The SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS column on Mondays and Wednesdays is a place at Shannon Muir’s author website showcasing books from a variety of fiction genres, with an emphasis on interviews and guest posts from other authors. One thing Shannon firmly believes in for readers not only to learn about new books available, but about those who craft the tales behind them. As its name implies, SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column features writers from all genres of fiction who want their potential audience to get to know them, and their works, better.
Today, we look at MALL.
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* Dystopian *
Author: Pattie Palmer-Baker
Publisher: Del Sol Press
employed with enough income to consume and to experience a myriad of
pleasures including drugs, gambling, theater, holographic adventures. No
poverty and little or no crime. A lot of sex.But what about the Mall Code? And what happens when Sara, a 21st
century woman, accidentally finds her way into this alien yet familiar
world? Nona, a MALL mental health practitioner treats Sara upon her
arrival and goes against the Code to help her acclimate. Sara seems to
be just what she needs, an antidote to Nona’s secret and growing
boredom.At first Sara desperately wants to get home, and, as she seeks a way
out as well as answers about her new reality, Nona begins to see MALL in
a new light. Is abundant gratification enough?Things aren’t all beauty and pleasure. Sara experiences dancing in a
dangerous orgiastic dance club on a lower level. She attends a gambling
session where people bet on living more years when their “number’s up”
and a “passing ceremony,” where Mallites are supposedly resurrected into a new life.
Junkers, outsiders lurking on the fringes of MALL, have been fighting
Mall Management’s control by creating increasingly dangerous
disturbances. For years they have struggled to discover an exit, based
on rumors of those who made it Outside and were never heard from again.
Through them Sara and Nona meet someone who might help them escape. They
both must make the choice that will change their lives forever.
Who will risk leaving and who will decide to stay?
MALL by Pattie Palmer-Baker was recently published by Del Sol Press and winner of the Del Sol Press Most Promising Book, 2017.
What a suspenseful journey Mall was—a real “page-turner”-
imaginative with firm command of psychological expression and dialogue!
Pattie Palmer-Baker captures some of the sexual contradictions,
insecurities, and darker motivations of her female characters, and the
complex relationships between women. The “surface” allusions to sex and
violence throughout the story line work well with the superficial world
she describes. Sex all the time—and yet, really, not much explicit
writing about actual sexual encounters—the same for violence. This
tension of content and form works well for me. What gives pleasure? What
gives pain? The many hallways and mirrored rooms give the setting a
creepy fun-house effect and increase the sense of a closed world and
claustrophobic doom. Her descriptions of the Mallites’ physical
appearances and their individual choice of costume in this strange place
is creative—a breath of lightness in this frank examination of our
quandary about the meaning of freedom in an existential existence. What is real? I was “on the run” with Sara for the entire read! And what a turn at the end!
— Cathy Cain, Portland poet and artist
ORDER YOUR COPY AT AMAZON
clear, Natalie: are you saying that you’re having sex with this man more often
than the Code dictates unless pair-bonded?” Nona asked, fidgeting slightly.
“Sometimes. The sex is good, but that’s not why I seek out his company. I can’t
find the words to …”
Was Natalie trying to say the sex was not good enough to pair-bond? If that
were the case, any Mental Health Practitioner would know how to remedy it. If
Natalie’s actions weren’t against Mall’s Code, Nona would interrupt and tell
her. Surprisingly, this restriction pressed on her in an unfamiliar manner, a
physical pressure in the area just above her stomach, like the sting she
sometimes felt when she adminned a dart. But relief would have to wait.
almost a whisper. “You won’t tell, will you? That we have sex secretly? Or that
we meet to talk in one of our quarters?”
anything you say in here is protected by client/patient confidentiality. May I
ask why you meet in your rooms when that also is expressly forbidden?”
anything I say to you?”
even if I wanted to, Mental Health Practitioners cannot.”
well, to talk about what he believes is wrong with Mall.” She paused to search
Nona’s face. “Okay, I’ll tell you the part that you can never tell: he’s a
silence. Never before had any of her clients divulged such a shocking fact.
Before she could speak, as suddenly as it had been happening so often in the
last few weeks, the lights went out. “I do apologize. You probably have also
experienced this annoying event too many times. Usually the lights go…” Light
flooded the room at that moment. “See, no harm done, and I will add two extra
minutes to your session.” Nona inched up in her chair to look more closely at
Natalie. “I confess that I am taken aback by your admission that you’ve been
meeting with a Junker. Of course, I will not reveal this, but I can’t
understand why. We all know that Junkers are causing the disturbances occurring
throughout Mall. How do you feel about pursuing this strange relationship with
someone who belongs to this group?”
not so much that … Oh I don’t know what to do!” She wrung her hands and
lowered her head.
wanted to revitalize all kinds of things, from virtual reality rock climbing to
interactive story creation and, most often, sexual experiences. Except for
Natalie, the complaint was the same for everyone: the experience lacked
novelty, and the client wanted to rekindle the thrill. And strange, wasn’t it,
that the boredom Nona felt when she listened to the repetitive and stale
grievances was for her a symptom of the same problem? The only subject she did
find interesting was clients’ fear of death, but most refused to discuss it in
much detail. All she had to go on was body language—those subtle, involuntary
physiological effects revealing intense discomfort. If only she could persuade
them to go into detail, but that, too, would be against the Code. Never
insist that someone talk about a subject that would make the speaker
uncomfortable, and that even included Mental Health Practitioners. She
certainly did not feel bored with Natalie. Excited and, yes, a little scared.
