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Orson Scott Card

Readers welcome popular SF writer

August 23, 1999
Web posted at: 5:50 p.m. EDT (2150 GMT)

The following is an edited transcript of a chat with Orson Card, author of "Enders Shadow." Card joined us on Tuesday, August 17, from Greensboro, North Carolina.

Chat Moderator: Welcome, Orson Card!

Orson Card: For once, I'm on time - even early - and haven't had any problems getting on. Amazing!

Comment: I enjoy Cards fiction. In fact last night I read Bully and the Beast and it REALLY moved me.

Orson Card: Glad you liked Bully and the Beast. I keep wishing I could turn it into a children's book ... but it's too adult.

Question: I was wondering if you've included the concepts of the uncreated intelligence (aiua) in this latest book?

Orson Card: No aiuas in Ender's Shadow ... it's a parallel novel, takes place the same time as Ender's Game. So ... that concept hasn't been developed yet.

Question: Oh. Well, I was astonished at how well you've understood it. Hardly anyone else realizes its significance especially in light of having a multiversal cosmology.

Question: What is the motivation for this book and can you tell us a little about the storyline of the book?

Orson Card: So ... motivation for this book. The cheap answer is that, as with all my books, the motivation is the need to support my family! After all, no one has yet paid me for playing Civilization, which is my primary activity in life. But the real answer is: We were going to have other writers create novels about Ender's Companions in Battle School ... but when push came to shove, I just couldn't bear it. Other people writing about Bean? Petra? Dink? No way. That was my province!

Review, Excerpt of 'Ender's Shadow'
Ender's Shadow

Question: Orson, I like what you've posted of the new Ender's Game script. My question is, have you seen Sixth Sense, and if so, what do you think of Haley Joel Osmant playing Ender if the part isn't taken by Jake Lloyd? Personally, I think Osmant shows more range and could convey Ender's growth more realistically.

Orson Card: I haven't seen "Sixth Sense," partly because the promos depressed me they felt as if someone had read Lost Boys and changed it enough to make a horror movie out of it without paying for the rights to my book . I'm sure that's not at all what happened, but because Sixth Sense exists, Lost Boys will probably never get made. I've heard the kid is good. But you haven't seen Jake Lloyd's range yet. You've only seen him in movies with pretty poor scripts - Jingle All the Way and Fantum Mennis. Jake is Ender, in a lot of ways. When he has the right things to say and do, he'll bring life to it like no one else. Whereas if I can judge from the promos, the kid in 6th Sense seems to me to radiate "sensitivity." There's a lot more needed than mere sensitivity to play Ender. Indeed, what's most needed is that he be believable in COMMAND. That you believe other kids would follow him and die for him. I don't see that - again, from promos alone - in the kid in 6th sense.

Question: I have seen many of the ARC of Enders Shadow for sale on the net... how did they get them?

Orson Card: Advanced Readers Copies are given free to reviewers, buyers for bookstore chains, and key bookstore personnel. Some are also given to reviewers. Reviewers are the most common source of advance copies for sale. That's because a lot of reviewers sell the books they don't review and some even sell the ones they do. They're not SUPPOSED to, mind you. And if they do, they need to report that as income - though few do. But that's where those ARCs come from. For what it's worth, they're made with the cheapest paper and glue, there are lots of typos in them, and sometimes major changes are made (though not this time). They'll all fall apart within a few years. Pages are already falling out of some of them now.

Question: What was the most emotionally difficult book to write?

Orson Card: Without question, Lost Boys. That's because it's the most autobiographical thing I've written. Not that I'd lost a child at that point, but because the family was so closely based on mine and on our first year in Greensboro (1983) and events shortly afterward, writing the passages where Stevie dies forced me to imagine the death of my oldest child, my son Geoffrey, on whom he is so closely based. An awful experience. I never am moved by my own fiction - I know I'm creating something that might or should move others, but I am not myself caught up in it - rather like the puppeteer, I'm moving strings, not watching the play. But with Lost Boys, I was watching the play to the point where I wasn't sure if I was writing anything that anyone else would understand. I intend never to write anything that personally emotional again. Just too hard on me.

