Orson Scott Card (born August 24, 1951) is an American novelist, critic, public speaker, essayist, and columnist. He writes in several genres but is known best for his science fiction works. His novel Ender’s Game (1985) and its sequel Speaker for the Dead (1986) won both Hugo and Nebula Awards, making Card the first author to win the two top American prizes in science fiction literature in consecutive years. A feature film adaptation of Ender’s Game, which Card co-produced, was released in 2013. Card also wrote the Locus Fantasy Award-winning series The Tales of Alvin Maker (1987–2003).
Card, who is a great-great-grandson of Brigham Young, was born in Richland, Washington, and grew up in Utah and California. While he was a student at Brigham Young University (BYU), his plays were performed on stage. He served in Brazil as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and headed a community theater for two summers. Card had twenty-seven short stories published between 1978 and 1979, and won the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer in 1978. He earned a master’s degree in English from the University of Utah in 1981 and wrote novels in science fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, and historical fiction genres in the 1980s. Card continued to write prolifically, and published over 50 novels and over 45 short stories.
Card’s works were influenced by classic literature, popular fantasy, and science fiction; he often uses tropes from genre fiction. His background as a screenwriter helped Card make his works accessible and character-focused, though some critics dislike his characterization. Card’s early fiction is original but contains graphic violence. His fiction often features characters with exceptional gifts who make difficult choices, often with the fate of an entire people at stake. Card has also written political, religious, and social commentary in his columns and other writing. Card’s opposition to homosexuality has provoked public criticism and in 2013 it prompted a boycott of the film Ender’s Game.
Card is a professor of English at Southern Virginia University; he has written two books on creative writing and serves as a judge in the Writers of the Future contest. He is a practicing member of LDS Church and has taught many successful writers at his “literary boot camps”; LDS fiction writers Stephenie Meyer, Brandon Sanderson, and Dave Wolverton have cited his works as a major influence.
- Ender’s Game
- The Tales of Alvin Maker
- The Homecoming Saga
- Women of Genesis
- The Worthing
- The Empire
Childhood and education
Orson Scott Card was born on August 24, 1951, in Richland, Washington. He is the son of Peggy Jane (née Park) and Willard Richards Card, and is the third of six children and the older brother of composer and arranger Arlen Card. Card’s family has Mormon pioneer heritage; Brigham Young, one of his great-great-grandfathers, was the second president of the LDS Church and led the Mormon pioneers west to Salt Lake City, where they settled. Charles Ora Card, who founded the first Mormon settlement in Canada, was Card’s great-grandfather from his paternal line who married Brigham Young’s daughter Zina P. Young Card. Their daughter Zina Young Card Brown married Hugh B. Brown, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency of the LDS Church.
When Card was one month old, his family moved to San Mateo, California so Willard Card could begin a sign-painting business. When he was three years old, the family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, so his father could finish his bachelor’s degree. The family moved to Santa Clara, California when Card was six; they stayed there for seven years while his father completed his master’s degree and worked as a professor at San Jose State College. In school, Card took classes for gifted students but he was more interested in studying music—he played clarinet and French horn. Card read texts that included historical novels by Elswyth Thane and Mark Twain. He credits Tunesmith by Lloyd Biggle Jr. as having a large effect on his life. At age ten, Card wrote his first story, which was about an intelligent child who is assaulted by bullies and sustains brain damage. Card submitted the story to two magazines but it was not published, though Ender’s confrontation with Stilson in Ender’s Game is based on this story.
In 1964, Card and his family moved to Mesa, Arizona, where he participated in mock debates in junior high school. In 1967, the family moved to Orem, Utah, where his father worked at Brigham Young University (BYU). Card attended BYU’s laboratory school, where he took both high school and early college-level classes. At first he intended to major in anthropology but after becoming increasingly more interested in theater, he began script-writing, writing ten original plays and rewriting other students’ plays. Most of his plays were based on Mormon history and scriptures; one was science fiction. Card said script-writing developed his writing skills because he could tell when an audience was interested in his scripts by their body language. During his studies as a theater major, he began doctoring scripts, adapting fiction for reader’s theater production, and writing one-act and full-length plays, several of which were produced by faculty directors at BYU. Charles W. Whitman, Card’s play-writing professor, encouraged his students to write plays with LDS themes. Card studied poetry with Clinton F. Larson at BYU. He also wrote short stories, which were later published together in The Worthing Saga.
