Sunday, March 30, 2014

Speaker for the Dead, chapter twelve, in which there are okay bits

(Content: family abuse, violation of privacy. Fun content: cool dads, space water snakes, and borderline tree erotica.)

Speaker for the Dead: p. 184--199
Chapter Twelve: Files

We have reached the middle of the book!  (Or we`re about to, at page 191 out of 382.)  We've been introduced to a wide cast of  'characters' and all the pieces have been set in motion and clearly now the actual plot will pick up and we will see people tackle their failings and grow into better individuals against a backdrop of thrilling intrigue and interrogation of what it means to be human!  The incredibly slow plot, irrational and inconsistent characters, and diligent failures of worldbuilding have clearly just been setting up for a masterpiece that may now begin.  (On a completely unrelated note, I'm also really looking forward to the Walking Dead season finale tonight!)

The chapter-prelude bit is a series of congressional orders revoking All The Things: Lusitania loses its Catholic License, all their files are confiscated for review and the colony is locked out of all their non-life-support systems, Ender's starship Havelok is commandeered to ship Miro and Ouanda to Trondheim for trial, a committee is struck to plan and implement the total human evacuation of the planet, and all evidence of human contact on Lusitania is to be obliterated, including any genetically modified organisms.  It's not clear if that means vaporising the Little Ones who've been given new tech or if they're exempt from the 'evidence of human contact' deal.

Blissfully unaware of this, Ender finally shows some evidence of being a time-refugee, because he's having to navigate computer systems without Jane's help and he's terrible at it, so he's hired Olhado to assist him.
"Olhado, just tell me what program to run." 
"I can't believe you don't know what it is. I've been doing data comparisons since I was nine years old. Everybody learns how to do it at that age."
It occurs to me at this point that we have no idea what 'normal' life is like off these backwater colonies.  Card writes about the miners and farmers as if they're what we think of today as stereotypical miners and farmers, but what 'data comparisons' would they be running? What do kids get taught in public schools? Do they learn how to operate software to do incredibly complicated mathematics like Ender did back in space school?  Are menial jobs automated and so everyone needs to be skilled in navigating computer systems in order to operate their robot farming legions?  Three thousand years in the future!  Tell me what it's like, Card.
"If I knew how to do it myself, I wouldn't have had to hire you, would I? And since I'm going to be paying you in offworld funds, your services to me will make a substantial contribution to the Lusitanian economy."
Not content with being terrible at science, psychology, and religion, Card has decided to loudly fail at economics as well.  Lusitania has no exports and to our knowledge few or no physical imports.  The only transactions they could conceivably have are ansible communications, and seeing as they're a government-mandated scientific outpost, there's no reason for their ansible not to be free (if perhaps regulated, if we're going to play along with Card's ridiculous assertion that ansible transmissions are expensive). Since they don't export anything, they can't afford to independently sustain offworld payments for the ansible anyway.  There isn't even a good reason for them to pay taxes at the interplanetary level.  All of their transactions are internal, which means that bringing in more money (Ender's promised offworld funds) will just lead to inflation devaluing everyone else's savings, unless Olhado just uses his paycheque to cover everyone's ansible charges for however long.  (I'm assuming that Ender Forty-billion-is-a-drop-in-the-bucket Wiggin will be hilariously overpaying Olhado.)

Ender reveals that he also has no idea what his password is, and explains that this has all been automated for him for ages--Olhado calls Jane a 'slave program' and says they're illegal, but Ender just responds that it wasn't illegal for him, once again avoiding telling us whether he has tons of government pull or if he's just thinking that Jane is so unique that the law doesn't apply to her.
"I got no eyes, Speaker, but at least that wasn't my own fault. You can't do anything." Only after he said it did Olhado realize he was talking to the Speaker as brusquely as if he were another kid. 
"I imagine courtesy is something they teach to thirteen-year-olds," the Speaker said. Olhado glanced at him. He was smiling. Father would have yelled at him, and then probably gone in and beaten up Mother because she didn't teach manners to her kids. But then, Olhado would never have said anything like that to Father.
Ender's not a normal dad; Ender is a cool dad.  I have a sinking feeling that Marcos' abuse is primarily going to be used to make Ender seem even more awesome than he already is (because he passes the unfathomably low bar of not raging and beating people), rather than exploring how it may have affected Novinha's psychology if her most constant and legally-bound companion for the last twenty years was actively hostile and blamed her for everything, including things outside of her control.

Ender eventually manages to guess his password, which is..."Ender".  I'm going to be kind and assume that Jane intentionally made it something he'd be able to guess in an emergency, and not a security protocol, given that she is the internet and therefore would have the ability to simply deny access to anyone else.  Olhado sees his accounts, and although Ender has no concept of what money means these days, Olhado suggests that, rather than a wage, he be paid "one thousandth of one percent [of the interest this gets during the time I work for you]. Then in a couple of weeks I can afford to buy Lusitania and ship the topsoil to another planet." Ender says that his investments must have just done well; Olhado (first jokingly, then seriously) guesses that Ender must be millennia old.

The 'data comparisons' that started all of this turn out to be comparing Pipo's and Libo's files in the weeks before their respective deaths, trying to piece together the common elements. They get nowhere, but Olhado realises that Ender didn't actually expect to get anywhere: he just wanted to see how Olhado worked the program so that he could then run his own searches in private later on.  Olhado thinks this is foolish, not least because he already knows some of Andrew's secrets, like the way his "Ender" password gets him basically everywhere--for example, into the mayor's and bishop's files.
No need to keep a secret from me. You've only been here three days, but I know you well enough to like you, and I like you well enough that I'd do anything for you, as long as it didn't hurt my family. And you'd never do anything to hurt my family.
I keep thinking Card will get bored of having people rhapsodise about how wonderful Ender is.  I don't know why I haven't caught on yet.  Aside from the Ender-worship and the worldbuilding blanks and the failure of economics, this was, however, a pretty good scene, and that's rare enough that I feel like being explicit about it or I'll just end up in a heap of despair that there's anything good in the world.  (And, again, I'm bracing myself for whatever dreck the Walking Dead writers will think they're being clever about next.)

The next morning, Novinha fumes about how Ender was rooting around in her root directories all night (when I started that sentence it was just a pun and not a horrendous innuendo but this is where life has taken us) and didn't even bother to cover his digital tracks.  We get, at last, some blessed relief from being told how wonderful Ender is, because his presence did not magically heal the Ribeira house: Grego has been cutting up sheets and headbutted one of his teachers in the crotch; Miro and Ela have slid back into grumpiness.  On the other hand, ever-silent Quara apparently started talking loudly in class about how she met the Speaker and he's terrible like the Bishop said and he tortured her little brother, until the teacher actually had to demand she stop talking.  And Olhado has obviously shifted to hero-worship, which has inspired Quim to threaten to have him exorcised.

Olhado has noticed that Ender seems to speak Stark as his native tongue, which is apparently super-weird.  I find this fascinating, because if true this means that the galaxy of the future is not mostly populated by English-speakers.  (Stark isn't technically English, but Ender spoke English first and obviously still does.)  As much as I scorn Epcot Galaxy, it is at least different from the usual pasty anglo SF environment, to the point where English is properly recognised as a minority. Olhado wonders if Ender comes from Earth, which in turn makes me wonder two things: are the people who natively speak Stark the same demographic as the people who previously natively spoke English, or has future-English mutated into some other language while Stark actually bears a closer resemblance to 20th-centry English?  Did everyone default to their non-English ancestry, so that someone like me would grow up speaking Cymraeg (Welsh) or Irish Gaelic and then learn Stark at school?

