In Memoriam: Julian May

Author Julian May (b.1931) died on October 17. May entered fandom in her late teens and published the fanzine Interim Newsletter. Her first professional sale, “Dune Roller,” appeared in Astounding in 1951, including original illustrations by May. In 1952, she chaired the TASFIC in Chicago, becoming the first woman to chair a Worldcon. She married author Ted Dikty in 1953 and began going by the name Judy Dikty. That same year, she sold the story “Star of Wonder” before dropping out of science fiction and fandom for several years. With the exceptions of two episodes of the “Buck Rogers” comic strip, she focused on writing for encyclopedias and non-fiction books under a variety of pseudonyms. “Dune Roller” was adapted for television in 1952 for Tales of Tomorrow and was filmed as The Cremators in 1972.

She returned to science fiction in 1976 when she attended Westercon 29. The costume she wore at the convention made her start thinking about the character’s background and grew into the six book Galactic Milieu series. Her return to the world of SFF publication took place in 1977 when she published A Gazeteer of the Hyborian World of Conan under the pseudonym Lee N. Falconer. She also wrote the four book Saga of the Pliocene Exile, which began with the Nebula and Hugo Award nominated The Many-Colored Land, and collaborated on the Trillium series with Marion Zimmer Bradley and Andre Norton. Health issues prevented May from participating in a panel with the living chairs of the other Chicago Worldcons in 2012, and in 2015 she was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame.

Cat Rambo, President of SFWA, had this to say, “May’s Pliocene Exile series combined time travel, Neanderthals, and fairies in a world that should not have worked, but did — and beautifully so. She portrayed moments of unison, a coming together of voices, in a way that gripped the heart and that will continue to inspire readers for centuries to come.”

11 Responses

  1. Anthony O'con

    I found the Pliocene Exile during my teens in wartorn ( Crack war) Oakland. Ever hear of novels taking you away? A window was shot out of a room I was reading the quest of Pepeo Mommox Burke in, barely noticed. I found the books out of order, and played a puzzle game for the next two decades until I found the fandom. I loved the Gazeteer unknowingly, of course she wrote it, of course! Her succeeding series of psychic families and galactic fascism, the Galactic Milleu, was also worthy and rarely discussed, I had to inquire if I missed some nuance that had others rejecting the series? Seemed to be poor distribution. I still have her Moon series and Black Trillium to take a final turn with. Sleep well, mentor and protector.

  2. Steven Hills

    I had a tough time in my teens having undiagnosed aspergers but as soon as l discovered the many coloured land l had a doorway to a new world, the characters were so real to me l always had a friend in Aiken Drum l still keep his name alive in my rpg games today. Thank you for sharing world with me and safe journey to the stars you created.

  3. Jean Asselin

    I read “The Many-Colored Land” and ‘The Golden Torc” every few years. The escape-from-Epone scene is but one example of how Julian May’s words on paper translate into a movie in my mind. Knowing she has passed will add yet another reading layer to the many she worked into that saga.

  4. Rob Chilson

    I first read “Dune Roller” in Astounding with May’s illoes. As a youngster I thought it was great, and as a man I agreed. It’s been reprinted a number of times, but when I want to re-read it, I dig out the magazine. It’s just not complete without the pictures!

  5. William Alan Webb

    I love her works and wrote her a fan letter. She invited me to send my books to get them autographed and was most gracious. I would say she defined my idea of a true lady. The world is diminished without her in it.

  6. Jack Forsithe

    I learned last night Julian had passed, that is what I get for living off the grid. Her books were fascinating and captivating. Once started it was almost like a golden torc had been placed around my neck until the book was finished. More importantly, she gave me the confidence to explore my imagination in such a way that I could write my own books, Heart in the Cloud and Head in the Cloud. The confidence to explore other dimensions in order to get them down on paper, or digital ink, is invaluable and fun too.

    Will miss Julian May!

    Jack Forsithe

  7. Simon Cooper

    My brother and I found The Saga of the Exiles during our teens in the Eighties. We, and subsequently many of our friends, became avid fans. Since then, the stories of the Pliocene and the Galactic Milieu have continued to enter our conversations at the barest prompting. I feel that few authors have provided such a rich tapestry of characters and events. I’m both saddened at this great author’s passing but also glad to be reminded of her wonderful works.

  8. Desiree Watson

    I have just seen that we lost the great Julian May this year. I am deeply saddened by the void she has left and the fact that I will never again get to read her marvelous writing, as I have remained hopeful that she would publish more of her wonderful fantasy

  9. Jim Kitchen

    I had a chance to meet with her at Christmas in 2000. She was as accommodating and open as I could have ever imagined. What was supposed to be a short visit turned into a long night of laughter and fly fishing stories.

    I’m crushed to hear of her passing. I’m terribly sad to learn of this.

  10. Julia

    I loved Julian Mays, books on many levels . as a French teacher, Iwas amazed at the accuracy of her franco-american French . I wrote to her in French and then told her how much I loved her stories. I asked about stories after “the Magnificat” but she said no. she was a fantastic story teller and is greatly underappreciated, a common occurrence for women in the sci-fi genre. I would love to meet Marc and Uncle Rogi. requiescat in pacem.