Trivia: Five Things You Should Know About Tanith Lee


Five interesting facts about the recently departed eccentric author of Tales Of The Flat Earth.


Last month, during my extended hiatus, came the announcement that one of Britain’s most acclaimed female fantasy authors had passed away. I am of course referring to Tanith Lee who died on 24th May. Though her mainstream popularity had waned significantly over the last decade or so, the sad news of her passing will likely spark renewed interest in Tanith Lee’s work. Hopefully this renewed interest will also give the big publishers the necessary kick up the behind to convince them to reprint new editions of her books.

For those of you who are, as yet, unfamiliar with the author, below are five interesting (to me) facts you should know about Tanith Lee.

* * * * *

1. She Was A Dyslexic.

In early childhood, Tanith, suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia, which meant that she was unable to read until the age of 8. This revelation was very much a surprise to me, when I learned of it, because you would never have guessed it from her published works. But having discovered this fact, it makes you wonder if her dyslexia contributed to her unique writing style. Certainly, very few other authors that I have read have comparable prose.

2. She Was The First Woman To Win The August Derleth Award.

In 1980, Tanith, became the first female recipient of the August Derleth Award for her novel Death’s Master. The award is conferred by the British Fantasy Society for the best novel of the year. For a considerably long time, Tanith, remained the only female winner of the award, until last year when her feat was replicated by South African author, Lauren Beukes, for her novel, The Shining Girls.

3. She Was A Prolific Writer Of Many Genres.

During her long career, Tanith, wrote over 90 novels and approximately 300 short stories. Though she is arguably best known for her fantasy works she has also written science fiction, horror, and historical fiction. In addition to which she has also written poetry, radio plays and screenplays.

In recognition of her contribution to genre literature, Tanith, received two Lifetime Achievement Awards: The first award came in 2013 courtesy the World Fantasy Convention; the second award was bestowed by the Horror Writers Association earlier this year.

4. She Wrote Two Episodes Of Blakes 7.

Tanith was a fan of the BBC science fiction series, Blakes 7, and she contributed two episodes for the show in the early eighties. The first being the ninth episode of season three; “Sarcophagus”, which aired in 1980. The second being the ninth episode of season four; “Sand”, which aired the following year.

It is generally believed that Tanith’s novel, Kill The Dead, was influenced, in large part, by her fondness for the show.

5. She Never Compromised Her Writing Output.

In recent years, Tanith, continued writing full time despite the “lack of interest” in her new work from the major publishers. She was quite vocal about the fact many publishers were rejecting her work, and why, but she remained steadfast in her unwillingness to compromise her stories in order to be published.

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Realms Of Fantasy Magazine:

Q: Does the market these days let you do what you want? Are you able to write and sell the novels you want too?

Lee: Until fairly recently the ‘market’ did let me do just that. In the beginning I seldom even had to offer a synopsis or proposal, either. As I hardly ever work from a synopsis – I find they act like chains, besides anyway not often knowing where exactly the book will go until I am writing it – the earlier state was a happier one. But I did my best when a synopsis of some sort began always to be required, only adding a note to the effect that some things might change during production!

Now though most of the so-called big publishers are unwilling even to look at a proposal. They aren’t interested in seeing anything from me, not even those houses I’ve worked with for many years. Where any slight interest in my turning in a book exists, I find I must work inside certain defined formulae. And to me that’s one of the arch inspiration-stranglers. I have at this time no new book, adult or Y.A, either out or due to come out, let alone any contract to produce a book for any of the main companies. And besides that only a couple of things are scheduled to appear from small, if reputable and elegant houses.

I must add, that doesn’t stop me actually writing. Writing is one of the most important things in my life. I have, so far, a cupboard stocked with 3 completed never published novels – contemporary, horror, 2 short (original) story collections, and proposals for 4 books, 2 of them adult fantasies. I’m just now finishing another novel.

Which means I have, largely, been returned to the darker element of my 20’s, when The Birthgrave, The Storm Lord, Don’t Bite the Sun and Eva Fairdeath were stacked in a box in my bedroom, unwanted, rejected and indeed – in the case of some publishers – insulted. It was hard enough then. But I’m in my 60’s now. I don’t have time to wait.


So there you have it! Five interesting facts about the late Tanith Lee. If you have not yet had the pleasure of reading any of her books, may I suggest you start with Night’s Master, the first book of the Tales Of The Flat Earth series.


Did You Know?

A repository of interesting facts about the authors, books, characters, publishers, illustrators and history of fantasy and science fiction literature.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s