that in Novinha's mind, she wasn't helping Marcos, but undermining the other children she disliked; in Marcos' mind, she had been kind to him, and he worshipped her for six years before marrying her.  He pauses to regroup before his second volley of victim-blaming:
"And why did she endure it, this strong-willed, brilliant woman? She could have stopped the marriage at any moment. The Church may not allow divorce, but there's always desquite, and she wouldn't be the first person in Milagre to quit her husband. She could have taken her suffering children and left him. But she stayed."
Why does she stayWhy does she stayWhy does she stayWhy does she stay?  There are a lot of answers to that question, because people won't stop asking it, because they don't want any answer except the one they've already got, which is that if she stays, it's her own fault.  And that's basically what Ender is going to say, but first he explains why it's her fault: she needed a cover, Marcos was dying, and after the Descolada ended Novinha was the only one left who knew.
"I saw the genetic scans. Marcos Maria Ribeira never fathered a child. His wife had children, but they were not his, and he knew it, and she knew he knew it. It was part of the bargain that they made when they got married."
Quim leaps up and threatens Ender for calling his mother a whore, and then for some reason falters when he realises that he said 'whore' and Ender didn't.  He demands that Novinha refute this, but she doesn't, and he thinks about how adulterers are tortured in hell for mocking creation.  He swears at her in Portuguese that Google Translate isn't quite equipped to handle (or Card's grammar is patchy) but the essence of it is 'Who'd you fuck to make me?'  Novinha holds Olhado back from attacking his brother, and the crowd gasps but stays in fascination--the narration assures us that if she denied Ender's accusation, they would have mobbed him on the spot, but since she didn't, they just want the rest of the tabloid details.

Ender explains what he knows about why Novinha blamed herself for Pipo's death (her mysterious files on the Descolada), and how cartoonish galactic law would give her husband access to those files, meaning she could never marry her true love Libo, but she cut a deal with Marcos that Libo would father all her children.  (No evidence given that they actually hashed this deal out; it appears to be another of Ender's magical intuitions.)  Bruxinha curses Ender and three of her daughters help her away from the praça, including Ouanda.  Ender, again with no evidence that I'm aware of, explains that Libo tried to resist, as did Novinha, and they might spend years shunning each other before they were overwhelmed with the need to bang again.
"They never pretended there was anything good about what they were doing. They just couldn't live for long without it."
THE BISHOP silently observes that Ender is "giving her a gift", telling her not to blame herself for Libo's failures of fidelity.  Much of the crowd is now weeping, because as much as they already disliked Novinha, they don't like finding out that Libo had a twenty-year affair.  This might be the least-terrible bit of the speech, acknowledging to some minor degree that men are actually responsible for their commitments and not purely at the mercy of relentless Other Women.

Ender asserts that Marcos married Novinha partly for the social acceptance of having a proper family but mostly out of love:
"He never really hoped that she would love him the way he loved her, because he worshipped her, she was a goddess, and he knew that he was diseased, filth, an animal to be despised. He knew she could not worship him, or even love him. He hoped that she might someday feel some affection. That she might feel some--loyalty. [....] He never broke his promise to Novinha. Didn't he deserve something from her? At times it was more than he could bear. She was no goddess. Her children were all bastards."
I really hope we're not supposed to take this as an unusual situation, instead of the painfully common situation (both at the general level and in more targeted arrangements) that boils down to one of the best-known psychological phenomena in the world.

We cut to Miro, who's barely paying attention anymore because he's reeling from learning that Ouanda is his sister, and taking the opportunity to tragically-fanboy at Ender.  We get a summary of what this book wants to be and should have been, where Ender is the antagonist instead of Our Hero:
How could he have known that instead of a benevolent priest of a humanist religion he would get the original Speaker himself, with his penetrating mind and far too perfect understanding? He could not have known that beneath that empathic mask would be hiding Ender the destroyer, the mythic Lucifer of mankind's greatest crime, determined to live up to his name, making a mockery of the life work of Pipo, Libo, Ouanda, and Miro himself by seeing in a single hour with the piggies what all the others had failed in almost fifty years to see, and then riving Ouanda from him with a single, merciless stroke from the blade of truth; that was the voice that Miro heard, the only certainty left to him, that relentless terrible voice. Miro clung to the sound of it, trying to hate it, yet failing because he knew, could not deceive himself, he knew that Ender was a destroyer, but what he destroyed was illusion, and the illusion had to die. [....] Somehow this ancient man is able to see the truth and it doesn't blind his eyes or drive him mad. I must listen to this voice and let its power come to me so I, too, can stare at the light and not die.
There's something tragic about Orson Scott Card, to have skill enough to turn phrases like that, and to use that gift for evil.

