Orson Scott Card is a prolific writer mainly of the science fiction persuasion, most famous for his Ender story arc. He also has occasionally taught writing courses, including Literary Bootcamp at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Utah Valley State University. His writing is noted for its intense philosophical themes as well as general readibility.

Born in Washington on August 24, 1951, Card grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He was raised Mormon, and spent his mission in Brazil. He received degrees forn Brigham Young University (1975) and the University of Utah (1981). He won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel two years in a row, first for Ender's Game, and then for its sequel, Speaker for the Dead, in 1986 and 1987 respectively.

Card now spends his time on projects significantly different from his earlier science fiction exploits. He writes a column for the Greensboro Rhino Times entitled "Uncle Orson", noted for his distinctly right-wing, caustic reviews of current events. He has a wife and five children.

Card Games

            In the Pantheon of the science-fiction genre, there are certain authors and works that stand above the rest. Some of the most easily recognizable works are the Jurrasic Park series, by Michael Crichton, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur Clark. However, a new god has been rapidly usurping the rule of titans such as these. With his breakthrough novel Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card established himself as a writer worthy of taking over Crichton's and Clark’s mantle. Card was born in Richland Washington in 1951 to a Mormon family descended from Brigham Young himself. His early childhood reading consisted of histories, novels, classics, but above all, the newly-discovered genre of science fiction.

As Card grew from a boy into a man, his love of science fiction grew from merely reading into writing. He published his first fiction, the short story “Gert Fram”, in the July issue of The Ensign in 1977, just two months after marrying Kristine Allen. He continued to publish his works in magazines and periodicals, including the release of his opus Ender’s Game in the August, 1977 edition of Analog. Throughout his life, Card has continued to be a devout Mormon, often directing plays and writing books with religious bases. Even in his more secular books, Card’ religion often takes a prominent role. This religious attitude has given most of Card’s works a distinctly philosophical perspective and is part of what makes them so appealing to the general public. (Who is Orson Scott Card)

            Though best known for his works in science-fiction, Orson Scott Card has a dynamic and multifaceted literary career. His first published work, “Gert Fram”, is a short-story about a young girl named Susan Lynn Jones who perpetually suffers embarrassment from her father, incompetence from her mother, and annoyance from her sister. To escape from her troubles, Susan imagines herself as a well-known novelist named Gert Fram writing a story about each of the events that happen to Susan. By writing about her troubles from the perspective of a stranger, Susan is able to cope with her life and eventually reach a catharsis with her family. (Orson Scott Card)

            In stark contrast to his science fiction works, Card has a well-developed repertoire of religious novels and plays. One of his most popular set of religious books is the Women of Genesis series, comprising Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachael and Leah. Each of theses stories follows the lives of the women in the title, though Card creates his own reality as to what they thought, believed, and did. By combining history, religion, and fiction, Card makes the lives of these women infinitely more relatable to modern day life. In addition to these three books, Card has two more planned for the series; The Wives of Israel and The Sons of Rachel. Sarah was published by Shadow Mountain in 2000, as was Rebekah in 2001, as well as Rachel and Leah in 2004. (Who is Orson Scott Card)

            In a more stereotypical vein of science-fiction, Card has also published his The Tales of Alvin Maker series. This series, for which Card received four Locus Awards in 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1996, as well as two nominations for the Nebula Award and two nominations for the Hugo Award, depicts an alternate 19th century, where magic and folklore still abounds. Alvin Miller, the hero of the story, is born with a “knack” for Making, essentially the ability to manipulate matter at a molecular level. This ability gives Alvin great power, though he quickly learns that his powers can be used for both constructive and destructive purposes. Additionally, Alvin learns that he is one of the last “Makers”, a group of people destined to protect and improve their world. However, in opposition to the Makers is a group of Unmakers who desire to bring chaos and pain to others. Throughout the series, Alvin must learn to develop and control his powers, as well as defeat the forces arrayed against him. Though this series is typical of the science-fiction genre, it possesses Card’s signature emphasis on the meaning behind an individual’s actions and the purpose of life. In this regard, The Tales of Alvin Maker, Women of Genesis, and even Gert Fram contain many of the traits that made Card’s Ender’s Game the apex of his literary career. (Wagner, Thomas)

            Though many of Card’s series are well known and highly regarded in the literary community, he is most widely recognized for the creation of Andrew Wiggin, the main character in the Ender Saga. Andrew, more commonly known as Ender, is a third child born to a world where all of humanity is faced with the threat of extinction from the alien menace commonly referred to as “The Buggers”. In this society, most parents are only allowed to have two children; however, the International Fleet (the global organization charged with defeating the Buggers) authorized the Wiggin family to have a third child in the hopes that Andrew would be a suitable commander for their flotilla.

