A collection of short stories, this contains the original Ender novella plus two stories with his parents (The Polish Boy and Teacher’s Pest), and one story set after Ender’s Game (Investment Counselor).
I loved Ender’s Game, found the following ones increasingly a drag, and gave up on the Shadow series. This short story collection is the last work I read of Scott Card’s. And this was because I got sick of his politics getting in his way. In particular, I got sick of being told I should have had 14 children by now and the only reason I haven’t is because I’ve been brainwashed by feminists.
May I digress? There’s a another, likeable, story by Card called Enchantment featuring a Russian boy named Ivan who encounters a sleeping princess in the forest and returns years later, after his emigration to America and engagement to Ruth, to wake the (cranky) princess up.
Ivan’s mother feels Ruth is the wrong woman for Ivan to marry (naturally, she’s right), and thinks her decision to have no or few children proves this because the wrong woman in Russian fairytales is usually barren. Now, this attitude is fair enough for a superstitious Russian woman, but Ruth is portrayed as “seizing on a philosophy” after taking a feminism class. Women don’t need philosophies and corrupting and undue influence to not want huge families, Orson, they just need contraception and basic education.
Back to the Enderverse. The breed-breed-breed attitude is most obvious in the first two stories, which feature Ender’s father as a main character, as a child, and then a young adult when he meets his future wife, and which also strongly feature commentary on the two-child-limit population laws (which make their appearance in the Ender’s Game novel, but not at all in the novella in this collection).
Scott Card’s point is that laws to limit how many children a couple can have are wrong, for two reasons – that they violate the rights of anti-contraceptive religious groups and that limiting population growth causes a society to die.
Where to start? The right to reproduce isn’t necessarily a human right as such, but I would say the right to control one’s reproduction is – so where exactly does Scott Card get off moralising on behalf of these religious groups in this fictional situation when the exact same groups want to control other people’s reproduction in real life by denying contraception and abortion? He’s on shaky moral ground with this argument.
Why not make the more cogent point – that there is no need to legislate limits when education and access to contraception (oh no, a dirty word) for women decreases birth rates dramatically. Or is that just those naughty feminists and their powerful brainwashing, Orson?
The point about population decline and the death of society is the same kind of point made by people who want women to “breed for Australia” and shows the distinct lack of global thinking that plagues the human species. Controlling population growth will, yes, make some countries have less people unless they reduce immigration limits – that would be the point. There’re six or seven billion of us worldwide and we’re just not diverse enough to justify the preservation of regional variations. We ain’t finches with lots of different sub-species. We’re one big resource-using single species. Reduce locally, save the species globally.
The thing that really struck me though, was the scene in the class taught by the woman who will become Ender’s mother, in Teacher’s Pest, written for this collection. She has mentioned research that shows the population laws will cause the fall of civilisation, but her father is well known for his anti-population laws stance based on his Mormon religion.
So a student asks, “what if the science gets influenced by the religion?” This question is called stupid and offensive, and the student is called a bigot and a troublemaker and expelled from the class.
Are we supposed to cheer for the teacher, admire her, think how wonderful Ender’s mother is? I think so. But is this how we should treat students and their parents if they question the biases of a creationist teaching a biology class? In fact, is this how we should treat any student with the brains and courage to question an authority figure? This is an horrendous message to put across, and I’m not even sure Scott Card recognised that that was the message (some of) his readers would get, so intent was he on his breed-breed-breed message. And that’s when it’s time to stop reading an author.
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