We are saddened to report the passing of science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer Tanith Lee. Lee had a long and prolific writing career, publishing over 90 books and 300 short stories, as well as several poems, four BBC Radio plays, and two episodes of the BBC’s sci-fi television series Blake’s 7.
Born in 1947 to two professional dancers, Lee grew up with a love of weird fiction, sci-fi, and Shakespeare. Struggling with then-undiagnosed dyslexia, Lee was unable to read until the age of 8, when her father taught her. Thereafter, she made up for lost time, publishing her first vignette at the age of 21. She worked various jobs as file clerk and assistant librarian as she sent out her work. Her first published novels were children’s fantasies The Dragon Hoard and Animal Castle, published by Macmillan in 1971 and 1972.
In 1975, DAW published Lee’s first adult fantasy The Birthgrave; DAW would go on to publish more than 20 of her other SFF and horror works in the 1970s and ’80s.
Lee received the British Fantasy Society’s August Derleth Award in 1980 for her book Death’s Master, as well as the World Fantasy Awards for Best Short Story in 1983 and 1984. She was also the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the World Fantasy Convention in 2013 and the Horror Writers Association (HWA) in 2015.
In an April 1998 interview with Locus Magazine, Lee explained how she regarded herself as a storyteller:
Writers tell stories better, because they’ve had more practice, but everyone has a book in them. Yes, that old cliché. If you gave the most interesting (to the person who’s living it) life to a great writer, they could turn it into something wonderful. But all lives are important, all people are important, because everyone is a book. Some people just have easier access to it. We need the expressive arts, the ancient scribes, the storytellers, the priests. And that’s where I put myself: as a storyteller. Not necessarily a high priestess, but certainly the storyteller. And I would love to be the storyteller of the tribe!
Lee was an important part of the SFF community and will be missed.