Sargent, Pamela 1948–
Sargent, Pamela 1948–
PERSONAL: Born March 20, 1948, in Ithaca, NY; partner of George Zebrowski (an author and editor). Education: State University of New York at Binghamton, B.A., 1968, M.A., 1970.
CAREER: Honigsbaum's, Albany, NY, sales clerk and model, 1964–65; Endicott Coil Co., Inc., Binghamton, NY, solderer on assembly line, 1965; Towne Distributors, Binghamton, sales clerk, 1965; State University of New York at Binghamton, typist in library cataloging department, 1965–66, teaching assistant in philosophy, 1969–71; Webster Paper Co., Albany, office worker, 1969; freelance writer and editor, 1971–.
MEMBER: Amnesty International U.S.A., Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Science Fiction Writers of America, National Wildlife Federation.
AWARDS, HONORS: Best book for young adults designation, American Library Association, 1983, for Earthseed; Nebula Award, 1992, and Locus Award, 1993, both for novelette "Danny Goes to Mars"; Hugo Award finalist.
SCIENCE FICTION; FOR ADULTS
Cloned Lives, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1976, published as an e-book, e-reads.com, 2001.
Starshadows (short stories), introduction by Terry Carr, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1977.
The Sudden Star, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1979, published as The White Death, Futura (London, England), 1980.
Watchstar, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1980, published as an e-book, e-reads.com, 2001.
The Golden Space, Timescape (New York, NY), 1982.
The Alien Upstairs, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1983.
The Mountain Cage (chapbook), Cheap Street, 1983.
The Shore of Women, Crown (New York, NY), 1986, BenBella Books (Dallas, TX), 2004.
The Best of Pamela Sargent (short stories), edited by Martin H. Greenberg, foreword by Michael Bishop, Academy Chicago (Chicago, IL), 1987.
(Author of text) Firebrands: The Heroines of Science Fiction and Fantasy, illustrated by Ron Miller, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Behind the Eyes of Dreamers and Other Short Novels, introduction by George Zebrowski, Five Star (Chandler, AZ), 2002.
The Mountain Cage and Other Stories, introduction by Barry N. Malzberg, Meisha Merlin (Atlanta, GA), 2002.
Garth of Izar, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Eye of Flame: Fantasies Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2003.
Thumbprints, introduction by James Morrow, Golden Gryphon Press (Urbana, IL), 2004.
Venus of Dreams, Bantam (New York, NY), 1986, published as an e-book, e-reads.com, 2001.
Venus of Shadows, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1988, published as an e-book, e-reads.com, 2001.
Child of Venus, Avon (New York, NY), 2001.
"STAR TREK" SERIES; WITH GEORGE ZEBROWSKI
A Fury Scorned ("The Next Generation" series, Number 43), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Heart of the Sun ("Original Star Trek" series, Number 83), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Across the Universe ("Original Star Trek" series, Number 88), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1999.
SCIENCE FICTION; FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
Earthseed, Harper (New York, NY), 1983.
Eye of the Comet (sequel to Watchstar), Harper (New York, NY), 1984.
Homesmind (sequel to Eye of the Comet), Harper (New York, NY), 1984.
Alien Child, Harper (New York, NY), 1988.
Farseed, Tor Teen (New York, NY), 2007.
Women of Wonder: Science Fiction Stories by Women about Women, Vintage (New York, NY), 1975.
Bio-Futures: Science Fiction Stories about Biological Metamorphosis, Vintage (New York, NY), 1976.
More Women of Wonder: Science Fiction Novelettes by Women about Women, Vintage (New York, NY), 1976.
The New Women of Wonder: Recent Science Fiction Stories by Women about Women, Vintage (New York, NY), 1978.
(With Ian Watson) Afterlives: Stories about Life after Death, Vintage (New York, NY), 1986.
Women of Wonder: The Classic Years—Science Fiction by Women from the 1940s to the 1970s, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1995.
Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years—Science Fiction by Women from the 1970s to the 1990s, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1995.
Nebula Awards 29: SFWA's Choices for the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1995.
George Zebrowski, Beneath the Red Star: Studies on International Science Fiction, Borgo Press (San Bernardino, CA), 1996.
Nebula Awards 30: SFWA's Choices for the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1996.
Nebula Awards 31: SFWA's Choices for the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1997.
Conqueror Fantastic, DAW Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Ruler of the Sky: A Novel of Genghis Khan, Crown (New York, NY), 1993.
Climb the Wind: A Novel of Another America, Harper-Prism (New York, NY), 1999.
Contributor to numerous science-fiction and fantasy anthologies, including Wandering Stars, edited by Jack Dann, Harper (New York, NY), 1972; Two Views of Wonder, edited by Thomas N. Scortia and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1973; Ten Tomorrows, edited by Roger Elwood, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1973; Fellowship of the Stars, edited by Terry Carr, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1974; Orbit 20, edited by Damon Knight, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1978; the Road to Science Fiction 4: From Here to Forever, edited by James Gunn, New American Library, 1982; Isaac Asimov's Space of Her Own, edited by Shawna McCarthy, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1983; Light Years and Dark, edited by Michael Bishop, Berkley Books, 1984; Magicats!, edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, Ace (New York, NY), 1984; Best SF of the Year #14, edited by Terry Carr, Tor (New York, NY), 1985; Tales from Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine: Short Stories for Young Adults, edited by Sheila Williams and Cynthia Manson, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1986; Roger Caras' Treasury of Great Cat Stories, edited by Roger Caras, Dutton (New York, NY), 1987; The Best Horror Stories from the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, edited by Edward L. Ferman and Anne Jordan, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1988; Foundation's Friends, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Tor (New York, NY), 1989; What Might Have Been: Alternate Americas, edited by Gregory Benford and Martin H. Greenberg, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992; Journeys to the Twilight Zone, edited by Carol Serling, DAW (New York, NY), 1993; The Norton Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ursula K. Le Guin and Brian Attebery, Norton, 1993; Tales from the Great Turtle, edited by Piers Anthony and Richard Gilliam, Tor, 1994; Nebula Awards 28, edited by James Morrow, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1994; Ancient Enchantresses, edited by Kathleen M. Massie-Ferch, Martin H. Greenberg, and Richard Gilliam, DAW (New York, NY), 1995; Castle Fantastic, edited by John DeChancie and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW (New York, NY), 1996; and Worldmakers: SF Adventures in Terraforming, edited by Gardner Dozois, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2001. Also contributor to Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, St. James Press, 1986.
Contributor to science-fiction and fantasy magazines, including Amazing Stories, Futures, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and Twilight Zone. Contributor to other periodicals, including Washington Post Book World and Nature. Contributor to and member of editorial board for journals, including Science-Fiction Studies, Para*Doxa, and Femspec.
Sargent's works have been translated into several foreign languages, including Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Swedish, Italian, and Spanish.
ADAPTATIONS: The short story "The Shrine" was adapted for an episode of the television series Tales from the Darkside, 1986.
SIDELIGHTS: Short-story writer, editor, and novelist Pamela Sargent is a well-respected and prolific contributor in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Thomas J. Morrissey, writing in the St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers, characterized Sargent's work this way: "Her fictions are both the stories of the inner lives of people caught in unusual circumstances and of our species as it might have been, is, and might yet be." Morrissey continued: "She is a feminist and futurist for whom biotechnology, cybernetics, space travel, alien visitations, environmental degradation, and nuclear war provide new scenarios in which believable characters act out their life dramas."
Although she never intended to write science fiction exclusively, Sargent has found the genre to be an effective medium through which to examine aspects of human experience and emotion, as well as a way to challenge the long-held stereotypical portrayal of women as passive components, rather than active participants, in change. From the time her first short story, "Landed Minority," was published in 1970 until today, Sargent has continuously written and edited works through which she has acquired a position of significance in her chosen genre. She has earned the respect of critics for bringing to light and attempting to counteract sexual stereotypes within the field of science fiction literature.
As essayist Jeffrey M. Elliot said of her shorter works in Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, "Sargent eschews prediction; she does, however, seek plausibility. The imaginary settings of her stories are typified by an underlying reality and possess a solid grounding in what we know of science (and people) today. In that sense, Sargent resembles several of the 'hard' science-fiction writers who ground their work solidly in science, but, unlike many such writers, she also emphasizes characterization." Fourteen of her short stories from the period 1972 to 1984 are collected in The Best of Pamela Sargent.
