Biography of Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card was born in Richland, Washington, in 1951. He was named after his grandfather, Orson Rega Card, who was the son of Charles Ora Card, the founder of a Mormon colony in Cardston, Canada. His great-grandmother, Zina Young Card, was a daughter of Brigham Young. Orson Scott Card's parents moved the family to San Mateo, California, when he was a baby, and then to Salt Lake City for his father to complete a bachelor's degree after a back injury made him leave his "sign company." After that, they returned to California and settled in Santa Clara.

As a young boy, Card often went to the Santa Clara library to read the books in both the children's section and the adults' section, where he discovered the fairly new genre of science fiction. Card's childhood was fairly normal, but he chose to read unusual books for a young boy, including The Prince and the Pauper at the age of eight, which first interested him in English history. Card also read other novels that drew him into American history, including the non-fiction The Army of the Potomac by Bruce Catton (which he was given at the age of ten).

Along with these books, Card also read the Book of Mormon and the Bible, as well as many sermons by Mormon prophets. He explored a wide variety of subjects, including histories of medicine, archaeology, and the Holocaust. Card also enjoyed performing; his family was extremely musical, and they often had family sing-alongs. Broadway musicals were the most beloved in the Card family, but they also listened to several other types of music, including church hymns.

In 1964, Orson's father, Willard, took a faculty position at Arizona State University and moved the family to Mesa, Arizona. Orson became involved in politics when he argued on the side of Democrat Lyndon Johnson in a mock political debate at his high school. Orson also continued playing the French horn, the tuba, the E-flat alto horn, and the sousaphone. Card was introduced to the Great Books, including Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Plutarch, and so on, by a family friend while he was still in junior high school. The enduring themes of the Great Books would resonate throughout Orson's later professional life.

When Card was 16 years old, his family moved to Orem, Utah, so that his father could work at Brigham Young University. Card graduated after his junior year from Brigham Young High School, and he entered BYU as an archaeology major, but shortly switched to being a theater major. He began writing as a theater student, and Card says that he still tries to "improvise [his novels] in front of an invisible audience."

Just before having enough credits to graduate, Card decided to volunteer in Brazil as a Mormon missionary. He was there for two years in the early 1970s. While he was there, he fell in love with the Brazilian culture. Several of the cities where he served--Sao Paulo, Ribeirao Preto, Araraquara, Aracatuba, Campinas, and Itu--became settings for his novels, especially in his Shadow series.

Card returned to Orem after two years, and he quickly received his bachelor's degree in theater. He started a repertory theater company and produced plays at "The Castle," an outside amphitheater in Provo that was built as part of a government project during the Depression. While the plays at The Castle were sometimes successful, he eventually shut down his company due to its growing debts, and he began writing science fiction. About that time, the short story "Ender's Game" came into being.

In the meantime, however, Card switched from his copy editor job at the BYU Press to become a staff editor at The Ensign, the official magazine of the LDS (Mormon) church. He married Kristine Allen in May 1977 after three years of dating on and off. They had their first child, Michael Geoffrey, in 1978, and Emily, Charles, Zina, and Erin quickly followed, although Erin passed away in childbirth and Charles died of cerebral palsy soon after his seventeenth birthday.

When Orson left his full-time job to work as a writer, the Card family moved all around Utah, living in Salt Lake City, Sandy, and Orem. He also earned his master's degree in English in 1981 from the University of Utah. After that, they moved the family to South Bend, Indiana, where Orson did some doctoral work at Notre Dame until the recession of the 1980s led him to seek full-time employment again. Finally, they moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, where Orson started work with Compute! magazine, which lasted for nine months.

Orson and Kristine had three more children after arriving in Greensboro, but two of them passed away. They are still active in the local Mormon community there, and Orson writes columns for the Rhinoceros Times. Orson, Kristine, and their children still travel often.

Card's deep reading of the Great Books has yielded an impressively well grounded oeuvre. He is the author of the Ender series, which includes Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind; the Shadow series (Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant), and many other science fiction novels. He also writes works of "contemporary fantasy" such as Magic Street, Enchantment, and Lost Boys, American frontier fantasies such as The Seventh Son (and the rest of its series), and Biblical novels such as Stone Tables and Rachel and Leah. Card also includes poetry and many plays in his portfolio.

Along with his writing, Card also directs plays occasionally and teaches classes and workshops. He is currently working as a professor of writing and literature at Southern Virginia University, a private LDS college in Buena Vista, VA. He has won several awards for his work, including the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer (from the World Science Fiction Convention) in 1978 and the Hugo and Nebula awards for Ender's Game and its sequel Speaker for the Dead in 1986 and 1987.


Study Guides on Works by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game began as a short story that Orson Scott Card wrote because his repertory theater company was collecting debts and had to be shut down. "Ender's Game" first appeared in Analog, a leading science fiction magazine, in...