Ender’s Game as Mormon Literature

December 21, 2004 | 82 comments
By

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past twenty years, you’ve probably heard of Orson Scott Card. He’s a Mormon author who primarily writes science fiction. And he’s a very good author — to this day, his best work, Ender’s Game (which won Hugo and Nebula awards) is considered one of the better sci-fi novels of the past quarter century. Of course, Card’s Mormon background raises the question of what we can learn by viewing Ender’s Game as Mormon literature.

I’ll start with a basic description of the story. (WARNING: Contains spoilers — if you haven’t yet read the story, and are intending to do so, you won’t want to read any further).

Ender’s Game is in many ways a one-idea story. It’s a very, very good idea. The world at war with an alien race; searching for pilots to control its fleet of space ships, the military trains six year old children in a “game” which actually ends a few years later as they take control of the real fleet for a final battle. In the process of training, the children — particularly the hero Ender — are ruthlessly manipulated by the adults, becoming the best possible warriors for the battles. The children are never told (until after the war) that the battles they fought were real.

The book began its life as an interesting short story, which presented that one idea (children as warriors, unaware that they were directing a real battle). Card then developed the story into a novel, giving Ender an interesting family background and adding new material such as interesting psychological quasi-psychic plot points. The hugely popular book spawned sequels which have received mixed reviews. It is also reputedly in development for adaptation as a movie.

I’m no literary critic — for real literary criticism, see this guy or this woman. But I’ll take a crack at it anyway (as T & S readers must know by now, a J.D. brings with it the attitude that one is always qualified to opine on any issue.)

First, Ender’s Game is not explicitly Mormon. If anything, it’s a rather assimilationist book. There is no real discussion of Mormonism; the mother’s Mormonism is a background piece, but mentioned only in passing. If there’s a Mormon message, Card is not wearing it on his sleeve. If anything, the message is “don’t look for Mormonism here — we’re just like everyone else.”

Of course, that might have been a requirement for any realistic chance at publication. Whatever its provenance, the book is facially unaffiliated with any religion, and we’ll have to look beyond easy surface clues to see how it works as a Mormon work of literature.

A second initial note is that Card’s universe is not one that easily fits with widely accepted ideas from Mormon theology. The appearance of the alien race and the fight with them is difficult to reconcile with ideas from the Plan of Salvation. Similarly, the very existence of a future, hundreds of years away from our own, goes against widely held McConkian and Skousenian ideas of the relatively imminent arrival of the millenium. Like many of Card’s works, the novel is based in a world where some Mormon ideas about life and the universe do not fit.

Despite those initial hurdles, it seems that there are many aspects of the novel that show ideas that Card may have imported from his Mormon background. Let’s go over a few of them:

1. The idea of sending children off to war, because the children are the world’s best hope. This idea — which creates the underlying current that makes the novel at the same time so compelling and so uncomfortable — is reminiscent of the army of Helaman. At the same time, it is much darker than Helaman. The children’s army in the novel, like Helaman’s, is victorious — but at a terrible cost to itself. (Is that how the stripling warriors felt as they returned to their homes?)

2. The conflict with the unrighteous, domineering older brother. The entire Ender / Peter interaction is in many ways a retelling of Nephi and Laman. Peter is incensed at not being chosen over Ender, as Laman was incensed at Lehi’s tendency to prefer Nephi. But at the novel, the two brothers eventually reconcile. (How different would Nephi-Laman have been if they had reconciled? How different would Ender’s game have been if the Enderites and the Peterites had declared everlasting war against each other?)

3. The total destruction of an opposing force. The final battle is like the surreal chapters in Ether, which end only after the destruction of all sides. Ether seems to be making a statement about annihilative war — not a particularly positive statement — and that message is echoed by Card.

4. The sense of wrongness of what was done to Ender. There is an ambivalence in the author’s voice, between the practical utilitarian realization of necessity in war, and the Kantian outrage at the manipulation and destruction of so many innocent children. In many ways, the entire story is a meditation on that troubling scriptural passage, “It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.”

5. The discussion of the difficulty of two peoples living together, and of the misunderstandings that can arise from miscommunication and culminate in war. The bugger war, caused by misunderstandings, is reminescent of the continual problems that the Mormon pioneers felt as they were chased from place to place. One theme of the book, at the end, is the idea “if only we could have understood each other.”

Those are some initial thoughts of mine on how Ender’s Game can be viewed as Mormon literature. I’m sure that there are a number of other parallels. Despite its lack of overt Mormon imagery, I’ve always felt that it had a Mormon feel to it.

Finally, of course, the question is — what does this mean? It seems to me that there are at least three things that we can gain from looking at Ender’s Game as Mormon literature.

First, we can better appreciate the book. We can read it and say “ahh, that’s just like Nephi” or “ahh, that’s just like Ether.” It adds a richness to the text and makes it more enjoyable to read.

Second, we can apply Card’s interpretation of Mormon themes as we read and study those themes. When we discuss the stripling warriors, we can think back to Card’s potrayal of the difficult transition of children ripped from their childhood and sent to war. We may disagree with some of Card’s ideas, but the add a new way to reflect on our beliefs and experiences as church members.

Finally, we can appreciate Ender’s Game as a scriptural and religious reinterpretation, placing it within that well-filled canon. Ender’s Game is not a direct or semi-direct scriptural retelling like Paradise Lost or Byron’s Cain, but a piece of literature that was clearly shaped by the religious background of its author. And as Mormons, we are particularly attuned to see and to enjoy these underpinnings.

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts. They’re subject to change, of course, but at the moment I think that Ender’s Game clearly reflects the Mormon background of its author, and that that aspect makes both the book and the background more interesting. Ender’s Game is Mormon literature.

(Notes: See also Russell’s comments on Card; Melissa Madsen Fox’s comments on sequel Speaker for the Dead; I think that others — Bob Caswell? Eric Stone? Julie? Russell some more? — have discussed Card, but I couldn’t quickly locate those discussions).

Tags: , ,

82 Responses to Ender’s Game as Mormon Literature

  1. Susan Malmrose on December 21, 2004 at 3:39 pm

    Excellent post! Thanks. My whole family is currently reading the whole series–each kid is reading a different book, and I’m reading them aloud in order of publication to my husband (we’re on Xenocide right now). I’ll be sure to bring up these insights when we next get into an Ender discussion.

    Card’s the only sci fi I can read. I like his Alvin Maker series better than Ender, though, it’s more of an alternate history thing rather than sci fi. And based loosely on Joseph Smith.

