Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tanith Lee Passes On

Fantasy, horror, and science fiction writer Tanith Lee died at age 67 after a prolonged illness on May 24 2015.

Tanith Lee was born on September 18 1947 in London. Her parents were Bernard and Hylda Lee (her father was not the actor who played M in the James Bond movies), who were professional dancers. As a child she had some difficulty learning to read due to a mild form of dyslexia. Her father taught her how to read in around a month. By the time she was 9 years old she started writing. Miss Lee was drawn to the fantastic genres while young, reading the works of such authors as Theodore Sturgeon, Saki, and C. S. Lewis, as well as more mainstream authors such as Virginia Woolf.

Tanith Lee made her first professional sale when she was 21, the 90 word vignette "Eustace". It was in 1971 that her first children's book, The Dragon Hoard, was published. Her first novel, The Birthgrave, was published in 1975. It was that year that she gave up her job at a library to pursue writing full time. Tanith Lee would prove extraordinarily prolific. She wrote over 90 novels and more than 300 short stories. She also wrote in a number of different genres, including fantasy, horror, science fiction, and even historical novels. She wrote several different series of books throughout her career, including "The Birthgrave Trilogy", "The Wars of Vis", "Tales From The Flat Earth", "The Secret Books of Paradys", "The S.I.L.V.E.R. Series", and others. She became the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for Death’s Master, the second  book in the “Tales from the Flat Earth series.

Tanith Lee also wrote two episodes of the British sci-fi TV series Blake's Seven.

Sadly, later in her career Tanith Lee had some problem selling her books. Even publishers who had previously worked with her were even unwilling to look at so much as a proposal from her. Through it all she never stopped writing and continued to publish books through smaller publishers.

Tanith Lee has been one of my favourite fantasy writers since my youth. She was so prolific that one could spend nearly a lifetime reading every single one of her works. In fact, I have to confess I have not read the majority of her books. It is not because I don't want to; it is because there are so many of them. That having been said, I particularly loved her "Tales From The Flat Earth", which numbers among my favourite fantasy series of all time. I also loved "The Birthgrave Trilogy" and "The Wars of Vis" among others.

Of course, the reason I loved Tanith Lee's work so much is that she was utterly unique. She had a lush, descriptive, and poetic style that evoked the romances of the 19th Century more than fantasy and science fiction of the 20th Century. Most of her work was based heavily in folk tales and mythology, although always with some macabre twist. In fact, many of her works seemed less like modern day fantasy novels than they did dark, twisted, and erotic versions of some fairy tales undiscovered by the Brother's Grimm. This set her apart from many of her contemporary fantasy and science fiction writers, who were often much more straight forward (and in many cases dry). It should be little wonder that over the years she won or was nominated for a number of awards. Tanith Lee was a true original.

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