Author Topic: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD  (Read 4171 times)

Fenring

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Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« on: August 16, 2021, 12:04:51 PM »
Ho everyone,

I was hoping to get further into the series before making this thread, but our timing has dictated the moment has come. Although I've been a member of this board for some time (maybe 8 years?) I had to date never actually read any OSC books. I just liked the discussion forum, I guess. Actually I had read Ender's Game a long time ago...and didn't like it. For some reason the film adaptation got me interested to try the book again, and to my surprise I loved the book this time. I've gone on to finish the Lusitania trilogy, the Shadow trilogy (along with Ender's Shadow), and I'm just about the begin the War of Gifts (which I assume will be reminiscent of the Star Wars Christmas Special) followed by Ender in Exile. My wife reads faster and just finished the First Formic War books as well, which are next for me.

I wanted to hear your thoughts about this series, and especially in regard to certain trends I see come up in them. One thing I'll say right off the bat is I feel like Card's priorities change as the series goes on, so that there are certain...inconsistencies that creep up. But more on that in a moment.

Ender's Game
Loved the book! Pacing is tight, plot is easy to follow but engaging, and the character of Ender a bit of a cypher precisely in the way he is to everyone else - even to himself. He seems aware of what he is capable of, but not that aware of what it means in terms of his moral character. As he's very young, he has a big problem with his particular set of traits without seeing the redeeming side of it (which we see more in the Lusitania trilogy). The twist ending, even if you know it's coming, works very well. The only sad part of the book is that some of Ender's early relationships, such as with Alai and Shen, fall away not to far into the book, and are revisited only near the end with brief interactions that imply all the caring is still there. But given just how much sympatico Ender had with perhaps Alai in particular (at first it seemed they almost might be peers, both thinking quickly and creatively) it seemed a bit of a shame that Alai ended up being just another jeesh member. There is one brief mention to Mazer that of all of them Alai might be a suitable replacement for Ender, a point which I'll bring back soon. The thesis of the book - that loving your enemy allows you to destroy them - is probably dubious on a technical war level, but on a moral level the point is well taken: you can hurt best those you love, because you know them deeply.

Lusitania trilogy
I actually loved this trilogy, and although it's very different in tone from Ender's Game (shockingly so), it goes much deeper on the human level than EG did. One thing to note is that this trilogy appears to be more or less consistent with the epilogue of EG, maybe with the odd soft retcon here and there. Despite OSC's apparent intention for the EG epilogue to be scrapped from canon, I like it and refuse to give it up. Also worthy of note is the appearance of Peter here, and although strictly speaking it's not the 'real' Peter the book does give him full due credit as being a scary person to have come back into the world. This is very much a family story, but does broach metaphysical issues, especially pertaining to Jane and generally to the theory (is this Card's real belief?) that souls are distinct entities that come to inhabit living beings (organic or otherwise), and that the strongest of these souls is needed to inhabit the strongest beings. That there's a disparity in 'spirit' among people is something established by St Paul in one of his letters (forget which one), so there's a Christian precedent for that idea. But whereas EG and this trilogy do work very well as general Christian stories (just like C.S. Lewis' do), this metaphysics about souls is definitely inconsistent with the teachings of most Christian groups. Maybe someone who knows about Mormonism can tell me whether Card's ideas here are extrapolations of the Mormon teachings? I know the Catholic teachings best, and these ideas are definitely not compatible with that.

Ender's Shadow
I'll treat this book as a standalone, as I want to discuss what I think it changes. Card does an interesting thing - giving us a competing POV - but as it really is competing it appeared to me to actually invalidate a lot of what we're told in EG. Maybe OSC was trying to illuminate some of the stuff in EG, but I couldn't find any way to understand these things as concordant. A lot of the scenes in battle school seem to portray Bean as being obviously the best student there, which in itself I guess isn't such a problem, but then for him to constantly know better than Ender about things struck me as being fan-fictiony. The fact that he was secretly following all the battles to make up for Ender's mistakes, was also incompatible with EG in my view. EG did suggest Bean was given a chance at command before Ender got there, but it was a failure, and I find it hard to believe that if he was such a strategic genius it really would have been a failure. I know they say Bean isn't as good a leader, but if he was issuing kickass orders I think the jeesh would have complied and had good results, whether they liked him or not. The main thing Ender did was allowing independent management by his commanders, and Bean could have done that too. And let's get serious: if Ender was really buckling under the pressure, and he tells Mazer that maybe Alai could replace him, this book makes him look like a dunce for apparently being the only one oblivious to Bean's mastery of command strategy. There are also multiple times in the book Card seems to make moves to take Ender down a peg, in order to make Bean look better. Granted, this is Bean's POV, but it's insufficiently a 'POV book' for me to accept that. It feels like some hard retcons happening regarding the situation in battle school and on Eros. I felt this was the weakest book in the series, both in writing style and also in his neglecting the given circumstances of EG in order to try to buff up Bean as this mental god.

