Nafiza: I saw that Earthseed was first released in 1983. How does the experience of writing a novel for young adults in 1983 compare to writing for young adults in the new millennium? Has there been a positive change or has it become more challenging?
Pamela Sargent: There seem to be many more readers of young adult books these days, and they seem enthusiastic about what they’re reading, very involved with favorite books and authors. That’s a positive change, but the danger for writers is becoming too moved by trends or falling into writing something that’s only a variation on what’s current. A writer has to find her own voice, and that’s especially important if you’re writing for younger readers. They’re demanding, often more so than older readers, and can sniff out anything phony.
N: In a market saturated with stories about the paranormal, how does Earthseed distinguish itself as a proponent of the sci-fi genre? In other words, what makes Earthseed awesome?
PS: The theme of a starship or interstellar vehicle that’s a world in itself is an old one in science fiction, but what I wanted to do was put a group of young people inside this kind of vessel, kids that are brought up by Ship, the artificial intelligence that controls the starship and is the only parent they’ve ever known. In Earthseed – and I don’t think this is a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t read my novel – Ship in the end is as important to the story as Zoheret, the main character, or any of the other human characters. Like them, Ship is also growing up and making mistakes along the way.
N: Alexis told me Earthseed has been optioned by Paramount. Congratulations! How do you feel about your novel shifting mediums and what do you hope is retained in the movie version?
PS: I feel both delighted and apprehensive. A movie is a different medium from a book, so I can’t expect a film to replicate every detail in Earthseed, only to be true to the story, the characters, and the ideas.
N: Additionally, what is your favourite book to movie adaptation?
PS: I thought Martin Scorsese did a beautiful adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. The Bostonians, one of the many Merchant Ivory productions, was a meticulous movie based on the Henry James novel. In science fiction, I’m still very fond of the 1960 movie version of H.G. Wells’s classic The Time Machine. It took a lot of liberties with the novel, probably ones the author would have objected to, but in its own way it’s a moving and poignant experience.
N: If you were writing Earthseed right now, what would be different in the book compared to the original one?
PS: Nothing – expect presumably my writing might be better and more eloquent. I’d like to think I’ve made some progress as a writer over the years!
N: Would you say that reading has helped you become a better author?
PS: Absolutely. My advice for anyone who wants to be a writer is: Read. Read compulsively. Read anything you can get your hands on and don’t be afraid to try a book or story that looks difficult or uncongenial.
N: What is the one book you wish everyone would read?
PS: I wouldn’t be able to single out one book. There’s no book so great that there won’t be readers who will hate it, and probably no book so bad that somebody won’t love it. So it all depends on the individual reader. I’d have to know what a reader already enjoyed reading before making any recommendations.
Thanks for answering my questions, Ms. Sargent. Check out my review of Earthseed and add it to your reading lists!