Saturday, August 31, 2013

Future Perfect

Advance apologies to everyone involved, and their estates:

They punched my ticket quite awhile back now
But still Ricardo is my name
And I'll never have to say "stab at thee"
And I'm finally done waitin' for de plane.

But I'm Khan
But I'm Khaaan
You're gonna miss me 'cause I'm Khan
You're gonna miss me for my hair
You're gonna miss my debonair, oh
You're gonna miss me, 'cause I'm Khan

Yes I'm Khan,
Oh, I'm Khaaaaaan
You're gonna miss me, 'cause I'm Khan
You're gonna miss me for my quotes
You're gonna miss my fights-like-boats
You're gonna miss me, 'cause I'm Khan

You've got to Trek it Into Darkness now
Another new Star Trek number two
It's got ships, it's got emotions
It's got tons of big explosions
But I can't help but wish the plot were new.

'Cause I'm Khan
Yes I'm Khaaaaaaaaaan
You're gonna miss me, 'cause I'm Khan
You're gonna miss me for my voice
You're gonna miss me for their choice, oh
You're gonna miss me, 'cause I'm Khan

'Cause I'm Khan,
Yes I'm Khaaaaaaaaaaaan,
You're gonna miss me, 'cause I'm Khan
You're gonna miss me for my race
You're gonna think it's in bad taste, oh,
You're gonna miss me, 'cause I'm Khan

'Cause I'm Khan,
Yes I'm Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaan,
You're gonna miss me, 'cause I'm Khan
You're gonna miss me for my chest,
You're gonna miss me: I'm the best
You're gonna miss me 'cause I'm Khan.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Ender Bender 4: Chapter 3, "Graff"

There are lots of stories that target kids by making the adults ineffectual or absent. My favorite book series growing up was Animorphs, where the conceit was mostly that adults--or anyone else--couldn't be trusted. Any adventure series featuring young protagonists has to figure out how said protagonists can have adventures without worrying their authority figures.

Card's method is to make the adults loathsome, and I can't help but see it as pandering.
"So what are you going to do?"
"Persuade him that he wants to come with us more than he wants to stay with her."
"How will you do that?"
"I'll lie to him."
"And if that doesn't work?"
"Then I'll tell the truth. We're allowed to do that in emergencies. We can't plan for everything, you know."
I'll say one thing, it's refreshing not to have to look for any subtext or metaphor. It's the reading equivalent of cotton candy, no effort required.


Ender's anxious about returning to school, which is unsurprising for someone who survived two murder attempts by peers the day before. That said...
"Andrew, you have to eat."
Ender held out his wrists, a gesture that said, So feed it to me through a needle.
...he's kind of a drama queen.

The breakfast table is all hi-tech, allowing dad to read the news from it and beeping when there's a visitor at the door, and while I'm sure the movie will make this into some crazy holographic stuff, I can't help but be reminded of the McFly family's table in "Back to the Future II." I wonder if they've got a food rehydrator too.

There's a man from the International Fleet at the door. "You're in deep poo," says Peter.

Poo.

We also get this wholly realistic bit of dialogue:
"It could be an anal exam."
"Hyuk hyuk," Valentine said.
Valentine also refers to her parents as "Mother and Father," because she's a small wonder.

The pretense for the I.F. officer's visit is that Ender put Stilson in the hospital with their fight the previous day, and is thus in trouble:
"But I must tell you it doesn't look good. Kicking him in the groin, kicking him repeatedly in the face and body when he was down--it sounds like you really enjoyed it."
"I didn't," Ender whispered.
"Then why did you do it?"
"He had his gang there," Ender said.
"So? This excuses anything?"
"No."
"Tell me why you kept on kicking him. You had already won."
"Knocking him down won the first fight. I wanted to win all the next ones, too. So they'd leave me alone."
The shock-and-awe strategy, I think that is. But it's morally okay, because Ender didn't enjoy it. Intent is magic.

This leads the officer to introduce himself as Colonel Hyrum Graff, because Card suddenly realized he was writing a futuristic sci-fi novel and populating it with characters named Andrew and Peter. Graff invites Ender to the school, and explains that "intent is magic" is a driving theme of the book: "It isn't what he did, Mrs. Wiggin. It's why."

We also get some more of Orson Scott Card's Opinions On The Military: "Conscripts make good cannon fodder, but for officers we need volunteers." Ha ha, take that, the draft!

Ender and Graff have a private conversation, so Ender can make his own decision. It's a weird scene, delving into his parents' religious history--dad's a Catholic, mom's a Mormon, because both Catholics and Mormons have big families but having big families is illegal now, get it!--and how they've renounced their faiths to comply with the law but never really renounced their faiths at all and have been practicing in secret all along and see Ender as a "badge of pride" because they're standing up for what they believe in and holy crap is this tedious.

Maybe it's because I'm not particularly religious, maybe it's because I grew up on a steady diet of humanist sci-fi like Star Trek, but this attempt at making Ender's parents seem like some kind of heroic martyrs sticking it to an oppressive government by practicing their religion in secret is a bit too Narnia for me. Not to mention that it falls a bit flat given how much time Card's spent making the mostly-absent parents look totally ineffectual when they've been around, and showing that their parenting or lack thereof has resulted in one child who plots the murder of the other two. But they baptized the kids, so I guess that makes them good people!

This goes on for awhile, eventually winding its way to what actually goes on at the school, with so much loving detail on the Battle Room:
It's like playing buggers and astronauts--except that you have weapons that work, and fellow students fighting beside you, and your whole future and the future of the human race depends on how well you learn, how well you fight.
"Hey, you know that game you hate where your brother tries to kill you? Imagine that with live ammunition and even bigger stakes than your life or death. You in?"

By the way, ladies, if your were wondering about gender relations in the future and thinking you might be able to be something other than a nurse, teacher, or housewife...
"All boys?"
"A few girls. They don't often pass the tests to get in. Too many centuries of evolution are working against them. None of them will be like Valentine, anyway. But there'll be brothers there, Ender."
...tough cookies. Girls don't get to be world-saving soldiers, because science.

There's a long bit about the first war with the buggers, and about how badly outnumbered and outmatched and outgunned humanity was, and how they never would have won it without Mazer Rackham. I can just imagine a choir singing and everyone holding their hats over their hearts when his name is uttered. But Mazer's gone, and maybe Ender will be the next Mazer. And ten years ago, we had Mazer, Ender, and Johnny Cash...

In case you weren't beat over the head enough with the book's themes, here's another:
And Mazer Rackham and his brilliant maneuvers, destroying an enemy fleet twice his size and twice his firepower, using the little human ships that seemed so frail and weak. Like children fighting with grown-ups. And we won.
GET IT?

Ender decides to go with Graff, because that's the next bit in Joseph Campbell's book. And Valentine gets the last word: "Come back to me! I love you forever!"

Our protagonist, presumably.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ender Bender 3: Chapter 2 "Peter"

Each chapter presents me with a new reason to laugh at Card's introductory reminiscence that he used to rewrite other people's scripts to punch up the dialogue. If this is what "punched up" looks like, I'd hate to see the untouched stuff.

"Peter" begins with another bit of at least two people talking without any clear indication of who they are. There's this bit:
"You just saw him beat the guts out of the leader of a gang."
"He was thorough. He didn't just beat him, he beat him deep. Like Mazer Rackham at the--"
"Beat the guts." "Beat him deep." I don't even know.


Anyway, we learn that the folks monitoring Ender through his...monitor...could experience his sensations first-hand, and that they haven't stopped monitoring him even now that it's been taken out. And then we get beaten over the head with one of the book's themes about adults:
"I like the kid. I think we're going to screw him up."
"Of course we are. It's our job. We're the wicked witch. We promise gingerbread, but we eat the little bastards alive."
GET IT?

Ender spends most of this chapter sharing a tender moment with his older siblings, brother Peter and sister Valentine. And by "tender moment," I mean "his brother is a psychopath who tries to murder him."

When I was younger, I read some of the Goosebumps books. Once I figured out the formula, I read a ton of Goosebumps books. I realized, in an early bit of critical thought, that every chapter in a Goosebumps book ended with an unnecessary scare moment, which (especially early on) turned out to be nothing. That meant that the vast majority of the middle of the book was just meandering you from one jump scare to another, without really advancing the plot. Which meant that you could read the first five or so chapters, skip to the last five or so chapters, and get the whole story. Once I figured that out, I could burn through a Goosebumps book in less than five minutes.

Chapter 2 makes Ender's Game feel like a Goosebumps book, except replace "jump scare moment" with "life-or-death battle." Chapter 3 breaks the streak (not to get too far ahead of myself), but if even 2/3 of the chapters in the book have a battle scene where someone tries to murder Ender, then I think it speaks a lot to how popular this novel is.

Peter's introduction to this chapter is great:
Peter walked into the parlor, chewing on a mouthful of bread and peanut butter.
"Chewing on a mouthful of bread and peanut butter" seems like the kind of thing that an alien or android would say to describe "eating a peanut butter sandwich." The flesh-thing moved its mouthparts to crush and moisten bread and peanut-butter for more efficient absorption.

Is...is Orson Scott Card just a racist homophobic android? Is he Hate-Bot 9000, built only to loathe? It would explain some things.

Peter is upset that Ender has apparently failed out of the monitoring program, and further breaks my suspension of disbelief that Card didn't know exactly what he was doing by using the word "bugger." He coerces Ender into a game of buggers and astronauts, and while Valentine expresses disapproval and tries to find adult supervision, she doesn't really do anything about it. It doesn't stop her from getting some verbal abuse:
"Keep your fat face out of it, fart mouth," said Peter.
Look, I realize that there are issues with making up slang and curse words for sci-fi franchises. Words like "grife" and "frak" and "frell" come off as cutesy and artificial. But seeing a kid from a century or so into the future call his sister "fart mouth" like he's a character in "The Sandlot" or something just feels anachronistic. I don't know exactly what names my dad called his little sister, or what names my great-grandfather called his little sister, but I suspect that they'd be very different from the names I would have used as a kid. It just rings false, and it took me way out of the story. And it'll take me way out of the story again and again.

And come on, "fart mouth"? At least go with "fart breath."

Peter gives Ender a bugger mask, and Ender spends a little time trying to get into the head of a bugger. That doesn't really help him when Peter knocks him down, steps on his crotch, and breaks kayfabe:
"I can see you for what you really are. They meant you to be a human, little Third, but you're really a bugger, and now it shows."
Again, Card had to know what "bugger" meant, right?

Anyway, Peter kneels on Ender, openly threatening to kill him and explaining how he'd get away with it, making it look like it was an accident from playing too roughly. Valentine, who has apparently been standing there the whole time, chimes in with the voice of reason:
"I'll tell," Valentine said from the doorway.
"No one would believe you."
"They'd believe me."
"Then you're dead, too, sweet little sister."
"Oh, yes," said Valentine. "They'll believe that. 'I didn't know it would kill Andrew. And when he was dead, I didn't know it would kill Valentine too.'"
I like her. Too bad she's apparently going to be absent from most of the rest of the book. Valentine's clearly the smart one here, having already planned ahead for what would happen if Peter killed her--or at least, bluffing well enough that Peter believes her. He tells her that she gets to be Ender's monitor now (GET IT?). And then they get into the most insufferable conversation ever, where Valentine actually says "We're all such wonderfully bright children," and Peter outlines how he's going to kill Ender and make Valentine feel bad about it, in a speech that reads like a first draft of Westley's "to the pain" speech in "The Princess Bride."

Then Valentine calls him an asshole. "The biggest asshole," in fact. It's a first-degree sick burn.

The one bit of this that rings true is the way that Peter flips it around to claim it was all a joke afterward, and how he was just manipulating them and they were so dumb to fall for it. That sounds like bully behavior. Ender, on the other hand, is basically a sociopath:
Ender stood there watching him laugh and thought of Stilson, thought of how it felt to crunch into his body. This is who needed it. This is who should have got it.
As if she could read his mind, Valentine whispered, "No, Ender."
I mean, I've been there. I've felt that impotent rage against a bigger, badder bully who delights in winding you up. The difference is that I didn't have superhuman strength and combat skills. I realize that that's what ticks this over into adolescent power fantasy, that Ender gets to be the kid that every victim of bullies wishes they were. The problem, to me, is the motivation and execution. Spider-Man and Superman get to play that wish-fulfillment role as well: Peter gets to humiliate Flash Thompson, Clark gets to turn Steve Lombard's pranks back around on him. If Ender were in their shoes, Flash and Steve would be dead, or only spared death by someone cooling off the hero's white-hot murderous fury.

I suspect that might have resonated with me as a geeky teen, but I'm glad I read Spider-Man and Superman comics instead.

Not content to leave well enough alone, Ender shows Peter the blood on his shoe from beating Stilson, which is about as threatening as you might expect (that is, not).

Mom comes home and commiserates with Ender over losing the monitor, and Ender feels ashamed that he failed out of the program. That night, Peter gets up to use the bathroom (a thrilling scene, I assure you), and Ender is convinced that he's going to kill him. Instead:
He whispered, "Ender, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I know how it feels, I'm sorry, I'm your brother, I love you."
Maybe Peter really is "a murderer at heart." Maybe that's the honeymoon phase of the cycle of abuse.

Or maybe Ender's an unintentionally unreliable narrator who's not as good at morality or judging other people's characters as he thinks.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ender Bender 2: Chapter 1, "Third"

I'm having a hard time being charitable.

The book begins with dialogue between two unnamed, undescribed people about three other unnamed, undescribed people. It's not exactly "Call me Ishmael," and it may not even be "Call Me Maybe." We can gather that there are three siblings, two of whom "tested out impossible" of an undescribed test for reasons that are also undescribed. The third is "too malleable. Too willing to submerge himself in someone else's will." And the solution to that is just to surround this third individual with enemies all the time, because he won't submit to them.

Oh, also, I know much hay has been made out of the alien villains in this book series, but seriously:
If the buggers get him, they'll make me look like his favorite uncle.
Card's not exactly making the jokes difficult. If the subtext is not meant to be about a talented, impressionable boy who won't submit to "buggers," then Card's doing a pretty poor job of laying something else in there.


The story proper begins With Andrew/Ender Wiggins (so far, we don't know the genesis of the nickname) getting a "monitor" removed from the back of his neck. The "monitor" is never described in this chapter, but I can't help imagining a small, full-on CRT screen implant. Either way, this scene helps to establish that Ender has the adults all figured out, specifically that they lie and say "this won't hurt a bit" but it is going to hurt, but since you know they're reliably lying, you can at least count on that.

Or something along those lines.

We also learn that Ender/Andrew had his monitor a whole year longer than his brother Peter, who resents him for it. They're different people: Peter likes playing "buggers and astronauts," Ender likes reading books. Like the kids reading this book! He's just like you, audience!

Of course, Peter is a belligerent jerk:
There was something in Peter's eyes, when he was in that mad mood, and whenever Ender saw that look, that glint, he knew that the one thing Peter would not do was leave him alone. I'm practicing piano, Ender. Come turn the pages for me. Oh, is the monitor boy too busy to help his brother? Is he too smart? Got to go kill some buggers, astronaut? No, no, I don't want your help. I can do it on my own, you little bastard, you little Third.

You'll be happy to know that in the future, doctors are men and nurses are women. At least our stereotypes remain intact. The removal of Ender's monitor sends him into a spasming fit, which is relieved with an injection of some muscle relaxant/sedative. The nurse who brought the syringe in apparently doesn't know anything about the drug inside it, which seems like a failure of training, and the doctor is shaken by how easily they "could have unplugged [Ender] forever."

So we have an early bit of action, an indication that these procedures are dangerous, and an indication that adults are incompetent liars. The rest of the chapter strengthens these themes.

Ender returns to school, where he has a realization that "he was just like everybody else now." Spoiler: he's not.

Miss Pumphrey talked about multiplication. Ender doodled on his desk, drawing contour maps of mountainous islands and then telling his desk to display them in three dimensions from every angle. The teacher would know, of course, that he wasn't paying attention, but she wouldn't bother him. He always knew the answer, even when she thought he wasn't paying attention.
And here's the first place where I realize that my window for enjoying this story and identifying with its protagonist has long since passed. The teacher in me is amused to see that even in a high-tech future, differentiation that reaches and stimulates every student is difficult to achieve. The teenager in me notes that, if we were inclined to think of Ender as an unreliable narrator, "contour maps of mountainous islands" could very easily be a pompous, "I've already come up with an exculpatory but implausible excuse" way of doodling boobs.

But the rest of me can't help but think of Liz Lemon or that recent Daredevil issue about pompous young Matt Murdock. Yes, Ender has problems with bullies, and he doesn't deserve the blame for the taunts and violence that are visited on him. However, here he's flaunting how he doesn't have to follow the rules (the teacher yells at the kid who makes fun of him, but doesn't reprimand Ender for inattentiveness), and how much smarter than everyone else he is. Maybe the teacher doesn't care if he's not paying attention (or, speaking from some experience, doesn't have anything else for him to do or is tired of having the same conversations with him over and over), but I'll bet the other students care. Ender should not be in this class; if we assume that he is, in fact, well above the material. There are lots of kids who assume that they're well above the material and don't pay attention, only to discover that their self-assessment was in error. If he has to be in this class, then the teacher should be modifying his workload so that he's stimulated. That she hasn't, and that she openly lets him get away with things other students receive punishment for, makes Ender an even bigger target to the people who don't have it so easy in the classroom.

And I suspect it'd help if he weren't so insufferably smug about the whole thing.

I want to scratch something I said earlier: it's not that I don't identify with Ender. I do. I identify him as the same smug, insufferable tool I was in grade/middle school, doodling superheroes because I already knew everything already and every thought I had was profound, original, and brilliant. I just don't see that character as a hero, I see that character as an unfortunate and embarrassing phase.

Case in point: a classmate makes the derogatory word "THIRD" show up on and circle around Ender's desk. Ender's response:
Ender smiled. He was the one who had figured out how to send messages and make them march--even as his secret enemy called him names, the method of delivery praised him.
Ha ha, got you dummy! Again, as a kid I probably would have seen this as a smirkworthy, table-turning private victory. Now, I just see it as...insufferably smug. I have a feeling that's a phrase I'm not done with yet.

We learn that the government wouldn't normally allow "thirds" into school; I suspect that if Ender hadn't lucked into this government experiment, this book would just be Anthem.

There is a nice prescient bit here where the kids are working with their electronic desks:
The bell rang. Everyone signed off their desks or hurriedly typed in reminders to themselves. Some were dumping lessons or data into their computers at home. A few gathered at the printers while something they wanted to show was printed out.
The idea that we'd still be (presumably) using paper printers in this distant future might be a bit unlikely, but the bit about sending data to a remote location is shockingly cloud-esque for 1991. Orson Scott Card predicts Dropbox.

This naturally leads Ender into a reverie about how great, smart, and talented he is. Unfortunately, he also realizes how his monitor provided him with constant surveillance, and now that it's gone, he no longer has that protection. So it's no surprise when Stilson, the bully from class, starts picking on Ender, calling him a "bugger-lover" (really?), and ganging up on him with friends. The scene rings fairly true (except the part where somebody says "see-saw, marjorie daw," which I have never seen nor heard outside of truly ancient books of nursery rhymes), with the bullies flinging stupid taunts and insults, and Ender getting himself in worse trouble by trying to be clever.

But then the magic of adolescent power fantasies kicks in--literally!
But they let go of him. And as soon as they did, Ender kicked out high and hard, catching Stilson square in the breastbone.
Note: my childhood love of Hardy Boys books had me anticipating a blow to the solar plexus.
He dropped. It took Ender by surprise--he hadn't thought to put Stilson on the ground with one kick. It didn't occur to him that Stilson didn't take a fight like this seriously, that he wasn't prepared for a truly desperate blow.
There's a moment where the other bullies think Stilson might be dead, and Ender muses on the "unspoken rules of manly warfare," which he decides, like the rules of the classroom, don't apply to him. So he kicks Stilson several times while he's on the ground, as a message to the others. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen:
["]But just remember what I do to people who try to hurt me. From then on you'd be wondering when I'd get you, and how bad it would be." He kicked Stilson in the face. Blood from his nose spattered the ground nearby. "It wouldn't be this bad," Ender said. "It would be worse."
Ender walks away, and cries once out of the bullies' sight, musing that he's just like his brother. It's nice to see that this combat prowess isn't seen as a wholly positive trait. I'm just curious if the smug self-assuredness will also be getting a less laudatory treatment down the line.

Then again, I read Card's introduction. So, you know, probably not.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Ender Bender 1: Introduction

I'm reading the edition of Ender's Game from 1991, in which Card writes a new introduction for the then-six-year-old book. It's largely unremarkable, and there were definitely bits I skimmed over. But right as I was about to skip to the presumably meatier first chapter, I hit a paragraph that stuck out. Card's talking about how the germs of this story came from reading Asimov's Foundation; and thinking about war, specifically the Civil War as viewed through the lens of Bruce Catton's Army of the Potomac. Here's the interesting bit:

I learned that history is shaped by the use of power, and that different people, leading the same army, with, therefore, approximately the same power, applied it so differently that the army seemed to change from a pack of noble fools at Fredericksburg to panicked cowards melting away at Chancellorsville, then to the grimly determined, stubborn soldiers who held the ridges at Gettysburg, and then, finally, to the disciplined, professional army that ground Lee to dust in Grant’s long campaign. It wasn’t the soldiers who changed. It was the leader.

Really? The soldiers didn't change from Fredericksburg to Gettysburg? That seems pretty damn unlikely. I suspect there were lots of changes in the soldiers. The draft didn't begin in the North until after Fredericksburg, for one thing. And just as a layman with no particular knowledge of the Civil War, I imagine that soldiers who were in battle after battle would have gained valuable experience dealing with the Confederate forces. Skilled soldiers would have moved up the ranks. New recruits would be trained specifically to fight against the South. Troops would have had more time to reach the front lines from other parts of the country. Weaknesses in Confederate strategy would have been communicated through the ranks. Union victories would have boosted Union morale and demoralized Confederates. Maybe there were other factors that I'm not aware of, since I have a high school-level knowledge of the Civil War, but Card seems to be suggesting that if Grant had been leading the Union army at Fredericksburg, they would have been a "disciplined, professional army" instead of "a pack of noble fools," and presumably would have similarly ground the Confederate troops to dust. My understanding of the Civil War is limited, but I highly suspect that Card's here is so simplistic as to be insulting to all the people at all ranks and levels of service who fought under his orders.

This leads Card into wondering what kind of training future soldiers would receive to fight wars among the stars; he concludes that it'll be something like zero-gravity Lazer Tag, which is superior to the "rigid and formal [...] meaningless marching and maneuvers that still waste an astonishing amount of a trainee's precious hours in basic training in our modern military."

At least according to Wikipedia, Orson Scott Card has no military experience. No word on how much Lazer Tag he's played.


I also have no military experience, but it seems like marching and maneuvers have purposes beyond just combat simulation, like, say, training individual people to act like a cohesive unit, to follow orders quickly, to have a fall-back plan when things do go wrong. Driver's Ed courses don't put inexperienced student drivers in the middle of Nascar tracks; in order to be able to cope with unexpected and chaotic conditions, it seems like it's generally a good idea to have some degree of basic...training.

Other insights from Card: Archaeology is boring! More boring than dentistry! It's also a "semi-science." The arch-homophobe who thinks there was no gay rights movement in the '80s was heavily into theatre. He rewrote lots of "lousy scripts" because of dull speeches. I can't wait to see how that plays out. Especially since he says he wrote sci-fi without knowing anything about the clich├ęs of the genre...Card's beginning to sound like one of those magically insufferable people who thinks one can excel at anything without any experience or research. I mean, at least I looked at a Civil War timeline before I started this post. Also insufferable:
The attacks on the novel--and on me--were astonishing. Some of it I expected--I have a master's degree in literature, and in writing Ender's Game I deliberately avoided all the little literary games and gimmicks that make "fine" writing so impenetrable to the general audience. [...] If everybody came to agree that stories should be told this clearly, the professors of literature would be out of a job, and the writers of obscure, encoded fiction would be, not honored, but pitied for their impenetrability.
That is amazing. "People hated this book because I don't subscribe to the man's ideas about what makes literature great. I wrote for the dummies who can't understand 'fine' writing." I know how I'm responding to my bad reviews from now on.

He goes on to call out a guidance counselor who disliked the book because of its unrealistic portrayal of gifted children (and says others had the same complaint), but says basically "nuh-uh, it's totes realistic" and goes on to suppose that the backlash is because the novel is kind of a revolutionary manifesto for children to rise up and throw off the shackles of adult oppression. I exaggerate only very slightly.

At this point I'd like to point out that I intended to make this a short post, just riffing off that first bit about the Civil War. I didn't know how far down this rabbit hole went, and I'm sorry.

Most of the rest of the introduction is given over to letters from a group of gifted children and a soldier, which allow Card to pontificate about the nature of fiction and how his story is used by different academics and military teachers. He says "All these uses are valid; all these readings of the book are 'correct/' For all these readers have placed themselves inside this story, not as spectators, but as participants[.]" Presumably, then, the critics and that guidance counselor had incorrect readings, because they were just "spectators."

I honestly thought I could set aside my contempt when going into this, but here we are.

Since I'm grasping for something nice to say, I like that Card says he thinks the 'true' story is the one created by the reader bringing their experiences (though not experiences working with actual gifted children for your job) to the table. I think that interpretive level, that silent conversation between author, text, and reader which produces so many different, varying, mutually exclusive takes on the same literature, is a vital part of what makes literature so powerful and fascinating, and I'm always dismayed when authors condemn certain readings or viewpoints as illegitimate. So I'd be more apt to accept Card's statement in support of that view if he hadn't spent the first part of this introduction casting aspersions on certain readings, critics, and the rest of literature.

Next week: Chapter 1.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

12 White Guys in a Row!

It's disappointing, but the most surprising thing about casting Peter Capaldi as the next Doctor is that he, like Karen Gillan, was in "The Fires of Pompeii." It's not that I think Capaldi will do a bad job, and I think it's nice that they went for an older guy this time around, but a female Doctor or a person of color would have been a welcome change, and could have opened up interesting story avenues, especially in the former case.

But I don't want to be pessimistic, so I came up with this short list of 12 choices for 12th Doctor that would have been even safer than picking Peter Capaldi:
  1. Harry Styles from One Direction
  2. Stephen Moffat
  3. Benedict Cumberbatch
  4. Patrick Stewart
  5. All of One Direction
  6. Daniel Radcliffe
  7. Sir Paul McCartney
  8. David Tennant
  9. Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge
  10. Daniel Craig
  11. Robert Pattinson
  12. Bat Smythe, who is just Matt Smith with a fake moustache

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Card's on the table

So Dan Didio said that Orson Scott Card's Superman story is still going to be published, assuming they can find a conservative/desperate artist. Considering that we haven't seen much from Ethan Van Sciver there lately, and that it would basically mean a couple weeks off of "Injustice" for Mike S. Miller, that seems like an eventuality, and it makes sense that DC might release it to coincide with the movie adaptation of Card's Ender's Game in November.

Of course, it would have made sense for DC to release the Phantom Zone trade and coordinate the General Zod DLC for "Injustice: Gods Among Us" to come out in mid-June, and that didn't happen, so who knows.

It's infuriating how cynical a move this is by DC. They meddled and meddled and ultimately shelved Chris Roberson's story about Davood Nassur because they were afraid of controversy (judging by Roberson's plot summary, the controversy would be the Fox News/Tea Party conservative types howling about how DC's too friendly to Muslims), but now they're cozying up to an arch-homophobe whose blockbuster movie has a boycott and protest out months in advance. Then again, that same audience of asshats they were trying to placate by shelving the Superman story are the ones who would be cheering on their solidarity with science fiction's current bigot-in-chief, so maybe DC's just staking their claim as the preferred comic company of reactionary wingnuts.

And to wait until some unspecified time in the future, when the hoopla has died down over the initial story announcement, when shop owners and ComiXology subscribers are ordering and buying the book out of habit, to drop this bomb and hope the only people who notice are the ones who are excited to read Card's work, just seems crass and weaselly. I need to do another big pull list pruning soon, and this kind of stunt is making me feel morally obligated to mostly prune away DC titles.

Of course, it could be a big face-saving mood. By keeping the story consistently in the queue to be published, DC can avoid any bad blood with Card and his cadre of bigots--after all, it's not their fault the artist pulled out and they can't find a new one--and let the story fade into the misty depths of pop culture memory once "Ender's Game" flops its way out of theaters. Even that would be a cowardly cop-out, and I hope it results in DC getting some serious snubs from GLAAD Media Awards in the future. Can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding.

Which brings me to point two: I've never read Ender's Game. There was a time when I really wanted to read it--one of my roommates in college was a huge fan of the series--and I've almost purchased the book on several occasions. That all tapered off when I learned of Card's politics, and Dave Lartigue's summaries have me largely convinced that it's a lot like Catcher in the Rye in that the time when the book might have spoken to me has long since past. But I'm morbidly curious, and itching to write about something other than comics for once, and I think I might have an interesting perspective as someone who likes YA sci-fi, loved "The Last Starfighter," and utterly frigging hates Orson Scott Card and his stupid face. So I've procured a copy of the book without enriching Card in any way, and I think I'm going to start a little series of posts, hopefully mostly short ones, outlining my thoughts as I experience a hateful bigot's nerd power fantasy sci-fi classic for the first time. My goal is to do this every Friday, starting next week, so be on the look out for Ender Bender, a title I shamelessly stole from the very same Dave Lartigue, starting next week.