Ender’s Game

A few weeks ago I read “Ender’s Game”. I think Orson Scott Card is a pretty loathesome individual, but it’s one of those SF novels everyone references, so I thought I ought to read it.

To my surprise, I discovered that the novel is full of homoerotic subtexts. Well, actually, sometimes they’re surface texts: The horrible alien creatures menacing earth are called “buggers”; the young boys trained to fight them sleep naked together in group dormitories; there’s a soaped-up wrestling match in the showers; and in one particularly touching scene, one boy gives another boy a forbidden kiss. Oh, and the teenage boys show practically no interest in girls.

Given that Card is infamously homophobic and against same-sex marriage, I’m going to guess that it’s all unintentional, and that in his case homophobia indicates what it usually does: repressed same-sex desire. It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for him–but not quite.

As to the literary merits of the novel, I wish they had been more evident. The dialog is simply absurd. He tries to head off the criticism in the introduction, but I’m not buying it. No child speaks like the kids in “Ender’s Game”; not even a child prodigy.

[Spoilers follow]

Book: “The Status Civilization”, Robert Sheckley

If you’re a Douglas Adams fan, Robert Sheckley is probably a good bet. He wrote mostly SF with a satirical comedy bent, and was widely acclaimed for it. I’ve found a few of his novels disappointing–“Options“, for example, seems to fall apart part-way through and meander around. “The Status Civilization“, though, is excellent. It does have a few visible seams from its original publication in magazine serial form, but they don’t detract too much from the story.

Persistence vs chance

A couple of decades ago I read an SF/horror short story that scared the hell out of me. So much so that the memory of the story stayed with me, nagged at me. Recently I decided I wanted to track it down again and re-read it, to see if it really was as good as I remembered. That’s when the trouble started. I knew the plot—which to avoid spoiling the delights of the story, I won’t discuss further—but I didn’t know the author, or the title.

Space

I’m not sure I can explain why space travel means so much to me.

One of my earliest memories is of sitting with my grandfather, watching one of the Apollo moon landings on TV. I’m not sure which one, but since the Lunar Rover was involved it must have been one of the later ones. I would watch Sci Fi TV shows with him as well. “UFO”, in particular, and sometimes “Dr Who” if it wasn’t too scary.

Later I began reading SF, starting with Arthur C. Clarke. By then “Space:1999” was on TV, and soon I read the novel of “2001”. I remember working out how old I would be in the year 2000. With some delight, I calculated that I would be the right age to be one of the people working on the moonbase. So that became my plan.

I learnt everything I could about the space program. I collected books about astronomy, and books with diagrams of how rocket engines worked. I learned about relativity, zero gravity, orbits, black holes, red shifts and how zero gravity bathrooms worked, all before I’d got as far as trigonometry at school. I memorized the sequence of vehicle maneuvers for an Apollo moon landing. I studied souvenir brochures from the Kennedy Space Center, with pictures of the Vehicle Assembly Building, Skylab, Soyuz, Gemini, and the Angry Alligator.

Philip K. Dick

John Johnson has forwarded me a pointer to a Washington Post article on Philip K. Dick which explains why everyone—even people who don’t think of themselves as SF fans—should read his work.