Question: Who are your literary inspirations and heroes?

Orson Card: I don't have heroes, at least not literary ones. I have writers whose work I admire -- but because their work exists, I don't have to write like that. I don't have to write Screwtape Letters or Lord of the Rings; I don't have to write The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress or Foundation. Lewis and Tolkien and Heinlein and Asimov already wrote them. As to inspiration, there are two ways that writers can inspire other writers to write. One way is when the young writer says, "That was so wonderful, I want to create something just that good!" The other way is when the young writer says, "If a piece of kuso like that can get published, I can write!" Personally, I think the second motivation usually results in fresher, more original work *fixed*.

Question: How has your faith impacted or informed your writing?

Orson Card: The same way every writer's faith impacts his work. The things we truly believe in - not our opinions, but the things we are so sure are true that it does not occur to us that they might not be - give shape to every unconscious decision made in the writing or telling of a story. That is, a writer can deliberately "falsify" a story or bend the events to demonstrate a point - but that will cover no more than a tenth or less of the decisions he makes in the creation of the story. The rest of the decisions are unconsciously made - and those arise out of the author's faith - his view of how the world really works, the purpose and cause of everything. In fact, I think it's useful to say that one does not know what a person's TRUE faith is until one sees how he acts and, if he's a creator of tales, the stories that he tells.

Question: Do you think that Ender's Shadow will be the final book in the Ender series? Are you done with that universe?

Orson Card: Not at all. In a sense, the story of Ender himself is closed. Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind make a complete story. At the end, Ender is ended. In another sense, the last three are really a self-contained trilogy telling one continuous story, while Ender's Game, the story of "kids in space," had no sequel. In a way, it still hasn't - Ender's Shadow is a parallel novel, beginning where Ender's Game begins and ending where it ends. There is a sequel planned, called Shadow of the Hegemon, in which we see Bean as the commander that Peter uses in the process of uniting all of humanity under one government. And I plan a book about Petra. Beyond that, I may write more or we may open the series to other writers. A lot depends on whether a successful movie is made. If so, then there'll be a "media books" aftermarket. If not, then it's a much less likely thing to happen. We'll see!

Question: Are you familiar with Stephen Lawhead?

Orson Card: Nope.

Question: The writing style or feel for the series seems to change with each book. Was there a reason for this or was that intended?

Orson Card: I try never to write the same book twice. Ender's Shadow is the closest I've ever come -- but if there were not stylistic changes fifteen years after Ender's Game, I'd probably have to give up my career. I generally adopt the voice appropriate for the story I'm telling - or at least the most appropriate voice I can find. Sometimes the choice I make can hurt a book -- Hart's Hope has such a rhetorical feel to it and is so "constructed" a voice that many readers found it off-putting. I still think it was "artistically" the right choice, but it made HH into my least-selling novel. (Though those who like it, like it fiercely, which makes me very happy, since I think it's one of my best works.) The Alvin books tend to take on the voice of the point-of-view character, for internally consistent reasons. Each book, then, becomes a project of its own, and so the feel and tone are different. I don't consider that a virtue per se - I'm delighted, when I sit down with the new Sue Grafton novel, to find the familiar voice largely unchanged. I don't think of that as a flaw, I think of that as very much the correct choice for the series she's writing, given that each book is written supposedly by the main character and only a few months at most after the previous one. So ... it's just a choice I make, the way I work.

Orson Card: By the way, I love some of your chat nicknames. Yak_Herder. Porkrind. There's got to be a story behind them. But ... I'll make up my own *grin*

Question: Do you plan to write a novel that follows the events of Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus? Perhaps one that explores the alternate history created in that novel?

Orson Card: Pastwatch is pretty much a sequel-proof story. What we have planned for further books in the Pastwatch series (yep, series) are books that take place sort of in the midst of the Columbus book. There's the Noah book, which tells Kemal's story as frame but Noah's story and the flood as the main tale, and then there's the Garden of Eden story - yep, the hoariest cliche in science fiction, but I have no fear, the artsy types couldn't possibly despise me more, and I think there's a reason why it is the most-written cliche story in the field. People are hungry for a rational treatment of that story in science fictional terms. So ... I mean to give it a try. We'll see if anyone but me likes it.

