Sunday, March 2, 2014

Speaker for the Dead, chapter nine, in which I wonder if this is actually a first draft

(Content: terminal disease, infidelity, Luke/Leia levels of sibling romance.  Fun content: I bet you can't think of as many ways to be terrible to people as Ender.  Ready?  Go!)

Speaker for the Dead: p. 134--151
Chapter Nine: Congenital Defect

Notes this time are, for some reason, a dialogue embedded in the working records of Novinha's parents, Gusto and Cida.  Maybe they were texting each other from different labs?  They discuss Descolada, how it's in absolutely every living thing on Lusitania.  Gusto  determined that Descolada "isn't bacterial", that it's in everything, and they hypothesise that it's somehow actually necessary for their life cycle.  Which: wasn't it a huge deal that Novinha figured that out?  Isn't that the key discovery that set Pipo off and instigated the current carnival of tragedies?  Did Novinha just not read her parents' notes while studying to be the best xenobiologist ever, despite those being the only xenobiology notes studying Lusitanian life ever?  Plot twist: Lusitania was actually settled by a clown college and everyone's walking around in floppy shoes and driving cars the size of a minibar.

Card does lampshade this, as Cida bemoans that "the next xenobiologist will probably work with standard genetic adaptations and won't follow this up", and this dialogue is published in an article titled "Lost Threads of Understanding", but that's not actually a reason.  Novinha just decided not to read all the notes on the Lusitanian plague that made her parents saints by taking them away from her and leaving her to carry on in their exact footsteps on Lusitania.  Because... I dunno, I'm open to theories.

Anyway, Ender goes home late, stays up reflecting on the Ribeiras, wakes up early, and sets out to investigate.  He's antsy, like he always is before speaking a death, but he's thinking more about living people than dead.  Jane says he's obviously in love with Novinha; he says that he liked her as a kid but he finds adult-Novinha off-puttingly selfish and that she's failed her children.  Jane just razzes him and says she hopes he lets her speak his own death.  Ender sighs and sorts out his questions:
1. Why did Novinha marry Marcão in the first place? 
2. Why did Marcão hate his children? 
3. Why does Novinha hate herself? 
4. Why did Miro call me to speak Libo's death? 
5. Why did Ela call me to speak her father's death? 
6. Why did Novinha change her mind about my speaking Pipo's death? 
7. What was the immediate cause of Marcão's death?
He stops his thrilling whiteboarding there because he realises he has hit a simple factual question that he can answer by going to a clinic.  I'm not 100% sure why he couldn't have got answers to 4 and 5 by, for example, asking Miro and Ela why they called him, when he was over there, last night, after the rest of the family had long since gone to bed.  I mean, sure, they might lie, but he hasn't even asked yet.  Surely Ender isn't a sufficient jackass to just assume that everyone is going to instantly put all their effort into confounding him by default after all these years never mind of course he is check out this next scene.

Because Ender of course goes to the clinic, where the physician makes some opening jokes about his own name (Caronada, "little cannon") and Ender responds by threatening devastating legal action against the entire colony.  No, really.
"There are two ways I can get the answers to my questions," Ender said quietly. "I can ask you, and you can tell me truthfully. Or I can submit a petition to the Starways Congress for your records to be opened to me. The ansible charges are very high, and since the petition is a routine one, and your resistance to it is contrary to law, the cost will be deducted from your colony's already straitened funds, along with a double-the-cost penalty and a reprimand for you."
ENDER YOU HAVEN'T ACTUALLY ASKED A QUESTION YET.  Honest to Buddha, this is the first line of dialogue he has in this scene.  But he's determined that the doctor is "a good Catholic" and so will otherwise follow the bishop's urging to block his investigation.  (I still don't have a satisfactory answer for why ansible charges are so high.  Lightspeed travel is bizarrely cheap, but wifi will break you?)  Ender's tactics haven't changed even slightly since he fought the formics.  'This guy isn't coming at me, but I think he might, so I'd better burn down his house to be sure'.  He is just amazingly terrible.  It goes on!  When the doctor says "of course" he'll answer, Ender goes into another rant about how he knows the bishop told them to stop him and, if necessary:
"I will petition for my status to be changed from minister to inquisitor. I assure you that I have a very good reputation with the Starways Congress, and my petition will be successful." 
Navio knew exact what that meant.  As an inquisitor, Ender would have congressional authority to revoke the colony's Catholic license on the grounds of religious persecution.
I guess the government does know who he is, if he's got a good reputation in congress?  Does no one think it's a big deal that Ender the Xenocide is still alive?  No one's let that slip for political purposes?  How does he have a reputation, anyway?  He's an unknown speaker and his job is inherently ephemeral!  There are no records of his work!  Valentine was the famous one, and under a pseudonym at that!

This is especially hilarious rules-lawyering and coercion from Our Hero given what Card thinks of people using, for example, entirely legal democratic processes to institute marriage equality.

The doctor finally shows some actual resistance (now of all times) by asking to see Ender's authorisation, and Jane helpfully activates a nearby terminal to project it and declare his credentials in her most commanding voice.  Ender did nothing, and the doctor is smart enough to realise this means that the terminal was activated remotely by a monitoring program, presumably in Ender's bling, meaning he's got ridiculous clearance of some kind and he outclasses Bishop Peregrino.  God, this whole sequence has been so unnecessary.
"Marcos Ribeira died of a congenital defect." He rattled off a long pseudo-Latin name.
Pseudo-Latin?  How is it pseudo?  (Latin is at this point six thousand years old; it's not that surprising if they have to invent some new words now and then.)  Card just absolutely hates anyone who might in any way be associated with any scholarly institution (physical or conceptual).  It's amazing.  Anyway, speaking of pseudo, the doctor then gives us the pseudo-science that Marcos' disease slowly turned a bunch of his organs into pure fat cells.  He remarks that it usually starts with the testicles, preventing reproduction, but obviously for Marcos it hit them much later.  All of his kids were tested and none of them are showing signs of the disease, though the doctor presumes they must still be carrying the tendency.  The only thing the doctor's not sure about is how they didn't catch it in Marcos back in the plague days when everyone got a genetic scan.  He clunkily notes that it must have not shown up on the scan, or Novinha would never have married him.  Ender of course immediately decides that she knew exactly what she was doing.