Shadow trilogy
I rather enjoyed this trilogy, actually, even though I feel like OSC failed to quite create a believable grand build toward the Hegemon taking over the world. Because frankly, that's what I felt was needed. My biggest joy in this trilogy was to get to see a lot more of Ender's jeesh, especially in the great scene where they're all in a meeting with Graff. My biggest beef with it is the sheer amount of scrubbing of facts from EG in order to create a new storyline. I just can't see Peter from EG as being the Peter from this book. He was turned practically into a goofy comic relief character, and I can't accept that the psychopathic manipulator from EG could ever be kind or benevolent. True, his plans with Valentine did require putting on masks, and I could easily accept that a self-controlled psychopath could pretend - for his whole life if need be - to be something he's not. His experiments with tormenting Ender, which in EG were shown to be calculated and a sort of theatre designed to learn how to control people, are now referred to as being him having been temperamental and immature. I don't buy that. In EG he knew exactly what he was doing at all times, including the dissecting of squirrels. None of it was sadism, nor was it him being out of control or moody. The terror in the Lusitania trilogy of him returning is completely lost here. The Shadow books do mention from time to time that he's supposedly manipulative and self-involved, but we never see that in the text or in his thoughts. I think the Peter character was a big miss here, and so was his plan for world domination. The manner in which it happened was lackluster. And Mazer's explanation - in a hilarious scene presumably meant to address inconsistencies with EG - even makes it worse, when it says it's "impossible to be too ruthless for battle school" (a contradiction from the first book for sure), and that simply they were reserving Peter for taking over the world. B.S.! The human race was supposedly at death's door, with Ender their last and only chance, since the fleets were arriving in position. Alai couldn't have really done the job, and Bean was a fluke last-minute entry. You're telling me they'd have kept Peter back on Earth just because they thought he'd make a good Hegemon? Of what planet, once the Buggers came back and ended them? To keep Peter from battle school on some pretext is preposterous, when EG is clear that he's every bit as strategically brilliant as Ender (another retcon in this book).

Likewise, the Bean character increasingly gains prominence, following from the moves made in Ender's Shadow, and increasingly there seem to be retcons regarding how people saw him in the past, regarding just how dominating he is in all aspects of war, contrasted with Ender's own direct statement in EG that Bean is good at coming up with innovative maneuvers with a small force but can't adequately wield a larger force. That was a neat character detail of Bean, and exactly how he was used in Dragon army. But apparently now he's just better-Ender in every way, even morally, since Bean is such a good guy with no flaws. So that's an irritating through-line too. But I do like that Petra is given a super-prominent role, as I liked her in EG a lot. A pity that Alai is relegated in most of his scenes to putting up a silly act, and that Shen gets virtually no time in the book at all.

There are other retcons, like the scrubbing the EG epilogue where Graff and Mazer quit the fleet and go with Ender to serve under him out of the huge respect they have for him. Since this trilogy seems at least partially dedicated to taking the wind out of Ender's sails, it figures that even his supporters would switch to Bean. So in my head canon they still go with him after this trilogy.

I'm looking forward to the next set of books, but one thing I'm a bit sad about is that the books have ceased to have so much of a Christian theme as the basis for the stories. Not that I need my sci-fi to be Christian at all, but since Card took on that task, and succeeded, I was gratified to see him (for four books) able to tell stories with a strong moral backbone and yet without making them overtly preachy. This last four books appear to have sort of ditched that mission statement and are much more plot-oriented stories, to connect the dots between EG and the Lusitania series. From that standpoint they appear much more light and lacking substance, even though they're certainly fun reads.

I'd enjoy hearing some of your thoughts about the series, the retcons I mentioned, or anything else you valued, liked, or didn't like about the Ender books.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2021, 12:12:32 PM by Fenring »

LetterRip

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2021, 12:55:47 PM »
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increasingly there seem to be retcons regarding how people saw him in the past, regarding just how dominating he is in all aspects of war, contrasted with Ender's own direct statement in EG that Bean is good at coming up with innovative maneuvers with a small force but can't adequately wield a larger force.

Ender is rather horrid at realizing when he is being manipulated.  Bean is a master manipulator - so Ender's judgement isn't necessarily the reality of the situation.  Many of the adult's are talented manipulators as well - Graff, Mazer, Carlotta, as well as Ender's parents.  The children characters are generally oblivious to this with the exception of Bean and rarely Ender (he sometimes sees the most obvious stuff).  The fact that Ender didn't realize he was fighting the real war makes it pretty clear that he has major blind spots (of course given his age this is entirely to be expected).  Ender is an unreliable narrator because he is poor in certain areas of perception so these aren't necessarily retcons.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2021, 12:58:17 PM by LetterRip »

Seriati

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2021, 04:42:19 PM »
Fen, I think you hit my feelings on Ender's Shadow precisely.  I think it was a retcon and not consistent with Ender's Game, no matter how hard some, cough, work to reconcile them. 

rightleft22

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2021, 05:23:33 PM »
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EG did suggest Bean was given a chance at command before Ender got there, but it was a failure, and I find it hard to believe that if he was such a strategic genius it really would have been a failure. I know they say Bean isn't as good a leader, but if he was issuing kickass orders I think the jeesh would have complied and had good results, whether they liked him or not

Theirs a intangible in leadership that Bean never had. To me Bean was written as a someone that those around him took a automatic dislike too that was not based on reason and whos strategic genius lay in working in the shadows.     

TheDeamon

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2021, 08:33:23 PM »
This is very much a family story, but does broach metaphysical issues, especially pertaining to Jane and generally to the theory (is this Card's real belief?) that souls are distinct entities that come to inhabit living beings (organic or otherwise), and that the strongest of these souls is needed to inhabit the strongest beings. That there's a disparity in 'spirit' among people is something established by St Paul in one of his letters (forget which one), so there's a Christian precedent for that idea. But whereas EG and this trilogy do work very well as general Christian stories (just like C.S. Lewis' do), this metaphysics about souls is definitely inconsistent with the teachings of most Christian groups. Maybe someone who knows about Mormonism can tell me whether Card's ideas here are extrapolations of the Mormon teachings? I know the Catholic teachings best, and these ideas are definitely not compatible with that.