The first Wiggin child, Peter, was too deemed to violent for the fleet to use. The second, Valentine, was considered too peaceful, though both Peter and Valentine were more intelligent than most adults. Ender possessed a perfect combination of his sibling’s traits and was accepted by the international fleet for training at the tender age of six. (Card, Orson) This displays one of Card’s more renowned abilities as a writer. While most war stories focus on the lives of adult soldiers or generals, Card chooses to view war through the eyes of a child, albeit a brilliant one. This unique perspective on the war turns Ender’s Game from a mere science fiction novel into a commentary on the effects of war on young minds. (White, Claire) He was shuttled up to the orbiting station known as Battle School, where all the most military minded children were taken to be trained as fleet commanders and began preparing to defend the human race. (Card, Orson)

Although Ender was the youngest student at Battle School, the teachers pushed Ender to his limits and beyond, both in class and in the Battle Room (a zero-gravity chamber where all the students convened to participate in mock battles). The students were arranged into armies, each led by one student known as the commander. While most students were not made commanders until the age of eleven or twelve, Ender was given command of his first army at the age of nine. Additionally, most commanders had three months to train their army before their first battle; however, the teachers gave Ender only three weeks. To push him even further, the Battle Room directors gave Ender an army composed almost entirely of the youngest recruits. Regardless of these difficulties, Ender was able to lead his army to victory each time they fought, even when fighting two battles in the same day or two armies at once.

However, Ender’s hardest challenge did not take place in the Battle Room. Instead, the teachers allowed a much older and larger child, Bonzo Madrid, to corner Ender in the bathroom and start a fight. Despite his disadvantages, Ender not only defended himself, but also accidentally killed his opponent. Afterwards, Ender felt a tremendous amount of guilt despite the fact that he acted in self-defense. (Card, Orson) This situation illustrates another reoccurring theme in Card’s writing. Card frequently focuses on how an individual’s actions determine his or her character. As Card says, “Only what a person chooses to do can tell an observer or himself who he is…In fiction as in life, we are what we do to others”. Throughout the novel, as well as in other series, Card emphasizes that other people see what we do on the outside, not how we feel on the inside. (White, Claire) Following this fight, Ender was removed from the Battle School, given a three month leave on Earth to recuperate, then sent on to Command School. (Card, Orson)

In this final stage of his training, Ender was placed in a simulator along with several of his closest allies from Battle School and given command of mock fleets. Along with his friends, Ender soon became the most skilled commander in the entire International Fleet, including his teacher, the famed Mazer Rackham who had defeated the Buggers in their initial invasion. After the initial training, Ender’s group was given a series of tests, supposedly controlled by Rackham, where they went through an entire invasion of enemy occupied space. These tests became more and more difficult as time progressed, until many of the group passed out or even became slightly unhinged due to exhaustion. Finally, Rackham told Ender that he had only one more test to complete and then his training would be done. When the simulator screens lit up, Ender’s force had only about eighty of the oldest ships in the fleet while the Bugger’s force consisted of nearly ten thousand ships. Ender’s goal was to kill the queens nesting on the planet that this massive enemy fleet protected. Though the situation seemed hopeless, Ender managed to bring his forces close enough to unleash a Molecular Disruption device on the planet’s surface, destroying both the queens and the orbiting fleet.

After exiting the simulator machine, Ender and his crew were informed that the simulations were actually real battles being fought hundreds of light years away with Ender as the commander. In destroying the planet, Ender had managed to save humanity from the Bugger menace. (Card, Orson) This demonstrates Card’s beliefs regarding morality and ethics, which he attempts to convey to his readers. While many people think of “evil” as an easier, more attractive way of life, Card views evil as a detriment. In his own words, Card claims, “I don't find evil fascinating. I find it predictably self-serving. But good people are the ones who struggle to balance their own needs with the needs of loved ones and the communities to which they have given allegiance”. This belief reappears throughout Ender’s Game, as well as in many of Card’s other series. (White, Clair)  Following his victory, Ender was sent away on a colony ship to become governor of a faraway world to prevent the contesting forces on Earth from using him for their own selfish ends. The book ends with Ender discovering a last egg sac, containing the only surviving Bugger queen. Ender takes the sac with him on his journey through the stars until he can find a world where the Buggers will be able to live in peace with humans. (Card, Orson)             

Although Ender’s Game was first established as a science fiction novel, it has since been recognized as saturated with a variety of moral, ethical, political, and social statements. Card discusses the effects of war on the mind of a child, the nature of good actions versus good intents, the development of a healthy conscience when surrounded by a moral black hole, and the repercussions of living a life where everything is a test of skill and strength. These comments on life have resulted in Ender’s Game being used to motivate exceptional students and common soldiers, quoted to teach military strategy in Captain John F. Schmitt’s Warfighting, and used for debating the self-creation of the individual at Watauga College. (Card, Orson) Moreover, Ender’s Game is currently being developed into a screenplay format, directed by Gavin Hood. When completed, this should further cement Ender’s Game in the highest level of science fiction, alongside classics such as Star Wars and The Last Starfighter. (Zeitchik, Steven) In creating a novel with such a far-reaching appeal, Card has risen from the rank-and-file of science fiction writers into the upper echelon occupied by visionaries like George Lucas, Arthur Clark, Michael Crichton, and Dan Simmons.

 

 

 

 Works Cited

Card, Orson. Ender’s Game. New York, NY: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 1991.

 

“Orson Scott Card”. Amazon. 2011. 8 March 2011.

      http://www.amazon.com/Orson-Scott-Card/e/B000AQ3SS0/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

Wagner, Thomas. “Orson Scott Card”. SF Reviews. 2003. 8 March 2011.

      http://www.sfreviews.net/endersgame.html

 

White, Claire. “A Conversation with Orson Scott Card”. Writers Write. 2010. 8 March 2011.

      http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/sep99/card.htm

 

“Who is Orson Scott Card?”. Hatrack River – The official website of Orson Scott Card.

      2011. 8 March 2011.http://www.hatrack.com/osc/about-more.shtml

 

Zeitchik, Steven. “Gavin Hood looks to play ‘Ender’s Game’”. Los Angeles Times.

      20 September 2010. 9 March 2011.

         http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/movies/2010/09/orson-scott-card-enders-game-gavin hood.html

Bibliography

 

Card, Orson. Ender’s Game. New York, NY: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 1991. This is one of Card’s most well-known books and the first one in his Ender series. I used it primarily as an example of Card’s style of writing.

“Orson Scott Card”. Amazon. 2011. 8 March 2011.

      http://www.amazon.com/Orson-Scott-Card/e/B000AQ3SS0/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 This is an online site for purchasing books, which also provides a brief overview of each book. It contained information regarding Card’s achievements, awards, acclaim, and some of his other works. It provided some basic analysis of Ender’s Game, though I used it primarily for its description of the awards. Most of the information I gained here was put in my professional biography section.

Wagner, Thomas. “Orson Scott Card”. SF Reviews. 2003. 8 March 2011.

      http://www.sfreviews.net/endersgame.html This site provides basic summaries and more in-depth analyses of science fiction novels. I used it to see how Card’s books have had an influence on the thought processes of other people. Additionally, it provided an analysis on the deeper meaning of Card’s works. I used it primarily in my analysis of the significance of Card’s career and works.

White, Claire. “A Conversation with Orson Scott Card”. Writers Write. 2010. 8 March 2011.

      http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/sep99/card.htm This site has a copy of a conversation which took place between Orson Scott Card and Claire White. It listed each of White’s questions as well as Card’s responses. This information provided insight into how and why Card wrote his books, as well as his opinions on topics such as religion, family, and society. I used the information here in the professional biography, personal biography, and the analysis of the significance of Card’s career and works.

“Who is Orson Scott Card?”. Hatrack River – The official website of Orson Scott Card.

      2011. 8 March 2011. http://www.hatrack.com/osc/about-more.shtml. This site was Orson Scott Card’s own website, so it contains a wide variety of information. There is an extensive biography providing details about his life from his birth to the present. There is also a considerable amount of information regarding his achievements and awards. I found this site to be most useful in the personal and professional biography sections.

Zeitchik, Steven. “Gavin Hood looks to play ‘Ender’s Game’”. Los Angeles Times.

      20 September 2010. 9 March 2011. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/movies/2010/09/orson-scott-card-enders-game-gavin hood.html. This site is a review of the Ender’s Game book as well as the movie that it spawned. It provided information about the difficulties involved in turning the book into a movie and information on what the movie might be like. Additionally, this site provided information on why and how Orson Scott Card wrote Ender’s Game and the impact he hoped it would have. I used this site primarily for my analysis of the significance of Card’s career and works.

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