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Un entretien exclusif avec Orson Scott Card

Par Gillossen, le mercredi 11 juillet 2007 à 14:10:28

L'entretien proprement dit (version originale, en anglais)

"Enchantment", is just released in France now in mass market paperback. But, what is your current situation now ?

Well, at the moment, I'm beginning a new fantasy trilogy, which takes place on Earth and on another planet that is paired with ours; passing back and forth between worlds, through "gates," vastly increases a person's magical power. The premise is that all the gods, fairies, dwarfs, naiad and dryads -- ALL the magic and magical creatures of our world are completely explainable as the activities of these mages. But a few thousand years ago, the Norse "god" Loki deliberately destroyed all the gates and stranded the mages on one world or the other -- leaving all their power greatly diminished. It was the equivalent of Prometheus bringing fire to humans, except that instead of empowering humans, he greatly disempowered the mages. Now, our hero is a young man born in our world who has the power to reopen the gates. The series is entitled Mithermages and the first volume is entitled The Nixy Gate.

Compared to your previous works, does " Enchantment " hold a special place in your heart?

All my novels are very important to me while I'm writing them -- otherwise I could not do it at all. But only two have become personally important to me: Lost Boys, because it is based on my own family, and Saints, because it's the story of my people, my ancestors. All the others I am proud of and, at times, delight in -- and Enchantment more than most, simply because I had so much fun writing it. When I realized that by having Baba Yaga hijack a 747 and take it to Medieval Russia, I could completely account for the legends of Baba Yaga's "hut on chicken legs," I was insanely happy. It's the kind of thing you only get to write once in a lifetime.

The immensity and scale of your work is impressive. How do you manage to generally deliver a great book each time and never write the same book twice ?

Whether I deliver a great book each time is for others to judge -- I just do the best job I can, each time, of telling a story that I care about and believe in. I try to be as inventive as possible, while still rooting the story in things that matter and are believable to others. If I am too extravagant in my inventions, then readers would begin to care less and less about the characters. They must remain humans, in plausible communities, for the novel to work. If there's anything I do that some other writers don't, it's to root my characters in their communities, including their families.

As to not writing the same book twice: Since I am the same author every time, give or take a few changes due to the passage of time, if I don't work hard not to repeat myself, I would inevitably start to produce books that sounded way too similar to what I had done before. Even with a conscious effort never to repeat, there are motifs that I don't even notice that crop up in book after book. That simply can't be helped -- I can only prevent the flaws that I detect myself.

Your fanbase is simply enormous, in the whole world. How would you define your relation with them ? Can their expectations sometimes weigh you down ?


Actually, my readers are a precious resource. When I'm about to go back to a fantasy or science fiction series, I go to my website (http://www.hatrack.com) and start asking questions about what has gone before. I simply can't remember everything I said in the previous books! So when I need to know something, I ask -- and chances are there's a reader who just read the passage that provides the answer I need.

That happened with "Mazer in Prison," one of the stories published in my magazine, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show (http://www.oscigms.com). I couldn't remember if I had ever specified anything about Mazer Rackham's family -- was he married? Did he have children? I got the answers far more quickly from my readers online than I would ever have found them by any means short of rereading all the books myself.

My readers might clamor for this or that sequel, but I write the book that is ready to write. The great blessing my readers give me is that they are patient and tolerant, willing to give my newest project a chance, even if it's not the sequel they were hoping for. Eventually, the book they want will come!

Speaking of the internet, is the web an important tool in terms of communicating with your readers, do some research, etc?

Oops. I just answered that with the question before.

In retrospect, how do you consider the Alvin saga ? For example, what considerations count for you when you have to finish a volume ?

The Alvin books became too much fun to write. The trilogy kept stretching out because I found wonderful new things to do with American history. I especially had fun with Napoleon and Balzac, who both enriched the novels greatly -- though they were never in my plans for the series! Finally, with the sixth book, I got on track again, and book seven will finish the series ... except for short stories now and then.

You have said that "Master Alvin" will be the last one. One way or another, are you a bit apprehensive about this break- up ? Could you come back to it, with short stories ?

Again, I accidentally answered your question prematurely ...

Speaking of Alvin, what do you think about "Red Prophet" by the Dabel Bros ? What is the best asset of a comic book ?

I'm very proud of the work the Dabels are doing with Red Prophet. The script writer, Roland Bernard Brown, is a good friend of mine and I believe he captured the spirit of the story. We're hoping that this book will be successful enough that we can go ahead and publish Seventh Son, Prentice Alvin, and the rest of the series - though we may compress some of the middle volumes.

A very usual question, but do you have a different approach when it comes to writing fantasy or science fiction ?

All my novels are, in a word, mine. That is, I write them the way I write novels. The rules of sf and fantasy -- the expectations readers bring to each genre -- are well known to me and I follow them well enough not to get beaten up at science fiction conventions. But in truth the differences are ultimately trivial -- almost all my fantasy novels could have been reshaped as science fiction, and vice versa.

You are a major writer for a very long time now, but are you still influenced by book reviews, or do you seek to write something that satisfies you in the first place ?

