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Author Topic: Virlomi. Who is this woman that I know so well?
Eva Scrye
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(Possible SotG spoilers. You've been warned.)


Of all the characters in SotG, and possibly the entire Shadow series, I find Virlomi to be the most fascinating. This is primarily because I know someone very much like her. Someone who is so determinedly in her own delusions that she is willing do to anything to control those around her to do these tasks. In all honesty, this person go the best of me for some time... Much like Alai perhaps.
So my question to Mr. Card is, where did this amazing girl come from? Is she reminiscent of someone you know, if you don't mind me asking a potentially personal question.
And to everyone else, do you know anyone with such power over the people around her, knowing the very weakness that they *must* succomb to?
I'm really quite interested in learning more about who this character is, perhaps if only to understand this person in real life.

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Alcalientre
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quote:
knowing the very weakness that they *must* succomb to?
Sounds like how Peter is described in Ender's game.
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Alcalientre
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I think she's more like Velentine's Demosthenes persona. She makes people believe that they want something that she wants and uses that power to accomplish her goals. In the Shadow series, the Chinese were not opressing the common Indians, and so there was not much resentment of there rule. Virlomi changed that, and made the Indian people want to be free of their "opressors" even though the Chinese were not being opressive.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
In the Shadow series, the Chinese were not opressing the common Indians...
Hrm. Was that actually the case? They actually seemed fairly oppressed to me.
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Eva Scrye
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But not nearly as badly as the Muslims treated them later on.

Hmm, so was she simply a good actor?

Perhaps the better question is: What does she truly care about? Is it India she loves? Is it her own power or divinity?

We can be quit sure it was never Alai ^_^

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Hank
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I believe it specifically says in the section where she first enters india after chinese occupation began that the chinese oppression did not reach to the residents of rural India. The common people weren't enough of a threat to bother oppressing them. The Chinese only interfered with them after the "Wall of India" protests.
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Orson Scott Card
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It's hard to provoke a revolution without an intense hunger for change. To awaken the rage of the people. "Oppression" is a relative concept. The Indians (in the novel) were being ruled as always, from above; the fact that Chinese were calling the tune was irksome, but not enough to provoke revolution. So Virlomi worked to awaken their fervor.

The difference between a hero and a monster in this particular case is ... who gets to write the history. The fact that Virlomi was sincere doesn't really help her cause much - Hitler was sincere enough in his hatred of Jews, for instance - as far as we can tell, he believed his own account of things, unlike the far more cynical and self-serving Stalin and Mao. Sincerity doesn't make you good.

What works more to Virlomi's credit is that while she manipulated events, it was not until her ridiculous invasion of China (cf. Alexander's wish to conquer India; Napoleon's and Hitler's invasions of Russia) that she went over the line into deliberately causing massive deaths in unattainable "causes" that had more to do with her own ambition than a perceived good.

The people who make a really big difference in history tend to be extraordinarily ambitious: Even if they want to do good things, they want JUST as much that it be themself that does it, that gets the credit, that makes the decisions, that receives the honor. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington both gave the impression of being relatively self-effacing, but in fact they were ambitious and worked very hard to get into the positions they held that gave them power and influence. But is that, in itself, bad?

The GETTING of power is often so corrupting that the kind of people who get it are rarely the kind of people that we wish had it. There's such a delicate balance between ambition of the kind that wins great power and honor, and ambition of the kind that is willing to let others sacrifice their lives and suffer terribly in order to serve the will and glory of the ambitious one. The one kind we revere as heroes (and rightly so); the other we revile as monsters (and rightly so).

Personally, I find Virlomi to be a person with extraordinary ability to improvise exactly the story that her people, her community, needed to hear. She first used that ability in desperation; then in a noble cause; and finally for its own sake, as she believed her own made-up story.

I did not think of it this way at the time of writing, but now I would compare her to Abraham Lincoln, not in every way (Lincoln was never that popular during his lifetime!), but in this: Lincoln had so much blood on his hands by the end of the war, and yet it was in my judgment a righteous war; Lincoln knowingly send thousands of young men off to die, many of them quite against their will ... and it weighed heavily on his conscience. It also weighed on Virlomi's. But we have no evidence that there was any such sense of remorse and grief on the parts of Hitler or Mao or Stalin. Quite the contrary - they reviled the dead for not having achieved enough before dying. There was no sense of conscience.