The first of her anthologies, Women of Wonder: Science Fiction Stories by Women about Women, was considered a groundbreaking anthology. In 1995, Sargent published a new two-volume version of her selection of the most significant women science-fiction writers—Women of Wonder: The Classic Years—Science Fiction by Women from the 1940s to the 1970s and Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years—Science Fiction by Women from the 1970s to the 1990s. "In these two volumes," wrote Sally Estes in Booklist, "editor Sargent magnificently updates her three out-of-print Women of Wonder titles of the 1970s." Of the updated collection—which includes the work of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Zenna Henderson, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Alice H.B. Sheldon (as James Tiptree, Jr.), Joan Vinge, and Kate Wilhelm—a reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that "Sargent highlights the history of women in science fiction in an information-packed introduction. In addition, notes about each author and an extensive bibliography will satisfy the curiosity of those wanting additional information on this topic."
In Thumbprints, a "much-honored and versatile writer here collects some of her shorter fiction," noted Booklist reviewer Roland Green. A reviewer for Small Press Bookwatch called Sargent "one of today's most imaginative and talented fantasy writers," and named each of the stories in Thumbprints a "minor gem." In the story "Gather Blue Roses," an empathic little girl gathers to herself all the pain and suffering of the people around here, while discovering that her mother has the same ability. Far from being a blessing, this ability brings with it its own brand of tragedy. Reviewer Chris Przybyszewski, writing on the SF Site, observed that "It's a fabulous idea for a short story, and could raise multiple questions of the evil that men do and to whom they do that evil." In "Amphibians," a father's spirit is trapped between this world and the next when his daughter cannot come to terms with his death. "Venus Flowers at Night" follows a character from Sargent's well-known Venus trilogy of novels. The collection's title story concerns a diabolical literary agent who will stop at nothing to collect fees from his clients, and who may have had a role in the demise of several of his more prominent writers. A Publishers Weekly critic noted that the story "If Ever I Should Leave You" puts a "gorgeously heartbreaking twist" on the theme of time travel. "This solid volume does a good job of showcasing Sargent's impressive range of style and theme," concluded the Publishers Weekly contributor.
In addition to writing short stories for both adults and young people, Sargent is the author of several well-received novels. In her novels for adults, typically "Sargent's protagonists face technologically and politically complicated worlds that are clear and often frightening analogs of our own," observed Morrissey. Cloned Lives, published in 1976 and Sargent's first long work of fiction, was based on "Clone Sister," "A Sense of Difference," and "Father," three pieces of short fiction she had previously published. The novel examines the consequences of cloning as a possible way to achieve immortality, and explores the self-perception of both the clones and the person undergoing genetic duplication. For Philip M. Rubens, writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "through sensitive development of the various characters involved, Sargent shows that the products of such [cloning] experimentation are not monsters but credible human beings, sharing common roots, problems, and ambitions and seeking in their human loneliness a sense of community."
In novels such as The Sudden Star and The Alien Upstairs, Sargent explores the effects of environmental abuse on agriculture and society. In a trilogy of books following several generations of humans on Venus—Venus of Dreams, Venus of Shadows, and Child of Venus—Sargent notes how bringing not only the environment of Earth but also the social structures might simply recreate a world in which women remain in limited roles. These novels offer insights into social issues and those that affect families across generations. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the three novels "a masterful SF trilogy…. As in previous books, Sargent brings her world to life with sympathetic characters and crisp, concise language."
In Shore of Women, which Morrissey called the author's "masterpiece," Sargent creates a "feminist dystopian postnuclear-holocaust tale [that] depicts an earth ruled by women who live in fortified enclaves and who have banished men to the forests." These women do not escape the author's critical eye, for as Morrissey explained, "the women-made institutions are as corrupt as the man-made institutions they have replaced." Concluded this critic: "The novel's multiple narrative perspectives, lyrical eroticism, and intellectual depth make it a classic of intelligent SF." "Sargent creates enough complex, convincing, layered societies and strong, believable characters to keep a dozen lesser novelists stocked up for years," Orson Scott Card commented in his review of The Shore of Women in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. "Other SF writers might consider enacting sumptuary laws to keep writers with so much intelligent imagination from displaying it so ostentatiously."
