My friend and fellow writer, Book View Cafe co-founder, Vonda N. McIntyre, died last month. There were a bunch of obituaries, including mainstream papers like The New York Times
and The Guardian,
and many genre publications. Her friends have been gathering memories of her as well. It took me a while to put together my thoughts, but here they are:
I have been thinking what I could add to the wonderful stories about Vonda. She was one of the many amazing women writers who inspired my early career, but I didn’t meet her in person until 1994, when she came to Los Angeles (where I lived then) for a fellowship to the Chesterfield Writer’s Film Project workshop. How could I resist the chance to meet her? I wrote to her, introduced myself, and received a warm reply. I picked her up and brought her home to my family. I remember her relaxing, being treated as a normal but quite fascinating person, away from the artificial, competitive environment of Hollywood. We got together a number of times during her sojourn, talking a little about writing but mostly life and food and the weather, just enjoying each other’s company. I remember her returning the favor when I was in Seattle for a convention and she took me out to the best salmon dinner I’ve had in my life. We found a lot to laugh about. Then when I joined Book View Cafe she was my mentor as well, endlessly patient and encouraging. (Plus I got to brag that she formatted my ebooks, how amazing!)
One particular discussion stands out from her time in LA. The topic had gotten on to media tie-ins and shared worlds (she’d written Star Trek and Star Wars novels, and I had a story in a SW anthology and Darkover anthologies — and I have since gone on to novel-length works in that world). I asked her if she regretted taking time from her original writing and she said that the tie-ins made it financially possible to work on other, less commercial projects. The way she discussed her work made it clear that she did her best, no matter what the story, how her imagination and sensibilities and values enriched everything she produced. That has stayed with me over the years as I’ve wrestled with my insane expectations of myself and my work: Write the best you can with whatever life gives you. The rest will take care of itself.
Ironically, the last book Vonda was going to format for me was a collection of my Darkover short fiction. Here’s the last email she sent me, typically generous, loving Vonda:
Body is sort of setting the boundaries.
I sure wish I could finish the book for you.
So of course the book is dedicated to her.
Miss you much, my dear friend.