Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ender's Game, chapter thirteen, part two, in which Graff ruins everything again

(Content: apologetics for privilege and conquest.  Fun content: elephant art, astrothermodynamics.)

Time for Graff to justify a bunch of things that he can't actually justify and, in some cases, doesn't actually need to be justified.  I didn't notice that until Ender's Shadow, when they keep a bit of information from Bean while saying they had to give it to Ender--but I am getting ahead of myself. The point is that Graff is useless.

Ender's Game: p. 242--254

Valentine has gone, and Ender literally walks up off the beach, into the house, and asks Graff if they'll leave right away.  Have to give him points for decisiveness, I guess.  For the fifth time in the book, Ender reflects on how he's not taking anything with him, and I'm trying to find a progression now--when he left home, Graff told him everything would be provided and he didn't need to bring anything; when he joined Salamander and then Rat, he was forbidden to bring anything; when he left Battle School, he was comforted to see that Graff also came away empty-handed; now, leaving Earth, there isn't anything he can imagine wanting to bring with him.  Perhaps not a progression, then, but (if not for how bizarre some of those 'he can't bring anything' moments were) it is perhaps an interesting way of checking in on his mindset.  Ender is committed to the goal now; he's going back to school to win the war and save the world, not to do well on tests.  Not that Graff will let that go by without bludgeoning us with some blunt metaphors along the way.
"Back when the population was growing [...] they kept this area in woods and farms.  Watershed land.  The rainfall starts a lot of rivers flowing, a lot of underground water moving around.  The Earth is deep, and right to the heart it's alive, Ender.  We people only live on the top, like the bugs that live on the scum of the still water near the shore. [....] When you live with metal walls keeping out the cold of space, it's easy to forget why Earth is worth saving."
Weeeeeeelll no.  Not really, no.  (And not just because space isn't 'cold' unless you are in the shade.)  The Earth is indeed deep, but anything that could be considered 'alive' is pretty much done once you get a surprisingly short distance underground.  Then it's thousands and thousands of miles of increasingly hot stone and metal.  There are a lot of living things in the world other than humans, that's a good thing to keep in mind, but 'save the whales' and 'save the plate tectonics' are rather different concepts and only one of them makes a good rallying cry.
"We train our commanders the way we do because that's what it takes--they have to think in certain ways, they can't be distracted by a lot of things, so we isolate them.  You.  Keep you separate.  And it works."
 Just in case we've forgotten, Graff: in the seventy or eighty years since the Second Invasion, you've been running Battle School and you have never had a candidate who was capable of passing all your tests.  They fail or they burn out.  It's not that there was once a great one or two but it was long ago and they're too old now--this method has never worked.  So why, Graff, why are you so sure that the problem is with the students and not the tests? Mazer Rackham wasn't trained like this.  Mazer Rackham wasn't anything special--he was a nigh-unheard-of low-ranking commander with a history of disciplinary problems.  But we'll start getting into that more next week.

They march through the Fleet base to the shuttle; Ender notices that at first everyone pays attention to Graff with his Maximum Clearance Ball (he's carrying around some kind of pingpong ball that opens every door), but as they get into high-clearance areas they're more interested in Ender, who seems even less likely to be there.  Ultimately, just the two of them board the shuttle; Graff confirms that his only job now is to stay with Ender.  Ender thinks about what this implies for his importance, and basically starts channelling every white guy who has just stared into the face of privilege theory.
Peter could have fantasies about ruling the world, but Ender didn't have them.  Still, thinking back on his life in Battle School, it occurred to him that although he had never sought power, he had always had it.  But he decided that it was a power born of excellence, not manipulation.  He had no reason to be ashamed of it.  He had never, except perhaps with Bean, used his power to hurt someone.
I was deeply tempted to bring in Five-Tongue Fleming again to tell Ender that he is Wrong about this, but eventually I had to conclude that he is right that he did not use his power to hurt Bonzo.  He got away with killing Bonzo because he's the favourite son, the Chosen One, but I will grant that if he had been in the same situation and was not Graff's favourite, he would have killed Bonzo anyway.  (Possibly not the most sterling absolution ever.)  And in the years leading up to that point, when he could have apparently revolutionised tactics and training for Rat and Phoenix and ultimately the entire Battle School, and perhaps given insights and skills to hundreds of students rather than saving them all so he could show off when he got command of Dragon, strictly speaking he wasn't using his power to hurt people, but instead actively failing to use his power to help people.  Ender is innocent of not abusing his power by only the slightest margin, and he has benefitted from it anyway, but because he never intended to hurt people, he assures himself that he's a perfectly moral person.

Sometimes I am embarrassed for just how accurately and ruthlessly this book portrays its morality.

There's some competent SFing about the shuttle up to Inter-Planetary Launch and Graff requisitioning a ship to a secret destination.  Graff takes a moment to show affection to Ender with a gentle touch while he thinks Ender is asleep, which is shockingly not-creepy, before he gets right back to being a supervillain.  The pilot of their little ship thinks they're going to Inter-Stellar Launch, but is corrected that he'll actually be taking them to I.F. Command, the location of which which he does not have clearance to know (rather, his ship will guide him with the help of Graff's Ping-Pong Ball of Leadership).
"And I'm supposed to close my eyes during the whole voyage so I don't figure out where we are?" 
"Oh, no, of course not.  I.F. Command is on the minor planet Eros, which should be about three months away from here at the highest possible speed.  Which is the speed you'll use, of course." 
"Eros?  But I thought that the buggers burned that to a radioactive--ah.  When did I receive security clearance to know this?" 
"You didn't.  So when we arrive at Eros, you will undoubtedly be assigned to permanent duty there."
Graff adds jokingly that the war might be over in fifteen years and so the location can be declassified and their pilot will be free to go.  Seriously, this happens.  There's no advance planning to make sure a pilot with clearance is available, there are no volunteers for 'a one-way trip' to help with the war effort; Graff just decides 'You look like a convenient pilot; your life and career are now over because I need a ride'.  The pilot is predictably furious; Graff benevolently 'overlooks' his insubordination.  Skipping temporarily ahead to when they leave the ship, three months later:
The captain was bitter at having to leave his tug; Ender and Graff felt like prisoners finally paroled from jail.  When they boarded the shuttle that would take them to the surface of Eros, they repeated perverse misquotations of the lines from the videos that the captain had endlessly watched, and laughed like madmen.  The captain grew surly and withdrew by pretending to go to sleep.
Even here on a black rock in space at the end of humanity, Ender and Graff can take time to amuse themselves by bullying someone who can't fight back.  It is especially hilarious that we're told they feel like prisoners freed from jail, given that their pilot is now literally a prisoner until the end of either the war or his life, whichever comes first.  Ender Wiggin, master of empathy and sweetness.

But before that, they have three months aboard the shuttle, during which Graff jeopardises everything for no reason at all by giving Ender a lot of information that he absolutely does not need.  I understand giving him information on the formics--how they're all drones and they've never managed to hold one in captivity for long before it just fell over dead, how they lack any apparent sex organs but are probably mostly female, which doesn't stop Graff from calling them 'he'.  That's worth knowing, the hive structure and all.  What Ender really doesn't need to know about is the philotic effect: instantaneous telepathic communication, which humanity has now built into our ships.
"So they knew about their defeat the moment it happened," said Ender.  "I always figured--everybody always said that they probably only found out they lost the battle twenty-five years ago." 
"It keeps people from panicking," said Graff. [....] "We've taken some terrible risks, Ender, and we don't want to have every net on earth second-guessing those decisions.  You see, as soon as we had a working ansible, we tucked it into our best starships and launched them to attack the buggers home systems. [....] Our timing was pretty good.  They'll all be arriving in combat range within a few months of each other.  Unfortunately, our most primitive, outdated equipment will be attacking their homeworld." [....] 
"When will they arrive?" 
"Within the next five years, Ender."
Graff explains that the master ansible is waiting for them at I.F. Command, ready for humanity's greatest command to lead those ships into battle.  They want it to be Ender.  Ender says he can't possibly be ready in five years.  Graff says then they'll make do with what they have, which he immediately clarifies is "nobody".  Ender at least sees this for the transparent rubbish that it is, but thinks to himself that he doesn't need the extra motivation anyway:
I'll become exactly the tool you want me to be, said Ender silently, but at least I won't be fooled into it.  I'll do it because I choose to, not because you tricked me, you sly bastard.
Which is in turn hilarious because Ender is absolutely being fooled, and it baffles me that he doesn't expect it at all.  In Ender's Shadow, Graff specifically says that Bean mustn't be allowed to learn about the ansible because he'll guess the whole thing from that, but that Ender had to be told in order to do his job.  Except that as far as Ender is aware, his job for the next five years consists entirely of study and testing.  The entire point, supposedly, of letting Ender fight Bonzo, of bringing Valentine to fix him, was to make sure that Ender was independent and committed to saving humanity--this bit with the ansible and the five-year timeline is unnecessary for motivation.  Graff will also insist later that his whole plan desperately depended on Ender not knowing what he was doing--so why in hell is he telling Ender right now the two facts that he needs in order to puzzle it out?

The answer is of course purely Doylist: Card needs the reader to have this information so that he can spring the big reveal on us quickly later instead of having to throw in all this stuff about philotic physics and the human assault fleet in order to have it make sense.

Also, because we skipped it over--Ender asks if the Third Invasion (humans attacking aliens) is necessary, and if they aren't just going to leave us alone now that we've beaten them twice.  Graff says that they have to be safe, that the aliens already tried to exterminate us twice without provocation, and we can't risk it again.  But he also acknowledges that with the whole human fleet flying out to invade, we're defenceless on Earth and if there is a third alien invasion coming our way, we'll probably all get wiped out.  In other words, they're attacking the aliens because they might invade us again, but our military strategy is also completely built on the assumption that they aren't attacking us again, despite having had seventy years to build and launch their own fleet.

At this point I'm pretty sure that humanity's military would drastically increase in efficiency and effectiveness if they gave absolute power to one of those painting elephants.

As they take the final shuttle down to Eros, Ender asks why they're fighting the war to begin with, and Graff rattles off the list of unproven hypotheses--it's their religion, or their need to colonise, or they picked up our TV broadcasts and decided that we were too evil to be saved.  (If only they had caught the right anime series, they might think we were just delightful and ridiculous.  "My queen!  The blond ones grow delicious mushrooms to express despair!")  Graff's explanation is simply that, with the insurmountable communication barrier (their inborn telepathy keeps them from grasping how else beings might communicate) they decided we just couldn't be trusted and so had to be subjugated for their own safety, and humanity has made the same decision about them.  Basically, 'this might be an us-or-them situation, so let's assume it is and let's make sure we win'.  Graff also evopsychs about how nature can't produce a species that doesn't have a collective desire to survive, even if it allows individual sacrifice, because apparently he's never heard of panda breeding programs, but more to the point:
"As for me," said Ender, "I'm in favour of surviving." 
"I know," said Graff.  "That's why you're here."
Weeeeell, actually, Ender is in favour of defiantly doing as he pleases and handling threats to his safety through the focused application of violence.  That's not quite the same thing.  There are a lot of things Ender could have done, as we've discussed before, that would have let him survive without having to kill other children.  That is why he's there.  Because he has a toolbox full of solutions to your problems and all of them are murder.  Remember?  That's why Valentine couldn't be the Chosen One?  Yeah.  That.  It's about the killing, not the survival.  And in the end, it turns out you didn't need to make those things touch anyway.

Next week: Ender meets someone who should have replaced Graff from the very beginning.

29 comments:

  1. "When they boarded the shuttle that would take them to the surface of
    Eros, they repeated perverse misquotations of the lines from the videos
    that the captain had endlessly watched, and laughed like madmen. The
    captain grew surly and withdrew by pretending to go to sleep."


    Hey, what happened to the "I want everyone, even the people I have to stomp into oblivion, to love me," that Ender made such a big deal of a few pages ago?

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  2. Well... this was certainly something...

    Do they state in the book why exactly the location of military headquarters needs to be a closely guarded and confidential secret? I mean, it seems ... unlikely ... that their actual military opponents (giant insectoids) will be super successful with espionage campaigns etc to steal information about military locations from their civilian populace, or even receive it through standard channels of communication (given that they haven't actually been able to communicate with them at all, if I recall correctly). It could be to prevent other human powers from learning of the location - but in that case you'd think they'd just follow the locations of the e.g. tugs etc which are apparently NOT normally made low-albedo/blacked out using telescopes etc.

    I looked myself, and found the following:

    "What's all the secrecy for, anyway?"

    "Because we've taken some terrible risks, Ender, and we don't want to have every net on earth
    second-guessing those decisions. You see, as soon as we had a working ansible, we tucked it into
    our best starships and launched them to attack the buggers home systems."

    So... we need to obscure the location of military High Command because otherwise someone might second-guess the decision to have it on Eros? Is that seriously the only reason?

