Present Writers: Pamela Dean

This is the latest in a recurring series! For more about the series, please read the original post on Marta Randall, or subsequent posts on Dorothy Heydt, Barbara Hambly, Jane Yolen, Suzy McKee Charnas, Sherwood Smith, and Nisi Shawl. This particular post should also bear the caveat that Pamela Dean is a dear personal friend of mine–although my love of her books predates that friendship by a decade or so. (And we’ve been friends for…gosh, I need to go lie down now, that is a long time.)

I do love her books. Unusually, I can say that I love every single one of her books. My favorite has shifted over the years, with each book taking a turn. Right now I think it’s The Dubious Hills: the contained domestic nature of it, the acutely observed human relationships–including small children as full humans but not the same full humans as teenagers and adults–the way that the worldbuilding is folded into every line of the language. The first time doubt enters into the casual conversation, every single time I reread it, I get shivers at how deftly this is done. Pamela’s work is not often praised for its structure, but The Dubious Hills is structured marvelously start to finish.

It is also quietly inventive. The things Pamela thinks of are not full of bells and whistles. They are in some ways the opposite of good elevator pitch material–because they are incredibly easy to make sound less ingenious and imaginative than they are. I don’t know of another book that is more deep and more thoughtful about the powers and limitations of the protections offered by someone’s love than Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary. The coming of age story I know that is truest to my own personal coming of age is Tam Lin. And I end up pressing them into people’s hands: just try it, I whisper. Just give it a try. Because “it’s a ballad retelling” and “it’s about the devil’s science experiment with a teenage girl” don’t really cover it, not in the slightest.

The long wait for a new Pamela book is almost over, and I am so very excited, because I know some things about Going North, and I know it’s going to be amazing. And we are so very lucky that she is present and doing these things, and I can’t wait to see what next.

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