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Mailing Date:
27 July 2006

Locus Magazine
John C. Wright: The Moral Future
John Charles Wright grew up in a military family, traveling extensively, and attended St. Mary's College and then St. John's College in Annapolis, graduating with a major in philosophy, minor in mathematics. He attended law school at William and Mary college, but never practiced. He worked various odd jobs before becoming a reporter at St. Mary's Today, work he found spiritually but not financially rewarding. He served a stint as editor for a newspaper in Virginia, and currently works as a technical writer there.

Wright began publishing SF with story "Not Born a Man" in 1994. Never a prolific story writer, his occasional short work has appeared in
Asimov's, Absolute Magnitude, and anthologies. His first books were the far-future Golden Age trilogy, actually one novel split into three parts: Campbell Memorial Award finalist The Golden Age
Photo by Beth Gwinn

Fantastic and Speculative Fiction by John C. Wright
(2002), The Phoenix Exultant (2003), and The Golden Transcendence (2004). He turned to fantasy with his War of the Dreaming duology: The Last Guardian of Everness (2004) and Mists of Everness (2005). His Chaos Chronicles began with the Nebula-award nominated Orphans of Chaos (2005), and will continue with forthcoming volumes Fugitives of Chaos and Titans of Chaos. Wright has been chosen to write The Null-A Continuum, set in the world of A.E. van Vogt's classic The World of Null-A.

He married writer L. Jagi Lamplighter in 1989, and they have three children: Orville, Wilbur, and Justinian.
Excerpts from the interviews:

“Science fiction writers make up romances that take place in the future the same way ancient Greek poets made up romances that took place on islands beyond the Oecumene. I don't know what the future's going to be -- probably more depressing than we hope but not as bad as we fear. Our culture is pretty nice compared to history, and compared to other places on the earth now. It's not as good as it could be. I don't think technology's going to create an Eden for us, but I don't think it's going to create a Hell. Once it starts getting bad, the human race is diverse enough that some other group will start advancing if this culture starts to fail.

“I think the future of the human race will depend upon how logical the humans tend to be (I'm not saying they're logical now), and if they can arrange their philosophy so it makes sense with the way the universe actually operates. If they go on to put that philosophy into social, political and economic institutions that will make sense of the senseless world, they'll be in a much better position, but if they ignore morality they will bring a deserved doom upon themselves. Even back when I was an atheist, it was obvious to me that ethics is built into the structure of the universe. If a child is taught correctly, then he will be raised with a moral education that will train his passions to act in accordance with reason, in accordance with the way reality is, so his emotions and reality are harmonious.”


“There are two types of fantasy: occidental and oriental. The archetypal occidental fantasy is Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (and what he's copying from), in which there is a moral structure to the universe -- usually good vs. evil. Where the man of reason is the hero in science fiction, in this kind of fantasy the hero overcomes by his moral character. Frodo doesn't overcome Sauron by figuring out how the Ring works, as the Gray Lensman would have done it; he overcomes because of his perseverance. He has a faith that carries him through the hellish pits of Mordor to the point where Fate, which is kind to him, intervenes to destroy the evil that is oppressing the world. So his victory's a moral one.

“Oriental fantasies tend to take place in backgrounds where the morality is not built into the universe in the occidental way. There are usually djinns or demons or other macabre forms of magic and the universe is alive, but it's more malevolent; it doesn't care about you. These fantasies appeal to the reader primarily for their exotic flavor -- foreign lands, unknown horizons, golden deserts with minarets shining in the distance, like Robert E. Howard's Conan sword & sorcery fantasies.

“Science fiction tends to have a morally neutral background. In science fiction the universe a puzzle, a machine, and if you figure out the secret springs and mechanisms you can get your way, but if you can't the cold equations will kill you. So science fiction and fantasy, although the readership overlaps, do have a different take on how the universe works.”


“Here's who I steal from: A.E. van Vogt, Jack Vance, a little bit from Zelazny (Orphans of Chaos is my take on what he told, from the other side). Vance I admire immensely because he's the only person I liked as a kid that I can read as a grownup with undiminished pleasure. Much as I like the others, their writing seems to be a little childish and flat -- even the greats, Asimov, Heinlein, van Vogt, all seem like they're writing for teenagers, while Vance makes literary references and refers to things that teenagers are not going to get. (If you read my books expecting his level of skill, you are going to be sadly disappointed!) Some of my characters crack wise, but they don't have Zelazny's humor. It's dryer than mine, a little more irreverent.”


“I've spoken with Lydia van Vogt and I've signed the contract to write a sequel to the Null-A books, to be called Null-A Continuum. Talk about a childhood daydream come true! Worlds of Null-A was the first science fiction book I ever read, one of my favorites when I was a kid, a book that was influential to my thinking, and the one I wrote my college entrance exam essay on. And in all modesty, I think I can write a van Vogt book. I think I have the skills and the talent to capture his particular flavor of madness.”


“My plan is to write science fiction books and fantasy books alternately, because I would prefer not to be pigeonholed. I have something I've been working on for ten years that is a completely original, absolutely brand-new notion that has never been used in science fiction before -- Earth invaded by aliens! I keep running into difficulties and I put it aside, then go back to it. The goal I'm setting myself is to portray the six alien races as being as different from each other as they are from us, and make them not seem like human beings in rubber suits. The main character is going to be someone who discovers a secret mathematical mechanism that allows her to translate different groups of symbols so that she can try to work her way subtly through the hierarchy of the aliens to find out who's in charge, because she's convinced that there's only one immortal running things.”

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