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Orson Scott Card -- An Author Study

by Becky Laney

Written in March 2003; Lightly Revised February 2005.

Orson Scott Card is a prolific writer who writes in multiple genres: science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, contemporary (or mainstream) fiction, and religious fiction. (He also writes in many different forms--plays, short stories, novels, essays, critical articles, poetry etc.) "Ender's Game" was Card's first published work; it literally started his career and helped set his future. At the age of sixteen, Orson Scott Card first pictured a futuristic battle school that would become so familiar to his readers. Orson Scott Card returned to this image or idea of the battle school years later when he was trying to write a publishable short story. (The editor of Analog had told him to send in a science fiction story--not fantasy). "Ender's Game" was published in Analog in August of 1977. "Ender's Game" won Card the Campbell award for best new science fiction writer. Card went on to write many novels and short stories in the following years; however, Ender's story was not quite finished. In the early eighties, Card was inspired to write SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD--as it would come to be called. The protagonist--or one of the protagonists was Andrew or "Ender" Wiggin. Using one of his former characters, Card became greatly challenged. He realized that SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD simply could not be written until he first went back and told Ender's story more in-depth. Thus the novel ENDER'S GAME came to be.

ENDER'S GAME is the story of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin and other children who have been selected to save the world from an alien species. The children are sent to battle school to learn strategy and leadership skills needed to fight. Ender is six when he leaves his family behind to face the harsh reality of the military school. Life is not fair for Ender; he is constantly suffering for the benefit of the whole--to save mankind he must be miserable. One of the other children at the school is Bean. His story is told in ENDER'S SHADOW. In ENDER'S SHADOW, the reader learns of the difficult life Bean has led. Bean's life--like Ender's--is not easy. Because of their outstanding intelligence, both children are isolated from their peers. Both books deal with the difficult process of growing up.

ENDER'S GAME was published in 1985. It received much attention. In fact, it won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards. Critics had mixed opinions on the novel. In the Kirkus Review of ENDER'S GAME the reviewer stated that despite some of its flaws, "the long passages focusing on Ender are nearly always enthralling" (1021). However, it was esteemed worthy of being among the books labeled to be "Science Fiction--Highlights of the Eighties." Many scholars have since written critical examinations of ENDER'S GAME. Tim Blackmore writes that ENDER'S GAME is a "meditation on political, social, and ethical behavior" (141). Peter C. Hall wrote an article illustrating how ENDER'S GAME is a bildungsroman stressing how the book is Ender's journey to self-realization in which he ultimately becomes "a savior for both humankind and the Buggers" (158). W.A. Senior wrote a critical examination of Orson Scott Card in which he explores how ENDER'S GAME relates to Card's own life and other fiction. Senior points out that "the main characters of most of Card's fiction--and the center of virtually all his plots--are children or adolescents" (29). He later points out that most of them are outsiders or loners. Perhaps that is the reason young adults relate so well to Orson Scott Card's works--particularly the Ender series.

While many critics have responded positively to ENDER'S GAME or Orson Scott Card's other works, there are many who find fault in his work. W.A. Senior treats this subject in-depth, but concludes that Orson Scott Card's "work finds a wide, enthusiastic, and appreciative readership, apparently untroubled by the various critical and creative tensions that disgruntle more academic readers" (23). Orson Scott Card had this to say, "I want to reach people who read books for the sheer pleasure of it because those are the people who are open to having their lives changed by what they read" (Card, 2000, Publishers Weekly Talks With Orson Scott Card). Furthermore, Card wrote in his introduction to ENDER'S GAME (re-released in 1991) that the highest praise his work has ever received came from a school librarian who said, "ENDER'S GAME is our most-lost book" (xx). Card learned early on that people who read ENDER'S GAME were not neutral in their responses "the people that hated it really hated it" (xviii). Likewise, those that loved it really loved it.

ENDER'S GAME was only the beginning. Card went on to write three more books in the series: SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD (1986; also a Hugo and Nebula award-winner), XENOCIDE (1991), and CHILDREN OF THE MIND (1996). In those three books, the reader finds that Ender is all grown up--and infinitely wise. He is no longer the confused suffering child--he is a confident mature man ready to face the world.

Recently, Card chose to revisit Ender's story with a new goal and perspective. In ENDER'S SHADOW (1999), Card retells--or sheds new light on--ENDER'S GAME. In fact, ENDER'S SHADOW is a parallel novel told from the perspective of Bean. (Bean was one of the more memorable minor characters in the original short story and novel.) In her review of ENDER'S SHADOW, Jackie Cassada praised Orson Scott Card's storytelling and his "genuine insight into the moral dilemmas that lead good people to commit questionable actions" (115). Roland Green commented that ENDER'S SHADOW was proof that "a tale can be absorbingly told twice, especially when it is told the second time from a different perspective by an author so grown in range and skill since the first telling" (1920). ENDER'S SHADOW was one of ten books award the Alex Award in 2000. Card has written three more books in the "Shadow" series. (Sometimes critics list these books in the Ender's series . . . and sometimes they are considered a series by themselves.) SHADOW OF THE HEGEMON (2001) continues the story of ENDER'S SHADOW and ENDER'S GAME. It begins with the return of the children from space. Principal characters include Bean, Petra (his friend), Achilles (his enemy), and Peter Wiggin--Andrew's power-hungry brother. SHADOW PUPPETS (2002) is the third in the ongoing series of what happens on Earth after Ender has saved the world. SHADOW OF THE GIANT (2005) is the fourth in the series.

