When the incredibly popular story of Ender's Game is brought up in conversation, typically the conversation quickly turns into a discussion of the author's personal views and story's simplicity.
I won't discuss author Orson Scott Card's beliefs here but instead focus on a part of the story that I thought was incredibly insightful to what we talk about here on EE Times: technology. In particular, a sub-plot from the 1985 book anticipates some technologies that are common today.
This entire sub-plot was not included in the movie released in 2014.
The sub-plot to which I refer is the story of Locke and Demosthenes. Many people have a hard time recalling these two names, even if they loved the book. Considering you have Ender's internal turmoil as well as the exciting games to focus on, it's understandable to gloss over the story of his siblings' exploits.
It goes something like this: While Ender was kicking butt in space, Peter and Valentine, his brother and sister, were back on earth making some history of their own. When they were supposed to be doing their school work on their tablet computers, they were actually creating false identities and becoming political figure heads on the Internet.
Let's break this down a bit just to see how interesting this little side story is. The actions of Peter or "Locke" and Valentine or "Demosthenes" were, in my opinion, incredibly accurate observations by Card.
The siblings did all of their browsing, studying, and playing on tablet computers. I realize that Card wasn't the first person to come up with the concept. As someone politely pointed out, tablets were almost common in science fiction by the mid 1970s. They had even already appeared in movie versions of books, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey.
However, as I sit and watch my 10-year-old son browse YouTube from his Nexus 7, I have to admit that I envision Card's interpretation more than some of the more utilitarian versions I've encountered in other books. Of course, Card had roughly 20 years of advancements between him and 2001: A Space Odyssey, so his more nonchalant use should come as no surprise.
When Ender's Game was released in 1985, forums weren't really a common thing. BBS were still in full swing and were generally tightly knit, small communities. The story of Peter and Valentine is that of a very connected open, Internet where individuals could rise to the forefront of public vision by establishing an online identity. The rise of blogger journalism and even YouTube seem to fit extremely well in this vision.
Card understood that attention is given to those who cause trouble. Again, it isn't a new concept, but as the Internet has grown, we've all become quite familiar with the act of "trolling." In the story, Peter and Valentine use the aggressive and rude persona of Locke to draw attention, then jump in as Demosthenes to provide insightful counterpoints. This inflates the validity of the Demosthenes's persona and provides a divisive atmosphere in which each can accrue a following.
The anonymous nature of the Internet allows age-old politics to take new forms. You never know if a commenter on a website is an individual or a corporation. You don't know if they are commenting on their actual thoughts, or merely to push the entire connotation of a conversation in a different way. Maybe their alternate account might swoop in to provide positive counterpoints that somehow work in their favor -- we have no idea.
In my various discussions, it has been pointed out that Card wasn't the first to portray any of these concepts. His examples of Peter and Valentine using the Internet could have been pulled from political thrillers involving letters to newspapers or public officials. The concept of kids using tablet computers was not even science fiction anymore, as proposed in depth by Alan Kay in 1968 with the "KiddiComp." There's no denying that Card delivered the concepts well and in an easily consumable package.
I would love to hear predictions of where we'll be in 20 years. The concept of someone gaining the attention and sway of millions of people through a YouTube video would have been laughable 20 years ago. What will be next? Will our president one day rise to power through Twitter?
— Caleb Kraft, Chief Community Editor, EE Times