Author Chat Transcript courtesy of BarnesandNoble.com
Moderator: Good evening, Mr. Card. Welcome to bn.com. How are you?
Orson Scott Card: I'm fine. It's a pleasure to be here --
J.J.B. from Minnesota: Why did you decide to write ENDER'S SHADOW now? Did your fans have any input?
OC: We realized that ENDER'S GAME never had a true sequel. SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD starts 3,000 years later and features a grown-up Ender. But where is the book about kids in space that the fans of ENDER'S GAME have been wishing for? At first, we wanted to bring other writers into the project. That still may happen with later books. But for now, these books are mine. There will be a sequel to ENDER'S SHADOW called SHADOW OF THE HEGEMON, and yet another book about Petra. We hope that these books will speak to the audience of ENDER'S GAME at least as well as the Speaker trilogy did -- and perhaps better. As for fans having input, the only real input is a sense of which aspects of ENDER'S GAME were their favorites, however the online community that creates stories about Battle School on my web site -- www.hatrack.com -- gave me the idea of sending kids through the heating ducts. I used this very differently from the way they were using it, but it becomes a vital part of Bean's story.
OC: Definitely I wrote the screenplay. In fact, I've written the screenplay about five times. With this latest version, however, perhaps I have it right. Because of Jake Lloyd's interest in Ender, this time I had the freedom to write a screenplay in which the character of Ender bares the emotional weight of the story. That's because Jake as an actor and as a person has every quality that Ender needs. Whether he will end up with the part or not, well, that's only partly in my hands. The director will have a major voice in casting. And the producers also get a vote. As for when -- that all depends on the director we find and the decisions made by the studio that eventually funds the movie. We hope to have real answers and real decisions this fall. We also hope that the studio is smart enough to fund the simultaneous filming of ENDER'S SHADOW. That way the cast will be the same -- and at the same age.
Rodney from Redding, CA: Now that you've revisited and evolved some of the story line from the original book, ENDER'S GAME, is any of this new evolved plot going to get added into the screenplay for the movie you are writing?
OC: No. ENDER'S SHADOW will be a screenplay of its own. But nothing in the ENDER'S GAME screenplay will contradict ENDER'S SHADOW. You have to remember, though, that film is not prose-fiction. There are significant changes between book and film. In fact, I wish I could go back and put into the novel ENDER'S GAME some of the cool stuff that I thought of for the screenplay.
Bronwyn from Phoenix, AZ: Your insights into the life of street children as shown in ENDER'S SHADOW are so extensive. Where did you get them?
OC: I made them up. I have no experience of street life. I had a safe, happy Bradbury-esque childhood. But I have read of the tragic plight of the street boys of Brazil. And that influenced my portrayal of a dark, future Rotterdam.
OC: Not at all. I hope someday every family in America is riven with conflict over which of my books is best.
Mike from Florida: Do you plan to fill in the events of the 3,000 years between ENDER'S GAME and SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD in the future books?
OC: I have no such plans, but I'm not dead yet.
MD from Minneapolis: Your two most well-known characters, Ender and Alvin, are both small, under-appreciated younger children who grow up to save the world (or worlds). Some people, but not many, see their potential from the beginning. Was there someone like the Battle School commander in your life who had faith in you and saw your potential when others did not?
OC: Several. My mother was foremost -- she has a genius for encouragement. I also had an English teacher in tenth grade, Ida Huber, who really helped me believe that I might have something to offer. Then in college, Charles Whitman, the playwriting teacher, not only encouraged me -- he put on my plays.
Antonio Garcia from Sunnyside, WA: What advice would you give young aspiring writers?
OC: First. Don't major in English or journalism. Steal the graduate reading list from the English Department office and read everything on it. But pay no attention to received opinion on those stories. Instead, develop your own love-or-hate relationship with each work. Remember, as a writer, no one has authority over you, and other writers are great only if you say they are. Second. Write your brains out. What are you waiting for? You need no credential except the quality of your work. Third. Be ruthless with yourself. Toss out hundreds of pages if that's what it takes to get the story right. Fourth. Give no thought to style. If you concentrate on writing clearly, what happens and why, your natural voice will emerge. True style is an accident of the unconscious.
Marcus Buxton from Orem, UT: How much of this book was written in your head while you were writing ENDER'S GAME? Did the impetus come after ENDER'S GAME?
OC: None. Everything I thought of while writing ENDER'S GAME is in ENDER'S GAME. I don't save up cool stuff for later. I have no trunk full of hidden manuscripts, and whatever is on my mind while writing a book finds its way into the story. I wish I had been planning, because I certainly could have made my job easier by being a bit more careful about some of the things I had Bean say and do.