Ender goes home and Jane projects herself holographically just so she can laugh forever.  Ender makes some excuses about people not being able to question their premises when it would imply something negative about a respected figure.  So, in a shocking twist that clearly none of us could have seen coming, Libo is the real father of all six of Novinha's kids.  Jane confirms this through a genetic scan, which... look, apparently she has access to data that lets her confirm parentage, but no one else has already done so.  The doctor has sufficient information on hand to determine paternity but hasn't bothered to investigate it after receiving strong evidence that their apparent father shouldn't have been able to bear children and after doing a detailed search for genetic anomalies on all of them.  Why are we impressed by Ender again?  This isn't Sherlock Holmes' calibre work, y'all.  Watson's dog could handle this investigation.

We return to Miro, taking the long path through the woods like Libo taught him, to avoid making a worn trail that an angry Lusitanian mob could follow one day if they decided to kill the Little Ones.  He sees a Little One watching him from afar--a scout, he suspects, to keep him from getting near the women--and recalls finding Libo's body with Ouanda, Libo still barely alive but carved open and unable to speak.  Libo insisted they never go near the theorised Province of the Ladies, and Miro doesn't.

When he arrives, Ouanda is teaching the Little Ones to churn butter from cabra milk, because apparently even though the whole point of this SCIENCE MYSTERY is that the aliens are so completely inconceivably different from anything humans could expect, they still have mammalian cattle.  (There was no mention of Little Ones herding, so I'm going to guess that Miro and Ouanda already taught them about that, too.)  Cabra milk is apparently nutritionally useless to humans, so they can't ask for help or else people would know they were doing something for the Little Ones, except I thought it was already a plot point that the Little Ones' diets made no nutritional sense either, so why do they think Space Llama Butter is a good idea?
"Welcome, I-Look-Upon-You-With-Desire." That was,of course, an extravagantly precise translation of Miro's name into Stark. Mandachuva loved translating names back and forth between Portuguese and Stark, even though Miro and Ouanda had both explained that their names didn't really mean anything at all, and it was only coincidence if they sounded like words.
Um?  Miro's full name is Marcos Vladimir Ribeira von Hesse, according to the dramatis personae (although since this is Card, he titled that page "Some People of Lusitania Colony" because he's not some ivory-tower elitist like you).  Someone help me out here.  'Miro' does appear to  be some form of the verb 'to see', and I'm guessing it was derived from the 'Vladimir'.  Marcos seems to be derived from Mars, Ribeira means 'river', and I can't find anything for 'Hesse'.  Google Translate isn't giving me anything helpful if I ask for Portuguese words for 'desire'.  Do we have a Portuguese-speaker in the blog?  (Ouanda also responds to 'Vaga', which means "wander", which sounds like Ouanda, but at least that makes sense.)

Miro reflects for a moment on Mandachuva, oldest of the Little Ones, whom Pipo wrote about as if he were important (they translate his name as slang for "boss") but whom Miro suspects is actually least prestigious, because he always has time to talk and isn't every busy with important work.  Both are reasonable conclusions, I think--either he's the boss and so he gets to loaf around while others serve, or he's always busy because the boss has to do important stuff.  Dunno which is supposed to be obvious.  Anyway, he's complaining about the cabra butter and how the females demand to see it even if it's horrible, and then descends for a while into cursing them while Miro considers how weird it is that the males are both so hateful and worshipful, because, again, Miro is an inept clown who knows nothing of gender politics throughout the whole of human history and especially as applicable to his own mother.

Arrow wants to talk to Miro and Ouanda, and they must not interact with each other because the Little Ones freak out to see a male and female human acknowledge each others' presence.  Winking is right out.  They'll also talk to Ouanda alone, but as soon as Miro is there they won't speak to her and won't let her speak to them.  So, again, a lot like humans.

Arrow has a favour to ask, and Miro maintains his (sensible) ongoing lie that he is absolutely powerless among humans, but Arrow is insistent because this request comes from Rooter, or more specifically his tree.  This apparently happens a lot.
It was only the last few years, beginning not long before Libo's death, that they started singling out Rooter as the source of most of the troublesome ideas.  It was ironic that a piggy they had executed as a rebel was now treated with such respect in their ancestor-worship.
Keeping in mind here that they don't actually have any evidence whatsoever that Rooter was in fact considered a rebel, and the only evidence that he was executed was that he was alive during his evisceration.  Apparently no one's considered the possibility that it was, for example, crude surgery gone wrong.  (Or a lone murderer, as we keep noting.)

Anyway.  They want metal.  They've worked out that all the best human stuff is made out of metal, or needs metal, and they fear that without it "we are condemned always to be varelse, and never ramen".  Miro silently curses Ouanda for teaching them the Hierarchy of Exclusion, even though we know for a fact that she didn't since Pipo mentions them calling themselves ramen/varelse in his notes at the start of chapter four, and he died years before Ouanda was born.  But that's just me obsessing over "tiny errors or contradictions or lapses in method", not pointing out that this lauded author and his entire editing staff still don't understand linear time.

Miro insists he can't get any; Arrow says they've seen the humans dig it up from the ground (which, Miro notes, means they're crossing the fence somewhere and sneaking around).  Miro explains that it's very hard to mine and process metals and it is all accounted for, even a single metal tool would be missed, which I assume we're also supposed to take as a lie since six-year-old Grego steals screwdrivers and knives all the time.