Actually, my work is not reviewed very often, except very brief reviews in Publisher's Weekly and other publications that are not really writing deep criticism. When someone does take the time to write at length, it's usually somebody from the extreme Left who wants to attack me for my political opinions, while pretending to be reviewing my fiction. The result is that their "reviews" are really about their own beliefs, and only slightly about what I have written. The giveaway is that usually such writers declare that I am bad at characterization. Since this is something I actually do quite well, what they're really saying is that they personally did not like the characters, or they read with such a closed mind that they never allowed themselves to engage with the characters. The failure in such cases is their own.

How can I learn anything useful from a review like that?

I look forward to the day when serious critics stop using my work as an excuse for proving how politically correct their own opinions are, and actually examine what I do and what I've done. I write very differently from most writers working today, but few critics have bothered to assess and understand my art. Fortunately, my readers are much more open-minded.

A word about The Taming of the Shrew and other plays ?

As John McWhorter, an American linguist, pointed out, English-speaking audiences are the only people who never get to hear Shakespeare in their native language. Instead, we get only the 16th-century version that he himself wrote. This is especially crippling when it comes to his humor, which was so dependent upon wordplay. How can we get the jokes and laugh as he wanted us to, if we no longer understand the words he uses, and when our culture no longer includes most of the things he refers to?

So when I was preparing to produce Romeo and Juliet, I had no choice but to translate or even rewrite long passages of the play. Romeo and Juliet is written as a bright comedy for the first three acts -- it is supposed to be hilariously funny and exciting, as we come to know and love these exuberant, playful youngsters. It only becomes a tragedy near the end. But most English language productions miss this element completely, because neither the actors nor the audience realizes how funny the first half is.

But when I produced my version, I had replaced the banter among the boys with new jokes that, while they sounded (to American ears, at least) as if they were part of the Elizabethan language of the rest of the play, were clear in their meaning. As a result, my audiences laughed uproariously for the first half; and, because they really loved and liked these kids, the ending broke their hearts in a way that Romeo & Juliet has not had the power to do in many years.

With Taming of the Shrew, not only had most of the jokes lost all meaning, but also the relationship between men and women was no longer acceptable to modern audiences. If Shakespeare were writing it today, he would take this into account; since he's dead, I did it for him. So not only did I rewrite extensively through the comic scenes (especially the "wooing scene"), I also rewrote Kate's final soliloquy. The actress who played the part later thanked me -- because instead of giving a soliloquy that required her to be completely submissive, she was able to say words that she really believed in.

I have no idea whether my scripts, translated, would be of any interest to French audiences -- because you already see these plays translated into the language you actually speak! I'm assuming that the jokes are also translated intelligibly. Thus I imagine that my versions of Shakespeare's plays are only of interest to anglophone audiences.

With The Lord of the Rings directed by Peter Jackson and so on, Fantasy seems to gain momentum in Hollywood. Many projects are on the tracks, or about to be.

Unfortunately, Hollywood does not understand literature. Peter Jackson did not understand Lord of the Rings, for that matter, or he could not have made the foolish, needless mistakes he made -- like eliminating the "Scouring of the Shire" and trying to increase Aragorn's "jeopardy" by adding meaningless silliness to the character of Arwen. In every case, Jackson's foolish changes were right in line with the nonsense that is taught in screenwriting classes and that studio executives have learned to parrot without any understanding of the fact that the screenwriting classes teach formulas, and the formulas simply do not work at the level of fine literature.

So when I see great fantasy novels like Robin Hobb's, George Martin's, Bruce Fergusson's, Neil Gaiman's, Patrick Rothfuss's, and Susanna Clarke's, I cannot imagine Hollywood doing anything to them but destroy them.

If the Alvin series is ever filmed, it will be filmed in a way that is faithful, not to the scene-by-scene presentation of the novels, but to the meaning of the events depicted. The only way that can happen is if I have complete control. Nobody will ever give me such control, and therefore I expect that these books will never be filmed.

Ender's Game, on the other hand, will almost certainly be filmed -- because I have written a script that is very close to being exactly what is needed.

What could you say about Alvin ? Would you be interested in being part of an adaptation, as for Ender's Game?

Do you have any book recommendations for our readers, fantasy or otherwise?

I'm not sure what has already been translated, but some exciting new fantasy novels are The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, Acacia, by David Anthony Durham, and Mistborn and Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. The best English-language novel of the past fifty years, in my opinion, is The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield -- even though it is technically not a fantasy novel, it feels like one, and it comments brilliantly on literature and how literature works even as it tells a story so compelling you can hardly bear to put it down.

I wish more English-language young adult novels were made available to French readers. Shannon Hale's Goose Girl and Mette Harrison's Mira, Mirror and The Princess and the Hound are absolutely brilliant.

Last but not least, is there anything you wish to share with your French fans ?

Only that I hope they will enjoy visiting in the worlds I have made as much as I enjoy visiting in the world they have made -- my family and I love visiting in France and look forward eagerly to our next opportunity to return.

  1. L'entretien proprement dit (version française)
  2. L'entretien proprement dit (version originale, en anglais)

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