Watchstar and The Golden Space each deal with the unique perspective that children might bring to the future. According to Elliot, "for Sargent, youthful experiences somehow seem more vivid, passionate, and exciting than what happens to many people later in life, when the decisions they made while young have overtaken them and set their lives along a certain path." Sargent's four novels specifically written for younger readers, Alien Child, Eye of the Comet, Homesmind, and Earthseed—the last listed as an American Library Association 1983 Best Book for Young Adults—also reflect her interest in directing science fiction to a youthful audience. As she wrote in Women of Wonder: "Science fiction novels for young adults and children can also offer role models for younger readers. This has happened often enough in the past for boys." As "these books offer penetrating psychological portraits of gifted and courageous young women," in Morrissey's words, Sargent demonstrates her belief that the genre has the ability and obligation to address young women equally.
In a departure from her usual writing in the science fiction genre, Sargent's 1993 novel, Ruler of the Sky: A Novel of Genghis Khan draws on history for its story. Taking as its subject the life of Mongol leader Genghis Khan, Sargent's novelization of the Mongol conqueror's life necessitated a search into a number of scholarly works and contemporary sources in an attempt to piece together the early story of one of history's most renowned villains. "To enter Mongol minds and to tell their stories, the women's in particular, was still an act of imagination," Sargent once told CA, describing the process of writing historical fiction, "and when the story required that I take some liberties with the facts, I took them. But the tale I told is rooted in what some of those Mongols remembered and believed about their great leader."
Sargent's alternative history novel, Climb the Wind: A Novel of Another America, is set in a nineteenth-century United States just after the Civil War. It includes in its cast of characters such historical figures as Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, George Armstrong Custer, Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane, Frederick Douglass, Annie Oakley, Thomas Alva Edison, and Theodore Roosevelt. The novel presents what might have happened if one leader had united the Indian Nations of the Great Plains and led them eastward. Faren Miller wrote about this novel in Locus, saying: "It's not so farfetched an idea as it might seem, since something very like it happened during the conquests of Genghis Khan."
With Conqueror Fantastic, Sargent edited an anthology of thirteen historical fantasy stories focusing on varied conquerors from diverse periods of history. A reviewer for the Montreal Gazette called the anthology a "fairly strong assemblage" of fiction, noting: "Some of these stories speculate on hidden histories, others recreate perhaps more mystical worldviews of past eras, while others explore different paths history might have taken." Booklist reviewer Frieda Murray observed that the "writing overall is high quality," and concluded that the anthology is "without serious faults but definitely challenging."
In the end, Sargent offers all the expected elements of the science-fiction genre, but adds insights that are uniquely her own. "She provides the excitement of good storytelling and intellectual speculations of quality science fiction," noted Janice Antczak in Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers. What is more, added Antczak: "Sargent consistently provides strong female characters involved in arduous quest journeys who are … role models." Rubens further commented: "What Sargent does is to depict a world in which human potential can be realized by anyone. However, woman, in her empathic state, cuts through to truth, to new realities, new possibilities. It is also woman, in a somewhat refashioned traditional role as mother, who tries to awaken everyone—male and female—to these new potentials, and who triumphs over old ways." "Her work contributes to the demise of the stereotype of women in the world of science fiction," concluded Antczak. In Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Brian Stableford commented: "The hallmarks of Pamela Sargent's work have always included a scrupulous sensitivity to detail and a refusal to employ melodramatic tactics in designing her plots…. [This] has allowed her the rare accomplishment of writing future-set novels that command belief and interest as authoritatively as the best contemporary fiction." Stable-ford concluded: "Hers is a thoroughly sensible voice as well as an eloquent one, and there is a certain tragedy in the fact that there are not many others like it."
