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Interview: Orson Scott Card & Ed Schubert by Andrew Brooks
Review by Andrew Brooks
SFRevu *Interview  ISBN/ITEM#: INTOrsonScottCa
Date: 01 September 2008

Links: Website of Orson Scott Card / Website of Ed Schubert / Review: Intergalatic Medicine Show /

Ed Schubert and Orson Scott Card were kind enough this month to let us interview them about the just released Intergalactic Medicine Show Volume One, the IGMS site, and what's up next for both authors.

Ed Shubert

SFRevu: IGMS has come out with nine issues to date, what was the process when selecting the shorts included in IGMS Vol 1? Are there plans for a Vol 2?

Ed: The process for selecting stories for Vol. 1 was pretty simple. Since we wanted this to be a sampler, I made sure there were three stories from each of our first four issues and that there was an overall balance between the science fiction and the fantasy. My main goal for the anthology was to be the best possible representation of what we're publishing in every issue of the magazine.

As for a Vol. 2, I would love for there to be a Vol. 2 and already have a short-list of favorites I'd include. The final decision on whether that comes to pass, however, is in Tor's hands.

SFRevu: When did you all come to the decision to gather up some shorts from the site and put them in an anthology? In other words, how did Vol. 1 come about?

Ed: I feel good about the stories we're publishing and wanted to get them in front of a wider audience; a print anthology simply seemed like the most effective way to do that. I originally pitched the idea to Orson around Christmas of 2006. He liked it and took it to the fine folks at Tor, who approved it the following spring.

SFRevu: How did you get roped into taking over the editing duties at IGMS?

Ed: I don't know that I would say roped (not publicly, anyway), more like ambushed... All kidding aside, it was a combination of a lot of little factors that lead me to this place. The shortest version I can come up with is this: I attended Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp in June of 2004, and then sold him a story for the first issue of IGMS in 2005 (when he was still editing the magazine himself). At that point I was working as executive editor of a regional business magazine and had offered several times that if he ever needed help with IGMS, I would be happy to do whatever I could. Then in May of 2006 I got a contract on my novel (Dreaming Creek, scheduled to come out late October of 2008 from LBF Books), and I took Orson up on an offer that he had made to everyone at Boot Camp, namely that if any of us ever sold a novel, that he would review the contract for us. As we wrapped up our conversation about my contract, he started asking me a variety of other questions and, to make a long story short, he said that he was too busy with other things to properly keep up with IGMS, and would I be interested in taking over the editorial reins. Of course I said yes.

SFRevu: As editor, what kinds of stories do you feel are a good fit for IGMS? For any aspiring writers out there, are there stories you do and don't want? (I realize the list for what you don't want could become an essay, but if it's a humorous one I'd talk to my editor and see if we could print. :) I kid.

Ed: The essence of what people can expect to find in IGMS (both the anthology and the on-going e-zine) is good old-fashioned storytelling. You're not going to find high-minded literary experiments or anything else along those lines. Don't misunderstand me, there is a place for that in the world of short fiction –- I'm not a snob or an anti-snob –- you're just not going to find it in IGMS. I like stories that are well-written, with character that are well-developed, but in the end what I'm mainly looking for are stories that reach down your throat and grab your guts from the inside, or smack you up-side the head, or throw you on your back and tickle your feet until your sides hurt, or just make you stop when you get to the end and say, "Oh my…" That's what I want to fill every issue of IGMS with.

SFRevu: What's the first thing that jumps out at you when you pick a story from the slush pile? Do you know within one or two paragraphs "Hey, we may have something here..."

Ed: I can tell within the first few paragraphs if a story is not going to work, but you really can't tell that quickly if it is going to work. I've had a few stories that got my hopes up in the early pages only to break my heart by falling apart before it got to the end. Writing good short stories is not an easy thing to do and I'm always happy when I find one. What gets my hopes up quickly is an author's ability to make me forget that I'm reading. If I can get swept up in the story right away, that's always a good sign.

SFRevu: Best piece of advice you've ever received on writing? The one bit of advice you'd like to pass on to others?

Ed: I think it was Ray Bradbury who said that if you want to learn to write well, write one short story a week for an entire year. I don't know if that's humanly possible for anyone besides Ray Bradbury, but the underlying principle is right on target: Nothing teaches quite so effectively as doing. And you need to write new stories; it's easy to fall into the trap of revising the same old stuff over and over again. There comes a point where you can revise the life right out of a story if you're not careful, so you need to set the old ones aside and write new material as often as possible.

SFRevu: Following each story is an afterword from the author, a few paragraphs about how the writer came up with the story, what influenced them to put pen to page. Do these afterwords appear after each story on the actual site, or is this something you decided to add when putting the anthology together?

Ed: The Stories behind The Stories (as I like to call them) is something I've been doing for about as long as I've been editing IGMS. I ask the authors in each issue to write a short essay about the creation of their tale and then share them with the world. They're not on the official IGMS website, though; they go up on my blog () when each new issue is published.

SFRevu: You've not only been busy with IGMS and putting together the anthology. Your book Dreaming Creek is due out sometime in October. Could you tell us some about that? Plug away!

Ed: Dreaming Creek is my first novel; it's a mystery/suspense novel with a paranormal twist driving the action, and also has some romance and some humor. It's actually pretty hard to categorize, which is why its being published by a small press publisher (LBF Books). I originally sent it to a couple of agents in New York, and one of them called me on the phone to say that she really liked the novel, but it would be hard to sell to a New York publisher because their marketing departments wouldn't know how to categorize it. She said that when marketing people don't know what to do, they simply don't do anything at all. So she said I should take the book to a small press, because the little guys are more likely to publish something unconventional. From what I've learned about the publishing industry over the past few years, that was very good advice.

