Maureen Kincaid Speller (1959-2022)

Maureen Kincaid Speller in 2005

Influential sff critic and reviewer Maureen Kincaid Speller died September 18 of cancer. She was the Senior Reviews Editor at Strange Horizons, and Editorial Consultant for Foundation: the International Review of Science Fiction.

Active in fandom since about 1980, she wrote over the course of time as Maureen Porter, Maureen Speller, and Maureen Kincaid Speller; she was the partner of Paul Kincaid from 1986 until her death (they married in 1993).

A leader in the British Science Fiction Association, she edited its publication Matrix in the late Eighties, served as Magazine Reviews editor of Vector in the Nineties, and wrote innumerable reviews and essays for each of them. The organization mourns her loss, saying “Her diligence, wisdom and vision were instrumental in the BSFA’s continuance for several years.”  

She also edited the first issue of The Gate, a quarterly science fiction semiprozine which lasted three issues (1989-1990).

Speller was a four-time Hugo nominee, once for Best Fan Writer (1999) and three for her work on Strange Horizons (2016, 2019, 2021). She won a 1998 Nova Award, given for achievement in British fanzines, as Best Fan Writer.  

In addition to the BSFA publications she worked on, Speller created her own fanzines, including Snufkin’s Bum, and Steam Engine Time co-edited with Paul Kincaid and Bruce Gillespie.

Elected the 1998 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, she traveled to Bucconeer, the 1998 Worldcon in Baltimore, and fannish centers including Madison, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Portland. Geri Sullivan reminded friends today that Speller was “the TAFF delegate for whom TAFF-on-a-stick (a fannish outing to the Minnesota State Fair) was first invented.”

She often served as an awards judge – four years for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (1989, 1990, 1993, 1994); the Otherwise Award (2004); and the Rotsler Award (2004-2006). She also contributed reviews to the Clarke Award “Shadow” Juries of 2017 and 2018.

Outside of fandom, she was active in the Liberal Democrats party, running for local office at least once, in 2005 (the Conservative candidate won).

A great deal can be learned about the nuances of sff criticism by reading her work, partly because it was so insightful, and partly because she expressed her thoughts so clearly and concisely. One memorable example is “You’re Never Alone with a Critic – Shadowing the Clarke Award, 2018”, which says in part —

…Here’s the thing – a critic’s job is not to provide plot synopses, nor is it to tell you whether or not you’ll like a novel. It is definitely not a critic’s job to act as an unpaid publicity agent. A critic’s job is to look at the fiction itself, and to have a view about it. Critics write about all sorts of things. They think about where a text sits in relation to other works of sf, they explore themes, tease out aesthetic similarities and differences; they consider what a novel says about the world at large, and, yes, they make judgement based on their experience as informed readers….

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10 thoughts on “Maureen Kincaid Speller (1959-2022)

  1. Damn. I knew she’d had health issues but I had no idea it was so serious. My heartfelt condolences to Paul and all of her friends and family.

  2. Pingback: A royal burial (though not the one you’re thinking of) and how a monk helped me find my grandmother’s grave | From the Heart of Europe

  3. Tho’ I didn’t know Maureen very well and indeed our paths only crossed occasionally, her “standing” in fandom (both here in UK and overseas) was very high. Condolences from me to all who knew her (and I’m now in post-Chicon 8/Worldcon mode : still slightly jet-lagged and still unpacking).

  4. Thank you Mike, for the excellent tribute. Maureen was brilliant and brightened a lot of lives, even including mine orbiting distantly in California. Condolences to Paul.

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