"Ixelion stepped under the archway of his Gate, the box clutched tightly in his hand, and the guards with their silver wands and stiff capes of scales greeted him with soft, deferential voices." So begins Pauline Gedge's unparalleled exploration of the creators of the universe in 1982's Stargate. At the dawn of time, the universe is overseen by the Worldmaker, who rules over each sun lord in the solar systems of his creation. Until, ruled by unexpected malice, he becomes the Unmaker.
Decades after its initial release, Stargate is available once again in digital and paperback format, produced by the Chicago Review Press in 2016. To a whole new generation of readers, Stargate offers a subtle, rich, and fantastically vivid look into a world filled with characters who play to and transcend our own human flaws. Pauline Gedge shares her inspiration for Stargate in this exclusive OMNI interview.
In 1982, Stargate earned critical acclaim worldwide and was entrenched as a classic in the fantasy and sci-fi genre within a few years. Do you think the re-release will be met with similar reactions? Is Stargate being reborn to a new generation?
When Stargate was first published it received a fair amount of positive response from critics—lovely for me of course, and completely unexpected–– but sales of the book were modest. It seemed from my mail that readers who liked my first two novels were expecting something from me along the lines of historical fiction and were disappointed. I was pleased with what I'd done but a living had to be earned, so I turned back to history for my fourth writing project. However, Stargate remains a fully-realized work of my imagination and I'm proud of it. Seeing it in print once again is an unlooked-for delight. My hope is that it will be appreciated afresh by a new generation of book lovers.
Many have tabbed Stargate as a sci-fi classic, while others file it under the fantasy genre. What do you think is the difference between the two, and how would you classify it?
I heartily dislike the practice of dividing literature into genres. Writing is good, bad, or indifferent. That's all. Philip K. Dick's work is incisive, sometimes savage, often prophetic, and surely transcends both the "sci-fi" and "fantasy" categories. Ray Bradbury's is lyrical, bordering on the poetic, until we see the skull beneath the skin. Would anyone classify Jane Eyre as a "romance?" Good writers know their craft and are able to draw their readers into the worlds they create regardless of setting. Publishers and booksellers need genres. I don't think readers do. Where does Stargate belong? In what genre? To me, it's simply a story told as well as I'm able.
You have stated that your earliest best friends were a pen and a pencil. Decades later, do you find yourself in the same situation? That being said, what is your favorite and preferred medium and environment to work in?
When I began to write, the desks at school had inkwells filled each day by the Ink Monitor, and wooden pens with replaceable nibs. How far technologies in every area of life have come! I truly regret that I remain a Luddite in spite of my family's kind efforts to teach me otherwise. I’ve tried on occasion to make the cell phone a part of my everyday life, without success. I learn how to use one, then simply can't retain what I've been shown. When I settled down with my second husband he introduced me to the world of computers. It took him a long time, and much anxiety on my part, before I was able to actually write on one. It does make editing easier, but I still jot down ideas and observations using paper and pencil. I can do so peacefully curled up anywhere in my house. As soon as I decided to retire I cancelled my e-mail and I don't regret doing so.
After Stargate’s re-release, would you ever consider writing a sequel (or at least something similar to the novel) or letting it run loose in the television/movie universe?
Through the demands of my readers I reluctantly wrote a sequel to one of my novels—House of Dreams—but the slow corruption and eventual collapse of the worlds I created in Stargate have a depressing finality about them, even to me. The book stands complete. Of course I'd like to see it come to life on the big or small screen, but doing so would be an expensive undertaking on the part of any production company. I can't see such a thing happening unless the popularity of the book made it a viable enterprise. Still—Never say Never!
When you think of Stargate, what is the first image, story, dialogue, feeling, or character that comes to mind? Why do you think that is?
The thought of Stargate brings to mind a multiplicity of images, but none so clear as the very first, which came into my mind with no warning at all. I had been busy with my kitchen chores when suddenly I saw a small stone room with three arched grey walls. The fourth wall lay open to the roof of a bright forest far below. Standing in the middle of the room was a man exuding a soft light. He was waiting for something or someone. His back was towards me. Although he looked human I knew that he wasn't. He was eons old, immortal, and perfect in every way.
The room where he stood was one tiny corner of a vast complex of other rooms large and small, too many to count, in a building that, like him, had been around forever. I remember wondering whether I'd been reading something that had prompted such an odd image. I got on with my housework but the picture stayed with me, and finally I began to play with it. Who was he and why was he perfect? In what way? In all ways? What is the nature of perfection? I ended up with the plot of a novel and an obsession with the concept of perfection that led to an emotional breakdown between parts two and three and a few month's rest before I was able to finish. Usually the ideas for my work rise from a knowledge of history and can be traced logically to their source. Not Stargate.
Have you (and did you) run into any difficulties with the 1994 Stargate film—completely independent from your own works—and the soon to follow television show?
I live in a very small village not far from a larger town where I do most of my shopping. I've been here for a very long time. When the movie Stargate came out I found myself instantly, and of course erroneously, a celebrity. So many well wishers congratulated me and then had to console me when I told them the truth. Actually I was surprised by how many people knew that I'd written a novel of the same name. I liked the movie and I sometimes watch re-runs of the series.
You were born in New Zealand, bounced around between England and Canada, wrote about Egypt, and lived in housing ranging from suburban neighborhoods to a small village in Oxfordshire. Do you think your experience traveling the world and living in different cultures has helped shape your imagination in creating the worlds of your novels?
My father, an Anglican priest, had itchy feet and moved us, his family, from one parish to another as I was growing up. After his graduation from Oxford we ended up in Manitoba, then back to New Zealand, then to Canada again, always remaining within what was then the Commonwealth. As an adult, having inherited his bug, I also tended to become restless after a few years in one place. I can't say that I experienced different cultures during those years.
Later I was able to afford travel to more exotic destinations but by then I was already published. There was no limit placed on my imagination during my younger years. My father was a voracious reader. It never occurred to him to restrict my access to any of his books. Thus I became a student of early exploration stories, the history of countries from Mexico to what was then called "The Dark Continent," and great literary fiction from Dickens (whom I loathed) to the Russians. I discovered ancient Egypt at school when I was eleven. I can't say that knocking around parts of the Western world fed my imagination. My inner life was always too huge and chaotic to allow the so-called real world to influence me much. It's true, though, that I learned the unimportance of individual differences and the value of country life.
What compels you to write, create, and tell stories?
I seem to have inherited a writing gene. My father wrote poetry for years, my sister also until she made the study of Philosophy her profession. I have a cousin who is a published novelist of both adult and children's literature. Both my sons can write although they've chosen other avenues in which to make their living. I wrote my first poem at the age of ten when I felt able to begin to manipulate language.
If you woke up tomorrow in the body of any character who would you be and why?
Like many people my age I could wish for more years of health and vitality, but I don't think I'd want to be anyone else... unless perhaps one of Colette's female characters? Or Colette herself, with all her knowledge of the female psyche and her incomparable skill and sensitivity in portraying what it meant to be a woman in an age before political correctness? Well. I'm content with my own identity as a whole, count all my blessings, and look forward to a new crop of Stargate readers with all their comments and criticisms. Where would I be without them?
Stargate by Pauline Gedge
Pauline Gedge's Stargate unfolds with epic power, derived from the richness, depth, and subtlety with which it was conceived. Like Gedge's critically-acclaimed historical novels, Stargate is written with unforgettable vividness.