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Card Talks About Ender's Game, Sci-fi

Greg Kuhnen -- The Tech
Orson Scott Card was one of two science fiction authors who read from their works on Thursday in Room 26-100.

By Dan Dunn
Contributing editor

Famed science fiction writer Orson Scott Card spoke last Thursday to an excited crowd in 26-100. Several hundred people attended the event, one of a series of lectures sponsored by the Media in Transition project.

The project seeks to "establish a conversation among scholars, engineers, fiction writers, journalists, corporate leaders, and policy makers about the significance of emerging communications media."

The evening's program started with readings by Card and Allen Steele, best known for his novel Orbital Decay. Afterward, the microphone was passed around the audience for questions.

The questions were fielded by Card, Steele, Adjunct Professor in the Program in Writing Joe Haldeman, author of Forever War, and Professor of Literature Henry Jenkins.

Steele opened the evening with a reading of "Her Own Private Sitcom," an as-yet unpublished short story. Orson Scott Card then read excerpts from his story, "The Originist."

Throughout the question period, the audience was riveted by Card's responses. As he answered questions, the crowd yelled, applauded, and hissed their opinions.

Card discusses Ender's Game

Many of the questions centered on Card's best-known work, Ender's Game, a novel about a young boy torn from his family and exploited by the military.

Card said that the only part of the future that the novel predicted was that any intelligent person would be able to fake their identity on the Internet. He did not predict that people would also switch their gender. "I just don't think that way," said Card, a devout Mormon.

Matthew Ender, a Harvard graduate, asked Card, "At the age of 24 years old, you can imagine the number of times I have been asked if I have read your book. So, Ihave to ask the obvious question."

Card did not have a concrete reason for choosing the novel's title. "I was young and stupid. I thought, End Game. No, Ender's Game.' I guess it was sheer boneheadedness."

Card discussed how the book has defined his career. He talked about the touching and disturbing responses that he has received from fans over the years. "When you get down to it, people will go without food for stories. I'm grateful that they find my stories worth it."

He mentioned his wish to do "more than Ender's Game. Do you think I haven't tried to duplicate Ender's Game? I thought I have a few times. But I don't complain about its success."

Card discussed the ongoing movie adaptation of Ender's Game. He said that the effects that he needs to make the movie will "cost $60 or $70 million."

Card comments on Hollywood

Card described the cost of special effects as the most limiting aspect of film in science fiction. Studios will not pay for the effects for a movie that only appeals to a small segment of the population.

"When effects become cheaper, it will radically transform Hollywood. When they only cost $5 million, you can make the independent, quirky film that yields only $15 million."

Card gave his opinion on several science fiction television shows. He prefaced his opinions by saying "I come to TV with lowered expectations."

He approved of the concept of Quantum Leap and called Chris Carter and the X-Files "flat-out terrific."

Carter had harsh words for the original Star Trek, especially the acting. When the crowd began to hiss, he said, "I hear the sound of the wind passing through the heads of people who watched too much Star Trek."

The event was sponsored by MIT Communications Forum, Film and Media Studies Program, Department of Writing and Humanistic Studies, the Markle Foundation, and the Lecture Series Committee.

The first question posed to Card was about the event's sponsor, the Media in Transition project. Card answered in the sharp style that characterized the evening: "It all sounds like bullshit to me. The changes that are predicted by such programs never come."