Born in Richland, Washington, Orson Scott Card grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He lived in Brazil for two years as an unpaid missionary for the Mormon Church. He received degrees from Brigham Young University (1975) and the University of Utah (1981). He is the author of such popular books as The Tales of Alvin Maker, Ender’s Game, and The Homecoming Saga. He also has written books on characterization and writing science fiction. He teaches aspiring writers, as well. Back in 2000, he participated in a Q&A interview with the players of OtherSpace.
Sheridan asks: Mr. Card, where did your inspiration for Ender’s Game come from?
Orson Scott Card answers: A combination of things:
As a child, I was given a copy of “The Army of the Potomac,” a three-volume history that opened my eyes to what war is … how armies are created, how and why they fight, what difference leaders make … and in the sequence of commanders of the Army of the Potomac, as Lincoln searched for a good commander, I got some idea of what a struggle it is to find someone who knows what to do with an army when he has one.
Then, in my teens, I watched my older brother volunteer for the army and heard him talk when he came home on leave about what worked and what did not work in his training. Then, his soon-to-be-fiancee gave me Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. I had been away from science fiction for a while, and these books seemed revelatory to me. They made me want to write science fiction. So … as my father drove me to high school one morning, I tried to think up some futuristic idea.
Thinking of my brother’s military training, I thought, how would you train soldiers for combat in space? The immediate answer was the battle room – a place that is contained within walls, so you don’t lose soldiers off in space during training; but still in null-G so they can get used to combat techniques.
A related question, though, was: How would you commanders to deploy and use them properly in three dimensional space with no down and no important gravity?
Here I drew on another book that I had read, after the Catton but before my brother joined the army – a book about the Lafayette Flying Corps of World War I, by Nordhoff and Hall. In this book, Nordhoff and Hall made a point of how hard it was for the early aviators to stop thinking in the horizontal plane – to look for danger coming from above or below. In thinking about three-dimensional combat, I realized that it isn’t just learning to think out of the horizontal. Instead, you have to learn to think without the standard up and down, because you can be trapped into that orientation and think of things as “below” or “above” that simply aren’t. I realized that the most useful way to think would be to conceive of the enemy as below you. Psychologically, this makes gravity-oriented humans think that charging is “easier” than retreating (grin).
Anyway, those ideas were all in place before I turned seventeen. But I wasn’t ready to write a story about it yet – a setting is not a story! Instead, my early sci-fi stories were those that eventually became The Worthing Saga. But when Ben Bova, then editor of Analog, rejected one of my Worthing stories in 1975, saying, more or less, I like the way you write, but this story is fantasy, and we publish science fiction. Well, I knew it was sci-fi, but I understood what Bova meant: It didn’t FEEL like science fiction. It needed hardware and rivets. So I thought again of the idea of the battle room and wondered who my character would be. It was only then that I realized that the time to start training people so they don’t have bad habits of thought is … as young as possible.
Back in the early 21st Century, Discworld creator Terry Pratchett took the time to answer some questions for the crew at OtherSpace. Here’s how the Q&A went:
Startripper asks: How did you develop your own writing style?
Terry Pratchett answers: I don’t think it is something that you consciously develop. You write, and if you are any good, your own style happens. But it you want to think of it as some kind of mental body-building exercise, then reading widely is a good start.
Startripper asks: What do you believe is the central element, if there is one, to a novel? Would you advocate plot over description, for example? Perhaps characterization above something else?
Terry Pratchett answers: I don’t agree that there is one free-standing ‘central element’. Plot and character are both vital, description in the classic ‘it was a big mountain’ sense can be kept to a minimum except when its really required. My belief is that the physical ‘description’ of a character, for example, can be built in the reader’s mind by careful attention on the part of the author to the character’s speech and actions.
David Brin is a scientist and author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and the Hugo award winning best-sellers Startide Rising and The Uplift War. (The Postman was released as a major film in 1998.) He is also known as a premiere commentator on modern technological trends and their effects on society. Brin’s non-fiction book — The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? — deals with provocative issues of openness and liberty in the new wired-age.
Here’s the chat transcript from 2000 when the gang at OtherSpace interviewed him:
OS – Sunday, September 17, 2000
OtherSpace Conference Center
An expansive conference center with seating for hundreds of observers and a raised dais for guest speakers, complete with a podium, lectern and a pitcher of water. A state-of-the-art sound system provides voice amplification that carries the speaker’s words to the farthest rows.
David_Brin has connected.
Connely whimpers. “It wasn’t a LOUD funky beat.”
Stargazer grins at Connely, “behave”
Voltari waves at David_Brin, “Hello “
Gildar waves to Mr.Brin.
Connely grins and looks to Mr. Brin.
Stargazer bows to Mr. Brin.
David_Brin says, “Hi folks”
Carduus sits patiently, nodding at the speaker.
David_Brin says, “”I was told no quotes” – brin”
Gildar says, “Hello”
David_Brin says, “like this? -db”"
Snowmist arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Snowmist has arrived.
Snowmist sighs. “Late, as always…”
Stargazer says gently, “you don’t need to add the trailing quote
David_Brin says, “agh — db”
Stargazer smiles at Mr. Brin.
Snowmist says, “Force of habit. “
Yazmar arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Yazmar has arrived.
David_Brin says, “hi snowmist & stargazer… great names – db”
Snowmist waves to Mr. Brin.
Snowmist bows. “Thankye.”
Stargazer says, “thanks”
David_Brin says, “oh, do you see me ID’d any other way, or should I keep adding –db”
Marson says, “We see your ID. It prefixes your name with what you say”
Jasra says, “you don’t have to add the -db… we see who it is”
David_Brin says, “Okay, then hi folks”
Jasra says, “Hello!”
Connely says, “Hi!”
Carduus says, “Heya.”
Gildar says, “Hi.”
Tasha arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Tasha has arrived.
Stargazer puts her hand up, “How!”
Tasha quickly and quietly jumps into a seat in the back.
Brody says, “Welcome to OtherSpace, everyone. Thanks for coming. Our guest today is David Brin, a scientist and author who has won the prestigious Hugo Award for science fiction for his novels Startide Rising and The Uplift War. His novel The Postman was made into a 1998 movie starring Kevin Costner. He’s written columns for Salon (some of you may recall his controversial columns regarding Star Wars) and other publications. His non-fiction book – The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? – deals with provocative issues of openness and liberty in the new wired-age.”
Kalouri says, “We have it on the best authority that you are, in fact, David Brin and not a 14-year-old boy in Michigan. So hello “
Rasputin arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Rasputin has arrived.
Stargazer loves the Postman stories
David_Brin says, “If I were such a 14 year old boy I’d pretend to be someone much sexier!”
Brody says, “We’re honored David can join us, but his time *is* limited. So, here’s how this will work. I have collected about 10 questions in advance. I’ll pose those to David. Once they are answered, if he has time left, then perhaps we can open the floor to further questions. It’ll be up to our guest.”
Kalouri sees your point.
Snowmist HEHS! “Oh, he’s hit the nail right on the head…”
Bellemore arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Bellemore has arrived.
David_Brin says, “Fire away Brody…”.
Bellemore sits down.
Brody nods. “Ok, here comes question No. 1.”
Tkagorth asks: “What inspired you to write the infamous ‘Star Wars Rant?’”
David_Brin says, “I go to movies with a control panel of dials called Maturity, Plot, Character, Mentall age… and try to adjust them so’s I can enjoy the flick. For instance, The Fifth Element… I set Maturity and Plot Making Sense down to zero and ripped out those wires, and had a great time!”
Vandervere arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Vandervere has arrived.
David_Brin says, “But there are some dials I won’t move. One is called Basic Human Decency. Except for Empire Strikes Back, the SW films were downright evil”
David_Brin says, “Did I get through that time?”
Stumppaw nods. “Came through fine.”
Carduus says, “if evil was the end.”
David_Brin says, “Evil was the end of what? No it was. Just kidding.”
Rainhawk arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Rainhawk has arrived.
David_Brin says, “”People can check out my web site (www.davidbrin.com)and see all 3 of the Star Wars articles. It’s caused a storm and burned my bridges with 25 percent of Hollywood… how many of YOU have publicly spat in the eye of a billionaire??? “