The Ender's Game FST

I've included a brief introduction and a rather long commentary on the making of this FST below, but if you would like to skip ahead to the tracks, click here.

Many of you will already have read Ender's Game, but for the uninitiated, I shall try to provide a brief introduction. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, is a science-fiction novel with a cult following that's built up over the years. It is the first, and arguably the best-written, book in a branching series known as the Ender Saga or the Enderverse. The book is set in a future where international community on Earth has already fought off two alien invasions and is steeling itself for another by sending its brightest and most promising children off to a military school focused on shaping the next generation of genius strategists. The story centers around Andrew, or Ender as he calls himself, Wiggin, who enters the Battle School and proves himself to be the most gifted in this already select group of young generals. (Better synopsis and reviews probably available here. Also, Orson Scott Card's website may be found here.)

My close friends know that Ender's Game and its sequels took over my life in high school. My friends and I built our first website as a fan shrine to the Ender books, and we included exhaustive lists of quotes and characters (I still have the files and can probably tell you every named character in the books). I can't count the number of times we've reread the books, and although we know the flaws and failings of each one in the series, Ender's Game, at least, holds a near-sacred status for us. When I volunteered to make this FST, I wanted to get it exactly right, to perfectly capture at least my image of the characters. But unfortunately, I don't really know much about music. I can't tell the difference between rock and pop and punk and alternative, and most of the music on my computer prior to this FST consisted of anime and movie soundtracks. I spent the entire summer browsing music rotation sites and mp3 blogs in hopes of expanding my collection enough to find the right songs.

Initially, I conceived of this FST as an image album. I made a list of characters, put little notes about what kind of music might fit them, and looked for songs. I hit a snag because unfortunately, very few bands manage to write songs that aren't about romantic love. Ender's Game is about children (children forced to be incredibly mature, of course, but still children), and obviously, any song with lyrics about love wouldn't really fit. Furthermore, I realized I didn't just want to make a perfect FST; I wanted to make an FST that I'd want to listen to. In a fit of exasperation, I decided to make the FST all instrumental. I'm no expert on classical music, but I do have a much better sense of its range and qualities. The only problem was that I didn't have the CDs of the works I wanted, and what I could get out of my current collection wasn't enough to make an FST.

I finally decided to stop being such a silly fangirl and just include whatever music was appropriate (and sounded nice to me). I also decided to rethink of my FST: instead of looking for specific character songs, I looked for music that captured a particular moment or image I associated with that character. As I compiled the final version of this FST, I realized that it was no longer an image album: this FST is about Ender, and the songs I've "assigned" to each character are not so much about that character as they are about how he or she affects Ender (in my perception of the book, anyway).

It took me three months, and still this FST is far from perfect. Several songs have the wrong lyric, the wrong mood, the wrong range. But I've tried my best, and I hope you who are fans of the book won't find it disappointing.

Pawns and Queens: An Ender's Game Fan Soundtrack

01. Orbital - Tunnel Vision ::
"This was school. Every day, hours of classes. Reading. Numbers. History. Videos of the bloody battles in space, the Marines spraying their guts all over the walls of the bugger ships. Holos of the clean wars of the fleet, ships turning itno puffs of light as the spacecraft killed each other deftly in the deep night. Many things to learn...But the games--that was what they lived for. That was what filled the hours between waking and sleeping." p. 45

Welcome to the Battle School. One of my friends (solidark@LJ) commented that she imagined an Ender's Game FST would include a lot of funky techno, and when I thought about it, she was right. I found the mp3 at sjdr@LJ, on one of my music blog visiting sessions.


02. Our Lady Peace - Superman's Dead ::
"I'm going to rule, Val, and I'm going to have control of something." p. 131

Peter Wiggin. Ender's legacy from his brother is this driving ambition: the inability to be satisfied with being "ordinary" and the instinct to crush the obstacles in his path beyond the point of retaliation. The song doesn't fit perfectly of course, but I think its main sentiment is appropriate. Courtesy of my friend tryogeru@LJ.


03. Wonderful Days - A Prayer ::
"'Always my friend, always the best of my friends,' he said...Alai suddenly kissed Ender on the cheek and whispered in his ear, 'Salaam.'" p. 69

Alai. Ender's first real friend at Battle School, who wishes him "peace" in midst of the ruthless competition of the Battle School. The song comes from the Wonderful Days OST.


04. Aartika - The Ice (Feels Three Feet Thick Between Us) ::
"I be crazy too, little buddy, but at least when I be craziest, I be floating all alone in space and the crazy, she float out of me, she soak into the walls, and she don't come out till there be battles and little boys bump into the walls and squish out de crazy." p. 110

Dink Meeker. I always imagine Dink in this image: floating alone and motionless in the weightless space of the Battle Room. I think he taught Ender something of his peculiar sort of passive resistance. Aartika is an experimental composer, and I picked this particular track off of epitonic.com.


05. E.S. Posthumus - Ebla ::
"Whatever your gravity is when you get to the door, remember--the enemy's gate is down." p. 159

The Battle Room. All right, so it's a bit clichéd to have the chorus swells as background music for a battle sequence, but still, I couldn't resist. Plus the techno beat conveys the whole SF feel of the Battle Room, with all its technological flashiness. Also found at sjdr@LJ.


06. Pennywise - Alien ::
"Yes sir yessir yezzir. I hope you had fun, I hope you had a nice, nice time being happy, Ender. It might be the last time in your life. Welcome, little boy. Your dear Uncle Graff has plans for you." p. 155

Colonel Graff. I wanted a song that conveyed Graff's immense guilt at the pressure he places on Ender, his awareness of his own brutality, and I thought the lyrics kind of fit. Downloaded from amazon.com.


07. Pat Benatar - Invincible ::
"Nobody ever beat Dragon Army, either. This be your big chance to lose?" p. 192

Dragon Army. This is Dragon's marching song, the one army that never lost despite all the obstacles and disadvantages stacked against them, the army that left behind a legend. I downloaded this song after watching the Gundam Wing music video set to it and realized that I associated it more with Ender's Game than the anime.


08. Gary Jules - Mad World ::
"I'm trapped here, Ender thought, trapped at the End of the World with no way out. And he knew at last the sour taste that had come to him, despite all his successes in the Battle School. It was despair." p. 141

The Mind Game. In many ways, the story is about how Ender continually forces himself to overcome increasingly impossible situations, and the fantasy game he plays traces his path in and out of complete despair. The song is apparently from the Donnie Darko OST, and although I've not seen the movie, I thought it was appropriate.


09. Maurice Ravel - Le Gibet (performed by Sarah Cahill) ::
"He was a soldier, and if anyone had asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he wouldn't have known what they meant." p. 224

Bean. Bean is a particularly complicated character, especially after the considerable revision he underwent in Ender's Shadow. But I still always remember him in the scene where he stays and listens to Ender on the night after Bonzo died. The Ravel piece here is supposed to portray a man about to hang, which I think is a good analogy for that night. Found on epitonic.com.


10. Dmitri Shostakovich - Chamber Symphony for Strings - Largo (performed by the New Century Chamber Orchestra) ::
"There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong. And the rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you. I am your enemy from now on. From now on I am your teacher." p. 262-263.

Mazer Rackham. That tense first meeting, the way Mazer hones Ender into a weapon, is captured, I think, by the slow but menacing tone of Shostakovich's work. Also picked up from epitonic.com.


11. Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata no. 23 in F minor - Allegro ma non troppo (performed by Friedrich Gulda) ::
"He kept his mind on the game, trying to learn from the battles. And not just the particular lessons of that battle, but what the buggers mgith have done if they had been more clever, and how Ender would react if they did it in the future. He lived with past battles and future battles both, waking and sleeping, and he droke his squadron leaders with an intensity that occasionally provoked rebelliousness." p. 281

The Simulator. The third movement from Beethoven's Appassionata has the precise, tense, virtuostic tone of the battles on the Simulator, where Ender fights battle after battle, with all his strategic genius.


12. Grandaddy - Underneath the Weeping Willow ::
"Tell him I'm sorry, I was just so tired, I couldn't think, that was all, tell Ender I'm sorry." p. 285

Petra Arkanian. I had a hard time finding the right song for Petra, and ultimately I came up with this compromise. Petra is the first of Ender's squadron leaders to fall asleep during battle, and this song represents not only her weariness but the slow breakdown that all the children experience, especially Ender. Thanks to tryogeru@LJ for introducing me to Grandaddy.


13. Kent - 747 ::
"Then they were silent for a while. 'So what do we do now?' said Alai. 'The bugger war's over, and so's the war down there on Earth, and even the war here. What do we do now?'" p. 303

Ender's Jeesh. The image I had in mind was the last time Ender sees all the fellow Battle School students who fought under him through the war. All scarred and broken in some way, they sit around his bed, and for one oddly calm moment, wonder if it's possible to live ordinary lives. The song is by Kent, a Swedish rock band that releases some of its albums in English.


14. Vienna Teng - Enough to Go By ::
"I came because I've spent my whole life in the company of the brother that I hated. Now I want a chance to know the brother that I love, before it's too late, before we're not children anymore." p. 313

Valentine Wiggin. Ender thinks of his sister as his redemption, the only motivation he has for going on, and in the end, when she comes to find him, she holds out a chance for him to start over again, together with her. This Vienna Teng song seems to suit the scene. Courtesy of my friend Jenny.


15. Ingram Marshall - Gradual Requiem ::
"'What was in there?' asked Abra.
'The answer,' said Ender.
'To what?'
'My question.'" p. 321

The Hive Queen. The final resolution, as Ender discovers the Hive Queen's cocoon and in a way finds a way to atone. The composition sounds appropriately alien and sorrowful. Ingram Marshall is another experimental composer I discovered via epitonic.com.