Book Review: Speaker for the Dead

written by David Steffen

Speaker for the Dead is the sequel to Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game was first a short story and then was expanded to a novel, and just last year was made into a movie. I reviewed the novel and the movie in a previous article. As usual I will try to avoid spoilers for the story being reviewed, but I’m not even going to try to avoid spoilers for Ender’s Game, so if you don’t want to find out some of what happens in that book then go read it and come back.


Three thousand years have passed since the events of Ender’s Game. With the buggers now apparently extinct, humanity has colonized the galaxy unopposed, a hundred worlds all connected together and governed via their ansible connection that allows instantaneous communication across unlimited distances even though the movement of matter between stars is still limited by the speed of light.

The book The Hive Queen and the Hegemon, which is written by someone the general public knows only as the Speaker for the Dead has told the story of the buggers in a way that captured the empathy of the general public so that by the time of this story everyone laments the loss of this alien intelligence and condemns Ender the Xenocide. The book has gained such popularity to as to spawn its own religion in which people who call themselves Speaker for the Dead respond to requests to illuminate in unvarnished fashion the life of a person. The Speaker for the Dead not only tells of the actions of the deceased, both good and bad, he also explains the reasons those actions were taken as best he can. This goes against the custom of not speaking ill of the dead, and so can make many people uncomfortable, but it’s meant to be as honest a story of the deceased as can be told because to tell of only the good or only the bad of a person’s life is like a second death for the person to withhold the telling of part of that life. This movement gains such a following that over three thousand years it has become its own religion.

Little does anyone know, let alone the adherents of the religion, that Ender Wiggin was also the one who wrote The Hive Queen and the Hegemon. Not only that, but he is still alive, because he and his sister Valentine have spent most of the last three thousand years in the time-slowing relativistic speeds of interstellar travel as Ender speaks for the dead and his sister shares her political views through the continued existence of her Demosthenes alias that she established in the first book.

All of that is little but backstory, just the minimum necessary to kind of get a grasp where the book starts. On a Catholic colony world a new intelligent alien species has been discovered, a species of small creatures that look like pigs and so are nicknamed “piggies”, the first to appear since the buggers. The Starways Congress, which control the ansible network between the hundred worlds, has strict limitations in place to control interaction with new intelligent alien species that are all centered around not contaminating the alien culture with human influences while learning as much as possible about them. These limitations make the quest for knowledge extremely difficult, but violation of them could be punished by means as serious as cutting the colony off from outside supplies and communication. After decades of work, very little is known about them, not even their basic social structure or reproductive methods.

One day, with no warning, one of the researchers tasked with working with the piggies is found dead, having been tortured. The young xenobiologist calls for a Speaker for the Dead to come speak for the researcher, and Ender Wiggin answers the call. The colony had previously been out of his reach because its Catholic license prohibited non-Catholics from visiting without reason, but as an invited Speaker for the Dead he could finally go and see the new intelligent species himself, to make up for the near-extinction of the buggers. I say “near-extinction” because unbeknownst to anyone else, he carries with him the larva of a bugger Hive Queen which can repopulate the species.

The travel to Lusitania to speak for the dead takes just two weeks from Ender’s point of view, but takes twenty-two years from the colony’s point of view. Novinha has married and had a handful of children since then, and has changed much since the message that Ender received. She rescinded her request for a Speaker less than a week after she made it, but two of her children have made requests in the meantime.


I thought this book was very good, and made a very good followup for anyone who liked the first one. Again the emphasis is on the power of empathy. Ender Wiggin is an extraordinary human being because he has an extraordinary proficiency for empathy, both towards his fellow human beings and for creatures of different species. This makes him the ideal ambassador for dealing with new intelligent species. My favorite aspect of the book is gradual reveal of how the piggies’ social structures and stages of life work together to form the society. It’s a master craft of speculative work to put together something that is so foreign, but which can be understood, and which has the complete feeling that a real ecosystem has while being novel enough to be interesting.

The characters of the book are another strong point. particularly Novinha and her children. Their family is terribly damaged from a net of lies that has affected everything that has happened to them over the past twenty-two years. When Ender left the family didn’t exist yet, and now Ender’s first thing to do is to try to interact with the family to discover what he needs to discover to be able to speak for the dead. All tied up with the fate of the family is the interactions with the piggies, which I found absolutely fascinating in every conversation.

