Award-winning author Patricia McKillip died May 6 at the age of 74 at her home in Bend, following a nearly half-century career in which she established herself as a leading voice in fantasy.
No cause was available for her death, which was first reported by Locus magazine.
“There really wasn’t anyone better at doing what she did,” Jacob Weisman, her editor and publisher at Tachyon Publications, said Thursday. “Her language of her is just exquisite. There’s no one else who writes like Pat.”
In a farewell post this week, Tachyon Publications paid tribute to McKillip’s “lush imagery and compelling characters.”
Born in Salem and educated at San Jose State University, McKillip first became a published author in 1973. When the World Fantasy Awards were established, she was part of the initial cohort of honorees in 1975, winning in the novel category for “The Forgotten Beasts of Eld,” a historical romance. She later won another World Fantasy Award for her novel “Ombria in Shadow” and ultimately won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
Weisman said that when McKillip received her first World Fantasy Award, she neither knew that “The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” had been submitted, nor that the award even existed.
“The award then was a rather hideous bust of the writer HP Lovecraft created by the artist Gahan Wilson, a very talented artist best known for his cartoons in Playboy,” Weisman said. “So Pat opened the crate and discovered that the award had been damaged in transit. Her neck was split and she wondered if this were a sign from the Fantasy Mafia, that perhaps they thought that she should stop writing. Of course it wasn’t and she didn’t.”
Her work was also nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards, given for the best works of science fiction and fantasy.
A 2020 Washington Post article recommended her Riddle-Master books, a 1970s trilogy about a prince caught in a game that threatens the land he loves; the final volume, “Harpist in the Wind,” won a Locus Award. “Why these are not universally known, and why McKillip is not a household name, is a mystery to me,” author Lavie Tidhar wrote for The Post.
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction’s entry on McKillip included this statement: “Over the final decades of her life, eschewing the use of fantasy backgrounds for inherently mundane epics, McKillip became perhaps the most impressive author of fantasy story still active.”
Weisman said McKillip’s books often had themes such as people finding themselves as individuals and learning to make their own decisions.
“Pat could write anything,” he said. “Ella She has a couple of novels that are absolutely contemporary, and she has science fiction novels, and she has all these fantasy novels. They’re all terrific.”
Survivors include McKillip’s husband, poet David Lunde.
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