Arrow shows off his newest arrows, which he's started tipping with cabra bone instead of obsidian, because apparently now they do hunt cabra, even though that was never mentioned before?  Seriously, if Libo and his kids have introduced a pure gatherer society to hunting and farming, there should be massive societal upheaval.  It's not like they just added a fourth Starbucks.  They're transforming their entire food supply and all the associated ways of life.  That's a big deal in a subsistence society.

The Little Ones then bring out their copy of the Hive Queen and the Hegemon, which Miro gave them after Ouanda gave them a copy of the Gospel of St John, following a discussion about religions.  (The Little Ones are baffled that the humans (Christians, the kind of humans that matter) just have one god who died and lived again and now "dwells in our hearts", unlike Little One ancestors with their sweet tree-afterlives.)  Ouanda was first outraged at Miro's blasphemy, and then the Little Ones ended up using the gospel for kindling and keeping HQ&H wrapped in protective leaves.  The Little One called Human arrives, reverently opens the book, and declares that the speaker who has arrived is "the true Speaker.  Rooter says so."  They want Miro to bring him immediately; Miro says it'll take time, Human howls and Miro thinks he's going to die, but instead they just shun him until he leaves.

In the forest, Ouanda catches up with him and thanks to dramatic irony they have the most uncomfortable makeout session ever.  Ouanda says in another two year they can marry without Novinha's consent, and Libo would just as soon bang now, but:
...he did understand how vital it was in a fragile community like Milagre for marriage customs to be strictly adhered to.  Large and stable communities could absorb a reasonable amount of unsanctioned coupling; Milagre was far too small.
...What?  Even if I buy the explanation, which I don't, how is a colony of three-to-five-thousand too small to support one pair of teenagers mashing their junk in the woods?  What is it with conservatives and their conviction that Unauthorised Sex projects some kind of aura of doom?  I assume if they were both girls Lusitania would be immediately torn apart by The Nothing*.

Ouanda remains convinced that the speaker will ruin everything and they've only got ten or twenty years to improve the Little Ones' standard of life before the satellites start picking up on the changes.  Miro insists that he's good and trustworthy, having seen him instantly fix his entire family.  Ouanda says that it's easy to look good in that house when your standard of comparison is Marcos Ribeira, Miro gets offended and says his standard is Libo, et cetera, et cetera.

I'm more unsettled by the quiet undercurrent of threat towards Ouanda--first when Miro thinks that if he "thought for one moment that they would ever have to live the same vows of chastity in marriage [...] Ouanda's virginity would be in grave and immediate danger".  I really, really want to think that Miro means they would both go for each other instantly, but that's not clear and Ouanda's consent isn't otherwise mentioned.  Then, she talks about how Ender arrives "and every single one of you rolls over belly-up like a puppy dog", and Miro's response is to want to hit her.  Now, he shows self-control in both of these situations, but it's worth noting that Miro is the abused child of an abused father and that tends to affect people, so these are thoughts that cause me to also put Miro in the THERAPY FOR EVERYONE BUT ESPECIALLY THIS LOT bucket.  Obviously, that won't happen, because he's been Touched By An Ender and so is healed and enlightened.

Miro admits that she's right, he did wish Ender was his father:
"Just the way I used to say that every day when I went home from the Zenador's Station  If only Libo were my father, if only I were his son."
If only Libo were his sister's mother's aunt's niece's husband.  (Miro sounds like my grandmother, who referred to my namesake as "my father, your dad's grandfather, your great-grandfather", without fail.)  In case it hasn't clanged home yet, Ouanda chucks another anvil at us, saying she's glad he wasn't, "Because then I'd be your sister, and I could never hope to have you for myself."  WE GET IT OH MY GOD.

And with that, we've caught up with as far as I've read ahead, so I can't warn you what's coming next Sunday except that it starts with a really boring Q&A about the bizarre rules and philosophy of Card's invented monastic order, the Children of the Mind of Christ.


*I didn't mean for this to be an Elizabethan pun, but now it is and I will fight anyone who tries to stop me.


  1. For a really good way to tell a story of a symbiotic life and death virus world, for ghu's sake find a copy of the Helleconia trilogy. Despite it's painfully painful and unneccessary patriarchal setup (in a brand new created world, dear authors, why oh why must you always fall back to the bad "women are chattel" trope?) the Helliconia Virus totally stamps Descolada into the mud and whizzes on it before doing the tarantella around it.

  2. WTF. This is the book he reworked Ender's Game into a book so he could write, right? Because I'm not seeing a story here. I see some random world building ideas, not all of which go together, and some characters (many of whom are terrible), but I do not see a story. I do not see a plot. I do not know why we as readers should care about any of this.

    Maybe it feels more like there's a hook and a reason to care if one's actually reading the book and not just getting summations, but it doesn't seem like Card is giving the audience enough about anyone to get invested in them. It feels like we're just flipping through TV channels. Or like a bunch of people were given a few lines of basic set up and asked to write a scene from a story involving those things. I find it hard to get invested in Card's characters anyway (I couldn't finish Ender's Game. I just didn't care.), but who or what is this book about? What is the conflict we're supposed to want to see resolved? Whose fate are we supposed to be invested in? Why is the audience supposed to keep reading? And why do we even need Ender's Game for this book?

    The fact that nothing makes sense does not help matters.

    "As an inquisitor, Ender would have congressional authority to revoke the colony's Catholic license on the grounds of religious persecution."