Ender goes on to say that Novinha knew "what she was", knew she was hurting all the people around her, and so she "endured, even invited" abuse from her husband, because "no matter how much Marcão might hate her, she hated herself much more". The Bishop nods sagely and thinks that while these are secrets that he thinks should have been spoken in private, he can see how it's affected the whole community to finally understand the story that they have been half-involved in for decades.  (Note that we will literally never hear about any beneficial consequences of this enlightenment; we don't even get that thing from Ender's Game where we're told that it 'makes them wise' and causes them to re-evaluate their own relationships.  That's not the point of this story.  They're here to glorify Ender, not to gain from him.)

Ender finishes by saying that everyone in the story suffered and sacrificed, that everyone in Milagre is culpable for causing some part of the pain.
"But remember this: Marcão's life was tragic and cruel, but he could have ended his bargain with Novinha at any time. He chose to stay. He must have found some joy in it."
No, Ender, that is stupid and wrong and I can't actually be bothered to dignify something so blatantly foolish with a comprehensive response.
"And Novinha [...] has also borne her punishment. [...] If you're inclined to think she might deserve some petty cruelty at your hands, keep this in mind: she suffered everything, did all this for one purpose: to keep the piggies from killing Libo." 
The words left ashes in their hearts.


*Unless it's electronic and vaguely homophobic.**
**Or committed against a girl who disrespected her commander.***
***Or he needs to put a smart brat in his place on the first day after singling him out unprovoked as an exercise in team spirit and hostile mentorship.****
****Actually, screw it, Ender is blatantly in favour of bullying as long as he likes the perpetrator.


  1. YAY I was hoping this would update before I had to go to work tonight :-) Will comment (with whatfruit salad) later just wanted to say thanks

  2. So since we know for a fact that Ender never spoke with Novinha about her past or her understanding of what went on, how exactly could he say with such certainty anything about what she thought, what she felt? Is this pure fucking magic or what?

  3. Oh my fucking god.

  4. okay, yah, speaking. Not listening. Why not call it "Lecturing" or "Proselytizing" instead? I mean call it what it is. This whole thing hits too close to home for me. It reminds me of my grandfather's funeral, which I'm still pissed off about 25 years later.

    And it actually was in a Mormon church, because that's that side of the family. What happened was there was only the one church but so many worshippers they split it into two congregations, each with its own bishop and lay people and so on, just timesharing the space, as it were, till they could get a second church built to accomodate. Anyway my grandfather dies but the bishop for his own congregation is traveling or on vacation or something so the other bishop steps in to do the service. And this guy knew nothing about my grandfather, who was a child of the Depression, a union railroad worker, an electrical engineer, a lifelong FDR Democrat, and a very well read, self taught man who made sure his kids all got the education he never formally had himself. Anyway, this ignorant bishop goes on to use my grandfather's funeral to deride unions, Democrats, Darwin, women working outside the home, etc and so on, basically using OUR family's tragedy as his bully pulpit. And we, the family, WALKED OUT. As a unit. Of our own family's funeral service. When the bishop finally relinquished the stage we got the casket moved to the cemetery where we did our own eulogy graveside. But you better believe my grandmother never went back to that church, she started going with one of my aunts in the next town over rather than return there.

    Anyway tl;dr, Ender fucks up a funeral and because Card's telling the story, he has the right to speak truth not to power but to a captive, and hurting, audience, because Truth with a Capital T and all that. Fuck you, OSC.

  5. What the HELL? Who would do that? What does that even have to do with your poor grandfather? Dang. Dude should have just ranted about such things on the internet instead of tormenting your family with his unwanted opinions. Jerks.

  6. Goddess's tits OSC's worldview frustrates me. And, if you drive yourself crazy reading Children of the Mind you get treated to a lovely speech by Valentine about how it was good to have Marcao in their lives and how Libo had his own family to take care of.

    So, no one in this tiny little colony cares about a woman being abused? Or her children having to witness it? And people like Card love to talk about how gay marriage damages families, but what about domestic abuse? When do the churches ever speak out about domestic abuse as much as they speak out about gay people who are doing nothing to harm society unless they are abusing their mates which is just not right at all!

    Man, this book makes me so angry that not one person, even stupid Libo could help this irritating, yet abused woman and her kids. Nothing from the church. It's a terrible colony. If I had to live there, I'd leave.