  2. a random John on December 21, 2004 at 3:56 pm

    It is my understanding that he wrote the original short story that he later expanded for the novel while on his mission in Brazil. In another short story written much later Ender’s mother’s family history is explained more fully. She is a Hinckley. :)

    The sequels and then the retelling of the story from Bean’s perspective deal with religious topics in a more head-on way. Of course if you are looking for stuff that is LDS specific you can’t beat the Homecoming series which is a sci-fi version of the Book of Mormon, and works surprisingly well as an experimental commentary on some aspects of the book and other LDS topics.

  3. Ivan Wolfe on December 21, 2004 at 3:56 pm

    I don’t think you mention Card’s biggest LDS trope: young child as genius/savior.

    He gets it from the young Joseph Smith. Many people complain they can’t believe in a boy prophet. Card shows us that boys and girls of young age are jsut as capable (if not more so) than adults.

  4. Kaimi on December 21, 2004 at 4:12 pm

    Good point, Ivan. That parallel escaped me, for some reason, but it seems like a very strong Mormon connection.

  5. J. Stapley on December 21, 2004 at 4:14 pm

    I’ve only read the first two in the series. The most compellingly “Mormon� theme in the two books is personified in the speaker for the dead. It is also an indictment of popular Mormon culture. There is something thoroughly redemptive in telling/seeing/comprehending the whole story of a person/people. By telling the whole story, there are elements of charity (empathy), forgiveness, the last judgment and ultimately the Saviour (He who felt and knows all) that are realized.

    Interestingly, Mormon culture has shied away from this. We shun our sinners and hide our sins. We send our pregnant teenagers away. We have a hard time talking to our kids about sex. We hide our history. The consequence is too often feelings of betrayal and a lack of redemption within the society.

  6. Shannon Keeley on December 21, 2004 at 4:29 pm

    My book club read Enders Game about three years ago and I absolutely loved it (and promptly devoured Speaker for the Dead.) Some of the details are foggy, so you’ll have to bear with me. . .

    I recall at the time having an interesting discussion about Ender as a Christ figure and the burden that he carried as the vehicle of salvation for the planet, (even though at the time, he didn’t realize the literal-ness of what he was doing.) We talked a lot about whether or not Ender’s treatment by adults and parent figures was abusive; and if, indeed, Ender was intended to be a Christ figure, how does the adult-induced abuse figure into that metaphor. Someone wondered if we were to read Ender’s relationships with parent figures as a metaphor for Christ’s relationship with Heavenly Father. I don’t think this is what Card intended, but it was interesting line of inquiry to think about.

    I, too, recall the ending very vividly, and the “if only we could communicate� theme coming through loud and clear. In the story, if I remember correctly, the failure to communicate was very literal: the two races literally could not understand one another’s language. Humans were forced to either treat the buggers as a threat or be vulnerable to them, and fear and logic dictated that they annihilate the race rather than be at the mercy of a race that may or may not be friendly.

    I think this inability to communicate (quite literally, in this story) is for me the most insightful “Mormon� idea expressed in the book. We could read it as a commentary of the persecution of the early saints, who, like the buggers, were perceived as a threat by the communities around them even though they showed no hostility or aggression. We could also read it as a commentary of many warring groups in the Book of Mormon.

    Just a note for Card fans. . .he recently produced three one act plays (adaptations of three of his short stories) at a theater here in Los Angeles. It was really interesting to see a staged versions of his work. All three plays were really well done, and his daughter (Emily Card) did an excellent job, particularly in a role as a girl with no arms or legs. Although one of the plays was set in Provo (in a futuristic . time-travel sort of way), I actually didn’t see a whole lot of “Mormon� themes in any of the works that were adapted for his production, but I really really enjoyed it.

  7. danithew on December 21, 2004 at 4:34 pm

    I came very close to writing about a section of Ender’s game when I was guest-blogging for T&S. I held off for a few different reasons but there are at least two major things that interest me about this book.

    The first is Ender’s killer instinct. When he gets in a fight, he’s not just fighting to win that particular fight but to win any future fights that could result if he is merciful, reasonable or chivalrous in the first fight. By kicking an enemy in the face and head when the enemy is down, Ender demonstrates to others that he is extreme and vicious and that to fight him is to take such a high risk that its better to just leave him alone. He not only is fighting the direct enemy in a conventional way but he is fighting psychological warfare with all who are witnessing him as he fights.

    The second part of this book that interest me is the instruction Ender gives Bean towards the middle or end of the book. Ender basically tells Bean that in planning and training for battles in the battle school, Bean should consider “stupid ideas.” Ender’s strategy in this instruction, from what I perceive, is to make sure that no stone is overturned and that no rule or assumption goes unbroken when strategic considerations take place. The idea isn’t really to be stupid but to be an extreme strategist who considers every possibility.

    Anyway, I agree that Ender’s Game is a worthwhile read. It contains some interesting ideas and the book is mostly interesting because Ender is such a compelling and disturbing character. Though he’s small he’s also very smart and quite ruthless.

  8. danithew on December 21, 2004 at 4:38 pm

    By the way I don’t really perceive Ender as Mormon and I definitely don’t perceive him as a Christ figure. He’s much more like Patton or General Sherman than he is like Jesus Christ.

  9. Susan Malmrose on December 21, 2004 at 4:42 pm

    Shannon, I was planning on trying to catch those plays but missed out! Darn it.

  10. J. Stapley on December 21, 2004 at 4:45 pm

    Definitely Sherman.

  11. Bryce I on December 21, 2004 at 4:47 pm

    Lots to say, so a little at a time–

    Re: Ender as a Christ figure. Ender is the result of a carefully planned genetic experiment. He is the only hope of his race. The military leaders who train and test him view him as a Messianic figure — there’s a lot of “if it’s not him, then we’re doomed” speeches in the book.

    One interesting feature of his development is that he must choose to be the Xenocide — he can’t be commanded to destroy the bugger’s homeworld. I found this strange on my first reading — why are the adult leaders so relieved and elated that he had made the difficult choice to use the MD Device on the planet? Why couldn’t they have just given him the mission to destroy the planet in the first place? There’s a definite message about the power of free agency and what it enables us to do in there.

    Another interesting feature of Ender is that while hist siblings both possess talents on a similar order of magnitude, they are unable to be the military leader that Ender is because they represent polar opposites Ender embodies Valentine’s compassion and empathy with Peter’s ruthlessness and ambition together in one, which qualifies him for the job he has to do. There’s a Mormon idea or two in there if you care to dig. Note also that Val and Peter, working together as a team on Earth manage to take over the world, which would not have been possible had they worked separately.

  12. danithew on December 21, 2004 at 4:50 pm

    Hmmmm …. it’s not that a Messiah is altogether incapable of ruthlessness.

  13. Russell Arben Fox on December 21, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    Melissa has some additional things to say about OSC here. As for my take…ah, I don’t have the time. Suffice to say 1) I wholeheartedly agree with Melissa’s opinion that, with a few notable exceptions, OSC has generally become less interested in his craft, and more interested in his social/political/moral/religious message(s), as the years have gone by–to the detriment of both; 2) the whole “young child as genius/savior” thing which Ivan notes was interesting in Ender’s Game, but in later works became, I fear, something of a fetish and/or a crutch for OSC; even when his stories focus on adult characters, the destiny/heart/truth of those characters so often seem to revolve around some essential quality or experience that was given or even innate from their beginning. It’s one thing to create characters who are locked into a certain fate; it’s another thing for that fate to be fully on display, and fully comprehended, at….what, how old was Bean at the beginning of Ender’s Shadow, four? Sorry, for me, that’s just weird.

  14. J. Stapley on December 21, 2004 at 4:56 pm

    Danithew: That hearkens back to the thread you posted on the ambivalence of Christ. The disparity I see is that Christ was omniscient, he knew full well that what he was doing was just. Ender did not.

  15. danithew on December 21, 2004 at 5:00 pm

    J. Stapley,

    I was thinking the same thing. I suddenly fell into the trap of thinking of Christ as merely a compassionate figure when in fact I’ve used scriptures to argue otherwise. Here’s the link to that post:

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/wp/index.php?p=1493

  16. danithew on December 21, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    Anyone here read OSC’s book “Lost Boys”. That’s a book that deals with a Mormon family and how that family deals with a variety of faces and gradations of evil or badness that seem to pop up in their lives.

  17. Adam Greenwood on December 21, 2004 at 5:08 pm

    I generally agree with Russell Fox’s # 13. OSC does have an odd thing with young child as genius.

    To the lesser extent, so does the whole SF/Fantasy genre (especially fantasy). I’m told that marketing data shows that books with young, genius protagonists have the best sales. It’s unfortunate that the market reinforces OSC’s natural proclivities, though I still enjoy his work very much.

  18. JL on December 21, 2004 at 5:56 pm

    The concept in Card’s Ender books that struck me as having a gospel connection was the “ansible” – the means of instantaneous communication without regard to distance. It seemed to me that Card might be expressing his conception of the Holy Ghost.

  19. Bryce I on December 21, 2004 at 6:27 pm

    JL –

    In Xenocide ansibles become the catchall explanation for all kinds of elements of LDS theology including the Holy Ghost and how it is that we existed as intelligences in material form before coming into this existence. The whole apparatus creaks and groans, but fortunately never quite falls completely apart like the Force did when midichlorians reared their ugly heads.

  20. Bryce I on December 21, 2004 at 6:43 pm

    Russell–

    To be fair to Card, Bean and Ender are off-the-charts extraordinary, and have been engineered/trained/bred to be hyperprecocious. They are weird, and quite deliberately so. We’re meant to be unsettled by the seeming disconnect between their age and their awareness of themselves and their world.

    As for his trend towards one-note novels, I’ve grown to appreciate this phase of his writing. Sure, we haven’t seen a work like Speaker for the Dead that develops several major ideas in a compelling narrative framework in a while, but it’s fun to see the smaller thought experiements of the Ender’s Shadow series. And The Crystal City marks a return to the grand vision of his earlier works, in my opinion.

  21. Rusty on December 21, 2004 at 7:03 pm

    What I love is that Valentine and Peter gained their power on the blogs.

  22. Rusty on December 21, 2004 at 7:29 pm

    Here’s IMDB’s link to the movie. Release date 2006.

  23. Ivan Wolfe on December 21, 2004 at 8:30 pm

    Bryce – it’s not ansibles. It’s philotes.

    Want to know OSC’s latest project?

    Go here:
    http://www.marvel.com/publishing/stories/showstory.htm?id=12

    It’s “Ultimate Iron Man” from Marvel Comics.

    Ought to be interesting. The internet comic fan boards are already awash with cries of “How dare Marvel hire this homophobic loser!!!”

  24. Ivan Wolfe on December 21, 2004 at 8:31 pm

    Bryce –

    what I meant was, ansibles are in the Enderverse (they’re communication devices), but what stands in for the Holy Ghost, intelligences, creative power, etc. is a mystery substance called philotes (that exist outside the universe and respond best to love).

  25. Jack on December 21, 2004 at 8:59 pm

    Lets gang up on Bryce 1. He says:

    “One interesting feature of his development is that he must choose to be the Xenocide – he can’t be commanded to destroy the bugger’s homeworld. I found this strange on my first reading – why are the adult leaders so relieved and elated that he had made the difficult choice to use the MD Device on the planet? Why couldn’t they have just given him the mission to destroy the planet in the first place? There’s a definite message about the power of free agency and what it enables us to do in there.”

    The fact that the Bugger world was in reality destroyed by virtue of the “game” was news to Ender. Had the adults revealed the truth to him from the begining, it is doubtful that he would have been able to go through with it. So, the idea that agency plays a part in this aspect of the story may be aplicable only in the narrowest sense. Yes, he was given latitude as a commander during the simulations, however, he most certainly cannot be held responsible for the destruction of the Buggers because of the principle of agency.

  26. Ethesis (Stephen M) on December 21, 2004 at 9:22 pm

    In the Ender series Card explores the difference between compulsive feelings and inspiration, what is biology and what is self (and the character who choses to die free rather than have the necessary viral influence in his system) and a number of other themes, as well as what is life in the pre-existance and what is the intelligence that comes before.

    Lots of LDS excursions, even if much of what he is writing is also commercially successful.

    I need to read Crystal City, been so busy recently.

    I enjoyed Enchantment as did other family members (it was part of a solicited series of books with modern writers revisiting classic stories).

    Hart’s Hope is complex fantasy; the Treason books (at least two books that are pretty much the same book, just one is better in execution); and his song book about the homosexual ruler and the songbird — lots of stuff not mentioned by the reviewer linked to. Lots of themes.

  27. a random John on December 21, 2004 at 9:27 pm

    Jack,

    I can’t remember if Ender knew that it wasn’t a simmulation at the end or not. In Ender’s Shadow, Bean clearly knows what is going on and mourns the deaths of the men flying the spaceships and quotes scripture to them to comfort them as they are about to perish.

  28. Bryce I on December 21, 2004 at 9:34 pm

    Ivan –

    Thanks for the correction. That’ll teach me to post when I don’t have time to re-read my comment.

