Ender's Game

Page 2

trainees flying off to Jupiter. It would need to offer a way to practice shooting without risk of injury; and yet trainees who were “hit” would need to be disabled, at least temporarily. The environment would need to be changeable, to simulate the different conditions of warfare—near a ship, in the midst of debris, near tiny asteroids. And it would need to have some of the confusion of real battle, so that the play-combat didn’t evolve into something as rigid and formal as the meaningless marching and maneuvers that still waste an astonishing amount of a trainee’s precious hours in basic training in our modern military.
The result of my speculations that morning was the Battle Room, exactly as you will see it (or have already seen in) in this book. It was a good idea, and something like it will certainly be used for training if ever there is a manned military in space. (Something very much like it has already been used in various amusement halls throughout America.)
But, having thought of the Battle Room, I hadn’t the faintest idea of how to go about turning the idea into a story. It occurred to me then for the first time that the idea of the story is nothing compared to the importance of knowing how to find a character and a story to tell around that idea. Asimov, having had the idea of paralleling The Decline and Fall, still had no story; his genius—and the soul of the story—came when he personalized his history, making the psychohistorian Hari Seldon the god-figure, the plan-maker, the apocalyptic prophet of the story. I had no such character, and no idea of how to make one.
Years passed. I graduated from high school as a junior (just in time—Brigham Young High School was discontinued with the class of 1968) and went on to Brigham Young University . I started there as an archaeology major, but quickly discovered that doing archaeology is unspeakably boring compared to reading the books by Thor Heyerdahl {Aku-Akuy Kon-Tiki), Yigael Yadin (Masada), and James Michener (The Source) that had set me dreaming. Potsherds! Better to be a dentist than to spend your life trying to put together fragments of old pottery in endless desert landscapes in the Middle East.
By the time I realized that not even the semi-science of archaeology was for someone as impatient as me, I was already immersed in my real career. At the time, of course, I misunderstood myself: I thought I was in theatre because I loved performing. And I do love performing, don’t get me wrong. Give me an audience and I’ll hold onto them as long as I can, on any subject. But I’m not a good actor, and theatre was not to be my career. At the time, though, all I cared about was doing plays. Directing them. Building sets and making costumes and putting on makeup for them.
And, above all, rewriting those lousy scripts. I kept thinking, Why couldn’t the playwright hear how dull that speech was? This scene could so easily be punched up and made far more effective.
Then I tried my hand at writing adaptations of novels for a reader’s theatre class, and my fate was sealed. I was a playwright.
People came to my plays and clapped at the end. I learned—from actors and from audiences—how to shape a scene, how to build tension, and—above all—the necessity of being harsh with your own material, excising or rewriting anything that doesn’t work. I learned to separate the story from the writing, probably the most important thing that any storyteller has to learn—that

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