The Big Idea Behind *Ender’s Game* and Let’s Go Meta For a Sec

Just watched the movie *Ender’s Game*. Here’s what I took away:

  1. Suicide missions are effective.
  2. Soldiers care about dying so we don’t like using suicide tactics.
  3. In video games dying isn’t a big deal.
  4. So suicide missions can be used more often.
  5. Hey, kids play video games.
  6. Let’s put the kids in charge of a war and tell them it’s a video game.
  7. Result: more suicide missions. Victory.

We behave differently in simulated reality than in real life. That quick blog post’s worth of insight yielded tens of thousands of words worth of novels.

The difference of course is a story. This lets us explore the implications of the idea in people’s lives but also pulls stuff off the shelf: young hero, big odds, insect aliens, crusty mentor, etc. Don’t get me wrong, it’s often entertaining, but that usually depends on characteristics other than the quality of the idea (you know, like writing).

You might even define literature as ideas diluted about a billion to one with narrative, whose quality usually dominates the overall assessment of the work. Greatness requires both, of course, and I think that narrative can give a great idea a kind of power that non-fictional exposition lacks. We are built to communicate in stories after all. Best is when you can use real stories (even the best fiction rings a bit hollow for me) to illustrate an idea.

For Sci-Fi, though, that ain’t an option.

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