  29. Bryce I on December 21, 2004 at 9:50 pm

    Jack –

    Ditto what a random John said. Presumably Ender doesn’t know that he’s not still in training in the last battle — why wouldn’t the adults order the destruction of the homeworld knowing that Ender thinks it’s a simulation? Leaving grand strategical decisions to the military commander in the field is not common practice in today’s military — why does Ender have this power? Sure, he’s been observed and manipulated his whole life, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that Ender would choose the course of action that he did, given his history (Stilton and Bonzo, for example). Still, ultimately, the decision to destroy the world is left to Ender, and he bears and accepts that responsibility. It’s fairly clear that whether Ender knew the consequences of his actions at the time or not, he accepts that it was his choice that destroyed the buggers’ homeworld.

    The question of responsibility aside, it’s interesting to think about why the final mission is to defeat the bugger fleets and not to destroy the planet, when the destruction of the planet is clearly the desired outcome and the only real path to victory. It pushes the responsibility for the decision off the planners and on to Ender — or does it?

  30. Jack on December 22, 2004 at 12:36 am

    I think one of the most beautiful elements in the book is the powerful irony created by what happens to the Buggers because of Ender’s potencial (which has been tapped by the adults). Ender made xenocide possible and carries the burden of that reality about himself like a cross. However, it is the weight of that knowledge that presses him to bear the burden of the buggers survival as well. His compassion for the Buggers knows no boundaries. This, to me, is the gospel though and through.

  31. William Morris on December 22, 2004 at 12:39 am

    I like that Kaimi explores both how Mormonism can be used in a reading of Ender’s Game *and* what that means for a Mormon way of reading — or more particularly, how that way of reading a piece of fiction can be useful for Mormons.

    I think the second point is crucial to any form of Mormon criticism that is going to gain currency with a large percentage of Mormon readers. Like it or not, we need our fiction to both entertain and instruct. This is both a strength and weakness of the readership, and as Russell has pointed out in regards to Orson Scott Card, it is something that can impact our authors negatively.

    ——-
    The complaint that OSC has become too preachy seems to be fairly widespread. I don’t have the time to address this, nor am I the best person to play the role of apologist since I kind of agree with the critique.

    I will say, however, that although the later books in the Alvin Maker series [4-6] don’t have the same impact as the first three do, I think that they are important parts of Alvin’s story and in most ways needed to play out in the way that they did. So much speculative fiction is all about the hero (saviour/genius often — see all the comments above) discovering and learning to use his powers and then conquering the enemy.

    The first three Alvin books follow the same pattern. But what’s even more important than that story is dealing with the world and people and building community [Frank Herbert deals with this somewhat the latter works in his Dune series]. The frustration for Alvin (and OSC is pulling directly from Joseph Smith here) is that what comes naturally to him takes much more work for others. And not only that, but while he can shape matter [making], he can’t change hearts. How is he supposed to build the Crystal City [Zion] when people don’t always listen and obey to his instructions and, more importantly, perhaps, when there are all sorts of forces who are trying to make sure that he doesn’t succeed because they want to maintain (or increase) their power?

    I should add that for those who were disappointed by Alvin 4 and 5, OSC is in better form with the latest book — The Crystal City.

    ——
    As I mentioned on Melissa’s blog, and as Ethesis mentions above, _Hart’s Hope_ is one of OSC’s best, imo.

    ——
    RE: philotes. Whether the entire (meta)physics of the Ender universe holds up is open to debate. However, the whole idea of philotes combined with the idea and physic of ‘Making’ in the Alvin series is one of the most significant modern contributions to Mormon thought, imo. Granted, it’s impossible to make serious parallels or even a direct translation into our actual theology. It’s fiction, after all. But for all the criticisms I have of OSC’s work, he has engaged in some of the most interesting speculative theology to come out of Mormonism.

  32. Jonathan Green on December 22, 2004 at 12:43 am

    I’d suggest a different approach towards Ender’s Game as Mormon literature. So far, the discussion has centered on themes, tropes, literary devices, symbols, character, all the detritus of New Criticism that I learned as How Literature is Created and Analyzed in high school and, to a certain extent, in college. I don’t think that Ender’s Game will stand up to such a close reading, and the suggestions so far aren’t terribly illuminating. Card is a good but flawed writer, Ender’s Game is a good but flawed work of science fiction.

    The more interesting question is: why do millions of SciFi fans consider it one of the greatest works in the genre? For this discussion, we’re concerned with a subset of those fans, the thousands of LDS SciFi readers who found in Ender’s Game a tremendously appealing work. As for me, I’m primarily concerned with just one of those readers. Why did I, as a 19-year old freshman at BYU in 1990, start reading the book one afternoon at 3:00 in my dorm room, continue reading with only a brief pause for dinner until 3:00 AM, and then wake up at 6:00 AM to finish the book? The book provided one of the most rapturous reading experiences I have ever had, as it seems to have done for many other people as well. Why?

    I can only speculate about my own experience, so I’m extrapolating from speculation when I try to identify what other Mormon readers may have found in Ender’s Game. I don’t think the book is great literature—but who cares if it isn’t? Instead, it uses the reader’s self-identification with the protagonist to confirm to us the stories we tell about ourselves but don’t dare to admit to others.

    Ender is intelligent, misunderstood, and mistreated by everyone around him. Who doesn’t see themselves there? The more one reads science fiction, the more likely one is to see in Ender an alter ego.

    Ender is also the ultimate subject of meritocratic surveillance. If you’ve ever bubbled in the answers to a standardized test, you might understand the fear that someone is looking straight into your head and finding only lukewarm lime Jell-O. Coupled with this fear is the fantasy that a wise expert backed by a powerful bureaucracy will recognize your true worth (which, at the age of 19, is approximately equal to Caesar, Napoleon, and Alexander combined) and snatch you away into an undertaking equal to your abilities. It’s the Cinderella fantasy for high school seniors applying to college or freshmen recovering from the experience.

    One specifically LDS aspect of the Mormon reader of Ender’s Game is that our beliefs reinforce the idea that we are indeed extraordinary people. We may look and act like also-rans, but in truth we have a glorious heritage and a marvelous destiny (generals all in the War in Heaven, membership in the Greatest Generation, a future without bound). When you’re 19, the whole history of the universe is, in fact, all about you.

    The church gives us some institutional resonance as well that other readers may not have. I was not the only 19-year old in Provo, I think, worrying about getting yanked out of my regular life into a training camp known for its intensity and unusual methods to prepare me to serve in a struggle of truly cosmic proportions, although I had a poor understanding of what the battle actually entailed.

