Vonda McIntyre (1948–2019)

The Clarion West community has been devastated by the passing of Vonda McIntyre, our founder.

Vonda passed away in her Seattle home on April 1, 2019, at 6:25pm, surrounded by friends. She was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic pancreatic cancer in February this year, and the swift progression of the disease shocked her entire community. She was 70 years old.

Since founding Clarion West in 1971, Vonda has been a continual inspiring presence at the workshop and in the Seattle writing community. She leaves behind generations of Clarion West graduates who benefited from her kindness, intelligence, grace, and wry sense of humor. She was well known among students for her yarn “sea creatures” or “coral brains,” which she crocheted every year for the class as stress relievers.

One of Vonda’s “sea creatures.” Photo credit Julie McGalliard (CW ’06).


Throughout her life, Vonda was a tour de force in the world of science fiction. She attended the original Clarion Workshop in 1970, where she was roommates with Octavia E. Butler. Just three years later, she won her first Nebula Award for the novelette “Of Mist, Grass, and Sand,” and followed it up with the novel Dreamsnake, which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1979. She was the third woman to receive the Hugo Award. Over the course of her career, she penned a huge body of Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon and Tiptree award-nominated work, as well as several well-received Star Trek novels, including one which gave Ensign Sulu his first name, Hikaru. Her Nebula-winning fantasy novel The Moon and the Sun has been made into an as-yet-unreleased film, The King’s Daughter, starring Pierce Brosnan. Throughout her life, she was a champion and pioneer in feminist SF, and remained friends with SFF luminaries all around the Pacific Northwest, including a close friendship with Ursula K. Le Guin, who passed away in January last year. Vonda continued writing in her final months, and just two weeks ago was able to complete her final novel, entitled Curve of the World.

It is difficult to express how deeply Vonda contributed to the world of science fiction and fantasy in her 70 years. Through Clarion West alone, she leaves behind 40 years of graduates whose lives and careers have been profoundly inspired and changed by her efforts. We’d like to take this moment to express our deep sadness and regret at her passing, as well as celebrate the wonderful things she achieved in her life. Please check out her official obituary, hosted at File 770, as well as her CaringBridge page, for more from her closest friends and loved ones.

A memorial service for Vonda will be arranged in Seattle. She has requested that, instead of flowers, people make memorial donations to one of their favorite charities.

Vonda and Ursula K. Le Guin in 2004. Photo credit Kate Schaefer (CW ’92).
Photo credit SFWA.