  7. Is this pure fucking magic or what?

    Yes. Ender is just pure, unabashed magic at this point. He can see through time, read the hearts and minds of people he comes across, and take away their... pain--hold on a minute, is Ender Sybok??

  8. "Think a moment. Did you ever hear of him striking his children? Ever?"

    Because it is clearly impossible to abuse someone without physically striking them and abusers never use violence against one person (or violence against objects) to terrorize another person and women choosing to take their violent partners' abuse in order to protect their children against said abuse also totally never happens.

    This book. This fucking book.

  9. Makes as much sense as any other explanation, frankly.

  10. Hell, if he only beat the shit out of his wife, that';s okay. If he beat his CHILDREN, though, that might cross the line. And this is being said by someone who's supposed to be the ultimate in empathy and compassion???

  11. Good God. It is. It's... Bertie Wooster, except without the redeeming qualities. There are two differences
    1) No Jeeves
    2) The author agrees with Ender Wooster's absurdly inflated opinion of himself. So every absurd deduction, every ridiculous judgement, every moronic plan, every bit that in an actual Wodehouse story would be the punchline is instead 100% accurate and proof of Ender's amazing wisdom.

  12. He never broke his promise. He just broke Novinha. Yeah, that's the mark of a good person, all right.

  13. Yes. This. All of this. I've been waiting for you to get to this chapter for so long. Reading the excerpts you've quoted above just makes me realise it was even worse than I remembered, which I hadn't thought possible.

    I told you it was going to be awful.

    Ender is such a colossal douchebag. At best what he's doing is going to somebody's funeral and making up bullshit stories that sound plausible in order to have some kind of pre-planned emotional effect on the audience and make them feel like shit so they'll think he's brilliant. I do sort of wonder what would have happened if he also had to speak Novinha's death a few years later - would he then have shifted all the blame for her actions off of her and onto somebody else, too? Despite all of Card's protestations to the contrary (IIRC, in the introduction he complains about how reluctant we are to speak ill of the dead, and the way people tend to present a much rosier image of them at funerals), the message here seems very much to be "don't speak ill of the dead, speak ill of everyone at the funeral instead!".

    Though now I think about it there's a sort of brilliant irony to all of this. Card equivocates about what Speakers are supposed to do; in some places he goes on about how they "tell the truth" and in others he says they "say what the dead person would have said". He seems to think they would be one and the same, which is of course utterly absurd, but if we dispense with the notion it had to be the truth I can easily imagine an abuser spouting this kind of victim-blaming nonsense; maybe, in that sense, Ender succeeded. Ender Wiggins, empath extraordinaire, channelling the spirit of abusive husbands so they can continue to abuse their wives after they're dead! What a chap.

  14. (By the way, if anyone's interested and hasn't had enough of Card being awful yet, I also have a new Card post up at my blog... )

  15. I know, right? At the funeral of my friend's grandmother - an all-around beloved and fun-loving, adventurous lady who was active in local politics into her 80s - friend's uncle's super/fundie Orthodox rabbi used the occasion to chastise the rest of her family for basically not being "Jewish" enough.
    Did I mention the grandmother was a holocaust survivor?
    My friend and her parents were beyond upset, needless to say.
    On topic, what I don't get about this book is that I'm still waiting yo read Ender say anything profound.
    I read some quote by Philip K. Dick on the challenge for an author in writing a character that was smarter than he. But then Dick was pretty clever, if troubled.

  16. And also without Bertie Wooster's clueless but quite genuine kindness and goodwill. Bertie's reaction to a man beating his wife would have been to splutter incoherently, offer to let her stay at his flat (while he moved out to his club) and probably to goggle at the man who did it with incoherent indignation when he saw him in his club, and cluelessly let out that he'd given his wife shelter, but it would be OK, because Jeeves would have known Bertie would do that and would have arranged for a friend of his to be in the flat instead of the abused wife and for the police to call just as the husband started beating up and trying to kidnap the total stranger whom he believed to be his wife.

  17. How does an author make a book about children having perfect understanding while basing it on the fact that as a child he had imperfect understanding?

    To be fair, the later books do get really, really boring.

  18. And that story would probably have paternalistic overtones and various other issues but would ultimately be a basically good and sympathetic story about basically good and empathetic characters, written by a man who died a decade before this execrable victim blaming dreck was published.

