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Optional Fantasies

By Pamela Sargent

Some people prefer to imagine themselves as famous, celebrated, or powerful. My fantasies have generally been more modest. My favorite, as a young writer just starting out, was that I would happen to overhear someone speaking about a book or story she loved and realize that she was talking about something I wrote. A related one, common I suspect to almost all writers, was being on a plane or bus and seeing someone (or maybe several people) reading a novel I’d written. I wouldn’t dare to introduce myself as the author (and who would believe a stranger intruding on one’s reading to proclaim that she was the author?), but would cherish the feeling of knowing that something I’d written had touched someone else.

This is the perfect fantasy for someone as shy as I am who is pursuing an occupation that requires long periods of solitude. Years ago, I had another of those experiences most writers can enjoy; a young man called me up to tell me how much he had enjoyed reading my novel Earthseed, that it was one of his favorite novels, and that he had always hoped to make a movie of Earthseed someday. His commitment to my novel went beyond mere praise; as an aspiring moviemaker, he wanted to option Earthseed, which he did, picking up a year-long option for a small sum. That option eventually expired, but the pleasure of knowing that somebody has responded to your writing never expires.

Fade out and then fade in to a scene years later, which incorporates yet another writerly fantasy: that aspiring filmmaker, Adam Goodman, now the president of Paramount Pictures, again options Earthseed, this time for a significant amount of money. On March 29, 2011, Paramount issues a press release saying that the studio has optioned Earthseed and Melissa Rosenberg, scriptwriter for all of the “Twilight” films, will write the script and produce the film. I read the press release on my monitor in a state of ecstatic shock, but say nothing for a few days afterwards, in case my friends take this news as just another April Fools Day joke. This is a nearly perfect writer’s fantasy, by my standards anyway, as it combines a potential notoriety for my novel with a kind of invisibility for me, at least for the moment. Such disorienting delights as stories in the Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Weekly followed, in which Earthseed was mentioned along with other novels optioned by studios hoping for the next “Twilight.” This was the kind of publicity I could appreciate most, with the spotlight on the work and the writer able to stay in the background.

The actual story of Earthseed’s option is somewhat more complicated than this, but I’ve excised some of the complications, in the manner of a scriptwriter dispensing with an unnecessary subplot. Will this movie ever get made? So far, at least, the signs are good, and in the meantime, I can enjoy yet another shy writer’s fantasy of looking ahead to a time when I might be sitting in the darkness of a movie theater waiting for my novel to come to life on the screen.

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From the Tor/Forge March newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.

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  1. Justin
    March 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Dear writers, if you do happen to see me reading your book in public, feel free to introduce yourself, say ‘hi’ and talk to me about it. You have my permission 😉

  2. LynneW
    March 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Dear Ms. Sargent,
    Congratulations on achieving that dream not just once, but twice! Your work, especially THE RELUCTANT GOD, remains among my favorite re-reads many years after I first discovered it. Thank you for the hours of enjoyment!

  3. Melissa Morgan
    March 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I cannot begin to express the excitement I have over having seen this today. Many years ago in a Vallejo, California used book store I stumbled upon an amazing book by an author I had never heard of or heard from since. That book was “The Shore Of Women”. This novel was inspirational and thought provoking on so many levels that I have read it several times and reccommended it to nearly every avid reader I know. What was so inspirational was the fact that it was of such quality and in a male dominated genre (sci-fi) and yet was written by a woman. It let me believe that someday I could write a book that was intelligent, asked important questions, and be successful. Today, as my four children are slowly leaving the nest I have begun the process of writing that novel. Please understand that I consider myself to be a varied and well read reader. I enjoy every genre from Literary Fiction to Paranormal Romance, so in the midst of all that input from such disparate sources your novel has remained in my psyche. This is a very long and verbose way of saying “Thank you” and that I am ecstatic to now avail myself of some of your other work. Because I ALWAYS read the book before seeing the movie.

  4. JOSEPH G. PHILLIPS
    March 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    I too have writers fantasies or more, filmmakers’ fantasies. As a teenager, I dreamed of being a filmmaker and my fantasies became very elaborate with me imagining titles of my films, plots, even soundtracks, even the actors who would play in them, and even imagining winning Oscars and recieving praise for my works. Unfortunately, my depression, perhaps my own laziness, and the fact I have no one with whom I could share success with, I never pursued my dreams of being a filmmaker. Another excuse is that I missed the right timing or the right windows in time where I could have made those movies and they would have been released at a time where they would have reflected certain trends in society. Sadly, I still dream of these never-wilbe movies in great detail. They do hinder me from caring about newer projects.

  5. March 10, 2012 at 11:10 am

    That’s amazing that Adam Goodman loved your work. Who’d a thought he’d become devoted to it to go on the big screen. It’s really fantastic.

  1. March 5, 2012 at 8:46 am
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