Card served in Brazil as a missionary for the LDS Church, beginning in 1971 before he completed his bachelor’s degree at BYU. Influences from Portuguese and Brazilian Catholicism are evident in his Shadow novels and his Speaker novels. While on his mission, he wrote a play called Stone Tables. He returned from his mission in 1973 and graduated from BYU in 1975, receiving a bachelor’s degree with distinction in theater. After graduation, he started the Utah Valley Repertory Theatre Company, which for two summers produced plays at “the Castle”, a Depression-era outdoor amphitheater. After going into debt with the community theatre’s expenses,Card took part-time employment as a proofreader at BYU Press, moving on to full-time employment as a copy editor. In 1981, Card completed his master’s degree in English at the University of Utah where he studied with François Camoin, Norman Council, and David Kranes. He began a doctoral program at the University of Notre Dame but dropped out to pursue his more lucrative writing projects. At the University of Notre Dame, he was inspired by Professor Ed Vasta’s love for his students and teaching.
In 1977, Card married Kristine Allen, who is the daughter of Mormon historian James B. Allen. Card and Allen had five children; their son Charles had cerebral palsy and died aged 17; their daughter Erin died the day she was born. Card and his wife live in Greensboro, North Carolina; their daughter Emily, along with two other writers, adapted Card’s short stories Clap Hands and Sing, Lifeloop, and A Sepulchre of Songs for the stage in Posing as People. Card often played Civilization II; in 2007, he had to stop playing it to focus on writing. Card suffered a mild stroke on January 1, 2011, and was briefly hospitalized. He expected to make a full recovery despite minor impairment.
In 1976 Card became an assistant editor at the LDS Church’s magazine Ensign and moved to Salt Lake City. While working at Ensign, Card published his first piece of fiction, a short story called Gert Fram, which appeared in the July 1977 issue of Ensign under the pseudonym Byron Walley. Between 1978 and 1988, Card wrote over 300 half-hour audioplays on LDS Church history, the New Testament, and other subjects for Living Scriptures in Ogden, Utah.
Card started writing science fiction short stories because he felt he could sell short stories in that genre more easily than others. His first short story The Tinker was initially rejected by Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Ben Bova, the editor of Analog, rejected a rewrite of the story but asked Card to submit a science fiction piece. In response, Card wrote the short story Ender’s Game, which Ben Bova published in the August 1977 issue of Analog. Card left The Ensign in 1977 and began his career as a freelance writer in 1978. Ben Bova continued to work with Card to publish his stories and his wife Barbara Bova became Card’s literary agent, a development that drew criticism of a possible conflict of interest. Nine of Card’s science fiction stories, including Malpractice, Kingsmeat, and Happy Head, were published in 1978.
Card modeled Mikal’s Songbird on Ender’s Game, both of which include a child with special talents who goes through emotional turmoil when adults seek to exploit his ability. Mikal’s Songbird was a Nebula Award finalist in 1978 and a Hugo finalist in 1979—both in the “novelette” category. Card won the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer in 1978 for his stories published that year; the award helped Card’s stories sell internationally. Unaccompanied Sonata was published in 1979 issue of Omni and was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards for a short story. Eighteen Card stories were published in 1979.
