In Memoriam: Suzy McKee Charnas

Suzy McKee Charnas (22 October 1939–02 January 2023) was a groundbreaking feminist science-fiction and horror writer and beloved Clarion West teacher. Originally from New York City, where she also studied, she lived and wrote from New Mexico for over 60 years. Her work was also influenced by her time in Nigeria.

Charnas won the 1980 Nebula Award for her psychological vampire novella, Unicorn Tapestry, and the 1990 Hugo Award for her feminist werewolf short story, “Boobs.” She received three Otherwise Awards, two retroactively, for novels in The Holdfast Chronicles series, beginning with 1974’s Walk to the End of the World.

Charnas was known for her bold writing, her tenacity to hold to her storylines amidst pressure, her direct teachings about the realities of the industry, and her joy for laughter and life. “Suzy was known to smoke cigars. She loved her husband, whom she called ‘Stevie.’ I’m going to miss hearing her cut to the heart of a matter with a brief profanity, and dive ahead to extrapolate,” reminisces writer Jane Lindskold.

Writer Mary Anne Mohanraj remembers, “Suzy wasn’t one to paper over the hard bits; her own work was full of unflinching truths. I love so many of her titles. Everything I’ve read of hers, I’ve loved, and at this point, I think I may have read it all. Suzy was a delight to listen to, and I was very happy to be the young grasshopper, sitting at her feet and soaking up whatever wisdom I could. Her writing helped make a better world for that child and so many others—what more can any of us ask of our lives?”

Suzy McKee Charnas lived 83 years.