from science fiction by
Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card

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Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus


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indigenous Americans (fiction)

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Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus

Copyright © 1996 by Orson Scott Card

The Governor

“I’ve become an old man in your service, and as of tomorrow night, I intend to resign and live on whatever pension you see fit to provide me with.” Then he crossed himself. “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

Having finished this most impious and offensive prayer, Columbus could not sleep until at last, no less angry than before, he flung himself out of bed and knelt again.

“Nevertheless thy will not mine be done!” he said furiously. Then he climbed back into bed and promptly fell asleep.




“If we’re going to be gods,” said Tagiri, “then I think we have a duty to come up with better solutions than the people who pray to us.”

It is our nature, she thought, that when we intend to enjoy being cruel, we must transform our victim into either a beast or a god. The Spanish sailors made the Indies into animals in their minds; all that the Indies proved, with their bitter vengeance, was that they were capable of the identical transformation.
What Would Have Been

“I will love no one but you,” he said.

“So you say now,” she said. “But I release you from that promise and I forgive you already for the fact that you will love someone, and you will marry, and if we ever meet there, we will be friends and be glad to see each other and we will not regret for one moment that we did not act foolishly now.”

Dark Futures

The funny thing—or, when he was in another mood, the sad thing—was that no one ever caught on to his method. When he invariably brought in scholarship that would support the cause of Christ and the monarchs of Spain, everyone assumed that this meant that the course the monarchs were pursuing was the right one, not that Talavera had been clever about manipulating the texts. It was as if they did not realize the texts could be manipulated.

And yet they all manipulated and interpreted and transformed the ancient writings [...] But none of them seemed to know that this was what they were doing. They thought they were discovering truth.



Not that the Jews were dangerous by intent—Talavera had no sympathy with Torquemada’s fanatical belief in the evil plots of the Jews. No, the Jews had to be expelled because as long as the weaker Christians could look around them and see unbelievers prospering, see them marrying and having children and living normal and decent lives, they would not be firm in their faith that only in Christ is there happiness. The Jews had to go, just as the Moors had to go.

Only since she poisoned my mind with her strange interpretation of Christianity did I start seeing the way the Indians quietly resist being treated like slaves. I would have thought of them the way Pinzón does, as worthless, lazy savages. But now I see that they are quiet, gentle, unwilling to provoke a quarrel. They endure a beating quietly—but then don’t return to be beaten again. Except that even some who have been beaten still return to help, of their own free will, avoiding the cruelest of the Spaniards but still helping the others as much as they can. Isn’t this what Christ meant when he said to turn the other cheek? If a man compels you to walk a mile with him, then walk the second mile by your own choice—wasn’t that Christianity? So who were the Christians? The baptized Spaniards, or the unbaptized Indians?

She has turned the world upside down. These Indians know nothing of Jesus, and yet they live by the Savior’s word, while the Spanish, who have fought for centuries in the name of Christ, have become a bloodthirsty, brutal people.

“I don’t make people do things against their will,” said Diko.

Putukam smiled. “No, Sees-in-the-Dark. You just refuse to leave them alone until they change their minds. Of their own free will.”


Free will


There is no good thing that does not cost a dear price. That is what Cristoforo learned by looking back upon his life. Happiness is not a life without pain, but rather a life in which the pain is traded for a worthy price.

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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