GREENSBORO, North Carolina — 'Twas a Merry Christmas for Orson Scott Card fans.
Two, count 'em, two new Card books hit the shelves: "Pathfinder" and "The Lost Gate."
"Pathfinder" follows the story of Rigg Sessamekesh, a lad who can see where people have gone before. "The Lost Gate" explores what a world would be like with something like wormholes popping up at someone's whim.
Both are vintage Card, with characters and worlds created out of an original mind.
How does he do it book after book?
"Ideas are cheap, and they come constantly," Card said. "The real problem is recognizing when an idea is cool enough to be worth spending time on."
And how does he keep the complexities — such as time travel, space folds and eternal pathmaking — from overwhelming the story, the author and the reader?
"I realized that my characters, young teenage boys, would absolutely insist on trying to make sense of what their time travel abilities say about how the universe works. Their minds are boggled, and so I showed that consternation and fascination to the reader. Some critics have thought that I spent too much time on it, but I was true to my characters — and I bet very few teenager boys think I spent too much time on it."
He creates the environments using extrapolation, the stock in the trade of science fiction writing.
He asks himself what would change in the way people live and relate to one another if society ever had a particular power or machine or knowledge. How would it affect daily life, social behavior, social hierarchies, laws and customs?
"In the case of 'The Lost Gate,' we have a family whose ancestors had godlike powers and were, in fact, regarded as gods by ordinary mortals on Earth. But since then, they have been cut off from the source of their power on another world, and their power has diminished accordingly," he said. "So they have a sense of entitlement and deprivation: They should be powerful, and yet they are not, and thus they are aggrieved. They are also torn: The person who deprived them was a gatemage, and therefore gatemages can't be trusted and must be killed.
"At the same time, the only hope of restoring the ancient powers is to reopen the gates, and that would require a gatemage. It would also require breaking all our peace treaties with the other families and reopening a war. Yet, if they had a connection to the other world, they would have far more power than the others, and they would win that war.
"How does that affect the life of a family, to have such knowledge and inner conflicts?
"Let's just say that my conclusion was: Nobody can trust anybody, the conflicts are a continuous sore, and the whole culture of the family is riddled with resentment and grievance. Very few nice people would emerge from a family culture like that," Card said.
Card explained it wasn't his decision to release the two books together. "Each publisher chose a release time related to their perception of how the novel would fare in the marketplace."
Simon and Schuster chose the Christmas season to maximize potential gift sales. TOR chose the doldrums right after Christmas, a time when a book that is not a gift, but one people buy for themselves, thinking the book will have a better chance of getting attention. They are both good strategies. It's merely coincidence that they're six weeks apart," Card added.
For those waiting for the movie based on Card's signature novel "Ender's Game," Card and the moviemakers are still working things through.
"I'm still waiting to see a script that actually relies on 'Ender's Game' itself as the source of its scenes and characters. Up to now, the writers all seem determined to write their own story using my title and the names of my characters.
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