And just the basic concept of Speaker for the Dead I found incredibly alluring. I don’t know how I would feel if someone spoke that way about one of my dead relatives, to hear unvarnished truth about the wrongs they committed on other people but while trying to understand what motivated them to do these things. But the book never claims that the reveal is a pleasant experience, but after the reveal people do typically find a measure of peace in understanding the ones they loved better than they ever had before. It does make me wonder how Ender would speak of, say, a pedophile. I’m not sure how he could spin that in a way that people could empathize with. But that small wrinkle aside, I really thought it was alluring.


I would highly recommend this book to any SF fan. I would also recommend reading Ender’s Game first, because even though it’s not strictly necessary it would help to see that story to understand the potential for destruction in the ability to empathize, while this book focuses on the potential for creation and healing in the same.

I have not read any books in this series besides these two. I have heard from a couple people that these two are the only ones that really stand out as great works. Any opinions on that, dear reader? Are there any others that you’ve read that you found very valuable?


2014 Hugo Noms!

written by David Steffen

It’s award season again! If you’re eligible to vote for the Hugos, you have until the end of March to decide on your picks. I wanted to share my picks, as I always do, in plenty of time so that if anyone wants to investigate my choices to see for themselves they’ll have plenty of time.

Quite a few of the categories I don’t have anything to nominate because I don’t seek out entries in them, so I left those out. And for any category that I have eligible work I mentioned them alongside my own picks.

The entries in each category are listed in no particular order.

Best Novel

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Premier novel by Leckie. Great premise, difficult point of view, great space opera. I reviewed it here.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
The 14th and final book of Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series.


Best Novelette

Monday’s Monk by Jason Sanford (Asimov’s)

Best Short Story

The Promise of Space by James Patrick Kelly (Clarkesworld)

The Murmurous Paleoscope by Dixon Chance (Three-Lobed Burning Eye)

HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! by Keffy R.M. Kehrli (Lightspeed)

Hollow as the World by Ferrett Steinmetz (Drabblecast)

The Boy and the Box by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed)

For Your Consideration:
I Will Remain in After Death Anthology
Could They But Speak at Perihelion
Reckoning at Stupefying Stories
Meat at Pseudopod
Coin Op at Daily Science Fiction
Escalation at Imaginaire

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

Ender’s Game

Warm Bodies

Game of Thrones Season 3


Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

The Rains of Castamere (Game of Thrones)

And Now His Watch Has Ended (Game of Thrones)

Walk of Punishment (Game of Thrones)

Second Sons (Game of Thrones)

Valar Doheris (Game of Thrones)


Best Editor (Short Form)

Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld)

John Joseph Adams (of Lightspeed, Nightmare, and anthologies)

Tina Connolly (of Toasted Cake)

Norm Sherman (of Drabblecast and Escape Pod)

Shawn Garrett (of Pseudopod)


Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Daily Science Fiction


Escape Pod


Best Fanzine

SF Signal

My work for you to consider:
Diabolical Plots
I do consider Diabolical Plots a zine. Consider, too, that this was the first year Diabolical Plots also provide the Submission Grinder. The Submission Grinder itself doesn’t fit any of the categories, I think, but Diabolical Plots does.


Best Fancast

Toasted Cake




Cast of Wonders


Best Fan Writer

Ken Liu

Ferrett Steinmetz

Juliette Wade

Cat Rambo

Anne Ivy

For your consideration:

David Steffen
Frank Dutkiewicz
Carl Slaughter


Review: Ender’s Game (Movie vs. Book)

written by David Steffen

Recently I went to see the Ender’s Game movie, based on the 1985 novel by Orson Scott Card (who I interviewed here some time ago). They take place in a future decades after an invasion of insect-like aliens attacked Earth and nearly wiped out the human race. The last invasion was only repelled by the last-ditch effort of a master strategist which turned the tide of the war. Earth needs a new leader, a new master strategist, to lead this war effort, but no ideal candidate has stepped forward. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the orbital Battle School plucks the most promising children to train them in strategy, to see who will come out to be the best of the best and become the new master strategist that Earth needs. Ender is a third child, a rare on this planet with reproductive legislation that limits parents to two children to limit population growth–his parents were allowed to have a third because their first two children were very promising candidates but his older brother Peter was often uncontrollably violent and his older sister Valentine too empathetic to allow them to be viable candidates. Can Ender become the master strategist that Earth is hoping for? Will he be capable of doing what needs to be done to save humanity? Will his training break him?

