Carol Severance, a remembrance

Myself with Carol Severance in 2011

Myself with Carol Severance in 2011

I was saddened to learn that Carol Severance has recently passed away.

For those who don’t know her, Carol was a science fiction writer from Hawaii. There aren’t many of us here in the islands, and she was an important friend and mentor to me early in my career.

Carol’s own career was all too brief, but it was both unique and significant. Carol and her husband Craig had lived and worked in Micronesia. Their children grew up in Hawaii. Her experience and her love of Polynesia led to a body of work focused on themes and settings that reflected Polynesian culture.

Carol’s first novel, Reefsong, was published by Del Rey in 1991 and won the Compton Crook award for best first novel. In those days I think the science fiction field made less distinction between adult and young adult novels. Reefsong had wide-ranging appeal and for many years afterward its adventurous plot and islander theme made it popular in Hawaii’s middle schools and high schools. My daughter read it many times over; it was one of her favorite books growing up. Reefsong is a novel that should not be forgotten, especially in Hawaii. It’s presently available as an ebook, and I hope that many more people are able to discover it that way.

It was my good fortune that Carol’s career had started a few years before mine. She was always ready with advice and perspective on the writing field. Though she lived in Hilo, on the Big Island, in those early days she would often come to my island of Maui to write in the quiet isolation of a south-shore condo, and on those visits we’d usually arrange to spend some time together.

Once, we even made a trek together, through Denver and down to New Orleans for a science fiction convention.

After Reefsong, Carol wrote three other novels that formed the Island Warrior trilogy: Demon Drums, Storm Caller, and Sorcerous Sea.

Unfortunately, in the ensuing years Carol faced health issues. She no longer visited Maui, and it became difficult for her to write. I began to hear from her less and less until we lost touch altogether. Then in 2011 I found an old phone number and decided to give it a try. I was thrilled to hear Carol’s voice on the other end of the line. She sounded wonderful. Soon after that I was able to visit both her and her husband Craig at their Hilo home. At that time, Carol was no longer writing, but she was active in the art community and she and Craig seemed very happy.

That visit was the last time I saw her. I’m so grateful I had that chance. My condolences go to her family. Thank you for sharing Carol with the SFF community. For those reading this, I encourage you to celebrate her life by exploring her fiction.

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About Linda Nagata

Linda Nagata is the author of many novels and short stories including the far-future novel Memory, a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial award, the novella “Goddesses,” the first online publication to receive a Nebula award, and the story "Nahiku West," a finalist for the 2013 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Though best known for science fiction, she writes fantasy too, exemplified by her “scoundrel lit” series Stories of the Puzzle Lands. Her newest novel is The Last Good Man, a near-future military thriller due out in June.
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6 Responses to Carol Severance, a remembrance

  1. Carol was a wonderful writer, and so much fun to hang out with.

    I had to honor her wish to be out of touch, but I missed her, and will miss her.

    Vonda

    • I am heartbroken to hear of Carol’s passing. Bob and I stayed with Craig and Carol just after the tsunami that fizzled. On an earlier visit, we watched a baby whale being born in the bay right from their lanai. We mainlanders would not have realized what we were seeing that morning if Craig and Carol, the experienced whale watchers, had not clued us in. Both the guys liked to cook, and we gals–beautifully fêted could talk books deep into the night. Carol was a thoughtful and loving woman, smart, clever as heck with crafty things, and I shall always dream of swimming in her yellow seas.

  2. Pauline Cramer says:

    I am very sorry to hear of Carol Severance’s passing. We knew her when she was living in Seattle. It seems so long ago, but we are still using some dishes we bought from them when they were leaving, so I often think of her.

  3. Eileen Gunn says:

    So sorry to hear to this: I think of her fondly. I send my condolences to her family.

  4. Pingback: In Memoriam - Carol Severance - SFWA

  5. Deborah Severance says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. But ironically, My mom Carol, when married to my father was Carol T Severance. Their were four of us kids, Larry, Victor, me and Jeffrey Severance. My mom too has passed. But she loved Hawaii VERY much. I just found it ironic that their were other Carol Severance’s out there. Your friend Carol sounds like she was just an amazing person.