Orson Scott Card
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC NY, NY 1977,1985,1991
Orson Scott Card has been in the news recently due to his strong anti-gay bias. I read someone making the suggestion that in the seminal work Ender’s Game, the author was not to be associated with the compassionate Ender but instead with the psychopathic brother Peter. It was enough to entice me to read (reread, but it’s been SOOOOOO long) the book, and form my own opinion.
Ender’s Game is classically science based science fiction. The primary science being explored seems to be the science of psychology and warfare. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s the idea of children being taught warfare from video games was a stretch. There was Pong (1972), and then Donkey Kong (released 1981) neither of which looked anything like Halo which begins to resemble the games Ender is being trained on.
The shocking part of the story, even now, is that these are exceptionally bright children. Ender (and his siblings) are studied for recruitment until they are 6 years old. If they pass, they are taken away by the I.F. (International Fleet). They don’t see their families again for 10 years, when they are 16. The I.F. controls all contact and in Ender’s case isolates him allowing no communication to or from his family.
Ender is being recruited for fleet commander in an interstellar war against an alien species that attempted an invasion (twice) before he was born. The general public is led to believe this training program is to prevent a third wave. The truth is that the human commanders have chosen to take the fight to the aliens. They need a commander in place when the troops are scheduled to arrive. They’ve been looking for the right person for 20 years. If Ender doesn’t fit the bill there is no more time to look.
Peter, the oldest brother, was also screened for this service. He was rejected because of his pathology towards violence. Peter, it was thought, had no capacity for empathy. He enjoyed torturing the weak and everything he did was in his own self interest. Valentine, the older sister, was also screened. She was determined to be too compassionate. She was the defender of the weak, and specifically the defender of her younger brother Ender against the vicious Peter.
Ender is stubborn enough to be not like Peter that he feels remorse when he is pushed to the point of fighting. Still, when pushed, Ender is capable of extreme force. He only wants to fight once. He also has the vision of Valentine that allows him to understand interpersonal dynamics in a way that makes him a very effective commander.
The aliens, strange as they may be, are not quite as alien as originally thought. They share our DNA. They may have originated on Earth. They have a hive mind and that instantaneous telepathy is their advantage and their week spot. It doesn’t occur to the aliens that there is any need for communication. Likewise the human generals don’t see any communication among the aliens and assume communication is impossible.
Ender eventually happens upon a third alternative and that leads to the subsequent book Speaker for the Dead.
In terms of Orson Scott Card I suspect that Valentine says it best. “Two faces of the same coin. And I am the metal in between.” All three characters have their vision, their blind spots, and their great flaws. They all make an impact on humanity and human culture. They all fight against their natures and it is that struggle that brings them to greatness. Don’t we all.