Card’s first published book, “Listen, Mom and Dad…”: Young Adults Look Back on Their Upbringing (1977) is about child-rearing. He received advances for the manuscripts of Hot Sleep and A Planet Called Treason, which were published in 1979. Card later called his first two novels “amateurish” and rewrote both of them later. A publisher offered to buy a novelization of Mikal’s Songbird, which Card accepted; the finished novel is titled Songmaster (1980). Card edited fantasy anthologies Dragons of Light (1980) and Dragons of Darkness (1981), and collected his own short stories in Unaccompanied Sonata and Other Stories (1981). In the early 1980s, Card focused on writing longer works, only publishing ten short stories between 1980 and 1985. He published a few non-fiction works that were aimed at an LDS audience; these include a satirical dictionary called Saintspeak, which resulted in him being temporarily banned from publishing in church magazines. Card wrote the fantasy-epic Hart’s Hope (1983) and a historical novel, A Woman of Destiny (1984), which was later republished as Saints and won the 1985 award from the Association for Mormon Letters for best novel. He rewrote the narrative of Hot Sleep and published it as The Worthing Chronicle (1983), which replaced Hot Sleep and the short-story collection set in the same universe, Capitol (1979). The recession of the early 1980s made it difficult to get contracts for new books so Card returned to full-time employment as the book editor of Compute! magazine that was based in Greensboro, North Carolina, for nine months in 1983. In October of that year, Tom Doherty offered a contract for Card’s proposed Alvin Maker series, which allowed him to return to creative writing full-time.
Card’s 1977 novella Ender’s Game is about a young boy who undergoes military training for space war. Ender believes he is controlling simulated spaceships but is actually controlling real spaceships. Card expanded the story into a novel with the same title (1985) to tell the backstory of the adult Ender in Speaker for the Dead. In contrast to the fast-paced Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead is about honesty and maturity. Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead were both awarded the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, making Card the only author (as of 2019) to win both of science fiction’s top prizes in consecutive years. According to Card, some members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) resented his receiving of the Nebula award while editing the Nebula Awards Report. Subsequently, Card left the SFWA.
Card continued the series with Xenocide (1991) and Children of the Mind (1996), which focus on Jane, an artificial intelligence that develops self-awareness. These books were considered inferior to their predecessors and were, according to science fiction critic Gary Westfahl, “overly prolonged”. Card later wrote a spin-off “shadow” series that is told from the point of view of other characters; these novels are Ender’s Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant and Shadows in Flight, the latter serving as a bridge to a planned final book Shadows Alive, which will also be a sequel to Children of the Mind. Westfahl praised the Shadow series, stating they were “executed with panache and skill”. Card wrote other spin-offs: a series of shorter stories, First Meetings in the Enderverse, and novels A War of Gifts, and Ender in Exile. Aaron Johnston and Card conceptualized the stories that make up the prequel to Ender’s Game, realizing many of them would work best in novel format but first publishing the comics through Marvel. The Burning Earth and Silent Strike comic series were published in 2011 and 2012. Card and Johnston co-wrote the novels in the series between 2012 and 2019; these are Earth Unaware, Earth Afire, Earth Awakens, The Swarm, and The Hive. Children of the Fleet is the first novel in a new sequel series, called Fleet School.
Other works from the 1990s
Between Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide, Card wrote twelve other books, including the short story collections Cardography (1987), The Folk of the Fringe (1989), and the omnibus Maps in a Mirror (1990). He wrote the first three books in The Tales of Alvin Maker series, a fantasy retelling of the Joseph Smith story: Seventh Son, Red Prophet, and Prentice Alvin. He also wrote Wyrms (1987), a novel about colonizing a planet, and revised A Planet Called Treason, which was published as Treason. He also novelized James Cameron’s film The Abyss.
The novella Eye for Eye was republished with another novella by Tor and won the Hugo Award for best novella in 1988. Between 1987 and 1989, Card edited and published a short science fiction review magazine called Short Form. He also wrote Characters & Viewpoint (1988) and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (1990). Card also offered advice about writing in an interview in Leading Edge #23 in 1991. He wrote the script for an updated Hill Cumorah Pageant in 1988.
The Homecoming Saga is a science-fiction adaptation of The Book of Mormon. The series’ volumes; The Memory of Earth, The Call of Earth, The Ships of Earth, Earthfall, and Earthborn were published between 1992 and 1995. Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus (1996) examines time travel and Christopher Columbus. Card collaborated with Star Wars artist Doug Chiang on Robota and with Kathryn H. Kidd on Lovelock. Lost Boys (1992) is a horror story with a semi-autobiographical background. Treasure Box (1996) and Homebody (1998) represent Card’s foray in horror. Enchantment (1999) is a fantasy novel based on the Russian version of Sleeping Beauty.
Card’s The Women of Genesis series explores the lives of the women in the Bible and includes Sarah (2000), Rebekah (2002), and Rachel and Leah (2004). Card wrote three novellas in the 2000s; Space Boy (2007) is a children’s story, Hamlet’s Father (2008) is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Stonefather (2008) is the first story set in the Mithermages universe. Card wrote two young-adult fantasy trilogies in the 2010s. Mithermages is about a teenager growing up on a magical estate in rural Virginia; it includes The Lost Gate (2011), The Gate Thief (2013), and Gatefather (2015). The Pathfinder trilogy consists of Pathfinder (2010), Ruins (2012), and Visitors (2014), and follows a young man who can change the past. Card has also written several urban fantasies, including Magic Street (2005) and Lost and Found (2019), both of which are about teenagers with special powers.
Card wrote the Christmas novel Zanna’s Gift (2004), which was originally published under a pseudonym. A Town Divided by Christmas and a “Hallmark Christmas movie in prose” were published in 2018. Invasive Procedures (2007), a medical thriller co-written with Aaron Johnston, is based on a screenplay Johnston wrote, which is based on Card’s novel Malpractice.
Video games, comic books, and film
In the 1990s, Card contributed dialogue to the point-and-click adventure video games The Secret of Monkey Island, The Dig, and NeoHunter, an early first-person shooter. Card and Cameron Dayton wrote the dialogue and screenplay for the video game Advent Rising. Card collaborated on the video game Shadow Complex, which is a prequel to the events in his novels Empire and Hidden Empire, which are about a near-future civil war in the United States that occurs after civilians resist a left-wing coup in the White House.
Card has written scripts for the two-volume comic-book series Ultimate Iron Man. Card collaborated with his daughters Emily and Zina on the graphic novel Laddertop. Card also collaborated with Aaron Johnston to write a series of six Dragon Age comics.
In 2008, Card announced Ender’s Game would be made into a movie. He insisted on retaining some creative control, which delayed the project. The film was made several years later, and released in 2013, with Asa Butterfield in the title role and Gavin Hood directing. Card served as co-producer for the film; although he is credited as a writer, his scripts were not used but they served as concept templates for the screenplay. In 2017, he wrote, produced, and co-created a television series called Extinct for BYU TV that ran for one season before it was canceled.
Influences and style
During his childhood, Card read widely. His favorite book was Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper and he read his family’s World Book Encyclopedia in its entirety. At age ten, he read science fiction short stories, including Paul Anderson’s “Call Me Joe” and Lloyd Biggle Jr.’s lesser-known novel “Tunesmith”. He also read works by Andre Norton and science-fiction anthologies edited by Groff Conklin. card read children’s classics and popular novels, ranging from the Nancy Drew series to Little Women, and the war histories Army of the Potomac and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. He also read The Bounty Trilogy. The Chronicles of Narnia was a significant influence on Card, who dedicated A Planet Called Treason to “Dale and Maria who made me read the Chronicles of Narnia”. As a college student, Card read more science fiction including works by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and J.R.R. Tolkien. After his missionary work ended, he read works by Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clark, Robert A. Heinlein, and Larry Niven, all of whom he considers influenced him.
Card was also influenced by literary classics by authors including Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, John Donne, Alexander Pope, A. E. Housman, Jane Austen, Margaret Mitchell, and Conrad Richter. He also read works by Ayn Rand, John Hersey, James Clavell, Gore Vidal, Mary Renault, and William Goldman. Spenser’s poetry inspired the original “Prentic Alvin and the No-Good Plow” which won the Utah Fine Arts competition. Card stated his writing improved after teaching writing workshops with Jay Wentworth and from Algis Budrys’s workshops at Writers of the Future.
Card’s membership of the LDS Church has been an important influence on his writing, though he initially tried to keep his religious beliefs separate from his fiction. Reid stated Card’s religious background is evident in his frequent messiah protagonists and the “moral seriousness” in his works. Card’s science-fiction books do not reference the LDS religion directly but “offer careful readers insights that are compelling and moving in their religious intensity”. Non-LDS readers of A Planet Called Treason did not remark on religious themes, however, LDS reviewer Sandy Straubhaar disliked the novel’s explicit violence and sex, and stated LDS connections were “gratuitous”. Dick Butler criticized A Planet Called Treason for its lack of Gospel themes and ideas, and two other LDS reviewers defended Card. According to Collings, knowledge of Mormon theology is vital to completely understanding Card’s works, stating the life stages of the “piggies” in Speaker for the Dead correspond to phases of life in the LDS’s plan of salvation. Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead deal with religious themes common in LDS theology but without many surface references to the religion. The Alvin Maker series does not try to explain Mormon history but uses it to examine his characters’ relationships with God.
