Monday, January 19, 2015

The Analogous World of Unmakers and Magic

Photo by James Walsh
Upon finishing The Seventh Son, I laughed at finding a disclaimer in the back that claimed that all similarities to historical figures was purely coincidental. Uh-huh . . . But perhaps what is most interesting, is not just the one-to-one representation we could grant to the characters, but is instead the ways the world of The Seventh Son is different.

In addressing these differences, MR Collings says, "First, the Ohio territory represented is not the Ohio we know from history but an alternative-Earth Ohio;" (10). This automatically places the novel into a new genre. It is no longer historical fiction, and the characters are no longer bound to be anything other than vague shadows of their real counterparts. Collings continues, "The story may be less fantasy than science fiction, extrapolating to an Earth-analogue in which magic is a viable mode of knowing and acting. To understand this point alters the nature of the story" (10). By placing The Seventh Son in a new sphere of reality, this story opens itself up to a much larger audience. Though a Mormon audience can interpret the novel as an LDS allegory,  it can also double as simply good literature because "Card's meticulously re-created folk rhythms in speech, his carefully researched magical practices, and his curiously, off-beat references to historical characters . . . immediately set the story beyond the history we [LDS or not] know" (10).

This creates an interesting response in readers that highlights why differences in world and the characters of The Seventh Son are so important. When reading a fantasy/sci-fi novel, it is easy to swallow systems of magic as long as they are defined. We expect things to be fantastic, impossible, or simply beyond our understanding: it is a part of the genre. In The Seventh Son though, we have more experience-based orientation than many fantasy/sci-fi novels have in that we are reading of an Earth-analogue, so we do recognize historical tropes and trends, figures, and events such as the trek west, the French and Indian War, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. It's true that here Washington is beheaded and knacks and magic exist. But even so, the unexplained can be immediately accepted in this format in a way that the Joseph Smith story struggles to be when functioning as a viable occurrence in people's understanding of reality.

So why not create a version of young Emma as a torch named Peggy, or Measure as the loyal Hyrum? People will read it, enjoy it, and understand it. And regardless of whether magic and Unmakers function in reality, the reality of the struggle still function in The Seventh Son.

Collings, MR. "The Rational and Revelatory in the Science Fiction of Orson Scott Card." Sunstone: (May 1987). 7-11. Web. 19 Jan. 2015.


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  2. I loved that I found truth in this magical, yet earhtly realm as you described just as I have found truth in The Lord of the RIngs and in The Chronicles of Narnia. I enjoyed your perspective of recognizing differences rather than similarities as points of truth. It is interesting that settings and events we know to be mystical contain great amounts of truth and realism