I read the book for the first time about five years ago, so it wasn’t very fresh when I went to see the movie. After seeing the movie, I re-read the book to refresh it in my mind before writing the review. I’ll give an overview and general impression of each of them in a non-spoiler way, but will follow that up with a spoiler section where I compare/contrast them in more detail without concern for ruining major plot points.


The Book

In the book, Ender is recruited at the tender age of six years old, and the main events of the book take until he is about eleven. So by the end he has spent about half of his life in military training. The book follows relationships that he develops with the other students, starting off on a bad note when the head administrator of the school sets out to isolate him from the others on the launch. Most of the school (and thus most of the book) is based around the game which can be most concisely described as zero-gravity laser tag with teams of forty facing off against each other.

The reason that I thought the book was so phenomenal is that it convinced me very thoroughly that Ender is a strategic genius. He is set playing the game that others have been playing for years and years, passing down the most common strategies to their successors for decades, and in relatively little time Ender can see through all of these routine maneuvers and see the flaws in them, see ways to exploit them. For a book based around combat strategy, Card couldn’t get by on just telling us how great Ender is at strategy. He has to convince me of that through Ender’s actions, and Card succeeds at this with flying colors. That is what makes this book so great. There were moments when I first read the book that some of these moments just made my jaw drop at the unexpectedness of a new strategy–something which totally makes sense in retrospect, but which I never would’ve thought of. Even on the re-read, these moments hadn’t lost their luster. And the ending of the book was especially effective, and still gives me chills when I think of it.

In some ways, Ender’s Game has left a mark on the way that I think about everything, and how I interact with people, much in the same way that the concepts of Game Theory have affected me. The thing about the Game Theory kind of mindset that most people don’t realize is that it applies to everything. It’s all about trying to predict outcomes and choose ways to behave and act in situations with other people involved, trying to understand their motivations and what those motivations will push people to do. I’ve used this kind of mindset in recent discussions with Human Resources at my company to point out that certain policies might encourage undesirable behavior and to suggest alterations to policies that might do better. I didn’t always think of things in such terms, but I think that reading Ender’s Game did a lot to make me think in that way which has been very useful.



The Movie

And then there’s the movie. It’s been a long time in the coming, even though Card had opportunities to make it into a film in the 80s and 90s, because Card insisted on a certain level of creative control. And good for him in sticking to his guns on that. This was the story that put him on the map, and I’ve seen way too many film adaptations that just mangled the original so badly that they didn’t only not do justice to the original, they were an insult to the original.

The film wasn’t bad. The core of the book is there, though there are many significant changes. The casting was good all around, the dialog writing portrayed well the parts that they reflected in the book. The special effects served the movie well.

But the movie is a pale shadow of the book.

I think the reason for that is that it’s just so compressed, both in the time available for the film to convey its story, and in the actual timeline of the story. I don’t know exactly the timeline of the movie, but I’d guess that Ender went to battle school when he was maybe… eleven years old? And he hasn’t aged noticeably by the end, so I’d guess it ended within a year. As opposed to the book where Ender spent literally half his life at Battle school, including those years where he went from a naive child to basically being a man. The ending really depends on this school being his whole life, and the timeline of the movie just doesn’t work with that, so the ending didn’t work like it should have even though it was pretty similar.

And the plot of movie had to compress so much to fit in the allotted time that there was no point at which I was convinced that Ender was a master strategist. A couple of the big strategies of the book are in the movie, but in some cases they are given to him by other characters for free, in other cases they just come to mind without the extreme stress that the book clearly made as a necessary step to being able to push to such strategies. Sure, he was sharp for a grade-schooler, but the book’s Ender Wiggin wasn’t just smart for a grade schooler, he could out-strategize anyone else who was available for the job, which is why he’s their hope to save humanity. The movie just doesn’t convince me of that and so, for me, it fails.

