Ender's Game

INTRODUCTION

It makes me a little uncomfortable, writing an introduction to Ender’s Game. After all, the book has been in print for six years now, and in all that time, nobody has ever written to me to say, “You know, Ender’s Game was a pretty good book, but you know what it really needs? An introduction!” And yet when a novel goes back to print for a new hardcover edition, there ought to be something new in it to mark the occasion (something be-sides the minor changes as I fix the errors and internal contradictions and stylistic excesses that have bothered me ever since the novel first appeared). So be assured—the novel stands on its own, and if you skip this intro and go straight to the story, I not only won’t stand in your way, I’ll even agree with you!

The novelet “Ender’s Game” was my first published science fiction. It was based on an idea—the Battle Room—that came to me when I was six-teen years old. I had just read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, which was (more or less) an extrapolation of the ideas in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, applied to a galaxy-wide empire in some far future time.

The novel set me, not to dreaming, but to thinking, which is Asimov’s most extraordinary ability as a fiction writer. What would the future be like? How would things change? What would remain the same? The premise of Foundation seemed to be that even though you might change the props and the actors, the play of human history is always the same. And yet that fundamentally pessimistic premise (you mean we’ll never change?) was tern-pered by Asimov’s idea of a group of human beings who, not through genetic change, but through learned skills, are able to understand and heal the minds of other people.

It was an idea that rang true with me, perhaps in part because of my Mormon upbringing and beliefs: Human beings may be miserable specimens, in the main, but we can learn, and, through learning, become decent people.

Those were some of the ideas that played through my mind as I read Foundation, curled on my bed—a thin mattress on a slab of plywood, a bed my father had made for me—in my basement bedroom in our little rambler on 650 East in Orem, Utah. And then, as so many science fiction readers have done over the years, I felt a strong desire to write stories that would do for others what Asimov’s story had done for me.

In other genres, that desire is usually expressed by producing thinly veiled rewrites of the great work: Tolkien’s disciples far too often simply rewrite Tolkien, for example. In science fiction, however, the whole point is that the ideas are fresh and startling and intriguing; you imitate the great ones, not by rewriting their stories, but rather by creating stories that are just as startling and new.

But new in what way? Asimov was a scientist, and approached every field of human knowledge in a scientific manner—assimilating data, combining it in new and startling ways, thinking through the implications of each new idea. I was no scientist, and unlikely ever to be one, at least not a real scientist—not a physicist, not a chemist, not a biologist, not even an engineer. I had no gift for mathematics and no great love for it, either. Though I relished the study of logic and languages, and virtually inhaled histories and biographies, it never occurred to me at the time that these were just as valid sources of science fiction stories as astronomy or quantum