How Vonda N. McIntyre, Seattle’s Sci-Fi Pioneer, Forged a Path for Diversity in Imagination

Seattle author Vonda N. McIntyre’s science fiction reflected an imaginative view of other worlds. (Illustration: SFWA / Microsoft Copilot / Media.io)

Before gender and sexuality debates gained mainstream attention, Vonda N. McIntyre, a Seattle-based science fiction author, was already exploring these themes in innovative ways.

“In many of her stories, characters’ gender identities are ambiguous, leaving readers to wonder about their true nature,” said Una McCormack, a fellow science fiction author, on the Fiction Science podcast. McCormack has played a pivotal role in reviving McIntyre’s work for contemporary audiences by contributing to the publication of “Little Sisters and Other Stories,” an anthology that spans the breadth of McIntyre’s career.

Five years after McIntyre’s passing from cancer at 70, McCormack aims to highlight her legacy, which includes an anthology featuring McIntyre’s first published story from 1970, her last fiction work from 2015, and other significant pieces. McIntyre’s influence extends beyond her science fiction narratives, such as her novelizations of Star Trek films and her foundation of the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, a hub for fostering new literary talent.

“Little Sisters and Other Stories.” (Goldsmiths Press)

McIntyre, alongside contemporaries like Ursula K. LeGuin, was integral to bringing feminist perspectives and strong female protagonists to the forefront of science fiction. McCormack highlights that McIntyre’s work also anticipated current discussions around diversity in physical ability and form, notably in her novel “The Exile Waiting.”

McIntyre’s science background in biology and genetics from the University of Washington permeates her storytelling, evident in tales like “Elfleda,” narrated by a genetically engineered centaur. McCormack, set to release her 11th Star Trek novel, admires McIntyre’s ability to narrate non-human perspectives engagingly, particularly in her adaptation of “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” where the human-centric narrative shifts to focus on humpback whales and their interactions with an alien probe.

Una McCormack

McIntyre’s narrative ethos echoes the Vulcan philosophy of “infinite diversity in infinite combinations,” as seen in the diverse and complex portrayal of humanity and non-human characters in her works. McCormack emphasizes the reality and importance of human diversity in McIntyre’s storytelling, a vision that transcends mere advocacy to become the foundational truth of her narratives.

“Little Sisters and Other Stories” by Vonda N. McIntyre is scheduled for release on May 21. Clarion West will honor McIntyre’s contributions to science fiction with a free virtual panel entitled “The Roots and Future of Feminist Science Fiction” on June 8, featuring speakers like Nicola Griffith, SJ Groenewegen, and Nisi Shawl. Advance registration is recommended.

The featured illustration is a digitally augmented watercolor-style artwork of McIntyre, integrated with images of a futuristic Seattle skyline, inspired by collaborations among the Science Fiction Writers of America, Media.io, and Microsoft Copilot.

Stay updated with the Fiction Science podcast through Apple, Spotify, Player.fm, Pocket Casts, and Podchaser. Co-hosted by Dominica Phetteplace, the podcast delves into the intersections of science fiction and real-world science. For more about Phetteplace, visit DominicaPhetteplace.com.

Scroll to Top
Seraphinite AcceleratorOptimized by Seraphinite Accelerator
Turns on site high speed to be attractive for people and search engines.