RIP Suzy McKee Charnas

One of my favorite people in science fiction, Suzy McKee Charnas, passed away suddenly two days ago. It’s hard to take in — I saw Suzy at a convention recently, and she was moving a little more slowly than she used to, perhaps, but still just as full of ideas and laughter and life as always.

Suzy was one of my Clarion West teachers, back in 1997. She was teaching 5th week, and said they’d asked her to talk to us about the financial realities of being a writer.

She told us: “When my husband and I got married, we made a deal — he’d support me until I was making enough from my writing to support him. Many years, and many published books later, he’s still supporting me!”

Ouch, but I was grateful — better to know what you’re facing, so you can better brace for it, so you can plan.

Suzy wasn’t one to paper over the hard bits; her own work was full of unflinching truths. Likely her most important writing was her ground-breaking Holdfast Chronicles (starting with Walk to the End of the World), a series placing her among the significant 70s feminist SF writers, in the company of Ursula K. Le Guin and Joanna Russ. Do you sometimes get very frustrated with men? Do you like horses? You should check out these books….

But I love so many of her titles. If you love opera, or think you should love opera, check out The Vampire Tapestry. If you feel like children’s lit. today, enjoy The Kingdom of Kevin Malone (winner of the Aslan Award for the best children’s literature). For a smaller bite, you won’t go wrong with “Unicorn Tapestry” (winner of the 1980 Nebula Award). Everything I’ve read of hers, I’ve loved, and at this point, I think I may have read it all.

I was sure I had a picture of us together from one of the many cons we attended, but I couldn’t find a single one. I must have been too busy talking, or more likely, listening — 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.

Instead of a photo of us, I leave you with one she posted on Facebook, of her great-granddaughter, Noor Elizabeth Sharma Charnas. Young Noor clearly has her great-grandmother’s joy for life.

Suzy’s writing helped make a better world for that child and so many others — what more can any of us ask of our lives?

Still, I wish we’d had her with us a little longer.



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