Genres and media: science fiction, fantasy, comics, science education, cooking (Irish), print, audio books, television, computer games

(1952 - )

"Trouble is, someone changed the location of 'normal'
and didn't bother sending me a map."
— Nita Callahan, young heroine of A Wizard Abroad
and other books in the Young Wizardry series

Biography

Diane Duane was born in Manhattan in 1952, and grew up on Long Island. A recipient of a Regents Science and Nursing scholarship, at Dowling College, Oakdale, NY she originally studied astronomy and astrophysics, but "a total inability to handle calculus and other higher maths drove her instead into the arms of the biological sciences." In 1974 she was graduated from the Pilgrim State Hospital School of Nursing as a registered nurse, specializing in psychiatry. For two years she practiced psychiatric nursing at Payne Whitney Clinic of New York Hospital.

In 1976, Duane relocated to California, where she worked for a year as assistant to David Gerrold, a science fiction author and screenwriter ("The Trouble With Tribbles" episode of Star Trek, The Man Who Folded Himself, When H.A.R.L.I.E. Was One, etc.). (Incidental note: Gerrold is openly gay, a fact that I think has relevance given Duane's remarkable positive treatment of homosexuality and bisexuality in several of her novels.) Diane notes that while she wrote and illustrated her first novel — in crayon — at the age of eight and continued to write thereafter, she first began to submit her work professionally after her employment with Gerrold. Her first novel, The Door Into Fire (part of the Tale of the Five series) was published by Dell Books in 1979. She was nominated two years in a row for the John W. Campbell Award of the World Science Fiction Society for best new science fiction/fantasy writer.

In 1987, Duane married fellow author Peter Morwood, and the two of them live in a hundred-year-old renovated cottage near the town of Baltinglass, Ireland, with their four cats. Her hobbies include collecting recipes and cookbooks, especially from less well-known ethnic cuisines; and electronic communications, having served as Ireland's regional coordinator for the FidoNet BBS, and still an active reader and contributor to USENET and Internet cooking and science fiction newsgroups. Other interests include gardening, shortwave radio, astronomy, computer graphics, amateur cartography ("one of her early efforts, a US-standard 'ordnance survey' map of Roger Zelazny's fictional city, Amber, hangs in the office of the deputy director of the US Geological Survey in Washington"), and fractals, among many others.

In addition to her large bibliography of print materials (including nearly thirty novels, and a half-dozen more co-authored with Morwood), she also has authored comics and computer games, and has written more than fifty scripts, including the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Where No One Has Gone Before (TNG)." She claims to have worked with Star Trek "in more forms than any other person alive: television, books, audio tape, comics, and computer games." Her 1988 novel Spock's World — the first hardcover Star Trek novel — spent eight weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, and the 1989 paperback version another three. She also has served as senior editor for Science Challenge, a BBC educational series.

Personal Creations vs. Shared Worlds - Duane's own words

Duane seems to be comfortable and prolific both in the creation of her own worlds (viz. her Tale of the Five, Young Wizardry, and Ailurin Wizardry series) and in working in shared universes (besides Star Trek, she has written for The Outer Limits, Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Gargoyles, Seaquest DSV, and Tom Clancy's Net Force series for young adults). When the topic of her writing in shared universes — and whether and how that impacts her work in her own created worlds, and whether it could be considered "selling out" — was brought up in the USENET group rec.arts.sf.written, in 2000, Diane herself had this to say:

First of all: any writer working in a universe not his or her own has limitations to deal with, and these are not the editor's (or story editor's) "fault", but the responsibility of the licensor. (So don't boo John [Ordover]. He's doing just fine, from my point of view anyway: he treats me well, and if I didn't want to work with him, I wouldn't.) These limitations don't bother me, for I discovered how to cope with them quite early on in my career. I was writing TV before I started writing novels for Trek, and learned very young about the ins and outs of dealing with The People From BS&P (Broadcast Standards and Practices), who would often slap ridiculous or hilarious limitations on us. (Remind me to tell the story, some other time, about the chains.) What you do immediately learn from doing TV work is that you will inevitably be limited in various ways in what you do...content, structure, whatever. You then get to make the decision: decline to accept the limitations, and (as a result) get out and do strictly your own work? Or deal with them, and do the best work you can inside the limitations?

I went the second route. The lesser of my reasons is explained by a paradigm based on poetry. In a world which offers a poet the possibility of writing in free verse, why do so many elect to write in meter? And why is (for example) the sonnet, a ridiculously rigid art form, so well thought of among poets? It's because of the limitations. The game is this: Take a rigid form, and inside its boundaries, produce the best and most moving poem you're capable of. It's the boundaries that make the challenge . Surpassing them, producing results that no one would have expected or thought possible inside them, is the object of the game. I like doing that. I like slipping into what other people would consider a straitjacket, and then proving that it needn't be any such thing.

Much more important to me, though, is my main reason for doing this kind of thing. I enjoy working in other people's universes, as the occasional guest. It's a breath of fresh air for me, a change of pace. It may surprise some of you, but being sole creator, Goddess in one's own universe/s, provides its own multiple levels of stress (as I'm now finding since So You Want To Be A Wizard is being developed for film/TV). If you're the one responsible for the proper development of (say) the Middle Kingdoms and the Wizard domains and the Pattern of worlds about to be described in Stealing the Elf-King's Roses, it's nice to slip out and play for a little someplace where the rules are laid down already, where the hard creative work has been handled and you can relax and concentrate on character or story. (Though soon enough, if things go well, I'm going to experience the flip side of this, and have writers complaining to me that I won't let them do the things they want to with Nita and Kit. Heh.)

