I’m so honored to have Pamela Sargent on the blog today! Pamela is the author of over 15 novels and many short stories. Her classic YA sci-fi novel Earthseed, was just reissued and is now in the hands of a whole new generation of readers (which is pretty darn cool). Pamela was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please welcome her to the blog!
There’s also a copy of Earthseed up for grab, so be sure to check out the giveaway details at the bottom of the post!
Pamela, your classic YA sci-fi novel, Earthseed, was just reissued and is gorgeous! Why do you think it’s been such an endearing novel for so many years?
I’d like to think it’s because it’s a strong, involving story that appeals to readers of all ages, but some of it’s probably luck. I know there are readers who have loved Earthseed ever since it was first published in the 1980s, and it’s my good fortune that one of those readers was Susan Chang, an editor at Tor who remembered Earthseed, brought it back into print, and wanted to find out what happened next. Another was Adam Goodman, now the president of Paramount Pictures, who optioned the novel for the movies. But there are so many fine books that don’t get a chance to reach all of the readers who might appreciate them, so, yes, I was lucky. And I’ve had good luck with my book covers, as you saw.
How does it feel to be bringing Earthseed to a whole new generation of young (and older) readers?
Terrific. As I said, I am lucky.
You’re the author of more than 15 novels and numerous short stories. What are some of your favorite authors or novels?
There are so many, and so many writers I return to again and again, that I hate to single out only a few. I much admire Herman Melville, which is appropriate since I live in Albany, New York, his former home town; a novel like Moby-Dick is so grand in scope and so operatic that one can only be awestruck after reading it. Jane Austen is a perennial for me. I’ve probably read nearly everything Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ursula K. Le Guin have written, but whether any of their influence shows in my work, I can’t say. I’ve been a fan of historical novels since childhood, and two of my favorite historical novelists who are writing now are Cecelia Holland and Pauline Gedge. They’re very different writers stylistically – Gedge’s prose is lush and ripe, while Holland’s is spare and elegant, but they both have a gift for depicting past times and places.
If someone were starting to read sci-fi for the first time, where would you suggest they start (aside from Earthseed, of course!)?
That really depends on the reader and what kinds of fiction he or she has been reading. There are so many different kinds, so many subgenres, of science fiction and fantasy that if somebody picks the wrong novel or story for that person, she may never pick up a science fiction book again. When somebody asks me that question, I usually try to find out what kinds of books that person already likes. For instance, someone who likes mysteries or suspense might appreciate Kate Wilhelm’s work; a history buff might enjoy Harry Turtledove’s or Kim Stanley Robinson’s alternative histories. A younger reader who’s concerned about the world and doesn’t want escapist fiction would probably respond to Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, a young adult novel that came out just a couple of years ago. I don’t think anyone could go wrong reading H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine. A lot of people obviously are fans of Philip K. Dick these days, which I think is cool, because he wasn’t as widely popular back when I was reading him in the 1960s. Then again, we’re all living in Dick’s world now, which means he’s probably accessible to a lot more readers.
If you could read one novel again for the very first time, which one would it be?
There are far too many to list – also too many that I’ve been meaning to read for ages and hope to get to before I finally kick off.
What are you reading right now?
In nonfiction, physicist Lisa Randall’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, which among other things has some fascinating details about the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. I recently finished Christopher Priest’s new novel, The Islanders, and Michael Bishop’s splendid 1994 baseball novel, Brittle Innings. Now I’m in the middle of China Miéville’s Embassytown, and the next on my “to-read” list is Kathleen Ann Goonan’s This Shared Dream, a sequel to her very fine novel In War Times.
If you could sit down and have a long conversation with anyone (literary or otherwise), who would it be?
Oh, a conversation with Mark Twain would be an experience, although it would probably be very one-sided. I’d only have to listen!
What are your thoughts on the future of space exploration?
Years ago, I never anticipated living to a time when space exploration – human beings going into space – would be seen as part of our historical past and not our envisioned future. I can’t believe that our species will give up this dream entirely, and one hopeful sign is a conference NASA and DARPA held in September of 2011, the “100 Year Starship Symposium,” where a number of people in various disciplines – scientists, engineers, science fiction writers – presented papers and discussed ways to interest the public, private enterprise, and governmental groups in space exploration, to inspire people to new efforts. As my life partner, George Zebrowski, also a science fiction writer, puts it, not going into space would condemn our species to eventual extinction. Sooner or later, if we’re limited to Earth’s surface only, something will wipe us out.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us?
Only that I wish I could be more optimistic than I am about our future. I’d like to believe that some of the better futures some of my fellow writers have imagined have a good chance of coming to pass. A part of me must believe that deep down, or I wouldn’t keep on writing.
Keep up with Pamela: Website
The classic YA science fiction adventure by Nebula and Locus Award–winning author Pamela Sargent
The ship hurtles through space. Deep within its core, it carries the seed of humankind. Launched by the people of a dying Earth over a century ago, its mission is to find a habitable world for the children—fifteen-year-old Zoheret and her shipmates—whom it has created from its genetic banks.
To Zoheret and her shipmates, Ship has been mother, father, and loving teacher, preparing them for their biggest challenge: to survive on their own, on an uninhabited planet, without Ship’s protection. Now that day is almost upon them…but are they ready to leave Ship? Ship devises a test. And suddenly, instincts that have been latent for over a hundred years take over. Zoheret watches as friends become strangers—and enemies. Can Zoheret and her companions overcome the biggest obstacle to the survival of the human race—themselves?
Pamela Sargent is an American, feminist, science fiction author, and editor. She has an MA in classical philosophy and has won a Nebula Award. She wrote a series concerning the terraforming of Venus that is sometimes compared to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, but predates it. She also edited various anthologies to celebrate the contributions of women in the history of science fiction.
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