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Ender's World

Orson Scott Card





  Orson Scott Card

  An Imprint of BenBella Books, Inc.

  Dallas, Texas

  “How It Should Have Ended” © 2013 by Eric James Stone

  “The Monster’s Heart” © 2013 by John Brown

  “The Cost of Breaking the Rules” © 2013 by Mary Robinette Kowal

  “Winning and Losing in Ender’s Game” © 2013 by Hilari Bell

  “Parallax Regained” © 2013 by David Lubar and Alison S. Myers

  “Mirror, Mirror” © 2013 by Alethea Kontis

  “Size Matters” © 2013 by Janis Ian

  “Rethinking the Child Hero” © 2013 by Aaron Johnston

  “A Teenless World” © 2013 by Mette Ivie Harrison

  “Ender on Leadership” © 2013 by Tom Ruby

  “Ender Wiggin, USMC” © 2013 by John F. Schmitt

  “The Price of Our Inheritance” © 2013 by Neal Shusterman

  “If the Formics Love Their Children Too” © 2013 by Ken Scholes

  “Ender’s Game: A Guide to Life” © 2013 by Matt Nix

  “Introduction” and Q&As © 2013 by Orson Scott Card

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  BenBella Books, Inc.

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  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available for this title.

  e-ISBN: 978-1-937856-26-7

  Copyediting by Debra Kirkby, Kirkby Editorial Services

  Proofreading by Michael Fedison and James Fraleigh

  Cover illustration © 2012 by Nick Greenwood

  Cover design by Jarrod Taylor

  Text design and composition by Yara Abuata, Silver Feather Design

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  Orson Scott Card

  How It Should Have Ended

  Eric James Stone

  The Monster’s Heart

  John Brown

  The Cost of Breaking the Rules

  Mary Robinette Kowal

  Winning and Losing in Ender’s Game

  Hilari Bell

  Parallax Regained

  David Lubar and Alison S. Myers

  Mirror, Mirror

  Alethea Kontis

  Size Matters

  Janis Ian

  Rethinking the Child Hero

  Aaron Johnston

  A Teenless World

  Mette Ivie Harrison

  Ender on Leadership

  Colonel Tom Ruby

  Ender Wiggin, USMC

  John F. Schmitt

  The Price of Our Inheritance

  Neal Shusterman

  If the Formics Love Their Children Too

  Ken Scholes

  Ender’s Game: A Guide to Life

  Matt Nix

  About the Editor




  I thought I had a pretty good story when I gave my first draft of the original novelet “Ender’s Game” to my mother to type up for submission.

  My mother had been another set of eyes on all my plays and my handful of previous stories. So even though I had long been a very fast and accurate typist myself, I passed her my longhand manuscript because I wanted to see how the story would work for her. This was my first serious attempt to write a sci-fi story to sell. My theatre company was getting good attendance, but losing money even with no rent and no salaries to pay (you can lose money on hit plays). I needed “Ender’s Game” to help me launch a non-theatrical writing career. As a non-fan of sci-fi, my mother would definitely let me know if I had something that would work outside the science fiction community.

  I was surprised at how strongly positive her reaction was. She had enjoyed my Worthing stories, but those were completely character-centered, with not a single spaceship and, for that matter, no electricity or power tools or weapons beyond a medieval level. They felt like fantasy. So “Ender’s Game” was the first time I had asked my mother to read something that really felt like science fiction.

  It wasn’t the space stuff that worked for her. It was the child under pressure, isolated and yet able to build a community around him, able to keep his head and think inventively even when problems seemed impossible to everyone else. It was the human story.

  It still is. Even as I adapted the story to novel length ten years later, and then spent another decade trying to distill the story into a form that would work for film, I never got confused about the source of the story’s power.

  Ender’s Game does not work because it’s sci-fi, or even a war story. Nor does it work in spite of those things. Ender’s Game works because it is a story of the individual within the community.

  The great dilemma of human life is that we are all strangers in a strange land. Genetically we are disposed to be communitarian. Even the worst misanthrope needs human company, hungers for it.

  And no matter how individualistic we are, no matter how self-motivated, other people have strange and terrible powers over us. They can fill us with joy just by saying completely stupid things like “Good job” or “You were so cool.” We are so hungry for the approval of the community that a pat on the back from someone we despise still makes us feel good. Even if we’re ashamed of feeling good, we feel it.

  It’s like our innate response to little children. We feel protective. That’s why the most terrible sound when a plane is landing is not the creaking of fatigued metal—it’s the sound of a baby crying at the ear pain that results from the changing air pressure of landing. And when, in a play or movie, they show a child crying abjectly, our hearts stir with sympathy even when we know that untalented, cynical writers are manipulating us—because the survival of the human race depends on our passing along the gene that makes empathy for children a deep, abiding attribute of humans.