  19. Even then it doesn't work. Someone who frequently yells "whore" at a woman and beats her intends to hurt her, and intends to make her hate herself. (Which, you know, is an example of how we infer intent from actions.)

    Ender supposedly believes in the power of words. Novinha's own son uses the word "whore" during the Speaking, an opportunity to point out that he heard it from Marcos. And Ender knows perfectly well that she stayed with her abuser after the original purpose died, knows that she felt his last beating well after Marcos' death. Plainly something made her leave herself in danger, after Libo's vivisection, when she could have protected herself and her children. But the (successful) intent to leave her in pain doesn't warrant a place in the story of her abuser's life.

  20. Huh. Rudyard Kipling died fifty years before this dreck was published, but while The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot has so many class issues I can't even begin, and a certain amount of victim-blaming and a lot of "let him get away with it he's her husband" from the characters, Kipling's authorial voice neither blames the victims nor excuses the bullies....

  21. I have just had the most fabulous idea for a fanfic parody party; the Ender's Game series as written by....

    Hercule Poirot: Lord Peter Wimsey: Miss Jane Marple: Jeeves and Wooster: Don Camillo and Peppone: they would all have come up with better solutions than Ender.

  22. Guh. Don't these folks know how to behave out in society? You just don't DO stuff like that at a funeral. I'm on the spectrum and I know not to behave that way. Urg. I'd want to chase these nutwits with a jar with a spider in it if they did that to a loved one of mine.

  23. Which, you know, is an example of how we infer intent from actions.

    Except for Ender, who infers actions from intent.

  24. This only really works if I insist, against all canon, that Ender is going into the Speaking intending for it to be a Swiftian satire, and he leads with as much sarcasm as he can muster, only to find that the audience is taking him seriously. Being somewhat of a troll, Ender decides to see how far he can push the envelope, but he's rapidly coming to the conclusion that this is either what really happened, which is pretty messed up, or that the people are such rubes that they'll believe anything someone in authority says.

    And he will eventually get to the truth about the Little Ones, but he's first going to enjoy himself trolling the entire community.

    Because otherwise, a single Whatfruit isn't going to cut it.

  25. I'm still mostly speechless over the horror that is this chapter, but there is something extremely bizarre about Ender - who was mostly emotionally and verbally abused - talking as if only physical abuse counts. Especially when, unless I'm badly misremembering, it was the first kid he killed's words that were used to justify Ender taking deadly action against him.

  26. They are frustrating for me. I need to get them out of my apartment.

  27. And it's not like Ender doesn't have insight into how Marcão treated the kids. That's actually one of the things he speechifies about which he does know.
    Then a scene began in the air over the terminal. It was not holographic. Instead the image was like bas-relief, as it would have appeared to a single observer. It was this very room, seen from the spot on the floor where a moment ago Olhado had been sitting--apparently it was his regular spot. In the middle of the floor stood a large man, strong and violent, flinging his arms about as he shouted abuse at Miro, who stood quietly, his head bent, regarding his father without any sign of anger. There was no sound--it was a visual image only. "Have you forgotten?" whispered Olhado. "Have you forgotten what it was like?"

    In the scene on the terminal Miro finally turned and left; Marcão following him to the door, shouting after him. Then he turned back into the room and stood there, panting like an animal exhausted from the chase. In the picture Grego ran to his father and clung to his leg, shouting out the door, his face making it plain that he was echoing his father's cruel words to Miro. Marcão pried the child from his leg and walked with determined purpose into the back room.

  28. If this is what speakers usually do, I can certainly see how they became influential
    ...No I can't. In fact, I can't understand why a speaker arriving on a planet doesn't result in an exchange like this:
    CUSTOMS OFFICER: Are you the speaker of the dead?
    SPEAKER: Yes
    GUN: Blam! Blam! Blam!

  29. I'm not sure Stilson's death was supposed to be justified by Stilson's words so much as Ender's own perceptions--Ender believed Stilson meant to destroy him (the grounds for this are inadequately discussed, but Stilson has made vague physical and verbal threats, as playground bullies do) and so destroyed him first, which is 100% what the military wanted their general to do, so they brushed over the rest and pretended that this was proof of Tactical Efficiency.

  30. This is actually a rather interesting comparison to me. Both Sybok and Ender are portrayed as being willing, even compelled, to force a confrontation with the brutal truth of someone's life regardless of whether anyone else wants it. Both of them are given implicit permission to do so by virtue of being able to. Both of them do it to cause a catharsis: Sybok in the subject, Ender in the people whose lives touched the subject's. And both of them do it for the perceived good of those on whom the catharsis is forced.

