QUESTION: I don't suppose you could just lay out for me the entire metaphor of the mind game (in Ender's Game). I'm very curious; I've been thinking about it for a long time, some pieces are obvious and that's no problem. It's other things that just don't make sense. You mention plenty of times the fact that the mind game is developing with the child, etc., and in that sense you can see how it works with Ender in some stages. But what I'd like to know is how those very peculiar scenes fit in (e.g., the giants corpse, how it grows old with time, how it becomes a home for the buggers, Ender and Valentine walking down the stairs with all those fairy tale creatures, etc.).


The problem with laying out the "metaphor of the mind game" is twofold:

First, the mind game is not working as planned. The adults already knew what to expect from student interaction with the mind game -- they knew what various responses to the game meant about the child. But with Ender, the game moves into new territory. You'll notice that they are worried about where some of the images come from. In later books Ender discovers that the hive queen was manipulating the game (creating Jane as a byproduct) but which elements come from the game itself and which from the hive queen? And what was the hive queen's objective? At times, it seems the idea is to drive Ender crazy or terrify him and thereby cripple him, make him ineffective as a commander; at other times, the idea seems to be to communicate with him, to make him think differently about the hive queen. Which images arise from the game and which from the hive-queen-as-saboteur and which from hive-queen-as-peacemaker? You'd have to sort that out yourself.

Second, I did not want to create a "plotted" mind game because I would inevitably use "known" symbols and fall into cliche. So ... as best I could, I free-associated my way through, from the giant's drink on. I had no plan. When I caught myself having a plan, I subverted it. I did not decide what was causing the game to do what it did until after ... I did not know that the hive queen had anything to do with it until I got Ender to the colony planet and was trying to solve the problem of how they would leave him a message that nobody else would get. So even though I found explanations after the fact, I was simply drawing on images as they came up and felt right to me for that moment in the story ... So I can't plot out the metaphors because not only do I not have the faintest idea, I don't want there to be a plot. I want them to be received viscerally as I received them.

The only thing that matters is that both the game and the hive queens were taking images out of Ender's unconscious, and the only way for me to do that effectively was to take situational images out of my own unconscious -- that is, I wasn't free-associating "as Orson Card" but rather was responding to images that felt right (to me) "for Ender." A weird psychological process, but one that fiction writers go through all the time as we imagine what characters would do and say.