Question: Do you have a system for writing so that you have to write so many hours a day or do you write whenever you're in the mood?

Orson Card: I wish I had a system. I even tried. Nor can I rely on "the mood," since writing is work and I'm never in the mood to work. Instead, I write when the checks are starting to bounce *wince* You think I'm joking, but the truth is, stories rarely feel "ready" they just feel "almost ready." It usually takes some outside impetus to get me working. Once I've got a story under way, it usually goes smoothly. But not always. It's why I had to stop going to sci-fi conventions. I'd be three weeks into a novel, and along would come a date when I promised to be at Convention X or Y. I'd drop the book, go to the con, come back ... and find that I'd lost the thread and it sometimes took MONTHS to get back into the book. Usually just before the next convention *grin*. So I try not to promise anything in advance. Basically, my rule for the past few years has been to accept only foreign conventions. (The English one is a symposium, not an sci-fi convention.) And I've just accepted an invitation to a US convention in the fall of 2000. But mostly I try to protect my utter inability to predict when I'll be writing something intensely.

Question: how did you get your foot in the door writing sci-fi?

Orson Card: I wrote a story. I mailed it in. People often have the illusion that you have to know somebody to get published. That's the movie industry. In books, an editor can't afford to publish an unpublishable book by a friend, or to ignore a publishable book by a stranger. Editors are starving for good manuscripts. Sadly, though, the bean-counters at the big publishing conglomerates don't understand that it takes an editor to find a good writer and nurse him or her along. So they have eliminated the reading of slush as an "economy" editors don't have time to edit anymore, let alone read the slush pile. So now the agents have to read slush, and in order to pay for it, that agents are charging to read unsolicited mss. AND they're generally taking a higher percentage from the writers who do sell. In other words, the big multinational media corporations have increased their profits by cutting into author earnings through the back door.

It's a vile thing, because writers get less service from agents now than ever before, and the agents are now the "front line" for the publishers, which means that many a brilliant new writer might be overlooked because the agent can't afford to take a chance on someone that he doesn't know he can sell right away. Thus literature becomes locked into existing patterns.

How did I get my foot in the door? I did it in the 1970s, when it was still a semi-rational process. In science fiction, at least, the magazines are still a viable way to enter the business, and not every publisher insists that only agented submissions will be considered. In other genres, I have no idea - you just have to keep trying agents. The trouble is, the kind of agent you can get before you're published is not the kind of agent, most of the time, that you'll be happy with AFTER you're published. Sort of a W.C. Fields situation: I wouldn't want an agent who would have me as a client. *grin*. Yet, the truth remains: Publishers are desperate for good manuscripts, and if they're not desperate for YOURS, chances are it's not good. Or at least it lacks that outward professionalism that gives confidence to the agents and publishers. Question: Are there any Speakers for the Dead in regular life? Is that practiced anywhere in our world that you know of?

Orson Card: Prior to my novel, I've never seen or heard of a Speaker for the Dead, though it might well occur. However, I've had several dozen people write to me about having conducted funeral orations as "speakings for the dead." This is particularly done with a "problem" person, whose life was such that the standard speak-no-evil eulogy would be such a flagrant lie that no one could bear it. Yet cruelty is not the point of a funeral either. So they do a speaking for the dead, facing the problems squarely but still treating the person fairly. I understand that it works very well - or at least, it does for those who write to me about it .

Question: Do you foresee a sequel to Songmaster? Ansset's legacy? Orson Card: Alas, I really did say everything I wanted to say about Ansset and the Songhouse and the whole idea of music as a metaphor for power, etc. So ... no more Songhouse stories.

Question: I'm curious about the origin of Bean's name. In EG, Ender gave Bean his name, in Ender's Shadow, Bean is given the name by someone else. Is this viewed as a necessary inconsistency in the story or just a coincidence that multiple people nicknamed this kid the same?