The one thing that I thought the movie improved on was cutting out a subplot that involved Ender’s brother and sister back on Earth–I felt like that was a waste of space.


The Ending (Herein Be Spoilers)

Okay, now that we’re being the cloak of a spoiler warning shield, let’s talk about the ending.

The ending is one of the things that really makes the book worthwhile. For most of the book, he’s in battle school with all the other kids, much of that time being spent in the battle room. As he’s learning to combat other strategies, he’s also constantly revising his personal relationships with the other children as he rises in the ranks to commander. By the time he leaves Battle School he’s proven that he is the beset of anyone there, at a younger age than most, even though the school at the end is intentionally weighing the game situations against him. Finally they graduate him and send him to Command School where he starts running complex simulations where he has control of a fleet of ships facing off against alien ships as he is in command of commanders who each control a subset of the fleet. These simulations are grueling, always against overwhelming odds, often several times a day, and are meant to be a simulation of what the attack on the aliens actually will be like.

By the time he gets to the end of the simulations, some of his commanders have broken beneath him and had to be retired, he has worn himself to exhaustion, and when he reaches the enemy’s planet he decides he wants to win spectacularly but in a way in which those judging him will never possibly consider him as a leader–by destroying their homeworld. And he does this, only to discover that this wasn’t a simulation after all. While directing what he thought was a simulation, he has destroyed an intelligent species. Those who have been training him chose this strategy because they knew that the only one who could beat the enemy would be one who could empathize with them to the point of thinking like them, but that person would not be able to destroy them if they thought the situation were actually real.

Holy crap, what an ending. But it depends a great deal on the timeline. The compressed timeline of the movie just makes this not work. If Ender resorts to genocide as easily as he does in the movie, even in a simulation, it’s hard to cut him any slack. There’s no mention in the movie that he’s trying to fail their test on purpose so they won’t choose him like he did in the book, and even if they did the compressed timeline of the movie likewise would make that very hard to justify. And I never got the impression that he and those beneath him had been pushed to the breaking point, either. Ender just reaches the planet and decides without warning “Oh, hey, I can blow up the planet. Therefore I will.” The end.



The movie is not a waste of time. At its core, it has much the same story, but the book is better on almost every level. If you see the movie first, you’ll be robbing yourself of the opportunity to see it play out the way it should in the book.

My advice: Read the book. Think about seeing the movie AFTER you read the book.




Buggers and Pathfinders–Orson Scott Card

I’m thrilled to introduce today’s guest, the one and only Orson Scott Card. Orson Scott Card is most well-known as the author of the award-winning novel Ender’s Game, published in 1985. Ender’s Game won both the Nebula and the Hugo awards. And no wonder that was so popular–I just finished reading it for the first time and I found it be compelling throughout.

He has written many stories in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and Biblical. And he’s contributed to the publishing business in other ways besides writing. He is the founder of professional speculative fiction magazine Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, which has published some amazing stories. He also runs a yearly weeklong writer’s workshop titled Literary Boot Camp. Entry to the workshop is application-based and very competitive. Graduation from Boot Camp would be a great addition to any cover letter. Check out his website Hatrack River, and while you’re there stop by the Hatrack River Writer’s Workshop, a writer’s forum where you can ask for advice, share commiserations and congratulations, and just generally shoot the breeze.

David Steffen: At what point did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Orson Scott Card: I’m not sure I ever really did. Writing was ‘in the air’ in my house – my dad subscribed to Writer’s Digest, and as Mormons it was part of our culture to write sermons, essays, and even comic plays. So I always wrote and thought of writing as something regular people did all the time. But it wasn’t a career choice! I entered college as an archaeology major, but found I was spending all my time in the theatre department. So I changed majors. I started writing in order to fix plays (Flowers for Algernon, for instance, had a terrible second act, so with the director’s permission I wrote a new one based on the story and novel), and then to adapt novels for readers’ theatre productions. Then I started writing one-act plays for a playwriting class, and finally wrote a full-length play, which was produced by a faculty member. Later came mainstage plays at the university and elsewhere, and there were sold-out houses and held-over runs. So I began to think of myself as a playwright – though I was also a director and actor and singer.