Card’s Homecoming Saga is a dramatization of The Book of Mormon. Eugene England called the first five novels “good literature”. Card received criticism from members of the LDS church for “plagiarizing” the Book of Mormon and using it irreverently. He defended his choices and said speculative fiction is the genre best suited to exploring theological and moral issues. While women are not prominent in the Book of Mormon, Card makes them prominent in his retelling. One non-LDS critic described the saga as “readable” but lacking in new ideas. Unaware of its relation to The Book of Mormon, another critic said it is similar to the Bible.
Because Card began his writing career in screenplays, his early work is accessible, fast-paced, and has good characters but is stylistically unremarkable. His tone has been described as emotionless or conversely, as nonjudgmental, leaving readers to come to their own conclusions about how to feel about a story. Though Card was initially classified as a hard science fiction writer for publishing in Analog, his science fiction focuses more on his characters than on the details of future technology. One critic said Card is poor at characterization, stating the characters Peter and Valentine in Ender’s Game are “totally unbelievable”. Many of Card’s early stories are unusually original. The graphic violence in his early fiction was controversial; frequent appearances of naked men and boys have raised “questions about homoerotic imagery” according to Westfahl. Collings, a critic who acknowledges his “unabashed appreciation” of Card, states the early stories are “essential steps in the development of Card’s fiction”. Card uses a technique common in pulp fiction when he refers to characters by a quirk of their appearance or personality. Card’s fantasy stories also use tropes that are common to fantasy.
Card cites The Book of Mormon as an important influence on his writing; his habit of beginning sentences with conjunctions comes from the book. Literary devices in Hot Sleep parallel those of The Book of Mormon. Collings said Hot Sleep’s mimicry of Book of Mormon language makes it an “inherently” Mormon novel. Card combined several Worthing stories and revised Hot Sleep to create The Worthing Chronicle, which does not mirror the language of the Book of Mormon as much as Hot Sleep does.
The original short story Ender’s Game is reminiscent of Heinlein’s young-adult novels because it is about a young person with impressive gifts who is guided by a stern mentor whose choices affect all of humanity. The situations and choices in the Ender series invoke a number of philosophical topics, including the rules of war, embodiment psychology, the ethics of anthropology and xenology, and the morality of manipulating children. Though Card described Happy Head (1978) as an embarrassment, it anticipated cyberpunk fiction with an investigator judge who can experience memories with witnesses. Both A Thousand Deaths (1978) and Unaccompanied Sonata feature protagonists who rebel against the dystopias they inhabit.
Card’s works usually feature characters with exceptional abilities who achieve their destiny “through discipline and suffering”. Often, his gifted protagonists are introspective children. Card’s work features children and adults working together; usually fiction focuses on either adults or children separate from each another. His characters feel “real” and must grow and take on responsibilities, and must often sacrifice themselves to improve their own societies. This sacrifice is a difficult choice in which none of the options are obviously good. These protagonists have unusual abilities that are both a blessing and a curse. The protagonists, who are isolated from family and friends, relate better to adults than to other young people; when they grow up, they often mentor other precocious youths. Alvin Maker follows this pattern; his magical abilities are very unusual and he uses them to redeem his people.
According to Collings, Card’s protagonists are “lonely and manipulative Messiah-figures” who make sacrifices that can be interpreted as a declaration of principles. Family and community problems arise when individuals are not fully accepted or when communities do not work with others in larger units. Often one group tries to kill or enslave another group but their conflict is alleviated when they try to understand each other. Protagonists make choices that save a person or a group of people. In The Porcelain Salamander, a girl is saved by a magical salamander; this action restores her ability to move but she takes on some attributes of the salamander. In Kingsmeat the Shepherd painlessly excises meat from humans to save them from being completely eaten by their alien overlords. The violence of removing parts of people is like the violence of repentance. Collings states part of this story “could serve as an epigram of all Card’s fictions; trapped within a circle of opposing forces, one focal character must decide whether or not to become, like Ender Wiggin, ‘something of a savior, or a prophet, or at least a martyr’ .”
