Included on the list of books suitable for shaping the minds of young Lance Corporals like me were two sci-fi novels: Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.
I soon discovered what lay hidden in these literary gems. Along with surprisingly intriguing story lines, both novels provide some keen insights on the role of training, discipline, and creativity in preparing an effective military. But Ender’s Game also included a concept that, at the time (1990), I would not have been able to classify: a Hayekian view of knowledge and liberty.
As Sam Staley says, the novel provides “lessons about individualism, liberty, and the value of markets.” (more…)
Over at Think Christian, I take another look at Ender’s Game, focusing on the leitmotif of understanding and communication in Orson Scott Card’s work. This applies particularly to inter-species communication.
We might, in fact, riffing off the Norwegian parody pop song, say that the central question of Ender’s Game is, “What does the Formic say?” Ender is the only one with the genuine curiosity to find out, and doing so is how he moves beyond his bloody calling.
What we find out, in a sense, is that on the Formic understanding, each human being has the dignity and worth of a queen. We are all queens, or as the Bible puts it, made in the image and likeness of God. This reality becomes all the more salient when like the Formic queen, “dynamite with a laser beam,” we too are killer queens, to make another pop culture connection (HT: Dylan Pahman).
A key difference between the film and the book is that the film is pretty thin on answers to that question of inter-species communication. There is much more about what the Formics think and feel in the book. I’ll post some of the relevant sections, which include significant spoilers, below the break. If you have not seen the film, you should not read these sections!
But for those of you who have seen the film, just think about that question of understanding the Formics as you revel in “The Fox (What Does it Say?)”
In Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II wrote, “besides the earth, man’s principal resource is man himself.” He goes on to emphasize the importance of human knowledge, intelligence, and virtue for human flourishing. In economic terms this idea is known as human capital. While affirming this truth, Ender’s Game challenges viewers to consider precisely what they might mean, demonstrating in the characters of Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Ender Wiggen (Asa Butterfield) that the specifics of one’s definition makes all the difference. (more…)
One of the recurring themes in Ender’s Game is the dynamic surrounding Ender Wiggin’s apparent uniqueness: he was, it seems, quite literally born for the purpose of ending the conflict with the Formics. The source material as well as the film released last week raise moral questions surrounding what we might call “bloody callings” quite pointedly.
A popular quote from Frederick Beuchner sets a helpful framework for discussing the question of whether there can be legitimate callings to offices that require violence. “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” says Beuchner. Alissa Wilkinson has helpfully pointed out something that Beuchner’s quote omits: our skills. The world may need something that we enjoy attempting to provide, but we may be no good at providing it. Wilkinson consider the case of the aspiring writer, but her observations apply to any pursuit.
Ender’s skills, if we might call them that, are apparently uniquely suited for competitive achievement. As his name suggests, he ends things. Ender embodies total victory. So how does Ender fit within this threefold requirement for discerning vocation? (more…)
Is the morality of an act solely based on the intentions of the person acting? Moviegoers may get some insight into this question when Ender’s Game is released in theaters Nov. 1.
Orson Scott Card’s classic Ender’s Game book series began in 1985 with its most well known first installment, winning the Nebula and Hugo Awards for best science fiction novel. The book tells the story of an alien invasion, where the world’s population prepares for an imminent second attack by training as many specialized soldiers as possible. Most of these special soldiers are children, honing their skills on an orbiting space station in zero gravity simulations called “Battle School.” Ender is a potentially gifted future commander, selectively bred by the International Fleet, the organization combating the alien force. The book follows Ender’s journey through the beginning of Battle School.
In an interesting essay on Ender as a killer from the International Review of Science Fiction, John Kessel concludes that Ender is far too innocent for someone who commits murder and violent acts in the book (warning: this essay contains many spoilers if you have not read the book). John makes some good points, illustrating the expertise of Card in encouraging the reader to root for the “innocent killer.” The book’s story is even more potent when you add the fact that Ender is abused during most of his life, partly because he is a third child when couples are only allowed to have two. Does the reader root for the “murdering savior,” or is Card content in saying that committing immoral deeds in ignorance is acceptable? These questions and more are addressed in the rest of the Ender series.
…when you write without deliberately expressing moral teachings, the morals that show up are the ones you actually live by. The beliefs that you don’t even think to question, that you don’t even notice– those will show up. And that tells much more truth about what you believe than your deliberate moral machinations.