Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Dan and Paul take an in-depth look at the worlds portrayed Young Adult dystopian fiction.
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Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby Paul » 09 Nov 2015, 09:30

It's an thrilling PG-13 space adventure about Ender Wiggins, a genius tween who becomes a commander! Or it's a dark dystopia with genocide, endless war, and cycles of abuse! Paul and Dan, and special Loading Ready Run guest Cam, discuss the world of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby Daniel » 09 Nov 2015, 10:17

Hope you enjoy it folks! I wish I'd thought of the Starcraft comparison first, so I could look up the age-related stats for that. Turns out the mean age of champions is 22! That's not Ender young, but it does support the idea of young brains being better at micro...

Next ep: How I Live Now with YA dystopia icon Soarsi Ronan! I'm not even gonna spell check that, but just assume my spelling is perfect!
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby The Martini » 09 Nov 2015, 13:39

I haven't seen the movie, but the book is one of the most influential things I ever read growing up.

At least form my reading, it sounds like the adults got a lot less sympathetic in the movie than in the book. I didn't get the impression that any of them were cynical or sadistic. Graff in particular says that he hates what he's doing to Ender, but he's a true believer; he truly believes that they have no choice -kill or be killed. Rackham is brutal, and he even knows why the aliens were doing such horrible things to the humans and that they really can't be blamed, but he believes that they have no chance of communication and no choice.

The adults do have the blame for letting someone else pull the trigger for them. They can't bring themselves to destroy the homeworld even if they had the tactical ability to do so, but they try to sidestep responsibility by turning a blind eye to the fact that he could use it on a planet, and then disguise the whole thing in the game so that the one with the finger on the trigger doesn't know what he's doing.

Did they make it clear in the movie that Ender fires the weapon at the planet, not because he believes that he's making the right tactical decision but because he's hoping that he'll get flunked out and sent home?

The fact that the military government won't want to let the people know that they've destroyed the enemy is specifically addressed in the book, but too many others are poised to grab power and the news leaks out. Ender's brother Peter the Too Evil, with the help of his sister Valentine the Too Good, ends up taking over the world via a long-planned scheme, but ends up uniting mankind into an era of peace as far as I remember.

There's some interesting discussion to be had on technology shown in the book - not just the spaceships and the gravity control, but tablets and the internet. I mean, Peter and Valentine basically take over the world via internet forums and political blog posts.

I dislike Card as a person (should we even get into that?), but his ability to write heart-wrenching but incredibly powerful and interesting characters and situations is pretty amazing. I mean, there's another of his books that I won't read again, because there's a pair of characters that I hate too much. I HATE a fictional character enough not to want to read it - not hate how they're written, but THEM!
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby Bergie » 09 Nov 2015, 14:51

Loved you guys discussing this! Like The Martini I do loathe Orson Scott Card as a human being, but I did enjoy his books. I was even onboard with the movie until the VERY ham-handed way they ended it while on the alien planet (basically everything after he left battle school was progressively worse than the previous scene).

The point of Cam in regards to the willingness to loosen one's morals in the face of extinction is something which comes up a lot in human history. Hell, look at the views of airborne weapons and chemical weapons in the First World War. Strategic bombing in the second. If we get to a real nuclear war that doesn't wipe us out as a species we'd rationalize that away too. It is the question of how much are your morals worth in the face of your death, the death of your family, or the destruction of your people (nation/city/etc)?

Dan Carlin I find is a really good person to describe this in his Hardcore History series, especially his series on the First World War and the use of Aircraft and Nuclear Weapons in the Second World War (Blueprint to Armageddon and Logical Insanity, respectively) for those who want to listen a bit more on the subject.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby UnarmedOracle » 09 Nov 2015, 16:55

One of the more interesting artifacts of adapting a novel told by an omniscient narrator to a film is the introduced ambiguity in characterization. We no longer know why Ender does things unless he specifically tells someone. That's quite wonderful.

In the book Ender tells us he destroys the Bugger homeworld because he wants to be flunked, but in the film we have to read his character for clues. We certainly see a lot of defiance, depression, and anger, but we also see a little bit of pride. Ender's still a child, and children aren't terribly adept at knowing themselves. Ender tells himself that he wants to flunk, but to an observer, we also see that he takes pride in his virtuoso command of the battlefield. He could flunk in any number of ways, but he chooses something dramatic, and so difficult to achieve it was inconceivable.

I ask questions about characters and motivations and settings and themes because ambiguity is a new layer of complexity worth discussing and enjoying, not because I haven't read the book that tells us the answers.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby The Martini » 09 Nov 2015, 20:13

Paragraph 1: good point. Paragraph 2: neat - that is something that film obviously does mucH differently than the written eord. Paragraph 3: well, now I just feel shitty and I'm sorry I replied to the thread. :(
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby ritchards » 09 Nov 2015, 21:46

Given that Tally was on the Uglies, I can't help but feel you missed a trick by not having Matt on this show. ;)
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby Dubious_wolf » 10 Nov 2015, 11:15

You guys made me want to reread this book.

Weirdly, I continued the Ender narrative unlike many of my peers. Apparently a lot of people went with the Bean narrative with "Ender's Shadow". Personally, I never liked that character. Haha.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby AdmiralMemo » 10 Nov 2015, 12:07

The Ender and Bean series are really separate genres, when you get right down to it.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby Dubious_wolf » 11 Nov 2015, 20:58

100% agree. but when i would tell my peers I had read 'the sequel' to ender's game everyone assumed I meant "Ender's Shadow".... granted this was in middle school.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby Daniel » 12 Nov 2015, 09:43

People here and on the Youtube comments have brought up a lot of great nuances, mostly that are in the book. For example, it wasn't the one big dress rehearsal before the big assault (in which case, why would we assume he would act any differently on the day?) but one in a long series of simulations and mostly an attempt to get kicked out.

Interesting discussion of having to read Ender's thought process on his face. He is a grave little boy. But even still it is hard to believe that someone at the age of 10, raised in an ultra-militaristic culture and praised and nurtured to win at all costs, would see his extermination of a frightening bug-like race as a moral crime, without getting to see his sophisticated thought processes all the way along.

We avoided talking about Orson Scott Card's horrendous bigotry about gay people because it just doesn't pop up as an element in the movie (or the first three books I believe). It's really a shame, but it's hard to point to any creator of art I admire who doesn't have huge blindspots and failings as a person.

One thought I had was how tidy it is that the Formic were all wiped out (at least in the movie). Tidy even in the remorse. After all, Ender literally got to write the book about the hive queen. What if a few thousand buggers were left? What kind of responsibility would we have to them? What about when we break the communication barrier and we get some sense for their culture and the loss - and we get to hear the poems and songs they've written about their loss and our guilt? That tidiness, of total extermination, is so alluring that white people in the United States often seem to forget that the native people were not - that they're still around, in fact more numerous than they were 50 years ago, and at no point will they be interested in forgiving us.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby AdmiralMemo » 16 Nov 2015, 15:17

I've read 11 of the books in the series. I've yet to read the 3 prequels. I've also seen the movie. The movie was good for what it was, but it really didn't do the book justice. (Few movies do.) I look at it like I look at the new Star Trek reboot movies. As movies, they're fine. They're nothing spectacular, but they're fine. As Star Trek movies, though, they're pretty bad. The same goes with the Ender's Game movie. Pretty good visuals... B+ story-telling... It's a good summer blockbuster that you probably don't look back much on. But when you look at the source material, to excise the entire Peter/Valentine plot and to skip over about 3 chapters of the book where Ender moves up the ranks... That's a complete failure in adaptation. The Peter/Valentine story is necessary information to understand Valentine's motivations in talking to Ender when he wants to give up. The parts where Ender moves up the ranks are vital to understanding both how Ender plans, strategizes, and adapts, as well as seeing how the adults are getting desperate, so their permutations of training are getting quicker.

There were a couple of things brought up in the podcast that I'd like to comment on. I'm pretty sure that, in the book, the children weren't told that their messages were being blocked. They were being blocked, but the children were allowed to "write home" if they wanted. It was just when they got no response after a while that they stopped, since, it seemed to them that their family didn't care enough to write back.

