PreAP- Mr. Card Responds

A couple of weeks ago, we responded to the following prompt:

Prompt 1: At the end of chapter 9, Ender sees the image of a dragon and a unicorn in the mirror. Does this image have anything to do with the school’s decision to make Ender the commander of Dragon Army? Consider the following possibilities:
  • The computer put the image of the dragon in the mirror and the school was already planning on resurrecting Dragon Army
  • The computer put the image of the dragon in the mirror, so the school decided to resurrect Dragon Army because of some hidden meaning to Ender that only the game understands
  • The computer put the image of the dragon in the mirror, so the school decided to create Dragon Army
  • The computer knew that the school was planning on putting Ender in charge of Dragon Army, so it decided to use that image
  • There is no connection between the two and you are reading too much into this Mr. Sterbenz
  • There’s another explanation
Pick one of the options above, and explain why this is correct. You will need to provided some serious logic, and tell us why your choice is the best.

You all had such great ideas that I thought the author, Orson Scott Card, might be interested in seeing what you had to say. Below are his thoughts on our discussion.

***Be sure not to read further until after completing the novel.

Love what you’re having the kids discuss about EG.  Even though all answers based on EG alone will be “wrong,” it will cause them to speculate, to analyze – but about story causality, which is productive, as opposed to metaphorical intent, which is not.

For your information, perhaps useful to you AFTER they have discussed:

When I wrote the novel of EG, I was actually just setting up Speaker for the Dead.  So I indulged in a degree of whimsy I usually don’t allow, especially in the Mind Game or Fantasy Game.  Truly I was free-associating as I tossed around images.  In the fantasy game sequences I HAD NO PLAN.  I truly didn’t know where the game was going; nor did I have any idea that I would use images from the game for the Hive Queens to use to communicate with Ender in the last chapter.

However, I did know that Ender would form Dragon Army, because that had happened in the novelet version (published in Analog in 1977).  So even though I actually hadn’t thought through what the computer game meant by the use of a dragon – the fact that it’s parallel with a unicorn probably meant that I was using generic fantasy images – the fact remains that Ender’s role as commander of Dragon Army was in my head somewhere at the time.

Only as I realized that the mind game was coming up with stuff that couldn’t possibly be in even the most brilliantly conceived therapy/diagnosis psychological game did I begin to toy with the idea that the Hive Queens were controlling the game, or at least aware of it.  By the end of the book, I had definitely decided that they had taken control of the game so that they could influence/get to know Ender Wiggin, and they did so because they were able to sense the intense focus that all the adults had on Ender.  in essence, the adults’ gaze had drawn the hive queens’ gaze to Ender.

So, once I knew that, the real question becomes:  What are the Hive Queens doing with the game?  Their ability to read human minds was severely limited precisely because they had no language.  Their understanding was gestural at best:  What are the humans paying attention to? (Ender)  What images matter to Ender (i.e., what is HE paying attention to)?  (Peter, Valentine, Mazer Rackham’s last battle, and the hive queens themselves).  It is analogous to the way humans key in on other people’s gaze: We can see where people are looking even when they are so far from us we can’t recognize them.  There is NOTHING we are more aware of than the direction of another person’s gaze.  What we extrapolate from that varies widely – but it is information that we know, and use in our “mindreading” (guesses about other people’s present mental state, desires, intentions, etc.).  The hive queens do no such thing with eyes, but they do it with minds:  Where is the mental focus.  What is the other person seeing.

So the dragon and unicorn are images taken from Ender’s mind, with all the freight they carry with them; AND they are images that would exist in the mind game graphics set.  However, the hive queens also took images they found in Ender’s mind – Peter’s face – and added in an image that no human had ever seen:  A hive queen.  (Unless that doesn’t happen in the book … I’ve worked on the movie scripts so long that I forget sometimes what I invented for the movie and what is actually in the text of the novel.)

