Back Pamela Sargent, “If Ever I Should Leave You”

Pamela Sargent (b. 1948)

Left: Front cover of Women of Wonder (Vintage Books, 1975), with art by American graphic designer Charles Shields (1944–2020). Right: Sargent’s first story collection, Starshadows (Ace, 1977), which contains the unaltered version of “If Ever I Should Leave You.” The cover art is by American illustrator Paul Alexander (1937–2021).

Before 1975, there had been quite a number of science fiction anthologies that contained only works by men—even though, as SF editor Lisa Yaszek points out, at least 15% of the stories in genre magazines had been written by women over the previous decades.

That changed in 1975. As Pamela Sargent recalls, Vonda N. McIntyre asked the editors at Vintage “why an anthology of sf they had brought out included only stories by men” and challenged them to publish a collection of fiction exclusively by women. They expressed interest in the idea but told her someone would have to assemble the collection. “Knowing that I’d been trying to sell my anthology for a while, Vonda got in touch with me,” Sargent recalls. Which is how Women of Wonder came to be.

“Science fiction can provide women with possible scenarios for their own future development,” Sargent writes in the introduction to the book. “Only sf and fantasy literature can show us women in entirely new or strange surroundings. It can explore what we might become if and when the present restrictions on our lives vanish, or show us new problems and restrictions that might arise. It can show us the remarkable woman as normal where past literature shows her as the exception. Will we become more like men, ultimately indistinguishable from them with all their faults and virtues, or will we bring new concerns and values to society, perhaps changing men in the process?”

In addition to her work on Women of Wonder (and its four follow-up volumes), Sargent was and is an award-winning author in her own right. For the second volume of The Future is Female!, the Library of America anthologies that harken back to the pioneering work by women in science fiction, Lisa Yaszek selected Sargent’s story, “If Ever I Should Leave You,” a surprisingly moving story about a woman who travels back in time to meet her recently departed lover.

You can read the story, free of charge, at our Story of the Week site, with an introduction describing a nightmare for any author: how the story, when it first appeared in a magazine, was “destroyed” by the editors.

Read “If Ever I Should Leave You,” by Pamela Sargent

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