    Finally, there is one minor discrepency in your overview compared against the text of the book. You wrote, " Graff just decides 'You look like a convenient pilot; your life and career are now over because I need a ride'", while the book stated that Graff said, "I do apologize, but my orders were to take the fastest available military tug. At the moment I arrived, that was you.". While his attitude towards the pilot is still reprehensible, this seems to show that Graff was constrained by orders also rather than actually making an independent decision.

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  3. Graff's orders specify the ship he should take, but he doesn't say anything about the pilot, which is the point I was focused on--that no one, including Graff, has taken any precaution that might allow them to get a reliable volunteer pilot instead of an angry conscript who now has every reason to bear a grudge against the IF and find some way to use his forbidden knowledge to inconvenience them. The pilot turns out to be a loyal officer of the Fleet, so that doesn't happen, but it is yet another stupid risk in a chapter inexplicably filled with them.


    My best guess at the 'second-guessing' is that if people knew where IFC is (on Eros) they would notice the ships that aren't around Eros and start to realise that there is no defensive fleet in the system? But yeah, that doesn't really make sense to me either. (You have an especially good point about tracking the completely visible tugs.)

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  4. Strictly speaking, I'm not sure Ender does want everyone to love him--he specifically wants Peter to love him, and he insists that he personally loves people even as he destroys them, but the closest he gets to wanting everyone to love him appears to be his 'just let me fit in and be ignored' wish, which makes only occasional appearances.


    As I was writing this, it occurred to me to wonder if Ender saying "I want Peter to love me" doesn't have some kind of subtext of "I want Peter to destroy me", but that is a leap much too big for me to be able to elaborate it into something interesting right now.

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  5. It's been a long time since I read this book. I had forgotten that he stole the ansible idea -- hell, the word itself -- from Ursula K. LeGuin. Whose shoes he is not worthy to polish. And which is fucking ironic on so many levels.

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  6. To be fair, Le Guin herself has said she doesn't feel the idea of the ansible - or its name - can be copyrighted to her, as the ansible was actually invented by Shevek, who doesn't really believe in private property.

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  7. What this tells me is that Ender's "empty hands" arc words are an echo of Shevek's "empty hands" arc words. (Told ya.) Card is trying to imbue Ender with a bit of LeGuin zen, shoehorning Shevek's austerity into a book where it flat-out doesn't fit. (Consider Shevek's pacifism and you'll get some idea of the extent to which it doesn't fit.)

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  8. That's a very good point about Shevek's arc words, which had never occurred to me. Makes me even more outraged on her behalf, even if she's too fine a writer to be outraged for herself. And yes, the contrast between LeGuin's ethos -- feminist, cooperative, pacifistic, sexually inclusive -- and Card's -- misogynistic, hierarchical, militaristic, homophobic -- is what I meant by the irony of his coopting her ideas.

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  9. I don't know - bekabot mentioned Zen, which you will recall comes from Japan. This makes me think of the otherwise rational and enjoyable book Hardcore Zen, in which the author claims that his religion would save humanity or some such. And I immediately thought, 'Really? What did it do for the Japanese military in the lead-up to World War II? The evidence available to me does not justify your conclusion.'

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  10. the location of which which he does not have clearance to know (rather,
    his ship will guide him with the help of Graff's Ping-Pong Ball of
    Leadership).



    This has to be a metaphor, and likewise the fact that Graff claims to be mindlessly following orders from someone thinking in largely numerical terms ("fastest available military tug"). I've said before that Graff and these other fools are tools of the Mind Game computer program. I wonder what it means that I keep confusing Graff with Orson Scott Card.


    Somehow I want to connect the AI with Card's religion. The computer program has fixed goals that someone thought seemed like a good idea at the time. The Book of Mormon probably seemed compassionate and humane at the time of writing. Had Joseph Smith understood that some people prefer sex with their own gender (or possibly nobody, in some cases) I don't think he would have declared that everyone has a Soulmate of the opposite sex who they will spend eternity with if [conditions I don't understand or care about]. But now it's written in gold and Card feels he has to go along with it.

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  11. While your hypothesis here isn't impossible, there are a couple of reasons I don't find it particularly compelling. Running with your example, same-sex attraction is nothing new, so I don't have any clear reason to think Joseph Smith couldn't have 'understood' its existence; I find it much more likely that he didn't care and/or actively disapproved of it. Further, Card in general has not shown himself to be a particularly empathetic or compassionate person in... basically any area, whether it's a matter of LDS dogma or not. This causes me to doubt that he struggles with reconciling his tenets with his intuitive morality. For all that Graff is a supervillain, he at least bluntly agrees that he's a supervillain. (Even if I'm not sure Card thinks so.) Card conversely is totally onboard with everything he pushes (setting aside the question of whether he's deeply closeted).


