The news today is that Tanith Lee has died, after many years of struggling with an illness -- and I'd like to take a pause to mark the passing of a giant in our field. Her numerous books, stories, and poems often defied easy categorization (in the days when genre-bending works were less acceptable than now), delighting some critics and confounding others by the sheer range of subjects, styles, and voices she claimed for her own. Her novels (over 90 of them in all) include fantasy for children, teens, and adults (as well as sf & horror); she is also the author of fairy-tale-inspired stories (published in Red as Blood and elsewhere) that sit alongside Angela Carter's as a major force in the modern revival of adult fairy tale literature. Her readership had fallen in recent years, which seems an unjust end to the career of a woman who blazed the trails that so many younger writers are following still. She was a brilliant, original, sensual, maddening and wonderful writer -- and so flamboyantly iconoclastic that all of my best stories about working with her are ones I can never tell in public. I'm too stunned by the news to say much more now, but please go here to read Roz Kaveney's beautiful poem "For Tanith," and here for Storm Constantine's post about the generosity she extended to younger colleagues.
"It has to be said that many reports I’d been given about Tanith over the years painted her as a ‘difficult’ author," writes Storm. "This was from editors who’d worked with her. She was regarded as rather fearsome."
I didn't find her fearsome. Stubborn, yes, occasionally exasperating, and always quirky as hell...but mostly when I worked with Tanith we laughed a lot. I can't believe I'll never hear her voice again, except on the printed page.
"Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told -- on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others -- there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change -- passing on the fire like a torch -- forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all." - Tanith Lee (1947 -2105)
Here's to you, dear lady. You've left strong magic indeed.