Another bit was that, I think in a book that Cam probably didn't read, some focus was put on Ender's parents and what they thought of this. Part of it was that the two of them were putting on a bit of an act for their children, to get them in the right mind-set. They knew what their two oldest children were doing, and that they were the infamous Locke and Demosthenes. They were of the opinion that if Ender was the one to save the world, Peter and Valentine were the ones who needed to rebuild it afterwards. Thus, they acted older and stodgier than they really were, in an attempt to push their children away from that mindset, via simple natural adolescent rejection of things elders do.
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This is a mindset that I've never understood. What do we need forgiveness for? The atrocities that happened, happened so many years ago that everyone involved is dead and gone. The only entity that it would be even possible to forgive or work anything out with would be the US government.
Should Germans apologize for Nazi atrocities? Russians for Stalin's? I would think not. It's a sad situation that happened, but no one currently alive was either responsible or affected by the atrocity, so who is there to offer forgiveness or receive it, even if they wanted to?
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby DaMage » 21 Nov 2015, 06:25

So I saved this podcast until I found time to watch the movie. Just watched it now that Desert Bus is over.

The setting feels similar to that of Avatar, where the humans are in a superior position and want to wipe out another race for their own gains. Only in this case the other race is creepy bugs and represent a threat to humans. I always find this an interesting setting, as most of the time stories like having humans as the underdogs.

Now for some things in the movie version that bugged me:
1. The launch shuttle they use has so much empty space, and late in the movie they send it up with only two people in it. Unless combustible fuel is suddenly cheap, that should not happen.
2. At the end they have the fighters and drones rotate around the gun so that even once they are shot their debris can provide protection. That's not how gravity works, once shot, the debris would fly off in a line, not continue to orbit, since they are using their power to go around, not an actual orbit.
3. What was the point of the transports? Did they really expect to launch a ground invasion with only a 1000 men? Was that just a plot device to make the main character feel bad.

I'm willing to except though, that most of my gripes would be solved by the books and are just movie shortcuts.

And yes, Starcraft careers are REALLY short, as once you hit your mid-twenties your reflexes are no longer fast enough to keep up with the new teenagers. A very high turnover sport.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby SixFootTurkey » 25 Nov 2015, 09:39

I believe the transports were there because they could (and would) be used elsewhere beforehand to take smaller strategic outposts. The were in the present battle because all resources available were being used, regardless of efficiency.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby Daniel » 30 Nov 2015, 23:46

@AdmiralMemo "This is a mindset that I've never understood. What do we need forgiveness for? The atrocities that happened, happened so many years ago that everyone involved is dead and gone."

As far as the native people of North America, and slavery and colonialism in general, this is entirely relevant, since the wealth our ancestors won from these actions is the reason why we are wealthy today. There's a direct line there.

Do you live in North America? If so then a good exercise is go on wikipedia and learn about what happened to the native people who used to live in the land you grew up on. I started reading about the US situation one Thanksgiving and was horrified by the systematic way the US government made promises and then broke them, using force to crush any resistance, over and over for 200 years.

The land that is now Victoria, B.C., unlike other regions in B.C. wasn't just taken, but rather bought.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Treaties
Victoria proper was bought from the Songhees people by Sir James Douglas in 1850 for 371 Hudson Bay blankets. Some people who were there have testified that they were under the impression that this was a limited peace agreement - even if they'd understood all the concepts involved, the contracts the chiefs signed were written after the signatures were applied to the form. Now they are 1800 people living in a 0.7 square km patch of land in Esquimalt, far away from the desirable land.

So the difference between Germany after world war II and all these situations is that Germany was not allowed to keep the wealth they gained from taking over other countries. We have, and that's a big difference.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby Daniel » 30 Nov 2015, 23:48

To bring it back to Ender's game, one curious part of the scenario (of the movie anyway) is that the Formic apparently don't control any resources that humans might benefit from, and so their motives in going to war are entirely unmixed. When does that ever happen?
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby AdmiralMemo » 01 Dec 2015, 02:41

Daniel wrote:@AdmiralMemo "This is a mindset that I've never understood. What do we need forgiveness for? The atrocities that happened, happened so many years ago that everyone involved is dead and gone."

As far as the native people of North America, and slavery and colonialism in general, this is entirely relevant, since the wealth our ancestors won from these actions is the reason why we are wealthy today. There's a direct line there.

Do you live in North America? If so then a good exercise is go on wikipedia and learn about what happened to the native people who used to live in the land you grew up on. I started reading about the US situation one Thanksgiving and was horrified by the systematic way the US government made promises and then broke them, using force to crush any resistance, over and over for 200 years.