Not only did Natalie know a Junker, she had a relationship with him. What
should she do? She wished she could discuss with her colleague and former
startling her out of her train of thoughts. Natalie gasped, rising from her
chair. “God of Reincarnation, am I in trouble?” She fell back into her chair
when the door slid open and a black-and-silver uniformed man strode in.
here?” Nona asked, stepping back. She seldom encountered a Finance Policeman.
a Mall Management meeting,” he announced in a deep, authoritarian voice.
confused—why me? Mental Health Practitioners never attend those meetings.”
subject of their meetings. Even if I did know, I would not divulge it.”
reassure him. “I have never been to Level 100, so please, can you tell me when
and where to go?”
accompany you at the appointed time.” He spun around and out the door.
Reincarnation, I thought somehow you had alerted the Finance Police about my
cannot. Please continue.”
about.” Natalie looked over at the door. “I’m afraid for my friend …”
friend. Do you have a heart- friend contract with him?”
talk about this anymore.”
anything else to discuss? Our meeting is drawing to a close.”
letting Stan know because I earned the extra credit …”
meeting she was summoned to? Was it about the disturbances? Just the other day
her office went dark twice, both times during sessions, and one of the
blackouts lasted a half hour. The next words out of Natalie’s mouth snagged her
red-mailed me into keeping silent about her creative theft in trade for her not
revealing that Code violation. To make it worse, she overheard him tell me
before entering my room the date for the Junker’s next meeting. He wanted me to
help her? “I, as your Mental Health Practitioner, would not want you to take
such a risk. If you are experiencing curiosity, I can prescribe something that
will eliminate that undesirable feeling—have you heard of the new pharm,
Freedomfrum?” Before she could stop herself, Nona asked, “Did your friend tell
you where the meeting would be?”
don’t need it. It’s not exactly curiosity. I just can’t explain it. I do have
an idea where they’ll meet: somewhere on one of the lower Levels.” She raised
her head abruptly. “Why do you want to know?”
be a proper Mallite and report this meeting? No, that wasn’t it. She couldn’t,
anyway. Did she want to meet a Junker? Was that what she really wanted? No one
knew who they were or where they met. What was this unusual tenseness she was
feeling? Strangely, it was not unpleasant. The chance to talk with a Junker
excited her—that was it—a feeling she had not experienced for a very long time.
a loud voice announcing, “Mall Emergency! You are the MHP on call. Guards will
contact you in thirty seconds.” Nona stood abruptly and said, “Please excuse
me, Natalie; it would be best if you left at once. We can schedule another
immediately,” Natalie said, voice shaking. She scurried to the opening door and
What initially got you interested in writing?
I am a calligrapher and paste paper artist. (Paste paper is an ancient decorated paper technique wherein the artist paints color mixed with artist-made paste on wet paper. Before the paint/paste dries, the artist uses texture-making tools to form designs on the surface.) I wanted to write poems in calligraphic form to use in my collages of paste paper. To that end I took classes and workshops. Writing prose was not on my agenda; however, I wanted to explore the idea of an alternative world, a giant enclosed Mall. I could not do that in my head; I had to write about it.
How did you decide to make the move into being a published author?
I wrote off and on (mostly off) for around twenty years. About four or five years ago, I finally completed a draft and began to revise. I let several friends read one of the revisions, and they encouraged me to try for publication. I submitted to several small presses and entered a few contests. I was shocked when I won the Del Sol Press 2017 prize for the most promising first novel.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
Fiction and poetry express the universal. When they read my work, I want them to take away what is often unexpressed in daily life.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
The revision process.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
The first draft. I find it almost excruciatingly difficult to translate my ideas into those first words on paper.
What advice would you give to people want to enter the field?
Write because a story demands to be told.
What ways can readers connect with you?
Her artwork has been exhibited in galleries throughout the Pacific
Northwest. Locally and nationally she has won numerous awards for her
art and poetry.An accomplished poet, Pattie had been nominated for the Pushcart
Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in many journals including Calyx,
Voicecatcher, Military Experience the Arts, Minerva Rising and Phantom
Drift. In 2017 she earned first prize in the Write to Publish contest,
and in 2019 she won first, second, and the Bivona prize in the Ageless
Poetry contest. She has served as the poetry co-editor for VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions.Del Sol Press awarded MALL first prize for the most promising first novel in 2017.Pattie lives in Portland, Oregon with her beloved husband and rescued dachshund.Her website is www.pattiepalmerbaker.com/.
You can follow her at Facebook at https://tinyurl.com/yykrz36e.