In the 1980s, Card held several “Secular Humanist Revival Meetings” at science fiction conventions, satirizing Evangelical revival meetings. Since 2001, Card’s commentary includes the political columns “War Watch”, “World Watch”, or “Civilization Watch” and “Uncle Orson Reviews Everything”, all of which are published in the Greensboro Rhinoceros Times. “Uncle Orson Reviews Everything” features personal reviews of films and commentary on other topics. The column also appears on Card’s website, which is titled “Hatrack River”. From 2008 to 2015, Card wrote a column of Latter-day Saint devotional and cultural commentary for the Nauvoo Times, which is published through Hatrack River.
Card describes himself as a political liberal and a moral conservative. Card’s ideals concerning society and foundational themes within his fiction are described as communitarian. In 2000, Card said he believed government has a duty to protect citizens from capitalism.
Card is a vocal supporter of the U.S.’s War on Terror; according to Salon, he is close to neoconservative on foreign policy issues. Card became a member of the U.S. Democratic Party in 1976 and decided he was a Moynihan Democrat. As of 2011, he continued to call himself a Democrat. Card supported Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 and reluctantly supported Newt Gingrich.
In an August 2013 essay Card presented as an experiment in fiction-writing called “The Game of Unlikely Events”, Card described an alternative future in which President Barack Obama ruled as a “Hitler- or Stalin-style dictator” with his own national police force of young unemployed men; Obama and his wife Michelle would have amended the U.S. Constitution to allow presidents to remain in power for life, as in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Hitler’s Germany. Card’s essay drew extensive criticism, especially for its allusions to Obama’s race and its reference to “urban gangs”.
Card has publicly declared his support of laws against homosexual activity and same-sex marriage. Card’s 1990 essay “A Changed Man: The Hypocrites of Homosexuality” was first published in Sunstone and republished in his collection of non-fiction essays, A Storyteller in Zion. In the essay, he wrote in favor of laws against homosexual behavior to discourage the acceptance of homosexual people. He said laws against homosexual acts would encourage communities to trust the government to support traditional “marriage and family relationships.” In May 2013, Card wrote that since 2003, when the US Supreme Court had ruled those laws unconstitutional, he has “no interest in criminalizing homosexual acts”. Responding to public criticism of the 1990 essay, Card stated since he received criticism for being both homophobic and for “being too supportive of homosexuality”, he considered himself as taking a middle way “which condemns the sin but loves the sinner”.
Card has stated there is no need to legalize same-sex marriage. In a 2008 opinion piece in the Deseret News he wrote relationships between same-sex couples would always be different from those between opposite-sex couples. In 2012, Card supported North Carolina Amendment 1, a ballot measure to outlaw same-sex marriage in North Carolina, saying the legalization of gay marriage was a slippery slope upon which the political left would make it “illegal to teach traditional values in the schools”. In 2009, Card joined the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that campaigns against same-sex marriage. Card resigned from the board in mid-2013. In July 2013, one week after the U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings in two cases that were widely interpreted as favoring recognition of same-sex marriages, Card published in Entertainment Weekly a statement saying the same-sex marriage issue is moot because of the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA.
Card has also said paraphilia and homosexuality are linked. In 2004, he said it is a “myth that homosexuals are ‘born that way’ “, saying “if there is a genetic component to homosexuality, an entire range of environmental influences are also involved”. He also said “the dark secret of homosexual society” is how often people “entered into that world through disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse”. Card’s 2008 novella Hamlet’s Father re-imagines the backstory of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. In the novella, Hamlet’s friends were sexually abused as children by his pedophilic father and subsequently identify as homosexual adults. The novella prompted public outcry and its publishers were inundated with complaints. Trade journal Publishers Weekly criticized Card’s work, stating its main purpose was to attempt to link homosexuality with pedophilia. Card said he did not link homosexuality with pedophilia, stating King Hamlet is a pedophile rather than a homosexual.
