OSC Answers Questions
After reading the Ender Saga, I found a copy of Enchantment in a used book store,
I loved it and couldn't put it down'What I found most intriguing was the how you
intertwined history, legend/fairy tales, and magic.
I wrote that to ask you this: Where did you get the idea for the premise of
Enchantment and for the Alvin Maker Series?
The folk magic/alternate history of the Alvin Maker series is really great, but how
did you come up with torches, sparks, doodlebugs, makers and other knacks,and
what inspired the alternate American History? (I have a bachelor's in history and I
find the alternate history not only excellent, but also truly thought provoking.)
-- Submitted Anonymously
OSC REPLIES: - February 18, 2004
Enchantment originated as an idea for a movie - by someone else. Peter Johnson,
my partner in my film company (once called Fresco Pictures, now called
Taleswapper), brought the rights to this idea to the company, and I set out to adapt
it into a novel in order to set up adaptation into a movie.
The idea consisted of little more than this: An American graduate student
discovers Sleeping Beauty in contemporary Russia and wakes her up.
I took it from there, finding reasons why this particular American student would
be the one to discover her, and then researching Russian history and folklore and
Jewish folklore in order to find a story that would be true to both.
The Alvin Maker series began when I was reading Faerie Queene by Spenser in
grad school in Utah'The idea of writing a vernacular epic poem appealed to me,
and allegory was also fun, so I wrote the beginning of an epic and called it
"Prentice Alvin and the No-Good Plow." It won a contest in Utah - how many
entries do you think there were in the long-poem category? - but there was
nowhere else to take it in verse form.
So I re-envisioned it as a fantasy trilogy and submitted it to several publishers'It
was eventually purchased by TOR (and, in fact, that purchase was what enabled
me to quit my job as an editor at Compute! Magazine in Greensboro and return to
full-time writing back in 1983).
In the process of turning the poem into a long fantasy, my original plot skeleton
still served: That is, I took key elements of the storyline from the life of Joseph
Smith, allegorized and literalized. But the books became far, far more than that -
they became an alternate history of America, in which I have had the freedom to
explore important issues and events and cultural conflicts and moral quandaries in
America's past (with ramifications for America today).
So, while those familiar with the life of Joseph Smith will often recognize
elements from his biography in some key events in the books, the series has long
since grown far beyond those boundaries.
Mostly, though, I'm having enormous fun writing these books, and I hope my
readers are enjoying this romp through American history as much as I am.
As for the folklore in the Alvin series, I hired (at shamefully low wages) a
graduate student in folklore who pointed me to a couple of ideas that gave me a
feel for the magical system that early Americans thought they lived in. I
extrapolated from there, inventing the rest'The knacks were entirely my idea - I
didn't find out about Piers Anthony's Xanth books, with a similar magical premise,
until after I had already sold the Alvin series to TOR'And as I got into writing the
books, I realized that the folk magic of the white people couldn't be the ONLY
magic in this world - American Indians and Africans would have their own'So,
while the roots of the magic were in research, I freely invented what I needed for
the stories I had to tell.