Sargent, Pamela

Tagged: Author | Editor

(1948-    ) US editor and author with an MA in classical philosophy from the State University of New York at Binghamton, where she taught until 1971; she has lived with George Zebrowski for many years. She began to publish work of genre interest with "Landed Minority", in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as early as September 1970, her early work being assembled in Starshadows: Ten Stories (coll 1977) and The Best of Pamela Sargent (coll 1987) edited by Martin H Greenberg. She has continued moderately prolific as an author of shorter works, assembling mostly later work in The Mountain Cage and Other Stories (coll, 2002), Behind the Eyes of Dreamers and Other Short Novels (coll 2002), Eye of Flame: Fantasies (coll 2003) and Thumbprints (coll 2004). Of this work, Danny Goes to Mars (October 1992 Asimov's; 2000 ebook) won a Nebula award for best novelette.

She first came to wider notice, however, as the editor of the Women of Wonder sequence of theme Anthologies comprising Women of Wonder (anth 1975) [for all subtitles see Checklist], More Women of Wonder (anth 1976), The New Women of Wonder (anth 1978), Women of Wonder, the Classic Years (coll 1995) and Women of Wonder, the Contemporary Years (coll 1995). All three volumes assembled reprints rather than original work; the focus was generally but not always on Feminist issues; more precisely, the sequence, which was restricted initially to fiction by women about women, focused on Women in SF. The long and argued introduction to the first volume presents in feminist terms the case for theme anthologies of this sort.

Around this time Sargent began to publish the novels which have since established her as one of those writers who were inspired by the thematic opening of Genre SF notable in the late 1970s and 1980s, and who have ever since treated sf with reasoned seriousness as an armamentarium to represent and discuss (when necessary) vital issues; the range of themes so examined has been wide. Cloned Lives (fixup 1976) traces the lives of a number of five genetically identical children brought up together (see Clones), grippingly differentiating among them as they begin to live separately. The Sudden Star (in New Worlds Quarterly 3, anth 1972, ed Michael Moorcock, as "Julio 204"; much exp 1979; vt The White Death 1980), set mostly in a Post-Holocaust Miami after nuclear war, examines through multiple viewpoints a world whose disintegration reflects a cogent ecological passion (see Ecology). The Golden Space (fixup 1982) examines questions of Immortality; The Alien Upstairs (1983) – making effective use of the stage Cliché whereby a Mysterious Stranger living in a boarding house changes everyone's lives – exposes a disheartened Near-Future family to the transcendental influence of the eponymous visitor. The Shore of Women (1986), reversing another Cliché, features a Post-Holocaust Dystopia in which women dominate high-tech urban Keeps while men live in the hardscrabble wilderness beyond; Sargent's presentation of this is ambiguously Feminist: women's dominance of science and technology has a punitive ring, and the world depicted seems less than stable. Alien Child (1988), published for the Young Adult market, somewhat awkwardly presents the last human children with ethical questions about the future of their race as they approach adulthood in an Alien breeding complex which is both hospice and research institute (see Zoo). And Climb the Wind: A Novel of Another America (1998) is an Alternate History set after the Civil War in which the American West has not been invaded by white Americans, and a Native American nation, under a dominant leader, prepares for war.

Sargent's various series continue, perhaps less intensively, her programme of sometimes contrarian Thought Experiments. In the Earthminds sequence of Far-Future sf tales for older children, comprising Watchstar (1980), Eye of the Comet (1984) and Homesmind (1984), Comet-dwelling nontelepathic descendants of humanity confront Earth's own Telepaths, whose culture is otherwise primitive; their eventual reconciliation comes after many trials. The pendant Seed sequence, comprising Earthseed (1983), Farseed (2007) and Seed Seeker (2010), initially carries its Genetically Engineered young protagonists through a traditional rite of passage in which they escape a benevolent AI-monitored Generation Starship (see also Pocket Universe) and earn the chance to land upon a new planet (see Colonization of Other Worlds); after their Ship leaves on its multi-star colonizing mission, the original colony sours into a Keep vs Wilderness stasis, whose foolishness the eventual return of the sentient Ship exposes (see Godgame). The Venus sequence, comprising Venus of Dreams (1986), Venus of Shadows (1988) and Child of Venus (2001), depicts the Terraforming of Venus in long-breathed epic vein, but once again dramatizing conflicts between conservatism and openness through the depiction of two cultures opposed to one another.

Not all of Sargent's varied explorations can be described as fully successful, for a slightly excessive foregrounding of cogitation sometimes causes her narrative sense to falter, and her continued interest in the permutations of human nature can seem abstract; but always a strong, serious, attentive mind can be reassuringly felt at work. Her further work as editor includes Bio-Futures (anth 1976), Afterlives: Stories about Life after Death (anth 1986) with Ian Watson and Conqueror Fantastic (anth 2004). Her contribution to Firebrands: The Heroines of Science Fiction and Fantasy (graph 1998) is a text that accompanies (but seems not to have been written to illustrate) a series of illustrations by Ron Miller of Iconic heroines, many of them posed naked. In 2012 Sargent received the Pilgrim Award for lifetime contributions to sf studies. [JC]

see also: Eschatology; Women SF Writers.

Pamela Sargent

born Ithaca, New York: 20 March 1948

died

works

series

Earthminds

  • Watchstarsfgateway.com (New York: Pocket Books, 1980) [Earthminds: pb/uncredited]
  • Eye of the Cometsfgateway.com (New York: Harper and Row, 1984) [Earthminds: hb/Bob Walters]
  • Homesmindsfgateway.com (New York: Harper and Row, 1984) [Earthminds: hb/David Pallidini]

Seed

  • Earthseed (New York: Harper and Row, 1983) [Seed: hb/Luigi Castiglioni and Atelier Frederic Roy]
  • Farseed (New York: Tor, 2007) [Seed: hb/Daniel Dos Santos]
  • Seed Seeker (New York: Tor, 2010) [Seed: hb/Matt Stawicki]

Venus

Star Trek

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Star Trek Original Series

individual titles

collections and stories

nonfiction

works as editor

series

Women of Wonder

Nebula Awards

See also Nebula Anthologies.

individual titles

about the author

links

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