Saturday, March 5, 2011

Orson Scott Card and Ender

I am reading my third book by Orson Scott Card in about a week--I started Ender's Game last weekend, after picking up a copy in a thrift store--a lot of my students had talked about it, and even kids who didn't like reading had said it was a good book. So I knew I wanted to add it to my classroom library, but figured I'd add it to my "to read" shelf first. My "to read" shelf has about a hundred books on it--okay, my "to read" bookcase--and a lot of them are library books and a lot of them are borrowed books. I try to read those first, which isn't really possible because it's not like I'll ever read them all--I read a couple, I pick up a couple more... but I do try to read library books and borrowed books before I read my own books. Except I wanted to get that copy of Ender's Game out of my house and into my classroom--plus I picked it up and glanced at it and it was, like, magnetized to my eyeballs or something. Completely fascinating, though not the kind of book I usually find completely fascinating. It's closer to "hard" sci fi than anything I usually read, and it's all about battle ships and aliens and brilliant little kids recruited to save Earth. But it's more the story of those little kids than anything else, and I wanted to know how things would resolve.

So then I found Ender's Shadow already in my classroom library, and I took that home to read. When I finished that, I put the other three in the original series on hold at the public library, then I realized I didn't have to wait, I could go down the hall and get them from my school library! So now I'm reading Speaker for the Dead, and after that I'll read Xenocide and Children of the Mind. Maybe then I'll be done for a while. Maybe. But it turns out that Orson Scott Card has been busy--the wikipedia entry for "Ender's Game (Series)" includes an impressive flow chart listing these titles and many others, including a bunch of short stories. And that's just the books and stories he's written about what has become known as "the Enderverse."

Of course, by the time I was nearing the end of Ender's Shadow, I'd gotten so curious about the writer. I was somewhat shocked and horrified to learn that he is Mormon! I would add, "Like, really Mormon!" but I don't think that Mormon is one of those labels that exists in degrees. You're either Mormon or you're not. You believe it and live your life according to it or you get the hell out. At least that's what it looks like from here.

But I'm now in the middle of Speaker for the Dead, and knowing about Card's Mormonism, I am even more impressed by his broad knowledge of political history, including a complex understanding of how religion plays into this. In his fabulous introduction to the edition of Speaker for the Dead that I'm reading (1991), Card says, "My real life is being with my wife, with my children; going to church and teaching my Sunday school class..." but he talks so much about his reasons for writing Speaker of the Dead, and what he was trying to do. Here's the essay on Google books. I think it's valuable reading for anyone who's a writer or curious about writers. He talks a lot about the process of writing this book, and how many times he started over. He notes that most fiction deals with adolescents and with "footloose heroes." He wanted to write another kind of story, and so far (I'm about halfway through), he seems to be succeeding. He's the kind of ambitious, creative, thoughtful writer that I'd take this trip with even if he doesn't succeed, though, because even if he screws it up, he'll screw it up well.

No comments: