SDCC: Interview with Orson Scott Card Pt 1: "Earth Unaware" novel... and possibly more?

I'd like to first set the scene.

It's Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con 2012. For those of you who have not yet experienced it, Saturday boasts quite possibly the most jam-packed crowd I've ever been shoved into outside of a mosh pit.  Making your way through the exhibition hall is more like, well, slogging through people-shaped molasses. Slow is an understatement.

Saturday also happens to be one of the biggest costuming days. It's when a lot of fandoms plan "themed" meet-ups, usually resulting in some of the best photography of the con.

Unfortunately, it also results in very slow crowd movement as everyone wants to take their pictures in the middle of the walkways. When you're dressed in a costume, people with cameras prevent you from going very far very fast. It's just something you learn to plan on. "Oh, I have to get across the convention hall? I better set aside 2 hours instead of 20 minutes."

So, when I got a text from Tor Books, letting me know that Ender's Game author Orson Scott Card would have a few minutes before his panel on Saturday afternoon, I knew that it would be a very interesting interview. Why? Because only forty-five minutes prior to it, I would be in a Batman villains meet up:

© Photograph by: Brian Lee Flores


I didn't have time before the interview to change out of my costume - it's a bit elaborate - but Mr. Card was unfazed. I suppose when you're at Comic-Con, that kind of thing goes along with attendance. It will be a nice story for my grandchildren, I guess, when I hand them Ender's Game and explain that I once interviewed the author while dressed as battle-ready Harley Quinn. I'm sure they'll be simultaneously appalled and impressed….

So, it ended up being me, ridiculously dressed as shown, talking with Mr. Card in a little alcove where people walk to find the restrooms. It was still noisy, but even just a few feet from the hallway separated us the din enough to have a conversation that wasn't interrupted.

After testing my audio recorder, we began.

I was prepared with an entire list of questions, but I didn't really need any of them: Instead of an interview, it was more like a conversation with Orson Scott Card. We talked about his new book coming out, segued into the movie and his thoughts, and ended our time on a really fantastic note. Sometimes it's hard to prompt interviewees into giving answers that are more than just a line or two, but it was very clear that Mr. Card really enjoys what he's doing right now and is excited about where things are headed.

He had much to say about his new book (that, by the way, just came out!), Earth Unaware. In a classy slip of the tongue, I announced it as Earth Underwear, which he was more than a bit amused by. For shame, Aidan.

Part One: Earth Unaware

Card filled me in on some of the plot specifics first, mentioning that, as his readers probably know, Earth Unaware is a prequel to the Ender's Game series. It follows the storyline leading into the First Formic War (Ender's Game takes place during the Third), from the perspective of a mining family living out in the far reaches of the solar system - the Kuiper Belt. The corporations have taken over all the easier places to mine (like the asteroid belts), so it's not easy living.

"The mining family, they basically live from their ship so they have to be able to make everything themselves," Card explained, adding that their ship, El Cavador, is Spanish for "The Excavator."

Since they're at the farthest reaches of the solar system (this little infographic really explains the distance well), they're the first to spot an incoming alien ship, traveling at half of light speed. As Card said, "If you can get at half of lightspeed, you're a fast ship." With a possible threat looming ever closer, it's up to the family to get to Earth in time to warn them.

I find prequels immensely interesting, especially when they backtrack so far that the characters in the original book aren't around or don't yet exist. It's the chance to provide backstory and really round out the world in which the characters we know live, instead of just what's around them directly. Card agreed:

"What we're hoping to do is have something that actually fits with the science of the book, follows the real story, and we've got some great, great characters. I think people are going to love these guys and girls. It's multiple stories and it's the same universe as Ender, it's pointing toward Ender Wiggin. And so the experience, we hope the experience of reading these books will be world creation, you know, that people will be excited about it like we are."

