Katherine MacLean died September 1 her son, Christopher Mason, reported on Facebook. She was 94.
While she worked as a laboratory technician in 1947 MacLean began writing science fiction. Her first published story, “Defense Mechanism,” appeared in Astounding in 1949 and the majority of her short fiction was published during the following decade. “Second Game,” written in collaboration with Charles V. De Vet was a Best Novelette Hugo nominee in 1959.
In the Seventies MacLean produced three novels, one of them a fix-up combining several of her shorter works.
She was married to Charles Dye from 1951-1953; later married David Mason, 1956-1962; and her third husband was Carl West.
For Eric Leif Davin’s Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965, MacLean supplied him with a detailed description of her negotiations with John W. Campbell in regards to the publication of her earliest stories. She had to be convinced by Astounding’s associate editor L. Jerome Stanton that Campbell wasn’t stringing her along by asking for revisions out of an unwillingness to publish a story by a woman. Indeed, he would buy three of her earliest stories and publish them under her full name.
Critics and colleagues praised her sff highly: Damon Knight wrote, “As a science fiction writer she has few peers; her work is not only technically brilliant but has a rare human warmth and richness.” Brian Aldiss said she could “do the hard stuff magnificently,” while Theodore Sturgeon observed that she “generally starts from a base of hard science, or rationalizes psi phenomena with beautifully finished logic.”
In 2017, Samuel R. Delany campaigned to make her a SFWA Grand Master:
Since it is not about quantity, but quality and influence, that is why the award should be given her. As I wrote to her when I the award was announced for me:
“Among the great absurdities of the SF world is that I am a grand master and you are not. Happy birthday and much love.” By not honoring her, we make our awards mean less. Her single collection of short stories (The Diploids) and her Nebula Award winning novel [sic] (Missing Man) pointed a new generation of writers the way sentences had to be put together to tell a story both humanly and intellectually satisfying, and an older generation recognized it.
MacLean’s novella “The Missing Man” won a Nebula Award in 1971. The expanded novel-length version was nominated for a Nebula in 1976. In 2003 MacLean was honored as an SFWA Author Emeritus. In 2011, she received the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.