Optional Fantasies

Earthseed by Pamela SargentBy 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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