In Memoriam: Kate Wilhelm

Kate Wilhelm (1928—2018)

With the death of Kate Wilhelm, we sadly note the loss of another SF legend. Kate and her husband Damon Knight helped found the Milford and Clarion Writers’ Workshops. In recognition of the profound effect Kate had on authors and the SF field, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors of America created the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award in 2009 for significant impact on the science fiction or fantasy landscape. Kate was one of the inaugural winners of this award.

Kate won the first of her three Nebulas in 1969. She received it for “The Planners”—a short story. In 1977 she won her first Hugo, this time for a novel—Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. In 2006 the nonfiction book Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers' Workshop would pick up the Hugo for Best Related Book.

Kate’s first story for Asimov’s, “With Thimbles, with Forks, and Hope,” appeared in our November 23, 1981, issue and was a Hugo Award finalist. Her next story, “The Gorgon Field” (August 1985), was nominated for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. The following year her evocative tale of “The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky” (October 1986) received the Nebula Award for best novelette. Her next Asimov’s publication, a short story called “I Know What You’re Thinking” (November 1994) was a finalist for both the Hugo and the Nebula. Although I had worked on her other stories, the first tale that I purchased from Kate was “Strangers When We Meet” (April/May 2008). That gave me an opportunity to write and tell her that I’d loved her work ever since I’d been freaked out by a story called “The Downstairs Room” as a teenager. (Looking back, I’d say that this tale was influenced by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt.”) Kate responded, “And I have to admit that my early story ‘The Downstairs Room’ sort of freaked me out too! Things the readers don't know!”

Kate’s last two tales for Asimov’s were “An Ordinary Day with Jason” (April/May 2009) and “Changing the World” (October/November 2010). Alas, my correspondence from this time has disappeared, but I know that I was always thrilled to get a new story from her. We are all fortunate that her legacy lives on in the works of so many of today’s SF and fantasy authors.