The story itself is about a high school teacher named Danny Wakeman who has spent sixteen years believing that his childhood friend, Marcus, saved his life after an accident. But Danny's perspective on the world gets turned inside-out when he and the woman he wants to marry, Sara McBride, trade bodies, and get stuck that way. Over the course of the novel, this new perspective forces him to see a lot of things in new ways, including his old friend Marcus, who turns out to be the source of much misery, both old and new.

SFRevu: "Fat Farm" is one of my favorite short stories, it would make a great Twilight Zone were the show still running, so I really enjoyed the graphic short included in the anthology. How did that come about? Did you decide specifically on "Fat Farm" being turned into a graphic short beforehand, or were there a few other stories you contemplated as well?

OSC: We commissioned three scripts for different stories. Then we let artist Jin Han choose which he'd start with. Naturally, he chose the one where he got to draw the contrast in the changing character. But even though everybody worked for shamefully low fees, it was still almost as expensive as the rest of the issue to do this one short comic, and we had to face reality - it simply wasn't cost effective to do comics. So the other scripts languish, waiting.

SFRevu: Included, I believe, in each issue of IGMS is one story from the Enderverse. Is there still enough there to be mined for a future Enderverse novel? Or can those wanting more expect to get their fix via IGMS?

OSC: There are two novels coming in the Ender universe. (The term "Enderverse" actually makes my skin crawl a little. I'm wrong to feel that way -- it's cute and we need a one-word term for the version of the future in which the Ender and Bean novels take place.) The first will appear on 11 November: Ender in Exile, which mostly takes place between chapters 14 and 15 of Ender's Game. The second, Shadows in Flight, is a direct sequel to both Shadow of the Giant and Children of the Mind, bringing the two series together at the end.

Meanwhile, there are still plenty of stories to mine from that particular future history.

SFRevu: Marvel is adapting Ender's Game this fall, can you tell us something about that? Or is it still in the early development stages? And will it differ from Ender's Game? Perhaps tie in with the other Enderverse novels?

OSC: The Marvel version of Ender's Game does not differ from the story in any significant way. Christopher Yost's script is by far the best adaptation of EG that has ever existed for a visual medium. I've seen Pasqual Ferry's art, and it's brilliant. Marvel is really throwing everything they have at this comics series and are doing a superb job. I think the fans of EG will be very happy -- and people who've never read the book will get as good a telling of the tale from the visual medium as from the very-internal novel.

SFRevu: You know, with all these comics getting greenlighted for major motion pictures...and really you'll be half way there now with visuals and storyboards for the Marvel comic...does this mean things are finally heading the right direction for Ender's debut on the big screen? I know you get this question a LOT, so thanks for your patience.

OSC: Actually, few people realize that comics are a wonderful way to pitch a story for film precisely for the reason that you just stated -- the comic book looks like a storyboard! Few people in Hollywood -- especially among studio executives -- know how to read a script. They don't understand how much the actors and the camera bring to the story -- things that can't show up in a script. The result is that you have to write scripts to be READ instead of filmed -- in effect, novels in disguise. But this is not good screenwriting. It's just a necessary step in order to babystep the executives through the reading process. Now, with the brilliant Pasqual Ferry visuals, we'll just hand them the comic books and say, This is what it'll look like.

SFRevu: Besides IGMS you're also involved in the publishing of Hatrack River, The Ornery American, Taleswapper, Strong Verse, and Starshine and Shadows. You've successfully cloned Orson Scott Card 2.0, haven't you? What's your involvement with these other sites?

OSC: I pay for all the sites. In more ways than one! Hatrack River (www.hatrack.com) is my author website, where people come to post about why they hate my books. The Ornery American (www.ornery.org) is a political discussion area, where people come to post about why they hate my ideas. Fortunately, my production company, Taleswapper (www.taleswapper.com), hasn't got anything out there yet, so nobody can post about how they hate my movies.

Seriously, Hatrack is where I turn to ask my readers for answers about my books. They've read them more recently than I have! So in writing sequels, this is essential. And by the things they post, they show me who my readers are far more effectively than I can find this out at a book signing.

The Strong Verse (www.strongverse.org) site is an online poetry magazine (we pay ten dollars per poem; but I believe something must be paid to show respect for the art); we concentrate on poems with clarity and even form! (I'm a bit of a disciple of Dana Gioia.) Nauvoo (www.nauvoo.com) is for people talk to each other about life inside the Mormon Church.

Starshine and Shadows (www.starshineandshadows.com) is a commentary site by a good friend of mine, the poet Michael Collings. Since he retired from Pepperdine he's had less time than he thought he would, but I hope to see many books' worth of essays and other work from Michael over the years to come.

SFRevu: What's up next for OSC, after the Marvel adaptation?

OSC: Since other people are doing all the creative work on the Marvel adaptation, I don't even think of that as something I'm doing! I'm writing another Ender's Game movie script and finishing The Lost Gate -- the first novel in my Mithermages fantasy series. An out-of-sequence novella from that world, "Stonefather", is coming out on 31 October as a standalone, after its initial appearance in the anthology Wizards.

And, of course, Ender in Exile appears on 11 November. In a way, it's the first true sequel to Ender's Game, picking up almost immediately after the war ends and taking Ender through all that happens as he discovers that he can never come back to Earth and has to make a home for himself somewhere else.

SFRevu: Thanks to both of you for the interview!

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