In Memoriam: Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee (b.1947) died on May 24. Lee began publishing with the short story “Eustace” in 1968. She went on to write numerous novels, including the five volume Tales From The Flat Earth sequence, the Birthgrave trilogy, and The Secret Books of Paradys sequence. She was nominated for the Nebula twice, once for her debut non-juvenile novel, Birthgrave, and later for the short story “Red As Blood.” In 1980, she was nominated for the coveted Balrog Award three times, and became the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel for Death’s Master. She won back-to-back World Fantasy Best Short Story Awards in 1983 and 1984 and received that organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. In 2015, she received the Horror Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to dark fantasy and horror, Lee also wrote several young adult works, beginning with The Dragon Hoard in 1971 and eventually the Piratica trilogy. In 2004, she began publishing lesbian fiction using the pseudonym Esther Garber, and received a Lambda nomination for her collection Disturbed by Her Song. She also wrote the screenplay for two episodes of the British science fiction series Blake’s 7.

Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, and suffered a recurrence in 2008.

SFWA Vice President Cat Rambo said, “Tanith Lee was one of the faces of science fiction for me. I go back to some of her work to reread it from time to time, because it’s so beautiful, so rich, and so evocative. The Birthgrave, Drinking Sapphire Wine, The Silver Metal Lover, all of the Flat Earth series…when I was first reading in F&SF, she supplied so many of those landscapes.

“Years later, I had the enormous pleasure of acquiring two of her stories for Fantasy Magazine. Each time they arrived typed, with an apologetic note from Lee about her troubles with the computer. I never minded for a moment, and I will always treasure those manuscripts. Not getting to meet her face to face saddens me personally, but the field overall has been dealt a deep wound today.”

Steven Gould, president of SFWA had this to say, “I’m very sad to hear of Tanith Lee’s death. Though I only met her in person a few times, I’ve known her writing since 1981 when I was bowled over by The Silver Metal Lover. Back when I was just getting started as a writer, her mastery of language gave me hope and despair. My thoughts go out to her husband, family, and friends.