Orson Card: Ender doesn't give Bean his nickname in Ender's Game. He asks Bean his name, and Bean tells him, and then he jokes about the name. Question: Do you run into conflicts between the things you write about and your religious beliefs?

Orson Card: Never. But I sometimes run into conflicts between what I write and what people who think they know what I should believe think that I should write. If that makes any sense *grin*. I've been asked for my email address. I will give it freely -- it's not a secret -- as long as you understand and that common questions (How's the Ender movie coming?) get routed to my assistant, and sometimes I simply have to ignore my email in order to get anything done. That said, my email is

Question: I know that Ender's Shadow will be released at the end of the month, but is there any way I can get a ARC?

Orson Card: The answer is, why would you want a toy book, when the real thing will be out in two weeks? *grin*. Seriously, apart from the semi-legal sales (each book SAYS very clearly that it's not for resale) of ARCs on Ebay and elsewhere, I have no idea. Sorry!

Question: I have heard about a TV show called Harsh Realm. It seems to share a lot in common with Ender's Game -- a virtual game which works out defense strategies. Any comments?

Orson Card: Never heard of it. But I'm hardly the only person to think of the idea of games as shadows of reality. Games began as shadows of reality. At the same time, it's also quite possible that Harsh Realm owes something to Ender's Game. If so, I'm proud -- as long as it's not so close that it treads on my ability to get Ender's Game made as a movie. Then it's lawsuit time *grin*. But I seriously doubt that any TV show or film will ever get so close to Ender as to be litigable. The Last Starfighter is as close as we're likely to come.

Question: I have been a big fan of yours ever since reading your short stories like "Deep breathing exercises" in Omni magazine years ago. How do you come up with such great ideas??

Orson Card: Ideas are cheap. It's figuring out how to make a story out of them that's hard. I try, when I publish collections of stories, to talk about the origins of each idea. But the general rule is that when you see life and the world around you as a storyteller, every event has a story in it. You recognize the stories by asking the causal questions: Why? Why? What result? How? The first two whys are not stuttering - one of them is the mechanical causation question -- what made this happen -- and the other is final cause -- for what purpose did this person act? When you're asking those questions constantly, anything can become a story. So then the ones you write are not just the ones you thought of you think of hundreds a day - but the ones that you care about and believe in. Those you can write. That's why, when people approach me saying, "I have this wonderful idea for a story, you can write it, we'll split the money" or even "you can have all the money" -- I always say no. That's because it's only a great idea to the person who cares about it and believes in it -- and that's the person who has to write it. I can't. Because I don't.

Question: What was it like working with "the king of the world" James Cameron?

Orson Card: Oh, boy. Lawsuit time. Let's just say that if I wanted to go to hell, there are easier ways than working on a Jim Cameron movie. Jim is under the delusion that treating other people like kuso is part of being a genius. He's wrong.

Question: I enjoyed how many of your book tell religious stories from an "alternate" point of view. Has anyone told you it made it easier for them to see religion ?

Orson Card: I get quite a bit of mail from people who are believers in a religion who felt that a story of mine was welcome encouragement, and from people who are seekers who felt that a story of mine helped them find an answer ... or at least a better grade of question. That's not my purpose in writing, but I'm happy when it happens. The only thing I do that is deliberate, concerning religion in my fiction, is that I don't think you can tell an honest story about a human being without including his religious beliefs. And everyone has religious beliefs, even those who fancy themselves atheists (indeed, they are often the most fanatical in their faith -- and the least grounded in evidence). So my characters often have a religious life, which is relatively rare, given that in our culture, our artists generally are expected to be "rebellious" in exactly the same way as artists in 1810 were rebellious. What a conservative you have to be, to be a radical these days!

Question: Any worries that the recent outbreaks of school violence, and the general paranoia that's followed, will have a negative impact on getting Ender's Game made as a movie?

