Maps in a mirror, p.93
Maps in a Mirror, page 93
Somewhere along the line, this story collection got completely out of hand. It’s that age-old artistic decision of what to leave in and what to leave out. Some of the decisions were easy. All my Worthing stories would be part of an omnibus volume called The Worthing Saga, so I didn’t need to include any of them. And all my Mormon Sea stories would appear jn the collection The Folk of the Fringe, so they wouldn’t need to be included in my general story collection, either. Even with those stories left out, however, no matter how I configured a reasonable-sized book, I was leaving out too many stories that I wanted to include.
So I settled on something not of reasonable size. I talked to my editor, Beth Meacham, and proposed that we release a single-volume hardcover collection, but then split it into two regular-length paperbacks. She thought it sounded weird but, being Beth Meacham, she didn’t reject it out of hand. Instead she thought about it until she liked the idea, and then went to Tom Doherty who also liked it, and voilà—an egregiously oversized book was born. Because once the floodgate had opened, I pretty much included every story that I wasn’t actually ashamed of.
Which brings us to this part of the collection. Think of this as a bonus section, something that only buyers of the ridiculously expensive hardcover edition receive. It won’t be in any of the paperback volumes that bud off from this book. Only you will ever see it.
Why, you ask, are you so fortunate? It’s not as if this percentage of the book was free—you paid for the cost of the paper and typesetting of this part of the book as surely as you paid for all the rest. The thing is: As Beth and I looked over the list of stories that were going into Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fiction of Orson Scott Card, we realized that we were approaching the point where this book would be complete. It would be the volume of record. So why not go all the way? Why not include the stuff that was so weird or out-of-genre that it wasn’t going to appear anywhere else, ever.
I don’t want you to think, though, that we were completely indiscriminate in what we included. For instance, we didn’t include a single one of my two-dozen-or-so plays. Nor did we inflict on you any of my poetry except for “Prentice Alvin and the No-Good Plow.” There are more than two hundred audioplays and a couple of dozen animated videoscripts from my work for Living Scriptures that aren’t included. Nor have we reprinted here any of my dozens of review columns for Fantasy and Science Fiction or Science Fiction Review. There are also dozens of computer articles and computer game reviews that you are being spared. When you think of it, we were downright selective.
There is also one published bit of science fiction that isn’t included here. Between this book, The Worthing Saga, and The Folk of the Fringe, all of my sf and fantasy short stories will be in print, except for a harmless little story called “Happy Head” which appeared in—well, someplace. In that story I used direct brain-to-computer hookups before the cyberpunks did, but that’s about the only thing about the story that doesn’t embarrass me now, so even if you happen to find it in your complete run of—a certain magazine—I urge you to think of it as something written by an earnest young graduate student rather than anything I did. I think the editor bought it only because it had some interesting ideas in it, not because anybody could actually take it seriously as a story. Everybody’s allowed to have a mistake or two that appears in print. But I don’t have to cooperate in bringing it to your attention, no matter how much amusement you might get from it.
The works in this section fall into several categories:
STORIES SUPERSEDED BY NOVELS
I’ve had a long habit of adapting some of my shorter works into novels; the trouble with this is that the shorter works are essentially killed. Yet at the time I wrote them, “Ender’s Game,” “Mikal’s Songbird,” and the epic poem “Prentice Alvin and the No-Good Plow” represented my very best work. I had no idea they would ever be expanded on; they were meant to stand complete. Furthermore, both stories were nominated for awards and the poem actually won one. For historical interest if nothing else, we figured they ought to be in print somewhere. This is the place.
I’m not ashamed of these stories—they were the best I could do at the time, and they still hold up rather well. But they just don’t deserve the same standing as the stories that I still believe in; and I didn’t think the ideas were worth the effort of going back and rewriting the stories so they were up to snuff. So here they are, for such entertainment as they offer. And perhaps they’ll also provide some encouragement to young authors who will read them, smile brightly, and say, “If these could get published, anything can!”
Let’s face it—if this collection has any commercial viability, it’s as a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories. But that isn’t the only kind of story I write. And Beth and I thought you might enjoy getting a look at the sort of thing I write for other audiences. Many of the stories were originally aimed at the Mormon audience. Others don’t have any discernable audience on God’s green Earth. But we thought there was even a valid genre reason for including them in a collection of science fiction and fantasy: For some of you, at least, reading Mormon fiction will be the most alien experience you’ve ever had.
“Whatever your gravity is when you get to the door, remember—the enemy’s gate is down. If you step through your own door like you’re out for a stroll, you’re a big target and you deserve to get hit. With more than a flasher.” Ender Wiggins paused and looked over the group. Most were just watching him nervously. A few understanding. A few sullen and resisting.
First day with this army, all fresh from the teacher squads, and Ender had forgotten how young new kids could be. He’d been in it for three years, they’d had six months—nobody over nine years old in the whole bunch. But they were his. At eleven, he was half a year early to be a commander. He’d had a toon of his own and knew a few tricks, but there were forty in his new army. Green. All marksmen with a flasher, all in top shape, or they wouldn’t be here—but they were all just as likely as not to get wiped out first time into battle.