Mickey from St. Louis: What was it like working with James Cameron on the novelization of "The Abyss"?
OC: Hell on wheels. He was very nice to me, because I could afford to walk away. But he made everyone around him miserable, and his unkindness did nothing to improve the film in any way. Nor did it motivate people to work faster or better. And unless he changes his way of working with people, I hope he never directs anything of mine. In fact, now that this is in print, I can fairly guarantee that he will never direct anything of mine. Life is too short to collaborate with selfish, cruel people.
Eric from Kansas City, KS: How does the Ender in this book, as seen through Bean's eyes, compare with the way you portrayed Ender in the first book? Is he still the same character, more or less, or does the difference in perspective really change him?
OC: Everybody is a different person in relationship to every person they know. The Ender of ENDER'S SHADOW is much more iconic, and to Bean he is an almost oppressive force. The Ender we'll see in the novel about Petra will be very different, since she first sees him with pity. If there were a real person named Ender, he would be different from the way he is portrayed in all the books. But because there is no reality to contradict my fiction, no one can say he isn't just as I portray him.
P.G. from San Diego: I have heard from a friend on the Highly Unofficial OSC mailing list that even though you wrote ENDER'S SHADOW yourself, you are still contemplating opening up the Ender universe to other, lesser-known authors. Is this true? If you do this, what suggestions or guidelines (for example, time period, topic, character) might you request of these authors?
OC: We are still contemplating this, but it will be by invitation only. Books by other people will begin after the close of ENDER'S GAME and will carry the characters to other worlds where, by and large, the author will have a free hand. As long as they don't blow up the universe, or discover that Ender was really a dinosaur in disguise, I won't interfere.
Brandon from Texarkana, AR: I heard you mention that you hadn't planned to write any more books in the ENDER'S GAME quartet; but if that is so then why did you leave the Descolada idea so open?
OC: I don't think it's open. I answered every question I cared about whose answer was not obvious. As for the Descolada, the decision as to whether it is "ramen" or "varelse" is not interesting to me. The Descolada is either one or the other. Humans will find out and act accordingly. Ho-hum.
WhiskeyPete from Utah: Are there still plans for the Mayflower trilogy? I remember hearing talk about an enhanced cat named Rasputin.
OC: Kathy Kidd and I are on Chapter 7. We have been for a year. It's my fault. Someday it will be finished.
Elliott from Chicago, IL: I've read ENDER'S GAME, and am finally starting XENOCIDE. I'm glad there is a possibility of a movie, but some of the dark undertones of Ender and the Battle School...some people I've talked to think the public would blast it for its issues. I don't believe it would be worth putting a project such as this into the scrap pile, but I'd like your opinion on this.
OC: I'm not sure which "dark undertones" you mean, but I do know that violence on film is far more powerful and potentially harmful than imagined violence in a book. Therefore almost all the violence is gone -- because what little remains in the film is powerful enough to provide what the story needs. For instance, Stilson does nothing important in the movie. Mazur Rackman never lays a hand on Ender, and so on.
OC: I consider the question of influence both impossible to answer and not terribly illuminating. Every storyteller draws upon the stories that are in the culture he grows up in; every storyteller is influenced by events in his own life; and every storyteller gives these things his own spin. I just don't see what benefit we derive from cataloguing those influences. More important, I have no way of knowing which writers who I love had any influence on me -- and which who I hated might have influenced me greatly. Negative influence is at least as important as positive. That's why you'll never see an imitation Tolkien fantasy. I hate the other imitators so much. However, I love LORD OF THE RINGS. Yet there will never be a work of mine obviously influenced by Tolkien. So what do we learn from that? I have no idea. As for the list of writers I admire, that is often different from the writers I love; and the list of writers who I love changes year by year. That said, I am always hungry for a new book by Richard Russo, Anne Tyler, Walter Mosley, Sharyn McCrumb...damn it, that's why I didn't want to start the list. We could fill up the rest of our time with names and commas.
Cary from New York: What were the worst jobs you had to endure before being able to write full-time?
OC: The only job I ever hated was the single day I sold skis at State Hardware in Provo, Utah. I'm not a salesman; I'm not a skier. Enough said.
Steve from New Jersey: I've been to some web sites recently that have suggested casting Haley Joel Osment from "The Sixth Sense" as opposed to Jake Lloyd in the ENDER'S GAME movie. Have you given this any thought?
OC: I haven't seen "Sixth Sense." I know enough about it to know that because it exists, my novel LOST BOYS can never be filmed. Therefore, I get depressed whenever I think about "The Sixth Sense," and I probably won't see it anytime soon. As for the young actor, he's 11 years old, which means he'll probably be into puberty before ENDER'S GAME is filmed. He also looks very frail and vulnerable. Ender has to be credible as a leader, and be dynamic and commanding. Maybe this kid can do it, maybe not. But I know Jake Lloyd can. As I said before, casting is not really up to me. I can whine, but I can't veto.
Scott Hollander from Coral Springs, FL: Scott, nice to speak to you again. Congratulations on the book... ENDER'S SHADOW was a fantastic read. I was hoping that MAGIC MIRROR would be out at the same time. Any news concerning the release of MAGIC MIRROR at this time?
OC: Yes, MAGIC MIRROR is in many bookstores already. This picture book for adults is one of my favorite projects. And I hope people will give it a look. It's not a traditional book, and does not fit neatly into any category, which means that unless readers seek it out, it is likely to get lost.
Emily from Los Angeles: I've read that your oldest son does some screenwriting. Has he contributed to the ENDER'S GAME screenplay in any direct way?
OC: The only important contribution Geoff has made to the ENDER'S GAME screenplay is that Ender is in many ways based on him as a five-year-old. Now that he's 21, he works on his own projects. If I'm lucky, he offers them to my production company first. Twenty years from now I fully expect to be little more than a footnote to the careers of my children.
ddub from San Jose, CA: If you'd had more time, would you enjoy writing short stories or novellas?
OC: I still enjoy writing short stories and novellas, but they use up as much energy as writing novels. Let's see, a project that pays me in three figures, or a project that pays me in six? What should I spend my time on? Does money overshadow art? Still, I wrote several short stories last year. One in Legends, one in Far Horizons, one in Amazing (summer issue), one that will be in Fantasy & Science Fiction this fall, and one that has appeared only in Polish -- one of my best short stories, called "The Elephants of Pozan."
Ernie from Doylestown, PA: Who is your favorite sci-fi writer, and, if different, your favorite writer in general?
OC: If I had to pick one writer from the SF genre who is writing today and whose work excites me, I would have to say Dave Wolverton. But then he's writing fantasy these days, and the fantasy series that I'm following most closely is George R. R. Martin's. But then, I really love the Arthur series that is coming out of England right now, and Lisa Goldstein is brilliant. And I admire Octavia Butler more than anybody...and you see how impossible this is.
MD from Minneapolis: Comment on Robert Byers's question: As much as I love the Ender series, those who say that ENDER'S GAME is the best should reread the Maker series. The richness of the detail in those books is incomparable! --Mel
OC: Thanks. But they are different kinds of stories and so don't really bear comparison. Personally, I think my best SF novel is PASTWATCH: THE REDEMPTION OF COLUMBUS, and my best novel overall is ENCHANTMENT. But readers vote with their dollars. Who am I to argue? Still, I hope all my stories go on finding readers who appreciate them. And the Alvin books are the most fun to write.
John Charleston from Omaha, NE: Peter (the real one) fascinates me as a character. How much of a role will he play in your future books?
OC: The sequel to ENDER'S SHADOW, THE SHADOW OF THE HEGEMON, deals with Bean's relationship with Peter as Bean commands Peter's armies in the struggle to unite humanity under one government.
JSmith from Colorado: I understand you were a Mormon missionary in South America once upon a time. Were any specific story lines prompted from experiences there?
OC: There is one story I wanted to write based on an experience I had with Macumba while I was a missionary in São Paulo. Unfortunately, it remains unwritable. Beyond that, my experiences in Brazil have colored much of my work in ways both obvious and subtle. But few particular incidents from my years in Brazil show up in my work.
John Hansen from Nashville: I loved ENDER'S SHADOW. How did you get back into a story you wrote so many years ago?
OC: It was hard. The beginning, which does not overlap with the story of ENDER'S GAME, was easy. But the moment Bean got to Battle School, I felt the original novel to be a terrible burden in the sense that I couldn't contradict it, yet I hadn't memorized it, so the risk of contradiction loomed over me. Fortunately, I had several readers helping by catching contradictions as I wrote them. Even so, I dare say more than one is in the final version waiting to be caught. This will keep some poor graduate student busy for months -- if science fiction ever becomes respectable enough for the minutiae of a science fiction writer's work to be considered worth pursuing.
Moderator: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of our questions. Do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans before we sign off?
OC: Thanks for still reading after all these years.