“I have to mention that there is a great deal of infinite sadness on the part of the main character, Nick, in Bald New World, who himself feels powerless to help anyone much less himself and feels caught up by circumstance, much like John the Savage in Brave New World. I have a great deal of respect for Huxley and his classic tale. I see elements of its influence in much science fiction, although the story left me profoundly disturbed. I love sci fi and I read a lot of it. Some of it leaves incredible impressions on me: A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake, both by Margaret Atwood, and Stephenson’s Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, most recently Hugh Howey’s Silo series and Dust. The question remains: will Bald New World join them or will I work hard to forget it? I am not sure yet. Needless to say, there should be something more than faint praise for the novel, and I have to applaud the ending. It was perfect.”
I loved this review by Amy Willeford on Goodreads. What struck me the most were the questions it posed. There are some spoilers in this post so forgive me if I meander a bit. One of the biggest changes I made in the editing process was cutting about 10k words. While there were several areas I made big cuts, the characters that lost the most “screen time” were the two female heroes, Rebecca and Beauvoir. This was mainly because I wanted to stay true to the idea that Nick was still haunted by the memory of his ex-wife, so much to the point that he wasn’t even able to see other women except in relation to the past. This was also part of the bigger allegory of the failed American dream (Linda Yu, whose name pays tribute to the Chinese Lin Daiyu from Hong Lou Meng). I kept on vacillating between having more about those two, and not wanting it to overtake his past.
But the part of the review that really affected me and made me re-read it several times yesterday was the question it posed. I know it was meant on a more personal level, but just the comparison to the literary greats like Canticle for Leibowitz, Atwood’s books, the Silo series, Stephenson’s work, and Brave New World just floored me. In my head, there is no comparison. Those are classics and greats that should be remembered. Mine is just a personal “tale of a world of baldies” as I like to say. But to be even mentioned with those classics in multiple reviews is mind-boggling for me. I grew up reading those books (AP English actually, ha ha) and they inspired me to imagine the world from a completely different perspective. Even the possibility of adding to the mythos of our culture is tremendously exciting and an honor. Another point Amy made that I appreciated was her stating:
“The book itself doesn’t seem to fit a dystopian struggle because there has not been an attempt to create a utopia prior to a fall, thus I would classify it as post-apocalyptic.”
I don’t mind the dystopian label, especially if it makes it easier to categorize, but at the same time, my hope wasn’t to create a dystopia, but more to imagine what if the trends of current society accelerated into this satirized nightmare, abetted by sudden baldness? My desire wasn’t so much to make fun of society, as it is, similar to 1984, to warn against our going down that path. I don’t want a society where we all have to wear battle armor just to go outside and not have to be afraid of getting shot.
Big big thanks to Amy for this wonderful review that had me thinking about my book and its place in the sci-fi canons of the world! (and thanks to my friend Dennis for this photo of him reading BNW at the beach!)