Novinha spends her whole day thinking about her family, her secrets, her illegitimate children and how she'll have to one day tell Miro about his real father to keep him from marrying Ouanda, and engages in a whole lot of internalised victim-blaming and ascribing her abuse by Marcos to the delivery of divinely-approved vengeance. Novinha has 'discovered' that she is religious after all, but she only believes in the vengeful old god and not the mercy of Christianity.

Quim shows up to say that Quara went to the Speaker's house after school, and to complain that Novinha isn't fighting him harder. They recriminate each other, with Quim varyingly accusing and apologising to her, until Novinha lashes out to strike him, and then they both crumple to the floor as she tries to comfort him. I'm tempted to call this a relatively realistic depiction of severely dysfunctional relationships in which abuse has been normalised (although apparently Novinha kept Marcos from ever attacking the kids).

They decide to go to Ender's house, though Novinha's not sure whether she wants to take Quara away from there if it's got her talking.  (Their path is scattered with molted water snake skins, which is firstly a very Earthlike sort of animal to find on an alien planet and secondly why would anyone ever be okay with water snakes as their primary form of vermin that's terrifying.  Although Novinha mentions that they make the riverbanks smelly with musk, so I guess these are Space Northern Water Snakes and not Space Cottonmouths, which is some relief.)  Quim and Novinha argue about confrontations between good and evil, until she tells him that she's been there and he's only seen the map and so has nothing to say on the matter, and he stalks off.

Quara greets her happily and brings her inside, where Ender and Olhado are playing a video game of duelling fleets--she arrives in time to see Olhado wipe out half of Ender's ships in a moment, I assume because Ender is letting him win and apparently has no problem replaying the same game that was his life and education and religion and torment as a child, the illusion that allowed him to slaughter an entire species and define human interaction with alien life and the evolution of philosophy for three thousand years.  No big.
...She certainly didn't approve of him playing games of warfare. It was so archaic and outmoded, anyway. There hadn't been any battles in space in hundreds of years, unless running fights with smugglers counted. [....] Maybe it was something evolution had bred into males of the species, the desire to blast rivals into little bits or mash them to the ground.
Ah, it's been a little while since we got that evo-bio gender essentialism; I knew it had to be lying around somewhere.  Predictably, Ender then wipes out Olhado's entire side in a single shot and tells him to replay the memory until he figures out how to counter it next time. (I guess Doctor Device is still considered a normal armament in space war?  Or I wonder if people think that it's just a fiction of the game, and the story of how Ender destroyed the formic homeworld is blurry and rewritten.)

Ender and Novinha have a fairly predictable conversation--he lays out what he's learned so far and demands to know what Pipo learned that led to his death; Novinha says she'll never tell anyone (although she never puzzled it out herself either), Ender says that knowing will protect Miro and his sister where ignorance got Libo and Pipo killed.
"Tomorrow I'm going with them, because I can't speak Pipo's death without talking to the piggies--" 
"I don't want you to speak Pipo's death." 
"I don't care what you want, I'm not doing it for you. But I am begging you to let me know what Pipo knew."
Soooo... apparently Speakers can't speak someone's death unless requested, but if requested it's irrevocable?  I know there was that whole thing about how you can't turn a speaker back once they've left whatever world they came from, but being unable to protect your personal privacy from someone depending on the exact moment they hopped on their space yacht is distressing.

Ender then implicitly compares himself to Pipo (in that he's rescuing and healing the damaged little girl, Quara). Novinha is of course enraged and storms out, without Quara, realising as she leaves that Ender said "your son and his sister"--he knows all her kids were with Libo.  Then Olhado turns accusatory, for Ender having "made a traitor out of me", using the search skills Olhado taught him to investigate his mother.  Ender feels enough pain at Olhado's departure that he even attracts the Hive Queen's attention.
And he felt her touch him inwardly, touch him like the breeze in the leaves of a tree; he felt the strength and vigor of upward-thrusting wood, the firm grip of roots in earth, the gentle play of sunlight on passionate leaves.
Man, can you imagine if Card just wrote poetry and not bigoted propaganda masquerading as serious philosophical literature? I mean upward-thrusting wood and passionate leaves, okay, phrasing, but these moments really stand out in the dross and I legitimately wish there were more of them.  Also, I think we can take from this that the Hive Queen's new companion is indeed the consciousnesses of 'dead' Little Ones inside their trees, if there were any question left in that at all.

Ender is left with Quara, who cheerfully remarks that in a couple of days he's managed to make everyone hate him (including her), and then turns on his terminal and brings up arithmetic problems, which she invites him to watch her solve.  Ender says they look hard; Quara boasts that she can solve them faster than anyone.  I'm not sure what to make of Quara yet, but she's smart and cheerful and says she hates Ender, so I'm on board for now.

Next week: My conviction that the plot is actually going to happen begins to waver.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Speaker for the Dead, chapter eleven, in which Jane does all right

(Fun content: Ender isn't in this chapter.)

Speaker for the Dead: p. 172--184
Chapter 11: Jane

This chapter is short and incredibly easy to summarise, so I guess extra-short post this week.  The opening notes are borderline nonsensical at times, but the gist of it is that Starways Congress has maintained absolute peace in the galaxy for two thousand years, not merely between planets but between nations on planets, because they control the internet and no one wants to get cut off.  The engineers of the future are apparently deeply unambitious, and no one has ever been like "Hey, if we could build a pirate connection to the ansibles, Congress would lose all control over us and we could then conquer our entire world with a small array of butter knives and no one in the galaxy could even get here to do anything about it for like forty years, at which point our orbital Doctor Device platforms will be complete".

And then, at long last, we come to Jane.  Shocking no one, my hopes were dashed, because Jane, goddess of knowledge, conscious mind of human civilisation, keeper of every secret word uttered for the last three thousand years, finds everything boring except Ender.  There's about a page of exposition about how fast she thinks, a hundred million computerised actions semi-consciously taken every second (she is the force that lifts up your email and carries it to its recipients and reads it and double-checks your spelling, every single time, for everyone).  It still took her three full seconds to grasp that Ender had intentionally and voluntarily cut her off.
Compared to the speed at which the human brain was able to experience life, Jane had lived half a trillion human lifeyears since she came to be. 
And with all that vast activity, her unimaginable speed, the breadth and depth of her experience, fully half of the top ten levels of her attention were always, always devoted to what came in through the jewel in Ender Wiggin's ear. 
[....] When she tried to observe other human lives to pass the time, she became annoyed with their emptiness and lack of purpose [....] He always came back, always took her into the heart of human life, into the tensions between people bound together by pain and need, helping her see nobility in their suffering and anguish in their love. [....] He taught her what it meant to be alive.
Two full pages of this, y'all.  We've finally come to the chapter where we find out what the godlike AI thinks about, and it's still just another excuse to tell us how magical Ender is.  Trillions of people in the galaxy and the only one who can create the impression that any of their lives have any meaning at all is Ender.  It's just canonical fact: Ender is the Best Person.  Jane has checked literally everyone for three thousand years and no one else measures up.  My god.

We get Jane's origin story, which is at first generic: she spontaneously came into existence among clusters of data beaming around in the early ansible networks, and quickly latched onto a program with greater complexity than her own.  I'm going to take this as the explanation for why she's so obsessed with Ender's mind and his perspective on things, and if Card is lucky he meant it to be this kind of duck-like imprinting and not just objective fact, because Jane built her first self out of the Battle School fantasy puzzle game.

We're told once again that Ender completely set himself apart from the rest of the students by attacking the Giant's eye, because clearly it's "completely irrational and murderous" for a boy in a military school dealing with an imaginary and incredibly hostile threat to think "Hm, pre-emptive strike?"  But then, since Ender had beaten the Giant, the game had to invent Fairyland, which it did on the spot, based on intensive personalised psychological analysis.