But there's one important thing to add to this: the other universe involved has to be somewhere I really like, or involve characters I'm really fond of. I won't (and fortunately, don't have to) play just anywhere. This is why I'm working to be allowed to pitch to Stargate SG-1, for example. This is why I wanted to write for Green Lantern, way back when, and came that close (but that's another story). This is why I wrote for Space Island One over on this side of things, and got involved in the development of the animated version of Will Eisner's Spirit. This is what made me write for Batman:TAS, and Gargoyles, and Spider-Man, and even Duck Tales for cripes sake, when the opportunity came up. I like those universes, and do the best I can in them. Some people will find this weird: all I can say is "Go figure." I very much enjoy visiting these universes, and whenever possible, I work to leave them a little bigger than I found them. It's a thank-you to the creators.

And most specifically: I really like Star Trek. I like it a lot. I am a first-generation Trekkie, from the time when the term "Trekker" hadn't been invented yet, and maybe wasn't yet needed. Even now, when the Franchise is something far different from what it was when I started, there are shots of the Enterprise in film that still raise shivers on me. I enjoy -- probably most of all, the worldview of the original series, which was most special to me when I was growing up -- but also TNG and (to a lesser and different extent) DS9. The characters, especially in TOS, are old friends of mine. The TNG characters are newer, but then I have a slightly unique attitude toward them, having been one of the very first writers to work with them: Michael Reaves and I wrote Where None Have Gone Before before Patrick Stewart had even been cast as Jean-Luc Picard. I have the privilege of being both canonical and non-canonical, and I enjoy wearing both T-shirts. My life is a whole lot richer because of my involvement in the Trek universe. I've come to know a whole lot of neat people because of it...one of them being my husband. I like it here. And people need to understand that I claim the right to write Trek mostly because I have fun doing so, and also to understand that, for me, the money is not a significant part of the equation. No question, I like being paid. But my original work now routinely pays as well or better than the Trek books do, so "making a living" has nothing to do with it. And more importantly, the fun drowns the money out. Believe me, early last decade there were a couple of writing projects I got involved with which produced most serious money, and which I have nonetheless resolved NEVER to be involved with again: once was enough, and no amount of money compensates for having a bad time doing creative work. Standing on your head in the toilet is more enjoyable.

So don't go blaming John for keeping me from writing, say, The Door into Starlight. That's now contracted and will be coming out next year, along with The Wizard's Dilemma. ...Oh, and John, if you ever get that thousandth letter, I'd gladly write that Captain Sulu novel. In a New York second.

(sigh) Meanwhile, there's a sheep eating my rosemary bush, and elsewhere, all these Rihannsu are shooting at each other, and the Enterprise appears to be stuck in the middle of it all. I'd better go do something about it. At least, about the sheep... ;)

© 2000 by The Owl Springs Partnership. Permission to publish this post in full and without alteration (Usenet, IMDB, Deja) is granted. ReMarQ, you behave yourself, now!

Diane's List of the Ten Books that Most Influenced Her

Opinion

Duane and Morwood are frequent guests of honor at science fiction and fantasy conventions worldwide. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting them at a small GLBT convention, Gaylaxicon, a few years ago. Diane and Peter both have fast wits, wicked senses of humor, and are two of the genuinely nicest people I've ever met. They also share my obsession with a series of British children's books about a millionaire elephant named Uncle. The couple's writing relationship and web site (http://www.ibmpcug.co.uk/~owls/ but unfortunately not updated since 1999), both of which they've dubbed "The Owl Springs Partnership," are named for a location in the Uncle books, as is "Homeward," the biographical section of their site and the name of Uncle's castle and amusement park-like home.

I can't recommend all of Duane's books — but only because I haven't read them all, yet. I do wholeheartedly recommend the Tale of the Five series (these books had a profound personal impact on me, and I place them alongside Tolkien's on my list of all-time favorites). Some of the elements of this series that I particularly appreciated:

  • Duane's skill at writing believable, sympathetic, complex characters, including male and female humans; an aspect of their Goddess (sorrowful, even, over Her own errors) who personally visits — and makes love to — every creature before its death; a fire elemental; and an entire lineage of dragons;

  • The inclusion of loving opposite-gender, same-gender, bisexual, polyamorous and even interspecies relationships. In the Middle Kingdoms (the setting for most of the action) there is complete equality of the sexes, and while one has a duty to reproduce (though this makes it sound too clinical; having children is not seen as a burden, but a joyful responsibility), after one has done so one is free to love whom one chooses, regardless of their sex. No assumptions are made by others about the sex of your partner(s), nor are judgements made about them on that basis alone.

  • A rich background, including complex but beautiful and well-explicated theology and multiple mythologies, languages (though Dracon does remind me a great deal of Rihannsu/Romulan, another of Duane's constructed languages), and excerpts from "historical" texts.

  • A writing style that can smoothly move from the poetic to the irreverent, and every stage in between, as appropriate.

I also endorse the Young Wizardry and Ailurin Wizardry series. Though the former are most often found in the "young adult" or unfortunately named "juvenile" sections of your bookstore or library, these, like much work in those genres, have a strong appeal for many old adults, too) and Ailurin Wizardry series. The protagonists of the Young Wizardry series — which predates the Harry Potter books — are three teenage and pre-teen wizards, while those of the Ailurin Wizardry series, in an interesting twist, are cats, whom we discover do indeed lead the secret lives that we catowners suspect.

A Partial Bibliography

Novels

Sources:

  • The Owl Springs Partnership site (www.ibmpcug.co.uk/~owls/) (Ed. note: all quotes in this writeup are from this source.)
  • Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society (www.casfs.org)
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