Enderverse Canon written by reader philoticweb
Canon is “the conceptual material accepted as “official” in a fictional universe’s fan base.” With Orson Scott Card’s novel, Ender’s Game, coming to the big screen just over a year from now, understanding the canon of the Enderverse is important when discussing the story of Ender and his jeesh.
Including the movie, there are four forms of media that reveal Ender’s story: the books, the short stories, the comics, and the film. However, the same story is often represented in more than one form. For instance, Ender’s Game is told in both short story and full novel form, as well as in a ten comic issue arc, and is being made into a film. As often happens when the same story is told over different forms of media, parts of the same story will be added, deleted, or changed. When fans discuss Ender, how can they do so without specifying which version of the same story they are talking about?
Levels of Canon
One way to sort through the Ender stories is to place the various versions of each story on different levels. Doing so helps to clarify inconsistencies when the same story is told by different methods.
Assuming the film version of Ender’s Game follows the story of a boy who goes to Battle School to be trained for an alien invasion, the novel, the short story, the comics, and the film all have similarities that are consistent in all forms of the story. The protagonist’s name is Ender, for example. Where it gets tricky is when the same story called “Ender’s Game” has inconsistencies when depicted in different media. While in the novel and comic versions of Ender’s Game, Major Anderson is a male, Viola Davis, a female, has been cast as the character of Major Anderson for the movie version. So which is it?
In order to separate the different forms of the story and choose which version is the most canonical, different levels of canon are assigned to the different forms of media. The levels would be as follows:
Works written by the original Ender author, Orson Scot Card, are at the top of the list and are most canonical. Novels trump short stories, though I cannot think of an instance when a short story and a novel conflict. (See below for information on retcon and the novelette, “Ender’s Game.”)
Next on the list are the comics. While most of these comics are basic retellings of the novels and short stories, they may have different dialogue, scene order, etc. Stories that do not have a novel or short story counterpart such as Recruiting Valentine by Jake Black and The League War by Aaron Johnston are not written specifically by Card but do have his blessing, therefore making them the highest level of canon for that particular story.
The lowest level of canon is the film. While the movie is only now being filmed, the assumption is that any deviations from the novel come from the screenplay writer, Gavin Hood.
However, assigning levels of canon is most logical only when dealing with inconsistencies between different media. What about additions from lower levels of canon? The comic version of War of Gifts begins with a letter from Matthew London, Associate Under-director of Admissions for the International Fleet Battle School. However, the higher-level canon (short story version) of “A War of Gifts” makes no mention of a Matthew London. Are we supposed to discount such a character’s existence simply because his name only appears in a lower level of canon? I would say that in cases where an addition is made in a lower level of canon such as comic or film, if the addition does not interfere with what Card has specifically written, the addition becomes canon.
Three Different Canons
A different and simpler way to look at the Enderverse is to see it as three separate stories: the story told in the novels and short stories, the story told in the comics, and the story told in the film. Doing so allows for inconsistencies to exist between retellings of the same story, yet not be considered inconsistencies, as each version of the story contains its own canon. If you only follow one version of Ender’s story, such as the one told in the novels and short stories, you may not have as much cognitive dissonance about ideas stemming from the comics or film, but you may also miss out on entire events (such as those in Recruiting Valentine, The League War, and currently, The Formic Wars) in Ender’s universe.
The Authorized Ender Companion
The Authorized Ender Companion, written by Jake Black, is “an encyclopedic reference to the events, characters locations, and technology found within Orson Scott Card’s Ender Universe” (The Authorized Ender Companion, “How to Use This Book”). In the “Introduction,” Card tells the reader, “Be assured that as you read, you are looking into the very same resource I work with.” Card bases his current writing on this collection of references from his own previous writing, making the encyclopedic information canon, though visibly, since the material comes from Card’s own writings, the references are just restatements of canon.
However, in “The Ender Encyclopedia,” there are the following sections with new information supplied by Card: Battle School Slang, The Look of the Formics, The History of Hyrum Graff, and Mazer Rackham’s Spaceship. Since the book is authorized by Card, and he uses the book as his own reference, and the new information comes directly from him, the information found in these sections should also be considered canon.
There is also a work called “The Technology of Ender’s Game,” by Stephen Sywak, which is written from an in-universe perspective. While Jake Black writes at the beginning of this section that the information found within the piece is “not authoritative, since the final look of Battle School and the Battle Room will be worked out in conjunction with artists working on the comic book series for Marvel and designers working on the movie,” Card writes in the “Introduction” that he has “referred to Sywak’s work when thinking about story possibilities.” Taking into account the above ideas about levels of canon with the comics and the film being lower-level canon than the words written by Card, I personally regard this section as canon as well.
I want to note that The Authorized Ender Companion was published in 2009. There were fewer Ender comics available while this book was being written and compiled, and therefore fewer inconsistencies between the novels/short stories and the comics. Yet, Jake Black still references all of the novels, short stories, and comics that were available at the time, which could give credence to the idea that all stories, regardless of media type, are viewed by Card as part of the same canon.
Retroactive continuity (retcon) is “the alteration of previously established facts in a fictional work.” Again, Wikipedia. There have been a few instances where Card has retconned his stories to make them make sense with one another.
Card originally wrote “Ender’s Game” as a novelette before expanding it into the full novel Ender’s Game. When doing so, some aspects of the story were changed, such as Ender’s last name, “Wiggins.” Card expanded his novelette so that he could set up the story for Speaker for the Dead. The Enderverse is based on the novel Ender’s Game, not the novelette “Ender’s Game,” making the novelette non-canon.
In 1991, in preparation for the release of Xenocide, Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead were rereleased as Author’s Definitive Editions with minor changes to dialogue and world references. The revised Author’s Definitive Editions should be considered as the canonical versions of both novels.
In the “Afterward” of Ender in Exile, Card has the following to say about contradictions between Chapter 15 of Ender’s Game and Ender in Exile:
“So while the meat of chapter 15 of Ender’s Game is exactly right, the details and timeline are not. They aren’t what they should have been then, and they certainly aren’t what they need to be now. Since writing that chapter, I have written stories like “Investment Counselor” (in First Meetings), where Ender meets Jane (a major character in Speaker) when he is legally coming of age on a planet called Sorelledolce; but this contradicted the timeline stated in Ender’s Game. All in all, I realized, it was chapter 15 that was wrong, not the later stories, which took more details into account and developed the story in a superior way.
Why should I be stuck now with decisions carelessly made twenty-four years ago? What I’ve written since is right; those contradictory but unimportant details in the original novel are wrong.
Therefore I have rewritten chapter 15 of Ender’s Game, and at some future date there will be an edition of the novel that includes the revised chapter.”
The original “Afterward” also included the following (though has since been removed in later editions):
“Meanwhile, the entire text is online for anyone who has ever bought or ever buys any issue of my magazine Orson Scott Card’s Inter-Galactic Medicine Show (oscIGMS.com). I have linked it to that magazine because every issue of it contains a story from the Ender’s Game universe. My hope is that if you buy an issue in order to read that revised chapter, you’ll also sample all the stories in that issue and find out what an excellent group of writers we’ve been publishing there.”
Perhaps we will one day get to read that revised chapter!
The Enderverse canon continues to grow as new stories are written. While the canon is extensive, it is also fairly accessible. When it comes right down to it, you must make your own decisions about which stories and versions of the Enderverse you want to consider as canon.
How do YOU view the Enderverse canon? Leave it in the comments!