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Author Topic: Ender's Game is my favorite novel, but not my favorite science fiction novel...
Tresopax
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...or at least this is what I tell people when I recommend it to them. Technically, Ender's Game is science fiction because it takes place in a sci-fi setting. However, I don't think it fits in with most of the other books in the science fiction section of the bookstore, for the simple reason that it's not about its science fiction.

To me, a great science fiction novel is something like Dune or 1984, where the creation of a fundamentally interesting world or universe is at the center of the story. You can't take the science fiction elements out of 1984 and still have it be a good novel. The whole reason you read it is to learn about what's so bad about the world the author has created for us.

This is not the case for Ender's Game. The battle school is interesting in some ways, but it is not the sort of powerful new idea that supports a great science fiction novel, and it is just a background element in the story. I think it would not be so difficult for OSC to rewrite the same story without the science fiction, trading the battle school in for a regular military school, and the war against aliens in for a more conventional fight. It might be somewhat less interesting for some readers, but I think most of the power and emotion of the story would remain. The book is about Ender, not Ender's universe.

This is why I highly recommend the book to friends of mine who are not at all science fiction fans. The trouble is that the marketers, for some reason, have put only a spaceship on the front cover of the novel. It is difficult to convince people who don't think of themselves as big sci-fi fans to buy it or even consider reading it. I don't want to read about aliens or spaceships, they say. It's not really about aliens or spaceships, I respond. It's a tough sell, but if it works, they always like the book.

This bothers me in particular now that this movie is supposedly coming soon, because I have a sneaking suspicion that Hollywood is going to make the same mistakes that whoever designed that book cover did. I can easily see this film coming off as a movie about human kids fighting aliens in space, rather than a movie about Ender in school. It would not be difficult for the writers to take the same series of events and change the entire focus of the story in that manner. I'm even concerned that Mr. Card himself, who I think considers himself a science fiction writer moreso than a writer in general, may be inclined to overfocus on the sci-fi elements of the novel rather than the simpler, more mainstream plot elements that (at least according to me) really stand out in Ender's Game - more so than in OSC's other works and modern literature in general. If it becomes a movie about battleschool and alien wars I think it won't be a success, because I don't think those ideas alone are powerful enough to hold up a film for mainstream audiences. Instead it could become pretty much like every other cookie-cutter sci-fi blockbuster out there, except with a slightly different angle.

Yeah, so the point is that I really recommend Ender's Game, but not to be read as science fiction. If you are in the mood for really amazing science fiction, read Dune - the world Herbert has created should be enough to amaze anyone with a taste for that sort of thing. But read Ender's Game when you want a book about people - a book that will change how you think about yourself and others. Anyone else feel this way? Or perhaps in the exact opposite way? [Wink]

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Promethius
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I do the same thing. I usually say it is in the science fiction section but it is really about a kid in school.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
To me, a great science fiction novel is something like Dune or 1984, where the creation of a fundamentally interesting world or universe is at the center of the story.
I disagree with you about what science fiction is -- but, then, I have a pretty broad definition of sci-fi that includes fantasy and horror. [Smile] I suppose if we want to call the whole thing "speculative fiction," and call "science fiction" only those novels with world-building and tech fetishes at their center, I'm fine with that.

But your primary concern is valid. I remember being deeply bothered by the script fragments OSC first posted on here that opened with a massive space battle (from Mazer's triumph in the Second Invasion.) To me, that focused on entirely the wrong part of the novel -- but it also emotionally prepared me for what will likely wind up a summertime action flick rather than a faithful adaptation of what is actually a pretty cerebral book. If Card's OWN script took a "explosions in space" detour, I think we can expect the same from studio writers.

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Tresopax
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quote:
I disagree with you about what science fiction is -- but, then, I have a pretty broad definition of sci-fi that includes fantasy and horror.
Well, okay... point taken. When I said it's about creating interesting universes I probably wasn't casting the net wide enough.
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Sid Meier
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well you have to realize is that if people really wanted the plot they'ld read the book, the point of the movie is A to make money B try to convey they story somewhat and still make money.

Thus money money and more money, durned capitalists.

But the point is, the sci-fi road is NESSASARY somewhat inorder to ensure that we get enough people with broad enough interests to take the time to pay the 5$ and see the movie. If they are willing to get ripped off and purchase the snack food more power to the movie.

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Noemon
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The enemy's gate is...over there.
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sky_pager
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quote:
but it is not the sort of powerful new idea that supports a great science fiction novel, and it is just a background element in the story. I think it would not be so difficult for OSC to rewrite the same story without the science fiction
I agree. I am not a sci-fi fan at all. Most of the books I read are more "realistically based", such as Tom Clancy and John Grisham, or slightly of center like Kurt Vonegut or Hunter S. Thompson.

