Unaccompanied Sonata, a short story by Orson Scott Card, is one of those tales that has the ability to stick with a reader for years. In the story, Card explores the life of a musician who turns out to be too curious for his own good. Originally published in 1972, this story from the perspective of life in a dystopian society contains heartfelt emotion and the vivid writing style for which Card has since become well known.
In a 2003 book tour to promote his book Shadow Puppets, Card discussed Unaccompanied Sonata with fans in Kansas City, mentioning that the story sprang from the thought, “What if I were forbidden to ever write again?” Since, according to Card, this is the thing he most loves to do in life, he knew he would be devastated, and he crafted this reflection into the story Unaccompanied Sonata, in which he details the fate of a talented musician who, after hearing the music of Bach, is forbidden by the government to ever make music again (for fear his music will tainted and unoriginal).
In light of the recent dystopian craze that has swept over moviegoers in the past few years, it comes as no surprise that director Yaron Zilberman, known for the similarly musically inclined A Late Quartet, has plans to write and direct a screenplay of Card’s Unaccompanied Sonata. What the movie industry and sci-fi fans everywhere want to know is whether this new movie, with the working title Sonata, will have more box office success than the film version of Ender’s Game, based on Card’s book by the same title.
Sci-fi fans waited for Ender’s Game to be released for over a decade. Card himself wrote the screenplay, which was completed by 2003. Card, however, refused to begin filming until he was confident he had enough skilled child actors to fill the many roles of youngsters. Meanwhile, Gavin Hood rewrote the story into a fresh screenplay, which was ultimately used in the 2013 movie. However, despite the long awaited release of the movie and quality acting by the child actors and veterans Harrison Ford and Viola Davis, it flopped at the box office, diving quickly into the realm of Redbox DVDs and DirecTV streaming.
Members and supporters of the LGBT community have held that the reason for this box-office flop was Card’s anti-gay stance. However, sci-fi fans have long been aware of Card’s personal beliefs, and the Mormon writer’s book sales have never appeared to be adversely affected by his fans’ awareness. Additionally, producer Roberto Orci and Lions Gate Entertainment both released statements that they were not in agreement with Card’s stance against gay marriage and that the movie itself did not approach that subject.
More likely the box office failure of Ender’s Game had to do with unfortunate timing and delivery. It was released in November of 2013, at the same time as several other long-awaited science fiction flicks. Both The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Catching Fire, the second in the Hunger Games trilogy, were also released that month. Both were marketed to the same audience as Ender’s Game, and most sci-fi fans were anxious to see these sequels. Ender’s Game also failed to impress critics for less controversial reasons, mainly issues with pacing and characterization that displeased longtime fans.
There are no guarantees in the entertainment, but there are some heavy hitters in the industry. Orson Scott Card has proven over four decades that he has what it takes to write quality science fiction that attracts readers. It isn’t a far leap from there to a successful movie adaptation.