Kate Wilhelm antiwar author who transcended sexist science fiction

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Kate Wilhelm (1928–2018) wrote more than three dozen novels, as well as
a great deal of short fiction, split between the science fiction and mystery/ suspense genres. She won both the Hugo and Locus Awards for her SF novel Where Late the Sweet Bird Sang, and won both of these again for her nonfiction work Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Her science fiction novel Juniper Time won the Prix Apollo of France. She also won three Nebula Awards for short science fiction and actually took a part in designing the physical Nebula Award trophy, creating an early sketch on which it was based.

Amazingly, Wilhelm sold the first two science fiction stories she ever wrote. Upon reading an SF anthology from the public library, she thought, “I can do that”; after writing a couple of stories in a notebook, she rented a typewriter and sent them off. Miraculously, both were accepted: “The Pint-Sized Genie” (1956, Fantastic) and “The Mile-Long Spaceship” (1957, Astounding).

Wilhelm also wrote detective fiction involving women as solvers: her Barbara Holloway series features a female attorney in Oregon who solves mysteries, blending courtroom drama with detective plotlines, and in her Constance Leidl and Charlie Meiklejohn series, Leidl is a psychologist who investigates cases with her retired arson detective husband. Wilhelm released nine collections of her short stories of speculative fiction; in 1980, she also published four volumes of her poetry. Her work has been adapted for TV, film, and theater productions in the US, England, and Germany. Her second marriage, which lasted four decades until her spouse’s passing in 2002, was to writer and editor Damon Knight. Along with Knight, Wilhelm played an important part in the creation of the Clarion Workshop for writers. In 2003, she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Father, only your love is perfect, only your love. Focus my heart on the joy of your holy, perfect love because in this world human love will fail. I am a sinner who cannot love others perfectly. Those who love me will fail and hurt me because they too are sinners. I know it is true, but Lord, I am overwhelmed and tired of this heartache. It feels like nothing else matters, because this isn’t right and I can’t get it out of my mind. Sin is so ugly and destructive, and there are so many hurts. Sharp words echo in my mind, piercing my heart over and over. My heart races as I imagine conversations that have never happened. Hateful glances, lists of past failures; it just gets bigger and bigger in my mind and is so heavy in my heart. I just want healing. I need your love and comfort. Jesus, can you just reach in my heart and remind me of your grace? Heal my torn heart with your compassion. Tell me again how you wept and ached over relationships that crushed you when you lived here. Remind me of your suffering in betrayal, denial, and death. You know this pain; you lived through it. But more than that, you died to pay for all this ugly sin. You gave your life because we all need a Savior. And you lived a perfect life and covered me with your righteousness. All of this is atoned for with your blood. Fill me with your grace so I can be strong and forgiving. Drive me to your Word so I can be guided by your wisdom. Wash me clean and renew my heart so I long for what is right in your eyes. Calm my heart, Lord. Own it and rule it. Put your love in my heart and fill my mind with thoughts that are pleasing to you. Teach me again to rest in your salvation and entrust my burdens to your care. Comfort me, Jesus; in your holy name I pray, Amen.

—Lola Moreno

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