Maps In A Mirror. Orson Scott Card. (NY: Orb, 1990), 675 pages.
Orson Scott Card can say more in sixty words than most authors say in sixty pages.
I have previously mentioned that Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite authors. For Christmas I received two of his books from family members. The first book I read within a few days and have reviewed HERE. The second was this book, Maps In A Mirror.
Maps In A Mirror is, as subtitled, a compilation of Orson Scott Card’s short stories. We live in an era in which short stories are not in great demand by readers. I can count on one hand the number of people who asked me for a book of short stories during the ten years in which I managed bookstores and trained managers for bookstores. So, I am counter culture when I say I love short stories. I enjoy reading short stories at night in bed. I don’t have to worry about getting caught up in them and reading too far into the night because they are by definition “short.” I usually keep a volume of short stories on my bedside table.
So, given that Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite authors, and that I love short stories, and that Maps In A Mirror is a book of short stories by none other than Orson Scott Card, can you guess how well I liked this book?
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed Maps In A Mirror and heartily recommend it to you.
Maps In A Mirror includes forty-six of Card’s best short works. It does not include his Worthing stories as those were included in his The Worthing Saga. And, Maps In A Mirror does not include his Mormon sea stories as those were included in this collection The Folk of the Fringe. Other than that, this volume pretty much includes “every story that [Card] wasn’t actually ashamed of.” (page 539)
The forty-six stories included in this volume have been divided into five sections all of which are long enough that they could have been published as separate books had Card and the folk at Tom Doherty Associates chosen to do so.
The first section includes Card’s Tales of Dread. These are NOT horror stories. Card writes,
“Dread is the first and the strongest of the three kinds of fear. It is that tension, that waiting that comes when you know there is something to fear but you have not yet identified what it is. The fear that comes when you first realize that your spouse should have been home an hour ago; when you hear a strange sound in the baby’s bedroom; when you realize that a window you are sure you closed is now open, the curtains billowing, and you’re alone in the house. “
“Terror only comes when you see the thing you’re afraid of….”
“Horror is the weakest of all. After the fearful thing has happened, you see its remainder, its relics….”
“Obsessed with the desire to film the unthinkable, the makers of horror flicks now routinely show the unspeakable, in the process dehumanizing their audience by turning human suffering into pornographically escalating ‘entertainment’. This is bad enough, but to my regret, too many writers of the fiction of fear are doing the same thing. They failed to learn the real lesson of Stephen King’s success. It isn’t the icky stuff that makes King’s stories work. It’s how much he makes you care about his characters before the icky stuff ever happens. And his best books are the ones like The Dead Zone and The Stand in which not that much horror ever happens at all. Rather the stories are suffused with dread leading up to cathartic moments of terror and pain. Most important, the suffering that characters go through means something.
“That is the artistry of fear…”
“So I don’t write horror stories. True, bad things happen to my characters. Sometimes terrible things. But I don’t show it to you in living color. I don’t have to. I don’t want to. because, caught up in dread, you’ll imagine far worse things happening than I could ever think up to show you myself.” (pages 3-4)
The second section of the book includes Card’s Tales of Human Futures. These are his good ol’ Isaac Asimov style sci-fi works.
Each section of the book includes an introduction in which Card describes for his readers the works that follow. In the introduction to the second section, Tales of Human Futures, Card shares with his readers how it was that he went from being a playwright and editor to writing science fiction. Writers, and readers, will certainly be interested in this autobiographical sketch.
Section three of the book is the section dedicated to Fables and Fantasies. His stories aren’t exactly J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, they are more like a cross between Grimm’s Fairy Tales and The Twilight Zone.
Section four is dedicated to Tales of Death, Hope, and Holiness. I wish that Card would take from this section his story “Eye For Eye” and turn it into a book series. In this section Card’s worldview becomes more apparent but not intrusive.
Section five is a catch-all section for his short stories that did not fit into any of the previous divisions. This section is the least interesting of the five and includes some of the articles he wrote for Mormon magazines. Nevertheless, I encourage you to read it as it will inform your understanding of Card and his writings.
Each of the five sections includes an Afterword in which Card describes the circumstances surrounding and the process by which he wrote the stories. For many people the Afterwords will be as interesting as the stories themselves.
One caveat regarding my recommendation. Some of these stories involve themes inappropriate for young readers and use some pretty base language. I do not recommend this book for teenagers.
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