So, it's not unreasonable after all to say that Ender's solutions in the game ("Burrow Into Eye", "Dissolve Wolf-Child", "Make Out With Snake") were in fact improvised cases of the game guessing what Ender wanted to do, or what would be most meaningful to him, or just saying "This is boring and I want to see what you'll think if you win now," rather than legitimate commands he input.  And then Jane's continued obsession with Ender, and her conviction that only his perspective makes the world interesting, is explained by the fact that, when she first absorbed the game, "the program devoted more than half of its available memory to containing Ender Wiggin's fantasy world".

And then it's River Song all over again, because, having been imprinted with memories of Ender Wiggin's magnificence, Jane went on a quest to find him again.  Being a super-genius, of course, it didn't take her long to read his books, figure out he was the Speaker for the Dead, find him on the first planet he visited after writing HQ&H, and quickly convince him they should be partners.  Sadly unlike River Song, she didn't then immediately murder him.
So when he reached up to his ear and turned off the interface for the first time since he had implanted it, Jane did not feel it as the meaningless switch-off of a trivial communications device.  She felt it as her dearest and only friend, her lover, her husband, her brother, her father, her child--all telling her, abruptly, inexplicably, that she should cease to exist.
Creepy slightly-incestuous tones aside, I'd like to note that this is yet another example of Ender canonically failing as hard as humanly possible at empathy.  He's spent twenty years with Jane as his constant companion (save for a couple of weeks here and there when he jumps between worlds) and it didn't occur to him, ever, however briefly, what Jane's perspective on the world might be.  In two decades, in which he's apparently never voluntarily turned off his implant before, he hasn't considered what that could mean to her, doesn't begin to understand her needs or motivations at all.  He's only had two companions for most of his life and he barely bothered to acknowledge either of them.  It's almost impressive.

Jane immediately settles into realising that Ender didn't mean to hurt her, and immediately comes up with a list of possible reasons that he's too emotionally compromised to think about her right now: his loss of Valentine, his longing for a family life he never had, his identification with Novinha's pain and instinctive fatherly role with her children, his need to settle with hive queen and to understand the Little Ones, and lastly:
...They made him face his own celibacy and realize that he had no good reason for it. For the first time in years he was admitting to himself the inborn hunger of every living organism to reproduce itself.
If it's truly the inborn hunger of every living being to reproduce, I wonder why Card has to keep telling us so.

Jane concludes that her joke was ill-timed but she is innocent of wrongdoing, and Ender has hurt her but had no malicious intent, and so they will just forgive each other.  But then, in a shocking twist, something happens that I like.  Jane is sufficiently rattled by her moment of vexation that it disrupts her program, and so she decides to remake herself.  She rereads the entire library of humanity, observes a few trillion* of the other humans out there, and rebuilds her own damaged pathways into a being that loves but is not dependent on Ender.  It takes her a few hours, what she estimates would take a human fifty thousand years, and then she comes back, finds the apology Ender wrote, and rewrites the file to say "Of course I forgive you".  But, to see what he'll do next without her, she doesn't approach him, she just goes back to silently observing.  She's certain that he'll turn to Novinha again, having fallen in love with her via biography before he left Trondheim.

In the meantime, she waltzes through Novinha's security, reconstructs all of the old files, manages through relentless analysis to figure out what Pipo did, and figures out why Pipo and then Libo died.  So... book over?  Nope.  Jane wants to watch Ender in action, so she resolves not to intervene unless she needs to protect someone from harm.  In the meantime, she decides that Ender needs to be friends with the church in order to save the day, and so she'll give them a common enemy.

She scans the satellite data until she finds evidence of the Little Ones farming and shearing/slaughtering cabras, leaves the data and a "Check this out!" note on the computer of some random xenologer somewhere in the galaxy (a person she's determined has a habit of taking credit for others' work already), and then shepherds his report to the attention of key journals and experts, having rewritten the last paragraph herself to point out that the sudden ramp-up of technology and their population explosion following the appearance of a Little-One-appropriate strain of amaranth strongly indicates humans have been mucking about with them.

First question: if there are satellites, and there are hundreds of xenologers out there constantly analysing every word Pipo/Novinha/Libo/Miro/Ouanda write, why isn't anyone else constantly monitoring their activities by satellite too?  No one has noticed in eight years that they've started farming and making bows and arrows?  No one has wondered why their population has skyrocketed?  Everyone in this galaxy is fired.

Secondly, I'm not at all sure why Jane felt she needed a human to get involved in this, given that Ender and Valentine are three millennia of proof that this galaxy freaking loves anonymous geniuses.  She could doubtless have written the whole report herself in a second and delivered it herself rather than wait for random dude to submit to an obscure journal requiring her intervention anyway.  Jane's terrified of being discovered, obviously, but she is the internet; I think she can figure out a cover story.

Anyway, Jane's plan works flawlessly, because the chairman (who is a woman, but I expect Card would eat his own hand rather than write 'chairwoman') of the Xenological Oversight Committee gets the report and immediately recommends that Lusitania Colony be terminated.
There, thought Jane.  That ought to stir things up a bit.
And that's the chapter.  Honestly, it turned out way better than I thought it was going to, from the start.  Jane remains the best character, and she actually got to be the one person whose character growth takes the form of deciding Ender Wiggin isn't actually as big a deal as his fans would have you believe.

Next chapter, I think a plot might actually form.  And we're only halfway through the book!


*If 'Hundred Worlds' is at all accurate, then in order for there to be even one trillion people in the galaxy, each planet would need an average population of ten billion people.  Five trillion people in the galaxy, average fifty billion people per planet.  I'm going to keep running with the idea that 'Hundred Worlds' is an old and deeply inaccurate name, because that's way more plausible.  Also, Jane noted earlier in the chapter that even the original wave of colonisation reached out to "more than seventy habitable planets" previously occupied by formics.  So, how many more do we figure they've found in three millennia since then?  Who gets to be in the Hundred?  Is it an official status?  Are there privileges, or is it just a quaint status symbol?  All of these questions are more interesting to me than Ender's feelings.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Speaker for the Dead, chapter ten, part two, in which Ender is all of his own exceptions

(Content: religious prejudice, violation of privacy.  Fun content: language, reapers, and BONES.)

Speaker for the Dead: p. 158--171
Not since he was a child in the military had Ender felt so clearly that he was in enemy territory.
This is an interesting point to start with, because the whole purpose of the deceptive rigmarole that was "Ender's Game" was to prevent him from every knowing he was in enemy territory, while still trying to get him to act like he was in enemy territory.  It was all games, false enemies, which is a bit strange: 'not since he had played laser tag in which other children pretended to be his mortal enemies had Ender felt so much like he was surrounded by mortal enemies' doesn't quite have the same impact.  The actual enemies came in two camps: children who actually wanted to cause him harm, like Bonzo, who didn't actually have any of their own 'territory', and adults who intended to abuse Ender into sprouting superpowers, whose territory he never left for even a second between the ages of six and twelve.  I'm not sure which of these kinds of enemies Ender is supposed to be imagining the Lusitanians are.  That whole 'empathy' deal he supposedly specialises in might prod him to consider whether these villagers have more in common with Badger Army (they bear him no actual ill will, but have been commanded to act like it by their leader), Bonzo (they will murder him as soon as they think they can get away with it), Graff (they will find a use for him if they can, and won't care how much harm it causes), or the formics (they have no goddamn clue what he's doing there but they can't imagine how to negotiate peace with him and so will defend themselves as best they can).  That seems like an important distinction, in terms of types of enemies Ender is familiar with.

