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Nancy Etchemendy (1952–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights

(Nancy Elise Howell Etchemendy)


Born 1952, in Reno, NV; Education: University of Nevada, B.A., 1974. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, travel, cooking; "I'm a dedicated dabbler … particularly in anthropology, archaeology, and paleontology. In addition, I like to spend time in the deserts of the North American West."


Agent—Virginia Knowlton, Curtis Brown, Ltd., 10 Astor Pl., New York, NY 10003.


Western Industrial Parts, Reno, NV, lithographer, 1970–75; Sutherland Printing, Reno, NV, 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–.


Authors Guild, PEN USA, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Science Fiction Writers of America, Horror Writers Association.

Honors Awards

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 for Excellence in Children's Science-Fiction Literature, Georgia Children's Book Award, Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize Silver Medal, Nautilus Award finalist, PEN USA West Award finalist, and Dorothy Canfield Fisher Master List, all 2002, an Volunteer State Award Master Reading list inclusion, 2003–04, all for The Power of Un; Bram Stoker Award, Horror Writers Association, 2004, for short story "Nimitseahpah."



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, Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2000.


Cat in Glass, and Other Tales of the Unnatural (young adult), Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Works have appeared in anthologies, 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 and Science Fiction, Asimov's Science Fiction, Twilight Zone, Cricket, Quantum, and Fantastyka.

Work in Progress

A lengthy fantasy novel for children, tentatively titled The Harrilore; short stories and poetry.


Beginning her career as a graphic designer, Nancy Etchemendy has shaped a career rooted in her longtime love of writing. She is the author of several science-fiction books for young readers as well as of a collection of horror tales for teens, and her short fiction and poetry has appeared in both magazines and anthologies. In addition to other honors, Etchemendy has won Bram Stoker awards for her short story "Bigger than Death" as well as for her 2000 novel The Power of Un.

In The Power of Un Etchemendy addresses the philosophical problems that can result from time travel. The novel's protagonist, Gib, a middle-school student, is faced with this issue when a mysterious stranger gives him an "unner" capable of sending him back in time. Shortly after he receives the device, Gib learns that his younger sister has been hit by a truck and is now in a coma. While using his new unner might be a solution to saving his sister's life, Gib also realizes that there is a risk: the interconnectedness of events and people may unravel in unexpected ways if he does not use the time-travel device 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 a review of The Power of Un for Booklist. While School Library Journal contributor Susan L. Rogers wrote that Etchemendy's characterizations are rather two-dimensional, she appreciated the story's suspense, noting that it "builds to a surprising and satisfying conclusion."

Widely known for her short fiction, Etchemendy has also received praise for the short-story collection Cat in Glass, and Other Tales of the Unnatural. The subjects of the stories in this collection range from wicked felines to alternate realities and from haunting dreams to a post-apocalyptic world. The assembled works were described by Booklist contributor Anne O'Malley as "rather dark tales [that] will appeal mostly to horror fans," while Catherine Threadgill, writing in the School Library Journal, noted that although Etchemendy sometimes utilizes "coarse language and disturbingly graphic description," such elements ultimately enhance her "masterfully rendered, absorbing tales."

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Etchemendy once told SATA: "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 print shop, 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."

Discussing her work as a children's book writer, Etchemendy once noted: "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." In answer to the question "Why write science fiction?," she added: "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."

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 The Watchers 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, and Other Tales of the Unnatural, p. 137.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2003, review of Cat in Glass, and Other Tales of the Unnatural, p. 62.


Nancy Etchemendy Home Page, http://www.sff.net/people/etchemendy/ (December 1, 2005).

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