The 1st OSC book I read, recommended by my very cool Mother, was Enders Game (about 13 years ago) and have read almost every other one of his books, some multiple times, and still plan on reading more of his work.

I am normally turned off from sci-fi books but the way OSC devolopes his characters and the interactions between them has changed who I am and how I see people and communities. And to top it off the books intruge me. Oh Mr. Card, the sleep your writing abilities have cost me. Quite a powerful writer.

quote:
This bothers me in particular now that this movie is supposedly coming soon, because I have a sneaking suspicion that Hollywood is going to make the same mistakes that whoever designed that book cover did.
Its bound to happen, unfortanetly. As Sid Meier said
quote:
Thus money money and more money, durned capitalists
And possibly OSC would prefer to convey his story and, of course, make a good living, but their are many influences he may not have control over which will A) change his vision and B) only care about the almighty dollar. Hollywood, Blah!

To be honest, I expect to be dissapointed in the movie. How could anyone possibly build the characters and emotions in a 1.5 hour that OSC did in the book. Also, to me at least, I liked Enders Game even more after reading the other books in the series.

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HandEyeProtege
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I heartily disagree with the premise that science fiction is just about creating a fascinating world. As an aspiring SF (in this case speculative fiction, in the sense that Tom mentioned above) writer I know that that is the most obvious, and maybe most fun part about it; I'd understand if someone who had never read SF thought that was what defined it.

In its broadest sense, I'd say SF is about opening up new doors for a story - allowing technology or magic to give a new perspective or thoroughly transform it. But that doesn't change what TYPE of story it is; it can still be an adventure, a mystery, a romance, or any of the other genres that seem so clearly delineated in a bookstore. Of course, SF allows for another type of story, what OSC calls the milieu story, where it really is about exploring a fascinating new world, but strong character based stories are still well within the bounds of SF.

All in my opinion, of course!

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Gosu
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HandEyeprotege heartily disagrees.

I have yet to see someone in real life do such a thing naturally.

Naturally, mind you.

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Liz B
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I loved Dune and wouldn't have if it weren't strongly character-driven . . . and yet. What I remember most about Ender's Game is Ender; what I remember most about Dune is the setting.
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erosomniac
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I share Tresopax's concern about potential Hollywood marketing, purely because I think Hollywood underestimates how many people have read Ender's Game and, accordingly, how many people recognized it as a book about people that happens to use a sci-fi setting for convenience.

I can think of four high schools where I come from (Hawaii) that had Ender's Game as required reading, alongside To Kill a Mockingbird, Native Son, Kerouac, Morrison, Fitzgerald, etc. Hollywood will hopefully recognize that this is a book people take seriously (and I don't mean in a sci-fi geek holy-cow-aliens-from-space-live-in-my-sock-drawer kind of way).

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neo-dragon
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Well, I think that the best science fiction novels are the ones that aren't about science fiction, but they are still science fiction nonetheless (If that makes any sense). Ender's Game definitely falls into this category, as does Dune, and others. But in my opinion one can't separate these novels from the rest of the science fiction genre on the basis of their not focusing on the fantastic elements. That's like saying that just because they are truly great literature they can't be considered science fiction (or that they are great literature because they're not sci-fi. Same difference), and I think that's an insult to the genre. I mean, Sci-fi isn't taken seriously by much of the general public. Trying to remove those works which are taken seriously just encourages this attitude.

So instead of telling people that EG is your favourite novel but not your favourite sci-fi novel, you should proudly tell people that it's your favourite novel AND it happens to be science fiction!

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Tresopax
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No, because then they will assume that it is the science fiction element in it that makes it my favorite novel, which is very far from the truth. And if they aren't a sci-fi fan then they would probably be inclined to write it off as something they wouldn't enjoy. I have, in fact, encountered that reaction.

I'm not suggesting that Ender's Game is not science fiction. I'm just saying that I think the science fiction aspects of it are secondary to other aspects. In some other science fiction novels the reverse is true, but nothing precludes a novel from being both great literature and great science fiction.

I think this is especially true if the author merges the everyday human drama aspects of the story inseperably with the science fiction aspects, so the book focuses on both at once. Dune does this, I think, because of the way in which the characters are so fundamentally intertwined with the worlds they live in. You can't really take Dune out of Paul Atreides. If you took him off Dune and put him on modern day Earth instead, it's hard to even imagine him as the same person. It's hard to understand Arrakis without understanding Muad'dib and the other characters from that novel. In contrast, I have no trouble imagining Ender in my school instead of a sci-fi Battle School. And, to reverse that, I have no trouble imagining the science fiction of 1984 without the characters and drama that the author includes in that book. Does this make any sense?

