Publishers Weekly Talks with Orson Scott Card
November 20, 2000
In the Shadow series, you revisit your most famous work by following a
different character. Why take this new perspective?
I tell my writing students that every character is the hero of his own story,
and that's what I proved. At first Bean was refreshing an old series for me, but by
the time I was finished with the book he had a complete life of his own. The goal
was to write something that was more like Ender's Game than the sequels had
been to satisfy audience demand. I would have gotten someone else to write
within the Ender universe if the numbers had worked out. But because the
Ender's Game movie hasn't been made yet, we couldn't afford the kind of write
that I wanted. We could, however, afford me. I have to say that going back and
doing the parallel novel was an artistic challenge. I've learned a few things since
1985, so I was hoping that I would write a better book than Ender's Game. I think
How do you write the voices of the child-geniuses who are often your
To children, life is real. They don't think of themselves as cute or sweet. I
translate their thoughts from the language available to children into the language
available to adults. Every fear or terror that a child feels is more important, more
real than it is to an adult, and children are every bit as complex. Childhood cries
out for a certain amount of suffering. Whatever misfortunes and negatives are
available become very important and dark. One of the reasons the story of
Ender's Game resonates so much with children is that it's the kind of life they
already think they lead. The adults don't take them seriously, that's all.
Are there moral messages to your books?
I hate black and white representations of good versus evil, that's so boring.
When a character comes upon a case of right and wrong and chooses to do wrong,
that shows you he's the kind of jerk who'd do that. My characters wrestle with
real moral dilemmas where all the choices have steep prices. If they make the
selfish choice, then I show the consequences. I'm not trying to teach that lesson,
though it underlies everything I write.
How about religion?
I show my characters having a religious life when appropriate. One of the
great deceptions of contemporary media is that nobody talks or thinks about God
when in the real world most people do. In the Shadow books I have a character
who's a nun because that's mildly interesting and she fills a role. She talks about
religion with Bean, and he doesn't buy it. The banter between them amused me
and seemed truthful.
Why do you mainly write SF?
If I wish to have my books placed at the same quantity, SF is where I have
to write. I do write books out of genre that don't get placed the same way, so
apparently that's not by sole motive. The truth is, SF is the most powerful genre
available right now. Mainstream literature is so stultifyingly rigid. I just don't
want to talk to people who believed everything their English teachers told them. 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.