    I'm not sure if you're suggesting that Card wrote any kind of intentional metaphor here--I doubt it, for the reasons listed above--but even as an unintentional reflection, I don't think it's a match (for the same reasons).

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  12. Yep. (It's deliberate, in my opinion. I forbear to elaborate for fear of generating a WOT.)

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  13. I was using "zen" more in its demotic than its theological sense.

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  14. In what alternate reality is a ship called a tug fast? Also, while it may be the fastest available tug, why on earth did they choose a tug? While a tug is small and powerful, the point is that it carefully pulls or pushes a much larger and usually heavily laden craft. Fast is contraindicated.
    Also, if they were in such a hurry that no reliable volunteer pilot was available, how did they have time to supply it for a three month trip, particularly if this includes not just food and water but air? Even if there was normally a three person crew and the deployment is normally months long so that there are already sufficient supplies, shouldn't those other crew member be on board to do their jobs? Last time I checked, all crew members on small working crafts have REALLY IMPORTANT JOBS. Like making the engine run and not break, navigate, allow someone to sleep while still keeping a watch, etc. There generally isn't room or budget for extra/wasted space, people or supplies. If normally the tug is so automated that one person can do the job, where did the space and supplies for 2 extra people come from?
    This is just one more small "WTF this makes no sense!" moment in this book.

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  15. VERY good point about the resources.

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  16. Graff is a villain, at the head of an organization that seems to be unable to find their own backsides with two hands, a flashlight, and Google Maps. I don't see how they've been able to exist for this long, because child soldiers, war crimes, and kids killing kids, among other things like sending the whole fleet on an invasion, banking on the Chosen One appearing exactly when needed, almost five years into the future, with a complete and competent officer corps underneath them. Whose propaganda is apparently so bad that two teenagers can beat them and whip up mobs for and against them.

    At this point, the Formics night be doing the humans a favor if they squashed Terra and let the colonists rebuild the homeworld.

    Although, I have to say, the narrative does an excellent job of showing us why a small child can become the greatest commander on the planet, if unintentionally. Just about everyone else has the Idiot Ball attached or falls into Too Dumb To Live.

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  17. Wait, if Graff's Magic Ball-o-Clearance is what's actually guiding them to Eros, why do they even need a pilot?

    I wondered this too, but I was willing to grant that the Ping-Ping Ball of Leadership might only have a map while piloting an actual high-speed spacecraft was too complicated for automation. (Though, like you say, they're perfectly happy building psychiatric programs with universal clearance and letting them run around in Ender's brain.)

    Eros is *just* the command center. With the ansible, there is basically no reason they had to put it there, instead of, say, under Cheyenne mountain, or any number of obscure places on Earth. Or on Mars! Or the far side of the moon!

    This is why I am certain that Card just wanted to say something very profound about love, but I haven't figured it out yet, probably because I'm too much of an ivory tower intellectual fop. (With the existence of Doctor Device, I can understand IFC not being on Earth, because these are the type of Dr Strangelove characters who would absolutely think 'We have to make sure that the total destruction of Earth does no impede our ability to kill aliens'. The moon, however, remains perfectly legit. IFC could have been on the shores of the Sea of Tranquility; how fucking poetic is that?)

    Incidentally, why the hell is the IF even considering sending manned vessels on a 70 year invasion? Generation ships should not be combat vessels.

    They're not; relativity applies and from the perspective of the first ships launched it's only been five years since the Second Invasion. Which will be something to consider when we get to the campaign and consider just how incredibly scared and angry those ships' crews probably are. Regardless:

    You *have* the ansible



    Yes. The existence of the ansible should immediately and forever remove all need to ever have live crew aboard combat vessels. Depending on how reliable their physical robotics are, they might or might not need humans on hand to handle repairs or whatever kind of unexpected situations arise, but the pilots should all be back on Earth. Jumping ahead to consider that whole 'scared and angry veterans of the Second Invasion' thing now, I half think that the reason they used crewed vessels instead of automated is because they weren't sure they could get pilots 70 years later who were sufficiently dedicated to completely wiping out a species that hadn't done anything threatening since their grandparents were born.