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socal_chic
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Tresopax that is exactly the way I've always felt about Ender's Game. It's about Ender way more than "aliens" and the sci fi setting. It's hard to explain that to my friends with the spaceship on the cover...
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Stephan
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Orson Scott Card mostly writes sci fi and fantasy, which is why all of his books will end up in that section regardless of what genre they are. Its the same reason why Disclosure and ER by Michael Crichton are in the sci fi section along with Jurassic Park and Timeline.
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Liz B
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quote:
So instead of telling people that EG is your favourite novel but not your favourite sci-fi novel, you should proudly tell people that it's your favourite novel AND it happens to be science fiction!

Depends on who I'm trying to convince. After all, I want people to read the book, and there are many who just won't read scifi for whatever reason.

What I do say is that one of my best friends has had a hate-hate relationshop with science fiction and fantasy since I tried to get her to read a book by Nancy Springer when we were both in the 5th grade -- and she loves EG and the Shadow series. (I'm not sure if she's read any of the Speaker for the Dead books or not.) That particular anecdote has gotten a few non-scifi readers to give EG a try.

-lb

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camus
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I really don't see why someone would purposely not want to read a sci-fi book based only on the reason that it is sci-fi. Unless maybe it's due to differences in the definition of sci-fi. To me sci-fi is merely the setting that the author uses to tell his story.

An example is that I guess I never really thought of 1984 as sci-fi until you mentioned it, but I guess it is, especially when accounting for when it was written. But with the example of 1984, the technology isn't really the story, the story is about governments and power. So sci-fi books are not really much different than any other fictional works. The setting is different but that's it, and that isn't a reason to not want to read a book. The setting is just a device used by the author to help the reader better understand the story. Another example is just about anything by Kurt Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse 5 includes time travel and the future, but the point of the book has nothing to do with the consequences of time travel. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is a good book because of the story, not because of it's futuristic setting.

I think this may be what all of you guys are essentially saying already, that Enders Game is good because of the story not the setting. I think a lot of people are caught up on the idea that a sci-fi book will lack depth. What they need to do is examine their perspective on what they think a sci-fi book is going to be and why they think it's going to be a certain way. and of course reading Ender's Game will help.

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Orson Scott Card
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People choose genres for good reason: A genre is really a group of writers and readers who share an interest in stories that are similar to each other in recognized ways.

Romance readers and writers care about stories about finding love in unexpected and difficult places (and people). When a novel bears the markers of "romance," certain readers are drawn to it - and others are repelled, because they have learned (or come to believe) that such stories are not for them.

Science fiction is an extraordinarily broad genre, in that there are more kinds of storie WITHIN sci-fi than there are outside it (especially if you lump fantasy and sf together, which is not an unreasonable thing to do, since the writers and readers form one continuous community with no clear boundaries).

Yet it is not unreasonable for there to be people who don't want to read sci-fi. Some are repelled because they don't care for sci-fi movies, and assume (not unreasonably) that sci-fi books will be more of the same (cf. Star Wars and Star Trek novels). Others have attempted to read sci-fi and found it boring or incomprehensible (which it often is, to people who haven't read a lot of it).

There's no particular reason why people who don't enjoy sci-fi stories should have to read them; the genre markers provide them with a good system for avoiding a kind of story they don't enjoy. Of course, I think this also applies to li-fi - literary fiction - which is far more repetitive and formulaic than sci-fi. And people are forced or pressured to read li-fi all the time <grin>.

I try, in my fiction, to write for as broad an audience as possible, without violating the integrity of the story. That's why people who think they hate science fiction often find that they can enjoy Ender's Game (and people who couldn't care less about religion or religious fiction often find that they enjoy my Women of Genesis books). While satisfying the requirements of the genre, I try to make it "nooby-friendly" - I explain everything that needs explaining, and try to provide a through-line story that does NOT depend on the reader being fascinated by the tropes of science fiction (or, with Women of Genesis, a story that does not depend on the reader being a believer in a particular religion).

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Θησεύς (Theseus)
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The only problem with this method of writing, if you see it as a problem which you might not!! is that you do always get those few 'puritan sci-fi' readers out there who slate your books because they do not fit the orthodox style of sci-fi, which in itself is an oxymoron because it is so unorthodox and free-ranging! presumably there is some sort of middle ground to be found where you attract the most readers?
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