Ender's Shadow

Orson Scott Card

People above you, they never want to share power with you. Why you look to them? They give you nothing. People below you, you give them hope, you give them respect, they give you power, cause they don't think they have any, so they don't mind giving it up.

In her judgement, at least, God did not want his servants to sit around waiting for God to work miracles to save them. He wanted his servants to labor as best they could to bring about righteousness.

"You don't know what you're scared of?"

"That's why it's so scary."

What was she thinking, to treat evil as if it were a mere mechanical product of deprivation? All the children of the street suffered fear and hunger, helplessness and desperation. But they didn't all become cold-blooded, calculating murderers.

If there was somebody in charge, then he ought to be fair, and if he wasn't fair, then why should Sister Carlotta be so happy that he was in charge?

She really did love him, and would really miss him when he left. After all, he had been a perfect child, compliant, quick, obedient. To her, that meant he was "good." To him, it was only a way of keeping his access to food and learning. He wasn't stupid.

And when he understood all this, he made a decision: It will do no harm to me if she believes all this. And she wants very much to believe it. So why not give it to her?

Nero, you are an example to all the children on this shuttle. Because most of them are so foolish, they think it is better to keep their stupid thoughts to themselves. You, however, understand the profound truth that you must reveal your stupidity openly. To hold your stupidity inside you is to embrace it, to cling to it, to protect it. But when you expose your stupidity, you give yourself the chance to have it caught, corrected, and replaced with wisdom.

"Second, you seemed to be listening to me, not to find out useful information, but to try and catch me in a logical fallacy. This tells us all that you are used to being smarter than your teachers, and that you listen to them in order to catch them making mistakes and prove how smart you are to the other students. This is such a pointless, stupid way of listening to teachers that it is clear you are going to waste months of our time before you finally catch on that the only transaction that matters is a transfer of useful information from adults who possess it to children who do not, and that catching mistakes is a criminal misuse of time."

Bean silently disagreed. The criminal misuse of time was pointing out the mistakes. Catching them—noticing them—that was essential. If you did not in your own mind distinguish between useful and erroneous information, then you were not learning at all, you were merely replacing ignorance with false belief, which was no improvement.

Until you know that you're tougher than the enemy, you maneuver, you don't commit to battle.

Everything the children did [in Battle School] was shaped by adults... Power wasn't about access to food—it was about getting the approval of adults.

That's what those uniforms meant. Adults chose them, and children wore them because adults somehow made it worth their while.

So the key to everything was understanding the teachers.

It wasn't just enough to survive. It never had been. Deeper than his need for food had been his hunger for order, for finding out how things worked, getting a grasp on the world around him.

Pablo smiled. "No hay nada que Dios no puede hacer."

"True," she smiled. "But that doesn't mean we can't figure out how God works his miracles. Or why."

The teachers wanted the students to play the game, and knew that the best way to encourage it was to put strict limits on it... and then not enforce them.

If he was there, he would no doubt be the center of a group of admirers. But at the center of the groups he saw were only the ordinary prestige-hungry clique-formers who thought they were leaders and so would follow their group anywhere in order to maintain that delusion. No way any of them could be Ender Wiggin. And Bean was not about to ask.

It wasn't hunger that caused children to become bullies on the street. The bulliness was already in the child, and whatever the stakes were, they would find a way to act as they needed to act.

No point in getting emotional about anything. Being emotional didn't help with survival. What mattered was to learn everything, analyze the situation, choose a course of action, and then move boldly. Know, think, choose, do. There was no place in that list for "feel." Not that Bean didn't have feelings. He simply refused to think about them or dwell on them or let them influence his decisions, when anything important was at stake.

In the end, Bean suspected, character mattered more than intelligence.

"I'm not stupid!"

In Bean's experience, that was a sentence never uttered except to prove its own inaccuracy.

Bean never fully trusted his own guesses. He acted on them, but always kept himself open to the possibility that his interpretations might be wrong.

They were career military, all of them. Proven officers with real ability. But in the military you don't get trusted positions just because of your ability. You also have to attract the notice of superior officers. You have to be liked. You have to fit in with the system. You have to look like what the officers above you think that officers should look like. You have to think in ways that they are comfortable with.

The result was that you ended up with a command structure that was top-heavy with guys who looked good in uniform and talked right and did well enough not to embarrass themselves, while the really good ones quietly did all the serious work and bailed out their superiors and got blamed for errors they had advised against until they eventually got out.

That was the military. These teachers were all the kind of people who thrived in that environment. And they were selecting their favorite students based on precisely that same screwed-up sense of priorities.

When you're as gifted as Bean, accurate self-assessment looks like vanity to other people.

There's no such thing as a rule of strategy that you can't break.

The trouble was, innovation never resulted in victory over the long term. It was too easy for the enemy to imitate and improve on your innovations.

A commander who rules by fear and makes all the decisions himself will always be beaten, sooner or later.

You can always foresee things that already happened.

No matter how good a commander is, no matter how resourceful, no matter how well-prepared his army, no matter how excellent his lieutenants, no matter how courageous and spirited the fight, victory almost always goes to the side with the greater power to inflict damage. Sometimes David kills Goliath, and people never forget. But there were a lot of little guys Goliath had already mashed into the ground. Nobody sang songs about those fights, because they knew that was the likely outcome. No, that was the inevitable outcome, except for the miracles.

"Here's the thing, Bean," said Ambul. "Soldiers don't like to lose."

"And that," said Bean, "is why losing is a much more powerful teacher than winning."

Without outside stimulation it was hard to break free of his own assumptions. One mind can think only of its own questions; it rarely surprises itself.

You can't rule out the impossible, because you never know which of your assumptions about what was possible might turn out, in the real universe, to be false.

Which would be the better outcome—everybody blames you, but we win the war, or nobody blames you, because you've all been stood up against a wall and shot?

Sometimes you have to just tell people the truth and ask them to do the thing you want, instead of trying to trick them into it.

If there was anything that history taught, it was this: Sometimes the other side is irresistibly strong, and then the only sensible course of action is to retreat in order to save your force to fight another day.

Throughout history, great victories have come as much because of the losing army's errors as because of the winner's brilliance in battle.

It was Ender whose previous victories taught the enemy to think of us as one kind of creature, then were are really something quite different. He pretended all this time that humans were rational beings, when we are really the most terrible monsters these poor aliens could ever have conceived of in their nightmares. They had no way of knowing the story of blind Samson, who pulled down the temple on his own head to slay his enemies.

The callousness toward the poor shown in this novel would be impossible today, but the business of science fiction is sometimes to show impossible nightmares.