Orson Card: It already has had an impact. We had to change the cover of Ender's Shadow, for one thing. For another, the violence aspect -- kids with guns -- will be almost nonexistent. I rethought the way the flashsuit and the dao -- the flashgun -- will work. Nothing that looks like a gun will be seen. I'm perfectly happy with that. We've never owned a gun or had one in our house, unless you count squirt guns (and even then we preferred the ones that did not look like the real thing). Too many kids die from their parents' guns. Kristine and I expected to have inquisitive children. Therefore we chose to have no guns.

Question: How often do you get an idea that actually makes its way into being a story?

Orson Card: Since almost every story requires two major and independent ideas in order to come to life, and then whatever ideas pop up during the writing of it also get into the story, I usually have dozens of ideas for each story I write -- and those are just the ones that get used. As I said, ideas are cheap. If I cared, I could sketch out a hundred stories a day. But I wouldn't care about many of them. And I've never tried to keep a record of the losers, so I have no idea what percentage of them win .

Question: Did you find storytelling came to you naturally or did you have to develop it? How did you hone your writing skills?

Orson Card: Both. Storytelling comes to every human being naturally, but I had a certain glibness in dialogue and a knack for dramatic scenes, so that part came easily. Other aspects of storytelling were hard - structure, for instance. I've found that almost nobody understands structure and few of those are writing teachers, so you're on your own in finding the shape of a tale. And there are other things that come hard. Even though dialogue was easy for me, I had a tendency to give everyone speeches so mellifluous they sounded like epigrams. As a friend told me about a play I had just written in college, "Everybody talks like their words are engraved above the door of a building." She was right. So I worked on naturalness and my dialogue improved. The thing is, you rarely know what you're doing wrong until you learn how to do it right. So there are doubtless things that I'm still doing wrong, and I won't know about it till I learn better.

Question: What is more "real," what you do, or what you create?

Orson Card: I'm not sure what you mean. My "real life" or my fictional creations? If that's the question, I hope I'm sane enough that my real life is far more real to me. My stories are, after all, just stories. I think they matter, individually and to the community that reads them -- but they don't matter at all compared to how I treat my family and the people around me. I'd rather be a good man and a bad writer than a bad man and a good writer.

Orson Card: Though truth to tell, I think I'll spend my whole life struggling to be both. But fiction is not reality, and woe to the writer who forgets that! The saddest thing is not the writers who think their fiction is more real than life, but those poor sad writers who think that the literary community is more real than life! They really are captives -- punished by every bad review, devastated by every snub. The writer who wants to keep his sanity holds the literary world at a distance, and holds dearly to the real people in his life - the people who don't value him as a writer, but rather as a human being.

Question: When will a new "Alvin Maker" book be coming out?

Orson Card: They always insist that I write them first. I meant to write Crystal City this past winter, but the Ender's Game script consumed my life until a couple of weeks ago. So I hope to write it this fall -- except that I'll be spending September and much of October touring around signing Ender's Shadow *grin*.

Question: Why did you choose to write Sci-Fi instead of some other genre?

Orson Card: Initially it was because Science Fiction was so open to new writers --because of the magazines. Now, though, science fiction is the most open and accepting audience -- you can experiment and many readers will still give your work a chance. But there's also a negative reason for sticking with sf and fantasy - because that's where the computers at the bookstore chains have me pegged. I can't get a literary novel published, period. And even when I write something like Lost Boys or Homebody, which are merely contemporary, not "literary," you should see the snotty and childish reviews by literary types who say, in effect or in these exact words, "He should stick to sci-fi."

Question: Which books do you consider to be your best writing?

Orson Card: Depends on what you mean by "best writing." That's because what many people call "good writing" I consider to be very bad, because the writing itself distracts from the story. In effect, the writer, by writing in a flashy way, pushes his characters into the background and stands between them and his readers, grinning and making faces at them. Not good showmanship. So for me, "good writing" generally means "invisible writing" -- clear writing of a tale. The plain tale, plainly told. By this standard, Isaac Asimov was the foremost stylist of our time -- no one wrote with his clarity. I have never approached that quality.

Question: Do you have a particular fondness for Chicago? You have been here quite often.