As for the future of science fiction, Sargent once told CA: "Science fiction has lost its traditional paradigms. It seems obvious, given the way the world is now, that the future is unlikely to resemble the worlds depicted in older science-fiction novels. In its loss of confidence and optimism, science fiction is reflecting the uncertainty of much of the western world…. Some fine work is being produced in spite of this, but we are in the process of looking for new paradigms…. It remains to be seen whether science fiction can sustain a genuinely forward-looking, creative cultural attitude that in its questioning is ready to cut loose from the past and become a perpetual question mark." She added: "Although I write science fiction, my primary interest is in characters—people. Through them I try to explore possible future societies."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Clute, John, and Peter Nicholls, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1993, pp. 1048-1049.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 8: Twentieth-Century American Science-Fiction Writers, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1981, pp. 96-99.
Elliot, Jeffrey M., and R. Reginald, The Work of Pamela Sargent: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide, 2nd edition, Borgo Press, 1996.
Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, Salem Press (Pasadena, CA), 1996, pp. 160-161, 286-287.
St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Sargent, Pamela, editor, Women of Wonder: The Classic Years—Science Fiction by Women from the 1940s to the 1970s, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1995.
Sargent, Pamela, editor, Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years—Science Fiction by Women from the 1970s to the 1990s, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1995.
Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Booklist, April 15, 1995, Carl Hays, review of Nebula Awards 29: SFWA's Choices for the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, p. 1484; August, 1995, Sally Estes, review of Women of Wonder: The Classic Years—Science Fiction by Women from the 1940s to the 1970s, p. 1933; Sally Estes, review of Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years—Science Fiction by Women from the 1970s to the 1990s, p. 1933; April 15, 2001, John Mort, review of Child of Venus, p. 1544; April 1, 2004, Frieda Murray, review of Conqueror Fantastic, p. 1356; October 15, 2004, Roland Green, review of Thumb-prints, p. 395.
Curve, June, 2005, "Other Page Turners," review of The Shore of Women, p. 80.
Kliatt, September, 2004, Sherry Hoy, review of Conqueror Fantastic, p. 32.
Library Journal, April 15, 1997, Susan Hamburger, review of Nebula Awards 31, p. 124; May 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of Child of Venus, p. 166; March 15, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of Behind the Eyes of Dreamers and Other Short Novels, p. 112.
Locus, March, 1999, Faren Miller, review of Climb the Wind, p. 23.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November, 1975, review of Women of Wonder, p. 50; November, 1976, review of Cloned Lives, p. 66; June, 1977, review of More Women of Wonder, p. 13; June, 1987, Orson Scott Card, review of The Shore of Women, p. 53.
Montreal Gazette, May 29, 2004, review of Conqueror Fantastic.
New York Times Book Review, May 4, 1975, review of Women of Wonder, p. 49; May 11, 1980, Gerald Jonas, review of Watchstar, p. 23; January 18, 1987, Gerald Jonas, review of The Shore of Women, p. 33; February 26, 1989, Gerald Jonas, review of Venus of Shadows, p. 32.
Psychology Today, April, 1975, review of Women of Wonder, p. 106.
Publishers Weekly, April 26, 1976, review of Bio-Futures, 209; January 3, 1986, John Mutter, review of Venus of Dreams, p. 49; March 6, 1995, review of Nebula Awards 29, p. 66; June 19, 1995, review of Women of Wonder: The Classic Years, p. 55; March 18, 1996, review of Nebula Awards 30, p. 64; March 31, 1997, review of Nebula Awards 31, p. 67; March 19, 2001, review of Child of Venus, p. 80; February 11, 2002, "March Publications," review of Behind the Eyes of Dreamers and Other Short Novels, p. 167; September 20, 2004, review of Thumbprints, p. 50.
Small Press Bookwatch, October, 2004, review of Thumbprints.
Meisha Merlin Publications Web site, http://www.meishamerlin.com/ (September 1, 2006), biography of Pamela Sargent.
Pamela Sargent Home Page, http://www.engel-cox.org/ sargent (September 1, 2006).
SciFi Weekly, http://www.scifi.com/sfw/ (September 1, 2006), Killian Melloy, "Woman of Wonder Pamela Sargent Has Left Her Thumbprints across the Face of Modern SF," interview with Pamela Sargent.
SF Reader.com, http://www.sfreader.com/ (September 1, 2006), Jeff Edwards, review of Conqueror Fantastic.
SF Site, http://www.sfsite.com/ (September 1, 2006), Chris Przybyszewski, review of Thumbprints.