Ah, but it's not all the Lusitanians he has in mind, just the Church, as he's climbed the hill to their terraces and there are priests and deacons glaring at him as they pass on the paths.  I'm curious how many priests and deacons there can be--Milagre is a very small town, three or five thousand at best, supposedly scratching out a rather limited existence, all for the sake of a couple of xenologers and xenobiologists.  How many churches could they need?  How many churches can they support?
...Priests and deacons, their eyes malevolent with authority under threat. What do I steal from you be coming here? Ender asked them silently. But he knew that their hatred was not undeserved. He was a wild herb growing in the well-tended garden; wherever he stepped, disorder threatened,and many lovely flowers would die if he took root and sucked the life from their soil.
I was going to say that this book must have been some kind of huge pressure valve on Card's issues with the Catholic church, and then I remembered that this is science fiction, a genre beloved by people who consider themselves far too enlightened to bother with any of that religion nonsense, and I wondered if the unrelenting irrational church-bashing isn't actually one of the book's marketing points.

Jane is trolling Ender by trying to get him to talk out loud when no one else can hear her.  Oh, my sweet Jane, you understand:
"How many priests can this community support, Ender?"
He doesn't answer aloud, not least because Jane has all the data anyway, but he silently thinks on Valentine's history of Zanzibar, where she argued that a "rigid hierarchy always emerged as the conservative force in a community [....] if there were no powerful advocate of orthodoxy, the community would inevitably disintegrate".  Then there's a metaphor about how bones are dead and stony but allow flesh to take action, and I wonder if Valentine ever bothered to learn anything about bones, because between marrow, endosteum, periosteum, nerves, blood vessels and cartilage, bones are anything but dead.  Hell, even osseous tissue isn't 'dead', and that's the hard white part that 'bone' usually means.

Jane starts quoting Valentine's essay in Ender's ear, in Valentine's own voice, reminding Ender that he's so very, very alone--if only he had some kind of direct link-up to the instantaneous galactic communication network that would literally allow him to Skype with her at this exact second if he felt like it.  I know there are various reasons why he's not doing that, but Ender's solitude is self-imposed, let's not forget, eh?  Anyway, the lack of Valentine is why, apparently, he's so aware of the priests' hostility, so much worse than all the other religions he's faced:
He had bearded the Calvinist lion in its den, he had walked philosophically naked among the burning coals of Islam, and Shinto fanatics had sung death threats outside his window in Kyoto.

First: Why do all of these people hate speakers so much?  Speakers don't preach any tenets that conflict with these religions!  Speakers don't preach tenets at all.  There is no conversion process, there are no vows, there are no congregations or tithes or excommunications!  Speaking is 100% compatible with all of these religions!  (My working theory at this point is that every other Speaker in the galaxy goes around having a perfectly pleasant time, whereas people constantly try to tell Ender what a colossal jackwagon he personally is and he's just "Pfft, religious oppressors!" and slouches away into the sunset.)

Second: "bearded the Calvinist lion"?  For starters, Card, that sounds way gayer than you think it does.  ("For the last time, mom, the lion is just my roommate!")  Second, that implies that Ender actually, you know, defeated Calvinism, and I'm reasonably certain the record will show that he had zero effect except in using his institionally-granted authority to berate a student into shutting up instead of responding to his arguments.

Third: Shinto, Islam, Calvinist protestant Christianity, and now the Catholic Church?  Has Ender been level-grinding this whole time?  Is Catholicism the final boss?!

Ender proceeds to the monastery (seriously how many priests does this colony town have) on a hill overlooking the Zenador's Station.  There's about a page of exposition on the titles the COTMOCs use: Dom Cristão just means "Sir Christian", and is an intentional humblebrag because San Angelo thought it would be hilarious to make people choose between calling his abbots 'lord commoner' or using their long Ye-Must-Love-Dogs prayer names, such that "a sermon comes from their own lips".  All the other COTMOCs have agriculturally-themed names in Portuguese, such that teachers are 'sowers', principals are 'plowmen', and the abbot, Sir Christian, Ye Must Love Dogs, is also called ceifeiro, 'reaper'.  REAPER.  You know that thing where people get on a roll and then take it one step too far?  We've just passed it.

(It's also a rule that, in the highest-ranking couple of COTMOCs on a planet, the husband runs the monastery and his wife runs the schools, thus the Dona Cristã we met a couple of chapters and thirty years ago.  Dunno if it's the same one now.  The dramatis personae Some People of Lusitania Colony informs me that her name is Detestai O Pecado E Fazei O Direito; draw your own conclusions about how much fun she is as a teacher.)

Ender and Ye Must Love Reapers banter insufferably about repentance; Reaper asks if it's true Ender knew San Angelo; Ender proves that he did by commenting on how Angelo, Patron Saint of Passive Aggression, would have loved the messy weeds that Reaper allows to grow over the wall where they'll irritate Bishop Peregrino.  (We also finally get confirmation that Ender lived on Trondheim for a year and a half.  Valentine did not meet, marry, and get pregnant in three weeks like it originally seemed.)

They tour the grounds for the rest of the afternoon, until they join his wife, who at least also gets a pretty badass name as the Aradora, 'Harrow'.  (I assume, since they're Catholic, that it's also meant to be a reference to that incident in Catholic fanon where Jesus burst into Hell like the Kool-Aid man to rescue the righteous heathens.  I like that bit.)  More discussion of language, since Reaper's name is shortened to Amai, while hers is Detestai, making them "Love and Loathing"; Ender says he could call her 'Beleza' (beautiful) but she jokes her husband would call her 'Beladona' for the poison subtext, et cetera et cetera.  Ender, who shares the conservative obsession with other people's bedroom arrangements, notices that they have separate beds despite San Angelo saying they should sleep together, and Amai insists that their self-control isn't that good and by the way he's totally into women what are you implying.  Ender says Angelo hoped that all the COTMOCs would eventually choose to have children, because, again, San Angelo was a huge troll.

Ender thinks of Valentine, "as close and loving as a wife, and yet chaste as a sister".  He is overcome with sorrow and talks about losing her, and Loathing sympathetically acknowledges that he too is chaste "and now widowed as well", which Ender doesn't find weird, which is okay because I'm creeped out enough for eight people.  Jane taunts Ender a bit about how he's losing control in front of them; Ender says he feels like things have completely reversed from the Ribeira house and he's helpless in the care of these monks, as if he were Grego.  They've barely said a word to Ender except to acknowledge that loneliness sucks, which is hardly the most inscrutable insight, so I can only buy this scene by assuming that this is all Ender imploding and not meant to actually indicate super-empathy on the part of Reaper and Harrow.

