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26 November 2002




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Orson Scott Card: Casting Shadows December 2002

Orson Scott Card, author of one of the most popular SF novels of the past quarter-century, Ender's Game (1985), and its sequels, wrote stage plays for several years before selling his first SF story in 1977, the novelette "Ender's Game" (basis for the later novel). He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1978, and Hugo and Nebula Awards for both Ender's Game and its first sequel, Speaker for the Dead (1986). Among his many other books are the "Tales of Alvin Maker" series, beginning with Seventh Son (1987); dark fantasy novel Lost Boys (1989); the "Homecoming" series, which retells ancient scripture as SF; alternate history novel Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus (1996); retrospective collection Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fiction of Orson Scott Card (1990); anthologies; and books on writing, including Hugo-winner How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (1990). Recently he has launched a parallel series to the Ender saga, including Shadow Puppets (2002) and two additional volumes forthcoming. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife and children.

Photo by Beth Gwinn

Official website: Hatrack River
Also: The Ornery American

Excerpts from the interview:

“It never crossed my mind that I would still be writing about Ender now. It’s not the only thing I’m doing, but it’s certainly the one my publisher is most enthusiastic about. I was all set to write another book in the ‘Alvin Maker’ series a couple of summers ago, but then we had some family difficulties and it got set aside. By the time I was ready to write again, we needed another ‘Shadow’ book. After Shadow of the Giant, there will be one final book that sort of ties the ‘Speaker’ and ‘Shadow’ books together. I’ve been writing other things all along, things that are outside the field, so I have no qualms about writing more stories set in the same future as Ender’s Game, if only because I still have stories I’m interested in telling. The things I’m doing now are certainly not the same as the original. I would have to call them - jokingly - my Tom Clancy novels (future conflict and so on). But I’m also doing Old Testament women at the same time, so it’s not as if I’m in a rut. It’s not like doing mysteries, where you have to follow a similar structure over and over again with a series character. I get to develop my characters, move them along in their lives, kill them off if need be, and deal with the way the world works as I see it. The readers still seem to be responding, and at the same time I’m able to reach new readers who aren’t the least bit interested in the ‘Ender’ universe.

“I’ve also got two more ‘Pastwatch’ books I’m dying to do. I think the best science fiction novel I’ve ever done was Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. There will be two more by act of will, because if I kept doing what I’ve been doing there would be 30 more. ...”


“I think the more the fiction writer tries to make a moral statement, the less effective the moral statement will be. Fiction by its very nature will have a moral statement, no matter what you do, so the most powerful and effective are the ones the writer is not even all that conscious of putting in. As soon as you try to control it and Make a Point, you’re probably going to start bending and twisting your story away from what you instinctively believe it should be toward what you have intellectualized it ought to be, and your story becomes more false and less effective as a moral statement.

“When I want to send a message - deliberately, openly, argue for a position - I write an essay. I have found I do best just posting them online. We have a little local newspaper, a weekly called The Rhinoceros Times, that has a much more conservative viewpoint than I have on many issues, but the editor believes in a free press. (Getting my columns for free, that’s what he means by a free press!) I publish there and then post the essays online at my site. What I find interesting is the people who post on my website often tend to be people who really disagree with me. At least people who hate what I say are paying attention! It just makes me feel better for having had my say. At the same time, I have no guarantee that I’m right about anything. Whenever you’re writing essays about current world events, it’s always good to keep the tiniest modicum of humility about the possibility that you may be flat wrong. Nobody’s able to predict except that bad things will happen, lots of people will die, and many people will suffer along the way. What year of history has that not been a true statement? It will always be true.”


“When I teach science fiction writing, I hold up James Clavell’s Shogun as an excellent example of world creation, even though the world happened to be historical Japan. By the end of that book you feel like you speak Japanese, even though you don’t. Similarly, I have brought what I learned of world creation as a science fiction writer to the Old Testament, extrapolating what little we know about their culture to create a convincing culture and characters whose society is nonetheless different from our own. In a sense, I’m doing the same thing I do in my science fiction and fantasy novels.”

The full interview, with biographical profile, is published in the December 2002 issue of Locus Magazine.


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