Please welcome Pamela Sargent to Escape Through the Pages!
– Cloned Lives (1976)
– Earthseed (1983)
– Venus of Dreams (1986)
– Ruler of the Sky (1993)
– Farseen (2007)
– Seed Seeker (2010)
+ many others
My review of Earthseed
Hi Pamela, and welcome to Escape Through the Pages. The ship in Earthseed that houses Zoheret and her friends is a character in its own right, really. What inspired or prompted you to write the AI that is Ship?
The idea of a spaceship that’s the only world the people inside it have ever known is an old one in science fiction, as is the idea of a generations-long voyage to another planet. I wanted to write a story like that in which all of the central characters were teenagers, on their own, which meant having a plausible way in which they could be born and reared without human parents. The story demanded some sort of very sophisticated artificial intelligence, although the character of Ship changed and developed as I wrote and became the sympathetic yet flawed AI in Earthseed.
Another inspiration for Ship was the central character in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, believe it or not. There’s something of that manipulative and unconventional girls’ school teacher in Ship. One thing I didn’t want to do was have a villainous AI or write something that pitted the young characters against technology. Technology is a tool, not something to be rejected. Young people seem a lot more at home with it than older folks.
There is a 24 year difference between Earthseed and its first sequel, Farseed. Had you always planned on writing companion books?
I hadn’t planned on companion books but more books are always at least theoretically possible with any novel. There’s always what came before the events in any book, meaning the potential for a prequel is there, and what comes after, and what happens to minor characters who could always be central characters in stories of their own. So even though sequels weren’t explicitly planned, I’d always had some ideas about what might happen after the events in Earthseed, and did propose the idea of sequels to a couple of publishers, but nothing came of that, so I set any thought of sequels aside until an editor at Tor, Susan Chang, contacted me. She had enjoyed Earthseed and asked if I’d thought of writing more books, and that’s why Farseed was published so much later than Earthseed.
I always enjoy hearing stories about an author’s path to publication and their journey in publishing. What has it been like to experience having your continue to be reprinted?
Having a book stay in print is the best thing that can happen to any writer, so it’s been gratifying to see Earthseed back in print after so long. There are a lot of problems with publishing now, but one good thing, in my opinion at least, is the growing market for e-books, because that means more books can remain in print – electronically anyway. Even better would be some kind of print-on-demand system that could produce paper copies much more quickly and cheaply. Too many books disappear before the readers who would love them can find them or even know about them.
My own path to publication began when I was in college and actually managed to sell two stories, one to a magazine and the other to an anthology. Sounds like really good luck, which it was, publishing right away at a relatively early age, but then it took a couple of years before an editor bought another story from me, years when I had to wonder if the first two sales were only a fluke. This was good luck, too, because it taught me to persevere.
If you were starting over on a new planet, what is one book you would make
sure you had with you?
Probably How Things Work in one of its recent editions. Much as I’d like to bring a favorite work of fiction, How Things Work is what I’d need.