Later, as a theatre company I started was failing (a relative term – our deficits, without subsidy of any kind, were remarkably low!), I needed to earn extra money. So I turned seriously to writing short stories as the only way I could think of to earn a buck. After that decision, my first story was “Ender’s Game.” Some of my earlier, hobby-period stories became “The Worthing Saga,” and I was off and running. Even then, I still earned more than half my income as a freelance editor and as an audio scriptwriter; I didn’t really think of myself as mainly a fiction writer until I started earning serious money at the gig. And in my heart, I still think I’m a better play director than writer. But I can’t get paid for it!

David: Where did the idea for the original Ender’s Game novelette originate?

OSC: In 1968, my brother was in the army. He was stationed at Ft. Douglas in Salt Lake City, and so he came home most weekends, where he met the woman he eventually married. For my birthday in 1968, he and his fiancee gave me the Foundation Trilogy, the first sci-fi novel I’d read since I read some Norton and Heinlein in junior high (I was not a dedicated fan, sci-fi was just one of the many genres I read in).

After reading Asimov – that brilliant, absolutely clear style! those sweeping stories! – I thought that I would like to be able to think of a great science fiction story idea. with my brother’s military experience looming in my mind, I thought: How would you train soldiers for war in space? I remembered Nordhoff & Hall’s novel about WWI aviators, and the problem the new pilots had with thinking in three dimensions (the enemy that killed them usually came from above or below, and they never saw him). It would be even worse in space, where there is no “down.” And if you just train out in space, you run the serious risk of having injured soldiers drift away. So I thought of the battle room, a football-field size cube in which trainees would get used to having to face opponents in three dimensions with a flexible up-and-down orientation. Sometimes there would be obstacles, sometimes not. And there the idea stayed for several years, while I worked on the Zenna Henderson-influenced Worthing stories from time to time.

Later, needing money, I took a notebook with me while accompanying a girlfriend as she took her boss’s kids to the circus. No ticket for me (which was fine, I am deeply bored by circuses); I sat on the lawn outside the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City and wrote, “Remember, the enemy’s gate is down.” The key new insight was: what if the trainees were children young enough that they could still absorb the three-dimensional, no-down space and make it, not second nature, but their FIRST nature? So Ender became a kid, the youngest commander in the history of Battle School, and then I just winged it from there.

David: I’ve heard that Ender’s Game is in the works to become a video game. What was your level of involvement of the design of the game? Is there anything about video game adaptations that surprised you?

OSC: The videogame is a problem, because there’s been no movie. Everybody wants to do the game of the movie – but that’s the game I DON’T want. I want to have games with replayability, not games where you just act out Ender and then you’re done with it. I want battle-room games, and battle-SCHOOL MUDDs, and games based on the formic wars, all three of them, and a version of the Mind Game from the books, and games about colonizing the former Formic worlds with all the surprises lurking there. The trick is to find someone willing to finance the development of these games. But this is the ONLY way to make it a franchise. My model is the way LucasArts developed and keeps renewing the Star Wars game franchise. I won’t settle for anything less. So I have detached the movie rights from the game rights – I learned my lesson with Warner, which was full of talk about developing the game regardless of what happened with the movie – all empty promises! Eventually, I’ll find a game publisher that doesn’t want to fire me and then make the game of the movie. Meanwhile, I have several brilliant game DESIGNERS, like the great team headed by Donald Mustard, who want to work with me on the game. But they don’t have the funding. It’s a matter of time!

David: You’ve also written for comic books. Did you find it difficult to adapt your writing to apply it to visual mediums?

OSC: Fortunately, I don’t have to be the artist – I don’t have to conceive the actual pictures. Essentially, writing a comic book IS writing a play. I write the panels and tell what should happen in the panels – but the artists will conceive the “shot” and find ways to make things clear. So I’m on very familiar turf. That doesn’t mean there weren’t things I had to learn – for instance, I had a scene in Ultimate Iron Man where someone pulls their hands out of manacles, cutting off fingers in the process. My brilliant editor (Nick Lowe) said, No, it’s unbearable to do that: it’s not like a movie, where the image flashes past you on the screen. It sits there on the page for the reader to STUDY. A great perception that I simply hadn’t grasped. So I definitely needed guidance, and I got better as I went along. Now I’m writing the first series of Formic Wars comics for Marvel – set before Ender’s Game – and I feel comfortable doing it.