I'm speaking now of judging them as human beings: The best scholarship we have shows Mao, Stalin, and Hitler as conscienceless - their only regret was when they lost, not when others lost because of their decisions. But the decent ones, even though they had to make ruthless decisions and manipulate and compel others to achieve a good cause, were still human enough to recognize the moral enormity of what they were doing and agonize before and after.

One can be cynical and say that it was Lincoln who was simply better at p.r. But I think his policies and his personal actions show him to be a man of conscience all his life, and not just a man of image; while the monsters of our time put on whatever appearance they needed to, but never actually cared about the masses of people they killed in their "cause" (nor ever, in fact, seemed to care about their "cause" except as their cause consisted of hatred).

Virlomi was NOT modeled on anyone. She became who she became in the books because I was intrigued by her. Originally, I simply needed to send someone on an errand; but as I developed her "errand," she became more and more fascinating to me, and I made up what she did as I went along. When I thought of the Great Wall of India, I was very proud of myself. I think such a movement might very well work, might spread as I show it spreading. But then I had to (ruthlessly) determine where Virlomi, as I had created her up to that point, might go with the juggernaut she had created. Those who are able to build up great public movements are not often those who can control them or use them wisely.

That you have known people who, on a smaller scale, had Virlomi's kind of wisdom/ruthlessness is not really surprising. I also believe that most of us, at one time or another, will meet or have met people who are every bit as evil as Hitler or Stalin or Mao - they just work on a much smaller scale, like their family or their office or their classroom or the people working on a movie set. Everything is about their own power and glory; everyone else is expendable and will certainly be expended if they threaten to rival or diminish or dilute the "hero's" solitary glory.

But Virlomi is not evil. She really does mean well for others and really is willing to sacrifice herself in her cause. Sincere as Hitler was about some of his hideous ideas, there is never a scrap of a sign that he would sacrifice HIMSELF in the cause - only others.

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Eva Scrye
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Kind of ironic that Hitler committed suicide then, isn't it?

But wow, that sheds a lot of light on Virlomi, and I really appreciate the time you put into your response!

One thing that seems to keep appearing on this topic (and many others) is a matter of skill versus conscience.

I've often joked that I'd prefer a corrupt politician that kept the economy running smoothly and kept the people more or less happy, than an idealist political newbie that has great ideas, but no knowledge of their implementation.

But didn't Virlomi have the conscience *and* the skill? Was the only thing that seperated her from Ender's Jeeshmates the ability to come to terms with her own ambition and her own limitations?

After all, even her plans to overthrow Alai did not include his death. She may not have loved him, but she felt guilt later that he *should* have died in the coup. Still, I wonder why she could not have predicted that Alai's generals would attempt to kill him.

Or, perhaps it was simply the gods at work? ^_-

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VetaMega
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Its ironic to see Scott's opinions. His idea of taking away Tibet, Taiwan, XingJian, Inner Mongolia, and Manchuria from Chinese territory seems quite radical. I mean that leaves them with no land at all. I am sure he thought that any territory wishing to succeed, should be able to do so. If that was true, the U.S should have allowed the Confederacy to succeed during the civil war, and return all the annexed states of Mexico. Much easier when not talking about your own nation. I believe though that if Card had taken time from his life to experiance other people's cultures from a first person perspective, not a third person's perspective, he might not say the things he does.
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Orson Scott Card
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Taking away Tibet, Taiwan, XingJian, Inner Mongolia, and Manchuria would leave China with all of the most productive land, with all of historic and present Han China; it would leave China itself completely intact, and take away only China's conquests (or merged conquerors, in the case of Manchuria) of relatively recent times. It would make even Chinese people laugh to think that losing those outer provinces would leave China with "no land at all." That would be, to them, like saying that if we lost Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the north slope of Alaska, and Clovis, New Mexico, we Americans would be left with almost no land at all <grin>.

OK, it's not the same. I was just hoping somebody would take me up on Clovis....

