Sunday, September 1, 2019

Remembering Vonda McIntyre

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is In Memoriam: a tribute to a writer you admire who has left us.

At SFWA's Nebula Conference in May, I was privileged to moderate a panel to remember Vonda McIntyre, her life and work. I was super excited about the opportunity because I'd never gotten a chance to meet Vonda - who died after a sudden illness in March 2019 - something I greatly regretted because her work had been so formative for me. The panelists were Asimov's editor Sheila Williams and authors Eileen Gunn and Connie Willis.

I figured that it didn't matter if I was kind of an impostor, since I couldn't personally contribute to remembering Vonda, since all I had to do was turn those powerful women loose on the topic.

Turns out, they all felt similarly - that they hadn't known Vonda as well as they'd have liked, and felt inadequate to the task of memorializing her. Eileen had known her best and brought little sea and alien creatures made of beads and wire that Vonda liked to create and give to friends.

But it was lovely to hear about the kind of person Vonda was. How she'd been pivotal in the early days of SFWA in getting female authors recognized and women treated with respect in the organization. She possessed a spine of steel and fiery determination - qualities the panelists found amusing to recall in retrospect, as Vonda had also been small in stature and quite gentle in personality. She baked cookies and gave them out freely. She helped people with websites and self-publishing before those were even much in use. Everyone remembered her as a warm and generous person.

They also pointed out how groundbreaking her work was. Early in my reading life, I'd been struck by her books - especially DREAMSNAKE - and their powerful female protagonists, their easy enjoyment of their sexuality, and the vivid, exciting, and unusual use of animals in her stories. The panelists spoke of how Vonda had been nearly unique in her biological approach to science fiction, how her biochemistry background illuminated her worlds in such different ways.

No wonder her work spoke to me.

Speaking of work, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my own - and that THE ORCHID THRONE is available for preorder!

Preorder at any of these wonderful retailers!