Etchemendy, Nancy (Elise Howell) 1952-
ETCHEMENDY, Nancy (Elise Howell) 1952-
PERSONAL: Born February 19, 1952, in Reno, NV; daughter of Frederick Lewis (a public school teacher) and Barbara Fay (Nelson) Howell; married John William Etchemendy (a professor of philosophy), April 14, 1973; children: Matthew Xavier. Education: University of Nevada, B.A., 1974. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, travel, cooking; "I'm a dedicated dabbler—these days particularly in anthropology, archaeology, and paleontology. In addition, I like to spend time in the deserts of the North American West."
CAREER: Western Industrial Parts, Reno, NV, lithographer, 1970-75; Sutherland Printing, Reno, worked in art, stripping, and camera, 1975-76; W. H. Barth Corp., Sunnyvale, CA, art director, 1976-79; Etchemendy Commercial Graphics, Palo Alto, CA, sole proprietor, 1979-81; writer, 1981—.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Science Fiction Writers of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Bram Stoker Award, 1998, for short story "Bigger Than Death"; Bram Stoker Award finalist, 2001, for short story "Demolition"; Bram Stoker Award, Golden Duck Award, Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize Silver Medal, Nautilus Award finalist, PEN USA West Award finalist, and Dorothy Canfield Fisher Master List, all 2002, all for The Power of Un.
juvenile science-fiction novels
The Watchers of Space, Avon (New York, NY), 1980.
Stranger from the Stars, Avon (New York, NY), 1982.
The Crystal City, Avon (New York, NY), 1985.
The Power of Un, Avon (New York, NY), 2000.
Cat in Glass, and Other Tales of the Unnatural (young adult), Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2002.
Contributor to books, including Shadows 8, edited by Charles Grant, Doubleday, 1985; The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, St. Martin's Press, 1990; Mysterious Cat Stories, edited by John Richard Stephens, Carroll & Graf, 1993; Bruce Coville's Book of Ghosts, edited by Bruce Coville, Scholastic, 1994; Xanadu Three, edited by Jane Yolen, Tor Books, 1995; The Armless Maiden, and Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors, edited by Terri Windling, Tor Books, 1995; Enchanted Forests, edited by Katherine Kerr and Martin Greenberg, DAW Books, 1995; American Gothic Tales, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, Dutton-Signet, 1996; Bruce Coville's Book of Aliens 2, Scholastic, 1996; New Altars, edited by Dawn Albright and Sandra Hutchinson, Angelus Press, 1997; One Hundred Fiendish Little Frightmares, edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz and Robert Weinberg, Barnes & Noble Books, 1997; Bruce Coville's UFOs, Avon, 2000; Bram Stoker Award Winners: That's Ghosts for You, edited by Marianne Carus, Front Street/Cricket Books, 2000; Be Afraid, edited by Edo van Belkom, Tundra Books, 2000; and Personal Demons, edited by Brian A. Hopkins and Garrett Peck, Lone Wolf Publications, 2001. Contributor of fiction and poetry to periodicals, including Fantasy & Science Fiction, Twilight Zone, Quantum, and Fantastyka.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Short stories and poetry.
SIDELIGHTS: Nancy Etchemendy is a former graphic designer who has since turned to her longtime love of writing for a career. She is the author of several science-fiction books for young readers as well as of a collection of horror tales for teens, and has contributed short stories and poetry to magazines and anthologies. In addition to other honors, Etchemendy has won two Bram Stoker awards, one for the short story "Bigger Than Death," and another for her 2000 novel The Power of Un. In The Power of Un Etchemendy addresses the many possible philosophical problems that may result from time travel. The novel's protagonist, Gib, a middle-school student, is faced with this issue when he meets a mysterious stranger who gives him an "unner" capable of sending him back in time. After he receives the device, Gib learns that his younger sister has been hit by a truck and is now in a coma. Using his new unner might be a solution to saving her life, but Gib also learns that the interconnectedness of events and people can unravel in unexpected ways if he does not use it correctly. "Gib tackles free will, memory, the bending of time, and contradictory impulses in a way that will sound fairly logical to middle-schoolers," commented GraceAnne A. DeCandido in Booklist. And while School Library Journal contributor Susan L. Rogers thought that Etchemendy's characterizations are a little two-dimensional, she appreciated the story's suspense, which "builds to a surprising and satisfying conclusion."
