Like many others, I first met Vonda N. McIntyre by reading her. Had I never known her in any other way, I would still feel pain at losing her. Her work was amazing, a perfect example of the way science fiction can be about ideas and tell a good story.
So here is one tiny bit of good news: Twelve days before she died, Vonda finished revisions to her final novel.
I have had the honor of reading it. It’s an awesome book. And while I want to cry even more every time when I remember that she won’t be here when it comes out in print, it will still be part of her legacy to us.
When she was guest of honor at the WorldCon in Spokane, someone asked her which was her favorite of her own books. Vonda said, “The one I’m working on now.”
This is that book. If she had lived longer, she’d probably have started working on another book, and likely would have felt that it was her favorite. It’s a good attitude for a writer, to love most the work you’re doing right now.
And Vonda was, first and foremost, a great writer.
But she was many other things as well. In reading various tributes to her over the last couple of days, I have noticed one word in particular: generous.
This is not about money (though I have no doubt that Vonda gave money as well). Vonda was generous with her time, with her skills, with her patience. I keep seeing remembrances from people whom I didn’t even know she knew, telling about how she helped them with their writing or their website or some problem they had.
She was very generous to me. My first real interaction with her beyond reading her books (and a brief meeting at a Clarion West party) was when I was trying to make sure links to my website worked with the SFWA website. I don’t even remember the issues, only that she was very helpful to me.
This is part of the legacy of science fiction fandom, and many other well-known writers are known for it. But even in that community, Vonda’s generosity stands out.
I really got to know Vonda after we started Book View Cafe. She was with us from the beginning, and did so much here, from fiddling with the ebooks until the formatting worked well to doing website work to copy edits and beta reads and even nuking spam comments on the blog.
I know she was delighted to be able to put her extensive backlist out as BVC ebooks. She wanted those books to be available on her terms. (And yes, I’ve linked to her BVC books because I know Vonda would want me to do that. She was always reminding us to mention our work.)
When she was guest of honor at the 2015 WorldCon, she helped increase BVC’s visibility there by participating in panels about what we were doing. On a personal note, she asked me to interview her for her guest of honor talk, allowing me to be visible at a WorldCon when my own novel had just come out. (And she had blurbed my book.) Generous.
In preparation for the interview, I wanted to make sure I’d read most of her major work, so I checked to see what I had missed. I didn’t think I’d read The Exile Waiting, so I started with it.
Recognition dawned. I had read it back in the late 70s or early 80s when I was just discovering what was available in science fiction and reading everything I could get my hands on. It was that great book I kept remembering, except that I had forgotten both the title and who wrote it. All I remembered was the story. I had not forgotten that.
I had always wanted to track it down and I finally had. It’s embarrassing that I forgot she wrote it, but I hope she knew that the fact that I remembered the story itself was because it was such a good one that it haunted me even after the details had fallen away.
I think Vonda left us a lot of things that will still be with us after the details have fallen away.