Orson Scott Card delivers keynote science fiction address

Orson Scott Card speaks about the development of "Ender's Game" at the Life, the Universe, and Everything 32 Symposium on Science Fiction & Fantasy in downtown Provo. (Photo by Sarah Hill.)
Orson Scott Card speaks about “Ender’s Game” at     the Life, The Universe, and Everything Symposium on Science Fiction & Fantasy. (Photo by Sarah Hill)

Orson Scott Card addressed a capacity audience of BYU students and fans Saturday on the evolution and creation of his most famous work, “Ender’s Game.”

About 770 people packed the grand ballroom of the Marriott Hotel & Convention Center to hear the author speak at the annual Life, The Universe and Everything Symposium in downtown Provo.

In his keynote address, Card explored the leadership qualities that have endeared Ender Wiggins to millions of readers and reflected how the character’s story echoes his own life experience.

Ender’s greatness as a commander, Card said, came not from mastering strategies and tactics, but from the trust and confidence his classmates vested in him.

“Ender knew every one of his team intimately,” Card said.

Ender understood his team’s strengths and weaknesses, brought out the best in each of them and trusted them to achieve victory. In the final moment of decision, Ender turned over his forces to luck, held his breath and emerged triumphant over the enemy.

“Ender helped the other children acquire skills, even skills he himself did not possess,” Card said. “He did not ask them to do anything he was not willing to do himself.”

Card compared the ultimate tactics to an autumn leaf in the wind, unpredictable in its trajectory, reactive to the surrounding environment and successful in arriving at its final destination.

The annual symposium on science fiction and fantasy attracts 1,200 people for three days of workshops, classes and special events. The symposium is primarily organized by BYU students and faculty, said Alicia Mcintire, 19, a volunteer for the symposium committee.

Card also reflected on the personal, 30-year journey he traversed developing “Ender’s Game” to its current state.

While he did not realize it at the time, Ender’s experiences mirrored Card’s own life as a youth growing up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Santa Clara, Calif., Arizona and Ogden. A precocious youngster, Card occasionally received chastisement from church leaders for aiming above the mark. Once he was summoned to his bishop’s office for an interview in which he was told why he would not be offered a calling in the deacon’s quorum presidency.

“We feel we should call someone that the other boys will follow,” his bishop remarked.

Card drew on this experience in constructing Ender’s persona as a commander of his classmates — intelligent, but alone.

“If you know ‘Ender’s Game,’ you know I wrote my isolation into Ender,” he said.

Despite feeling personally withdrawn, Card was constantly organizing projects that involved fellow classmates. As a BYU student majoring in theater, Card orchestrated and produced several plays that were resounding successes.

“I made things happen,” Card said. “Things that would not have happened without me.”

This ability to create, bring others together and accomplish the mission is emblematic of Ender’s own leadership style.

“The main thing I drew from (the speech) is that we have more experience than we realize,” said audience member Aisley Oliphant, from Bountiful.

The film adaptation of Card’s novel, starring Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford, was released in theaters November 2013. Despite writing more than 30 drafts for the project, Card’s final script was not used, and the current screenplay is based entirely off a version written by director Gavin Hood.

“It took me 30 years to get to this point — one day at a time — about as along as it takes a ship to reach a far distant galaxy,” Card said. “But I got there, and I found Ender Wiggins at the end.”

Twenty-seven years after its initial publication, “Ender’s Game” was ranked the top-selling science fiction book in 2012 by Publisher’s Weekly.

The audio adaptation of Card’s most recent revision, “Ender’s Game Alive,” is available for download at Audible.com.

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