    Yet somehow, I've never hated Sybok nearly as much as I hate Ender here. I always thought Sybok genuinely wanted to help people; he was just rubbish at the "waiting for people to ask him" part. Ender waits for people to ask him to Speak, but that's the last of the interest or care he takes in the people on whom he's about to unleash the truth. Ender's Speaking is a bit like a guided missile with no abort code: it's locked on and it's going to detonate regardless of whether the area got evacuated or not. Sybok thinks he's helping people move past trauma; Ender's not interested in whether it helps anyone move past trauma, as long as Truth of some sort is revealed.

    (I think I just spent more time thinking seriously about Star Trek V than anyone did while writing it.)

  31. So what I'm getting from this is that it's okay for Marcos to have beaten Novinha because Novinha thought she deserved it.

    Yep, not problematic at all!

  32. And, of course, Ender's perceptions are 100% accurate always, which is how he's able to pull the information for this Speaking out of his ass. It still results in a bizarre dichotomy where abuse aimed at Ender is justification for any response Ender might make, up to and including homicide, and neither the abuse nor his reaction says anything bad about him (even when his own brother was one of his abusers), but abuse aimed at someone else means that they are a bad person and presumably would not have been justified in, say, offing the guy. These books make mere protagonist centered morality look fine and dandy.

    Sure, according to Ender, Marcao didn't want to destroy Novinha, just force her to love him. Which... yeah... no. This is the biggest pile of vomitous drek I've ever had the misfortune to encounter.

  33. "He got in trouble with the law for severely crippling another kid as a child, and as an adult he spent his evenings "raging drunkenly from bar to bar until the constables sent him home." Remember, Card? You wrote that."

    "He was cruel to his children, as Ender himself observes, and all that "drunken raging" in the bars must have had human targets, unless he was just kicking the mechanical bull a lot."

    I knew there was stuff that made that "model citizen" crap flat out bullshit. Thank you so much for tracking it down. All his lack of arrests proves is that the colony has absolutely craptacular police.

    "It's bit odd that Marcos would be such a critically important steelworker when he's an alcoholic suffering from a degenerative disease that, decades earlier, had already made him too fragile to endure getting punched by a small child. I mean, sure, he's strong..."

    Wait...wait a minute here. I forgot about Marcos's degenerative disease. How can his organs be turning to fat (WHUT) without it affecting his physical ability? Is Card just utterly oblivious to how people even work? (Considering all the totally shit "science" in this book, I'm going with "Yes. Yes he is.")

    " So why all the hate? Is it just the general sort of seething resentment that commoners always feel for smart people in Card stories?"

    YUP. Only someone as unjustly resented and mistreated as Ender could be a match for Ender! Except Ender's apparently just deemed her justly resented and mistreated so I don't even fucking know any more.

    How is this award winning science fiction!? The science is so far into Did Not Do the Research that I'm pretty sure your average fantasy novel has better science in it. There is no plot. No one in the book makes any bloody sense. The ethics/morals are despicable. I'm not seeing any redeeming anything. It's like Card took a dump on the award pickers' front yard and they went "Wow! Let's give it awards!" Did he have pictures of them engaging in octopus porn or something!? How did this win anything except the "book I'd most like to chuck at the author" award????

  34. Sybok is a somewhat sympathetic villain. Like you say, he seems to genuinely believe he's helping people. Ender is supposed to be the hero. But there's no sign that he gives a rat's ass about anyone but himself and his desires and feelings. Not only do you have the problem of a rotten person as "hero," but he hasn't even been given the trait that the writers of a (fairly terrible) movie thought to give their villain.

  35. "Right, because public speakers never hit upon the 'talk like a normal person' strategy before."
    Yep, once again, Card has awarded Ender genius status for doing the bleeding obvious.

  36. Nothing useful to contribute, just wanted to say how much I enjoy these posts.

  37. Also, truth in Gaudy Night is found by effort and investigation, including such things as talking to and observing people. Ender's "truth" is something achived by pure magic, and certainly doesn't require him to do icky things like talk to lower class people. (Seriously, do you think it's an accident that the only people he talks to are scientist and important church people. And not, say, the coworkers of the man he's supposedly speaking for?). That his made up truth exonerates an abuser is the worst thing here, but there's some really nasty classism as well.

  38. I forgot about Marcos's degenerative disease. How can his organs be turning to fat (WHUT) without it affecting his physical ability? Is Card just utterly oblivious to how people even work?

