Author Sarah A. Hoyt’s otherworldly heroine may be the baddest mother in science fiction.
Saving the day is one thing. Doing it with a newborn child in your care? That’s something even Ripley from the “Alien” franchise might not pull off.
“Darkship Revenge,” the latest sci-fi saga from the prolific author, reunites us with the strong-willed Athena. This time around, she’s given birth to a baby girl but has no time for mother-daughter bonding. Athena must rescue her kidnapped husband Kit while dealing with a bio-engineered plague … and worse.
HiT checked in with Hoyt to talk about “Darkship’s” roots, the pitfalls of victimhood and how she gave in to the populist cry of the sequel.
HiT: Talk about literary sequels … is it a combination of consumer demand and personal passion? Did you immediately want to continue the “Darkship” series, or did inspiration come a while after the last book’s conclusion?
Sarah Hoyt: This is sort of like teenage relationships — “complicated.”
Robert A. Heinlein never really wrote a sequel and, if I had my choice, I would have a career like his: same general universe, no sequels.
Unfortunately, by the time I broke into writing, it was well known that sequels are what people want. Also, curiously, as a reader I like sequels.
So, while “DarkShip Thieves” (written in 1998 – took that long to sell) was a standalone, I was prepared to write sequels if needed.
As is because sequels have their own problems, including “entry” into the series, and summarizing relevant parts of older books, as well as “growing stale,” I’m trying to do a sort of … decentralized series.
The books with “Darkship” in the title are told from Athena’s perspective. The others, though they also take place within the world and continuum of action unleashed in “Darkship Thieves,” are from various voices, bringing in fresh perspectives and things Athena neither can see nor would have much interest in, if she could.
That’s the sub-series of the Earth Revolution, right now consisting of “A Few Good Men” and “Through Fire.” (And I’ve started on the third.)
HiT: Today’s authors have a unique relationship with their readers. Think Twitter, email, Facebook and those Amazon comments. Has that impacted the “Darkship” series at all … either responses to past stories or requests for specific story angles or characters?
Hoyt: ONE book could be said to have been born from that relationship. In “Darkship Thieves,” I had a gay couple, one of whom is dead when the book starts. (Well, kind of.) A group of women readers took it upon themselves to tell me, in the parlance of the fanfic groups I used to belong to, to “fix this, now.”
Well, you can’t fix death.
But as it turned out they bugged me so much that I had an idea for “A Few Good Men (Darkship)” which, incidentally provides an Happily Ever After of sorts to the surviving character. Of course, as far as I’m concerned that was the book that initiated the revolution on Earth, which was a little more important, but the fans were happy, so who am I to complain?
FAST FACT: Sarah Hoyt’s space-opera novel “Darkship Thieves” was named 2011’s Prometheus Award Winner for libertarian-leaning fiction.
Also recently one of my younger fans has undertaken to create a bible for the Darkship world, with my blessing since I desperately need it. When you are past book three it becomes too easy to make mistakes in names, character descriptions, location, etc. However, he sent the “world bible” back with a series of questions. And I can see two or three books and a few short stories from those questions.
I should say here that I love my fans. A number of them have become friends and almost family. I find the ability to talk to and get to know my readers a great bonus.
HiT: The best science fiction taps into modern-day issues as well as timeless human traits. Can you talk about that in the context of Athena’s motherhood? There’s lots of engaging material here, both in her ability to protect Eris and how Kit processes her bond with their daughter…
Hoyt: Years ago I had a standard joke in Science Fiction panels. It went something like “I’m getting sick and tired of all these heroines who save the world. Saving the world is easy if that’s all you’re doing. I want to see them do that with a toddler and an infant attached to them.”
I guess that’s what I’m doing to Athena.
But this whole book – including the semi-feral children – is about the relative importance of parenthood and it is making that point.
Sure, saving the world is very important. I was active in politics and trying to get published even when I had small children. But I stayed home and put the children first.
I realize this is not possible for many people. I realize it is not even possible to have children for many people. However, the future belongs to those who show up. If we’re not having children and are hiring strangers to look after the few we do have, our society is not long for this world.
I believe it is important to raise children, even while fighting world-shattering battles. Hence Athena.
HiT: You could argue this is a deeply feminist story, yet our heroine isn’t one to blame others for her plight. Was that a conscious choice on your part?
Hoyt: No. My character is my character. I don’t see what is resolved by blaming others or pointing fingers, or wallowing in victimhood. I prefer characters who DO things. So, I suppose characters I create tend to be characters who do things.