“Remember,” he went on, “they can’t see you till you get through that door. But the second you’re out, they’ll be on you. So hit that door the way you want to be when they shoot at you. Legs up under you, going straight down” He pointed at a sullen kid who looked like he was only seven, the smallest of them all. “Which way is down, greenoh!”
“Toward the enemy door.” The answer was quick. It was also surly, as if to say, Yeah, yeah, now get on with the important stuff.
“Get that for size or for brains?”
Bean didn’t answer. The rest laughed a little. Ender had chosen right. This kid was younger than the rest, must have been advanced because he was sharp. The others didn’t like him much, they were happy to see him taken down a little. Like Ender’s first commander had taken him down.
“Well, Bean, you’re right onto things. Now I tell you this, nobody’s gonna get through that door without a good chance of getting hit. A lot of you are going to be turned into cement somewhere. Make sure it’s your legs. Right? If only your legs get hit, then only your legs get frozen, and in nullo that’s no sweat.” Ender turned to one of the dazed ones. “What’re legs for? Hmmm?”
Blank stare. Confusion. Stammer.
“Forget it. Guess I’ll have to ask Bean here.”
“Legs are for pushing off walls.” Still bored.
“Thanks, Bean. Get that, everybody?” They all got it, and didn’t like getting it from Bean. “Right. You can’t see with legs, you can’t shoot with legs, and most of the time they just get in the way. If they get frozen sticking straight out you’ve turned yourself into a blimp. No way to hide. So how do legs go?”
A few answered this time, to prove that Bean wasn’t the only one who knew anything. “Under you. Tucked up under.”
Ender Wiggins turned on his flasher. It glowed faintly green in his hand. Then he let himself rise in the weightless workout room, pulled his legs under him as though he were kneeling, and flashed both of them. Immediately his suit stiffened at the knees and ankles, so that he couldn’t bend at all.
“Okay, I’m frozen, see?”
He was floating a meter above them. They all looked up at him, puzzled. He leaned back and caught one of the handholds on the wall behind him, and pulled himself flush against the wall.
“I’m stuck at a wall. If I had legs, I’d use legs, and string myself out like a string bean, right?”
“But I don’t have legs, and that’s better, got it? Because of this.” Ender jackknifed at the waist, then straightened out violently. He was across the workout room in only a moment. From the other side he called to them. “Got that? I didn’t use hands, so I still had use of my flasher. And I didn’t have my legs floating five feet behind me. Now watch it again.”
He repeated the jackknife, and caught a handhold on the wall near them. “Now, I don’t just want you to do that when they’ve flashed your legs. I want you to do that when you’ve still got legs, because it’s better. And because they’ll never be expecting it. All right now, everybody up in the air and kneeling.”
Most were up in a few seconds. Ender flashed the stragglers, and they dangled, helplessly frozen, while the others laughed. “When I give an order, you move. Got it? When we’re at a door and they clear it, I’ll be giving you orders in two seconds, as soon as I see the setup. And when I give the order you better be out there, because whoever’s out there first is going to win, unless he’s a fool. I’m not. And you better not be, or I’ll have you back in the teacher squads.” He saw more than a few of them gulp, and the frozen ones looked at him with fear. “You guys who are hanging there. You watch. You’ll thaw out in about fifteen minutes, and let’s see if you can catch up to the others.”
For the next half hour Ender had them jackknifing off walls. He called a stop when he saw that they all had the basic idea. They were a good group, maybe. They’d get better.
“Now you’re warmed up,” he said to them, “we’ll start working.”
Ender was the last one out after practice, since he stayed to help some of the slower ones improve on technique. They’d had good teachers, but like all armies they were uneven, and some of them could be a real drawback in battle. Their first battle might be weeks away. It might be tomorrow. A schedule was never printed. The commander just woke up and found a note by his bunk, giving him the time of his battle and the name of his opponent. So for the first while he was going to drive his boys until they were in top shape—all of them. Ready for anything, at any time. Strategy was nice, but it was worth nothing if the soldiers couldn’t hold up under the strain.
He turned the corner into the residence wing and found himself face to face with Bean, the seven-year-old he had picked on all through practice that day. Problems. Ender didn’t want problems right now.
“Sir,” Ender said softly.
“We’re not on duty.”
“In my army, Bean, we’re always on duty.” Ender brushed past him.
Bean’s high voice piped up behind him. “I know what you’re doing, Ender, sir, and I’m warning you.”
Ender turned slowly and looked at him. “Warning me?
“I’m the best man you’ve got. But I’d better be treated like it.”
“Or what?” Ender smiled menacingly.
“Or I’ll be the worst man you’ve got. One or the other.”
“And what do you want? Love and kisses?” Ender was getting angry now.
Bean was unworried. “I want a toon.”
Ender walked back to him and stood looking down into his eyes. “I’ll give a toon,” he said, “to the boys who prove they’re worth something. They’ve got to be good soldiers, they’ve got to know how to take orders, they’ve got to be able to think for themselves in a pinch, and they’ve got to be able to keep respect. That’s how I got to be a commander. That’s how you’ll get to be a toon leader. Got it?”
