OSC Answers Questions
I loved "Enchantment" and enjoyed the "Homecoming" saga very much.
It seemed that both had tremendous amounts of Russian culture. I was wondering
if something made your books take on these great Russian flavors. Do you have a
Russian Heritage, or do you just know a lot of cool stuff about the culture of
Russia that you put in your books?
-- Submitted Anonymously
OSC REPLIES: - April 5, 2000
With Homecoming, I started writing it not long after I started "studying"
conversational Russian by listening to language tapes on my way to and from
teaching at Appalachian State University (a two-hour drive from my home).
While that project ended when a tape jammed and so I couldn't go on <wince>, I
still had the dictionaries and a love of the sound of Russian -- the way it feels in
my mouth to speak it. When I needed names for Homecoming and a linguistic
system to lend verisimilitude, I simply opened the Russian dictionary and did my
own perverse transliterations. I have been told that at least one of my names is a
word of unspeakable obscenity in Russian, but what did I know? I even engaged
in some word coinages. I play language games like that (did the same thing with
Samoan, for instance, in Children of the Mind) but by no means was I a serious
student of Russian language, literature, or culture.
Enchantment has a Russian setting because my film company acquired the
rights to a situation -- Sleeping Beauty wakes up in contemporary Russia -- and I
found that a fruitful setting in which to develop a story. The accuracy of the
details about contemporary Ukraine and Russian language in that book, however,
are only partly the result of my research (into Russian and Jewish folklore) and
almost entirely the result of the help of Krista Maxwell, whom I met online as she
was asking me about a Russian word I coined in Homecoming. As a graduate
student in Russian she knew the things I needed to know, and so she vetted my
manuscript making excellent suggestions that greatly enhanced the story and the
experience of reading it.
And Douglas Hofstedter's book, Le Ton Beau de Marot, contains repeated
examples of translations of Pushkin, which led me to read the best of the
translations of Eugene Onegin, which also influenced some of my work. Yet
another link to Russian ...
Someday I hope to visit Russia, and I watch anxiously as the Russian people
and government make decisions that will shape the course of the future. There is
no more important nation on Earth right now than Russia, and that's why I was so
devastated that our illegal and stupid bombing of Serbia in order to bail out the
worst president in American history made many Russians who once might have
been favorably disposed toward the U.S. into enemies. The Russian people are
emerging from a long winter, and I hope for greatness as they bloom into a