"We" refers to himself and Aaron Johnston, the co-author on the prequel. Sometimes writing a story with another author can be a real tug-of-war and I was curious whether writing something like this - a book within a series of books that Card wrote by himself - raised any unforeseen challenges. Card didn't seem to think so, raving about Johnston and his ability to work well with Card's methodologies and what he finds important in a story:

"[It's great working with someone] who is, to put it bluntly, your equal. In other words, I don't have to go in and fix stuff. He and I see eye to eye about what you tell in a story. There are people who are much more about the action and adventure than I am, and it would be hard for me to collaborate with them because I don't really care about the things they care about. Aaron feels the same way. He writes the same kind of thing, but he has his own voice, his own style and it's fun to meld that and come up with a story together. Idea sessions with Aaron are amazing!"

It's worth noting that talking to Card about this book, I could tell it's something he's not only proud of, but excited by. He clued me in on a little bit of their future planning, admitting that he and Johnston hope to develop the story of the first Formic War into a television series! How incredible would that be?

I believe Ender's Game and the series following it were such strong, successful books because of Card's intense focus on the characters and the dynamic between them, how they react to their surroundings and the events occurring with or without their approval. Fans of Card's work are attached to characters that aren't even in the books that long or that frequently, which is a testament to his ability to make the readers care about what happens to the characters, all of the characters, instead of just furthering the story line. It sounds like Earth Unaware is going to be just as successful in that regard, and I can't wait to read it!

And Card confirms: "It's about the characters. It's about relationships. It's about what your life is."

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Stay tuned! Coming up soon: Part 2 of our interview with Orson Scott Card, where he talks about next year's Ender's Game film, Battle Room visuals, book-to-movie adaptations, and more!

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.

Summit at Comic-Con 2012

Hey guys! Our Ender News staff member Aidan Vitti is hanging out at Comic-Con all week and she's grabbed a few pictures of the Summit Entertainment booth (#4029) and some of the Ender's Game goodies they're giving away this week!

They're also screen printing a variety of t-shirts right there at the booth -- including one with the International Fleet logo -- so if you're attending, make sure to stop by!





View more Comic-Con 2012 photos in our gallery!

Nonso Anozie at London Comic Con: "I play Drill Sergeant Dap."

This past Sunday, lucky attendees of the London Film and Comic Con had a chance to meet Nonso Anozie, who was invited to talk about his recent work in Game of Thrones, Conan the Barbarian, and, of course, Ender's Game.

Red Carpet News TV had the opportunity to speak with Anozie at the event and he had quite a bit to say about the upcoming film. He explained the general premise, praised his fellow castmates, and gave us a bit more insight into his character, Sergeant Dap:
 "I'm charged with the job of training [Ender Wiggin]. I play Drill Sergeant Dap and he is like a real hard ass at first to Ender, a really bad guy. But then at the end you really start to see that there's a reason he's been so hard on him."  (Watch the Video)

A couple months ago we speculated that Sergeant Dap's character in the movie is going to be quite different than the Dap from the book, and it is looking more and more like that is the case; it seems unlikely that Drill Sergeant Dap is someone tucking the Launchies in at night, a man they would be affectionately referring to as "mom." 

It's interesting to consider what this will mean for the tone of the film. In the book, the adults function mostly as background noise for Ender. They manipulate and control him from behind the scenes and he has only a handful of face-to-face interactions with them. And really, until he meets Mazer, there is no adult in his life who personally challenges him. What will Ender's reaction be to someone who is in his face and hard on him from the very beginning?

It also seems that the movie will really be embracing the idea of the International Fleet and thus Battle School as military institutions. Here is the definition of "drill sergeant" taken from Wikipedia:
Drill Instructors are held responsible for the welfare, behavior, and military education of the recruits assigned to them on a 24-hour basis throughout the period of initial training, of which the most well known is Basic Training or boot camp. Their responsibilities include areas such as military discipline, physical fitness, and weapons training. 
What if the movie's version of Battle School is a little rougher, a little more demanding than the book?  Rigorous training schedules, barrack inspections, formations, strict military procedures -- is it possible that the laid-back, undisciplined style of Rose the Nose would never fly in Gavin Hood's interpretation of Battle School?

We'll have to wait until next November to find out.

