BY SIDNEY BOKER ’21
On April 1, award-winning author Vonda N. McIntyre died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 70. According to her obituary in the Guardian, McIntyre was at the forefront of science fiction in the 1970s, inspired by other feminist authors like Ursula K. Le Guin and Joanna Russ. McIntyre wrote about women in a genre in which women usually weren’t represented and explored gender in many of her works.
McIntyre was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to parents Vonda and Harrell Neel McIntyre. The family often moved around the east coast of the U.S. and eventually to the Netherlands. According to McIntyre’s website, they finally settled in Washington state. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Washington in 1970. McIntyre attended graduate school for genetics but left without completing her Ph.D. because she “discovered that as a research scientist she made a very good [science fiction] writer.”
In 1971, shortly after attending the Clarion writers’ workshop at Clarion State College, Pennsylvania, McIntyre went on to found the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, Washington, which she helped run for three years. Beginning during this time and continuing throughout her career, McIntyre mentored and inspired many young writers, mostly women. Nisi Shawl, author of “Everfair” (2016) said in a phone interview with the New York Times, “[McIntyre] was one of the women who made me think I could write science fiction.”
Fonda Lee, a speculative fiction author, emphasized McIntyre’s impact on her career on her Twitter page. Lee tweeted that “[McIntyre] was one of the first pros to welcome [her] into the field” of science fiction. Lee told the New York Times that McIntyre encouraged her to write under her own name, not a “male or gender neutral pseudonym,” and emphasized that “[McIntyre] was rightfully proud of the strides that authors like her friend Ursula K. Le Guin and she had made in proving women to be a force in the field of speculative fiction.” She ended her Twitter thread saying, “The [science fiction and fantasy] field has lost a real gem. RIP Vonda. You certainly made a difference in this writer’s life. Thank you for the warm welcome, and for all the stories.”
Many of McIntyre’s works won or were nominated for prestigious awards, including the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the Sturgeon Award and the Tiptree Award. A collection of her shorter works were published in “Fireflood and Other Stories” (1979). McIntyre also worked on the science fiction feminist anthology “Aurora: beyond Equality” with Susan J. Anderson in 1976.
“The Exile Waiting” (1975), McIntyre’s first novel about a young thief’s escape from a dystopian Earth, was written in Le Guin’s cabin in Oregon. Her next novel, “Dreamsnake” (1978), is an expansion of her novelette “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand” (1973) which follows a healer named Snake who cures patients with genetically altered snake venom. “Dreamsnake” made McIntyre the third woman to win the Hugo award and second to win the Nebula award, according to her obituary. Her novel “The Moon and the Sun” (1997) won her another Nebula award, beating George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, which was also a finalist for the title.
Clearly prominent in science fiction, McIntyre was invited to write for “Star Trek” and penned “The Entropy Effect” (1981), “The First Adventure” (1986) and novelizations of three “Star Trek” movies. McIntyre’s obituary stated that she contributed Mr. Sulu’s first name, Haruki, and the name of Kirk’s mother, Winona, to the “Star Trek” canon. She also wrote the “Star Wars” novel “The Crystal Star” (1994).
“Vonda McIntyre’s contributions to the genre of science fiction are incredibly important,” said Rebekah McBane ’21. “Women in science fiction are often ignored and pushed to the side by men pretending that the genre was begun and always dominated by men, but we must not forget the women who were involved in huge successes like Star Trek, as McIntyre was.” McBane continued, “Female authors are winning awards because they deserve them, and McIntyre was one of the women leading the field forward.”
Upon receiving her cancer diagnosis in February, McIntyre returned home and completed her newest novel, set in Crete, “Curve of the World.” She died 11 days later.