That's some advanced doctrinal material. It has been awhile(about a decade) since I delved into it and cannot find it in the place I expected to find it. (It should be somewhere in the Pearl of Great Price)

But in the LDS version of the creation one of the first things that happened is "the intelligences were organized" which creates an interesting theological question for Mormons who get deep enough into it. The intelligences(which includes us) were organized, not created, birthed, or anything of the sort along that line. Finding people, even among the LDS, who are even half-way conversant on that specific topic is actually somewhat rare.

What you can find in much more common form and knowledge among the Mormons is the LDS belief in a pre-existence(after "the intelligences were organized"). And yes, the parallels between LDS instruction that can be found on certain topics and what OSC wrote are very striking and strong.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2021, 08:44:54 PM by TheDeamon »

Fenring

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2021, 09:41:49 AM »
The fact that Ender didn't realize he was fighting the real war makes it pretty clear that he has major blind spots (of course given his age this is entirely to be expected).

I guess. But the reality is that the only reason he really was fighting the war was because it just so happened that they had the fleet in position, that it was their last chance to wage the war, and that Ender came just at the last moment for them to have their leader. It's fine that this was the case, but Ender couldn't know that and it's a critical piece of information in order to derive the fact that command school was fake. If Ender had been born, just for example, 20 years prior to the fleet arriving a the Bugger worlds, they most likely would have done the command school for real, not as a fake. Being in the position of Ender and the jeesh, could you be sure there'd be sufficient information to distinguish between these two cases?

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Ender is an unreliable narrator because he is poor in certain areas of perception so these aren't necessarily retcons.

I suppose I never interpreted him as having poor perception in any area. What Ender's Shadow seemed to me to do was to give Bean such enormous mental gifts that he could derive conclusions from such scanty data that he might as well be a wizard. Not saying there aren't next-level thinkers out there, but my understanding in EG was that Peter and Ender were two of the smartest people on the planet, so the only way to write a character who can figure stuff out light years faster than Ender is...well, to write that Card did, that he's mentally meta-human. So I'm not sure being pitted against Magneto in a competition for who can lift more metal is really quite the fair comparison.

I take your general point, that OSC was trying to cast a new light on what were Ender's POV understandings in EG, but I guess my objection  is that I don't really buy how he did it. It felt like power-creep to me, and one designed not just to shed new light, but to cast shade as well.

Fenring

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2021, 09:47:46 AM »
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EG did suggest Bean was given a chance at command before Ender got there, but it was a failure, and I find it hard to believe that if he was such a strategic genius it really would have been a failure. I know they say Bean isn't as good a leader, but if he was issuing kickass orders I think the jeesh would have complied and had good results, whether they liked him or not

Theirs a intangible in leadership that Bean never had. To me Bean was written as a someone that those around him took a automatic dislike too that was not based on reason and whos strategic genius lay in working in the shadows.   

I sort of also thought that was the idea, except that in the Shadow trilogy the story seems to be explicitly clear that Bean knows precisely how to train and lead troops, and that they're steadfastly loyal to him through that. He's not only the best tactician, but also the best leader. And the only reason he isn't the one commanding armies or nations is because he lacks ambition. And it's not like he had to humbly admit that Ender was master of this, and that he had to make himself copy Ender's example. No, he just seemed to already know how to do it. Shadow of the Giant also makes this point, that (military) leadership ability was something that Peter lacked. But I don't really see how they could tell, as children, that Peter couldn't lead but Ender could. In Ender's case he seemed to be a loner, at the mercy of his brother, and kicking the crap out of students that bothered him. He wasn't exactly Mr. Popular. Peter was probably much more charming and liked in school, for example. So how the IF could tell Peter wouldn't be followed (and wouldn't follow commands either) but that Ender would, is a mystery to me. And so that leaves us sort of nowhere with Bean. In EG we were told he couldn't lead, that it was tried and that if failed, but in the Shadow books we're told he can and that he's great at it. The reasons why are not provided, in the sense of seeing examples of why he would succeed or fail. We're just told that he does succeed or fail, so it's basically a deux ex machina.

Fenring

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2021, 09:51:16 AM »
What you can find in much more common form and knowledge among the Mormons is the LDS belief in a pre-existence(after "the intelligences were organized"). And yes, the parallels between LDS instruction that can be found on certain topics and what OSC wrote are very striking and strong.

Did you edit what you originally wrote here? I think it was something about the fallen angels having known you from before, and they know you better than you know yourself, because they remember what you've forgotten? I'm curious why you scrubbed that, I thought it was interesting.

About the rest - do you mean that pre-existence implies that these spirits existed prior to material creation, or prior to any creation? The latter would seem to imply that God did not create them, but that they were always there with God. Sort of like the Word in the book of John, maybe begotten but not made? Something like that?

LetterRip

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2021, 11:44:45 AM »
Bean decides to avoid undermining Ender's leadership when they are both in battle school - if he establishes himself as Ender's equal or superior it would undermine Ender.  Since Graff makes the decisions this won't cost him advancement by not seeking to maximize competitive success.

Regarding Peter - in the first book Peter is a psychopath but in later novels he no longer is (apparently through the power of sisterly love - things don't work that way, psychopathy is genetic lack of empathy).  Battleschool doesn't want psychopaths - they make horrible leaders - not because they can't get people to love and follow them - they are actually quite superb at that - but because psychopaths don't care about anyone else at all.  He is a poor choice for leadership because he wouldn't care about those he is leading (this can partially be compensated by strategic realization of people being valuable).  Also psychopaths are frequently extremely vengeance seeking (Achille is a reasonably accurately written psychopath).  This can heavily distort motivations and actions.  If an enemy 'makes you look like a fool' - it can result in the psychopath making huge strategic errors to get even/get revenge.  Achille gets into battleschool because he didn't have the early childhood monitoring so they were unaware he was a psychopath.

