So Ender’s Game finally came out and though it didn’t do gangbusters, it won its first weekend. Of course that left all the entertainment journalists with the requirement to run stories about potential sequels. Those articles then led me to grind my teeth in frustration. I know that journalists – entertainment or otherwise – don’t know everything about everything, but if there is a movie theatre that thinks the true, published sequels to Ender’s Game can be translated into a film with a similar tone and feel to the original, they really haven’t read the true sequels to Ender.
Orson Scott Card has made a fortune with the Ender-verse. What started out as a short story turned into a novel that is a perfect gateway into science fiction. At 13 years old, I walked into Ender’s Game hating science fiction and everything not contemporary realistic fiction or vampires pretending to be realistic fiction. Several hours later I set the book down and realized I was suddenly a spaceship-obsessed, alien-loving, all-things-sciency and crazy science fiction nerd. It was a pretty drastic transformation for the catalyst to be a 300 page book.
And then I went on to the sequels to Ender’s Game and felt like Card had punched me in the face. Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide and Children of the Mind are so far from the original story that I’ve known many people who haven’t been able to make it through the second book, much less the entire series. Ender’s Game is about children playing war games and the manipulative adults pulling invisible puppet strings. It’s extremely fast-paced and action packed. Then you get to Speaker for the Dead and not only is Ender now an adult, he is carrying around several tons of guilt and self-loathing. The action slams to a sudden halt as Card starts analyzing philosophical ideas about humanity, moving past trauma and, ironically*, harmonious living with “the other”. A little action is mixed in with all the analysis and monologuing, but there are no epic space battles, no small boys beating the crap out of each other, no real mystery to be solved.
* I say “ironically” because Card is a known militant homophobic jackass and I feel a little dirty even having his name on WFTM so much.
Ender’s Game can easily be excused as a book for adolescents. Every other book in the original series are clearing adult books written with a more complex language and centering around much larger, adult ideals. I can’t fathom any Hollywood exec reading those books and thinking turning them into film would be a good idea, much less a good idea to directly follow up an action-packed space battle film.
Several years later Card decided to return to the Ender verse with the Ender’s Shadow series, which follows Bean as he grows up. I must admit I’ve only read the first book, but the tone and feel is far closer to Game than any of the other books in the main series. It probably helps that much of Ender’s Shadow are the events from Game just told from Bean’s point of view. The following books bring more of Ender’s siblings, who spend the much of the original series writing philosophical treatises with opposing viewpoints. Perhaps this secondary series of books provides more source material in the same vein as the original to mine for movie sequel material. Too bad that Ender doesn’t appear in them…
Most recently Card has written a trilogy about the First Formic War, so there’s the option for a prequel series though that doesn’t make a lot of sense either. So what exactly is needed for the Ender’s Game film to have a true, potentially successful sequel? New material that somehow retcons Ender’s entire response to the ending events of Game.
So it’s probably a good thing that Card announced yesterday he’d be writing more Ender verse material targeted at a YA audience. Because who really cares about maintaining the artistic integrity of a classic when there’s potentially more money on the table for books and film?
I don’t even know why I pay attention to movie news anymore or why I’m even surprised that Card has decided to potentially drive the entire Ender universe into the ground will sequel after sequel. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but Ender’s Game literally (and literarily) changed my life. I found it at the perfect moment of my adolescence and I still remember that visceral feeling I had at the ending. It’s probably not fair for me to be all “leave my toys alone!” when they aren’t truly my toys, but you have to forgive a girl for a random dose of fangirl madness.
What books had the most profound effect on you and would you be led down a pathway towards a fangirl breakdown if it were mistreated by Hollywood?
Speaking of fangirl madness, have a scene from a British show called Fortysomething that I started watching over the weekend. If you been here for the past few Random Tuesdays, you’ll probably pick up why I started watching it.