SFWA Names Robin McKinley the 39th Damon Knight Grand Master

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association has announced that the latest recipient of its Damon Knight Grand Master Award is Robin McKinley, the acclaimed author whose works include the beloved Beauty and The Hero and the Crown. McKinley joins an impressive lineup of authors to win this lifetime achievement award; previous Grand Masters include Nalo Hopkinson, Peter S. Beagle, Connie Willis, Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, C.J. Cherryh, Jane Yolen, and William Gibson.

As SFWA says in its press release, McKinley’s debut novel, 1978’s Beauty, “could be said to have started the fairy-tale retelling trend.” She revisited its source material, “Beauty and the Beast,” in 1997’s Rose Daughter, and explored a different fairy tale, “Sleeping Beauty,” in 2000’s Spindle’s End.

Each one of McKinley’s works has passionate fans, but The Blue Sword (1982) and its prequel The Hero and the Crown (1984) have for years been especially important to young readers who wanted to read about fierce, independent girls who were the protagonists of their own stories. The Blue Sword was a Newbery Honor book; The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal.

Her vampire tale Sunshine (2003) won the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature; in fact, it’s hard to find a McKinley book that hasn’t been recognized by a host of awards. (You can peruse her bibliography at SFWA’s announcement.) As Vivian Shaw wrote of McKinley’s work:

McKinley’s fantasy is seen through a profoundly human lens, bringing an accessibility, an openness to characters that would otherwise be difficult to identify with. She lets readers fit themselves inside her people, and in doing so renders her storytelling enormously personal to each individual reader, every time they pick up the book.

SFWA’s announcement also includes McKinley’s biography, in her own words, which includes this delectable bit of information: “I’m also finally working again. I hope to have a final-ish draft of a new book somewhat thrashed into shape maybe by the end of this year? Maybe? I am wildly, inexpressibly glad to be writing again.”

In a statement, SFWA President Jeffe Kennedy said, “I read McKinley’s Deerskin in my late-twenties and it turned my world upside-down. From there I went on to read everything McKinley has written. With every story, each book, she haunts, delights, and enlightens me. Naming an author who’s been such a profound influence on me as both a reader and a writer as SFWA’s newest Grand Master is one of the greatest privileges of my life.”

The 39th Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master award will be presented to McKinley at the 2023 SFWA Nebula Conference. Details about the conference are not yet available.

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