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QUESTION:

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 Russian spring....

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