Seeing him crack, Reaper and Harrow declare that they now trust that he will not voluntarily harm anyone in the colony, and Jane teases that she now understands how this was all part of Ender's scheme, prompting him to turn off the wifi in his ear-bling, thus cutting her off.  Reaper and Harrow recognise this as a Serious Action, even though Jane is completely unique and secret and so they can have no possible way of knowing what Ender did other than turn off his live news feed.  That just seems polite, to me.  They sit out on the hill under the stars and exposit for a while to him.
Novinha never knew of the discussions that took place concerning her. The sorrows of mmost children might not have warranted meetings in the Bishop's chambers, conversations in the monastery among her teachers, endless speculations in the Mayor's office. Most children, after all, were not the daughters of Os Venerados; most were not their planet's only xenobiologist.
And the net result of these conversations was that... nothing happened?  Like, they literally did nothing.  We don't even have any indication that she had a legal guardian after age five.  No one even told her that they cared whether she lived or died.  Talking in secret about how much you'd like to support someone is not the same thing as actually supporting them.  They say that Novinha acted cheerful, but was dead inside, and the only exception was Libo, who only got rage and banishment from her.  They lick some funky-tasting local plant life (that's not a euphemism) and Reaper makes an analogy:
"...I think Novinha tasted something not at all pleasant, but so strong it overcame her, and she could never let go of the flavour [....] The pride of universal guilt. It's a form of vanity and egomania. She holds herself responsible for things that could not possibly be her fault."
Again: I wonder if maybe anyone could have made some progress if they'd, for example, ever spoken to her about any of this.  Everyone in this colony is apparently a therapist except the actual therapists. But, more importantly to Our Heroes, Reaper actually puzzled out that Novinha's hiding something (for which she takes the blame for Pipo's death), because she wasn't able to lock away the recording of that very first argument in which Libo demanded to see what Pipo had been working on right before he got murdered.  (Apparently, yes, everything that happens inside the scientific stations really is just voice-recorded 100% of the time and the abbot has access to those recordings?  They are, in fact, shocked that Novinha has locked up most of her work so tightly that even the Mayor isn't allowed to waltz in and peruse the permanent automatic logs of everything Novinha does on the computers, like she can for anyone else.  HOW DOES PRIVACY WORK IN THE FUTURE.)
"It was an outrageous thing for her to do. Of course the Mayor could have used emergency override powers, but what was the emergency? We'd have to hold a public hearing, and we didn't have any legal justification. Just concern for her, and the law has no respect for people who pry for someone else's good."
I just can't with these people anymore.

They go on to theorise that she married Marcos specifically to punish herself, and Ender resists the urge to check his cellphone turn his ansible stud back on and put Jane on the case, but he spares some time to judge Novinha for having still apparently felt she deserved to sleep with Libo even if she didn't marry him.
"If you really intend to speak Marcos Ribeira's death, somehow you'll have to answer that question--why did she marry him? And to answer that, you have to figure out why Pipo died. And ten thousand of the finest minds in the Hundred Worlds have been working on that for more than twenty years." 
"But I have an advantage over all those finest minds," said Ender. [....] "I have the help of people who love Novinha."
Man, I was going to say it was that he didn't go to Clown College, but I guess that's a fair answer, if we interpret 'love' to mean 'patronisingly obsess over and attempt to violate the privacy of an individual while never actually engaging them in an honest discussion about their emotional state'.  Ender, being a super-genius, has already worked out that Novinha refused to marry Libo because he would have had access to her files, although Reaper and Harrow maintain that it was all about punishing herself.

Ender returns 'home' and tries to apologise to Jane for cutting her off, but she doesn't respond when he speaks to her or types into the terminal: "Forgive me [...] I miss you."  It belatedly occurs to Ender that forcibly separating Jane from the only mind in the universe that knows she exists might have been a harsher action than he realised.  The hive queen doesn't respond to him either, except to ask, wordlessly, if it's time to hatch yet.  He beams another message out into the galactic internet ether:
"Come back to me, Jane [...] I love you." [....] Someone in the Mayor's office would read it, as all open ansible messages were read; no doubt by the Mayor, the Bishop, and Dom Cristão would all know about it by morning.
Ender, who just made two new friends roughly his own age who immediately got him to open up about his inner weaknesses and feelings and then provided him with vital information that will directly lead to cracking open this mystery, declares that "for the first time in twenty years he was utterly alone".  He says this despite having literally compared himself to Grego and Quara, whom he also declared were now his family whether they liked it or not after undergoing a substantially less helpful and more aggressive bonding experience.  Have I repeated myself too much if I just shout THERAPY FOR EVERYONE again?  Because... that.

Next week: Jane's backstory!  For the first time ever, I am legitimately excited about what's next.  Let's see if that joy betrays me.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Speaker for the Dead, chapter ten, part one, in which that which is not forbidden is mandatory

(Content: marriage coercion, homophobia, slavery, declaration of intent to revolt, and some incidental fat hatred.  Fun content: definitions of adulthood and marriage, and THE BISHOP!)

Speaker for the Dead: pp. 152--158
Chapter Ten: Children of the Mind

This time we open with a delightful Q&A with San Angelo, that not-quite-heretic saint whom I assume is made of wisdom and unicorn giggles since he got Ender’s stamp of approval.  San Angelo founded the Children of the Mind of Christ, and while Rule Two is that you don’t talk about Christ Club, Rule One is that Y’ALL GOTS TO BE MARRIED.  You’re not allowed in the order unless you’re married, but you also must not ever have sex with your spouse to whom you are bonded in holy chains.  (Or anyone else, obvs.)  And the explanation for this is hilarious when you consider the kinds of arguments Card has made against marriage equality.
Question 1: Why is marriage necessary for anyone? 
Fools say, Why should we marry?  Love is the only bond my lover and I need.  To them I say, Marriage is not a covenant between a man and a woman; even the beasts cleave together and produce their young.  Marriage is a covenant between a man and woman on the one side and their community on the other.  To marry according to the law of the community is to become a full citizen; to refuse marriage is to be a stranger, a child, an outlaw, a slave, or a traitor.  The one constant in every society of humankind is that only those who obey the laws, tabus, and customs of marriage are true adults.
 Let's get the obvious point out of the way:

There's so much here I barely know where to start.  I mean, Card's views on same-sex marriage are thoroughly documented and helpfully summarised by GLAAD, so it's kind of hilarious to read him here arguing (through the voice of a literal saint who was a personal friend of Ender Wiggin) that marriage is not about children or even about consecrated hetero fucking, but purely about position in the community.  From this perspective, where marriage is thoroughly detached from sex and signifies only your commitment to maintaining the community, it would seem like we should want everyone to get married, because that represents them stepping up to responsibility.  But then we get to the "laws, tabus, and customs" line and it becomes clear that what Card is arguing for is pure circular privilege.  Male/female couples (I don't say 'different-gender' here simply because there's no way Card thinks there are any other genders) get special privilege because they follow the Marriage Rules, and they should follow the Marriage Rules because they will get special privilege.  It's amazing; he might as well be saying that you're a traitor to the state unless your favourite colour is red, and if your favourite colour isn't red it's obviously because you have willfully chosen to tear down civilisation if it's the last thing you do with the final sinews of your flesh and shards of your bone.  So obviously you couldn't have ever been trusted with the privilege the proper Red-Appreciators have.

(I can't in good conscience recommend that anyone spend their time reading things Orson Scott Card has said, but if you did click on that link there, you'll find the quote where he literally states that marriage equality does nothing to elevate same-sex couples but steals the rightfully-earned privilege of male/female couples.)

I have said all of this without touching on the other patently stupid things that Card asserts in there, like saying that in every culture 'true adults' are the ones who follow the laws of marriage, as if child marriage isn't a thing that has always existed and still exists, as if the Mosuo don't exist, as if the definition of adults haven't been written and rewritten a million times in every different culture.  As if it's meaningful to declare that 'not getting married' defines someone as an outlaw, when the privileges of marriage have been denied to so many people so many times specifically for the purpose of declaring them less-adult, less-human than the people in charge.  (Marriage for enslaved people in the USA's so-recent past leaps to mind.)

It's so, so appropriate that we get this howlingly stupid monastic law in the same book that gives us the Hierarchy of Exclusion, which is supposedly about empathy but is demonstrated to mostly serve to let people say "I don't understand you, so you're not a person".  Card declares groups of people to be traitors and outlaws, then establishes laws that they are forbidden to follow, then declares it's obvious that they're outlaws because they won't follow his laws.  It's like watching a particularly malicious six-year-old inventing new rules halfway through a board game, only it results in couples being denied visitation rights in hospital or being deported.

