Ender’s Game: Opposing Opinions

As some of you may know, one of my all-time favorite books is “Ender’s Game”. Whenever I’m asked for a book recommendation, EG always pops up. Recently though, I recommended it to one of my best friends, and she didn’t like it. And not a mild dislike either – apart from finding a few parts “interesting”, she out-and-out disliked the book and took away a message completely different from the one I did. She also thought the book was given to me too young. (EG was introduced to me through a book club at school at age 11.) As always, in book-related things, I’m going to now issue a spoiler alert. If you haven’t read the book, this article will probably spoil some parts for you – not many, but some. If you have read the book, or don’t mind, welcome aboard.

First off, what really impressed me about EG, as I’ve said in other posts, was this: Orson Scott Card gives the children in the book real voices – he portrays them as actual people with intellect and opinions, people a child can identify with, instead of the typical adult’s view of children – as ignorant dependents who parrot adults’ words, easily influenced and tantrum-prone. It gives older children a chance to explore conflicting viewpoints about important things by putting themselves in the shoes of various characters who think and act as they might do – the same privilege most fiction books afford adults. I therefore maintain, adjusting for the maturity of individual children, that the age at which I read “Ender’s Game” was the exact age at which the book could have the maximal effect on me; the age at which I was old enough to comprehend the points of debate, and yet young enough to take that journey through the protagonist’s eyes.

“Ender’s Game”, to me, was always a no-nonsense book about human motivations and capacity for good or evil, and an opinion piece on the grey area. Although it highlights the use of empathy as a tool for war, the end result it had, at least on me, was an increase in my estimation of the importance of empathy as a character trait. The “Ender’s Game” series gave me my first lesson in politics; it taught me the importance of the internet and free speech; taught me that age is just a number; taught me that grey areas exist, and the consequent importance of putting the power of decision in the right people’s hands. “Ender’s Game” also, now that I think about it, echoes Ayn Rand’s philosophy of ability and efficiency, and the command that springs from it.

My friend, on the other hand, thought the book was racist. She thought several of the plot points could have been corrected by introducing sci-fi norms such as hyperspace travel and better communication systems. Frankly, I always thought the racism made it a more plausible portrayal of Earth’s future. I read an article somewhere in which the author finds it strange that most plots based in the future show humans no longer divided on the issue of race, but instead working on a new problem. While accounting for the fact that we would bind together in the face of a new enemy or problem, I find a situation in which some remnants of passed-down racism remain to be a much more believable version of the future.

In fact, that constitutes the majority of my counter argument – EG illustrates human progress at a realistic rate. We still have problems with intergalactic travel and we still have problems with each other. My friend thought that fighting off the buggers just to ensure they wouldn’t attack again was stupid, and that an intergalactic treaty would’ve been smarter. The latter point would have definitely made sense if we could have communicated with the buggers; the fact that we couldn’t makes it a moot point. As to the former, while I don’t support xenocide, I understand it in an “it was either us or them” scenario where no communication could take place and the future of the human race was potentially at stake.

Lastly, my friend thought EG ended on a kind note with the whole “Speaker for the Dead” thing, but that kindness should be all-pervasive, and that, in her words, “all this rubbish about Ender not wanting to hurt them, why don’t they just leave him alone, is a pathetic attitude. You hurt because you want to hurt.” I understand where this point of view comes from, but I feel like the book already addresses this: Ender isn’t in denial about his capacity to hurt – he’s afraid of it, afraid to become like the image he has of Peter. He wants to be kept away from a position to inflict pain like a recovering alcoholic wants to be kept away from drink. Ultimately, she says that mostly what hurt her was the mistreatment of kids; that I can get on board with. I remember my anger towards “the teachers” still today. But. Although I don’t believe that the ends always justify the means, I also understand where Graff is coming from when he says, “Human beings are free except when humanity needs them.” I don’t like it, I would hate it if it was me, but I understand it.

I began writing this piece because I hold my friend in good esteem, and her immediate dislike of a book that has shaped me shook me. I guess I wanted to find out what my own counter arguments were. I always say that when I write, my opinions come pouring out from my brain to my fingers without passing through a filter; I write to know what I’m thinking or feeling, and now I can rest knowing why, reading this book, I came to the conclusions I did, and not the ones she did. If you have a point of view you’d like to share, or a question to ask, I’d love to hear it, so drop me a line in the comments section, and we can talk about it. Thanks for listening!

EG - 85

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Ender’s Game: ’77 vs ’85

I was first introduced to the Ender’s Game series at age 11 through my school book club by a wonderful teacher. The version I read then was the revised edition, the one that made it to a book.

EG - 85

It was around this age that I started writing. I’d been working on a “book version” of a movie me and my friends were making, and I’d been working on it with real gusto. So, when I read in Card’s afterword in the book that he was so happy with the alterations to the original that he wished he had written the original that way…boy was I shocked. I hated editing. It felt like I was killing my child; or worse – being disloyal to it.

However, it was only recently that I had the good fortune to come across the very first edition of Ender’s Game – the one published as a short story/novelette in the August 1977 edition of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. And only then did it finally hit me what he meant. Turns out we owe almost as much to the editors and suggestion-givers as we owe to Card.

ANLGAUG77                                      EG '77 - ASFF - contents

As always, spoiler alert. If you haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, I’d hate to spoil such a classic book for you, so don’t read beyond this paragraph. If you came looking for advice on which version to read, I’d say go with the ’85 version. [The one you’ll find in bookstores.] The reason I say this is because, without giving anything away, this book owes a lot of its success to its dry wit and to-the-point dialogue [obviously other than the supremely engaging plotline, and the way key political, social and moral issues have been tackled. The first really intellectual book I ever read.] The ’85 version, having been superbly edited and expanded, has all that. Also, the ending is markedly different. And that’s all I’ll tell you Ender virgins.

For people who’ve read the ’85 version and not the ’77 one, I’ve mentioned a few key differences I noticed below. As you can see if you’ve read this far, I much prefer the ’85 version. If you thought otherwise, or have anything to contribute to this discussion, I’d love to hear from you, so drop a line in the comments section below!

Differences:

  1. Ender’s Game (’77) is about 31 pages, give or take, whereas Ender’s Game (’85) is about 204.
  2. The original (’77) Ender’s Game begins with the “the enemy’s gate is down” battle, thereby leaving out the whole Earth segment, and everything to do with Ender’s family.
  3. Apart from Bean, none of the other Jeesh members we know and love are there – a few are named, but they’re different names, and none are given a role.
  4. A lot of the key moments are more drawn out in EG ’77 – specifically the dialogue. Being less to the point, they lose a lot of their impact; more than you’d think.
  5. The story is terminated well before the ’85 version’s ending.The whole colonization arc is lost, and Graff and Anderson’s post-war job descriptions change.
  6. As the colonization part is left out, neither the Hive Queen nor the Hegemon is mentioned; nor, indeed, do those books even exist in the old version. Meaning  no opportunity for Ender’s redemption.

To conclude, reading the first version of Ender’s Game was a learning experience for me – it was like getting to see Card’s rough draft, like seeing Ender’s Game in the making. For me, reading EG ’77 was basically just a lesson in appreciating the final version. Although EG ’77 features the main elements and scenes of the A-plot of EG ’85, it feels very skeletal (which, in some ways, I guess it was.)

You know how they say that it’s hard to appreciate something you have, or that you never appreciate what you have until it’s gone? EG ’77 helped me see all the things that could’ve gone wrong, but didn’t, in EG ’85. It helped me pinpoint exactly why I love this book. For all of you who are curious, or whose appreciation for Ender’s Game may have been dulled or forgotten over the years, I definitely suggest a reading of EG ’77, followed by EG ’85. You’re welcome.

*N.B.: According to Wikipedia, Card revised Ender’s Game again in 1991 to account for major political events that happened post-1985 (for example, the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.)

Ender-Soundtrack-Related Shivers

As I write this, I am listening to the Ender’s Game official soundtrack, which moviefone.com has been so kind as to put online for the benefit of fans the likes of me. As I listen, my brain is working overtime. This is a general idea of what’s going on:

1. Playing a track.

2. Frantically trying to find a soundtrack they’re ripped off so that I won’t hear an accusation later from someone else (after I’ve listened and gotten to love it).

3. Actually listening to it.

4. Shivering as each track reaches crescendo.

5. Sporadically reliving the book, taking hints from the track title, and imagining the scene playing to this music.

6. Repeating #5, but imagining myself in the theater. I can feel the booms and cracks from the speaker reverberating in my chest, I kid you not. Way to go, Jablonsky.

7. Trying and running to read the book again. Failing because the music and my mental imagery overpowers me. [Try listening to Track 08: Mind Game Part 2 without seeing the body of the giant and Ender’s character walking through to the tower room. And feeling his emotions when he sees what he sees there. I dare you.]

8. Wrapping myself up in a shawl because it’s suddenly too cold.

9. Repeat for next track.

I SO cannot wait for November 1st.

If Wishes Were Fishes…

Daily Prompt: Fly on the Wall

July 19, 2013

If you could be a “fly on the wall” anywhere and at any time in history, where and when would you choose? Photographers, artists, poets: show us SNEAKY.

This is an easy one. As a longtime fan of Ender’s Game, wasting away somewhere that’s NOT San Diego, I would love to be at the Comic-con and Ender’s Game Fan Experience thing right now. Failing that, I’d like to be in Enrique’s shower. Any time would be fine, thank you.

I’d like to see you at least once in my life.

I’d like to spend some time with you; that’d be nice.

But a wish upon a star

That’s a little too far

Won’t stop me from wishing I still had a slice. 😉

 

Asp Army: the Hufflepuff of Ender’s Game

So this is a much-needed rant; I will explode if I don’t say this. I just took the Ender’s Game: IF Strategic Aptitude Test, which is basically to sort you into one of four armies: Dragon, Rat, Salamander and Asp. I got drafted into Asp. The asp, by the way, is a venemous snake,most popular for being used by Cleopatra to commit suicide. But, I digress. Before you read on, I would like to warn you with a SPOILER ALERT. If you’re like me, and absolutely abhor spoilers, please don’t read on. If, on the other hand, you’re another hardcore fan, or else don’t mind spoilers, please continue.

Dragon Army: Anyone who’s read the book knows that, like Gryffindor, Dragon Army is where you want to be. Created specifically for Ender, this army has the best, most coveted, most talented students.

Traits: Intelligence, Improvisation Ability, Tactical Ability, and everything else awesome and embodying perfection.

Salamander Army: Led by the devil himself, Bonzo Madrid, Salamander Army is the equivalent of Slytherin in terms of popular perception. It differs in that it is badly-captained, and lack of respect reigns everywhere. Run by fear, it’s not the place you want to be. Still Salamander has Petra, and Petra is awesome. At the end of the day, Salamander does well – they’re just not the most welcoming or easy at improvisation. Stick to the plan and work hard is a motto that normally works for them.

Traits: Ambition, Hubris, Order, Hierarchy, Following the Plan (sometimes blindly)

Rat Army: The Ravenclaw of the Enderverse, Rat Army commander is Rose de Nose, but seeing as he’s not really commander material, I consider him a bad example. Rat is chaotic and disorderly, but they possess an open-mindedness that I like. Dink Meeker, in my opinion, is the embodiment of Rat. Cool, calm and collected, Dink is perfect commander material. Dink actually thinks. He sees the bigger picture and predicts the war that’s going to happen on Earth. He sees the teachers playing them, and he comes to his own conclusions and decision: that he won’t take part in the *ahem* rat race.

Traits: Analytical Skill, Adaptability, Chaos (creativity?)

Asp Army: Here we reach the point of this post and the root of the problem. Despite being a fan, (or maybe precisely because I am a fan) I cannot, for the life of me, recall any part of the book that does more than name Asp Army as a statistic, along with all the other armies. Nowhere is Asp given any character. We have no idea whether it’s a good team or a bad team or what the army’s like. Hence, the Hufflepuff reference.The Asp snake looks more like a nice tough-looking fourth-army-mascot than anything else.

Traits(according to the quiz): Creativity, Innovation

Now, for the rant. I highly dislike the fact that, once again, we have a house/army/category that it is IMPOSSIBLE to identify with for fans. Note that I don’t say that the traits are hard to identify with: I think their analysis of me as creative and innovative is pretty much right. I just don’t feel like I belong in Asp because they’ve obviously just picked up a fourth army to round it off and assigned these character traits to them because, for a quiz, we need the artsy, right-brained house.

Disclaimer: I’m not just jealous that I wasn’t put into Dragon. Although I am jealous. It’s obvious what answers are required to get Dragon, and I decided to be honest and see what I got.

Also, it still remains that Dragon Army is the creme de la creme of Battle School – a sort of Special Ops squad. In short, it’s like Dumbledore’s Army – a collection of the best from each category – not a category of its own, and definitely not comparable with Rat, Salamander and *snort* Asp. Therefore, not being sorted into Dragon automatically makes you inferior.