    My guess is that Card was inspired by acromegaly here. Acromegaly causes gigantism if it occurs in childhood, and is often associated with fatty liver disease and with hypogonadism--underactivity of the testes--hence Marcos' infertility. For anyone who's curious about the actual mechanism involved, basically an overactive pituitary can produce elevated amounts of growth hormone and prolactin. Growth hormone causes acromegaly, and overstimulates the liver to produce insulin-like growth factor, which can cause fatty liver disease. (The liver cells don't actually turn into adipose tissue, but they accumulate large vacuoles of fat.)

    Now, this can't be actual acromegaly, because acromegaly doesn't make your vital organs shrink away into nothing. And yeah, acromegalics suffering from hypogonadism and fatty livers aren't really going to excel at heavy physical labor. They're still big, but their stamina suffers and their health is fragile. (Famous acromegalic strongmen like Big Show and Andre the Giant typically received treatment or experienced spontaneous remission in their teens, so they got the initial growth spurt but avoided the later hormonal side effects.)

    Also, if Marcos had the liver function of an advanced alcoholic when he was a child, there's no way he could have spent his adult life drinking as heavily as he did. He would have collapsed from liver and kidney failure decades earlier.

    Also also, acromegaly is extremely treatable. So either this is special Untreatable Lusitanian Space Acromegaly--which, okay, but they should at least be able to alleviate the symptoms, and if it's Descolada-induced, why didn't the supplements help him?--or, yet again, the colony's social services were designed by Conan.

    YUP. Only someone as unjustly resented and mistreated as Ender could be a match for Ender! Except Ender's apparently just deemed her justly resented and mistreated so I don't even fucking know any more.

    Well jeez, if anyone else was mistreated as badly as Ender, it would make his mistreatment less unjust! Zero-sum game, don't you know.

    How is this award winning science fiction!?

    Hey, Twilight was a NYT Editor's Choice...

    But seriously, I dunno. If it was written in 1930 I could see it, but...yeah. My best guess is that a lot of people got annoyed by sci-fi becoming all artsy and feminist and socially conscious and stuff in the 60's and 70's, and they enjoyed a return to good old-fashioned reactionary crap?

  39. It's almost worse that Card probably based it on a real disease, since he went on to erase every problem a sufferer of the real disease might have (and that there are treatments) and basically used it to have a giant abuser. This is one of those rare cases where pretty much everything just makes the book worse. And worse.

    I'm not sure whether to say Marcos had movie disease (you know, the ailments people have in movies that somehow never inconvenience them but cause them to maybe cough once in a while and then drop dead tragically) or to say that Card basically gave him the disease equivalent of Meyer's vampirism. There's a few plot relevant issues (like his inability to have kids) but for the most part it magically doesn't effect him - even when it really, really should. But it did give him some advantages, like his large size.

    And making Marcos, the abuser, a working class man, a man suffering from a chronic illness, and an unusually large man seems like a horrible window into Card's prejudices. Novinha couldn't have married a scientist of a different type or someone else of equivalent class. Nope. Marcos couldn't even be just an ordinary guy, he had to be huge. And he had to be imperfect.

    I feel like you could make some kind of truly horrible bingo (or drinking game) out of this book.

    "Hey, Twilight was a NYT Editor's Choice..."

    While Twilight is terrible in its own ways, it getting critical recognition bothers me less than the Ender books getting critical recognition. Twilight doesn't claim to be anything but escapist fiction. And it's gotten as much critical booing as it's gotten recognition. These books are supposedly hard science fiction... and aren't. But are five thousand kinds of terrible. And it pisses me off on a personal level because I am a long time space adventure fan (and writer) and I hate the idea that what I love is officially inherently inferior to this piece of shit. And I don't mean in that these books won awards, I mean in that they're supposedly the "real" stuff, the "good" stuff, the "see, look, we're real fiction not that Flash Gordon shit" stuff. The awards are just the icing on the Are You Fucking Kidding Me!? cake.

    Also, on a less personal note, I cannot figure out at all what the hell books the people who leave positive reviews on these books on Amazon (and other places) read because they are not these books! Unless they are all from backwardslandia where up is down and no characterization is awesome characterization and victim blaming bullshit is deeply empathic writing.

