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Tanith Lee 1947 - 2015

Tanith Lee 1947 - 2015

We were very sad to learn that writer Tanith Lee passed away on 24th May, after a long illness. During her prolific and distinguished career, she wrote over 90 books and 300 short stories, as well as poems and radio plays. To Blakes 7 fans, she is, of course, best known for her scripts for Sarcophagus and Sand.

Her earliest published novels were children’s books, The Dragon Hoard and Animal Castle, but it was her first adult novel, The Birthgrave, that launched her career in fantasy, science fiction and horror. She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Society’s August Derleth Award for her novel Death’s Master. She won World Fantasy Awards for her short stories The Gorgon and Elle es Trois (La Mort) and in 2009 she was named a World Horror Grandmaster. In 2013 she was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention, and this year she received the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association.

Tanith Lee was the only female writer on Blake's 7, and her stories brought in elements of fantasy together with a deep understanding of the characters. Sarcophagus is centred on Cally and Avon, but Tanith also wrote Dayna's song for the episode, and her Alien provided an insight into Vila's character ("He has a very high IQ and yet he acts like an imbecile") that most other writers ignored, preferring to portray him as a fool. Sand provides a sympathetic insight into Servalan's background and character. When Jacqueline Pearce told Tanith about the 'girl next door' conversation she'd had with Steven Pacey upon discovering they were neighbours, Tanith wove it into her script.

Tanith Lee's association with Blakes 7 didn't end with her scripts. In her 1980 fantasy novel, Kill the Dead, the two main characters bear a striking resemblance to Avon and Vila – or at any rate, to the actors who played them. The name of the Ghostslayer, Parl Dro, is said to be based on Paul Darrow's signature, while the name of the musician and thief, Myal Lemyal, is not entirely unlike 'Michael'. Kill the Dead is dedicated to "Valentine," which is Paul Darrow's middle name.

Tanith Lee's work spanned many genres, but she maintained that her preoccupation was always people. Her website now displays only the dates of her birth and death, and a quote from her writings:

“Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.”

RIP

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