Like a lot of kids in the 90s, I read Ender’s Game and the rest of the series in junior high school. I remember that nearly everyone I knew had read it, and I remember that we didn’t need to talk about it very much. In retrospect, I can safely conclude that I had more in common with my classmates, even the ones I didn’t like, than I thought at the time. I was in gifted classes at the worst middle school in town, so the other kids around me were a pretty consistent brand of highly pressured and poorly supported. These kids were told every day of their lives that a scholarship was their only shot at security, that college would free them from their parents’ circumstances. To us, this meant that every single failed test, every single missed homework assignment was pissing our lives away, trashing our opportunities. Not only were we screwing up, but every screwup went on our permanent record, which it turns out is a real thing after all – it’s just measured in dollars, not grades.
It was like the Battle School. The peer group could be vicious and chaotic but there wasn’t a single kid you wouldn’t trust over any adult. They weren’t going to help you; tell an adult you had a problem and you’d get in trouble for causing it. No one could help you even if they cared to – they’d already given you everything they could, and now it was up to you to prove you deserved it.
Some of us did. Maybe most of us. It seems like most of the people I knew have landed on their feet, but then, people don’t post their private miseries on Facebook, so who knows. I related very much to Ender, and many images from that series have been stamped into my brain, another part of that internal landscape. The skeleton of the Giant, with the village built among the bones, is one of them. The choice that Ender made at the Giant’s Drink, to neither choose death NOR give up, but to force the game to create a third option… that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m not going to win or lose. I don’t agree that we should be having a race in the first place.
Somehow I sense that this dream is different.
It’s the same crater, the same blasted ground,
same faceless gravestones all scattered around,
same wrought-iron fence barring where you went.
It turns out I don’t have to go that way.
I never thought to turn around and look
what there might be besides the route you took
or what I could build here if I would stay.
Graveyard is a great place for a garden…
we’ll grow flowers in the giant’s ribcage,
a basket made of his fossilized rage.
A different vine will sprout from each organ.
His blood, a wine that just sweetens with age
leaves the drinker insatiably starving.