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Author Topic: Description of Buggers/Formics in Ender books
kacard
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Anybody wanna pitch in with finding any and all actual descriptions of the Buggers/Formics throughout the Ender books? What they look like? The info will be spread throughout the books. Any help would be appreciated.

Kristine Card

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Steve_G
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I've been listening to the audio book of Ender's Shadow during my commute for the past 2 days, so I can't quote directly from the page, but, Sister Carlotta tried to quit calling them Buggers and started calling them Woolies (I hope I remembered that right) because Buggers was such a bad word in English, even though everybody spoke common instead of English.

I didn't remember this passage the first time I read ES, but caught it this time. I also seem to remember OSC stating in an interview that he was going to make them hairy, so calling them Woolies might be the first time he referred to them in this way.

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Hank
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I can't look it up, since my books are far away, but there's a passage in Children of the Mind (I think) where Ender takes Valentine, Miro and that other girl ("Plikt" or something like) to see the hive queen lay her eggs, and there is a pretty detailed description of her there.
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vonk
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I don't recall any descriptions myself, nor do I have the books on me to check, but this thread has many direct quotes describing the Formics.
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Geraine
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I like to think they look something like one of the following:


http://www.newbox.co.kr/SilithidTank1.gif

http://ac.warcry.com/compendium/quests/pics/Pincers/warrior.JPG


I know, blatently taken from World of Warcraft's Silithid and Asheron's Call's Olthoi. But when I played Asherons Call 2 all those years ago, I couldnt help it. The first time I saw an Olthoi I said outloud "Holy crap its a bugger!"

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mr_porteiro_head
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I've got all the books in electronic format, and I've been going through all instances of the word "bugger" or "formic" in the books.

Here's what I found:


Ender's Game:

Their outer bodies are harder and dryer than ours, if young Ender's understanding is correct:
quote:

He put on the mask. It closed him in like a hand pressed tight against his face. But this isn't how it feels to he a bugger, thought Ender. They don't wear this face like a mask, it is their face. On their home worlds, do the buggers put on human masks, and play? And what do they call its? Slimies, because we're so soft and oily compared to them?

You can guess something, but not much, of their anatomy from this passage:
quote:

All the scenes from the Second Invasion, when our soldiers are in IF uniforms, in those scenes the buggers are always already dead. Lying there, slumped over their controls.

Here's a good passage which hare are surely already aware of:
quote:

"We don't know much," said Graff. "We've never had a live one in custody. Even when we caught one unarmed and alive, he died the moment it became obvious he was captured. Even the he is uncertain -- the most likely thing, in fact, is that most bugger soldiers are females, but with atrophied or vestigial sexual organs. We can't tell. It's their psychology that would be most useful to you, and we haven't exactly had a chance to interview them."

"Tell me what you know, and maybe I'll learn something that I need."

So Graff told him. The buggers were organisms that enuld conceivably have evolved on Earth, if things had gone a different way a billion years ago. At the molecular level, there were no surprises. Even the genetic material was the same. It was no accident that they looked insectlike to human beings. Though their internal organs were now much more complex and specialized than any insects, and they had evolved an internal skeleton and shed most of the exoskeleton, their physical structure still echoed their ancestors, who could easily have been very much like Earth's ants. "But don't be fooled by that," said Graff. "It's just as meaningful to say that our ancestors could easily have been very much like squirrels."

"If that's all we have to go on, that's somethig," said Ender.

"Squirrels never built starships," said Graff. "There are usually a few changes on the way from gathering nuts and seeds to harvesting asteroids and putting permanent research stations on the moons of Saturn."

The buggers could probably see about the same spectrum of light as human beings, and there was artificial lighting in their ships and ground installations. However, their antennae seemed almost vestigial. There was no evidence from their bodies that smelling, tasting, or hearing were particularly important to them. "Of course, we can't be sure. But we can't see any way that they could have used sound for communication. The oddest thing of all was that they also don't have any communication devices on their ships. No radios, nothing that could transimit or receive any kind of signal."


