An incredibly prolific author who wrote in various fantasy and horror genres, Ms. Lee wrote in a very poetic style and covered many themes and topics that other author and publishers of the day shied away from: sexuality, feminism, eroticism, weird fantasy, gothic mythos, lesbianism, isolation. Despite her over 90 novels and 300 stories, and being awarded two World Fantasy Awards and a British Fantasy Award (the first woman to do so, in 1980), she reportedly had many other works “just sitting in her cupboard” for wont of a publishing deal.
She was born in London on September 19, 1947, to a pair of professional dancers. Her family moved a lot, and she suffered from an undiagnosed form of mild dyslexia which kept her from the printed word until her father taught her to read at age 8. From that point on, she became an avid reader, ranging from “weird” fiction of the likes of Theodore Sturgeon to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to the works of William Shakespeare. Her mother also would regale her with fairy tales, many of her own invention, with her own unique twist to them.
Ms. Lee published her first work – a short story – at age 21, and her first novel three years later; a children’s book, The Dragon Hoard. Her first adult novel, The Birthgrave, was published in 1975. She continued writing voraciously, and in 2013 the World Fantasy Convention awarded her its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award; she also received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 from the Horror Writer’s Association.
In her 1986 novel Delirium’s Mistress, one of the five works that make up her “Tales from the Flat Earth” series, Ms. Lee wrote, “Time is endless and ours. Love and Death are only the games we play in it.” Here’s hoping that wherever she is now, Tanith Lee is still at play. We who remain in this reality will miss her unique voice.