    Finally, we don’t read Card’s texts in a cultural clean room, but always with two facts in mind: he’s a Mormon, and we’re Mormons. In real life as in our literary consumption of Ender’s Game, we expect our obedience to the injunction “he who hath ears to hear, let him hear� to be met with something other than silence. I don’t know if it’s possible for us to read Ender’s Game except, in some way, as Mormon literature.

  33. Ivan Wolfe on December 22, 2004 at 12:56 am

    Jonathan -

    I’ve read tons of science fiction. I have only read one flawless work of science fiction: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. All other works have been flawed to lesser (sometimes nearly imperceptible) or greater extents.

    I don’t think it’s very helpful to say OSC is flawed. As far as sci-fi writers go, he’s one of the least flawed, and the few flaws he does have aren’t usually central to the texts.

    So – I guess I have to ask what you mean when you say he’s a “flawed” author.

    (And contrary to popular consensus, and except for a small dip in the late 80s/early 90s, I think OSCs latest work is, overall, better than most of his early work – Ender excepted).

  34. Jack on December 22, 2004 at 11:17 am

    “Ender is also the ultimate subject of meritocratic surveillance”

    Sadly, I must admit that I get a little red in the face when I confess to the academicians that, yes(!), I enjoyed reading the Ender’s series.

    However, after I’ve gotten over my first impulse I want say: look buddy you go write one of the least of these and then you can look down your nose at me.

    And then, after I’ve gotten over my second impulse, I want to say (to myself): who cares what anyone else thinks, those books were meaningful to me and therefore valuable.

    After I’ve gotten over my third impulse, I want to say: gosh there’s a whole world of criticism that revolves around comic books. Because some people find value in comic books doesn’t necessarily make them great literature. What if I’m doing the same thing with Sc-Fi?!

    After my fourth impulse (with my tail slightly between legs and with a strained acquiescence)I say: alright academic world, tell me, what is great literature?

    After learning that (with the exception of Homer, Dante and Shakespeare) there is no concensus among those who are “in the know” as to what great literature *is*, I get over all of my impulses except one – to enjoy the damn book.

  35. J. Stapley on December 22, 2004 at 12:31 pm

    Ivan: I second your observation of “A Canticle for Lebowitz”

  36. Ivan Wolfe on December 22, 2004 at 1:34 pm

    Jack -

    take that back about comic books!!!!

    I’m one of those doing some critical work in comic books – and comics are worthy of study.

    I reccomend reading Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Wil Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art – Please read before condemning comics wholesale as you just did.

    J. Stapley -

    Canticle is, IMHO, the greates SF novel ever. To bad the posthumous sequel St. Leibowitz and the Wild Horsewoman was such a dissapointment.

  37. Eric James Stone on December 22, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    To a very large extent, writers are influenced by the culture that surrounds them. It would be very strange if OSC’s works did not tend to reflect his Mormonism. Such reflections can be conscious (mirroring the life of Joseph Smith in the Alvin Maker series, mirroring the Book of Mormon in the Homecoming series, etc.) or unconscious (I won’t presume to say what he has done unconsciously, but I doubt that every reflection of his Mormonism was intentional.)

    In addition to the question of whether allusions to Mormon ideas are intentional or not, there is the question of whether Mormon readers will see allusions that aren’t there.

    In the Ender’s Shadow series, there is a scientist named Anton. Now, I don’t know if this was an intentional allusion to the Professor Charles Anthon of Mormon history, but there are three ways I can see in which Anton connects to the idea of a “sealed book”:

    (1) All of Anton’s research into enhancing human intelligence has been censored by the government. His work is a “sealed book.”

    (2) Anton’s mind has been altered so that he is not able to discuss certain aspects of his work on genetic engineering. His mind is a “sealed book.”

    (3) Anton discovered a way to greatly increase a person’s intelligence, but at great personal cost to the genetically altered individual. He has tinkered with the “book of life” in a way that should have remained sealed.

    Did OSC name the character Anton so that people would read any of those meanings into the story? Or did he unconsciously name the character Anton after Charles Anthon because of the hidden knowledge concept? Or is it just coincidence?

    In the end, it does not matter. I don’t believe that an author’s text should be twisted to support some preconcieved idea, but I see no harm in using a text as a starting point for discussions of ideas, no matter whether it’s based on something the author put in, consciously or not, or just something an individual reader sees.

  38. Jonathan Green on December 22, 2004 at 2:14 pm

    Ivan, if it wasn’t clear from what I wrote: I think Card’s flaws as a writer are pretty much irrelevant. I don’t think a close reading of Ender’s Game is going to tell us exactly why the book was so popular or why a lot of LDS readers, including me, found it to be perfectly enthralling. Perhaps you disagree, and perhaps you feel inclined to sketch out Card’s masterful use of symbol, metaphor, and structure, or some other hallmark of his artistic greatness. Note that I’m not asking you to do so–I find that kind of thing pretty dry, hence my attempt at an explanation that better fits my own experience.

    Jack, regarding impulses 1-5:

    1) Why the redness in the face? I enjoyed Ender’s Game. I’ve figured out by now that I enjoy a lot of things that are pretty wretched as art or, as in the case of Ender’s Game, good but with flaws.

    2) I don’t look down my nose at anybody. At books and ideas, maybe, but not at people. Do you mean that I should write some fiction of my own before criticizing Card’s book? OK, I’ve done that. As much as I sympathize with the problems any writer faces, I don’t think it has changed the way I notice Card’s flaws. Or do you mean that I have to publish a blockbuster novel first? Just tell me where I can go to trade in my right arm.

    3) Right, now we’re getting somewhere: reading Ender’s Game was a meaningful experience for me and for you, too. Why was it meaningful? What was particularly valuable for us as Mormon readers? That was the point of my comment.

    4) Right again. Some comic books and some Sci-Fi will probably qualify as great literature some day. I suspect Ender’s Game won’t be among them. Since I’m constitutionally uninterested in great literature, this doesn’t trouble me. I’m more interested in questions about who decides what is great, and how, and what people do when they consume the great mass of literature that isn’t great.

    5) Let me know what you find out, if you get an answer.

    6) Please, continue enjoying the book. I still do. I think that exploring the reasons why people enjoy a book is more interesting than figuring out what makes some book a great work of art, because it leaves the people who actually read the book in the equation.

  39. Bryce I on December 22, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    For what it’s worth, I happen to know that Jonathan Green is (or at least was) an inveterate reader of Dean Koontz novels.

