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« Ender's Game | Main | Xenocide »

August 12, 2008


Jeffrey G

I don't like the whole speaking for the dead concept. It breaks the eighth commandment as Lutherans understand it. We believe that there is a negative aspect to the eighth commandment, you shall not tell lies about your neighbor. There is also a positive aspect: you shouldn't go around telling bad things about people, even if true, just because.

We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
Jeffrey G

Card, in both books, tries to illustrate the concept of objective standards of good and evil by using shocking exceptions that prove the rule. It is hard to talk about without spoilers, but the aliens in both books perform an action that appears to humans to be shockingly evil, but the aliens themselves do not see them as evil. Not because they have a different standard for evil, but a mistaken understanding of the reality around them.


Do Lutherans use the same enumeration of the commandments as Catholics and Orthodox?! I had no idea.

FWIW, Catholics also understand the eighth commandment (how about that, it's the eighth commandment for both of us) to forbid disclosing compromising information about others without just cause. This doesn't mean we can't ever say bad things about people, though.

What relevance this has to Speaker for the Dead I can't say; Ender's Game is the only book of Card's I've read.

Jeffrey G

Yes! We use the same enumeration, but it is my understanding that the Eastern Orthodox have a different eighth commandment.

Kevin Walker

I have to say, I disagree with you about the way Catholics are portrayed in the novels. Actually, I saw it the exact opposite way you did. Card seemed to have an honest dislike of the bad Catholics in his book while the good Catholics are ultimately redeemed, including (especially, I think) Lucitania's bishop.

He doesn't portray the bad Catholics completely without sympathy, but looking back on the books, of the Catholic characters, I remember the little boy who (though an outright brat in this book) turns out later to be a very good priest and the bishop himself.

It's true Ender spends most of this book trying to earn the trust of the Catholic population of the colony, but as a priest of a new (and, Jeffrey points out, potentially immoral) religion, isn't that how it ought to have been?

I would like to think a bishop especially would be at least a little resistent at the proposal of another religion's cleric wandering about his diocese at will, trying to dig up dirt on one of his dead parishoners so that he can perform an unCatholic ritual about him.


Yes! We use the same enumeration, but it is my understanding that the Eastern Orthodox have a different eighth commandment.

Egad, you're right. According to this, the Orthodox enumeration is functionally identical to the usual Protestant one (except for an irrelevancy about where to start counting the first commandment). Two surprises on a subject I thought I knew pretty well.


I'd only partially agree with the character sketch given here, but I think that's because I essentially read the series in a different light. I don't know how much I can explain without giving anything away, but as I remember in the underlying um... metaphysical... concept of the series, Catholicism (and all of monotheism and Christianity for that matter) are basically false in a sense. Thus, the omniscient narrator telling the story of that particular Universe and all the Characters who had learned about the "metaphysical truth" would by definition have to view the Catholics who remained faithful as ignorant and close-minded. I didn't really see this as a swipe or jab against Catholicism, but more or less just how any devout Christian would be viewed in light of the fact that everything they had faith in was essentially misguided. This was what I attempted to allude to in the previous Ender thread when I commented on weird stuff and suspension of disbelief.

Anyway, I hope I haven't given away too much... I tried to be vague but understandable...


I liked ENDER'S GAME but SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD was a bore. The most exciting moment in the book is when a small child urinates on the protagonist.


The thing that really set off the alarm bells for me was the views that Card attributed to a (fictional) canonized saint on celibacy.

Namely, that the unmarried aren't part of the Body of Christ.

Greg E

Jeffrey G, I think you are taking it too literally, in this case a speaker for the dead, would be a biographer, who studies a life so well, that people can ask questions of the biographer and the biographer can answer those questions in as close to the same way as the dead person would have answered them.

It would be a more in depth example of, "what would your (insert deceased relative say if he/she saw this?" and you answer as if you were your deceased relative by saying, "Well, back in my day, we had to walk up hill both ways in the snow just to get to the outhouse in the middle of August"

That is what Ender is, he is a biographer who understands someone's life so well, that he can answer almost as if he were that person.


I read this book a long, loooooong time ago. It was okay, but ultimately I could not suspend my disbelief in the Catholic characters. There was a lot of creepy.

