First Meetings in Ender’s Universe by Orson Scott Card

I’m a science fiction writer and after finding out I hadn’t read a lot of classic sci-fi books, (I just read 1984 last year—I know, I’m ashamed) one of my best friends made me a list of the most important ones that he thought I had to read. This past summer, I read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and sobbed in this hot tub at a hot springs and scared a child. So yeah, I’m an Ender fan.

The same friend found out about First Meetings in Ender’s Universe and lent it to me when he finished it. First Meetings is a collection of three short stories about Orson Scott Card. They all take place in the “Enderverse,” a world that I was more than ready to return to.

The first story, “The Polish Boy,” tells the story of Ender’s father John Paul and how he was originally going to go the Battle School but wanted to save his family instead. The International Fleet sends John Paul and his family to America, hoping that one of John Paul’s future children can go to Battle School. The second story, “Teacher’s Pest,” tells the story of John Paul and Theresa, Ender’s Parents and how they met and fell in love when Theresa, a graduate student, taught John Paul’s college course. The third story, “Ender’s Game,” is the original form of Ender’s story that eventually became the novel Ender’s Game. It’s about Ender, a child, who ends up in Battle School where he is in training to save the world from an alien species. The final story, “Investment Counselor,” tells the story of Ender having to file his first tax return and meeting the artificial intelligence program, Jane, who helps him. It also shows how Ender became a “speaker for the dead.”

The best way that I can describe my process of reading this book is that I devoured it. The stories were short and fast-paced, holding my attention and drawing me in. I was already familiar with the characters and the world that the stories took place in, so I was able to just jump right into the tales without needing the background knowledge that I might have needed had I not already read Ender’s Game.

Reading the original story, “Ender’s Game,” I understand why Card chose to turn it into a novel (other than the fact that he probably couldn’t bear to part with incredible characters like Ender and Bean.) The story is interesting, but it lacks the context and building of the Enderverse that the novel has. The novel includes Valentine and Peter, Ender’s sister and brother, two characters that are still on earth while Ender is in space, providing us with a world that we are able to understand and relate to a bit more. I think this gives Ender’s story more weight and helps us, as readers, to relate to the book more.

In my writing courses and the writing of my own work, recently, I’ve noticed that there’s a difference between a “short story story” and a “novel story.” There are some stories that can be written in twenty to thirty pages, but there are other ones that need an entire book. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell which one is which, so it was interesting to see why an author chose to make that choice and to see it have paid off so well.

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