We’re all discriminated against for a reason or another. It’s not like you can stop people from thinking stupid things about you, whether because you’re a woman, or have an accent, or are a man under six feet, or are a little overweight, or whatever.
You can’t control other people, only how you function. I chose to (and my characters largely choose to) ignore prejudice and people’s crazy notions, and just do what I want to do, as well as I can do it.
HiT: The Athena/Kit romance is unlike your standard courtship in every way, yet it’s unabashedly sweet at the same time. Talk about creating that bond and how it intersects with traditional love stories on its own terms?
Hoyt: Athena in many ways isn’t “human” in the sense that humans are not just born but socialized. She was raised as an instrument, not a human being. It is her relationship with Kit, and Kit’s family that for the first time in her life integrates her in a group of people, to whom she matters, so it’s more than a love story.
But the love story is in itself rather traditional. Both of them have reason to think badly of themselves and each other, and those obstacles are removed so they can fall in love.
Though I will admit that the proposal scene is a little… off beat. But it is also thoroughly Athena.
HiT: Gene splicing, increasingly sophisticated robots … some of the book’s themes are getting eerily close to reality thanks to modern technology. Do the latest headline fuel your stories or impact the themes you embed into your narratives?
Hoyt: To the extent that I wrote the first book because of all the people who wanted to forbid cloning, I suppose. I thought that forbidding it would just encourage the sort of abuses we see in “Darkship Thieves.”
Other than that? Not so much. Across all my SF/F work there seems to be a thread of “explorations of being human.” Perhaps because I, too, was raised in some isolation.
However, since ’98 when I first wrote the first book, I’ve found that these developments are multiplying, and it’s important to consider them. I don’t have answers, but the questions are worth asking.
HiT: Do you see more Darkship stories in the near future for you, or will you revisit another series next?
Hoyt: Right now I’m working on “Guardian” with Larry Correia. This is the book after next (the next is delivered) in his Monster Hunter International Series. I’ve also recently completed an historical fantasy novel with Kevin J. Anderson.
However, as soon as “Guardian” is done (at the latest by the end of July) I intend to write the next one of the Earth Revolution, and then Darkship Defiance.
Meanwhile my publisher is planning a re-issue of “Darkship Thieves,” this time with an appendix detailing the future history in which these books (and a lot of short stories) are set.
HiT: We talked last year about a number of topics. Since then, free speech has come under attack in new and frightening ways. Do you know of fellow artists and authors who are concerned about this trend, or do you find your peers focusing on other issues in recent months?
Hoyt: Understand I’ve been very busy, and also that I try very hard not to read updates from my friends on the left side of the aisle, particularly since November. I’d say they’re terrified of being herded into camps.
That the feeling is delusional doesn’t make their fear any less real. I just don’t feel a need to fight that battle. Besides, if I keep rolling my eyes that hard, they’re eventually going to fall off, my cats will play with them, and there’s just no coming back from that.
As for my friends and colleagues to the right of Lenin…. Eh. Our speech has always been hated and vilified. It is something we’ve learned to live with, and which, if anything the Sad Puppies campaigns for the Hugo underscored. We (and the group consisted of a Latin male, a Latin female (me), a white male married to an African American woman, and two other females) talked of liberty, of the importance of ludic enjoyment and of books that speak to the emotions of the readers – as opposed to academic neo-Marxist virtue signaling – they spread lies about our wanting to run minorities and women out of science fiction, in an attempt to curtail our free speech, or at least its reach.
If I’d heard the things that have been said about me, and didn’t know me, I’d be very leery of reading my books. So that type of calumny curtails free speech. Also, as threatened during the SP campaigns, when we got the “you’ll never work in this town again” it makes it hard for us to be invited to conventions or listened to when we are.
For anyone to the right of Lenin in science fiction, who isn’t willing to play a game or stay in the political closet, this is the reality of our lives.
There is no point at all sitting here and pointing fingers and being a victim.
In these days of distributed information, and distributed publishing (though most of us are still being published traditionally too – thank heavens for Baen) I find the people lobbying accusations to stop us reaching a potential audience are increasingly more isolated and listened to less. They’re very loud, but in the end they’re very few of them, and as traditional publishing loses power, so do they; as the awards they tarnish lose prestige, so do they.
In the end, I’m doing what I want to do, as well as I can. I figure everything else will take care of itself.