Speaker For The Dead:

Here's a slight description at the very end of the book:
quote:

Behind them, in the dank and humid air of a shallow cave by a river, strong mandibles tore at the cocoon, and a limp and skeletal body struggled forth. Her wings only gradually spread out and dried in the sunlight; she struggled weakly to the riverbank and pulled strength and moisture into her desiccated body. She nibbled at the meat of the cabra. The unhatched eggs she held within her cried out to be released; she laid the first dozen of them in the cabra's corpse, then ate the nearest daisies, trying to feel the changes in her body as she came alive at last.

Xenocide:
Here's a nice description of the Queen and some of her workers
quote:

The tunnel suddenly opened wide, and now they stood blinking in a large chamber with a shaft of bright sunlight stabbing through a hole in the vault of the ceiling. The hive queen was smack in the center of the light. There were workers all around, but now, in the light, in the presence of the queen, they all looked so small and fragile. Most of them were closer to one meter than a meter and a half in height, while the queen herself was surely three meters long. And height wasn't the half of it. Her wing-covers looked vast, heavy, almost metallic, with a rainbow of colors reflecting sunlight. Her abdomen was long and thick enough to contain the corpse of an entire human. Yet it narrowed, funnel-like, to an ovipositor at the quivering tip, glistening with a yellowish translucent fluid, gluey, stringy; it dipped into a hole in the floor of the room, deep as it could go, and then came back up, the fluid trailing away like unnoticed spittle, down into the hole.

Grotesque and frightening as this was, a creature so large acting so much like an insect, it did not prepare Valentine for what happened next. For instead of simply dipping her ovipositor into the next hole, the queen turned and seized one of the workers hovering nearby. Holding the quivering bugger between her large forelegs, she drew it close and bit off its legs, one by one. As each leg was bitten off, the remaining legs gesticulated ever more wildly, like a silent scream. Valentine found herself desperately relieved when the last leg was gone, so that the scream was at last gone from her sight.

Then the hive queen pushed the unlimbed worker headfirst down the next hole. Only then did she position her ovipositor over the hole. As Valentine watched, the fluid at the ovipositor's tip seemed to thicken into a ball. But it wasn't fluid after all, or not entirely; within the large drop was a soft, jellylike egg. The hive queen maneuvered her body so that her face was directly in the sunlight, her multiplex eyes shining like hundreds of emerald stars. Then the ovipositor plunged downward. When it came up, the egg still clung to the end, but on the next emergence the egg was gone. Several times more her abdomen dipped downward, each time coming up with more strands of fluid stringing downward from the tip.


quote:

And along with this thought came a glimmer of genuine emotion toward the hive queen. All at once her mental image of the hive queen included no loathing at all. Instead she seemed majestic, royal, magnificent. The rainbows from her wing-covers no longer seemed like an oily scum on water; the light reflecting from her eyes was like a halo; the glistening fluids at the tip of her abdomen were the threads of life, like milk at the nipple of a woman's breast, stringing with saliva to her baby's suckling mouth. Valentine had been fighting nausea till now, yet suddenly she almost worshipped the hive queen.

I know that it's explicitly stated in Ender's Game that they're a little over a meter in height, but here's some more evidence that they are shorter than humans:
From Shadow of the Hegemon:
quote:

How many days can you stay closed in, surrounded by guards, before you start to feel like a prisoner? Bean never felt claustrophobic in Battle School. Not even on Eros, where the low ceilings of the Buggers' tunnels teetered over them like a car slipping off its jack.

Ender's Shadow:
quote:

Bean knew at once that this place was not shaped by human hands. The tunnels were all too low -- and even then, the ceilings had obviously been raised after the initial construction, since the lower walls were smooth and only the top half-meter showed tool marks.

Many descriptions of the formics are in peoples imaginations and dreams, such as Bean's dream where a bugger is stomping on the kids with a giant shoe. I'm going to assume that these descriptions are unreliable and won't post most of them here.

Ender's Shadow:
Carlotta, describing Bean:
quote:

I didn't know how he had muscles enough to walk, to *stand*, his arms and legs were as thin as an ant -- oh, isn't that awful? To compare him to the *Buggers*?

quote:

I'll do research into the way other animals wage war, especially swarming hive insects, since the Formics resemble ants the way we resemble primates.



[ February 06, 2007, 09:18 PM: Message edited by: mr_porteiro_head ]

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Survivor
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naledge posted a link to a picture in his Formic Fan Art thread. The interpretation of the "claws" as pincers is interesting, as are some other aspects of the drawing (I like the subordination of the secondary set of limbs). I note that he didn't give the workers a noticeable carapace, even though this is occasionally mentioned in the books.
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kacard
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Wow, fantastic help. THANKS!
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Maliam
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I don't have my books hany to look this but but maybe someone else could. A good point to look for a description would be in Xenocide around when the humans burn the forest. It talks about the humans seeing them and all that.

Also at one point, right after seeing them the first time, it talks about Miro imaning them able to sneek up on him in the grass, since the piggies did the same I would guess that the workes and piggies are aporxamently the same size.

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mr_porteiro_head
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Here's some more from Xenocide:

quote:
"Will we actually see her?" asked Miro.

"Oh yes," said Ender. "Or at least-- we'll be in her presence. She may even touch us. But perhaps the less we see the better. It's usually dark where she lives, unless she's near to egg-laying. At that time she needs to see, and the workers open tunnels to bring in daylight."

"They don't have artificial light?"
asked Miro.

"They never used it," said Ender, "even on the starships that came to Sol System back during the Bugger Wars. They see heat the way we see light. Any source of warmth is clearly visible to them. I think they even arrange their heat sources in patterns that could only be interpreted aesthetically. Thermal painting."

"So why do they use light for egg-laying?" asked Valentine.

"I'd hesitate to call it a ritual-- the hive queen has such scorn for human religion. Let's just say it's part of their genetic heritage. Without sunlight there's no egg-laying."

Then they were in the bugger city.

Valentine wasn't surprised at what they found-- after all, when they were young, she and Ender had been with the first colony on Rov, a former bugger world. But she knew that the experience would be surprising and alien to Miro and Plikt, and in fact some of the old disorientation came back to her, too. Not that there was anything obviously strange about the city. There were buildings, most of them low, but based on the same structural principles as any human buildings. The strangeness came in the careless way that they were arranged. There were no roads and streets, no attempt to line up the buildings to face the same way. Nor did buildings rise out of the ground to any common height. Some were nothing but a roof resting on the ground; others rose to a great height. Paint seemed to be used only as a preservative-- there was no decoration. Ender had suggested that heat might be used aesthetically; it was a sure thing that nothing else was.

quote:
The entrance to the hive queen's burrow was a building that looked like any other. There was no special guard-- indeed, in their whole excursion they hadn't seen a single bugger. Valentine remembered when she was young, on her first colony world, trying to imagine what the bugger cities had looked like when they were fully inhabited. Now she knew-- they looked exactly the way they did when they were dead. No scurrying buggers; like ants swarming over the hills. Somewhere, she knew, there were fields and orchards being tended under the open sun, but none of that was visible from here.
Going in to see the Queen:
quote:
The door was very low-- an adult would have to go through on hands and knees.

quote:
At that moment, the guide arrived. In the darkness, Valentine could barely see the black-reed arm with a single finger and thumb as it nudged Ender's hand. Immediately Ender enclosed the finger within his left hand; the black thumb closed like a pincer over his hand. Looking up the arm, Valentine tried to see the bugger it belonged to. All she could actually make out, though, was a child-size shadow, and perhaps a slight gleam of reflection off a carapace.

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mr_porteiro_head
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From Xenocide again:
quote:
A low hum could be heard, soft at first, barely audible in the roaring of the fire, but then louder and louder, until five fliers came into view, skimming the tops of the grass as they circled the mob, sometimes black in silhouette against the burning forest, sometimes shining with reflected fire when they were on the opposite side. At last they came to rest, all five of them sinking down onto the tall grass. Only then were the people able to distinguish one black shape from another, as six riders arose from each flying platform. What they had taken for shining machinery on the fliers was not machinery at all, but living creatures, not as large as men but not as small as pequeninos, either, with large heads and multi-faceted eyes. They made no threatening gesture, just formed lines before each flier; but no gestures were needed. The sight of them was enough, stirring memories of ancient nightmares and horror stories
quote:
They did not run from the place. They walked, watching carefully, shying away from the strange new creatures whose existence none of them had guessed at, whose powers they could only imagine, or remember from ancient videos they had studied once in school. The buggers, who had once come close to destroying all of humanity, until they were destroyed in turn by Ender the Xenocide. The book called the Hive Queen had said they were really beautiful and did not need to die. But now, seeing them, black shining exoskeletons, a thousand lenses in their shimmering green eyes, it was not beauty but terror that they felt. And when they went home, it would be in the knowledge that these, and not just the dwarfish, backward piggies, waited for them just outside the fence. Had they been in prison before? Surely now they were trapped in one of the circles of hell.

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pooka
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I had the enjoyment last weekend of telling someone that I'd given Shadow of the Giant for a present how you came to be in the acknowledgements, mph.
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mr_porteiro_head
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That's awesome.
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pooka
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Well, except I said life wasn't fair because your electronic copies were pirated. But I guess pirates are awesome.
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Survivor
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I'll always vote on the ninja side of that question, though. I prefer to "ninja" rather than "pirate" my ill gotten gains.

But really, my vote goes for shinigami...um, I guess versus...er, demons? Aliens? Undead pirates?

Anyway, I note that the artificial light/visible spectrum reference for Ender's Game is directly contradicted by Xenocide. Probably not important, since it's possible that Graff (as usual) was either making stuff up or that high resolution thermal image displays produce enough light to have misled Earth's early xenobiologists.

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pooka
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The only thing that sticks in my mind about buggers is that the workers carried the babies in slings while they worked in the fields. I wondered about that, since I had a baby that wouldn't be carried in a sling. She was kind of nervous, and wouldn't conform to the shape of the sling, so it was kind of like one of those rubber-band on a paperclip/button dohickeys that you put in an envelope and say "hey, do you want to see a baby rattlesnake?"
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Heh. I bet the little buggers were there to help sort the crop or something.
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pooka
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Hey kid, try this and see how it tastes.
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Von
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Do I smell a hint of pre-production?
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brojack17
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Exactly what I was going to say. I hope so.
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Kama
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i smell a graphic novel [Razz]
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vonk
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*must not giggle like a school girl, must not giggle like a schoolgirl*

Squeeee!

*sunuva-*

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scoooot
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Squeee!!!

Dang, now you made ME giggle.

If this IS pre-production (and I hope it is!!!!) let's hope that all these descriptions will be used by the production designer to create very accurate buggers THAT WILL NOT BE SHOWN MUCH AT ALL!!! It's not like these are Orcs or something. Most of the time they're shown in EG as part of a dream, so they could be distorted or exaggerated right?

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Kama
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lookie [Razz]

[ February 27, 2007, 03:29 PM: Message edited by: Kama ]

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john OF THE FUTURE
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smartypants
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vonk
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That looks awesome. Thanks for the link Kama
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pooka
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Interesting.
This goes back a ways, but I was discussing elsewhere how having females on battleship crews would allow those populations to adapt into colonies more easily. By a ways, I mean the time I asked why Battle school wasn't gender-diverse as well as nationality diverse, and was mocked for it.

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I Am The War Chief
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Please tell me I can order through Hatrack and avoid my local comic book store :S lol nothing against them but my local is really creepy. If its a "graphic novel" it might be at my local chapters? they have a fairly large section for that sort of thing.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
nothing against them but my local is really creepy
Nothing against them, eh?
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I Am The War Chief
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I say nothing against them cause I am sure they aren't bad people but I still get this creepy feeling when Im around this one store . . .cant explain it.
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