ENDER'S GAME and ENDER'S SHADOW are among Card's most popular works. Both books are in the process of being made into a movie--one movie that combines both stories. Card himself has written the screenplay. Both books are enjoying a surge of popularity in the young adult market. In fact, many teachers are using these books--especially ENDER'S GAME--in their classrooms. While Card is flattered that his books are being read, he worries that by requiring them to be read--that many of his readers will be unengaged. (He's a big believer in engaged reading--reading for the sheer pleasure in it!) In his introduction to ENDER'S GAME, Orson Scott Card focuses on how he hopes a reader will read his novel. He wants the reading process to be a participatory one.

"The 'true' story is not the one that exists in my mind; it is certainly not the written words on the bound paper that you hold in your hands. The story in my mind is nothing but a hope; the text of the story is the tool I created in order to try to make that hope a reality. The story itself, the true story, is the one that the audience members create in their minds, guided and shaped by my text, but then transformed, elucidated, expanded, edited, and clarified by their own experience, their own desires, their own hopes and fears. The story of ENDER'S GAME is not this book, though it has that title emblazoned on it. The story is one that you and I will construct together in your memory. If the story means anything to you at all, then when you remember it afterward, think of it, not as something I created, but rather as something that we made together." (xxv-xxvi)

Orson Scott Card is a wonderful writer--a fact which is clearly shown in these two texts (ENDER'S GAME and ENDER'S SHADOW).


Argyle, Steven. 1988. "Orson Scott Card: A Literary Maverick" Main Street Journal. Online at <http://www.hatrack.com/research/articles/1988-stevenargyle.shtml>. Accessed 13 March 2003.

Argyle article

Blackmore, Tim. 1991. "Ender's beginning: Battling the military in Orson Scott Card's Ender's game.&#8221; Extrapolation 32.2 (Summer) : 124-42.
Boden, Barbara and Josh Rubins, ed. 1984. Review of Ender's game, by Orson Scott Card. Kirkus Reviews 52: 18 (November) : 1021.
Card, Orson Scott. 1985. Ender's game. New York: Tor. ISBN: 0812550706.
---. 1986. Speaker for the dead. New York: Tor. ISBN: 0812550757.
---. 1989. The Worthing saga. New York: Tor. ISBN: 0812533313.

---. 1989. Orson Scott Card Interview. Interview by Howard Mittelmark. Online at <http://www.hatrack.com/research/articles/1989-01-howard-mittelmark.shtml>. Accessed 6 February 2003.

Mittelmark Interview with OSC

---. 1990. PW Interviews Orson Scott Card. Interview by Grace Anne A. DeCandido and Keith R.A. DeCandido, November 1990. Online at <http://www.hatrack.com/research/articles/1990-pw.shtml>. Accessed 6 February 2003.

DeCandido (PW) Interview with OSC

---. 1992. Flux. New York: Tor. ISBN: 0812516850.

---. 1997. Orson Scott Card Interview. Interview by Jeff Duke. Online at <http://www.hatrack.com/research/interviews/1997-jeffduke.shtml>. Accessed 6 February 2003.

Duke's Interview with OSC

---. 1998. Card's Game: An Interview with Orson Scott Card. Interview by Scott Nicholson. Online at <http://www.hatrack.com/research/interviews/1998-scott-nicholson.shml>. Accessed 6 February 2003

Nicholson's Interview with OSC

---. 1999. A Conversation with Orson Scott Card. Interview by Claire E. White, September 1999. Online at <http://www.hatrack.com/research/interviews/1999-09-writerswrite.shtml>. Accessed 6 February 2003.

White's Interview with OSC

---. 2000. Publisher's Weekly Talks With Orson Scott Card. Interview by Publishers Weekly, 20 November 2000. Online at <http://www.hatrack.com/research/interviews/2000-11-pw.shtml> . Accessed 6 February 2003.

Publishers Weekly Interview with OSC (2000)

---. 2002. "Behind the Words" Online at <http://www.hatrack.com/research/author_questionnaire.shtml>. Accessed 13 March 2003.

Behind the Words

Cassada, Jackie. 1995. Review of Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card. Library Journal 120: 20 (December) : 163.
---. 1999. Review of Ender's shadow, by Orson Scott Card. Library Journal 124:15 (September) : 115.
---. 2000. Review of Shadow of the hegemon, by Orson Scott Card. Library Journal 125: 20 (December) : 196.
Collings, Michael. 1996. &#8220;Orson Scott Card: An approach to mythopoeic literature.&#8221; Mythlore 21.3 (Summer) : 36-50.
Estes, Sally. 2000. Review of Shadow of the hegemon, by Orson Scott Card. Booklist 97.5 (November) : 491-92.
Gale Group. "Orson Scott Card" Contemporary Authors. Online. Accessed 6 February 2003.
Green, Roland. 1985. Review of Speaker for the dead, by Orson Scott Card. Booklist 82: 8 (December) : 594.
---. 1995. Review of Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus, by Orson Scott Card. Booklist 92:7 (December) : 586.
---. 1996. Review of Children of the mind, by Orson Scott Card. Booklist 92:19 (June) : 1629.
---. 1999. Review of Ender's shadow, by Orson Scott Card. Booklist 95:21 (July) : 1920.
Hall, Peter C. 1988. "'The space between' in space: Some versions of the bildungsroman in science fiction." Extrapolation 29.2 (Summer) : 153-59.
Johnson, Roberta. 1999. Review of Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card. Booklist 95:13 (March) : 1103.
Rochman, Hazel, ed. 2000. Review of Ender's shadow, by Orson Scott Card. Booklist 96:15 (April) : 1446.
Senior, W.A. 2001. "Orson Scott Card: A study in contrasts." North Carolina Literary Review 10 : 21-30.

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