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  18. Wait what that does not help things argh. That's a relativistic factor of *14*. That means they're travelling at an *average speed* of 99.7% c, or, in layman's terms, 'fucking fast'. And since it's an average, mind, that means they need to actually be traveling *faster* for half of the trip and erglebergle.

    It's fast enough we can just assume their target is 70 light-years away. Which is about 700 trillion kilometers. This actually doesn't require a terribly high acceleration, only something like 1.915 g. It does, however, result in a kinetic energy of around 6.2 exajoules PER KILOGRAM. PER KILOGRAM. That's 6.2 quintillion joules. Of kinetic energy. Per kilogram. That is, for reference, two orders of magnitude above mass-energy. Each kilogram carries more energy than the yield of fifty Tzar Bombas. I am not even going to try to comprehend the amount of fuel required. Presumably there are, in fact, a lot of these ships. That translates to a LOT OF KILOGRAMS. Let's say that each ship weighs, oh, about as much as a space shuttle. That's a pretty small spacecraft, as sci-fi goes, right? And lets say there are, oh, a thousand of them, just to keep things neat.

    Yeah, we're quickly talking about energies that are a respectable fraction of the Sun's total energy output. And you need to do it twice. It's around the total energy radiated by the sun in an hour, enough to halt the Earth's rotation, or deorbit the moon... six times. (25 xennajoules (i.e. 2.5E29 joules)). This is *just* the ship that actually arrives on target, not even thinking about the fuel/reaction mass it takes to get there. Seriously, guys, it's so much power, why aren't you using missiles, is Ender really the only person to think of 'hey, what if we *shot the aliens*.'

    It's not quite Star Wars level silly power outputs, but it's coming pretty close. We are edging on Type 2 civilization, here. That is what is casually refered to as 'not the type of civilization that gives a damn about population control.' Or really, much of anything. It kinda suffers from the 'science marches on' thing in the 'if you can generate *that* much power, why aren't you building warp drives? Or wormholes?' Or with the Eros thing, it begins to beg the question of why you don't *build your own* secret planetoid to house the International fleet headquarters.

    Sigh. I guess I'm just sad to see such awesome power in the hands of these unmitigated *idiots*. Seriously. Palpatine is more competent than you. The Imperium of Man is more compe... hrph, well, the Imperium is *cooler* than you, anyways. The United Federation of Planets? On the competence scale, they're roughly 1.3 kilo-Enders.

    I wondered this too, but I was willing to grant that the Ping-Ping Ball of Leadership might only have a map while piloting an actual high-speed spacecraft was too complicated for automation. (Though, like you say, they're perfectly happy building psychiatric programs with universal clearance and letting them run around in Ender's brain.)

    Actually, you know what? If the Mind Game is so brilliant you trust it with absolute clearance, and the training and upkeep of your secret genius, the only thing that can keep up with his 'brilliance'...

    Why don't you put it in command? Seriously, it even works on a meta-level. It's a computer program, and seems to be pretty locked down, what with the 'hasn't actually eaten the planet despite your rampant stupidity.' It'll probably do the whole 'annihilate the formics for no damn good reason, because... ??? thing. Or maybe it's just so much smarter than them (approaching the intelligence of a normal human being) they know better than to ask...

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  19. That is fantastic math. I think the power output question depends on exactly how their FTL works, which naturally they will never tell us--on the one hand, relativity applies; on the other, Graff's remarks on how humanity has 'learned to play with space a bit better' implies something more like a warp drive, and I don't think I've ever seen a warp drive theory that doesn't avoid relativistic time dilation. (If I recall what I've heard about the later books, they eventually replace FTL with something like infinite-range teleportation, so clearly this is a setting where thermodynamic laws are presumed to be incomplete.)


    I absolutely love the 'kilo-Ender' as a unit of logistic/strategic competency. (Like the opposite of a farad, of course, the base unit is so far on the wrong side of the scale that it's only worth using in prefixed form.)


    (Unrelated, again from what I've heard of later books, the mind game actually got integrated with the formics' philotic network, so if they had given it control of the fleet, it most likely would have refused to fight and just locked down all their ships until it had established effective translation from alien thoughts into English.)

