Orson Scott Card is the best science fiction writer in the world. Ender’s Game is among the best sci-fi books written in modern times. By number of sales, Dune is the only comparable modern book, since it’s hard to properly count the number of books sold for sci-fi classics like Frankenstein or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
A great deal of public venom has been vented toward Mr. Card recently, coinciding with the release of the Ender’s Game movie. I don’t know if that was coincidental or by design. I spent plenty of time discussing what he said and was rumored to have said on various hot topics of the day. However, this isn’t a political post. I’m just reporting my recent experience, for what it’s worth.
By fortune, I share the same religious background with Orson Scott Card. This has given me a chance to see him at two writers conferences in recent months. That’s where I’ve met Brandon Sanderson, Michaelbrent Collings, Larry Coreia, and Tracy Hickman, too. Orson Scott Card gave the keynote address at both events. In each case, he gave some good writing advice. Also, during each main address he said things which did not sit well with the audience. While I wasn’t personally offended by things he said in the talk, several comments by others showed their clear disagreement.
During a lull after the book signing event, I noticed a small group of people talking to him and casually joined them. When I asked for a photo, he not only consented, but went so far as to put his head on my shoulder for it. I was immediately set at ease. Unlike many of the famous authors I’ve come into contact with, he was very friendly and kind. He remembered my book title by name (from the bookstore at the conference) and invited me to submit to his magazine. We talked for half an hour.
When the staff finally made us leave, I realized people really have the wrong idea about this guy. Even though he has unpopular opinions sometimes, he doesn’t hold them out of malice. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the role of writers and artists. It seems strange to me that so many people are surprised by his unique perspectives, including those of our faith. Writers are famous as a group for having ideas outside the societal norms. They are expected to explore new perspectives and challenge the status quo. Doesn’t it stand to reason that the best science fiction writer alive would have that much more uniqueness in his outlook? People offended by the atypical paradigm of an author risen to the upper echelons of his field within his lifetime, have clearly forgotten what kind of mind is necessary to reach those heights.
Aside from all that, Orson Scott Card has managed to stay happy, a rare feat for many artists. That satisfaction, more than his success, is enviable. The fact that he shares his conversation and time freely, without concern for what he could gain from it, impressed me. I learned a powerful lesson. Being happy, more than astounding success, is truly freeing. It lends him the immunity from social pressures, which allows him to tell his stories uninhibited. It facilitates uncensored artistic honesty. Since authors are constantly advised to be unbridled, nobody should be surprised when the grand masters speak their mind. Clearly, whatever people think of the man, the world loves what those qualities produce in his books.