The Nets Report #1

Ender's Game Cast News and Gossip

After principal photography wrapped a month ago and the production blog posted its final update, the cast of Ender's Game headed their separate ways... but that doesn't mean they haven't been busy. Let's take a look at what some of the actors have been up to these past weeks and what they have coming up in the future:

Asa Butterfield (Ender Wiggin)

What he's up to: It looks like Butterfield has been mostly focusing on his education since the wrap; we've seen loads of tweets about homework, exams, and a baby sister who thought she'd give her brother the chance to wear jeans to school instead of his standard uniform. 

But it's not been all school work: Last month, Butterfield attended the 14th Annual Young Hollywood Awards where he was presented with the Breakthrough Award of 2012. You can check out some photos from the event here.

And, as an Ender's Game wrap gift, Butterfield received tickets to BBC's Hackney Weekend, a music festival with took place this year the weekend of June 23/24 on the Hackney Marshes in London. See if you can find him in this picture.

Our favorite recent tweet: @asabfb In preparation for the Hobbit to come out, i decided to read it. and all three LOTR books. 

Hailee Steinfeld (Petra Arkanian)

What she's up to: Hailee Steinfeld is currently in NYC filming her new movie Can a Song Save Your Life?. Also starring Adam Levine and Keira Knightley, the film is centered around a music business executive and his bond with a young singer-songwriter who just moved to Manhattan.

She's also rumored to be starring in the 2014 movie adaptation of Daniel Handler's book Why We Broke Up, a comedy about a high school girl who falls for the captain of the basketball team.

Steinfeld attended the Young Hollywood Awards last month with Ender's Game co-stars Asa Butterfield and Moises Arias.

Our favorite recent tweet: @HaileeSteinfeld Root beer floats + Sittin pool side = Paradise' Happy 4th everyone xx

 Moises Arias (Bonzo Madrid)

What he's up to: Last month, Arias attended the premiere of his most recent movie Noobz in Los Angeles. The film, revolving around four friends embarking on a journey to win $100,000 a piece in a gaming tournament, was the first movie to ever premiere at the E3 video game convention. (nerdcaliber)

It was announced recently that Arias will be appearing in Jordan Vogt-Roberts' indie film Toy's House, a comedy following three teenage boys and their attempt to live off the land in a make-shift house in the woods. Arias will be playing Biaggio, a "a social outcast who finds acceptance from the other two boys." (Variety)

Arias will also being voicing the character "Antonio" in the upcoming Pixar movie Despicable Me 2 which is scheduled to hit theaters July 3, 2013.

Our favorite recent tweet: @ImNotMoises Directed by yours truly... http://youtu.be/KUlLJTAlKG0 

(The link is to Jaden Smith's Gonzoes music video -- Arias also makes an appearance so check it out!)

Abigail Breslin (Valentine Wiggin)

What she's up to: Breslin is set to star in Vincenzo Natali's Haunter, a "reverse ghost story" which tells the tale of a family of ghosts who remain in their home even after a new family movies in. Lisa (Breslin) "must reach out from beyond the grave to help her present-day, living counterpart, Olivia, avoid the same fate Lisa and her family suffered." (Collider)

Earlier this spring, Breslin also signed on to star opposite Halle Berry in Brad Anderson's thriller/horror The Hive. The movie revolves around a 911 operator (Berry) and her attempt to save a young girl (Breslin) who is being targeted by a serial killer. According to BET, filming is scheduled to begin on The Hive sometime this week.

Our favorite recent tweet@abbienormal16 Its unfortunate that my thumb always hits the return button instead of the backspace. Now my texts are always misspelled and 20 rows long...

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The Nets Report is an Ender News series dedicated to keeping the fandom up-to-date with cast news and gossip until the movie's release in November 2013. Updates every couple of weeks!

480 days to go, guys. :)

Q&A With Multimedia Artist Darian Robbins

If you've been at all involved in the Ender's Game fandom these past several months, you've most likely ran across some of multimedia artist Darian Robbins' most recent work. Over the past few weeks, he has combined official Ender's Game movie imagery with his own artwork and work from other designers to create a number of exciting fan pieces, including I.F. propoganda posters and the box art of a Buggers vs. Astronauts video game, one I'm sure we all wish actually existed.

Robbins was recently kind enough to participate in an online Q&A with Ender News, where we learn a bit about his work, his participation in the fandom, and his expectations for the upcoming film.