The land that is now Victoria, B.C., unlike other regions in B.C. wasn't just taken, but rather bought.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Treaties
Victoria proper was bought from the Songhees people by Sir James Douglas in 1850 for 371 Hudson Bay blankets. Some people who were there have testified that they were under the impression that this was a limited peace agreement - even if they'd understood all the concepts involved, the contracts the chiefs signed were written after the signatures were applied to the form. Now they are 1800 people living in a 0.7 square km patch of land in Esquimalt, far away from the desirable land.

So the difference between Germany after world war II and all these situations is that Germany was not allowed to keep the wealth they gained from taking over other countries. We have, and that's a big difference.
Well, if I am going to be personally accused of the systematic destruction of a people, can you at least let me know when you or someone else is going to give me some of this "wealth" that I'm supposed to have? It would really help me, so I'm not teetering on the brink of homelessness. Otherwise, I'm getting all of the blame and none of the rewards.

I'm not ignorant of what happened. I read Lies My Teacher Told Me. I know what was done. I'm just trying to figure out how I am somehow responsible for it or reaping the benefits of it. You particularly said that it was the US Government that did these things. I am not a part of the US Government, and I have no love for it, either in its current state or in the state it was in when it perpetrated these atrocities. Like I said, if forgiveness is to be given at any time, the US Government is the only one who it could be given to, since it was the one who perpetrated the crimes, and it is the only entity that exists from that time.

So I'm still failing to understand how "we" are responsible.

Suffice to say, I've never understood the whole "White Guilt" concept, essentially.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby Daniel » 08 Dec 2015, 15:57

Do you really not believe you reap any benefits from being white? Maybe there are a lot of advantages you haven't thought of. Even if you personally aren't doing so well, you have to admit white people are doing great on average in north america. (for starters, 27% of American Indians were living in poverty 2007-2011, compared to 10% of the non-hispanic white people...)

I don't think there's any point to going around feeling guilty every minute, but you do have to know that this is the reason the U.S. (and Canada) are how they are. We can't give back the generations of wealth and advantage, but we can pressure the government as far as reparations etc - or to, you know, at a minimum follow their own highly self-favouring rules about First Nations legal rights to the land.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby Clypheous » 09 Dec 2015, 07:39

Now Daniel, are you trying to tell me that being born into an upper-class, white family is somehow an advantage to my life? Next thing you know, you're going to be telling me because I'm heterosexual, tall and educated is also an advantage to me.

I deserve everything I have because I've worked hard at it, ignore the fact that if I had been born into different circumstances I would have had to work so ridiculously much harder as to be virtually impossible. Clearly I have earned my place in society, unlike everyone else who just had it handed to them on a silver platter. </sarcasm>

On a more serious note, I do agree to a certain extent that feeling responsible for the past is pointless, I personally have never given someone a smallpox blanket, or slaughtered an indigenous village, but I have certainly gained societal advantage because my ancestors, or at least people of their generations, did do so. So what do you do as a response? Just sitting feeling sorry for yourself, or others doesn't really help. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is work to try to level the playing field so that anyone's children have the same basic opportunities that mine do to succeed in life, it's impossible in practice to accomplish that goal, but moving closer to it is all we can hope to do.
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Re: Fight the Future 17 - Enders Game

Postby biscuits » 10 Dec 2015, 17:56

The main thing I took from Ender's Game was a fear of the collective. I imagined being one of the aliens and having the exact same thoughts as everyone else simultaneously. I don't know if it's because I'm an only child, or because I'm very often the only girl in a room of magic players, or because I'm a member of a political party that's got 5 members of parliament, but I'm very wary of any sort of affront to individualism. Or like, the idea that people owe responsibility to a faceless collective.

As far as white privilege goes, nobody is personally responsible for systematic abuse of a minority group. That's what makes it systematic. Ironically, it's taking white people as a whole that shows the privilege. The average white person is in a better situation than the average non-white person (in Western countries at least) and it falls to white people (mostly white people in more economically stable positions) to do something about it. The same is true for heterosexuals for sexual minorities, cis for trans and gender non-binary, rich for poor, men for women, able-bodied for disabled and mentally unwell.
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