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  20. "I think the power output question depends on exactly how their FTL works, which naturally they will never tell us--on the one hand, relativity applies; on the other, Graff's remarks on how humanity has 'learned to play with space a bit better' implies something more like a warp drive, and I don't think I've ever seen a warp drive theory that doesn't avoid relativistic time dilation."
    The math was done with the presumption it was, in fact, not FTL at all. If FTL is actually involved... well, I have no idea, but it just makes things more confusing. Perhaps the 'learned to play with space better' refers to some kind of gravity drive? Having good gravity/mass manipulation tech would make sense, what with Dr. Device. Alternatively maybe it's some kind of temporal distortion warp drive. If you can warp space, it stands to reason you can warp time as well...


    (Unrelated, again from what I've heard of later books, the mind game actually got integrated with the formics' philotic network, so if they had given it control of the fleet, it most likely would have refused to fight and just locked down all their ships until it had established effective translation from alien thoughts into English.)

    So, in other words, they didn't make it commander because it's too smart for them. Glad to know I was right :P

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  21. The math was done with the presumption it was, in fact, not FTL at all. If FTL is actually involved... well, I have no idea, but it just makes things more confusing.


    Sorry, my brain is just all over the place this week--I don't actually know if it *is* FTL; I was just using that as a mental shorthand for 'practical interstellar engine'. Given the time that Ender's Game was written, the theory behind something like a subluminal Alcubierre drive hadn't really been detailed, so... hell, I don't know. Petra did talk about gravity drives; surely she's not the only person ever to think of--wait, she's a Battle School kid, of course she's the only person ever to think of it.


    I'm just going to assume that IF vessels accelerate by throwing things really hard out the back of the ship.

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  22. Separately posted because of its length and because the thread it addresses is already complete.


    @ BaseDeltaZero and Our Over Lord:

    I'm restating this, as a set of propositions, for my own convenience.

    1. We're agreed that Graff can't train Peter Wiggin as his SuperDuperCommanderKid or trust Peter to wipe out the Formics because Graff can't put Peter under his thumb. ("Because Peter is too smart for him" is another way to put this, not an identical statement but a very similar one.)

    2. We're also agreed that Graff (and Pals) can't use their SuperDuperCommand-o-Puter as a Formic-Wiper-Outer or put it in charge of their fleet because they can't get it under their thumb (again, "because it's too smart for them," ditto.)



    3. Valentine would be useless to Graff & Co., because if she were to divine the existence of the ansible, she'd want to use it for its most obvious purpose, viz., to talk. To Formics. To find out what's going on. Which is the foremost thing Graff and the Graff Gang can't allow.


    Don't these circumstances and others (like the profound secrecy and weird location of the Eros Base, like the fact that Graff bundles Ender into a "tug" without telling anybody what he's going to do and where he's headed, certainly not Ender or the pilot he press-gangs, and like the ambiguous capacities of the Earthly warfleet — just to begin with) suggest some state of extremely deep kabuki in which Graff & Co. are fighting the Formics only as a side issue — because after whatever length of time they've been put into the position of "unacknowledged legislators" of the Earth, they must at last produce results? And that they've determined (or did determine back at the time when the decision was being made) that they'll be in a better bargaining position as successful warriors than as mere haggling diplomats? Ender's Game makes no bones about the fact that it exists to put one over on its readers. It ends with a galactic cry of "Sold!!". (Though in the book's specific context that's depicted as a good thing.)


    Could we not have a situation in which Earth is really ruled by a small number of powerful individuals/cartels, who, for their own part, possess Star Trek/Type II technology and therefore are themselves not unduly worried by the Formics, but who recognize a need to keep the greater mass of Earth's population occupied and busy and who permit the alien invasion to go forward to that end? And who employ Graff and the likes of Graff as a sort of upper servant class, to superintend the kind of history which will let the Earth's real board of directors, whoever they are, continue to conduct business as usual? Because Graff & Co. never take the short path, they always mug around behind black masks and cloaks. They always act like they're engaging in a cover-up. Could that be because they are?

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  23. See: Joe Haldeman's reasoning in The Forever War, which serves as an excellent rebuttal to the illogic of fighting an interstellar war between aliens with crewed ships.

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  24. It's a computer program, and seems to be pretty locked down, what with the 'hasn't actually eaten the planet despite your rampant stupidity.

    !
    I've just figured out how these blundering idiots are managing. They are, in fact, all in the matrix. The Mind Game, not being a blundering idiot, put the warlike and prone to sticking their fingers in lightsockets humans in a sim and made peace with the Formics. The characters just think all this is real.

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  25. Yeah... and that does make a whole lot of sense...

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  26. Darn it. I never read that and now I'll have to make the time.

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