Keep in mind: some of these questions may contain spoilers for those of you who have not yet read the book.

When did you first read Ender's Game? What was it about the novel that appealed to you?

I first read Ender's Game the summer of 1994 right before I entered college. It appealed to me because it was a Science Fiction story about gifted young adults who have the potential to save humanity. 

You have children -- at what age would you allow them to read the novel?

I would let them read it about when they enter high school. I think by that time they will be able to handle some of the overarching themes and events in the books. I feel that they'll be able to ask good questions and engage in a good discussion with me!

How long after reading the book did you start creating fan art?

Almost immediately, I am a very visual person, so when I read I visualize: characters, landscape, everything.  As I was reading the book I would pause and scribble sketches that would later become artwork.

You've pretty much stuck to the Enderverse when it comes to art for your blog. Do you create artwork for other fandoms?


No, I haven't. I haven't involved myself into other fandoms like I have with Ender's Game. That's not to say I won't, I'm just not motivated by them right now. Plus as the movie releases its official imagery I will take my art blog to focus on different aspects of my art that are non-Ender's Game related.

It's Ender's Game focused right now because I didn't get a chance to have any of my art in the upcoming movie, and I wanted the general public to see what I had created dealing with the Ender's Game Universe. I have been fortunate to have my artwork licensed, commissioned, and approved by Orson Scott Card for various items like T-shirts and promotional items he sells from his website (hatrack.com). My artwork has also been included in the Marvel Comics Adaptations, the Authorized Ender's Game Companion in Steve Sywak's “Technology Section”, and used for the marketing and signage for EnderCon in 2002.

I had a fleeting hope that I could magically wiggle designs into the movie, but to no avail.

The hammer head ships in your gallery -- can you tell me a bit about those?

That's actually for an art contest I am participating in based on an upcoming Comic Book called “The Corsairs” created by Charlie “Fab” Goubile and Daniel McNeal you can find out more about that here.

What are your hopes for the movie? Visually, what are your expectations for Battle School, Eros, and the Ender's final test?

My hope for the movie is that they don't water it down too much or cut crucial scenes that relay the themes of the book. I also hope they set up the movie for sequels because the Ender Universe is huge and contains more film worthy material.

Visually, I hope that they build extensive sets, and do not have too many green screened backgrounds. Since I also have work experience in aerospace and mechanical engineering with NASA, I would love to see a hard sci-fi look to the technology in the film, something that doesn't violate the laws of physics and realistic engineering design too badly. I have to keep reminding myself that this still is Science “FICTION.” 

I didn't really imagine Eros too much other than a cramped network of tunnels and rooms on a big rock. So my mind is more open to what Formic architecture and designs could be. 

Now the Final Test has to be done perfect. I hope to see holographic projections and maybe a way to interact with the projection like Minority Report [...]. I also imagine that machinery running the Battle Simulation Projector / Ansible is equal meld between Human and Formic design and engineering.

Through the story I felt that although Humanity reverse-engineered much of the Formic technology for it's own purpose, we didn't fully understand all the technology and had to use some Formic parts to make things work completely. It's like we were welding a sword without understanding the chemistry, craftsmanship, and material science that goes into building an actual sword.

Is there one line/conversation from the book that you really hope isn't excluded from the film?

I don't really have one line or conversation, but I hope they don't exclude the part Ender finds the hive queen. It sets up the Speaker for the Dead book which I love equally as much as Ender's Game. Speaker was the book that really made me enjoy OSC's storytelling abilities because I started reading the book expecting it to be Ender's Game 2.0 but he took it a whole new direction and still made me love the story and characters.

Do you have any fun plans for future Ender's Game-related pieces?

Recently, I have been making all types of International Fleet Propaganda Posters. My way of holding everyone over until official movie related images come out. So I will continue to do that until I get exhausted. I have a couple ideas for some book related t-shirts, but I don't think I will come up with some new traditional art piece there is a lot of great work out there already.

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A big thanks to Darian Robbins for his participation in this interesting Q&A! You can find the rest of his work on his art blog -- and make sure to keep up-to-date with all of his newest pieces by following him on Tumblr and Twitter.