Masques of Darkover will be released May 2, 2017 and is now available for pre-order at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and Kobo. The print edition will be on sale on the release date.
Shariann Lewitt has published seventeen books and over forty short stories, including “Wedding Embroidery” in Stars of Darkover and “Memory” in Gifts of Darkover. When not writing she teaches at MIT, studies flamenco dance, and is accounted reasonably accomplished at embroidery. Her expertise with birds arises in part from being the devoted servant of two parrots.
Deborah J. Ross: Tell us about your introduction to Darkover. What about the world drew you in?
Shariann Lewitt: I started reading Darkover when I was very young and it grabbed me in a special way, because it showed girls and women doing active, great stuff, not just sitting around being passive. But unlike a lot of other more feminist stories of the era, the girls and women had to struggle to get to powerful positions and often had to make sacrifices (like Keepers having to remain virgin) in order to wield power. I could relate to these women because this felt real, this felt like the world I lived in. I hated having to read stories where the only people who got to do anything that meant anything were male, but on the other hand, I found the worlds where full gender equality was taken for granted was just a little too unbelievable. A little too much like the magic. I could relate to the struggles of the women and girls on Darkover and that drew me in. It all felt so REAL.
DJR: Tell us about your story in Masques of Darkover.
SL: I've been *dying* to tell about this! This is my Bernie Sanders story! Really!Okay, I have lots of ideas about Darkover stories and I had a few ideas about what I was going to write about this time, but when I sat down to write something struck me over the head. I was very much involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign and it just suddenly walloped me--here I am campaigning against the elite aristocracy on the one hand--and preparing to write about them on the other! In fact, I've pretty much always written about the Comyn, the nobility, on Darkover. So I had a good long think
Now, my politics didn't change with the Sanders campaign. Far from it. I'm actually rather to the left of that, truth be told. So why haven't I written about the peasants and workers, the poor, the rebels? Why was I always writing about the nobility? On Darkover, the answer is laran. Since their genetics and telepathic abilities define the Comyn, if we want stories with magic, we're stuck with the 1%.
I just didn't want to write a 1% story. Not now, not this year, not while I was actively campaigning for the first candidate running as a Socialist on a major party ticket! So I thought and I went back to some of the older books and re-read a few of the Darkover books that had not counted as early major favorites, maybe books that were a bit earlier than the others. In any event, I found a few minor loopholes. While yes, genetic mixing with the chieri did bring laran to the Comyn, a number of Terrans had abilities awakened on Darkover. They didn't have any mixed ancestry. Along with that nice little nugget, other elements seemed to play roles of varying importance, including kiriseth exposure. As for genetics themselves, well, some evidence appears that records were not always kept carefully and Comyn (and nedrestro descendants) could well have come through a village and their abilities could have skipped several generations. Or gone latent until the right mix of "nurture" elements helped turn on the gene sequence (because epigenetics are cool beyond belief.)
So with all of that, I decided to write about a kid on a farm, a "normal" person who doesn't have any of the privileges of caste. In many ways this was far more challenging than the other Darkoer stories I've written because we don't generally tend to think of "ordinary" Darkovans.Â Certainly it has given me a new perspective that may thread forward as I explore more fully.
DJR: Was writing this story different from a typical writing project? How did you balance writing in someone else’s world and being true to your own creative imagination?
SL: Darkover is so vast and there are so many different nooks and crannies that I feel it is closer to writing my own original work than writing my one Star Trek book was. I don't have to use any characters that already exist (though some make walk-ons) and there is so much history that is only barely sketched out of alluded to. Yes, it is different, but it also brings me back to the young girl who first fantasized in this world. I think the stories I get to write set in Darkover are some of my most positive and in some ways most innocent. I get to touch that joyful sense of wonder I had when I hid out under the covers reading of this alien place.
DJR: Is there another Darkover story you would particularly like to write?
SL: Every time I answer this question, and I say Yes! I have at least one or two that really want to get written. And every time, some other story (like this one) pushes them aside.
DJR: What have you written recently?
SL: I've mostly been writing short stories lately, or at least publishing short stories. I've been working on a few novels and heading more in the direction of historical fantasy. I'll let you know about those! Right now, my newest long story is in To Shape The Dark, edited by Athena Andreadis.