Fenring

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2021, 12:02:20 PM »
Regarding Peter - in the first book Peter is a psychopath but in later novels he no longer is (apparently through the power of sisterly love - things don't work that way, psychopathy is genetic lack of empathy).

This is one point that I think is really hard to dispute as being a retcon (although you're attributing it to an error, ok). Because in the Shadow series Peter is certainly described many times, including by his parents in real time, as being essentially evil. Even in his conversations with Bean they seem clear between them that although Peter is a would-be dictator, he's still better than the alternatives because Bean approves of his methods and end-goal. So it does appear within certain things Peter says that he's been morphed in personality, in the way you describe; but when others describe him they speak of him as if he's the same Peter who tormented Ender. And I don't think it's meant to be understood that they're misjudging him. In a way the point of the book is that they're correctly judging him and yet still back him. So this is one reason I feel the character was a mess in this series. It is very inconsistent, and certainly tonally he doesn't resemble his young self at all, even in his meticulous takings things apart to study them. He doesn't seem to study much of anything in these books.

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Battleschool doesn't want psychopaths - they make horrible leaders - not because they can't get people to love and follow them - they are actually quite superb at that - but because psychopaths don't care about anyone else at all.  He is a poor choice for leadership because he wouldn't care about those he is leading (this can partially be compensated by strategic realization of people being valuable).

I see how this could make sense, but this little detail about how much the psychopath could compensate for not caring by assigning value to his subordinates is a big deal. From a certain standpoint Bean qualifies very much as a sociopath in how he deals with people. Certainly that's how he was in his first dealings with Achilles in Rotterdam; he had no qualms about coldly instructing Poke to kill him. It wasn't one of these "painful but necessary thing", which is more Ender's deal. In fact Bean seems to even regard himself as essentially being psychopathic, even though Carlotta disagrees. But it's funny, because the point of her disagreement - that he does things for others - is actually not a real sticking point. Psychopaths can have plenty of desire to do things for others, it's just the basis of their motivation is going to be a little different than for other people (it won't be rooted in sympathy or compassion). Even by the end of the series, Bean really does actually come across how he used to think of himself: as having essentially zero caring for anyone. When he speaks to them his tone is utterly selfish and self-serving, right to the end. That's the flavor of his dialogue, how I would perceive him if someone like that spoke to me that way. He gives zero craps what anyone else thinks, and bluntly tells them how it's going to be, always. From that standpoint, I actually do think Bean is a good candidate for a sociopath; it's just that as Carlotta suggested, this isn't the end-all of whether he can be a good person or not. In Christian parlance, psychopaths can be saved too.

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Also psychopaths are frequently extremely vengeance seeking (Achille is a reasonably accurately written psychopath).  This can heavily distort motivations and actions.  If an enemy 'makes you look like a fool' - it can result in the psychopath making huge strategic errors to get even/get revenge.  Achille gets into battleschool because he didn't have the early childhood monitoring so they were unaware he was a psychopath.

This is a good point, actually, although I don't really see it having been brought up in the books as a point of reasoning. The thing about Achilles, though, is he's not just a psychopath, but also a lunatic, which are not quite the same thing. In theory although psychopaths can have impulse control problems, it's not a necessity, and certainly Achille's need to kill anyone under certain circumstances makes him (as they say) a serial killer, which is not a criterion for psychopathy (i.e. you can be a serial killer and not be a psychopath, and be a psychopath without being a serial killer).

yossarian22c

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2021, 12:11:25 PM »
Fenring, I tend to agree about how Bean treats people. Its why I don't understand why Petra loves him. A nun who raised a boy can be expected to try to see the best in him and try to get him to see the best in himself. Its been years since I've read the series so I don't remember too many details. But the Bean/Petra thing always struck me as odd and sudden. It felt like one day Bean was doing his thing then the next they were having babies.

Fenring

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2021, 12:57:41 PM »
the next they were having babies.

This is one of the most unintentionally funny things in the series, that at first Petra, but then increasingly other people, refer to having kids as "having babies!" Like, it's a term that's pretty idiosyncratic in the first place and was even bizarre coming out of Petra's mouth. But then it became a trend 8)

I guess this is deliberate on Card's part, because he wanted the idea of having children to be unadulterated and simple in its presentation, boiled down to its simplest and more naive phrasing ('I want to have your babies'). It's like how I imagine cave people would have said it. Assuming he did put it this way for a considered purpose, I think it sort of ends up sounding like people in the story are increasingly echoing Card's own views of family; i.e. that they're speaking not in their own words, but in his. Eh, it's just a minor point, made me chuckle a few times. 

TheDeamon

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2021, 01:03:54 PM »
What you can find in much more common form and knowledge among the Mormons is the LDS belief in a pre-existence(after "the intelligences were organized"). And yes, the parallels between LDS instruction that can be found on certain topics and what OSC wrote are very striking and strong.

Did you edit what you originally wrote here? I think it was something about the fallen angels having known you from before, and they know you better than you know yourself, because they remember what you've forgotten? I'm curious why you scrubbed that, I thought it was interesting.

Yes, it got dropped as I decided it wasn't "properly relevant" to the discussion at hand.

