Tuesday, February 18, 2014

LTUE Exposed: Orson Scott Card's Take on Ender's Game

"When you make things happen, the people who want to be part of it come along."

I had the opportunity to attend Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE) at the Provo Marriot on February 13-15, 2014. The keynote address given by Orson Scott Card was on Saturday. I decided to record parts of his presentation below, where he reads from (and often stops to give side notes) a soon-to-be-published essay he wrote. Card really could be a comedian, though, ironically I'm not sure he means to be that funny. If you don't have time to listen to his speech, here are a few tidbits:
  • When adapting someone's story, you should refer to the original material (I think this was a wisecrack at the recent movie of "Ender's Game," though he doesn't actually say the words).
  • He admits that when writing Ender (in his book, Ender's Game), he wanted Ender to appear smarter than himself. He regrets somewhat the ending of Ender's Game. Not that he would change what happened, but he would change WHY it happened (he is referring to where Ender basically tells everyone to "do their best" and fly randomly in the final battle). Card said that is what you do "instead of an ending." It didn't ruin the story or the book because by then we were emotionally involved in Ender, but it didn't make him appear smart. 
  • He realized now, years later, that he didn't make Ender smart in tactics and strategy, but smart in command. 1. Know your man intimately and unsentimentally 2. Know their strengths and weaknesses. Ender knew how to bring out the best effort in each member of his team. He even helped them to develop their skills, even ones he didn't have himself. 
  • He set out only writing Ender's Game to set up Speaker of the Dead

  • He also realizes, though he didn't initially mean, that he wrote part of himself in Ender. Card admits that he learned early on how leadership works as a deacon in the LDS Church and later as a director of some non-approved plays at BYU. This part is hilarious -- you have to listen to it!
  • "When you make things happen, the people who want to be part of it, come along." This is what he calls unofficial leadership.
  • Referring to his experiences with the drama department at BYU and the professors' hostile actions towards his leadership, he said, "The opposition didn't harm me. On the contrary, I realized how little I needed their approval in order to accomplish my aims." Card learned there that he was always on his own and he couldn't count on anyone to stand up for him.
  • Unconsciously, he had made Ender do at battle school what he had done at the BYU drama department.
  • He wrote draft after draft of a screen play for Ender's Game and none of them seemed to fit. After he already sold the movie rights, he finally wrote a script that will never be published or sold. The take that worked on this screenplay was focusing on Ender's relationships with the kids that he led. The audience would wish they could be in his army. Then they would love Ender.
  • His new ending (that has never been written) would be a scene where there is a holographic conversation with Valentine where she gives Ender a clip of a park they played at when they were younger. She focuses in on one leave that is falling (the surface of the leaf, even if there is no wind, makes it fall and dart and go in different directions, following no real pattern). Ender would then have a realization right before the last battle: we are creatures of the trees, we can be the leaf. Ender would then show the team the leaf and tell them (instead of saying "do your best" and lucky chance would win) to be like the leaf, be as unpredictable as possible, rise and fall, slow down and speed up. The leaf would make it to the surface and so would the ships. Finally, Ender was smart! It led to victory.
  • Card plans in the future to rewrite a new edition of Ender's Game. The story would essentially be unchanged, but he would include parts that clear up the contradictions he made in later novels, AND he could add that part above about the leaf, making Ender smart. (You can download this new version, not a new book, but an audio play he wrote from Audible called "Ender's Game Alive". It's different because there's no narrator, but it does its job).
  • From short story to novel to screenplay to audioplay, it took Orson Scott Card 38 years to get it right, but he got there and found Ender Wiggin waiting for him at the end.
I wished I could have sat down with Orson Scott Card and picked his brain or listened to him speak longer because this man has a lot of great things to say. I know that authors are people just like you and me, but sometimes I think of them as legends. Whether they mean to or not, the heros in their books do have the power to teach us and change us. I believe Card has done that.

Orson Scott Card LTUE Essay - Part 1

Orson Scott Card LTUE Essay - Part 2