In the story, stripping China down to Han China was the most any Chinese leader could agree to without being destroyed, even in defeat. Anything less, and you could not claim to have "saved" your country. Anyone negotiating with Chinese leaders has to recognize the difference between Han China and the rest of the Chinese Empire. Even now, with Taiwan, the government of China works very hard to insist that Taiwan is part of Han China ... but everyone knows that it is not.

It's more like the Argentinians insisting the Falklands were part of Argentina. They may or may not be able to make it a fact on the ground in some future time, but for the past century, Taiwan has mostly been either independent or a Japanese possession. And through most of the thousands of years of Chinese history, Taiwan was simply ignored the way the Philippines were ignored. This isn't a "position" on current issues, it's simply a recognition of historical fact over the centuries.

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VetaMega
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LoL. I was thinking somewhere on the lines of Calfornia, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas, New Meixco, as well as all of Confederate South. Now if the U.S lost a war on their soil, and the victor declared that all of Mexican Cession + Texas would goes back to Mexico and that a new Confedarcy was now in power of the Southern states; no US president could in his sane mind declare the war a "victory". It's a matter of territory; that's what people see on a map. It would be highly embarrasing for Egypt to allow Nubia to succeed, as it would Isreal for the west bank, gaza strip.

The Chinese people from I gather tend to believe that the world consists of only them; everyone else being an extra. There's too many people there and they're too geographicly and historicaly isolated. Because of that, they have a lot of pride. They don't care about other people's land but rather wish to retain the land they have (kind of your theory of Edge and Center nations). Being forced to control anything less of current China would be highly embarassing, not to metion their three largest provinces as well as Manchuria (making it less likely for them to join the FPE). Again,i t's all really a matter of looking at a map.

As for Taiwan, I would have to disagree with there. If China allows the independence of Taiwan, the communist governmnet would lose all its power. If they show lenincy on such a sensitive issue, the people would indeed revolt (Like with the USSR). The government knows this. It's not like Argentina; every country China does business with has to admit to their One-China policy. Everytime they do business again, the countries have to reaffirm their stand on the policy. The reason they're not taking action now is because they have the 2008 Olymipcs comming up and they don't want to jeopardize their standing in the world.

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MormonFunk
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quote:
Clovis, New Mexico
You've heard of the place?
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bCurt
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Must have heard of it during the coverage of the base closing hearings and announcement.
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Noemon
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More likely it's because of the decades and decades of archaeological work that have been going on in the Clovis area. The Clovis culture takes its name from the present-day town of Clovis, doesn't it?

[ December 30, 2005, 03:24 PM: Message edited by: Noemon ]

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mr_porteiro_head
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I believe it does.
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Bean Counter
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The thing I liked most about the Virlomi arc was the compassion and real love shown her by the Battle School Instructors on their meeting and at their offer to let her leave and lead a colony. "Look in the mirror, that is what the beginning of Megalomania looks like..." A sincere warning too late and the deflating statements about why she was unsuitable for Ender's Jensh, it was wonderful to see her flee back to where her ego got stroked constantly, how that had become a burning need for her.

Peter was proved as brilliant by his manipultion of that situation. I found it to be one of the best whirlwind tours of the inner coucils and how they work ever written.

Not to stroke O Scott C too much but if he did not know he was a good writer he would lay bricks or wire houses or something. So I think I am safe to say it.

The meeting of Virlomi and Suri was brilliant too, knowing how he loved her and how she disdained his love, yet he showed compassion to her and proved himself better then the "Goddess" he was unworthy of. Too Cool.

BC

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bCurt
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quote:
The Clovis culture takes its name from the present-day town of Clovis, doesn't it?

True. And Clovis got its name supposedly from the first Christian king of the Franks.

Actually, I was thinking OSC probably knew of Clovis, New Mexico because of Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue". [Big Grin]

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Eva Scrye
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Yes, it was very satisfactory to see Virlomi realize her mistakes and have Suri force her to think about what she'd done. I always thought those two should have gotten together...

Another sacrifice of Virlomi's... she gave up Suri's love for her country? Worthwhile? I suppose most would say so...

Hmm, just a thought... There's no way that Virlomi is pregnant with Alai's kid is there? After all, good Muslims don't use birth control, right ^_-

I doubt the answer will never be brought to light, but I thought it was interesting that Virlomi seemed quite determined to have his child when they were together.

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