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About the rest - do you mean that pre-existence implies that these spirits existed prior to material creation, or prior to any creation? The latter would seem to imply that God did not create them, but that they were always there with God. Sort of like the Word in the book of John, maybe begotten but not made? Something like that?

As I recall what was outlined by one of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (I forget which one) in relation to the passage I can't seem to find at this time. Is that "We've always existed"(as an intelligence/soul at least) and even he was uncertain on the specifics of that particular detail. My recollection on the commentary suggested the "intelligences" in question are older than this creation(presumably being the universe we are in). I say that as the LDS take on the creation of this world specifically is that we played significant roles in "carrying out the details" of God's directives in the creation story, and that "the war in heaven" was fought before our world was formed.

Hard for Lucifer/Satan to be a fallen angel in the guise of a serpent in the Garden of Eden if those events had not already taken place previously after all.

LDS Metaphysics gets into all kinds of weird things other Christian denominations simply can't get to for various reasons. Which is probably a significant contributor to fair number of Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors/creatives being Mormon. As it provides a wide open playground for exploring those concepts.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2021, 01:13:24 PM by TheDeamon »

yossarian22c

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2021, 01:13:53 PM »
the next they were having babies.

This is one of the most unintentionally funny things in the series, that at first Petra, but then increasingly other people, refer to having kids as "having babies!" Like, it's a term that's pretty idiosyncratic in the first place and was even bizarre coming out of Petra's mouth. But then it became a trend 8)

I guess this is deliberate on Card's part, because he wanted the idea of having children to be unadulterated and simple in its presentation, boiled down to its simplest and more naive phrasing ('I want to have your babies'). It's like how I imagine cave people would have said it. Assuming he did put it this way for a considered purpose, I think it sort of ends up sounding like people in the story are increasingly echoing Card's own views of family; i.e. that they're speaking not in their own words, but in his. Eh, it's just a minor point, made me chuckle a few times.

The gate series has a similar type romance. High school kids going from friends straight to "I want to have your babies." I think the language was the same, definitely a Card thing.

LetterRip

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2021, 01:19:35 PM »
Fenring,

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This is one point that I think is really hard to dispute as being a retcon (although you're attributing it to an error, ok).

Could be a retcon, but a lot of people seem to believe that psychopathy is curable.  It seems like strongly religious people and strongly liberal individuals want to believe that psychopathy is not innate and can be cured.

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I see how this could make sense, but this little detail about how much the psychopath could compensate for not caring by assigning value to his subordinates is a big deal. From a certain standpoint Bean qualifies very much as a sociopath in how he deals with people.

so there is a huge difference between being ruthless because it is obviously the most rational option, and being a psychopath.  Most people can't think rationally about non-empathic reasoning - empathy will divert their brains from being able to even contemplate solutions that violate that principle in a direct manner (unless under emotional duress that suppresses empathy such as rage).  A minority of people can contemplate solutions that ignore empathic solutions.  It is similar to learning to think in terms of expected value in poker for bluffing or calling a bluff - many people can't do it - the fear of embarrassment of being caught bluffing or the fear of embarrassment of being bluffed when they had the best hand - the emotional considerations always override the rational decision making.

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Certainly that's how he was in his first dealings with Achilles in Rotterdam; he had no qualms about coldly instructing Poke to kill him. It wasn't one of these "painful but necessary thing", which is more Ender's deal. In fact Bean seems to even regard himself as essentially being psychopathic, even though Carlotta disagrees

Yep, this is actually common to think one might be a psychopath if you can think in a manner that emotions won't prevent contemplating certain actions.  It actually appears to be related to autism

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081015110228.htm

Interestingly autistic people are poor at recognizing emotion - and thus they appear to 'lack empathy' - so people often think they are psychopaths.  Conversely psychopaths are often excellent at reflective empathy (ability to understand what others are feeling via observation) and thus are excellent at faking empathy - so most people can't identify actual psychopaths.

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The thing about Achilles, though, is he's not just a psychopath, but also a lunatic, which are not quite the same thing.

He  is willing to kill as vengeance for being seen weak, but that isn't lunacy in the commonly accepted meaning.  If you embarrass a psychopathic criminal they might have you tortured and killed.  Psychopaths don't do more of this type of killing because they are concerned about risks.

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In theory although psychopaths can have impulse control problems

They have the same rate of impulse control disorder as non-psychopaths, but the psychopathy checklist was developed on incarcerated populations - and psychopaths with impulse control problems are far more likely to end up incarcerated.

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Achille's need to kill anyone under certain circumstances makes him (as they say) a serial killer, which is not a criterion for psychopathy (i.e. you can be a serial killer and not be a psychopath, and be a psychopath without being a serial killer).

Serial killers tend to be either sadistic psychopaths (who enjoy the suffering of their victims) or psychopaths who are killing for rational reasons (contract killers, gang rivalry, advancement) and occasional vengeance killers.  The vengeance killers do it because they think they have no risk of getting caught - either 'above the law' or 'smarter than everyone else'.

It isn't clear why some psychopaths seek more drastic vengeance than others - but if you upset a psychopath they will almost certainly try and ruin your life in some way (get you fired, arrested, ruin your reputation, have some sort of physical trauma or emotional trauma befall you such as harming someone you love, or destroying something you care about, etc.)

TheDeamon

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #15 on: August 18, 2021, 01:57:33 PM »
so there is a huge difference between being ruthless because it is obviously the most rational option, and being a psychopath.  Most people can't think rationally about non-empathic reasoning - empathy will divert their brains from being able to even contemplate solutions that violate that principle in a direct manner (unless under emotional duress that suppresses empathy such as rage).  A minority of people can contemplate solutions that ignore empathic solutions.  It is similar to learning to think in terms of expected value in poker for bluffing or calling a bluff - many people can't do it - the fear of embarrassment of being caught bluffing or the fear of embarrassment of being bluffed when they had the best hand - the emotional considerations always override the rational decision making.

There is another layer to this which has less to do with being ruthless, and it tends to be the camp I hew towards.

Sometimes the "compassionate empathic response" can be actively harmful in the longer run. Giving someone validation because that is the "empathic response" when the person in question was objectively in the wrong is not likely to help them in the long run. It might have short term benefits, but the long term is bad. This is the problem with a large number of "enablers" out there, they're trying to be compassionate/empathic in their providing of support to the person in question, but instead they've become part of the problem.

Fenring

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2021, 02:14:49 PM »
We could debate the finer nuances of psychopathy, or ruthlessness, and that's quite interesting, but my point was that Bean did not exhibit signs in his youth of having a choice between acknowledging his empathic side, versus forcing himself to choose a ruthless course because it was necessary for survival. When he told Poke to kill Achilles, this was not the final result of a moral dilemma within him; or at least the book gives no indication of that. All we're told is that he knew Achilles had to die, period end of story, and he vehemently advocated for that. Never after this point does he reflect on how unfortunate it was he had to push for that. In fact if anything he laments that Poke didn't go through with it. So this is IMO not a case of his ruthlessness having to overcome his empathy, since I saw no signs of empathy in the mix.

What makes the designation 'ruthless' interesting in the series is that it's treated as the ability, or even the need, to do anything it takes to succeed. In Peter Wiggins' case this is absolute and no other factor supposedly enters his reasoning; or at least it's minimal compared to his ruthlessness. He will always do anything it takes to win, and with no compunction. Ender is different because his ruthlessness, which is probably equal to Peter's, is tempered by a high degree of empathy. He can be utterly as ruthless as any of them, but he has another source of inner guidance pushing him in another direction sometimes. And even then he'll kill on the spur of the moment with zero thought of backing down. In Bean's case, sure, we can argue that he was very ruthless too, but unlike Ender this does not appear to ever be tempered by a contrary force within him saying it's wrong to do so. The only thing causing him to be fair and reasonable towards others is his calculating reason. He doesn't use force insanely because it's illogical. Manipulation and balance are simply more effective tools for him. But I don't recall a single passage where he held back doing something ruthless because he felt it would be wrong, or would cause him emotional turmoil.

So to me it's not a question of whether his actions came from ruthlessness; of course they did. But my point is he looks like a sociopath because there was no other factor in play in his mind beside that. Including how he speaks to people in ordinary conversation - I can't find much of any sign that he has the slightest interest in whether the other person is uncomfortable. Every conversation is a power trip where he has to absolutely dominate the other person, and in fact he does this with Petra quite a bit as well. I guess you could just say he's a jerk (which doesn't mean I don't like his character). But 'jerk' doesn't go far enough when it involves the sorts of actions he takes.

rightleft22

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2021, 03:41:02 PM »
Its been a while since I revisited Card's work  I missed the continuing Shadow series which he is still working on -  The Last Shadow is coming out in Oct

Fenring

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2021, 02:57:54 AM »
A War of Gifts

Just finished reading this little book, and it was fun. It was a treat to have much more involvement from Dink, who I would have liked to hear from more in the Shadow series. IMO he was one of the few battle schoolers in EG who had a strong and distinct voice right from the onset, without needing much book time for the author to develop who he is. Even Shen was more hard to read than him, and it's also tough to quite figure Bean in that book. From the midpoint of EG it seemed that Ender would have had the closest bond with maybe Shen, Alai, and Dink; a friendship that went beyond being effective associates. One trend that's continuing in this book is that Graff increasingly seems to be not only a great trainer - the man who knew how to make Ender into a weapon - but also something of an oracle who sees ahead to all possibilities and can calculate all outcomes. He even appears to make Dink look slow at times. I suppose I don't mind that conceit, I do like his dry sense of humor, and I also like that someone as quick as the kids happens to be suited for another role other than fleet command.

As for Zeck, he seemed strongly reminiscent of Qing-jao from Xenocide. Maybe Card has a thing about characters who are so single-mindedly fanatical that they seem insane to everyone, and saintly to themselves.

One thing from this story, short as it was, got me thinking. If I wanted to try to reconcile LR's opinion that Ender's skills are a bit narrower than it would at first appear, in order to accord with Ender's Shadow, with what we see here and in EG, I suppose there is the issue of what exactly Ender's skills actually are. Obviously he's tactically brilliant, but although he was the most innovative thinker in terms of battle tactics, it seems to me what his real gift was in reading his opponent on a personal level. This is really highlighted not only by how he developed his final strategies around the mindset of the Queens, but most especially in the domestic scenes on Lusitania. He's not so much someone specialized in killing the best, but more specialized in cutting through mental defenses to see right through to the heart of a matter. In Zeck's case here, Ender used his arsenal to disarm and clear away Zeck's defenses quite quickly, using his ability to read his feelings and the clues about his background. And later he does similar things to what become his family on Lusitania. He's like the ultimate weapon in the realm of getting through to people, which can include his enemies. Bean, on the other hand, plays tactics like pieces like on a chess board, very sophisticated, but also very remote and calculated. He doesn't need to know his opponent's mindset because it doesn't matter, he'll just calculate all the possible moves and make the best play. Maybe Ender needs access to his opponent (or whoever he's trying to understand) in order to use his gift to its fullest, whereas Bean's thinking almost can treat people as interchangeable much of the time. So maybe Ender couldn't read the trick about the real war because he never really had access to Graff; Graff kept himself so remove and unavailable that no one could have any data to parse about his motives. Ender did have much more access to Mazer, but he apparently was able to compose himself well enough to hide any clues. Bean himself (in Ender's Shadow) only realized the truth as a result of studying technical data; he didn't get it from the behavior of the officers. So actually it was his academic study (done on his own time), rather than any savvy sense that people were tricking him, that made him aware that the war must be imminent. 

So LR, that was my attempt to try to come to terms with your POV on this. But even on this reading, I still find that one has to conclude that mainly Ender wasn't exactly weak at realizing he's being tricked, so much as his entire focus was on beating the Buggers, rather than studying esoteric data about the IF's technologies. Bean had the luxury to spend time on that stuff, and made strong conclusions from it. But one thing I do think becomes evident, assuming we're not calling B.S. on Bean just being flat-out better than Ender at everything, is that Card's original idea about "loving your enemy allowing you to beat them" becomes more or less invalidated. If we set aside that principle and accept that pure tactical calculation is really what wins out in actual battles, then Bean may end up being the slightly better person at war, despite lacking Ender's insight into people (or hive Queens). Ender seems to find his real stride not against the Buggers, but against hardened hearts on Lusitania. I thought that storyline was very inspiring. He's more like an evangelist (for the truth, not so much for any particular religion) whose gifts can be used for war, whereas Bean is good where raw calculation is needed. But the thing is, it's sad to have to discard that idea about love being related to war, as it was really a core of EG. But it doesn't track particularly well in the Shadow series, where it seems more like being the smartest is really quite good enough to dominate everyone in war, empathy or no empathy. So maybe that's a retcon I should be focusing on more.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2021, 03:00:45 AM by Fenring »

Fenring

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #19 on: September 27, 2021, 11:14:24 AM »
Ender in Exile

I actually like this book more than the Shadow tetralogy, primarily because it was a return to more human character stories rather than over-arching plot arcs. Since we already knew how the book ended, Card had the luxury to delve into a few relationships without concern to establish where the story was going. We knew Ender would discover the Formic ruins, we knew he'd leave the colony before too long, and we knew some situation with the final missing genius was still up in the air. We knew Ender couldn't die, we knew Valentine would stay with him, and we knew Ender would write The Hive Queen and The Hegemon. All of this was already out of the way, so thankfully the focus could be more...local?

I quite enjoyed the email correspondences at the start of the chapters, and I thought the story idea was neat on the starship of Ender having to deal with a surely Captain on the one hand and some ambitious civilians on the other hand. True, Card did resort to what has become an old standard, the insane controlling parent driving their child crazy (which we also saw in War of Gifts), and true, we got a cliched Star Trek trope (the abominable Admiral syndrome), but still it's enjoyable at minimum to watch Ender deal with these people in his way. I think Card had a much better grasp at how to have Ender redeem bad situations than he did with Bean. With Ender we sense his weakness on a human level, that he has to take a lot of pain onto himself in order to heal others; that even though he must win at all costs, he constrains himself even further and only accepts to win in such a way as to make the world better, not worse. So Ender's flaw is that he wants to take everyone on himself, even maybe things he shouldn't or can't. There is a price to pay for him doing what he does best, he suffers for it. By contrast, I never really felt that I got a sense of what it costs Bean to be who and what he is. He always wins, always knows best, but in so doing there is nothing really holding him back other than, I suppose, his own stubborn refusal to admit there might be something he doesn't know. This is a flaw, to be sure, but not one that makes him particularly sympathetic. His shortened life is a drawback, but I don't think his general disposition can really be traced to learning about that; it's an unfortunate happenstance, but not part of the architecture of his personality.

I will also note that despite being a pleasant throwback to the Lusitania trilogy in terms of the sort of story it was telling, Card did throw in - almost gratuitously - several references to how much Ender was relying on Bean, how Bean was better than him, etc etc. I saw no real story purpose to these mentions, and they felt rather that the author had a point to make and was insisting on making it; presumably the point was to reconcile the Shadow books with Ender's Game. Maybe on some level he felt he had to justify what he wrote. Personally I take it as a virtual admission that there was retconning, although I'm sure others disagree. I found it interesting when reading OSC's postscript that he in fact did not take the time to re-read the previous books or have a concrete set of notes to lean on when writing the newer books. It's entirely possible that he didn't intend to retcon anything but that keeping the continuity in check just wasn't a priority. The postscript says that some fans helped him with this, but I'm not sure (a) how effective they were, or (b) how open OSC really was to their criticisms. Card mentions a few minor details that he had them check about who said what about a particular thing, but it seems to me these issues were relatively insignificant compared to what is essentially the entire point of Ender's Game (Ender being the only hope and having the entire future of humanity hang on his agreeing to be a murderer) being turned on its head.

But anyhow, I quite liked this book and felt that tonally it was a return to form. To be sure it wasn't as deep as the Lusitania trilogy, but still delving into the meat of being human.

Fenring

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #20 on: September 28, 2021, 09:57:43 AM »
So let me ask another question for any takers. The books have recently been making a repeated point that Bean is superior to Ender at everything except being able to love others. So that makes Ender a better commander, and perhaps better in certain situations where loving your enemy is requisite to defeating them. I'm reading Shadows in Flight now and Bean makes this point, and reiterates that Ender could defeat the Formics because he loved them. Earlier in the thread I mentioned that I really felt it was incompatible to on the one hand keep mentioning that Bean is Ender's superior in war, and yet to claim on the other hand that Ender loves his enemy which makes him better at defeating them. I can see the case easily in domestic troubles, like with a family or person going down the wrong path; Ender can offer them healing at his own expense, and 'defeat them' in the sense of making them cease to be his enemy. But have there been any actual examples in the books of militarily being able to beat an enemy because you loved them? The key example is supposed to be the Formics themselves.