    What in fuck? Okay, first off, inquisitors are a Catholic thing (and in any universe I can think of, including ones without Catholicism, a religious thing) and I'm pretty sure that the Starways Congress has not been - at least until this moment - styled as some sort of religious government. Second off, what does that sentence even mean???? He could have them excommunicated by the Catholic church? He could have them barred from practicing their faith by the secular government? And who are they supposedly religiously persecuting? Him? Not if he can be made a Catholic official, they're not. That would make him Catholic, too. I just cannot parse that into anything that makes a lick of sense.

    (Or does he think he can be a whatever his religion is Inquisitor and why in fuck do religious figures have the kind of power that is being suggested here??? What kind of universe is this!?)

    Also, I no longer have any idea what in fuck a Speaker For the Dead is. Is it a religious thingy (who would thereby have no secular authority, one would assume, unless Enderism, or what ever his religion is called, is the state religion)? Is it something that has secular authority? WHY???? Ender seems to have unlimited power to do whatever the frak he wants because he's the Speaker For the Dead but I don't understand why or how he has that power. This is not sensible world building. Religious people only have that kind of power when their religion is state supported. Except he's basically claiming that he's just so awesome and everyone knows who he why did that student a few chapters ago not know who he was and nothing makes any sense any more. I want a drink. *sob*

    And then there's Miro who both wants Ouanda so badly he's having scary thoughts but also wants to be her brother so that she can't have him and now I want about ten drinks.

    How are you surviving reading this? *offers chocolate, booze, chocolate booze, or whatever else might ease the pain of this terrible book*

  3. Not sure what your problem is with the reference to pseudo-Latin; there is such a thing. Spells in Rowling's Harry Potter universe are cast with pseudo-Latin incantations. Species are often named in pseudo-Latin, taking a very non-Latin discoverer's name (or discoverer's favorite book, or whatever) and adding Latin-sounding endings. In such cases it really does not seem reasonable to describe what's going on as new words being added to Latin. I find it a little odd that a congenital defect would be named in pseudo-Latin (it seems more likely for a virus or bacterium), but it doesn't seem impossible.

    Admittedly, a tiny nitpick; as usual, most of your criticisms are spot on.

  4. Because Card is LDS and everything he mentions with regards to other religions -- Catholics, Lutherans, etc -- drips with venom.

  5. And now Ender has huge amounts of pull with the interstellar congress, which he throws around before he's had any indication the doctor won't cooperate. Has anybody been keeping a tally of the things Ender has that show us how AMAZINGLY IMPORTANT and WONDERFUL and UNIVERSALLY RESPECTED he is* that are completely unnecessary and/or have zero impact on the story?

    *at least when he doesn't want to throw another self-pity party about how everyone hates him

  6. What's really bad is that they mostly serve to make Ender seem like a worse person and to destroy any hope of a sensible story or world building.

    I'm still going with Card hating fanfiction because your average 14 year old can do better wish fulfillment fic.

  7. Next chapter we do learn what revoking the colony’s “Catholic License” would mean:
    “[...]Naq gur eribpngvba bs bhe Pngubyvp Yvprafr ba gur tebhaqf bs eryvtvbhf crefrphgvba jbhyq thnenagrr gur vzzrqvngr nhgubevmngvba bs rabhtu aba-Pngubyvp vzzvtengvba gb znxr hf ercerfrag ab zber guna n guveq bs gur cbchyngvba.” Ovfubc Crertevab sbaqyrq uvf evat. “Ohg jbhyq gur Fgnejnlf Pbaterff npghnyyl nhgubevmr gung? Gurl unir n svkrq yvzvg ba gur fvmr bs guvf pbybal—oevatvat va gung znal vasvqryf jbhyq sne rkprrq gung yvzvg.” “Ohg lbh zhfg xabj gung gurl’ir nyernql znqr cebivfvba sbe gung. Jul qb lbh guvax gjb fgnefuvcf unir orra yrsg va beovg nebhaq bhe cynarg? Fvapr n Pngubyvp Yvprafr thnenagrrf haerfgevpgrq cbchyngvba tebjgu, gurl jvyy fvzcyl pneel bss bhe rkprff cbchyngvba va sbeprq rzvtengvba. Gurl rkcrpg gb qb vg va n trarengvba be gjb—jung’f gb fgbc gurz sebz ortvaavat abj?”

  8. Wat.
    None of that makes any sense! None of this book makes any sense!

    Worldbuilding is that there are these supposedly mono-culture colonies to prevent discrimination or something like that, right? But if somehow they manage to discriminate anyway, the solution is to ship in more people who aren't part of the mono-culture? WHAT????

    I fucking give up. This book is shit.

  9. Sadly, Marcão's effect on a boy he raised will not warrant inclusion in his life's story.

  10. To clarify, Lusitania's Catholic License basically means that certain laws are relaxed in exchange for certain other strictures--for example, they're not required to control their population (no birth control, no maximum number of children). Since Speakers are considered a type of minister for legal purposes, if the Lusitanians prevent him from fulfilling his duties (as requested by Novinha, Miro, and Ela) they're considered to be violating freedom of religion and so don't get their protections anymore, in the same way a church could theoretically lose its tax-exempt status if it meddled too directly in politics. (But this is just what I've picked up from the book up to now, so I could be wrong if Card retcons himself again later.)

  11. I'm not an economist, but this doesn't seem to make much sense to me.

    I have waited years to quote Jed Bartlett thusly: "Now, I'm not an economist, but--no, wait, I am an economist."

    And yes, planetary 'funds' only make the slightest sense in terms of interplanetary trade, and they almost never get incoming trade (it's possible, from context, that Ender's ship is the first shuttle the Little Ones have seen since Libo explained spaceflight to them), so presumably most of their expenses go into the ansible transmissions, even though, as noted, we have no reason to think those should be expensive, and they're frequently treated as completely casual. (Pipo and Libo ansible'd their notes out to the galaxy EVERY DAY, and it seems Miro and Ouanda still do.)

    Or is the law actually that Speakers can demand access to all the records of anyone involved with a person they're speaking for?

    Basically Ender has legal authority to request any documents that will help him execute his duty to speak the truth about the life of someone dead, and it's up to individuals to challenge him if they think he's asking too much, which is what he's daring the doctor to do here.

  12. How are you surviving reading this?

    Mostly by reminding myself how delightful it'll be to see folks boggle in the comments. Make sure to keep some chocolate/booze for yourself!

    It sounds like Starways Congress has a generic title of 'minister' that applies to any religious official (including speakers) and a generic title of 'inquisitor' that applies to any religious inspector, such that Ender, as a minister, could apply for inquisitorship, investigate/prosecute the Lusitanians for failing to honor freedom of religion, and then apply government sanctions accordingly. Which is a frankly hilarious way to run a secular government, but this is a galaxy where having no xenobiologist for eight years and then immediately authorising a teenager to take up the job is considered not-unreasonable.

  13. for example, they're not required to control their population (no birth control, no maximum number of children)

    Is that an actual in-text example? The one colony that abuts another sapient (and many suspect hostile) species, with whom they're supposed to have limited contact and give away no information about human civilizations, is the colony that is allowed unlimited population growth? Does nobody foresee problems with that?

  14. I can't imagine what you're talking about; clearly this will never result in any complications.

    (Though it turns out they do have a solution: forced emigration. If, or rather when, the colony grows beyond its approved size, they'll just be legally required to use a spare shuttle to ship a chunk of their population away to some other world. I am beginning to think Card was just trying to fit every possible reference to colonialism into this book that he could get his hands on.)

  15. He clunkily notes that it must have not shown up on the scan, or
    Novinha would never have married him. Ender of course immediately
    decides that she knew exactly what she was doing.

    So basically, they're saying that it's unthinkable for a woman to marry a man knowing that he's sterile. Unless she's got ulterior motives involving having children with another man. Because marriage is all about breeding, of course.

    Novinha couldn't marry Pipo because then she couldn't have kept her secret because married people have no privacy, so instead she marries a sterile non-scientist - which, well, if her goal was to bear Pipo's children in secret... but why would that be her goal? Was it just about sex, and birth control is not a thing that exists? Or was it that having the children of your beloved is the purpose of life? I just seems off, especially since Marcao was an abusive asshole and generally the worst possible beard.

  16. Basically Ender has legal authority to request any documents that will
    help him execute his duty to speak the truth about the life of someone

    And how did that particular law survive past the very first time that some famous politician died, and a hundred would-be Speakers signed up to demand access to all her confidential papers, plus every government document that might have relevance to her life and work?

  17. It would've been hilarious if the doctor responded with a befuddled "What are you talking about? That hasn't been legal for ages." Ender didn't actually check up on what laws had been changed in his decades-long voyage to Lusitania; I'm guessing he probably had a similar apathy in all his previous flights.

  18. Card has some really deeply weird views on how religion works. I'm going to get my own biases/background out of the way real quick, just in case this all isn't making sense because of that - I'm an agnostic and I was raised without religion. But...looking at what Card has set up in comparison to how things (as far as I know) work in the real world, it seems like Card has this backwards. And possibly upside down and inside out.

    Speakers are religious figures... of a religion no one, other than Ender and maybe Valentine, seems to practice. That's weird to start with. They can be called into enclaves of other religions (by either anyone there are by family members of the deceased, it isn't clear), they have powers generally reserved to entities like Homeland Security (despite not being, as far as I can tell, the state religion), and if people don't cooperate they and the colony are somehow in violation of freedom of religion. W. T. F.

    Nearest real world equivalent I can think of would be if one's loved one died and their great aunt barged in with a priest of some random religion - not even her own - and said he was to officiate at their funeral and everyone had to cooperate with his question asking prior to the eulogy or she'd have them all arrested. Or get the ACLU to sue everyone for violating [someone's] freedom of religion. The police and/or ACLU would just stare at her in horrified bafflement. (Which is pretty much how I look at this book, when I'm not just shouting WHAT!? at my computer screen and startling my cats.)

    Whose freedom of religion is Lusitania supposedly violating if they don't give Ender everything he wants? (Which Jane could just hack anyway, so really what was the point of his dick waving here?) Ender's, I guess, except that just loops straight back into how Speakers make no sense at all. How do Speakers have the power and authority that we're told they do when there are no, so far as we're shown, adherents of their religion (whatever it is)? It's as if Card wants us to believe that the Starways Congress is simultaneously a secular government and that the official religion is Speakerism or Enderism or whatever it's called. And, of course, everyone's heard of it and somehow practices it alongside whatever other religion they practice because that's totally how religion works!

    The dead people weren't Speakerites. The people who called Ender in aren't Speakerites. Ender is like a wandering minister who shoves his way into a church and demands to officiate and then screams that he's being repressed when people don't want him to. (Okay, yes, he was asked by a couple of people, but it doesn't really seem that even they want him there, so it's like the great aunt changed her mind and the priest is still insisting on officiating.)

  19. You know the worst part of all the Ouanda and Miro stuff - it kills any reason for this book to exist. If they're intentionally changing the Little One's culture, they're is no reason at all for them not to ask about Pipo and Libo's deaths or the Little One's reproduction or any of the other questions that what passes for a plot is supposedly hanging on. If the characters don't care, why should the audience?

    (Yes, I'm sure someone, somewhere has a story centering on mysteries that the audience cares about even though none of the characters do. This is not that story.)

  20. so it's like the great aunt changed her mind and the priest is still insisting on officiating.

    That sums it up perfectly, both in the weirdness and the sheer audacity of what Ender's doing here. Admittedly, the only one who says she doesn't want him there anymore is Novinha, and he's not investigating Pipo's death, but conveniently Libo is dead and solving that mystery will obviously also solve Pipo's death, so Ender doesn't even 'need' Novinha as a client anymore. She's just a personal fascination for him.

    And, of course, everyone's heard of it and somehow practices it alongside whatever other religion they practice because that's totally how religion works!

    Well, the people on Lusitania who are Proper Good Catholics don't admit to reading HQ&H, but I find the whole idea of speakerism as a religion endlessly confusing still, because its only tenets are 'intent is magic' and 'tell the truth about people when they're dead'. It doesn't otherwise have laws, values, dogma, direction, organisation, or mythology. Ender personally is agnostic, apparently, but it's only treated as a religion (and an enemy of Catholicism) by narrative fiat. There is nothing at face value that suggests why people couldn't be Catholic AND speakerite, in the same way that people can be, like, Catholic and vegetarian and enjoy the poetry of Lord Byron.

  21. It really would work better as something other than a "religion" since it doesn't seem to have the qualities of a religion. (And the high priest is agnostic. And my brain hurts.) I could easily imagine a book that had something like Speakers for the Dead as a cultural thing - Card just isn't succeeding at selling me on them, largely because he keeps getting his adolescent power fantasies and anti-Catholicism and other irrelevancies mixed up it it.

    I mean, there's no reason for the colony to object to Ender. It doesn't seem to be adding anything to the story, except scenes where Ender's awful to people and flexes his nonsensical powers. And those aren't useful additions. Worse, he's missing the opportunity for Ender to be genuinely respected and an authority through that respect - everyone could be happy to have him and eager to give him the information because Holy Crap! it's not just a Speaker for the Dead, it's the Speaker for the Dead! I mean, if he's not doing it to add tension (which it isn't, since Ender's powers just steamroll all opposition whether it was there or not), why not have everyone go WOW ENDER! :D

  22. In one of your earlier posts, you said "disease" is the metaphor connecting the whole book. I want to go a little further and say AIDS is the metaphor connecting the whole book. Back in 1986, it was hard to write about a terrifying incomprehensible virus and NOT have it be about AIDS somehow...and this virus is especially AIDS-like in how it changes to make itself harder to fight.

    So there's this horrible (stigmatized) terrifying disease, and this horrible stigmatized man who abused his family and just died...and the plot stops for a bit to show there isn't any connection. It reminds me of the 1980s, when the poster children for AIDS had gotten it from blood transfusions.

  23. Oh come now. They can't just accept Ender because Ender is right. About everything. All the time.

    People hate that. Anyone who's right all the time about everything is going to be hated.

    After all, there are a lot of people criticizing Card.


  24. Was it just about sex, and birth control is not a thing that exists?

    If they had no access to birth control, wouldn't Novinha just not have sex with Libo? I don't think it would be hard for her; she's, like, the queen of self-denial.

    Or was it that having the children of your beloved is the purpose of life?

    Seems to be. "Genetic dead ends" don't count as sentient, after all; we learned that in Ender's Game.

  25. What government sanctions?! It takes 20 years to get there. Are they going to cut off the wifi the colony can't afford anyway? Are they going to yell at the colonists over the ansible? "Bad colonists! Bad!" Are they going to send a ship to take everyone away? A ship that won't get there for 20 years? "You just wait, you bad colonists you. You are going to be soooo sorry in 20 years."

    Does the colony get regular shipments of stuff? I remember that Ender planned on selling his hold full of whatever it was. I don't think the colony exports anything, because 5000 people in a tiny walled compound are likely not producing much in the way of surpluss.
    Since Card has already told us that you can't get ansible transmissions when you are FTL, If they sanction the colony by, say,an embargo on the import of luxury trade goods, then ships will arrive full of stuff they can't unload. They'll have to find someone else to sell the stuff to and and spend 20 years going somewhere else. That should do good things for the Starways economy. But what if the colony already paid for the stuff? If I were an exporter with 20 years transit times, I'd demand payment up front.

  26. And the characters do care, supposedly. I mean, Miro is tiptoeing around worrying that saying the wrong thing will get him killed. Yet he doesn't bother to find out what the right and wrong things to say could be. He's, like, an anti-scientist; he refuses to investigate the things that even a layman would think are critically important.

  27. The doctor has sufficient information on hand to determine paternity but
    hasn't bothered to investigate it after receiving strong evidence that
    their apparent father shouldn't have been able to bear children and after doing a detailed search for genetic anomalies on all of them.
    I remember getting the impression that the doctor knew damn well what he'd find on a paternity test, and had refrained for precisely that reason. Possibly with the thought in mind of not making an abusive situation wor--oh wait, that would require somebody in this book other than Ender having empathy attributed to them.

    "Welcome, I-Look-Upon-You-With-Desire."
    Anybody think that Miro's just getting flirted with, and Card's just no-homo-ing as fast as he can? *hands up*

    And with that, we've caught up with as far as I've read ahead, so I
    can't warn you what's coming next Sunday except that it starts with a
    really boring Q&A about the bizarre rules and philosophy of Card's
    invented monastic order, the Children of the Mind of Christ.

    Oh goody, we're almost to Card's Church of No-Homo! I have been genuinely looking forward to tearing apart that wacky piece of shit, and discussing how Card's Mormon filter keeps causing him to fail spectacularly at Comparative Religion, over and over again.

  28. They're willing to hand out religious texts, tell the Little Ones all kinds of things, with the express purpose of changing their society, or at least their technological level. All of which seem far, far more likely to get them killed than asking about the Little Ones' culture or asking about the deaths that are supposedly plot central.

    Which basically means this book has an "idiot plot." If anyone behaved sensibly, the mysteries would be solved in a few sentences. In fact, some of the mysteries have been solved. Repeatedly.

    Yeah, I'll just be over here banging my head on the wall.

  29. Actually, this is one thing I think Card did sort of plausibly, probably by accident. Not the part about the vast Speaker powers and authority, of course, that makes no sense.

    There are, however, things that amount to "death-religions," which only apply when somebody dies, and which can be held alongside other beliefs. Japan for example, has a saying that goes something like, "Marry Shinto, die Buddhist," because their funerary rituals are mostly Buddhist, but it's not paid much attention to at other times. Given that Speakerism appears to be an agnostic religion, it's not implausible for people of other religions to ask for a what amounts to a Speakerist funeral. It's...kinda weird that it only seems to be other people calling for them, but it's still closer to plausibility than most of Card's worldbuilding in this book.

  30. The idea is to ship in so many non-Catholics and forcibly deport so many of the existing colonists that Lusitania will no longer be majority Catholic.

  31. Remember that Navio thinks Marcão was fertile; he’s saying that no woman would marry a man with a genetic disorder which might cause their children to die young and in great pain.

  32. Well, if you think of Ender as a parallel for Hitler: this makes Lustania's "Catholic Licence" sound awfully like the presumption on the part of State-of-Israel defenders that Israel must always be majority-Jewish, no matter what has to be done to the non-Jewish minority to ensure they stay a minority. Or at least never get the vote.

  33. Right now I'm just going to assume the only reason the doctor didn't say that is that he realised Ender was in deep emotional shock and needed to be handled very, very carefully in case he went completely doo-lally and started killing people.

    Back away, talk softly, don't contradict, if possible give him what he wants... and THEN call the police. ;-)

  34. I thought that the doctor probably had figured out who was the real father of all of Novinha's children, was exercising his medical responsibility to keep quiet about what he'd found out by doctoring, and was dropping a Very Broad Hint on this religious dude what the Official Story was.

    (Contrary to all the unscientific stories about incest, brother-sister pairings aren't intrinsically damaging genetically. If Ouanda and Miro had never found out they were half-brother / half-sister, they could have got married. While on the whole I think it's better to be open about parentage, the fact that everyone involved has been lying to these kids for their entire lives about who their genetic father was, is actually only the start of their problems. THERAPY FOR EVERYONE. And expel Ender from the colony pronto.)

  35. Yeah, in this universe, super-genius Ender Wiggins is the only person with two functioning neurons to rub together. Of course, that's all he has: two.

  36. Yeah, but the colonies are all mono-cultures to avoid discrimination. Why would the solution then be to make them not mono-cultures?

    Bah! Card's world building changes from chapter to chapter. When it doesn't change from paragraph to paragraph.

  37. It's the power and authority that make it all go off into wonkyville. Well, that and Card's inconsistencies about exactly what it means that it's a religion. I'm pretty sure Buddhist funerary rituals don't periodically morph into inquisitions... unlike Speakings.

    Speaking could make an interesting death-religion, if Card hadn't gone and bungled everything about it. *sigh*

  38. Well, brother-sister pairings aren't intrinsically damaging if a) they don't have kids, b) they have kids but screen the zygotes for harmful recessives and abort the ones that don't pass, or c) they have sufficiently advanced gene therapy or genetic engineering techniques to alter the harmful recessives or neutralize their effects.

    Given that this far-future colony is Catholic-caricature pro-life and doesn't seem to have provided Marcos with so much as a painkiller prescription for his agonizing lifelong disease, I am not hopeful that they would be willing or competent to carry out any of those options.
    Actually, what they should probably be doing is some sort of interstellar gamete exchange program. Everyone's gotta be pretty inbred at this point, given their colonization model (each new planet gets populated by a few thousand colonists of a single ethnicity from a single parent world, repeated at least twice in the case of Lusitania). If they were really concerned about genetic health, they shouldn't even be reproducing with their neighbors, let alone their siblings....

  39. The Catholic Licence thing, as I recall, means that they're guaranteed unlimited reproduction with Starways Congress sending ships at its own expense to pick up the extras when they reach surplus. Presumably colonies without the Catholic licence have to send their surplus kids away on their own dime or enact population controls.

  40. That was kind of the point. If they were at all concerned about genetic health, there would be a built-in means to avoid reproducing within the colony. As there isn't, a doctor of medicine (when not *facepalming* himself) might well feel there's no real difference between a half-brother/half-sister pairing now and the double-first-cousins that everyone will be marrying and having children with in a generation or two.

  41. I keep wanting to believe that this is supposed to be excellent speculative fiction, in the sense that there surely has to be a reason why this name is spoken of so highly, but when there had been an entire planet built basically on the idea that they're Too Dumb To Live because... they're Catholics, making them sheeple and utterly incurious about everything, except in how they're deliberately changing the society of the indigenous life, well, that's You Fail Characterization Forever. I have yet to find a coherent plot for this book other than "Ender and his sacred self-imposed quest to find a world for the Hive Queen, with several incidents of his TurboJesus miracles along the way." It's... grah.

    Also, threatening to revoke a colony charter because you haven't been properly worshiped is a dick move, Ender.

  42. He interrogates himself over that after his first confrontation with Bean, and bemoans the possibility that he's doomed to follow Graff's example and be a callous manipulator who abuses people "for their own good", but he treats it like a necessary evil for the war, and in theory everything he's done since then is penance for his mistakes. From an in-universe perspective, I would agree that Ender's deeply abusive childhood would continue to impact him throughout his life and might ruin his concepts of boundaries and acceptable behaviour. From an outside perspective, Card planned this book first and then rewrote Ender's Game to give his protagonist a backstory, which causes me to think that Ender's actions here were always roughly like this, and not originally meant to express the long-term psychoemotional damage of Space Military School. Between that and everyone (Valentine, Jane, Plikt, et cetera) constantly talking about how wonderful and amazing Ender is, I'm reasonably sure Card intends us to see Ender as an enlightened sage bringing truth and healing, and his backstory is largely irrelevant now. (There are a handful of lines scattered throughout that call back to his military training, things like 'I have just stepped into a new space and so will scan for possible ambushes and escape routes', but they don't actually impact his decisions at all; they're flavour.)

