Interview: Orson Scott Card

Hi all!

A while back, Orson Scott Card was kind enough to leave a comment on one of my posts about his story “Stonefather”. We had a short e-mail conversation after that and he graciously agreed to let me interview him.

Q: What was the inspiration for the “Stonefather” short story and your upcoming book The Lost Gate?

Orson Scott Card at Life, the Universe, & Ever...

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OSC: I invented the world of Westil back in 1976-1977, at the time I wrote my story “Sandmagic,” set in that world. I created a series of maps showing the history of the world; I invented a magic system that I loved and wanted to use.

What I didn’t have was a story. Now I do. “Stonefather” was a plunge back into the world, to see if there was a story that was not so dark as “Sandmagic.” I think it worked exactly as I wanted it to. Meanwhile, the story I’m going to tell in “The Lost Gate” and its sequels is set in the interface between Earth and Westil (and, as will be revealed, yet a third world).

Q: Most of your books seem to have common themes, such as everyday magic and redemption. Many of them also involve characters in difficult situations making tough choices. What draws you to these themes in your writing?

OSC: I don’t think of these as themes — certainly I don’t plan them. To me, the thing that makes stories interesting is tough choices. I’m drawn to good people having to choose between bad alternatives. (Maybe that’s why I feel so much in harmony with K.J. Parker’s writing – long, deeply detailed human stories about people who are really trying to do good things and always ending up causing horrible ones.)

But what you said about “everyday magic.” I never thought of it that way. But since magic is always a ‘supernatural means to power,’ it occurs to me now for the first time that maybe I’m unconsciously extrapolating the way we Mormons live our religion into the way my fictional characters use their magic. That is, we live our religion in a practical way, and believe that our daily work is a natural part of our connection with spiritual things. Indeed, our concept of what is “spiritual” has zero mystical content. It’s just a fact of life. So maybe that attitude inadvertently shows up in my fiction. Certainly I feel no affinity with fantasy novels that get all mystical about magic. To me, it never feels “real” – as even fantasy must feel real in order to engage our concern and belief.

Q: With all your successes, are you more careful with what you publish these days for fear of offending your fans? Or are you still experimenting and exploring writing and stories for the fun of it?

OSC: I have very good readers: With the exception of Empire, I’ve never had any kind of heated response. And even with Empire, it wasn’t my fans, it was those who have declared themselves my political enemies who chose to detect political bias in it. (There wasn’t any – I simply created the characters as I believe they would be, and the overall “message,” insofar as there was one, was absolutely non-partisan.)

So I never write with any kind of fear of offending. My readers may not care equally for all that I write, but neither do they condemn. Some books sell lots of copies; other books sell less; but I have to write the stories I believe in or care about. I wouldn’t know how to write any other way. Each book and story then must find its own audience.

Of course, I’m not an idiot. If I can think of a story in the Ender universe and write it well, it will go a lot farther toward feeding my family. But I can’t write endlessly in that universe – I need to write other things, too, or my soul would dry up. So I write those. And I have such wonderful publishers that all the different stories get published.

For the rest of the interview, please click here.

I’d like to thank Mr. Card for being so gracious to answer my interview questions. And I’m very excited to read The Lost Gate when it comes out from Del Rey in Fall 2009. Mr. Card was nice enough to let me read a chapter of that book that I will hopefully get a chance to review very soon!

–Fitz

p.s. Be sure to check out “Stonefather” in its novella form that was just released! And if you’ve not read his other works, check those out as well!

p.p.s. Check out some of the books that OSC recommended:

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