Card’s views have had professional repercussions. In 2013, he was selected as a guest author for DC Comics’s new Adventures of Superman comic book series, but controversy over his views on homosexuality led illustrator Chris Sprouse to leave the project. An online petition to drop the story received over 16,000 signatures and DC Comics put Card’s story on hold indefinitely. A few months later, an LGBT non-profit organization Geeks OUT proposed a boycott of the movie adaptation of Ender’s Game, calling Card’s views “anti-gay” and causing the movie studio Lionsgate to publicly distance itself from Card’s opinions. The boycott received criticism because it targeted the behavior of an individual rather than that of a company.
Card won the ALA Margaret Edwards Award, which recognizes one writer and a particular body of work for “significant and lasting contributions to young adult literature”, in 2008 for his contribution in writing for teenagers; his work was selected by a panel of YA librarians. Card said he was unsure his work was suitable for the award because it was never marketed as “young adult”. In the same year, Card won the Lifetime Achievement Award for Mormon writers at the Whitney Awards.
Card has also won numerous awards for single works:
- 1978 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer from the World Science Fiction Convention, citing the Ender’s Game novelette
- 1981 Songmaster: Hamilton-Brackett Memorial Award, 1981
- 1984 Saints: Book of the Year by the Association for Mormon Letters
- 1985 Ender’s Game: Nebula Award, 1985; Hugo Award, 1986; Hamilton-Brackett Award, 1986; SF Chronicle Readers Poll, 1986
- 1986 Speaker for the Dead; Nebula Award, 1986, Hugo Award, 1987; Locus Award, 1987; SF Chronicle Readers Poll Award 87
- 1987 “Eye for Eye”: Hugo Award, 1988; Seiun Award, 1989
- 1987 “Hatrack River”: Nebula nominee, 1986, Hugo nominee, 1987, World Fantasy Award winner, 1987
- 1988 Seventh Son: Hugo and WFA nominee, 1988; Mythopoeic Society Award 1988; Locus Award winner, 1988
- 1989 Red Prophet: Hugo nominee, 1988; Nebula Nominee, 1989; Locus winner, 1989
- 1991 How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (Writer’s Digest Books, 90): Hugo Award
- 1995 Alvin Journeyman: Locus Award winner, 1996
- 2002 Shadow of the Hegemon: ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Since 1994, Card has served as a judge for Writers of the Future, a science fiction and fantasy story contest for amateur writers. In late 2005, Card launched Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, an online fantasy and science fiction magazine. In 2005, Card accepted a permanent appointment as “distinguished professor” at Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista, Virginia, a small liberal arts college. Card has served on the boards of a number of organizations, including public television station UNC-TV (2013–present) and the National Organization for Marriage (2009–2013).
Card taught a course on novel-writing at Pepperdine University, which is sponsored by Michael Collings. Afterwards, Card designed his own writing courses called “Uncle Orson’s Writing Course” and “literary boot camp”. Eric James Stone, Jamie Ford, Brian McClellan, Mette Ivie Harrison, and John Brown have attended Card’s literary boot camp. Luc Reid, founder of the Codex Writers Group is also a literary book camp alumnus.
Legacy and influence
In 1978, the Harold B. Lee Library acquired the Orson Scott Card papers, which include Card’s works, writing notes, and letters. The collection was formally opened in 2007.
Stephenie Meyer, Brandon Sanderson, and Dave Wolverton have cited Card’s works as a major influence.
Many of Card’s works have been adapted into comic books. Dabel Brothers Productions published comic-book adaptations of Red Prophet and Wyrms in 2006. Aaron Johnston wrote comic-book versions of Ender in Exile and Speaker for the Dead. Marvel published two Ender’s Game miniseries, which were collected in the graphic novel version of Ender’s Game; Christ Yost wrote the script and Pasqual Ferry was the artist. Two sets of comic miniseries were adapted by Mike Carey for Ender’s Shadow and the comics collected in Ender’s Shadow Ultimate Collection. A series of one-shots, some of which are based on Card’s Enderverse short stories, were collected in Ender’s Game: War of Gifts.