In later books, we “discover” (i.e., I invent) more connections.  The computer program Jane in Speaker and later books IS the Mind Game, living on as a sentient being.  Then we discover that computer programs don’t just “come alive” a la The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress; the Hive Queens deliberately found and inserted an aiua (both more and less than a soul) into the computers and gave it a “body” consisting of program elements.  So Jane is, in fact, as much a living soul as any sentient organism, even though her “body” is entirely electronic, self-replicating, etc.  I had no idea of these things when writing Ender’s Game, though I tried to make it so the later “discoveries” did not contradict EG in any way.

So, if you look only at the text of EG, you cannot know that the Mind Game is a living soul, placed into the computer program by the Hive Queens.  It isn’t there in the book because I hadn’t thought of it yet.  The book DOES reveal that the Hive Queens have a great deal of influence on and/or access to Ender’s playing of the Mind Game, whatever the mechanism.  The adults in Battle School do not know where the Mind Game is getting its information and so both Ender’s use of the game and the game’s use of Ender worry them greatly.

None of this makes your question and their discussion any less interesting.  But i thought you would want to know, from my perspective, what was known, planned, or at least unconsciously available to me as I wrote the novel.

Orson Scott Card

As he mentions, it would have been impossible to know the truth after reading only part of Ender’s Game, especially since much of what he describes isn’t addressed until books that come later in the series. This would be a great place to post any thoughts/questions about the initial discussion and/or Mr. Card’s response.


5 responses to “PreAP- Mr. Card Responds

  • Nathan Leibowitz

    HA!!! I WAS RIGHT!! (more or less).. With only the information read so far in the book, one CANNOT conclude any correlation between the dragon in the mirror or Dragon Army. What I DON’T get is exactly why Mr. Card wrote, “By the end of the book, I had definitely decided that they had taken control of the game so that they could influence/get to know Ender Wiggin, and they did so because they were able to sense the intense focus that all the adults had on Ender.” The book doesn’t mention, or maybe I missed it, that the Hive Queens had actually taken over the mind game, it just mentions that they peered into Ender’s mind (and apparently the minds of others) and sought out the images of the mind game. Card did also say some ‘stuff’ that I haven’t read yet, such as the Hive Queens actually creating Jane (and of course I may completely be misinterpreting Mr. Card here) by placing an “aiua” into the game. I have read that Jane took on the Mind Game as her past, to make her “wiser” and grow, since the Mind Game was more intricate and powerful than she was, but I don’t see how she could have implemented such bizarre extremes such as inserting Peter’ face, etc.

    Obviously I may just be rambling and may need to peer over the end of EG and SFTD again, and may be “getting the wrong impressions” of Mr. Card’s overall response to our discussion, but Mr. Sterbenz said we should comment if we liked, and I liked, so I did.

  • Ariel Shemesh

    That is a very weird coincidence that the dragon in the mirror and the Dragon Army had nothing to do with each other. Was the idea from the dragon at all taken from Dragon Army, as in maybe just the name? If not, it is very strange that a dragon is coming up so often without an intentions at all!

  • thehiddenavenue

    In reference to Ariel: I wouldn’t think so. Mr. Card states that while he had no actual planning for the Mind Game (my favorite part of EG), he did plan on having Ender control Dragon Army. So to me that would mean one of two things: a) He used a dragon and a unicorn simply as generic references; which he states himself as being a logical outcome. b) He subconsciously put a dragon in because it made sense on a level that he wasn’t consciously thinking of, in order to make a bridge to a later part of the story.

    However, without reading his statement, I had already decided to myself that the dragon and unicorn conceptualized the two most important people in his life: Valentine and Peter. Peter, very obviously the dragon, seeming larger than life itself and full of violent power; enough to level the entire world. And Valentine the unicorn, because for all her understanding and compassion, she had a horn; she knew how to be strong when it was necessary. That and she was far too caring, taking it almost to sainthood.

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