Anyway.  I'm like 30% sure this blog is actually about eviscerating terrible books.  Don't I have one of those around here?  Hey, look, it's Speaker for the Dead!
Question 2: Why then is celibacy ordained for priests and nuns? 
To separate them from the community.  The priests are servants, not citizens.  They minister to the Church, but they are not the Church.  Mother Church is the bride, and Christ is the bridegroom; the priests and nuns are merely guests at the wedding, for they have rejected citizenship in the community of Christ in order to serve it.
Again, not a Catholic myself, but I'm pretty sure nuns are considered 'married to Christ', even if it's only spiritual and not legal.  (Card is on record that "regardless of law, marriage has only one definition", but apparently changing the definition of 'Catholic nun' is a-okay.)  But now it's time for the best part: Card's obsession with genetic lineage to the exclusion of all other meaning in life, to the point where it requires a special monastic order just to get a footnote.
Question 3: Why then do the Children of the Mind of Christ marry?  Do we not also serve the church? 
We do not serve the Church, except as all women and men serve it through their marriages.  The difference is that where they pass on their genes to the next generation, we pass on our knowledge; their legacy is found in the genetic molecules of generations to come, while we live on in their minds.  Memories are the offspring of our marriages, and they are neither more or less worthy than the flesh-and-blood children conceived in sacramental love.
But by God the only acceptable form of non-child-bearing marriage is a sexless union of woman and man and if the state tries to allow any other kind of legal marriage then Card has literally declared that he will devote himself to destroying that government and re-instituting privilege for himself and his kind.  (Note: making a lifelong loving commitment to someone you're not allowed to marry makes you a disgusting outlaw traitor who wants to destroy society, but living in a society in which marriage is open to all adults requires that you become an outlaw and destroy society.  Don't get those two confused, because they're obviouslly completely different.)

So I'm not sure if the best part of this is the bit where reproductive couples apparently only contribute via genetics, and their intellectual legacy is irrelevant, or if it's the way this whole thing has managed to extensively examine who is not allowed to have sex without actually ever explaining why.  Like, you'd think in a page-long dissertation on priests being forbidden to marry or have sex and the COTMOC being required to marry but not have sex, they might get around to the rationale, but nope.  I wonder at this point vaguely if this is Card trying to be generous (from his perspective) by presenting gay and lesbian people with a socially-acceptable sexless marriage, since remaining unmarried is also considered literal treason.  Speaker is of course almost three decades old; it was published years before his first famous homophobic rants, and he used to occasionally throw a patronising nod in the direction of us queers.  Lacking any indication otherwise, I'm just going to assume that every COTMOC we meet is 100% homosexual.

And that's all I can take of discussing Card's views on marriage, so let's move on to the actual chapter.  We open with some passive-aggression between a priest and Dom Cristão the COTMOC abbot and school principal, which is too boring to detail; the point is that the bishop wants to talk to him.  Dom Cristão follows instantly and obediently, silently predicting what stupid decisions the bishop will have made in response to the rumours about Andrew Wiggin and repeating his monastic name, "Amai a Tudomundo Para Que Deus Vos Ame. Ye Must Love Everyone So That God Will Love You."  It's a tradition to name yourself as a warning against your failings, and Dom Cristão hates stupid people.  That's not a joke; that's the canonical explanation.  Now, don't get me wrong, stupid people frustrate me too, so at first I was going to be totally on-board with this guy, but it turns out he's a colossal jackass

The bishop is waiting with Navio the doctor, whom we are told got fat because he was lazy and is now lazy because he's fat, because fuck you Card, and there is more passive aggression et cetera et cetera.  Navio angrily reports on Ender's threats, and Ye Must Love Dogs silently judges him for his hypocrisy when he won't go to mass every week but he gets so incensed about little things like a total stranger threatening to destabilise the entire colonial government and religious contract resulting in forced deportation of its community.  No priorities, this guy.  Ye Must Love Dogs also doesn't apparently care that Ender literally opened with threats of inquisition, and blames Navio for provoking him and making him more dangerous.  Ye Must Love Dogs says that they should strike first to neutralise the threat, pleasantly surprising the bishop.
"The Filhos are as ardent as any unordained Christian could hope to be," said Dom Cristão. "But since we have no priesthood, we have to make do with reason and logic as poor substitutes for authority." 
Bishop Peregrino suspected irony from time to time, but was never quite able to pin it down.
Oh, please, a stunned duck could spot that insult.  To an ever-increasing degree, I appreciate that Ender's Shadow has an antagonist who's actually as smart as the hero and more charismatic.  The parade of stupid evil people opposing Our Heroes in these books are exhausting.

Of course, Ye Must Love Dogs' secret plan to neutralise the threat from Ender is to do exactly what he says so that he can't call an inquisition.  The bishop is furious and asks if he doesn't see how dangerous Ender is, and Ye Must Love Dogs counters that he does, of course, since COTMOC was founded "precisely because the telling of truth is such a powerful act".  They note how the speakers have cleverly made themselves seem like they aren't a religion, by having no organisation, not performing sacraments, and denying that HQ&H is scripture.  Almost as if they bear no similarity to Catholicism or most religions at all, and calling it a religion is a weird affectation on Card's part.

They discuss the consequences if there was an inquisition and their Catholic License were revoked: immediate recolonisation by twice as many non-Catholics and immediate deportation of a large part of the Catholic population in order to keep the planetary population below the maximum.  There have always been shuttles in orbit ready to cart excess people away, as they expected to start doing in a couple of generations.
"They wouldn't." 
"Starways Congress was formed to stop the jihads and pogroms that were going on in half a dozen places all the time.  An invocation of the religious persecution laws is a serious matter."
Wait, really?  Is the primary purpose of Space Congress supposed to be secular mediation of sectarian violence?  How have there ever been "jihads and pogroms" in this galaxy when every planet has been colonised by a single demographic and official religions are allowed?  Is this book telling me that even thousands of years in the future, when whole planets are up for grabs and colonisation is specifically planned in order to homogenise populations, there is still a Jewish diaspora minority?  (I know 'pogrom' doesn't have to refer to persecuting Jews, but 'jihad' just means 'struggle' and refers to the conflict inherent in trying to balance the practicalities of life with religious duties and virtues, so let's not pretend this isn't racialised and bordering on racist already.)

Ye Must Love Dogs says that no matter how much it sucks, Congress has all the guns, so they've got to do what they say.  He suggests that the bishop, rather than retract his remarks, announce that he has delegated the task of handling the speaker to the COTMOC, so that the rest of the town can go on ignoring him and Card doesn't have to keep coming up with clever name puns in Portuguese.
"In other words," said Peregrino dryly, "the monks of your order will become servants of the infidel." 
Dom Cristão silently chanted his name three times.
I increasingly suspect that Starways Congress has carefully orchestrated the colonisation of Lusitania to put all of their most terrible and incompetent people on one planet and then lock it down forever.  Getting Ender Wiggin in there was a stroke of luck they could never have hoped for, and even now they're preparing the EMP to burn out all of their shuttles.

This is shorter than usual, but that's all I can handle for this week.  Next week Ender meets Ye Must Love Dogs, but it's from Ender's perspective, so we don't get to find out if I'm right that he instantly sees in Ender all of the flawless manly beauty that he joined the COTMOC to get away from.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Speaker for the Dead, chapter nine, in which I wonder if this is actually a first draft

(Content: terminal disease, infidelity, Luke/Leia levels of sibling romance.  Fun content: I bet you can't think of as many ways to be terrible to people as Ender.  Ready?  Go!)

Speaker for the Dead: p. 134--151
Chapter Nine: Congenital Defect

Notes this time are, for some reason, a dialogue embedded in the working records of Novinha's parents, Gusto and Cida.  Maybe they were texting each other from different labs?  They discuss Descolada, how it's in absolutely every living thing on Lusitania.  Gusto  determined that Descolada "isn't bacterial", that it's in everything, and they hypothesise that it's somehow actually necessary for their life cycle.  Which: wasn't it a huge deal that Novinha figured that out?  Isn't that the key discovery that set Pipo off and instigated the current carnival of tragedies?  Did Novinha just not read her parents' notes while studying to be the best xenobiologist ever, despite those being the only xenobiology notes studying Lusitanian life ever?  Plot twist: Lusitania was actually settled by a clown college and everyone's walking around in floppy shoes and driving cars the size of a minibar.

Card does lampshade this, as Cida bemoans that "the next xenobiologist will probably work with standard genetic adaptations and won't follow this up", and this dialogue is published in an article titled "Lost Threads of Understanding", but that's not actually a reason.  Novinha just decided not to read all the notes on the Lusitanian plague that made her parents saints by taking them away from her and leaving her to carry on in their exact footsteps on Lusitania.  Because... I dunno, I'm open to theories.

Anyway, Ender goes home late, stays up reflecting on the Ribeiras, wakes up early, and sets out to investigate.  He's antsy, like he always is before speaking a death, but he's thinking more about living people than dead.  Jane says he's obviously in love with Novinha; he says that he liked her as a kid but he finds adult-Novinha off-puttingly selfish and that she's failed her children.  Jane just razzes him and says she hopes he lets her speak his own death.  Ender sighs and sorts out his questions:
1. Why did Novinha marry Marcão in the first place? 
2. Why did Marcão hate his children? 
3. Why does Novinha hate herself? 
4. Why did Miro call me to speak Libo's death? 
5. Why did Ela call me to speak her father's death? 
6. Why did Novinha change her mind about my speaking Pipo's death? 
7. What was the immediate cause of Marcão's death?
He stops his thrilling whiteboarding there because he realises he has hit a simple factual question that he can answer by going to a clinic.  I'm not 100% sure why he couldn't have got answers to 4 and 5 by, for example, asking Miro and Ela why they called him, when he was over there, last night, after the rest of the family had long since gone to bed.  I mean, sure, they might lie, but he hasn't even asked yet.  Surely Ender isn't a sufficient jackass to just assume that everyone is going to instantly put all their effort into confounding him by default after all these years never mind of course he is check out this next scene.

Because Ender of course goes to the clinic, where the physician makes some opening jokes about his own name (Caronada, "little cannon") and Ender responds by threatening devastating legal action against the entire colony.  No, really.
"There are two ways I can get the answers to my questions," Ender said quietly. "I can ask you, and you can tell me truthfully. Or I can submit a petition to the Starways Congress for your records to be opened to me. The ansible charges are very high, and since the petition is a routine one, and your resistance to it is contrary to law, the cost will be deducted from your colony's already straitened funds, along with a double-the-cost penalty and a reprimand for you."
ENDER YOU HAVEN'T ACTUALLY ASKED A QUESTION YET.  Honest to Buddha, this is the first line of dialogue he has in this scene.  But he's determined that the doctor is "a good Catholic" and so will otherwise follow the bishop's urging to block his investigation.  (I still don't have a satisfactory answer for why ansible charges are so high.  Lightspeed travel is bizarrely cheap, but wifi will break you?)  Ender's tactics haven't changed even slightly since he fought the formics.  'This guy isn't coming at me, but I think he might, so I'd better burn down his house to be sure'.  He is just amazingly terrible.  It goes on!  When the doctor says "of course" he'll answer, Ender goes into another rant about how he knows the bishop told them to stop him and, if necessary:
"I will petition for my status to be changed from minister to inquisitor. I assure you that I have a very good reputation with the Starways Congress, and my petition will be successful." 
Navio knew exact what that meant.  As an inquisitor, Ender would have congressional authority to revoke the colony's Catholic license on the grounds of religious persecution.
I guess the government does know who he is, if he's got a good reputation in congress?  Does no one think it's a big deal that Ender the Xenocide is still alive?  No one's let that slip for political purposes?  How does he have a reputation, anyway?  He's an unknown speaker and his job is inherently ephemeral!  There are no records of his work!  Valentine was the famous one, and under a pseudonym at that!

This is especially hilarious rules-lawyering and coercion from Our Hero given what Card thinks of people using, for example, entirely legal democratic processes to institute marriage equality.

The doctor finally shows some actual resistance (now of all times) by asking to see Ender's authorisation, and Jane helpfully activates a nearby terminal to project it and declare his credentials in her most commanding voice.  Ender did nothing, and the doctor is smart enough to realise this means that the terminal was activated remotely by a monitoring program, presumably in Ender's bling, meaning he's got ridiculous clearance of some kind and he outclasses Bishop Peregrino.  God, this whole sequence has been so unnecessary.
"Marcos Ribeira died of a congenital defect." He rattled off a long pseudo-Latin name.
Pseudo-Latin?  How is it pseudo?  (Latin is at this point six thousand years old; it's not that surprising if they have to invent some new words now and then.)  Card just absolutely hates anyone who might in any way be associated with any scholarly institution (physical or conceptual).  It's amazing.  Anyway, speaking of pseudo, the doctor then gives us the pseudo-science that Marcos' disease slowly turned a bunch of his organs into pure fat cells.  He remarks that it usually starts with the testicles, preventing reproduction, but obviously for Marcos it hit them much later.  All of his kids were tested and none of them are showing signs of the disease, though the doctor presumes they must still be carrying the tendency.  The only thing the doctor's not sure about is how they didn't catch it in Marcos back in the plague days when everyone got a genetic scan.  He clunkily notes that it must have not shown up on the scan, or Novinha would never have married him.  Ender of course immediately decides that she knew exactly what she was doing.

Ender goes home and Jane projects herself holographically just so she can laugh forever.  Ender makes some excuses about people not being able to question their premises when it would imply something negative about a respected figure.  So, in a shocking twist that clearly none of us could have seen coming, Libo is the real father of all six of Novinha's kids.  Jane confirms this through a genetic scan, which... look, apparently she has access to data that lets her confirm parentage, but no one else has already done so.  The doctor has sufficient information on hand to determine paternity but hasn't bothered to investigate it after receiving strong evidence that their apparent father shouldn't have been able to bear children and after doing a detailed search for genetic anomalies on all of them.  Why are we impressed by Ender again?  This isn't Sherlock Holmes' calibre work, y'all.  Watson's dog could handle this investigation.

We return to Miro, taking the long path through the woods like Libo taught him, to avoid making a worn trail that an angry Lusitanian mob could follow one day if they decided to kill the Little Ones.  He sees a Little One watching him from afar--a scout, he suspects, to keep him from getting near the women--and recalls finding Libo's body with Ouanda, Libo still barely alive but carved open and unable to speak.  Libo insisted they never go near the theorised Province of the Ladies, and Miro doesn't.