  40. a random John on December 22, 2004 at 3:49 pm

    Eric,

    OSC states on his website (http://www.hatrack.com/) and has confirmed in email to me (he has responded quickly every time I have written him) that he chooses character names very intentionally to reflect their ethnicity, religion, or to be symbolic.

    As far as the question of whether he is improving as a writer, it seems to me that he kicks off each series with a bang, and then draws them out into too many books. Ender’s Shadow was great, but the later Bean books have dragged, much as the later Ender books did. The 3rd and 4th books of the Homecoming series suffered similarly, though the 5th book was great. I keep hoping that he will finish off BoM in the Homecoming the series, but I can see how that becomes difficult. Having to deal with the events of 3 Nephi would seem to be very difficult in the context of his story.

  41. Jack on December 22, 2004 at 4:43 pm

    Ivan & Jonathan,

    My little diddy about “impulses” was not intended to be anything more than a bunch of rhetorical sillyness culminating in what ought to be the obvious: that one doesn’t always have to go around the academic block in order to know whether or not something is good enough to enjoy. If you enjoy it, then enjoy it! One should *never* get red in the face because of one’s true sensibilities.

  42. Jonathan Green on December 22, 2004 at 5:16 pm

    Curse you, Bryce, curse you forever!

    Okay, I admit it: Over the course of a year, I read a number of Dean Koontz novels. I kind of liked the first one. The second one was reminiscent of the first. The third one was exceedingly faithful to the formula of the first two. After, I don’t know, six or seven more, I got tired of reading about interchangeable characters plugged into what was essentially the same plot. I have been Dean Koontz-free for at least a decade now. He’s a complete hack compared to an author of truly great literature, like Stephen King.

    Thank you, Jack, for helping to shoulder the heavy burden of T&S rhetorical silliness.

    Congratulations on the publications, Eric.

  43. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2004 at 5:23 pm

    A Canticle for Leibowitz is sans peur et sans reproche.

    Sancte Leibowitz, ora pro nos.

  44. Ivan Wolfe on December 22, 2004 at 5:34 pm

    Adam –
    ???

    my guess”

    is sans peur et sans reproche: “is without fear and reproach”?

    ora pro nos: “we are on the edge”?

    I have no idea. That’s my guess from my limited knowledge of romance languages. I know Classical Greek and Laotion.

  45. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2004 at 6:30 pm

    ‘Sans peur et sans reproche’ means, if I recall, something like “without peer and without reproach.” All I know about it was there was this man named Chevalier Bayard who must have been quite the man because that was his tagline.

    I don’t know if ‘Sancte Liebowitz, ora pro nos’ is good Latin or not. In A Canticle for Leibowitz it means, “Holy Leibowitz, pray for us.”

  46. Ivan Wolfe on December 22, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    I assumed it was Latin (considering the text we are talking about), but I don’t know Latin (I know Laotion, but they ain’t close).

  47. J. Stapley on December 22, 2004 at 6:38 pm

    Adam: Actually, Sans peur et sans reproche means: “without fear and without reproach” or “fearless and without reproach”.

    Indeed, pray for us.

  48. J. Stapley on December 22, 2004 at 6:41 pm

    And I have to admit that I have a weakness for religiously flavored fiction. Not in the Mormon sense (I find that stuff completely banal), but like Canticle, The Name of the Rose, or even Dune.

  49. Eric James Stone on December 22, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Well, at the risk of being branded a heretic, I will admit that I didn’t find “A Canticle for Leibowitz” all that impressive. I mean, I liked it well enough to read all the way through, but I didn’t come away thinking it was the best SF novel ever, or even one of the best.

    Maybe I was prejudiced by Mormon expectations: if a novel is set in Utah, even in the future, I expect some Mormons to show up.

  50. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2004 at 6:58 pm

    Well, tastes differ. I still think it was, by far, the best SF novel I’ve read. Also, I don’t think it takes place in Utah. From several textual clues, I believe that it takes place in New Mexico.

    The initial protagonist, the one who finds the Fallout Shelter, is from Utah, true (Utahis clearly described as a howling wasteland populated only by shamanistic tribes) but the text leads one to believe that the abbey is not located there, though in the same region.

  51. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2004 at 6:58 pm

    Heretic. Come meet Mr. Brand.

  52. Jack on December 22, 2004 at 7:30 pm

    Jonathan,

    uh, you’re welcome.

    Looking back at my comment I can see how perhaps it could imply that you were looking down your nose at me. If so, my apologies. I wasn’t talking about you per se, but rather “that someone [who] is looking straight into your head and finding only lukewarm lime Jell-O”, as you said.

    I was merely trying to continue in this vain by sharing some of my own silly impulses. No doubt, the fact that english is a second language to me – the first being moron – didn’t help in getting my point across.

  53. Dave on December 22, 2004 at 7:37 pm

    FWIW, I did a short post on Ender’s Game about two months ago and received several interesting comments on the book and its sequels.

  54. Ivan Wolfe on December 22, 2004 at 7:44 pm

    Adam -

    based on the (horrid, horrid, horrid) sequel (did I mention it was horrid?) it’s most likely set in the deep Utah desert – though close to the NM border.

  55. Ivan Wolfe on December 22, 2004 at 8:10 pm

    Anyway – back to Ender’s Game:

    This is one of the few novels of recent (post 1960s) literature to become require reading at the high school level.

    It seems to me that making something required reading in high school is a way to make sure more kids DON’T read it. Before, thousands of teenagers and young adults found it on their own (it was a “cult” hit in my jr. high). Now that many high schools require it, does this mean Ender’s Game will now begin to be hated by young’uns?

  56. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2004 at 8:46 pm

    You’ve heard that Star Wars junkies will often refuse to admit the information in Star Wars books as canonical?

    I do the same with that horrid, horrid book. I still insist, based on textual clues in a Canticle for Liebowitz, that it is likely set in New Mexico.

  57. Ethesis (Stephen M) on December 22, 2004 at 10:28 pm

    Well, at the risk of being branded a heretic, I will admit that I didn’t find “A Canticle for Leibowitz� all that impressive. I mean, I liked it well enough to read all the way through, but I didn’t come away thinking it was the best SF novel ever, or even one of the best

    I’d agree that was my take as well.

    Though the Wandering Jew was a nice touch.

  58. Ivan Wolfe on December 22, 2004 at 11:49 pm

    Adam –

    more power to you. You’re likely right. I don’t consider Saint Leibowitz canonical either.

    But I do consider the Star Wars novels and comics canonical (according to LucasFilm, unless it has a “Star Wars Infinity” logo on it, if it has a SW label on it, it is considered canon).

