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Vonda McIntyre – 1948-2019

Vonda McIntyre died in April 2019. Shortly after her death, a book called Remembering Vonda  edited by Stephanie Smith and Jeanne Gomall was published by Union Street Press. It’s a collection of essays and photographs and general memorabilia about Vonda, her life and her works. I confess that I read it with a little bit of a tear in my eye. Vonda was a guest of honour at an SF convention in New Zealand in 1995. I was on the committee that organised that convention and so I came into contact with her quite a lot. Since I learned of her death, I too have been remembering Vonda…

I took her to Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium. We wandered through plexiglass tunnels where sharks, and rays and a multitude of other sea creatures swam all around and above us, eyeing us as eagerly as we were eyeing them; possibly with similar motives on both sides. Vonda was entranced, exclaiming with delight as particularly toothy specimens swam up close to snarl at her and then dart away again into the murky depths.

Then we went into the Antarctic enclosure where we were promised penguins. And that’s exactly what we got, but we got something else as well – just inside the entrance a huge orca loomed intermittently out of a tiny pool, startling penguins and visitors alike.

Vonda was absolutely furious! "How dare they treat an orca like that," she declared, red faced and angry. "You can’t imprison such a large animal in such a small enclosure. And you shouldn’t have orca in captivity in any case! Where’s someone in charge? We’ve got to do something about it!"

In high dudgeon, she stalked closer to the orca, intent on committing who knows what mayhem. And then she started to laugh as she discovered what I already knew, but hadn’t told her because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise. The orca wasn’t a real orca. It was an animatronic model of an orca. Vonda was vastly amused to discover how thoroughly she’d been fooled by it, and she was full of admiration at the skill with which the model had been made. She thought it was the best joke ever. We settled back to enjoy the penguins. It had been a very successful day.

On another occasion we went to explore the city of Auckland. In the centre of the city is a crossroads. We arrived at the crossroads just as the lights changed and a multitude of pedestrians started to cross the intersection. Vonda was mesmerised by the spectacle. "Is it allowed to cross diagonally?" she asked me as we watched crowds of people doing exactly that. "If I did that at home I’d be arrested for jaywalking!"

"Not only is it allowed," I explained, "it’s actually required! The lights halt the traffic in all four directions at once. No vehicles can get through at all, and pedestrians can cross in any direction that represents the shortest distance connecting the two points they want to travel between."

"What a clever idea," said Vonda admiringly. "Can we try it? Please?"

We waited until the lights went red again. Traffic on all four approach roads halted politely, and the pedestrians began to cross. We arrived safely at the other end of our diagonal and Vonda was positively bubbling with excitement. "That was fun," she said gleefully. "I’ve never done that before. Can we do it again?"

We waited through a whole traffic light cycle, crossed diagonally again and then we resumed walking in the direction we’d been heading before we got side-tracked by the traffic lights. Once again, it had been a very successful day.

Eventually Vonda went back home and probably she never walked diagonally across a crossroads again for the rest of her life. I’m very glad that I was able to give her that small adventure.

We kept in touch intermittently. Perhaps a dozen emails over a dozen years about this, that or the other. It was not a voluminous correspondence and neither was it a very important one. But whenever I dropped her a line she always remembered who I was and she always responded warmly. I remember her very fondly indeed.


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