When he arrives, Ouanda is teaching the Little Ones to churn butter from cabra milk, because apparently even though the whole point of this SCIENCE MYSTERY is that the aliens are so completely inconceivably different from anything humans could expect, they still have mammalian cattle.  (There was no mention of Little Ones herding, so I'm going to guess that Miro and Ouanda already taught them about that, too.)  Cabra milk is apparently nutritionally useless to humans, so they can't ask for help or else people would know they were doing something for the Little Ones, except I thought it was already a plot point that the Little Ones' diets made no nutritional sense either, so why do they think Space Llama Butter is a good idea?
"Welcome, I-Look-Upon-You-With-Desire." That was,of course, an extravagantly precise translation of Miro's name into Stark. Mandachuva loved translating names back and forth between Portuguese and Stark, even though Miro and Ouanda had both explained that their names didn't really mean anything at all, and it was only coincidence if they sounded like words.
Um?  Miro's full name is Marcos Vladimir Ribeira von Hesse, according to the dramatis personae (although since this is Card, he titled that page "Some People of Lusitania Colony" because he's not some ivory-tower elitist like you).  Someone help me out here.  'Miro' does appear to  be some form of the verb 'to see', and I'm guessing it was derived from the 'Vladimir'.  Marcos seems to be derived from Mars, Ribeira means 'river', and I can't find anything for 'Hesse'.  Google Translate isn't giving me anything helpful if I ask for Portuguese words for 'desire'.  Do we have a Portuguese-speaker in the blog?  (Ouanda also responds to 'Vaga', which means "wander", which sounds like Ouanda, but at least that makes sense.)

Miro reflects for a moment on Mandachuva, oldest of the Little Ones, whom Pipo wrote about as if he were important (they translate his name as slang for "boss") but whom Miro suspects is actually least prestigious, because he always has time to talk and isn't every busy with important work.  Both are reasonable conclusions, I think--either he's the boss and so he gets to loaf around while others serve, or he's always busy because the boss has to do important stuff.  Dunno which is supposed to be obvious.  Anyway, he's complaining about the cabra butter and how the females demand to see it even if it's horrible, and then descends for a while into cursing them while Miro considers how weird it is that the males are both so hateful and worshipful, because, again, Miro is an inept clown who knows nothing of gender politics throughout the whole of human history and especially as applicable to his own mother.

Arrow wants to talk to Miro and Ouanda, and they must not interact with each other because the Little Ones freak out to see a male and female human acknowledge each others' presence.  Winking is right out.  They'll also talk to Ouanda alone, but as soon as Miro is there they won't speak to her and won't let her speak to them.  So, again, a lot like humans.

Arrow has a favour to ask, and Miro maintains his (sensible) ongoing lie that he is absolutely powerless among humans, but Arrow is insistent because this request comes from Rooter, or more specifically his tree.  This apparently happens a lot.
It was only the last few years, beginning not long before Libo's death, that they started singling out Rooter as the source of most of the troublesome ideas.  It was ironic that a piggy they had executed as a rebel was now treated with such respect in their ancestor-worship.
Keeping in mind here that they don't actually have any evidence whatsoever that Rooter was in fact considered a rebel, and the only evidence that he was executed was that he was alive during his evisceration.  Apparently no one's considered the possibility that it was, for example, crude surgery gone wrong.  (Or a lone murderer, as we keep noting.)

Anyway.  They want metal.  They've worked out that all the best human stuff is made out of metal, or needs metal, and they fear that without it "we are condemned always to be varelse, and never ramen".  Miro silently curses Ouanda for teaching them the Hierarchy of Exclusion, even though we know for a fact that she didn't since Pipo mentions them calling themselves ramen/varelse in his notes at the start of chapter four, and he died years before Ouanda was born.  But that's just me obsessing over "tiny errors or contradictions or lapses in method", not pointing out that this lauded author and his entire editing staff still don't understand linear time.

Miro insists he can't get any; Arrow says they've seen the humans dig it up from the ground (which, Miro notes, means they're crossing the fence somewhere and sneaking around).  Miro explains that it's very hard to mine and process metals and it is all accounted for, even a single metal tool would be missed, which I assume we're also supposed to take as a lie since six-year-old Grego steals screwdrivers and knives all the time.

Arrow shows off his newest arrows, which he's started tipping with cabra bone instead of obsidian, because apparently now they do hunt cabra, even though that was never mentioned before?  Seriously, if Libo and his kids have introduced a pure gatherer society to hunting and farming, there should be massive societal upheaval.  It's not like they just added a fourth Starbucks.  They're transforming their entire food supply and all the associated ways of life.  That's a big deal in a subsistence society.

The Little Ones then bring out their copy of the Hive Queen and the Hegemon, which Miro gave them after Ouanda gave them a copy of the Gospel of St John, following a discussion about religions.  (The Little Ones are baffled that the humans (Christians, the kind of humans that matter) just have one god who died and lived again and now "dwells in our hearts", unlike Little One ancestors with their sweet tree-afterlives.)  Ouanda was first outraged at Miro's blasphemy, and then the Little Ones ended up using the gospel for kindling and keeping HQ&H wrapped in protective leaves.  The Little One called Human arrives, reverently opens the book, and declares that the speaker who has arrived is "the true Speaker.  Rooter says so."  They want Miro to bring him immediately; Miro says it'll take time, Human howls and Miro thinks he's going to die, but instead they just shun him until he leaves.

In the forest, Ouanda catches up with him and thanks to dramatic irony they have the most uncomfortable makeout session ever.  Ouanda says in another two year they can marry without Novinha's consent, and Libo would just as soon bang now, but:
...he did understand how vital it was in a fragile community like Milagre for marriage customs to be strictly adhered to.  Large and stable communities could absorb a reasonable amount of unsanctioned coupling; Milagre was far too small.
...What?  Even if I buy the explanation, which I don't, how is a colony of three-to-five-thousand too small to support one pair of teenagers mashing their junk in the woods?  What is it with conservatives and their conviction that Unauthorised Sex projects some kind of aura of doom?  I assume if they were both girls Lusitania would be immediately torn apart by The Nothing*.

Ouanda remains convinced that the speaker will ruin everything and they've only got ten or twenty years to improve the Little Ones' standard of life before the satellites start picking up on the changes.  Miro insists that he's good and trustworthy, having seen him instantly fix his entire family.  Ouanda says that it's easy to look good in that house when your standard of comparison is Marcos Ribeira, Miro gets offended and says his standard is Libo, et cetera, et cetera.

I'm more unsettled by the quiet undercurrent of threat towards Ouanda--first when Miro thinks that if he "thought for one moment that they would ever have to live the same vows of chastity in marriage [...] Ouanda's virginity would be in grave and immediate danger".  I really, really want to think that Miro means they would both go for each other instantly, but that's not clear and Ouanda's consent isn't otherwise mentioned.  Then, she talks about how Ender arrives "and every single one of you rolls over belly-up like a puppy dog", and Miro's response is to want to hit her.  Now, he shows self-control in both of these situations, but it's worth noting that Miro is the abused child of an abused father and that tends to affect people, so these are thoughts that cause me to also put Miro in the THERAPY FOR EVERYONE BUT ESPECIALLY THIS LOT bucket.  Obviously, that won't happen, because he's been Touched By An Ender and so is healed and enlightened.

Miro admits that she's right, he did wish Ender was his father:
"Just the way I used to say that every day when I went home from the Zenador's Station  If only Libo were my father, if only I were his son."
If only Libo were his sister's mother's aunt's niece's husband.  (Miro sounds like my grandmother, who referred to my namesake as "my father, your dad's grandfather, your great-grandfather", without fail.)  In case it hasn't clanged home yet, Ouanda chucks another anvil at us, saying she's glad he wasn't, "Because then I'd be your sister, and I could never hope to have you for myself."  WE GET IT OH MY GOD.

And with that, we've caught up with as far as I've read ahead, so I can't warn you what's coming next Sunday except that it starts with a really boring Q&A about the bizarre rules and philosophy of Card's invented monastic order, the Children of the Mind of Christ.


*I didn't mean for this to be an Elizabethan pun, but now it is and I will fight anyone who tries to stop me.