01/07/01: Writing in Ender's Shadow
by Pieter van Hiel

There can be no question that Orson Scott Card is a writer very much at the peak of his genre. The 49 year old author has a matching pair of Hugo and Nebula awards. He currently hard at work on the third rewrite of a screenplay version of Enderís Game, the 1986 novel which jump-started his sci-fi career. January will see the release of Shadow of the Hegemon, the 5th in the Enderís Game series.

However, Card sees his science-fiction work as a way to put bread on the table. His real affections lie in an unexpected direction. Heíd rather be a teacher. "I only start writing when the cheques start bouncing. Writing is hard work and itís lonely," he said.

Writing was a trade that came fairly late in life for Card. He did not imagine himself as a wordsmith when he was a boy. In fact, it wasnít until his college years (after a stint as a missionary in Brazil) that Card really started to exercise his literary creative side. "I entered college as an archaeology major, and then I discovered that was hard work. I found I was spending all my time in the theatre department, and thatís where I gravitated, and thatís where I majored. Of course, getting a degree in theatre is much like working in a gas station for the same four year period in terms of your job prospects, so it wasnít entirely realistic," he said.

Card, a staunch Mormon, used his theatre experience to write plays based on Mormon history, and wrote a series of radio dramatizations with a similar theme.  "I wrote about 30 plays and had about 15 producedÖmy plays were doing very well, but as everyone in theatre knows, you can have a sold-out crowd and still lose money. I saw the handwriting on the wall. If I wanted to support a family, Iíd have to find a different way to earn a living. Writing was what I did best," said Card. He began freelancing for a number of publications, and found he was able to make a living with his pen. On January 1st, 1978, he became a full-time writer - or, as he puts it "I became an unemployed person." Cardís first science-fiction sale was a short-story version of Enderís Game.  At the time he had no inkling that his short work would form the basis of a wildly-successful science-fiction career.

More than 20 years later, Card is still writing about Ender. Shadow of the Hegemon takes places immediately after the events in Enderís Shadow, a book which in turn presents a parallel point of view to the events in Enderís Game. It is set in a time period when Ender is travelling from one planet to another, his youth preserved by effects of relativism. In his absence, his old school-mates have became tangled in a global power struggle.
"Shadow of the Hegemon deals with the struggles between all the children from Battle-School, who were all involved in a war to save the Earth from aliens. They are all now the greatest prizes that the different nations of the Earth can obtain in terms of the struggle for power," said Card, stating that the book would contain somewhat more action and cloak and dagger exploits than previous works. "The book begins with the kidnapping of all the kids who were with Ender in the final battle at the end of Enderís Game. We follow Bean, who was the hero of Enderís Shadow, and Petra, the one girl among the group, and Enderís brother Peter as they struggle to keep some rather monstrous people from taking over. So, in a way itís rather Enderís Game by way of Tom Clancy," Card said.

Card is enthusiastic about the planned film adaptation of his most famous work, but admitted to a few misgivings. "The problem is not so much finding a way to do a faithful, creditable film version of Enderís Game as finding one that we can persuade someone in a studio in Hollywood to risk their career on," he said. He said that as the film would not have an adult star protagonist, which would make it a hard sell.  "There is no Bruce Willis part to enable overseas sales to guarantee a certain portion of the pay back. Itís a risky venture, and it takes time to put it together and get the script exactly right so that itís a convincing sell to studios," he said.

Card has a rather more modest film project in the works as well. A independent production house plans to film his work Dogwalkers, and he has completed a script for a comedy geared to Mormon audiences. "Most of my work is really not filmable. There are really a lot of things that you can do on the page, where if you saw them on the screen you would think they were really quite horrible and not at all enjoyable.  Youíre responsible for your own imagination as you read it, and you sort of soften the edges," he said.

Next month, Pieter van Hiel will posthusmously interview Enid Blyton of Famous Five fame.