Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Card, Orson Scott

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(1951-    ) US writer, mainly known as a central figure in sf since the late 1970s; his fantasy is secondary, although his main fantasy sequence is important and a "feel" of fantasy pervades much of his sf work.

OSC's first fantasy novel, Hart's Hope (1983), is interesting mainly for its protagonist's anti-gift, as he is a nullifier of Magic. It was with the Alvin Maker sequence – Seventh Son (1987), Red Prophet (1988) and Prentice Alvin (1989), all three assembled as Hatrack River: The Tales of Alvin Maker (omni 1989), plus Alvin Journeyman (1995) and at least one further volume, «Master Alvin», projected [published as Heartfire (1998)] – that OSC established himself as an innovative contributor to US fantasy. The establishing premise could have generated an sf novel: an Alternate World in which there has been no American Revolution, and thus no unified USA. Rather like the romantically Balkanized statelets that so often feature in post-Holocaust sf, a profusion of dominions occupies eastern North America. What qualifies the sequence as fantasy from the beginning is not this Landscape but the associated premise that Magic exists, and that the Thinning of Europe – occasioned by the Scientific Revolution there, and in England in particular by the survival of Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate – has motivated those with Talents to emigrate to America, a land irradiated, therefore, by magic. Alvin, the seventh son of a seventh son (see Seven), seems destined to become (as "Maker") a kind of Messiah. He grows up in a late-18th-/early-19th-century environment portrayed by OSC as an almost supernaturally whole world, a Land-of-Fable America whose plenitude is Edenic. But Alvin's growth to maturity, and America's coming to terms with the Native American nations which dominate the western half of the continent, are darkened by the Unmaker, a figure of desiccating Evil, one of whose minions is Alvin's brother and Shadow Calvin. Ancillary figures include William Blake, Tecumseh, Honoré de Balzac and Daniel Webster. The sequence, as it nears its conclusion, appears to be drawing westward (rather as the Mormon leader, Joseph Smith, whom Alvin sometimes resembles, drew his people westward), and possibly a new Jerusalem will be founded.

Several of the stories assembled in Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fiction of Orson Scott Card (coll 1990; vt in 4 vols as The Changed Man 1992, Flux 1992, Cruel Miracles 1993 and Monkey Sonatas 1993) are fantasy; and the intensely mythopoeic, salvationist bent of OSC's sf constantly generates a fantasy sense that the good Land may be redeemed and that the true Story (OSC's Mormon faith, itself charged with Story, is central to his work) of the world may be recoverable. For an author like OSC, fantasy subverts the mundane, secular world through that promise of recovery. [JC]

other works: Lost Boys (1992), a Ghost Story.

Orson Scott Card


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.