  40. Yes, I hate stupid Libo and stupid Novinha and the whole lot of them. Also, why the hell, once again, did this STUPID SOCIETY 3,000 YEARS IN THE FUTURE DO ANYTHING TO PROTECT THIS WOMAN! URG! 3,000 years in the future and not having people be more progressive against domestic violence. Coming from someone who is always talking about how important the heteronormative family is and how you need to protect this family from GAYS... Not abuse in the family but GAYS! GAH I CAN'T EVEN GRAMMAR IT'S SO IRRITATING!

  41. The repent and convert harangue is unfortunately a not uncommon part of funerals in some denominations. My father-in-law's funeral was conducted by the pastor of the church he attended for a few months after his wife died, before he moved up with us, because he wanted to be buried with her. So the funeral service basically consisted of this dude non of the family had met before telling us all about how FiL was now in heaven because he'd been properly baptized. With a heavy side of "and none of the rest of you heathens will join him."

    After that little gem, my husband opted not to speak, and his brother simply stood up, recited the Serenity Prayer and sat down. Very short funeral.

  42. We've talked about how every time anyone has sex in these books, a child results, and the weirdness of that, but you brought up a good point. Let's say Novinha and Libo are so deeply in love or in lust that they can't keep their hands (and other parts) off each other. Given that Novinha's married to an abusive man and Libo is married to another woman, so their children together are BOUND to be growing up with an abusive stepfather and no contribution (emotionally or otherwise) from their real father, not to mention the whole madonna/whore thing that seems to pervade this colony, isn't this the perfect situation in which people would use birth control, and not just birth control but the most effective birth control they can get?

    Don't tell me it's a Catholic colony and that's it. First, as we've already discussed, even in the 20th century on earth, most Catholics disregarded the church's teachings on birth control, and this is supposed to be hundreds of years later.

    Second, neither Novinha nor Libo seems particularly interested in being good Catholics. Obviously if either one of them really cared about following Catholic doctrine, they wouldn't be having affairs outside their respective marriages. And Novinha's attitude toward authority is basically hostile (with some reason, granted).

    Are we really supposed to believe that (a) in this colony hundreds of years after the present day, Catholic doctrine on birth control hasn't changed a whit, (b) people in this colony, hundreds of years from now, are more devoted to the idea that birth control is sinful and wrong than people are today, and (c) these two people, in this position, would be so obedient to the church's teachings that they wouldn't consider using birth control?

    Why? Authorial fiat, that's why.

  43. All of these are good points, but based on what Card says in the introduction, his starting point was just that the Ribeiras were supposed to have at least superficial social approval and in a Catholic community that meant a large family. I think that's implicitly what Novinha offered Marcos, a claim to a family he couldn't actually get for himself.

    It's still ridiculous and badly written, first for all of what you say, then for all the reasons that we'll get into when we actually talk about the introduction, and then, lastly, because for some reason this colony apparently has no concept of adoption, as illustrated by Novinha having no family or noted guardians between the ages of 5 and 13.

  44. 80% of the plot twists in this book require you to forget that helping each other is a thing humans do.

    I'm not sure 80% of the plot twists don't require you to forget everything you know about humans. And science. And pretty much everything else ever.

    It is kind of sad that Card seems to have misunderstood King Kong. Howlingly implausible about sums it up though.

    The science isn't just bad, it's nonexistent.

    Nonexistent would be an improvement. Every time he puts in any science it's a complete hash. I can't imagine how much actual scientists must laugh at these books. But they get talked about as if they're the "real" stuff - if not hard sci-fi at least "respectable" sci-fi. And then there's the horrifying thing on wikipedia about the Marines considering Ender's Game recommended reading. *shudder*

    But these books have all the "science" of Star Wars (and quite possibly less), yet win awards and get pointed to as reasons to take sci-fi seriously. :\ Even though they don't seem to be about ideas or science or even taking a concept and what if-ing. They're something else with the trappings of sci-fi.

    Then again, the reviews on Amazon seem to be about completely different books. *still baffled by that*

  45. Ribeiras were supposed to have at least superficial social approval

    Card really is to writing people what Liefeld is to drawing them. I don't care how dim a view of Catholicism he has, Marcos "raged drunkenly from bar to bar", Novinha is anti-social, one of the kids has been a thief since he could walk and is now apparently running around hurting people... I can't believe this family has any kind of social approval.

    And I still don't know how Novinha not only survived after her parents died but somehow taught herself science. (Or what passes for science in these books.)

