Suzy McKee Charnas, Writer of Feminist Science Fiction, Dies at 83

While the book was in progress, she described the story to a women’s consciousness-raising group in New Mexico, explaining that “everybody in the foreground is male” and all the women were slaves.

Then she had an epiphany.

“What are you doing sitting in this room, full of women, talking about women as half the population and writing this story that’s only about the guys?” she recalled saying to herself. “The women in your story are there, but they don’t have a word to say. Not one of them. So I went back and rewrote the whole thing, and this time I gave one of the women, Alldera, a voice, and she told part of the story, and the book changed completely. It became a feminist text.”

The other books in the Holdfast series are “Motherlines” (1978) and “The Furies” (1994). “The Conqueror’s Child” won the 1999 James Tiptree Jr. Award (now called the Otherwise), a literary prize for works of science fiction or fantasy that explore gender.

She also won two other science fiction and fantasy awards: a Nebula for a novella, “Unicorn Tapestry,” which is a chapter in her 1980 novel, “The Vampire Tapestry,” and the basis for her play, “Vampire Dreams”; and a Hugo for “Boobs,” a short story.

“The Vampire Tapestry” (1980) was the wellspring for a play by Ms. Charnas, “Vampire Dreams.”Credit…Macmillan

“Suzy, to me, was a lot like David Bowie,” said Jane Lindskold, a science fiction and fantasy writer who knew Ms. Charnas from a writers’ group in Albuquerque. “She followed her own muse. She could have just written only vampire books, but she did what she wanted to do.”

Suzy McKee was born on Oct. 22, 1939, in Manhattan. Her parents, Robin and Maxine (Szanton) McKee, were commercial artists who worked at home but divorced when Suzy was 8 years old. Suzy was a voracious reader who also wrote and illustrated stories, often about cowboys.

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