Orson Card: I do like Chicago, but in fact I've been there far less than to cities like SLC and Provo, where I have family, and L.A., where I have business, and D.C., a town that I simply love, and NYC, where they keep all them shows. I like Chicago a lot, but don't get there half often enough. Question: Lost Boys gave such an interesting glimpse into the early computer world. Did you work with computers in the 80s?

Orson Card: I was an editor at Compute Magazine -- I was hired and brought to Greensboro, N.C., to edit their new line of books. I loved the work and the people I worked with, except for my immediate bosses, but those problems are documented in Lost Boys *grin*. I did get to the point where I was writing machine language subroutines without an assembler, just POKEing the numbers into memory in BASIC - but that was on the 6502 processor, which used the whole zero page as its registers. It wasn't fun programming in ML on the 8088 when the IBM PC came out, because there were so few registers you spent half your programming time loading numbers into and out of them. Boring. So ... I stopped programming then. Still enjoy computers, but the computers at our house are all tended by Scott Allen, our resident Webwright.

Question: As a SF writer and taxpayer, how do you feel about the benefits of space exploration and the possibility of a manned Mars mission?

Orson Card: I'm basically indifferent. I don't think there's much practical benefit to going into space, but if there are people desperate to go, and it doesn't cost more than the space program has cost so far (a negligible cost, really) I think it's a fine thing to do. I guess I just don't have an explorer's instincts. But I respect those who do, and wouldn't want to stand in their way.

Question: What's the strangest fan encounter you've had?

Orson Card: I try not to judge my fans. I think they all have one wonderful trait in common -- they think my stuff is worth reading .

Question: What writers do you consider to have had the most influence on your writing?

Orson Card: Everyone I've read has had some influence; none of them has had much deliberate influence (i.e., influence that I've noticed) and when I do notice it, I quit. Not that I try to be an "original" -- I don't think originality is either possible or particularly desirable. But I'm also not terribly interested in duplicating work that someone else is already doing or has already done. Why chop down a tree that's already been chopped down?

Question: Would you go on (and write of) a Space Shuttle mission?

Orson Card: Not likely. I wouldn't have anything useful to do on a shuttle mission, and I'd be keenly aware of the pressure to write something "wonderful" when I might not have anything wonderful to write. I'll leave that up to people who care a lot more than I do about space.

Question: Can you tell use what happens too baby Zap in "Lost Boys"?

Orson Card: I can tell you that my son Charlie Ben, on whom Zap is based, is 16 years old now, still nonverbal and non-ambulatory, but a happy kid and a joy to everyone around him.

Question: I loved the Alvin series. However, I was very surprised by the liberal use of Mormon theology and even text in fiction. Was I just imagining it?

Orson Card: I don't recall any Mormon text in the Alvin Marker series, except by implication and paraphrase. But since the Alvin series is plotted along the lines of Joseph Smith's life, you weren't imagining it!

Question: Do you think you might ever write any non-fiction? If so what topic is dear to your heart?

Orson Card: I've written nonfiction -- a couple of books on writing, a collection of essays for the Mormon audience, a biography of Danny Ainge (back when that might have helped a fledgling publisher get started), a book of satire called "Saintspeak; The Mormon Dictionary." I'm even toying with writing a book called "The Body You Have," dealing with my own bouts of weight loss over the years (I'm down 95 lbs right now from my peak of a year or so ago). But I'm trying to keep in mind the lesson of Tolstoy: Nobody wished he had written more nonfiction; everybody wished he had written more fiction.

Question: Why did Stevie have to die in Lost Boys? It was so sad! :-(

Orson Card: The whole point of the book was that Stevie haunted his family. It was sad -- but I hope also ennobling. The comparison sounds vainglorious, but to me the question is like asking, "Why did Jesus have to die in all four gospels?" *grin*

Question: How many pages a day on average do write?

Orson Card: When I'm hot on a book, I can write thirty, forty, fifty a day. When it's going slowly, I'm content with four or five good ones. I keep reminding myself that a page a day is a novel a year. And most days, I write nothing at all. By the way, I'm delighted that so many of you came tonight. Most online events that don't have real celebrities (i.e., movie stars) don't get much more than 40 or 50 in the audience, so I appreciate y 'all showing up.

Question: Why or how does Peter manage to entrain Bean in his plans?

Orson Card: Ah, Capper, you're asking me to tell things that I haven't even thought up yet *grin*. But the obvious answer is: Everybody with ambition on Earth after the Xenocide will be looking for ways to get their hands on these genius kids from Battle School to use them to further their own ambitions.

Orson Card: I guess we're in freeform now, yes? If so, then if you asked a question and it didn't get answered, give it a try now and we'll see how many I can cover.

Question: Where can I get a list of book signings? Locations?

Orson Card: Our Canadian distributor is flying me to Winnipeg and points north as part of my tour for Shadow in September. The itinerary is posted on my website: The Ender's Game movie is making good progress, by Hollywood standards. As soon as we have real news, I post it online.

Question: What do you think of the movie The Matrix?

Orson Card: Haven't seen The Matrix.

Question: Orson: OCD was an amazing tool for the characters in your later Ender's novels, they allowed such a depth of character and complexity of character that is rare in modern fiction. In Ender's Shadow, do you explore the character so deeply?

Orson Card: I try to explore characters deeply in all my books. What I can't control is how readers respond to the characters -- so some will feel deeper to you than others, while to me they'll be equally "deep."

Question: Mr. Card, what do you think of your books being compared to Harry Potter?

Orson Card: Haven't read Harry Potter, but I think he's aiming at a different audience. (And I know, Harry Potter is the character, not the writer.)

Question: How does Bean Change Peter?

Orson Card: Haven't decided yet how Bean changes Peter. We'll see!

Question: "Ender's Game," which forms only the back-story for the rest of the series, is probably the most popular book in the series. I imagine that you put more effort into the later books. How does this make you feel?

Orson Card: I had a lot of fun writing the Ender's Game novel, and you're right, it didn't take the kind of effort the later books took. But I tell my writing students that labored writing usually means labored reading, so it's no coincidence that the easiest book to write is also the easiest to read .

Question: Mr. Card... I have noticed the use of sexuality in your novels... including homosexuality. It is presented in a non-offensive way, but I am curious as to your thoughts regarding how it affects your characters.

Orson Card: Sexuality is a part of life. When it comes up naturally in a story, I deal with it. When it doesn't, I don't. I don't insert it in some effort to be more commercial; I don't avoid it in some effort to be inoffensive. Basically, I treat sexuality as I treat other bodily needs and functions. I don't tell you every time my characters void their bladders -- unless it matters to the story .

Question: What really happened at Tippy Canoe?

Orson Card: Now, now the true story of Tippecanoe will never be known. The official versions are available in good books of history which go into far more detail than I can go into here. Suffice it to say that I think my depiction of it, while exaggerated, is true to the event in a moral sense.

Question: Orson, do you think making a movie of your work will make it seem 'cheap' and a sell out? I'm not implying that making a movie of great literature is bad, but it seems that Hollywood is unable to produce good SF since 2001 came out.

Orson Card: Movies are the prime art form of our civilization right now. The highest praise anyone gives is, "That was so good, it ought to be a movie." So I'd be cowardly to avoid seeing if any of my stories can be translated to film. Most of them can't -- I don't even want to see a film of Xenocide, for instance (f45 minutes of watching Qing-jao trace woodgrains! Yeah!). But I have hopes for Ender's Game and some other projects -- Enchantment, Homebody, Treasure Box -- being made into excellent films. As to selling out - so far I've lost hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing Hollywood, and earned about $10,000 total cash. If that's selling out, I'm pretty damn cheap.

Question: Yes, but are you afraid a movie will "butcher" your book? Orson Card: I do my best to control how a movie gets made. There's always a point, though, where it slips out of the writer's control. We'll see whether any butchers take over at that point. The thing is, even if the movie is trash, the book still exists, unchanged.

Comment: I've heard that some teachers use Ender in their English class. Move over Shakespeare!

