Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

Prehistoric Fiction with Sandra Saidak

Written By: Tracy - Jan• 10•12

When you think of speculative fiction, you might think of ray guns and space ships, or swords and pirate ships. But when Sandra Saidak writes speculative fiction, she reaches further into the past. Her first novel,“Daughter of the Goddess Lands”, which was published in 2011, is an epic set in the late Neolithic Age.

I recently had the chance to talk to Sandra about what it means to write prehistoric speculative fiction.

What is prehistoric fiction?

There are many definitions, but in terms of the genre, it usually means fiction set in time between the emergence of the first humans and the invention of writing. Prehistoric fiction can be set anywhere in the world and takes place from the Paleolithic (“old stone age”) to the Neolithic (“new stone age”) which continues through the invention of agriculture. While stories of this kind have always existed, modern prehistoric fiction (how’s that for an oxymoron?) began in 1980 with the publication of “The Clan of the Cave Bear” by Jean Auel.

Give me some examples of your favorite prehistoric fiction.

I suppose Jean Auel’s “Earth’s Children” series will always be my favorite, both for its outstanding writing and for giving us a new type of feminist literature. By the mid-80s the genre was taking off, but nothing really caught my attention until 1990, when Sue Harrison published “Mother Earth, Father Sky,” the first of a wonderful series set in the Aleutian Islands around 7000 B.C. Since then I’ve enjoyed Joan Wolf’s prehistoric books, Mary Mackey’s “Earth Song Trilogy” and Judith Tarr’s “Epona” series—all Neolithic Age settings, dealing with the clash between Horsemen and Goddess worshipers, and all of which influenced my own writing. Two science fiction authors, Mike Moscoe and Piers Anthony, have also written outstanding prehistoric fiction.

Why do you write prehistoric fiction?

I write prehistoric fiction because I love to look at different cultures. I had originally planned to major in Anthropology before I changed to English Lit. I especially love to imagine what would have happened when two very different cultures met each other—at a time when neither side had the advantage of modern weapons. I also enjoy writing about strong female protagonists, which most of the current books in the genre feature. And, I like answering this question so much that there are two recent posts on my website entitled “Why I Love Prehistoric Fiction”. Click the link at the end of this interview to read more.

What kind of research goes into world building for a prehistoric fiction novel?

One of the advantages to writing about a time before writing was invented is the limited amount of primary sources. Everything we know about the stone age comes from archeology. And every discovery is open to a wide range of interpretation. This variety of interpretation gives me a lot of freedom—and inspiration. I can stare for hours at a picture of an excavated village, and wonder, “Who lived here? What was the purpose of that stone that looks like a rolling pin?” The TimeLife book series “The Emergence of Man” has been my best friend since I began writing. I also make use of the bibliographies that many of my favorite authors include at the end of their books.

What are the challenges that face a female protagonist in prehistoric fiction? How do they differ from a male protagonist?

Most of the challenges faced by female protagonists in prehistoric fiction are the same as those faced by any character in a traditional adventure story: the loss of family/tribe, and being thrown out into the world to fend for oneself, or perhaps the conflict between fitting into society and being true to oneself. The challenge most unique to female protagonists is the popular storyline that pits resourceful women against patriarchic men, who are often bent on dominating or enslaving them. That challenge is central to “Daughter of the Goddess Lands.”

When it comes to male protagonists, the greatest challenge is finding them at all! Prehistoric fiction today is overwhelmingly female based. The few books I’ve read with male protagonists usually contain female co-protagonists, or a kind of ensemble cast, which can make it hard to identify the actual main character. I suppose the challenge most often faced by leading men in these books involves re-evaluating their views of the universe, and having to choose between a safe, familiar world-view and a challenging new way of life.

How did you meet these challenges in your Kalie’s Journey series?

In “Kalie’s Journey,” I focused on the above mentioned culture-clash between male dominated and egalitarian societies. I tried to imagine what would happen if a strong, well-adjusted woman who had everything going for her was suddenly forced to live in a world where she was the property of a man, and where this was accepted by both men and women. While all of this trauma happens to Kalie before the book begins (I wanted to avoid on-screen brutality and the possible desire of the reader to throw the book against the wall) these events set up all of Kalie’s later challenges: to escape, to warn her people of a danger they cannot even imagine, to heal herself, and, eventually, to bring the battle to her enemy.

What’s next for you?

“Daughter of the Goddess Lands” was published in November, 2011. I am currently in the final editing phase of the sequel “Shadow of the Horsemen,” which I hope to see published in the spring of 2012. Next on my agenda will be to finish writing book three, tentatively titled “Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom.” After that…well, I have this alternative history novel I’ve been working on . . .

Where can readers find your book?

“Daughter of the Goddess Lands” is available in both paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com. Or, if you attend science fiction conventions in the San Francisco Bay Area, look for me there: I’ll have plenty of copies.

Where can they find you online?

My website is http://sandrasaidak.com/

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