There will be much written on Vonda McIntyre in the coming days. An obituary is linked at the end of this. It tells you the facts. The short sharp summary of it is that she went into hospital with relatively minor symptoms (vertigo, fatigue, jaundice) and emerged with a diagnosis of advanced pancreatic cancer with a prognosis of less than two months to live. Between the day of that diagnosis to her death on 1 April 2019 lies a period a little short of eight weeks. In that time, she finished her final novel, and seemed to have made her peace with the world.
A CaringBridge site had been set up to keep her far-flung friends and fans up to date on her condition – and there is a place there for people to share their memories of Vonda, and to wish her well. I wrote up a short piece on how she and I met. I had been slated for a quick visit with her in April, when I was to be in Seattle – but when I wrote this to her on that page, on March 29, it was already clear that this date was never going to come to pass.
Alma Alexander | Mar 29, 2019
You were co-GOH at the very first science fiction convention I went to
It was in Auckland, in 1995. (The other GOH was Roger Zelazny; that was one of his last hurrahs because the con was in April and by June we had lost him…) I have to confess that the reason I raced to that con, when I found out about it, was Roger Zelazny who had been one of my literary gods for years. I had not read anything by you at that time.
But I got into the writing workshop that the two GOHs were running at the con. I remember it with astounding clarity. The format was that each of us five participants got to say a few words about the others’ stories, and then you two, the pros, weighed in. Before I got my benediction from Zelazny, I received back the copy of the story that had gone to you.
My EYES crossed. You had annotated it to an inch of its life, little scribbles in pencil in every available space. Every single thing, even when I was being pulled up for some literary sin, intensely kind, and apropos, and valuable (and there were a couple of scribbles in there that merely said “nice!” so there was that… 🙂 ) I pored over that manuscript for weeks afterwards. I learned more from that one manuscript than I might have done in a year’s writing course.
Somehow I ended up with your email
I knew you were in Seattle. And some little while later I found myself in Vancouver, Canada and emailed you, and said, hey, remember me? I’m the ingenue from the Auckland workshop. And I”m near(ish) to where you are. I might be coming down to Seattle for the day. Could I -um – buy you a cup of coffee or something? There was every possibility that you would look at that email and go, who the heck is THIS and why is she emailing me?
Instead, you emailed me back, and told me that there seemed to be little point in breaking my neck whiplashing between Vancouver and Seattle for a couple of hours, that there was a party at your place that night (hello Vanguard!), and that I could come to that and crash on your couch that night. You picked me up when I got to Seattle and you said, mysteriously, that you wanted to show me something before you took me home. I said, what? and you said, just keep your eyes peeled. That is how I met the Fremont Troll, gasping as he first hove into view, and you wore… such a smile.
Then it was home, and party, and you introduced me to your friends, and in the aftermath you and I stood at your kitchen sink washing dishes and having a companionable discussion about science fiction, writing, life, and everything. I have never forgotten this. I never will.
I’ve been re-reading some of your books. “Dreamsnake”, of course, and then there was something that I’d forgotten that I owned – signed by you – at that Aucland con, so many years ago: “Enterprise: Captain Kirk’s First Adventure”. I’m lingering over the last pages of that right now.
Back in Auckland in 1995 you were an unknown to me. But I discovered you, then. And I kept on discovering you. And the unknown writer became a vibrant, kind, smart, passionate person – one whom I have been proud and happy to know.
Thank you for the words. And the dishes at midnight. And the Troll.
The dream was easy to interpret
The night after Vonda died, I dealt with my grief at her passing in my usual way – I went to sleep, and my subconscious presented me with a dream. I shared it on Facebook:
My dreams have always been a place of mystery and wonder and every so often they hand me something wrapped in dreamstuff that is very very easy to ‘interpret’.
I dreamed that I was in this place – airy and open, very simple, open beams, stuff like that, it almost looked like a place where one might spend a week or two on a holiday rather than a permanent residence – and there were other people there too, it was pretty crowded, there was food put out, it was clearly a gathering of some sort. I recognized faces – Jane Hawkins, Kate Schaeffer, Amy Thomson…They were all trying to tell me that we need to go, that we need to be somewhere, and I was reluctant, and dragging my feet, and saying, give me just a bit more time.
Finally I followed them all out, onto a landing from which you had to climb UP to another landing before you could climb down and exit the structure. Then we’re all standing on this undulating stretch of sand dunes covered with sparse golden grass and there is a hint of sun glittering on open sea a bit further off – but the light, the light is that of an early spring morning, brittle and bright and sharp, JUST at that moment when everything gets a defined shadow… except that it was also muted, translucent, misty, like a finger-smudged pastel drawing, and nothing had a sharp edge to it at all.
Somebody who was wearing some sort of loose artist smock with huge pockets reached into one of the pockets and brought out this little green circular… something… and then put it on the ground at their feet, and the circle unwound and became this tiny green snake, and the snake slipped into the grass and the sand and the mist and disappeared… and I could see, far enough away for the face to be unclear, a figure with short dandelion white hair, waiting, and then the figure turned, and walked away.
I know who that figure was. I know where the little snake was going.
Vonda McIntyre left us the story… but the dreamsnake went with her, into the morning.
An obituary is HERE: