Vonda N. McIntyre, 1948-2019: Final novel adds to Seattle science-fiction star’s legacy

Vonda McIntyre
Vonda McIntyre, 1948-2019. (SFWA Photo)

Vonda N. McIntyre, a leader of Seattle’s science-fiction community who made her mark with “Star Trek” novels as well as the Clarion West Writers Workshop, has passed away at the age of 70.

McIntyre was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer eight weeks ago — but she managed to complete her final novel, titled “Curve of the World,” less than two weeks before her death at home in Seattle on April 1.

“Be ready for a great read in a while!” her neighbor and friend Jane Hawkins reported in a posting to McIntyre’s journal on the CaringBridge website.

The Kentucky native moved to Seattle with her family in the 1960s, and earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Washington in 1970. In that same year, the young writer attended the Clarion Writers Workshop in State College, Pa. She was so impressed that she started up Clarion West in Seattle in 1971 while she was studying genetics in graduate school. That incarnation of the workshop lasted three years, but it was revived in Seattle by different organizers in the 1980s.

McIntyre won her first Nebula Award in 1973 for the novelette “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand.” That story was incorporated into her 1978 novel “Dreamsnake,” which won a Hugo award as well as another Nebula. “The Moon and the Sun” earned McIntyre her third Nebula in 1998. A movie based on that novel, “The King’s Daughter,” was filmed in 2014 and is awaiting theatrical release.

Her bibliography includes novelizations of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” She also wrote two other “Star Trek” books based on the original TV series, as well as a “Star Wars” novel and the “Starfarers” book series.

“Starfarers” grew out of a prank that McIntyre perpetrated during a science-fiction convention. Having been asked to speak on a panel about sci-fi on TV — and realizing that it was likely to include another tired tirade about how awful it was — she planned ahead. During the panel, she said, “Wait a minute. I can’t believe this. Haven’t you people been watching the ‘Starfarers’ miniseries?”

McIntyre said her detailed description left the audience convinced that they’d missed a badly scheduled and unadvertised miniseries. But the story underlying the nonexistent show was so good that McIntyre decided she’d make it real in another way. That’s how she came to write the four “Starfarers” novels.

McIntyre was a founding member of the Book View Cafe, an author-owned publishing cooperative, and was active in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. GeekWire contributor Frank Catalano said her passing was “very sad” on a personal level.

“She was a friend since I moved to Seattle in the early 1980s, a great help to me when I was overseeing the administration of the Nebula Awards and as a SFWA officer, and always a practical, humorous and calm voice of writing encouragement,” Catalano said.

McIntyre’s friends are planning a private memorial gathering within the next few days. A public reception will be scheduled within about a month, with details to be announced on the CaringBridge website. Her papers will be archived at the University of Oregon, which also preserves the literary papers of another well-known Pacific Northwest science-fiction writer, Ursula K. Le Guin.

This report draws upon an obituary written by Mike Glyer for the File770 website.

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