Back to the Hufflepuff comparison. I’m not saying either Hufflepuff or Asp are inherently bad. I’m just reminded of Harry Potter fans’ disconnect with Hufflepuff because it plays such a minor role in the books/movies. We don’t even get to see their Common Room. So imagine my frustration when I’m placed in an Army which:

  • is not even one of four main armies – it’s just one of many, randomly selected to fill the vacancy. Even Condor and Rabbit were given bigger roles.
  • doesn’t have any significant role or scene in the book
  • does not even have any distinguishing characteristics mentioned in the book – we just have to take Lionsgate’s word for it. At least Hufflepuff has loyalty and magnanimity as guideposts.

Coincidentally, Asp Army has a significantly lesser number of insignias (those circular army-badge-things) on Google image search, as I found out when trying to find images for this post. Hence the slight size difference, for any of you that noticed. Just thought I’d mention it.

So anyway, I’m really angry and really frustrated. The “sorting” does not make sense to me to begin with, and although I’m happy to be pronounced creative and innovative, I hate that I was sorted into Asp. It honestly bothers me.

Also, they do not allow you to retake the quiz. I’ve tried. Even if you revoke app permission on Facebook and try again. Yeah, I know. Another little warning: there’s no guarantee that all your information will be deleted from their system if you decide to back out. It’s part of their Privacy Policy, which – yes – i read. Yes, I was that angry. Although I must admit this would be pretty much a non-issue if I’d gotten Dragon.

I know I can’t be alone in feeling this annoyed. I ranted to two people already and cursed being placed in Asp till my throat went sore. What hurts the most is the fact that the quiz is supposed to make you get more excited and involved with Ender’s Game; they just alienated me from it. Asp has no role in the book. I’ve been placed in a background army with randomly-assigned traits. That makes me feel lost. Even though I know it’s just a game, and it’s just for fun, and it should probably be considered a bonus that we have a somewhat official quiz at all, I’m still annoyed at the illogical way in which it was handled. Sure, I realize that for moviegoers, or people who are only reading the book to get an idea of the story before the movie releases, it’ll be all in fun and it won’t really matter. But for me, as a devoted fan, it does.

I, immature or not, will continue to hate Asp Army as one of the four advertised/promoted armies until I hear word from Card about Asp. It’s his world: if he says Asp is important and creative, I will believe that Asp is important and creative. But not until then.  So please, if anyone hears any official news about Asp or has proof or views to the contrary, please let me know. I am definitely open to persuasion.

As a side note: it sucks that I got 5/5 in the YA quiz, and I can’t go to the comic-con and collect my prize. Cue loud weeping.

Ender’s Game Shaped Me

I read today that Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game, is under fire because of his anti-gay marriage statements. Yes, they were slanderous. Yes, they were intolerant. Yes, I understand the urge of the LGBT community to boycott the franchise. No, I don’t believe in subjecting the entire cast and associated crew to the disapproval caused by the opinion and behavior of one man. And, you know what? Even if it’s hateful, he still has a right to his opinion. God knows we all thought marriage was between one man and one woman until we learnt more about other forms of sexuality.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall [illustration of Voltaire’s beliefs]

While reading more about this, I came across a very insightful comment: that this problem didn’t exist while only readers were involved. The conjecture is that readers care only about the world created in a book and its content, and less about the metaphorical cover. That made so much sense to me. In fact, it’s my personal mind-opener-of-the-day.

thought of the day

thought of the day

I’d never thought of that before. But it’s true – all the hype and judgement only really started once the movie was talked about. I had to make a conscious effort to not fly off the handle every time Card was vilified. I understand why this is happening, and I’m pro-equality, so I was hurt by his comments as well. It’s just disappointing really, because the book played a big role in shaping me. And to me the guy was a hero. And to find out this is like an idol failing you. Not his fault really. It’s just ironic and sad that a teacher of tolerance is intolerant.

Ender's Game

Ender’s Game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And at the end of the day, I’m still indebted to Card and thankful to him, because he gave me Ender, and made me the person I am today: confident, tolerant, pro-equality, and pro-justice.

*NB: This blogpost was excerpted on an Ender’s Game fansite! They’re pretty amazing, so if you’re a fan, you can go check this post and others out at: http://endersgamefandom.net/2013/07/11/enders-game-controversy-turning-into-battle-school/