Re: the sin of detraction -- aka telling nasty truth

I don't believe it's generally considered to be a sin to lay out all the good and bad in the service of history or the investigation of a murder. Doing it just to chat is different.


Excuse me, but how is what's done in this book (i.e., the cryptic message about Catholics) any different from that which was presented in SG-1 with the Priors storyline?

Mike Melendez

A future suggestion for Jimmy, not least because I'd like his opinion on it: Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. Catholicism is central to Pastwatch as well, though in a very different way. I think this may be his only alternate history novel. And I like the way he deals with temporal mechanics in it.

As to SG-1 and the Ori, I half agree with Katolicos. Science Fiction, in general, traditionally has difficulty with two subjects: biology and religion. Neither obeys laws like those in Newtonian Physics and that seems to greatly confuse many writers. The disagree half is that I do not see Catholicism in the Ori at all. The fictional Ori call for a fundamentalism that is fundamentally not Catholic. The Ori are more like Simon Magus or J. Michael Straczinski's Technomages on steroids. Just remember, SG-1's idea of Ascension heaven is a diner where no one is willing to talk with you, except the bad guy.

Card is no one hit wonder but I personally think the Ender storyline slowly turned inward. I stopped reading it after the fourth novel (Children of the Mind?) I hope to learn from Jimmy if I should pick up the Bean half of it.

Jeffrey G

Greg E.,

I think it is more than that. Speaking for the dead attempts to open up the deceased so that all who thought they knew him really do know him now. Why he behaved like he did, flaws and all.

If someone were to ask a seemingly innocent question like, "why was the deceased so unfriendly toward my wife?" the answer might be: "The deceased thought your wife was hawt. He had trouble containing his lustful feelings so he withdrew while she was around as a way of making sure he never acted out on them. This resulted in him seeming unfriendly."

The idea that it is important to really know a person for what he is is the essense of speaking for the dead. I do not think that is important. Our flaws do not make us what we are.

If someone were to speak for St. Paul, we would know exactly what his weaknesses he had that he was describing in Romans 7:19. More importantly (for the concept of speaking for the dead), we would know why he had that weakness, what character flaw St. Paul had that gave him that weakness.

I don't want to know that. It is totally unimportant, especially since St. Paul says: "It is no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells within me." St. Paul's character flaws are not what make him who he is, so it is not important to talk about them after his death.


Yeah, I'm from Brazil. Good for me.

I must say I know a lot of simple, doubting Catholics and
sophisticated, devout Catholics.

But was Jimmy's comment about the Catholic culture in Brazil good or bad?


If someone were to ask a seemingly innocent question like, "why was the deceased so unfriendly toward my wife?" the answer might be: "The deceased thought your wife was hawt. He had trouble containing his lustful feelings so he withdrew while she was around as a way of making sure he never acted out on them. This resulted in him seeming unfriendly."

While you're at it --
"Because your wife embezzled his life savings and threatened to frame him for it if he ever revealed it."


I read Speaker for the Dead before I read Ender's Game and so had a different impression of it. Not sure I'd have liked it as well if I'd read Ender's Game first. I don't recall much about the Catholic characters in it as I read it a long time ago. However, Card has a very positive Catholic nun character in the Ender's Shadow series that follows Bean.


Delance, I think Jimmy was saying that *as a mormon missionary* doubting Catholics would more likely approach and converse with a missionary, while Catholics secure in their faith would more likely brush a missionary off, or be insulted at attempts at conversion. Not that good Catholics in Brazil are bad people, but that their interactions with a mormon missionary--who is trying to undermine their faith-- will be unfortunately biased.

Rob F.

I guess I'm in the other half that thought that SFTD was better than EG, and not just a little better. EG was a pretty thought-provoking science fiction short story that got drawn out into a not-bad novel. SFTD is a mature, grown-up novel that seriously explores issues of faith.

As I recall, those creepy hollywood-villain Catholics that Card sets up as the bad guys early on turn out, after a major twist, to have been the good guys (despite some flaws) all along. The disaffected Catholic leading lady learns to take her faith more seriously, and the novel ends with the "Speaker" taking steps to join the Catholic Church.

Card consistently shows that when even nice people compromise their Catholic faith, disaster results, and when even mean people hold fast to their Catholic faith, the results can be of breathtaking beauty.

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