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McIntyre, Vonda N

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Editor.

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(1948-2019) US author and geneticist, one of the earliest successful graduates of the Clarion Science Fiction Writers' Workshop, which she attended in 1970. She began to publish work of genre interest with "Breaking Point" for Venture in February 1970, and gained prominence with "Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand" (October 1973 Analog), which won a Nebula for Best Novelette and served as the initial section of Dreamsnake (fixup 1978), her best-known novel to date, for which she won another Nebula as well as a Hugo and a Locus Award. The female protagonist of both story and book is a healer in a desolated primitive venue, the violent and destructive superstitions of whose inhabitants lead to her losing her healer snake, with which she was linked through complex imprinting. The book version goes on to recount her quest for a replacement snake, a search through a strongly depicted Ruined Earth environment which includes gruelling experiences in the City that had previously served as the central venue for McIntyre's first novel, The Exile Waiting (1975; rev 1976). That book likewise features a female protagonist with singular empathic powers: she is a sneak thief – the plot is complicated – who manages to escape Earth's last city with a Japanese poet from the stars and a virtuous "pseudosib" (the bad "twin" having been killed in the city) and in due course escapes Earth entirely, with the prognosis that she will become a successful starfarer.

Aurora: Beyond Equality (anth 1976) with Susan J Anderson is an important Original Anthology, containing Feminist sf stories set in worlds where equality of a sort has been achieved, with slightly less than half of the book given over to two central tales whose auctorial linkage was not then known, "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" by James Tiptree Jr, and "Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light" as by Raccoona Sheldon, a pseudonym infrequently used by Alice Sheldon. After Fireflood and Other Stories (coll 1979), which assembled her best short work, McIntyre became associated with the Star Trek universe, producing the Recursive Star Trek: The Entropy Effect (1981) and three film TiesStar Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) – as well as Star Trek: Enterprise: The First Adventure (1986). Her next independent novel, Superluminal (as "Aztecs" in 2076: The American Tricentennial, anth 1977, ed Edward Bryant; exp 1983), places its female protagonist in a rite-of-passage situation in which she must replace her organic heart with an artificial device in order to become a Faster Than Light Starship pilot, a taxing ordeal through which she manages nonetheless to retain her humanity (see Cyborgs); the tale is significantly open to a Feminist reading. Barbary (1986) is directed to a younger audience. The Starfarers series – comprising Starfarers (1989), Transition (1991), Metaphase (1992) and Nautilus (1994) – also conveys, at least superficially, a sense that the universe is solvable, though in fact the tale becomes as complex as any of the new generation of Space Operas: the Starfarer – comprising two huge cylinders connected by a solar sail – is bound on a seemingly unending voyage of exploration through the galaxy, its ostensible mission being that of establishing viable First Contact with various newly discovered civilizations; but nothing concludes by the end of the last volume. The voyage is endless, slingshot.

With the exception of The Moon and the Sun (1997; vt The King's Daughter 2022) – an eloquent fantasy, in which a sea Monster is brought to the court of Louis XIV of France, and which won a further Nebula – McIntyre's later work was generally less demanding than the novels and stories of her first professional decade, but continued to demonstrate her argued, numerate and humane understanding of how to engage the instruments of sf in feminist concerns. A further novel completed shortly before her death awaits publication. [JC]

see also: Space Flight; Worldcon.

Vonda Neel McIntyre

born Louisville, Kentucky: 28 August 1948

died Seattle, Washington: 1 April 2019



Star Trek


  • Starfarers (New York: Ace Books, 1989) [Starfarers: pb/Richard Hescox]
  • Transition (New York: Ace Books, 1991) [Starfarers: pb/Tom Dixon]
  • Metaphase (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1991) [Starfarers: pb/Dorian Vallejo]
  • Nautilus (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1994) [Starfarers: pb/Michael Herring]

Star Wars

individual titles

  • The Exile Waiting (Garden City, New York: Nelson Doubleday, 1975) [hb/Chet Jezierski]
    • The Exile Waiting (London: Victor Gollancz, 1976) [rev of the above: hb/nonpictorial]
    • The Exile Waiting (Reading, Berkshire: Handheld Press, 2019) [coll: one story added to the above novel: pb/Cane Cornwell]
  • Dreamsnake (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1978) [fixup: hb/Stephen Alexander]
  • Superluminal (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1983) [short version as "Aztecs" in 2076: The American Tricentennial (anth 1977) edited by Edward Bryant: hb/Stephen E Fabian]
  • The Bride (New York: Dell Books, 1985) [tie to the film: pb/]
  • Barbary (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1986) [hb/N Taylor Blanchard]
  • The Moon and the Sun (New York: Pocket Books, 1997) [hb/Gary Halsey]

collections and stories

  • Fireflood and Other Stories (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1979) [coll: hb/Charles Shields]
  • Screwtop (New York: Tor, 1989) [novella: chap: dos: first appeared in The Crystal Ship (anth 1976) edited by Robert Silverberg: pb/Maren]

works as editor


previous versions of this entry

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