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Prolific Fantasy And Science-Fiction Writer Tanith Lee Has Died

British science-fiction and fantasy writer Tanith Lee has died, according to her publisher. Lee, 67, was a prolific author who also worked in radio and television; her dozens of books include Don't Bite The Sun and Death's Master -- the latter of which was part of her popular Flat Earth series.

The writer's death was reported early Tuesday by the website Sci-Fi Bulletin and Tor.com, a website run by the publishing house. Her official website was updated Tuesday to show only the dates of her birth and death and a passage of text that includes the line, "Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all."

Lee "died peacefully in her sleep May 24, 2015 after a long illness," according to Locus magazine.

More details have not emerged; in 2010, Lee revealed she had been treated for breast cancer on at least two occasions.

At the time, she wrote, "So far though, I am clear, if losing lots of time back on the hospital-test-X ray carousel. I may, and could, flourish for years to come. But once more, I don't know how long I've got. As it says in the wonderful Blade Runner, 'Who does?' "

A highly decorated writer, Lee was nominated for two Nebula Awards, and many of her short stories, novels and anthologies were nominated for and/or won the World Fantasy Award. In 1980, Death's Master won the British Fantasy Society's August Derleth Award as the best novel of the genre.

Lee also wrote several children's books, including Piratica, and wrote two episodes of the British sci-fi TV series Blake's 7. Her book Don't Bite The Sun was nominated as a finalist for NPR's list of the 100 best science-fiction and fantasy books.

Lee's work ranged from tales set in historic Venice to vampire stories and re-imagined folklore. In other stories, she blended modern life with elements of horror and magic. Her books, and hundreds of short stories, came despite dyslexia, which delayed her reading. She told Locus magazine in 1998:

"When I started as a writer, I knew nothing about publishing — nothing about anything! I didn't learn to read until I was nearly eight. My father had to teach me. My mother used to tell me fairy stories, most of which she made up herself, which were wonderful — and many of which I've ripped off for things, subsequently! When I was nine, about a year after I learned how to read, I started to write."

Lee also told Locus about her unique handwriting style:

"I have to write longhand, and no one can read my writing, I have to type my own manuscripts, because I'm going almost in a zigzag, across and then down. (I don't write backwards, I've never been able to do that!) Fortunately, it's not like a circus trick where, when they try to work out how they did it, they're unable to do it. If I can't see something enough, I shut my eyes and look at it, and I don't feel I am writing — I'm there.

"I used to throw away my holograph manuscripts after I'd typed them, but I'm keeping a lot of them now, because obviously, at 50, I'm starting to think, if anyone ever is interested in me after I'm dead, they can look and see, 'My god, this woman was a maniac!' "

Lee is survived by her husband, John Kaiine, an artist and writer whose previous jobs included gravedigger.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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