Question: Mr. Card, in what state do you live? And do you write for certain genders?

Orson Card: I live in North Carolina, and I try to write for anybody who'll pay attention.

Question: Mr. Card, I have read most of your books, but the one I am most impressed by is "Saints." Could you please explain your experiences writing this book? How hard was it putting such characterizations to classic historical figures?

Orson Card: Saints was a labor of the heart. The research was excellent -- I can say that because I didn't do it. I had access to the latest and best research on Mormon history in England and Nauvoo, and I did my best to bring these people to life. Some people hate the book; more people like it; I just wish more people had read it .

Comment: Well, it was a beautifully written book and one of your best (if little known) books.

Question: How does the concept of homosexuality enter into your storytelling.. and does it conflict with your Mormon beliefs? (No offense.. I am just curious as to your thinking)

Orson Card: The practice of homosexuality conflicts with my Mormon beliefs, but the existence of it is simply part of reality.

Question: Did you visit any sites in Indiana during your research for the Alvin Maker series? I visited Prophet's Town recently and it is the most peaceful place I have ever been. Perhaps that is what inspired you to write about this time?

Orson Card: I lived in South Bend prior to writing any part of the Alvin series, but I never visited any of the actual sites. I know generally what the scenery is like, however, and used that knowledge. I don't describe much in my fiction, though, so I don't have to be on the ground, usually.

Question: I wish you would make Texas part of your tour!

Orson Card: I go where the publisher sends me. Texas would be fine with me! is where all my public appearances are announced as soon as we know when and where they'll be.

Question: What other authors do you enjoy reading in your spare time?

Orson Card: I read mostly mystery writers. I haven't read much sci-fi in years -- I burned out in the days when I reviewed a lot of it. I read mostly history, biography, science, current politics, philosophy, and then whatever else tickles my fancy. There are writers whose books I seek out. I will undoubtedly read the next in George RR Martin's fantasy series. I read Dave Wolverton/David Farland faithfully. And Sue Grafton, James Lee Burke, Walter Mosley, a dozen others in the mystery genre have my loyalty. I read Ann Tyler and Richard Russo and Harry Crews when they come out with each new book.

Question: Mr. Card, how does your family feel about your high autobiographical degree of detail in your books?

Orson Card: My family doesn't mind, because I disguise things so darn well. Even in Lost Boys, I know it's autobiographical, but I have compromised no family secrets . And most of my fiction is not autobiographical in the slightest. My kids are safe .

Question: Are you looking forward to your tour??

Orson Card: The actual signings are usually enjoyable - only nice people read my books - but the traveling and the being away from home, no, I don't look forward to that. All hotels look alike after a while, and introverts like me get worn out from constant public contact.

Question: Do you write books gender specific?

Orson Card: I don't know how to write a gender specific book. The women I know speak the same language as the men who dwell in the same country. Audiences select themselves. I keep going to movies supposedly "for women" and often find that I like those movies a lot better than the ones supposedly "for men." But that doesn't change my Y to an X. So I don't much care about selecting the gender of my audience. I don't want to shrink my audience -- I want to extend it!

Question: Before I leave, Mr. Card, I'd like to thank you for writing me such wonderful books, and opening my eyes to the benefits of character development. I can honestly say that your OCD characters in the later Ender books made me realize that plot was not the only literary device. ;)

Orson Card: Thanks! Well, folks, I think I've pretty much caught up, and my family is saying things like, "You said 9:30, Dad, and it's 9:42."

Chat Host: Thanks to all of you for joining us tonight and our very special guest, Orson Card. Thank you so much Mr. Card. It has been a delightful and interesting chat.

Orson Card: Thanks for a wonderful evening, and for a spate of great questions that I haven't been asked before!

Question : Ever play Doom?

Orson Card: No ... I haven't played Doom -- don't like that kind of game, though I have friends who are addicted. And now ... I'm gone!

Chat Moderator: Once again thank you, Orson Scott Card for joining us to discuss your new novel "Ender's Shadow." Happy birthday to your daughter.

Orson Card: I'll pass along your birthday thoughts! Bye!

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