By Tom Whitmore: Award-winning Seattle science fiction author Vonda N. McIntyre died April 1, 2019, of pancreatic cancer. She was 70.
McIntyre wrote novels, short stories and media tie-in books, edited a groundbreaking anthology of feminist SF, and founded the Clarion West Writing Workshop. She won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards for her 1979 novel Dreamsnake, and won the Nebula again for her 1996 novel The Moon and the Sun. Her short stories were also nominated for awards. In media fiction, she will probably be most remembered as the author who gave Ensign Sulu a first name (Hikaru) in her Star Trek novel The Entropy Effect: that name was later written into one of the Star Trek films. With Susan Janice Anderson, McIntyre edited one of the first feminist science fiction anthologies (Aurora: Beyond Equality, 1976). She was a participant in the Women in Science Fiction Symposium edited by Jeffrey D. Smith (Khatru #3/4, 1975 – reprinted with additional material as by Jeanne Gomoll, lulu.com, 2008) with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany, James Tiptree Jr. and others. Her Nebula-winning fantasy novel The Moon and the Sun has been made into an as-yet-unreleased film, The King’s Daughter, starring Pierce Brosnan. Much of the film was shot in Versailles, and McIntyre delighted in telling how kind Brosnan was to her when she visited the set.
McIntyre founded Book View Café, a online publishing collective for member authors to sell their ebooks. When she developed some joint problems in her hands, she began making what she called “beaded sea creatures,” which she regularly gave to friends and charity auctions. She had a lively correspondence with Scientific American columnist Martin Gardner about them, and some of them are in the Smithsonian Institution.
Vonda Neel McIntyre was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1948. Her family moved to Seattle in the early 1960s, and she earned a BS in biology from the University of Washington. She went on to graduate school in genetics at UW. In 1970, she attended the Clarion SF Writing Workshop – and in 1971, with the blessing of Clarion founder Robin Scott Wilson, she founded the Clarion West Writing Workshop in Seattle. McIntyre continued to be involved with the workshop throughout her life. She enjoyed a close friendship with Ursula K. Le Guin throughout her career that including various editing and publishing ventures.
The Seattle science fiction community recalls McIntyre as the “fairy godmother” to hundreds of Clarion West graduates, many of whom have gone on to be bright stars in the publishing world. “Vonda was one of Clarion West’s founders, and has always been our fairy godmother, bringing comfort and whimsy to class after class with her impromptu visits and gifts of crocheted sea creatures,” said novelist Nisi Shawl, a Clarion West board member. “She was the Good Witch of the Northwest, a fearless public reader and a stellar private writer who is missed by all.”
A memorial service will be arranged in Seattle. McIntyre requested that, in lieu of flowers, people make memorial donations to one of their favorite charities.
For additional information, please call or email her agent, Frances Collin at email@example.com, 610-254-0555.
Vonda N. McIntyre did ten times as much behind the scenes in the science fiction community than she did out in the open. Her award-winning stories, her media tie-ins, and her editing were all quite visible, and important: more important in the long run will be her legacy of support for individuals and institutions.
After going to the Clarion workshop in Pennsylvania, where she roomed next to Octavia E. Butler, she decided to found a similar workshop on the West Coast. With the aid of Clarion founder Robin Scott Wilson, she started (and ran for three years) Clarion West; when Marilyn Holt and JT Stewart decided to restart it in the 1980s, she continued to advise and support the workshop. Most of Clarion West’s archives were stored in Vonda’s basement. She was a regular donor of both money and items for their auctions.
She was the webmaster for SFWA for many years, and the webmaster for Book View Café ase well.
She supported more writers than anyone realizes. Her friendship and support for Ursula K. Le Guin is well known: they published holiday cards together, and each regularly mentioned the other. She also was strong writing support for James Tiptree Jr., Paul Preuss, Molly Gloss, Nicola Griffith, Nisi Shawl, Octavia E. Butler, and just about anyone else who she met who wrote. She also listened to and cared for folks who didn’t write. She was a quiet, tireless force helping bring women’s voices forth in the SF community.
Her beaded sea creatures are almost pure Vonda. When she began to develop some pain in her hands from arthritis, she decided to take her crocheting skills and create beaded shapes reminiscent of nudibranchs and fractal patterns to give her the needed exercise to keep her hands supple. She began giving them to friends, donating them to charity auctions, and talking with people about them. She had a lively correspondence with Martin Gardner about them. The Smithsonian has examples of her work as well.
Vonda also helped out in small ways. Greg Bear commented about how happy Vonda was to wheel him around when he was temporarily in a wheelchair at the memorial for Karen K. Anderson, his mother-in-law. Every convention organizer who ever had her as a guest was pleased with her smile and her kindness to people working on the convention. She would not accept mistreatment, but never attacked. She had stories about all her friends, and would tell them whenever it was appropriate.
The SF community lost a major pillar today.