David: What projects would you like to see yourself working on ten years from now?

OSC: I hope all my existing contracts and projects are long since fulfilled, and I get to spend my old age writing whatever I feel like, and not having to sell it until it’s written!

David: Looking back on the first five years of Intergalactic Medicine Show, did you go as you expected? What lessons have you learned through the launch?

OSC: Have we been doing it five years now? I didn’t think it was THAT long. No, it hasn’t gone as I’d hoped in the sense that we’re not finding as many readers as I wanted, and we’re still running at a loss. At the same time, the readers who DO buy and read the magazine really care about and enjoy the fiction, and it’s a joy to see the stories come to life. We buy illustrations for every story, so that the old-time magazine feel is still there, still alive in IGMS. And the readership is steadily growing, so someday I expect it will move from money-losing hobby to money-making institution! Ed Schubert does an excellent job as editor, and our pre-readers do a great job of letting the good submissions rise to the top. Kathleen Bellamy is managing editor but also art director, and she has assembled a wonderful array of artists who are willing to sacrifice to do excellent work for our pathetically low payment.

David: If you could give only one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

OSC: The main advice is: Stop looking for advice and just keep putting words on paper. You learn more from writing a 100,000-word novel than from any number of classes or books on writing or workshops you might take (and I include mine in that – why bother going to a workshop if you’re not actually WRITING and FINISHING things?).

Having said that, my next most important advice is: Writer’s block is your friend. It is your unconscious mind telling you that something you just wrote, or are about to write, is not working. Either you don’t believe in it or you don’t care about the story any more. Your unconscious is your best editor – it tries desperately to keep you from writing crap. So the answer is NEVER to tough it out and force yourself to move on through your outline. The result of that will be garbage that you don’t care about and the reader won’t either. Instead, go back and change or amplify or add to the what-happens-and-why of the story (the “plain tale”); pick up on a minor character and make them somebody and see what they do; give an existing character a more complicated set of motives; change the way the world works in some significant way. Then go back to where that change starts happening and write everything from there on as if the previous version never existed. Don’t look at it, don’t think about the old version. Just write the NEW story, the one that has freshened in your mind.

The danger of this is that you end up writing seven-book trilogies – but worse things can happen! Some of the very best stuff in my writing has been a gift of writer’s block, which caused me to reinvent the story.

Fiddling with language or tiny meaningless details, of course, accomplishes nothing except to kill the spontaneity of the first draft. The first draft is the best draft – you only change spots where it isn’t clear or where the story isn’t working; you never just fiddle with language. That just kills your natural style.

Oh, and a last piece of advice: Even if Strunk and White’s Elements of Style were not a bunch of meaningless drivel and hideously bad advice for ALL writers, it certainly is meaningless for fiction writers! There is no virtue to eliminating “needless” words in fiction – and if you’re thinking about style, your style will be dead. You think about story and character, what happens and why, and let your natural voice carry the story. You’ll have an inimitable style then – your real voice – and the rules from the ignorant, miseducated English teachers who abused your understanding of the language throughout your miseducation will fall by the wayside, where they should be left behind. You can’t be thinking about language while you write; that’s like trying to ride a bicycle while thinking about balance and pedaling. And you’ve seen the stories that result from that kind of writing – a “style” that calls attention to itself constantly, so you can barely find the story through the English-professor-pleasing nonsense that has been smeared on the lens.

David: Where did the name for your website Hatrack River come from?

OSC: Hatrack River is a town in the Alvin Maker series – the birthplace of Alvin (as his pioneer parents were passing through) and the place where he served his apprenticeship.

David: What was the last book you read?

OSC: The last fiction book was The Broken Teaglass, by Emily Arsenault. The last BOOK was If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren’t There More Happy People?: Smart Quotes for Dumb Times, by editors John Lloyd & John Mitchinson. Plus on my Kindle I’m nearing the end of a reread of Jane Austen’s Emma, and on my Nano I’m in the second half of Ken Scholes’s Canticle. Life is only happy when I have three or four books going at once.

David: Your favorite book?

OSC: For me, it’s a tie between Pride and Prejudice and Lord of the Rings. Those are the two books I most often reread.