Bean smiled. “That’s fair. If you actually work that way, I’ll be a toon leader in a month.”
Ender reached down and grabbed the front of his uniform and shoved him into the wall. “When I say I work a certain way, Bean, then that’s the way I work.”
Bean just smiled. Ender let go of him and walked away, and didn’t look back. He was sure, without looking, that Bean was still watching, still smiling, still just a little contemptuous. He might make a good toon leader at that. Ender would keep an eye on him.
Captain Graff, six foot two and a little chubby, stroked his belly as he leaned back in his chair. Across his desk sat Lieutenant Anderson, who was earnestly pointing out high points on a chart.
“Here it is, Captain,” Anderson said. “Ender’s already got them doing a tactic that’s going to throw off everyone who meets it. Doubled their speed.”
“And you know his test scores. He thinks well, too.”
Graff smiled. “All true, all true, Anderson, he’s a fine student, shows real promise.”
Graff sighed. “So what do you want me to do?”
“Ender’s the one. He’s got to be.”
“He’ll never be ready in time, Lieutenant. He’s eleven, for heaven’s sake, man, what do you want, a miracle?”
“I want him into battles, every day starting tomorrow. I want him to have a year’s worth of battles in a month.”
Graff shook his head. “That would have his army in the hospital.”
“No, sir. He’s getting them into form. And we need Ender.”
“Correction, Lieutenant. We need somebody. You think it’s Ender.”
“All right, I think it’s Ender. Which of the commanders if it isn’t him?”
“I don’t know, Lieutenant.” Graff ran his hands over his slightly fuzzy bald head. “These are children, Anderson. Do you realize that? Ender’s army is nine years old. Are we going to put them against the older kids? Are we going to put them through hell for a month like that?”
Lieutenant Anderson leaned even farther over Graff’s desk.
“Ender’s test scores, Captain!”
“I’ve seen his bloody test scores! I’ve watched him in battle, I’ve listened to tapes of his training sessions, I’ve watched his sleep patterns, I’ve heard tapes of his conversations in the corridors and in the bathrooms, I’m more aware of Ender Wiggins than you could possibly imagine! And against all the arguments, against his obvious qualities, I’m weighing one thing. I have this picture of Ender a year from now, if you have your way. I see him completely useless, worn down, a failure, because he was pushed farther than he or any living person could go. But it doesn’t weigh enough, does it, Lieutenant, because there’s a war on, and our best talent is gone, and the biggest battles are ahead. So give Ender a battle every day this week. And then bring me a report.”
Anderson stood and saluted. “Thank you, sir.”
He had almost reached the door when Graff called his name. He turned and faced the captain.
“Anderson,” Captain Graff said. “Have you been outside, lately I mean?”
“Not since last leave, six months ago.”
“I didn’t think so. Not that it makes any difference. But have you ever been to Beaman Park, there in the city? Hmm? Beautiful park. Trees. Grass. No nullo, no battles, no worries. Do you know what else there is in Beaman Park?”
“What, sir?” Lieutenant Anderson asked.
“Children,” Graff answered.
“Of course ch
“I mean children. I mean kids who get up in the morning when their mothers call them and they go to school and then in the afternoons they go to Beaman Park and play. They’re happy, they smile a lot, they laugh, they have fun. Hmmm?”
“I’m sure they do, sir.”
“Is that all you can say, Anderson?”
Anderson cleared his throat. “It’s good for children to have fun, I think, sir. I know I did when I was a boy. But right now the world needs soldiers. And this is the way to get them.”
Graff nodded and closed his eyes. “Oh, indeed, you’re right, by statistical proof and by all the important theories, and dammit they work and the system is right but all the same Ender’s older than I am. He’s not a child. He’s barely a person.”
“If that’s true, sir, then at least we all know that Ender is making it possible for the others of his age to be playing in the park.”
“And Jesus died to save all men, of course.” Graff sat up and looked at Anderson almost sadly. “But we’re the ones,” Graff said, “we’re the ones who are driving in the nails.”
Ender Wiggins lay on his bed staring at the ceiling. He never slept more than five hours a night—but the lights went off at 2200 and didn’t come on again until 0600. So he stared at the ceiling and thought.
He’d had his army for three and a half weeks. Dragon Army. The name was assigned, and it wasn’t a lucky one. Oh, the charts said that about nine years ago a Dragon Army had done fairly well. But for the next six years the name had been attached to inferior armies, and finally, because of the superstition that was beginning to play about the name, Dragon Army was retired. Until now. And now, Ender thought, smiling, Dragon Army was going to take them by surprise.
The door opened quietly. Ender did not turn his head. Someone stepped softly into his room, then left with the sound of the door shutting. When soft steps died away Ender rolled over and saw a white slip of paper lying on the floor. He reached down and picked it up.
by Orson Scott Card / Science Fiction & Fantasy / Poetry / Nonfiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes