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SDCC 2012: Smart Pop Books and "Ender's World"

The exhibition hall at San Diego Comic-con is huge. With 60+ aisles numbering from 100 to 6000, it's easy to get sidetracked and lost among the crowds and the overwhelming amount of literal stuff to see, do, experience, and of course, buy. Naturally, at Wednesday's limited-access Preview Night, there's a vibrating energy that's shared throughout every individual in the crowd, a mutual excitement over getting the first glimpse on what will be experienced over the next four days.

Smart Pop Books had a booth pretty close to the main hustle and bustle. It was at the front of the Hall, close to one of many entrances, and at an aisle corner, therefore receiving a lot of traffic. Booth 4300 was just past the gigantic movie and entertainment booths, the ones that boast loud-speakers, huge television screens and of course, over-sized televisions and iconic displays that draw attention because of their sheer size.

Leah and Heather from Smart Pop Books
Smart Pop Books didn't need any gimmicky flashing lights to have a sizable crowd when I stopped by. Leah Wilson (Editor-in-Chief) and Heather Butterfield (Publishing Associate), the women working the booth, seemed to handle the interest with bright attention and cheerful smiles, handing out buttons and answering questions. I was lucky enough to be able to pull Leah away to ask a few quick questions about Ender's Game, his universe, and the book of essays she's been compiling since the beginning of the year.

There's a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into developing a compilation like Ender's World. In addition to ensuring writers meet deadlines, Leah had to make sure there was no real overlap with the essay topics, and that all the writers stayed within the realm of what the team was going for. With so many writers contributing, they had to make sure each essay would work well alongside the others, and then assemble them in an order that flowed well and made sense.

"We looked for commonalities to accentuate," Leah said, adding that since they do a lot of anthologies, it was a familiar combination of "our vision and direction, but also the direction and ideas from the contributors, trying to find a good medium. You never know until the last minute if it will click. This one really did!"

Available February 2013
On the Smart Pop website, viewers were instructed to send their Ender-related questions for the book, which would have a Q&A section with Orson Scott Card. Readers from all over commented with questions, but many of them did not make it into the final draft. When telling me about this, Leah cited back to what she said earlier - needing to pick a consistent focus and organizing around that accordingly.

Some just didn't coincide with the aspects of Ender's Game they're trying to emphasize. Many were about characters that weren't yet introduced in the first book, or were about the later books in general. Some were about the movie and Orson Scott Card himself.

They're all important questions, though. Thinking of that, Leah mentioned the Smart Pop Books tumblr, something that's relatively new and as such, still a bit uncertain. Leah is hoping that they'll address these questions there, but they're not sure whether they will be able to pass on any additional questions Orson Scott Card is able to answer. Of course, they'll find some way to share whatever they can!

Luckily Leah had time to answer all of my questions!

Have you read all of the Ender's Game series?

 "I read some, when I was younger. Up to Xenocide. And when we started working on Ender's World, I went back and read Ender in Exile. I've read Ender's Shadow but not the ones afterward." Leah added that their publisher is incredibly into Ender's Game. When news of an Ender's Game movie was released, he "jumped on the idea of a compilation book" and sent out an email suggesting it.

Once the book was confirmed, Leah reread the series. She says, "We wanted to keep Ender's World focused on Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Ender in Exile… that 'chunk' of the universe."

Which is your favourite book in the series?
"The original, Ender's Game."

When did you start reading Ender's Game?
Leah started reading Ender's Game in college, but she doesn't recall the specifics. One of the compilation's essays talks in part about how everyone remembers their first time reading Ender's Game. Leah amusedly adds, "But somehow I was a failure on that."

She does remember the first kid who told her about Ender's Game: a boy she knew in ninth grade. When the movie was presented and the compilation book introduced, she messaged him on Facebook to tell him about what he was indirectly a part of.

Have you met Orson Scott Card?
"No, just email, but we're hoping he'll drop by here this convention."

(Edit: In an email, Leah updated us: "And in fact, he and his wife did! They were terrific.")

Looking forward to the movie?
"Absolutely! We're following the production blog and everything."

Since Ender's World is based solely on the first book's time-frame, are you planning on books within the later years?
"We would love to! …To be determined!"

Is this your first time at San Diego Comic-con?
"It's our first time in such a central location so it's a little…" Leah gestures expansively, as though a bit overwhelmed.

SDCC is a lot to take in for mere attendees like me, I can't imagine the stress on the exhibitors, but Leah & Heather seem to have handled it well!

Ender's World will be available in February 2013.
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