  59. Bill on December 23, 2004 at 12:49 am

    Adam,

    since pro takes the ablative, it should be “ora pro nobis”

  60. Adam Greenwood on December 23, 2004 at 5:31 am

    Either I’m remembering wrong or Miller developed a corrupted version of Latin for the future. Probably the former.

  61. Kaimi on December 23, 2004 at 8:25 am

    Ivan,

    But do you consider the Christmas special to be canonical?

  62. Ivan Wolfe on December 23, 2004 at 10:48 am

    Kaimi –

    nope. LucasFilm has declared it non-canonical. Bascially, if Lucasfilm says it is canon, I consider it canon. The Holiday special has had an “infinities” label retroactively slapped on it.

  63. Bryce I on December 23, 2004 at 10:57 am

    Re: Ender’s Game as great literature

    Here’s an interesting quote from OSC’s introduction to the 1991 edition of Ender’s Game

    …There was something more to the way that people responded to Ender’s Game.
    For one thing, the people that hated it really hated it. The attacks on the novel – and on me — were astonishing. Some of it I expected — I have a master’s degree in literature, and in writing Ender’s Game I deliberately avoided all the little literary games and gimmicks that make “fine ” writing so impenetrable to the general audience. All the layers of meaning are there to be decoded, if you like to play the game of literary criticism — but if you don’t care to play that game, that’s fine with me. I designed Ender’s Game to be as clear and accessible as any story of mine could possibly be. My goal was that the reader wouldn’t have to be trained in literature or even in science fiction to receive the tale in its simplest, purest form. And, since a great many writers and critics have based their entire careers on the premise that anything that the general public can understand without meditation is worthless drivel, it is not surprising that they found my little novel to be despicable. If everybody came to agree that stories should be told this clearly, the professors of literature would be out of a job, and the writers of obscure, encoded fiction would be, not honored, but pitied for their impenetrability.

  64. Jonathan Green on December 23, 2004 at 11:56 am

    Bryce, I wish I were more familiar with the criticism Card was referring to. Since I’m not, that quote makes him sound like he has a persecution complex. Romance, thriller, and sci-fi writers have been dealing with critical disdain for a long time. Was there anything particularly virulent about the criticism directed at Card? Maybe there was; I wasn’t reading many book reviews at the time. He’s wrong, too, that clarity in storytelling would put literature professors out of a job: they would only have to employ the critical approaches that are appropriate to that kind of literature. (New Criticalish close reading is, as I suggested above, not one of those approaches.)

    Ivan, I hadn’t heard that Ender’s Game had become required high school reading. I can see a class here or there reading it, but is it widespread? I’m a bit dubious of assigning it as required reading, and not because I’m at all hung up on great literature, whatever that is–I taught a course this spring in which third-tier fantasy fiction occupied center stage for a good amount of time. I just don’t see Ender’s Game as a great choice for a high school class, but maybe someone who has more experience with it would see something that I don’t.

  65. William Morris on December 23, 2004 at 1:37 pm

    “My goal was that the reader wouldn’t have to be trained in literature or even in science fiction to receive the tale in its simplest, purest form.”

    Aren’t all readers “trained” readers?

  66. J. Stapley on December 23, 2004 at 1:44 pm

    Since I’m not, that quote makes him sound like he has a persecution complex.

    Is there anything more Mormon than a persecution complex?

  67. a random John on December 23, 2004 at 1:51 pm

    Ivan,

    I thought that the SW Holiday Special was not only not cannon, but that Lucas actively wants it and all record of it destroyed.

  68. Ivan Wolfe on December 23, 2004 at 2:05 pm

    random john -

    well, it’s not a cannon, for sure. But it is also not canon, and yes – Lucas himself has destroyed every copy he could ge his hands on.

    William –

    all readers are “trained” in some sense, but what he means is that readers wouldn’t have to be trained in the modernist/post-modernist elitist idiom that pervades the “literary” fiction world.

  69. Clark on December 23, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    The SW Holiday Special is widely available on many P2P networks thought. It is indeed horrible though. I downloaded it and could only stand watching a few minutes. Of course I think that the Ewok specials (available together on DVD) aren’t exactly watchable either.

  70. Clark on December 23, 2004 at 3:00 pm

    I’ve been busy this week with Christmas, and so haven’t been blogging much. So here are a few scattered thoughts on this most interesting topic. Too bad we didn’t have it at an other time… I’ve only had time to skim the posts. So forgive any duplications.

    First off, it seems like Ender’s Game suffers that typical flaw of a Card book – two themes or stories colliding that aren’t resolved at the same time. Card acknowledges this, noting that the story seems to go on for an other 100 pages after it ends. (If you’ve read the short story this is really noticeable) The buggers are killed, the truth is revealed, and yet more happens. Kind of unsatisfying. Perhaps this is the bad aspect of the Book of Mormon as literature manifesting itself? (Most “stories” in the Book of Mormon don’t seem to me to follow the kinds of narrative structures we expect, IMO)

    My brother noted that while Ender’s Game is used in High Schools, in Cardston at least they get complaints from the Mormon mothers shocked at the foul language. Of course he also got criticized for using an Episode of Seinfeld to help teach spanish. (An innocuous one too)

    Regarding the later Card, I agree that he’s been much more hit or miss with stories often “feeling” forced. I first noticed this in his Memories of Earth parallel to the Book of Mormon. Before even highly flawed books never felt like they were in a straight jacked. Then when he made more overt parallel stories, where the story wanted to go and where Card wanted to take it seemed wildly divergent. For those wanting to read Card at his best, I’d almost always suggest his short stories. I think he is a vastly superior short story author as opposed to novel author. Sadly I recognize that living off of short stories as opposed to novels is hard. The short story isn’t a terribly respected form anymore.

    Ivan mentioned that he thinks the recent Card has been superior to the early Card. Certainly even the early Card had misses. And the first novel in the parallel series to Ender’s Game staring Bean was excellent – nearly as good as Ender’s Game in my opinion. Unfortunately the rest in the series weren’t even as good as the last few Ender books. The same thing happened to the Alvin Maker series. It started off fantastic in this weird Quinn “Magic World View” kind of way. I loved the style of the first volume. By the third volume the style had changed dramatically and had lost its power. By the fourth it was just an other adventure series. (IMO)

  71. William Morris on December 23, 2004 at 4:19 pm

    I forgot to mention that I’ve posted some resources on OSC on A Motley Vision — specifically: links to some scholarship on Ender’s Game, a fantastic essay by Eugene England on OSC, background on politics and OSC, and OSC on Mormonism and his work.

    —–
    Ivan:

    I know.

    But I think that “tale in its purest” form is simply a way of saying that Card thinks his idiom is somehow superior for readers.

    I’m not convinced that’s the case. It comes with it’s own elitist-ness and prejudices. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy that way of reading or narratives that reflect that type of readership.

    I just think that much of OSC’s anti-modernist rhetoric smacks of its own elitism. I tend be rather anti-modernist myself, but I also think that the superior thing to do is approach all narratives with civility and charity.

  72. Ivan Wolfe on December 23, 2004 at 4:50 pm

    Clark -

    when I say that recent Card is better than early Card, I may be speaking for myself. I did find the middle books in the Alvin Maker series to be a bit of a letdown after a powerful first two books, but I found Crystal City to be a very good book. I also found Enchantment to be top-notch Card.

    I didn’t care for the Homecoming series at all (I regard it as his weakest series), but I don’t agree with your comments on the Shadow series – while Ender’s Shadow was the best, the drop in quality from book to book has, IMHO, been minimal.

    However, his early work leaves me cold. Treason, the Worthing saga(s), Wyrms, Hart’s Hope, Songmaster, etc. I don’t enjoy and don’t find moving. Often, they appear to me to be the writing of an angry young man determined to show the world just how intense and shocking he can be.

    But, some people think he’s “not as good as he used to be.” More power to ‘em. Even at his weakest, Card is better than 95% of the sci-fi or fantasy out there.

  73. Clark on December 23, 2004 at 5:04 pm

    That’s interesting Ivan. Treason, in both its incarnations, while deeply flawed, were among my favorite Card books. (BTW – what was up with that period wherein Card kept radically rewriting books? I can understand that with short stories – but with novels?) I also really enjoyed the Worthing Saga in all its various permutations. (Weren’t there three rather different versions published? The last was very influenced by the Book of Mormon and Moroni in particular) What is also interesting to me is that all of them were among his most Mormon – more so than even the Alvin series or the latter books in the Ender series with its odd mixture of Quantum Mechanics and Orson Pratt ontology.

    Different strokes for different folks perhaps? I found the second Bean book good, but hardly great, and nowhere as good as Shadow. The third one was a big disappointment.

    The books within the last decade or so that I thought were good Card was his reworking of Lost Boys (although the short story still is superior). I also found Pastwatch interesting, especially from a Mormon perspective regarding both atonement as well as a our desire to hold Columbus up as a quasi-prophet. Reconciling that status with the actual history is difficult. (As it is for many Founding Fathers as well) Mormons often invent a mythic Christopher Columbus more in line with how they think he “ought” to be. I found the story interesting as a meditation on that phenomena, especially in light of how we view the atonement and forgiving sins.

  74. lyle on December 23, 2004 at 7:02 pm

    rather than saying that “philotes” and “ansibles” as theology creaked…but never broke down completely, how about a more detailed exposition? My guess is that many didn’t read the 3rd or 4th books in the ender series; and many of the rest of us don’t remember well enough.

    also: what about Ender’s marriage? Is it a statement in pro/con of committment?

  75. lyle on December 23, 2004 at 7:03 pm

    oh, and folks of the fringe is my fav.

  76. Clark on December 23, 2004 at 8:32 pm

    One problem or at least interesting theological question is in the last two volumes where one “clones” oneself. i.e. one “spirit” in two bodies or vice versa. Kind of an interesting question I thought.

    The “creaking” of course was worse than theology. As in most science fiction the whole relativistic effect and the implications aren’t addressed. (i.e. that FTL communication entails time travel)

  77. Ivan Wolfe on December 23, 2004 at 9:01 pm

    I thought Pastwatch was interesting as a meditation on Columbus (and probably the best apolgetic work dealing with him), but as a fictional narrative it fell flat (for me). The last third, especially, I found to be too hurried, and the characters ceased being characters and instead became game pieces, to be moved where ever OSC wanted to put them. It seems to me their quest was more likely to fail than succeed, and the fact it all went so smoothly with nary a bump annoyed me.

    Let’s just say different strokes for different folks. OSC’s early work (which, as Clark notes tended to be rewritten over and over and over – it’s a textual nightmare) does not appeal to or move me in any way.

    But as I said before, OSC at his worst is usually twenty five times better than most sci-fi/fantasy writers at their best.

  78. Clark on December 23, 2004 at 10:21 pm

    Ivan, I think that a good criticism that is always present in Card. The “logic” of the story and characters and where Card wants them to go often are at war. Occasionally he avoids this – but typically because he is writing a shorter work. As I said earlier, I think Card’s style is just better suited for shorter works.

  79. Jonathan Green on December 23, 2004 at 10:55 pm

    I actually enjoyed Pastwatch quite a bit, perhaps because I had been an avid Civilization player, and the game formed part of Card’s inspiration for the book. I’ve seen what happens when the Aztecs show up with artillery in 1520 A.D., and it ain’t pretty.

    Clark, I think you’re largely correct about the Founding Fathers, but the notion of Columbus as prophet has a pretty solid foundation, although there are various definitions of “prophet” at work here. Let me quote from Marjorie Reeves, The Influence of Prophecy in the Later Middle Ages: A Study in Joachimism (1969, rpt. 1993), p. 360: “But perhaps the most striking example of these Spanish-centred prophets is Christopher Columbus himself. In 1501-2 he wrote the Libro de las profecias in which he tried to search into the prophetic future…His collection of prophecies gives a somewhat confused programme of Last Things, but through it runs the thread of the expected Age of Gold and the role of the Spanish monarchs in it.” Pretty cool, don’t you think?

  80. russ turner on December 28, 2004 at 10:27 pm

    I really find it amazing that we as a group still have the herding/defence mentality that requires us to stick out either our butts or our horns in support of any else of us who have some success in the “world”. The need to identify with “success” is pretty pathetic to me. We can’t be happy with ours unless we have some really successful Mormon to look to. “Success” through association? Anyway, we also seem to need to find something “mormonish” in anything a successfull Mormon does. Why so ? Can’t it just be an alluring or compelling story, in this case, that happens to have been written by one of “ours”? Anyway, thanks for “Alvin”.

  81. Jack on December 28, 2004 at 10:43 pm

    russ,

    Maybe. I think a lot of us just want something GOOD!!! We’re caught between the drivel at the conference center, or the dispicable of Labute. Thank goodness there’s a first rate Sci-Fi author somewhere there in the middle.

  82. a random John on January 7, 2005 at 12:43 pm

    This would probably be the place to note the announcement of a online game based on the world of Alvin Maker. People should sign up to play their ancestors.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.