David: Who is your favorite author?

OSC: The good writer whose book I am presently reading, because that’s the one I’m conversing with at the moment. There are so many writers whose work I love and/or admire that I can’t pick just one favorite – it would change every few weeks anyway!

Having said that – and it’s true – Austen and Tolkien are beloved favorites, as is Asimov; there’s a whole group of mystery writers whose work I avidly devour; I just discovered Thackeray and Trollope and am an enthusiastic new convert; and there are some extraordinary YA writers, the best of whom may well be Neal Shusterman, and the best of whose books (so far) is the absolutely brilliant, devastating Everlost. In sci-fi and fantasy, Ken Scholes, Patrick Rothfuss, Sherwood Smith, Robin Hobb, James Maxey, David Farland (but my favorites are the books he wrote as Dave Wolverton), and … and … I’m just going to leave out too many writers whose work I love, so I’ll stop.

David: What was the last movie you saw?

OSC: Me and Orson Welles. It was so brilliant I went back right away, this time with my wife and daughter, and saw it again. A great script, great directing, and above all absolutely brilliant acting, especially by Christian McKay in the title role – though all the other actors do a splendid job as well.

David: What is your favorite movie?

OSC: A Man for All Seasons – as close to a perfect movie as you can get. But I also love Far from the Madding Crowd and A Lion in Winter; and Sense and Sensibility (the Emma Thompson version) and Love Actually are also movies I frequently watch again. For the moment, call those my top five.

David: When is the next story set in the Enderverse going to come out? How about non-Ender related stories?

OSC: My next Ender-related work will be the Marvel comic series set during the Formic Wars. Outside of the Ender universe, I’m completing a novel called Pathfinder, which is ostensibly a YA novel but I’m just writing the way I usually do. And my Mithermages series is the next book I’m doing for TOR. Both are in progress at this moment.

David: Can you tell us about your works in progress?

OSC: Pathfinder is in a world colonized by the first human-built starship that attempted to do a time-space jump to cut down the length of interstellar voyages. In the time-jump it was divided into 19 copies, containing every single person and item (in addition to the original, which then went BACKWARD in time occupying the same space as the original ship on its voyage out to the jump-point). The copies of the colony ship also jumped more than 11,000 years backward in time – basically, the same amount of time since humans discovered agriculture and began to build cities.

So it becomes an opportunity for an experiment. all 19 colony ships land, each in a large enclave surrounded by a forcefield so there can be no mixing of populations. Technology is deliberately hidden so it has to be developed anew, and starting with the identical gene pool, every colony has eleven thousand years in which to develop their own civilizations – and their own genetic differences – before they catch up to the “present” of the ship’s original jump through spacetime.

At that point (well into the second volume, I might add), humans on Earth, having learned from what happened to the first jumpship, have perfected faster-than-light travel, and send out another ship some fifteen years after the first – but without the time-jump and the copying. That ship will arrive and find humanity much altered – in 19 different ways! – and, when they see what these people have become, they have the power and, perhaps, the will to destroy some or all of them and let new colonists take over. After all, the people of this new world are no long “human” – genetically or socially.

All of this is background – the skeleton on which the actual story hangs. The story begins entirely within one of the enclaves (each about the land area of Europe west of Russia), and only gradually, as we move through the story, do we step through the walls from one enclave to another. In a way, it has echoes of my novel Treason – another set of stranded colonists who, in isolation, developed differently – but the story is very, very different. I love the characters I’m working with and the world they’re moving through – it’s as much fun as writing Alvin Maker novels.

Mithermages is a completely unrelated fantasy series, but it ties to two stories already released: Stonefather and Sandmagic. In our contemporary world, the old gods are still around – but having been cut off from their home world a couple of thousand years before, their powers are much diminished and they live pretty much in disguise, out of place in a machine-using society. Our hero in this story is the first person in many centuries to have the ability to create new gates between the worlds – and some of the families are determined to kill him. So the series moves back and forth between two planets – with the looming menace of a third, the one that is the source of the gods and angels of the Bible and the Koran. I think this one will pretty much offend everybody, but it’s a great magical universe and I love these characters, too.

David: Orson, thanks so much for stopping by, and good luck with your writing!