Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ender's World

Ender's World is made up of a number of essays about Ender's Game. Most are by literary types describing how the novel impacted their lives and writing career. Interspersed with the essays are some short Q&As and other short bits from Card providing details on the book and his writing process.

What I found most interesting was some of the commentary about the end of Ender's Game. One started out describing how he initially wanted to change the ending to keep a strong "action" story. After reading again, he later realized the ending was useful after all and decided to keep it. I had almost the exact opposite experience. I did not care much for Ender's Game. It just seemed to be a lame action story. However, the ending really turned me on. It showed that there was some promise, and lead me to read the excellent sequel, Speaker for the Dead. (In one of the essays, Card mentions that the novel form with its ending was written to set up Speaker for the Dead.)

When Ender's Game was released, I was reading a lot of Science Fiction. However, I have no recollection of the story. Either it had no impact on me, or I never read it. (I'm guessing I never read it, since I did enjoy some of Card's other Mormon humor and Commodore 64 computer writings.)

Did Ender's Game really have a big role on literature and society? One essay talked about the true independent world-changing child protagonist. Previously, children would have things happen to them, but now it seems every story is lead by a child or a teenager. Was Ender's Game really that influential in bringing out the strong-willed child? Or did it just go along for the ride? The Narnia children did a pretty good job of saving the world on their own. Roald Dahl's children lead the narrative. Charlie Bucket may have been dominated by Willy Wonka's machinations, but Mathilda sure enacted plenty of change on her own. Today we have Percy Jackson, Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter. All are stories where a child or teen needs to make decisions to help save the world. Have we swung too far in the direction of strong-willed child? Are adults just not interesting anymore? Do books need to be centered on functional adolescents to be successful?

Another interesting essay was from a military leader who used Ender's Game to train other military officers. I was amazed to hear that Card did not have any military experience. He seems to dive deeply into the experience of a true leader - the person that controls rather than the person that wears the stripes. I can see how the story would be useful in modelling leadership. The "crusty" military are concerned more with their own position and rank, and are more able to sit in an office than fight a war. The "leaders" need to be able to think on their own and value the goal above personal gain. (It is interesting to hear that both Card and the military leader were giddy about their meeting.)

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