Tuesday, June 10, 2014

INTERVIEW: Shariann Lewitt on Stars of Darkover

STARS OF DARKOVER – not just the glorious night sky over the world of the Bloody Sun, but the authors who have been inspired over the decades by Marion Zimmer Bradley’s favorite world. It will be released on June 3, 2014, to celebrate Marion's 84th birthday.

Reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s work when she was a girl was part of what inspired Shariann Lewitt to become a science fiction writer.  Today she has published seventeen books and over forty short stories under five different names.  When not writing she teaches at MIT, studies flamenco dance, and is accounted reasonably accomplished at embroidery.

Deborah J. Ross: How did Marion Zimmer Bradley influence your writing career?

Shariann Lewitt: Marion Zimmer Bradley, and the Darkover books in particular, are part of the reason I became a science fiction writer.  As a young girl, Bradley was one of the writers who wrote about girls and women in a way I could identify—interesting, active women with agency, but who also chafed at the constraints of their society.  Many of the other writers I enjoyed reading growing up wrote entirely fantasy, and here Darkover was a wonderful exception because, while there was magic, there was also science.  At least there was space travel, and I was one of the kids who loved science and the space program.  Girls existed and sometimes got to act in fantasy books, but were entirely invisible in any books with space ships and star travel.  More than anything else, Marion Zimmer Bradley showed me that I could be a science fiction writer without erasing myself as a female from the time I was very young,

DJR:  Tell us about your story in Stars of Darkover.

SL: The Ridenow were always my favorites!  They were so different from the other Comyn—their name didn’t match the name of their Domain, they had Dry Town blood, they were always the outsiders.  I have a special love for outsiders.  So as soon as I received Deborah’s invitation I knew I wanted to write about the Ridenow.  I spent a good bit of time rereading my old favorites, many of which I hadn’t reread in years, trying to decide on which period of Darkover to set my story.  The more I read the more I realized that I was deeply drawn to the Ages of Chaos and—the story just started to come.  Well, at first I started to write about Mhari’s younger sister Ysabet, who is more rebellious and more the normal Darkover heroine.  But Mhari slowly took over.  Why shouldn’t a young woman be strong and powerful in her own right, but choose to be the Lady of her Domain?

Rereading seven Darkover books in the space of three weeks, another thing hit me.  All powerful Darkover heroines hated embroidery.  Embroidery, and all needlework, denoted a subservient woman who didn’t take charge of her own life.  Well, I personally happen to do embroidery!  I like doing embroidery and I wanted to create a heroine who liked it.  I wanted to show readers that there might be a reason a woman could enjoy embroidery for herself and not simply because it was expected of her.  And that’s when the idea of the tools of embroidery becoming the tools of something else took hold…and then I found the central image of the story that I could not shake from my mind.

I have to thank Deborah J. Ross for permitting me to write this story.  I have never previously been associated with Darkover and maybe writing about how the Ridenow became the Lords of Serrais was arrogant.  Surely someone far more part of the Darkover world should establish history this important in the canon.  And yet Deborah let me do this and I cannot thank her enough!


DJR: What have you written recently? What lies ahead?

SL: I’ve been writing a lot of short stories lately.  In longer fiction, I’m working on steampunk and historical science fiction/ghost stories.  They’re hard to categorize as I try to break my old reputation as a “cyberpunk”.


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