  43. "Miro's full name is Marcos Vladimir Ribeira von Hesse, according to the dramatis personae (although since this is Card, he titled that page 'Some People of Lusitania Colony' because he's not some ivory-tower elitist like you). Someone help me out here. 'Miro' does appear to be some form of the verb 'to see', and I'm guessing it was derived from the 'Vladimir'. Marcos seems to be derived from Mars, Ribeira means 'river', and I can't find anything for 'Hesse'. Google Translate isn't giving me anything helpful if I ask for Portuguese words for 'desire'."

    It's dog or pseudo-Latin, in which in the pequeninos are also inexplicably fluent. "Mirare" can mean "to admire" (along with "to aim at").

  44. Even if I buy the explanation, which I don't, how is a colony of three-to-five-thousand too small to support one pair of teenagers mashing their junk in the woods? What is it with conservatives and their conviction that Unauthorised Sex projects some kind of aura of doom?

    My read was that the community couldn't handle the Unauthorized Offspring who would result from such junk-mashings. You and I might hope that in three thousand years, somebody would invent contraceptive devices that users could activate telepathically, but you and I aren't Space Catholics. Or Orson Scott Card.

  45. Well, given OSC's view of religion in general, and Catholics in particular, I'm pretty sure he thinks that a Catholicism-based colony would never have or use contraception of any sort. *gigglesnort*

  46. What's really funny is that even now, hundreds of years before this book is set, most Catholics do in fact use birth control, regardless of what the official church position is, and this has been the case for decades. I mean, it's not even just bad worldbuilding for his future society, it's a demonstration he has no idea what's going on in the present world.

  47. "There’s no frigging way that people could add significantly to this load by sending emails or video chatting or whatever."

    Well, in the old days of Ma Bell local service was cheap but long-distance calls cost an army and a leg, despite neither being particularly related to the cost of sending transmissions.

  48. Yeah, but that was a combined consequence of historical tradition (long-distance calls were more expensive to transmit, a few decades earlier) and monopoly capitalism, no? That shouldn't apply to a far-future communications system operated by the governing body of all humanity; I’m pretty sure Starways Congress doesn’t need to pay for itself through phone fees! (Though who knows what Card thinks, since there’s the whole “colony funds” thing.)

    I mean, the way Card has it set up, you’re bouncing your files between solar systems pretty much any time you press a button on your own computer. But sending a PDF to someone else over the same distance could bankrupt your town?

    It's not even in the interest of Starways Congress to minimize personal ansible use, since it's what keeps the Hundred Worlds culturally and politically unified, and it's a communications system they monopolize (and can presumably wiretap anytime they want.) They should be encouraging everybody to use it as much as possible, IMO.

  49. My read was that the community couldn't handle the Unauthorized Offspring who would result from such junk-mashings.

    Well, given their record of handling Authorized Offspring like Novinha and her kids, that's probably an accurate bet.

  50. I hate idiot plots so deeply.

  51. Until one gets to the Shadow Series.

  52. I don't know. He always seems to like religions and dislike the non religious to me... hmm. Like he's ready to marry the Catholic church in this book. I don't want to read it again though. I read Xenocide and Speaker for the dead again and went quite mad.

  53. "Arrow shows off his newest arrows, which he's started tipping with cabra bone instead of obsidian"

    Now is cabra bone superior to obsidian? It can't be harder, though I suppose it might be easier to acquire.

  54. I think it's the efficiency thing (using every part of their prey) plus the fact that they've now innovated on technology that Miro and Ouanda gave them.

    (I have yet to get into the question of how Miro and Ouanda are capable of learning archery and butter-churning and suchlike well enough to teach the Little Ones while also maintaining their front as Serious and Respected Scientists. I assume we're just supposed to take it that because humans think of butter and arrows as primitive things, we are automatic experts in that branch of the tech tree and fully capable of instructing beings that are still stuck on tier 1.)

  55. Butter-making is simple enough that one can learn how to do it from written instructions. (Providing the cream has a high enough fat level. Maybe they just lucked into that, and if the not-cows had produced lower-fat milk, Miro and Ounda would still have been desperately trying "This SHOULD work!" while butter kept failing to appear.)

    Archery ... no. But I can believe that Miro and Ouanda made half-assed bows and sort of gave the Little Ones the idea, and they went off and in consultation with the fathertrees figured out how you make proper bows and then practiced enough to get good at it. While, naturally, the two xenologers take all the credit.

  56. "Born Shinto, marry Christian, die Buddhist." They have Shinto new-baby rites, often have two wedding ceremonies (one traditional and "real", one frilly-white-dress Christian party time), and Buddhist funerary rituals.

  57. CN: death of children (in real life)

    I hadn’t thought of that! But now I wonder whether Card’s change of heart isn’t an attempt at dealing with his own family tragedies. In the years since he wrote Speaker, he lost two of his five children, both evidently to ailments they were born with. Perhaps Petra’s fictional willingness to bear very short-lived children was really about Card trying to reassure himself that their brief lives were still meaningful and worth living.

  58. I don't know, i think one child had cerebral palsy and the other died of suicide. I don't think your life is less worth living just because you have a disability or something. (The ablism is going to pop up in this book soon) but, I am torn, but when you think about it each human will suffer no matter what so you might as well not have any children at all if you want to spare them pain.