Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fan Mail

Every writer gets mail from readers, especially if, like me, it's easy to send an email directly from my website without having an email address. Most of the email I get is courteous, and some is even enthusiastic (naturally, those are my favorites). Some, however, give one pause. In the last week or so, I have received:
  • an email to tell me that my novella "Act One," currently nominated for the Locus, Nebula, and Hugo awards, is not good enough "to bother finishing" because of this one sentence, which "bounced me out of the story:" "The FGFR3 gene stops bones from growing. It was turned on in babies with dwarfism; a corrective genemod retrovirus should be able to turn the gene off in the little mess of cells that was Ethan." The reader did not tell me what is wrong with this sentence, so I don't know.
  • an email completely in Spanish, or possibly Portuguese, which I cannot read.
  • an email wanting to know why there are not more people of color in one of my novels.
  • persistent email from someone named "Ned," who tells me I am lovable and adorable. Ned and I have never met. He has no idea if I am adorable or a cranky shrew.

Answering these emails is difficult to impossible. I do my best, particularly since this week-or-so haul is by no means the most puzzling or negative I have received. But -- why?


bluesman miike Lindner said...

Answer like this, Nancy:

"Thanks for your feedback. I'd sure dig to read some of =your= stories! Where can I find them?


the lovable and adorable Nancy Kress"

qiihoskeh said...

1. I've never understood what people mean by that "bounced out of the story" thing. And can't they just bounce back in?
3. You could explain that because you live in places like Rochester and Seattle, you don't know what POC actually look like :k
2. That also explains why you can't tell Spanish from Portuguese :t
4. If "Ned" sees your answer to this comment, he'll know how cranky you can be! :p

Neal Holtschulte said...

Just remember how much the rest of us would love to get fan mail then let it slide. Frankly, I wouldn't bother responding to people who have nothing better to do than criticize individual lines in your (already published) story.

Re: "bounced out". I've always understood it to mean that the reader has paused his reading of the story to ponder the sense or intention of a word or passage. It's not always a bad thing. Evocative passages, humor, or exquisite word choice often "bounce me out" to make me think about them before bouncing back in.

Lou said...

Well, *I'VE* met you and I have to agree with Ned. You *ARE* lovable and adorable.

The Portuguese / Spanish one can be translated if you use Google's Babelfish. Simply copy and paste, then choose from the drop-down list of the "To" and "From" languages.

I predict that the writer either feels the same way that Ned does or is interested in your assistance in moving monies out of Nigeria.

Finally, there's nothing wrong with the sentence...unless the writer who complained about it is named Ethan. Then, well, yeah...I gotta side with him. You called him a mess of cells. Which, now that I think about it, is TECHNICALLY accurate but not necessarily flattering.

Your "mess o' cells" buddy,


Nancy Kress said...

That was a typo. The story actually says "mass of cells"!

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

I looked up FGFR3 at the site below, and I'm guessing that the objection is to the gene being turned off. It looks like the gene being overly active is what causes the problem with Ethan. However it looks like normal gene activity is required for normal growth. If the gene is completely turned off, you get other problems.


teflaime said...

But -- why

Because Anonymity is the enemy of careful thought? People are basically anonymous on the web...they don't have to enter their real name anywhere (though, a skilled computer person can figure out who someone is by following their aliases, usually) so that gives them no pause in being rude. At least, that's my guess.