  46. his starting point was just that the Ribeiras were supposed to have at least superficial social approval and in a Catholic community that meant a large family

    Which, you know, horse apples. Even in 1980, years before this book was written, the fertility rate in Brazil was down to 4 point something. Now it's actually below 2, I think, meaning that the population's going to decrease bar immigration. And this is largely due to urban married women choosing to sterilize themselves. (Literally sterilization, that's their preferred form of contraception.) Fertility rate in Spain went below 2 just after 1980. Fertility rate in Italy is currently 1.4, and has been below 2 since 1970-something.

    So no, Catholic societies do not require large families for social approval. In fact, just like in most other industrialized societies, family sizes tend to decrease with increasing wealth, education level and social status. It would be extremely unusual for an eminent female scientist to have 6 kids, in almost any country I can name.

    Hell, this doesn't even work in the society Card created. Are The Bishop and Ye Must Love Visiting White Strangers and the rest of the 500 celibate priests/monks/nuns on Milagre despised for their lack of children? No, they are not. Yeah, I know Card reconciles this with his obsessive natalism by saying they reproduce memetically instead; but was that not an option for Marcos as well? If he'd joined the clergy, he could have insulated himself from bullying and had an alibi for his infertility.

  47. what does Ender need with a starship?

  48. oh to have Peter Death Bredon Wimsey just "bitch please"-stare Ender into a little pile of ashes... (takes out notebook labeled "fanfic to write," starts to make notes)

  49. The point that Orson Scott Card was trying to create was that Novinha put her children above all things, except possibly her work, and so she insured Marcão wouldn't touch them. It explains in a different passage of the book that her son, Olhado could distinctly remember the sound of his mother's body hitting the pavement. This also proves a point that the children did not intervene between their mother and 'father' because they knew her stubbornness, but also her love. In the midst of the beating, Novinha's religion got to her head and she assumed she deserved the beating she had gotten.

    Also, to answer Number27:

    A contributing factor to the abuse is that Novinha had stripped him over his pride. The children had done nothing to provoke Marcão, except maybe their existence. However, the very fact htat he chose to abuse Novinha is because she had done everything that could possibly humiliate a man who has kept his thoughts so tightly wound for so many years.

    Novinha had 'their' children with another man. Although the disease Marcão had would inevitably kill them, his reaction could also be exaggerated by the way he drank alcohol.

  50. Hello. Me, again. I'd like to suggest- not out of inferior beliefs or criticisms- that you reread Speaker For The Dead. You insult the author and the characters in a holier-than-though fashion. Your questions are all answered in the book and I suggest that you take the time to analyze details before destroying the structure of an award-winning book and spitting out insults over a blog.

    But, despite my disappointment in the outcome of blogging, I do have to disagree on some of your key-points in your argument about Card's understanding of relationships and of the relationship between Marcão and Novinha.

    If you can recall, Novinha became almost completely antisocial after the death of her parents. The only people she would regularly talk to were Libo, Pipo, and on a rare occasion, she stood up for Marcão. Many people knew Marcão from work and from round town, but Novinha barely got out of the lab and the house. Her entire life was her work and her children. It is extremely likely that a town that knew Marcão as a victim to childish bullying and Novinha as an antisocial xenobiologist could see past things such as bruising.
    Yet again, I bring up the point that she also thought that the beatings were things that she deserved. Novinha had cheated and lied, so in her eyes she had sinned far more than Marcão ever had.
    As an ending suggestion, I'd request that you read through Speaker For The Dead another time. What will it hurt?

  51. Marcão was a drunken man who came home to a house full of children that weren't his own.

  52. Hi! It's me, the blogger. I don't know how much you've looked around on this site, but this is not the only Speaker for the Dead post. There are in fact twenty-seven such posts, examining every part of every chapter of the book in detail. I am well aware of the explanations Card offers for his claims, and I find them inadequate, for all the reasons I've already written over the course of the last several months.

    For example: Novinha became antisocial after her parents' death, yes. But Card never explains to us how this is possible--we don't know where she lived or who cared for her when she was six years old. We are simply expected to believe that the people of Milagre immediately stopped caring about anything that ever happened to the daughter of Os Venerados, the blessed scientists who saved their entire colony, because she wasn't talkative when she was a tiny depressed child. That's Card's understanding of human empathy.

    I have spent hours reading and rereading Speaker for the Dead. I recommend you read the rest of these posts before asserting that my problem is that I just don't know what I'm talking about.

  53. Frankly, your post makes about as much sense as this book so I don't fully follow it. However, I see nothing in there that makes beating the shit out of a child's mother in front of them, magically not abuse of that child, nor anything that makes "she made me do it" a valid excuse.