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R.I.P., Joan Aiken

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Susan just told me that Joan Aiken died on Sunday. (The Guardian has another obituary that provides more details about her early life.)

Ms. Aiken has been one of my favorite authors since I first read some of her stories in college. (I had been aware of her books since elementary school, but somehow had never read one.) I feel honored that we were allowed to reprint one of her stories online in our SH author focus issue focusing on her in 2001 (thanks again for putting that issue together, Susan!), and I'm glad I had the chance to write a review of some of her short fiction for that issue. I only wish I had taken the opportunity to write her a fan letter and let her know how much I enjoyed her work.

That author focus issue also featured an interview by Gavin J. Grant, two poems by Aiken, and a review of the Wolves books. Unfortunately, we had permission to post the fiction and poetry only for a brief time, so that material is no longer available online.

Aiken was 79 years old. She wrote ninety-two novels, and about thirty collections of short stories, not to mention an unknown-to-me number of plays and poems. Astonishingly prolific.

My favorite of her stories was "The Third Wish," about a modern man who rescues the King of the Forest and is given three wishes in compensation. It's been fairly extensively reprinted in various places; if you happen to run across it somewhere, it's worth reading.

I'll leave you with a quote from her Postscript to her short story collection A Small Pinch of Weather, which I also quoted in my review:

Favourite stories, like unexpected presents, are things that you can keep and cherish all your life, carry with you, in memory, in your mind's ear, and bring out, at any time, when you are feeling lonely, or need cheering up, or, like friends, just because you are fond of them.

We'll miss you, Ms. Aiken. Thank you for all the stories.

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Joan Aiken was the GoH at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts a couple of years ago. She gave a lovely speech, and we were all given copies of her delightful The Cockatrice Boys.

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