A typical e-mail is this one, from Meghan:
I have one question for you: What kind of dog did they get? Did they get it? If not, I’ll be very grumpy.
While Jonn assumes the worst:
I notice Kate never got her puppy, you heartless sod.
For those of you who haven’t read the book, what the hell is wrong with you? No, sorry, I mean: for those of you who haven’t read the book, there’s a little throwaway scene where Jennifer promises to buy her daughter Kate a puppy. Then she gets distracted by having to save the world, as you do. There is, I think, every indication that Kate will get her puppy, but you never actually see it happen.
This is mainly because having my characters wander through a pet store hand-in-hand and fall in love with a brown-eyed Beagle named Floppy didn’t strike me as the greatest way to finish a fairly brutal thriller about corporatization. Even a line like, “Now let’s go get that puppy,” threatened to engage my gag reflex. I think most people will be with me on this one. But still, I have to admit: I have a dangling puppy reference.
Closure is very important. As Jerry Seinfeld said: “If I want a long boring story with no point to it, I have my life.” Novels have to end, and when they do they’re meant to wrap up all their loose story threads. I realize this; in fact, the main reason Miranda Hewlett-Packard disappeared between drafts three and four was that I couldn’t tie her story thread neatly enough to the others. So don’t tell me I’m not prepared to go the hard yards for closure. It’s just… well, I never thought so many people would care so much about that puppy.
I wonder if there’s some group I could join. “Hi, my name is Max and I have a dangling puppy reference.” (“Hi, Max.”) You know, that feels good. The first step is admitting you have a problem.