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Saturday, July 16, 2011

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I thought about getting this for SPawn and you reminded me instead of THe Stand and I was just a tad older than he is now when I fell in love with Stephen King an his short stories. Breathing Lessons is still one of my favorite short stories of all time.

I think I will dig out my doggeared copy of The STand and put it in his room and wait and see if he reads it.
xx

Hi, Pink Me. I know, I know... I'm breaking the rules by commenting on a review of one of my books, but I think your take here is an important one, and your review is thorough and worth discussing. I don't intend to change your opinion here, in any way. My novel frustrated you. But I thought it might help to mention my intentions and background -- in case you run into some readers who might have a different take. I don't come from a sci-fi background. In fact, I don't consider my work sci-fi. I know that it falls under the definition and exists in the tradition, but I came to this novel by way of magical realism -- your Marquez, Calvino, even Aimee Bender. These characters first existed in literary short stories. (My novels for adults under my own name are pretty much straight-up literary. It's what I've studied and what I teach.)While writing the novel and talking about it with my father and husband (and daughter), I would say that once you have a character with live birds embedded in his back, you've moved away from sci-fi and exist in the otherworldly world of magical realism -- think "The Very Old May with Enormous Wings". From there, science and revisionist history become subservient to image and language. The true sci-fi writer wouldn't allow this, I don't think. Would they? I know Atwood insists on the term speculative fiction. I don't know if I've earned a right to be insistent on anything. But, as you've noted, I haven't picked up the true burdens of sci-fi. I have picked up other burdens instead. Danielle Trussoni's full blurb of PURE mentions Manga and Alice in Wonderland. So many times, my family and I talked about the back pocket. How do we get readers to get just enough science that they can put realism in their back pocket and come along for the journey across this wild (and hopefully wildly visual) terrain? Was that fair? You'd say no and that, too, is fair. I hope this helps to reframe the book in some way. I have much more to say about these genres, as well as pigeon-holing in the publishing industry, and moving among genres -- the blurring of all of those lines and the risks inherent in those decisions. (I just saw the Alexander McQueen exhibit in the Met -- my brain went wild. That is some stunning terrain that will, undoubtedly, influence the next two novels.) There were things I wanted to say about war, about the atomic bomb, about grief and loss, hope and resilience. That was where I hoped to contribute and I hope, in some small measure, that I have. (I write all of this with deep respect for your take and appreciation that you took the time to read PURE and review it with such precision. And I'm glad I found your site -- hope to follow your work here.)

Sincerely,
Julianna Baggott

Hi Julianna,

Thank you for your amiable and thoughtful response. I always feel a bit frail when I post a less-than-100% positive review on Pink Me, without a publication or an editor to cower behind (I also review for SLJ and VOYA). It is a real boost to get a wonderful response like this from such a talented author.

I get the magic realism in PURE, I do. I was reluctant to use the phrase in my review, but in fact, I think a lot of sci-fi has elements of magic realism in it. Maybe we need a new term - magic speculative? Magic speculative...ism? Ew, that's awful. Anyway. The sci-fi novel of ideas, including some of the novels I mention in my review, is particularly prone to presenting a world with a bunch of strange givens and requiring the reader to turn a blind eye to how and why those givens came about.

We may discover the rules by which these phenomena are applied (i.e. which people are turned to zombies by the comet dust), but we never get a nitty-gritty explanation of why? exactly? does the comet make people zombies?

If anything, I think PURE errs on the side of too much science. I love the images of the fused mothers and children, I think the metaphor of the military man with his childhood literally watching over his shoulder is wonderful. If I were to read PURE again I think I'd try very hard to see the fairy tale and ignore the sci-fi. The amorphous-distance thing works in the magic-forest landscape too.

It's possible that some of the initial hard edges, especially of life inside the Dome, which more resembles contemporary reality, tricked me into reading PURE as a more technical sci-fi book than it is.

You've given me a lot to think about, Julianna, thank you. I'll bet you are a fantastic professor!

Congratulations on the success of PURE - I've seen the very enthusiastic response on Goodreads and elsewhere, one reason I overcame my reluctance to post a dissenting view. My voice in the wilderness will do the book no harm!

many thanks,
:paula

Hey, thanks for YOUR response to mine. And this is actually a really helpful dialogue especially as the book has not yet gone to print and we have the time to discuss how to situate the novel editorially and marketing-wise -- which blurbs to use, the language reserved for the description -- to frame the experience for the reader, to help set expectations. For example the part of the Trussoni quote that I reference isn't the part that we were intending to use, but maybe we should. So, you've given me a lot to think about too!
I hope our paths keep crossing!
All my best,
jb

I just found your blog on Ask Jeeves, a really good read.

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