  Yeah, that’s part of the appeal of Ender’s Game, too, and don’t you forget it. Ender’s Game works most powerfully when we see Ender as a child.

  But more important than Ender Wiggin’s status as a child is the fact that, regardless of age, he is an individual who is systematically excluded from the very community that he is required to save.

  When Graff and Rackham, each in his own way, work to isolate Ender Wiggin, they know what they’re doing. Nothing could possibly stress this child more than breaking off his connection with other people. So why do they do it? How will this help him?

  Battle School is not about training soldiers, it’s about training war leaders, people who can guide the soldiers—the bravest and strongest of a community’s members—to risk their lives and commit terrible acts of killing in order to promote the survival and growth of the community.

  In the testing that determines who is fit for command, it is vital that the selected candidates have a powerful sense of the importance of the community. That translates into a deep hunger to belong, an ability to love and care for ot
hers, strong empathy, and a willingness to sacrifice for the genuine good of others.

  But it is just as vital that they be able to send other soldiers off to die.

  Weigh that in the balance for a moment. If you have war leaders who cannot bear to risk their soldiers’ lives, you will lose to a determined enemy.

  But if you have war leaders who do not treasure and value the lives of their soldiers, you will waste them. If I were writing one of the essays in this book, I would now overwhelm you with examples of both kinds of flawed leaders from world history. Instead, I will simply say that because Ender Wiggin was so extreme in his ability to love others and identify with them, it was highly likely that he would be unable to put them at risk.

  Part of what protected Ender from this weakness was keeping from him the knowledge that the “games” he played had real consequences—that soldiers were dying as a result of his decisions.

  But they could not be sure that he would not guess. Besides, part of what makes a great commander is imagination; even if he does not know the blips on the simulator screen are real ships with real pilots inside, he knows that they represent real pilots. Cold calculation tells him not to waste resources like ships uselessly; vivid imagination tells him these blips are pretending to be pilots, and he can’t let any of them die.

  So whether he guesses or imagines the reality of the pilots, Graff and Rackham want to instill in him the hard scars of social injury. Resentment, if you will: The sense that no matter how much you do for other people, they don’t really love you or understand you; you are, ultimately, on your own. Those are the scars (they think) that will allow Ender to overcome his natural empathy.

  But for me, there is another effect of Ender’s isolation that his teachers did not really anticipate, but which affected him far more powerfully: the matter of delay. Without the teachers’ actions that isolated him, Ender would very quickly have joined in as a valued member of the wider community of Battle School. He would have fit right in.

  This would have left his most important leadership skill—the ability to form communities—undeveloped, atrophied. It is only because he is deliberately excluded from the normal wider community that he is forced to make a community out of misfits like Shen, and then gradually win over hostile or rejecting competitors like Alai and then Bernard.

  Bonzo, who is no fool, sees at once what Ender Wiggin is: his ultimate rival. Not in the standings of the Battle Room games—though Bonzo thinks that’s what he cares about. Bonzo knows, unconsciously, that he is not a good leader. That’s why he is so desperate to build esprit de corps inside his own army. He does not know how it’s done, but he can sense in Ender Wiggin a rival who does know how to do it.

  Indeed, I think Bonzo hates Ender at once precisely because he himself is drawn to Ender. Bonzo, who fears and resents all rivals, finds Ender to be someone that he wants to follow. Bonzo senses, from the first moment, and at a level far deeper than his conscious mind can penetrate, that if he accepts Ender for a moment, Ender will quickly become the real leader of Bonzo’s army.

  Some people sense Ender’s innate power to build communities and lead them, yet resist his attraction without trying to destroy him—I think of Dink Meeker, for instance, and Bean himself. But Bonzo is so driven by fear of failure—no, by fear of shame—that his only possible response to this powerful rival for the love of his own army is to destroy him, marginalize him, eliminate him.

  Even when he gets Ender out of his army, it’s under circumstances that expose Bonzo to shame and ridicule. Bonzo feels himself to be excluded from the praise and acceptance of the wider community, and this injury strikes deep—for there is no worse injury human beings can sustain. Gossip really is the cruelest weapon; people frequently die rather than expose themselves to shame in front of the community to which they have the greatest allegiance.

  When Bonzo was isolated, he responded with hatred and rage; it brought out the worst in him, made him a bully, forced him to build his community out of the worst soldiers he could find.

  When Ender was isolated, he accepted his nonacceptance to a point, but then found the best people who were not rejecting him and made a community—and then an army—out of them.

  Giving Ender an army made of talented misfits, as the teachers (and, as we learn from Ender’s Shadow, Bean) did, was the ideal answer to Ender’s pain: He thrived best when he was working to bring out the best in other people.

  This was his fundamental technique of community formation. People followed him not because he flattered them or made them feel temporary enthusiasms or bribed them or bragged to them. They followed him because they could see that he cared about them and that, by submitting to his discipline, they got better.

  This is what flattering or bribing would-be leaders misunderstand. These techniques work up to a point, but in the end, the people following you because you supply these things to them will be ashamed of following you.

  But when you follow a leader who demands the best from you, and helps you become better than you were, you are proud to become a part of the community led by him.

  Even ambitious fellow-students in Battle School realized that their best chance of excelling, not just inside the school but later, beyond it, was to follow Ender Wiggin, to do what he taught them, and to imitate him as best they could.

  So what Ender created, because the teachers isolated him from the larger community, was a community of the kind of people who aspire to be better than they are. Not to seem better, but to be better. His isolation allowed him to find the cream of the cream.

  Yet throughout the story, he has to face the cruel truth about human life. Those who joined his community, sustained by his love and feeling themselves grow greater because they were with him, received something that Ender could not possibly receive himself. The community he formed was real, and felt real to all who belonged to it. But where Ender could assure them that they belonged, that they were worthy, who was there to assure Ender himself?

  It is possible to be a powerful leader of a community you formed yourself, to be seen by all who are in that community as the best of them, the inmost point of their sphere—and yet to feel yourself to be outside it. Ender did not feel himself to be inside this community and sustained by it. He felt himself to be like Atlas, straining to hold up this orb, this sphere, this world, but never capable of being of or in that world.

  Even when the teachers stopped isolating him, it remained true. Even if Ender had been allowed to return to Earth, it would have been true. He would never, never have felt himself to belong…because there was no one greater or stronger than himself who could admit him, sustain him—to whom he could wholly give himself.

  That’s why it was so vital that, in writing Speaker for the Dead, I make the family of Marcão Ribeira real, not just to the readers, but to Ender himself. Here was a community that he did not form himself. A family that was not his. And instead of dividing it and remaking it with himself at the center, he carefully and delicately joined it. When the children accepted him in the place of their father, it gave him something he could never have otherwise had: a community, larger than himself, which accepted him as a full member, yet which he had not created and did not hold up like Atlas.

  That is why Ender’s Game is such a delicate thing, which I have never been able to make again in my other books, though early in my career I certainly tried. Before I understood why it worked, I tried imitating all the superficial aspects of Ender’s Game (for instance, in “Mikal’s Songbird” and “Unaccompanied Sonata”); the results were stories as good as any I know how to write, which nevertheless failed to find the same kind of resonance that Ender’s Game has achieved with many, but by no means all, of those who have read it.

  Ender’s Game did not sweep the world all at once. It reached a certain number of people very powerfully. The short story was the only reason I received the John W. Campbell Award for best new science fiction writer the year after it was published; the novel went on
to win the Hugo and Nebula, because it was so intensely successful with those who liked it at all. But it was not a majority choice, merely a plurality choice (as such awards always are).

  It still took more than two decades before Ender’s Game ever appeared on a bestseller list, and then only because teachers, seeing the power it had for at least some of their students, required it for summer or school-year reading. There are many things worth discussing about the subject matter of the book—strategy and tactics in war, social rules, “love your enemy,” literary form, childhood, parenting, educational theory, and more—but what makes it useful is primarily this: Even people who would never willingly pick up a sci-fi novel or a war novel understand that something in Ender’s Game deals with the most important aspect of human life.

  Few of us even know what that is; few of us understand how it shapes our own lives. But most of those to whom Ender’s Game feels most important are those who, like me, feel themselves to be perpetually outside their most beloved communities, never able to come inside and feel confident of belonging. Loneliness is at the heart of Ender’s Game, and the reason it works so well is because it carries with it the firm assurance that even though Ender never feels himself to belong, the reader knows he does belong, that he is the ultimate insider even though he stands outside.

  Ender’s Game is the story of the lonely hero who nevertheless has value, and because he never gets to enjoy that validation within the pages of the book, the reader feels a perpetual connection to Ender, a hunger to reach inside the pages and let this child receive that knowledge in his heart: You are one of us, you are the best of us, you speak for us.

  No, subtract the “us.” The readers who love Ender’s Game most are those who do not believe they are part of any us, not really; they feel themselves to be like Ender in their isolation. They say to him: You are part of me, the best of me, you speak to me.

  Did I know this when I wrote the book? Of course not. Not an inkling. I made my story choices because they felt important and true to me—that is the only method of making story choices that is worth anything to a writer. There are no formulas or archetypes that you can simply grab and plug into your story (or, worse, force your story to fit in with); it has to arise out of your own deepest inchoate hungers and understanding.