Etchemendy has also received praise for her short-story collection Cat in Glass, and Other Tales of the Unnatural. The stories here range in subjects from wicked felines to alternate realities and from haunting dreams to a post-apocalyptic world, and were collectively described by Booklist contributor Anne O'Malley as "rather dark tales [that] will appeal mostly to horror fans." Catherine Threadgill, writing in School Library Journal, noted that while the author occasionally includes "coarse language and disturbingly graphic description," these are only used to serve a purpose to the stories. Threadgill concluded that Etchemendy's stories in Cat in Glass are "masterfully rendered, absorbing tales."
Etchemendy once told CA: "From the time my sister and I were four or five years old until we were teenagers, my dad used to read to us on a regular basis. He always had a passion for science fiction, so we heard a lot of it during our evening story time. Tom Swift, the 'Tom Corbett' series, and even judicious amounts of Jules Verne and Ray Bradbury all found places on Dad's reading list. By the time I was eight years old, I knew that I was going to live in space when I grew up. Other little girls talked about becoming nurses or stewardesses or mommies when they grew up. But I wanted to be an astronaut, or a brave settler on some far-flung and mysterious world.
"At the same time, I was rapidly discovering a second love—the love of words, and the thrill of making them leap and dance to a tune of my own. I learned the alphabet; I discovered the miraculous connection between marks on a sheet of paper and the thoughts inside my head; and I began to write stories and poems. All of that happened to me at once in Miss Elcano's first-grade class."
"For a long time I hoped I could be a writer and an astronaut. It didn't seem too farfetched. Surely they were going to need somebody to chronicle all those adventures we were going to have. But then several things happened. [U.S. President] John Kennedy died. We found ourselves in a seemingly endless war in Southeast Asia. And our social priorities began to change. People started saying things like, 'Why are we spending all this money on the moon when the masses are starving right here on Earth?' and 'Look at the mess we've made of this planet. Do you want the same thing to happen to the other planets?' and 'Why don't we solve the problems of this world before we worry about solving the problems of space travel?'
"Feeling very bleak indeed, I watched the space program fizzle to a smoldering stump, like a big Roman candle that turned out to be a dud. To make matters worse, I was getting old. And I knew that sooner or later I was going to have to find a way to pay the rent and keep potatoes in the pot. Writing was fun, but you couldn't rely on the income. So, basically, I chickened out. I went to work in a printshop, and that's how I came to be a graphic designer writing science-fiction novels on my lunch hours.
"Eventually it became clear to me that no matter what happened, I was going to be dead or too old to make the trip by the time the call went out for space colonists. But I was never able to shake the conviction that mankind belongs in space; that it is in fact our best hope for civilized survival in a dangerous age. As I recently explained to a young fan, 'Why do I write science fiction? It's a lot of fun to consider scientific possibilities. It's important for people to think about all the different things science means to us, and how it might affect our lives. That's partly because scientific inventions can be very dangerous if we use them without thinking about them. I believe it's especially important for today's kids to think about science, particularly space science, because I think that space is the future home of mankind and that we should start exploring it as soon and as fast as possible. People your age will probably be able to live in space if we just hurry up a little.'
"It's a joy to write for kids. As a group they're more sincere and concise about things than any other people I can think of. If you've missed the mark, they'll tell you so—plainly and candidly, without any intention of either sparing you or hurting you. But if you're on target, and a child somewhere begins to think about what you've said, then in a small way you've really affected eternity."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Power of Un, p. 1665; November 15, 2002, Anne O'Malley, review of Cat in Glass, and Other Tales of the Unnatural, p. 588.
Instructor, January, 1981, Allan Yeager, review of TheWatchers of Space, p. 113.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September, 1987, Orson Scott Card, review of The Watchers of Space and The Crystal City, p. 24.
School Library Journal, September, 1980, Margaret L. Chatham, review of The Watchers of Space, p. 69; April, 1984, Marilyn C. Kihl, review of Stranger from the Stars, p. 113; June, 2000, Susan L. Rogers, review of The Power of Un, p. 144; December, 2002, Catherine Threadgill, review of Cat in Glass, p. 137.
Nancy Etchemendy Home Page,http://www.sff.net/people/etchemendy/ (March 25, 2004).*