So do any of you have a notion of what part of EG showed us that Ender defeated them through loving knowledge of what they need and who they are?

yossarian22c

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #21 on: September 28, 2021, 10:55:00 AM »
So do any of you have a notion of what part of EG showed us that Ender defeated them through loving knowledge of what they need and who they are?

Completely understanding your enemy is probably a better phrasing. But I think it was Ender who discovered (rediscovered) that they were a hive mind and to take out the queen.

But probably the more accurate interpretation is that Ender was a better commander because he could empathize with or love his Jeesh. The relationship with the others that got the best out of everyone is probably what made Ender the better commander. At least that is how it would be interpreted from the Ender stories. In the Bean stories, well, Bean is super genius at everything.

Fenring

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #22 on: September 28, 2021, 11:10:36 AM »
Completely understanding your enemy is probably a better phrasing. But I think it was Ender who discovered (rediscovered) that they were a hive mind and to take out the queen.

I had read EG a long time ago, but none of the rest of the series, and I also had it in my memory that Ender was the one who discovered this. And even the film shows Ender, with Mazer's help, sort of deducing it himself. But I was surprised to be reminded when reading EG earlier this year that Mazer is definitely the one who figured it out back in the 2nd Formic War, and in fact has to walk Ender through the logic and explain it to him. Ender definitely didn't figure this out for himself in the book. To be fair, he was given little to no actual information on them until Mazer started training him.

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But probably the more accurate interpretation is that Ender was a better commander because he could empathize with or love his Jeesh. The relationship with the others that got the best out of everyone is probably what made Ender the better commander.

This was my takeaway as well from EG specifically.

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At least that is how it would be interpreted from the Ender stories. In the Bean stories, well, Bean is super genius at everything.

The Shadows books (and all the ones that follow) go quite a bit out of their way to make it clear that even if Ender had fallen Bean could easily have won the war in his place. So between that point, and the fact that all Ender did in EG was to destroy their homeworld using Doctor device, I'm not really clear on what part of his victory came from understanding them in the way they understand themselves. In fact it seems to me that the books imply that he only really understood them after finding the Hive Queen on Shakespeare colony. Ender in Exile in particular stresses the point that Ender is now thinking they may have sacrificed themselves to him deliberately, which goes even further in the direction of suggesting that during the war he had no idea at all what was going on in their thinking.

yossarian22c

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #23 on: September 28, 2021, 11:49:17 AM »
The Shadows books (and all the ones that follow) go quite a bit out of their way to make it clear that even if Ender had fallen Bean could easily have won the war in his place. So between that point, and the fact that all Ender did in EG was to destroy their homeworld using Doctor device, I'm not really clear on what part of his victory came from understanding them in the way they understand themselves. In fact it seems to me that the books imply that he only really understood them after finding the Hive Queen on Shakespeare colony. Ender in Exile in particular stresses the point that Ender is now thinking they may have sacrificed themselves to him deliberately, which goes even further in the direction of suggesting that during the war he had no idea at all what was going on in their thinking.

Probably correct in that Ender didn't understand the enemy that well. EG makes it pretty clear Ender basically believes he's fighting training battles until the war is over. Its been so long since I've read the stories.

wmLambert

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #24 on: October 12, 2021, 02:38:09 PM »
Fenring said about Ender's Shadow: "... does an interesting thing - giving us a competing POV - but as it really is competing it appeared to me to actually invalidate a lot of what we're told in EG. Maybe OSC was trying to illuminate some of the stuff in EG, but I couldn't find any way to understand these things as concordant."

I think OSC was a good writer and got better as he continued in the EG series. Ender's Shadow Is my favorite of all 0f the books written, and has a more interesting protagonist than Ender. Ender did many things that were sub-optimal and caused one to consider better ways of accomplishing his ends, even as they were presented in the novel. I think OSC was just getting better and wanted a better story, so keeping entirely true to all aspects of EG was not an issue to him. Close enough is good enough when you're looking to improve a story line.

Fenring

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Re: Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« Reply #25 on: October 12, 2021, 03:05:22 PM »
I think OSC was just getting better and wanted a better story, so keeping entirely true to all aspects of EG was not an issue to him. Close enough is good enough when you're looking to improve a story line.

The more I read his comments about the various books, the more apparent to me it is that, as you say, he was overtly not that concerned about continuity for the sake of continuity, but rather moving forward in what he wanted to say. Some of it is not bothering to heavily research details like names of things and who said what in a past book, and some of it seems to be that he had new thoughts to develop, such that if something from a previous book got in the way that wasn't going to stop him or cause him to waste time twisting himself around to reconcile the two. So from that standpoint one has to accept, I suppose, that the books are a series but also in a way isolated stories. A War of Gifts is a battle school story, for instance, but really doesn't fit into EG anywhere at all, nor should we try to make it. It's just an isolated tale in that setting, sort of like what happens in the expanded Star Wars universe or in Star Trek books. So what I am trying more to do now is to assume that whatever I'm reading is an 'Ender universe' book but is not directly in continuity with the other books. Trying to find how they accord has proven fruitless, and doesn't match Card's intention when writing anyhow.