"At an early school, when I was about 5, they asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. Everyone said silly things, and I said I wanted to be an actress. So that was what I wanted to be, but what I was, of course, was a writer." -- Tanith Lee
Tanith Lee (born ) is a British writer of science fiction, horror and fantasy.
She is the author of over 70 novels and 250 short stories, a children's picture book (Animal Castle) and many poems. She has also written two episodes of BBC science fiction series Blake's 7.
Lee is the daughter of two ballroom dancers. Despite a persistent rumour, she is not the daughter of Bernard Lee (actor who played "M" in the James Bond series of films of the 1960s). Tanith Lee married author John Kaiine in 1992.
Lee worked as a file clerk, an assistant librarian, a shop assistant and a waitress before becoming a full time writer. Her first short story, Eustace, was published in 1968. Her first novel (for children) was The Dragon Hoard, published in 1971. Her career really took off with the acceptance in 1975 by Daw Books USA of her adult fantasy epic The Birthgrave – a mass-market paperback. Lee has since maintained a prolific output in popular genre writing.
"As a child, my mother told me lots of fairy stories, many her own invention. She, too, tended to reverse the norm.""Genre categories are irrelevant. I dislike them, but I do not have the casting vote.""I also love Disney, and will defend doing so, because there's so much in those films and I don't care if it's stereotyped.""I just love writing. It's magical, it's somewhere else to go, it's somewhere much more dreadful, somewhere much more exciting. Somewhere I feel I belong, possibly more than in the so-called real world.""I like films, or some films, and would be intrigued to see my work on screen.""I like writing about women, weak and strong, pathetic and heroic. I like writing about men, ditto. And all the variants of men and women, beasts and demons.""I love writers all across the board, but one who influenced me very directly at the beginning was Mary Renault.""I never know where I am going, though. That is part of what makes it so wonderful. And after all, who does?""I submitted manuscripts to publishers. This was not so much a feeling that I should be published as a wish to escape the feared and hated drudgery of normal work.""I think of myself as a storyteller, and that is it.""I'm writing what comes into my head, or through me, or from somewhere else, and it is the most extraordinary, exciting thing. I love it, and I'm very greedy, and I really enjoy it!""I've been criticised for writing in too complex a manner for younger people.""If they had said my writing wasn't good enough, fair enough, that's an opinion. But to say it's too complex is to insult the intelligence of the so-called young.""It's very selfish when I write. I'm not aware, ever, of writing for another person; I'm not even really aware of writing for myself.""No one is ever ordinary.""People are always the start for me... animals, when I can get into their heads, gods, supernatural beings, immortals, the dead... these are all people to me.""Pirates have always fascinated me.""The other writer who had a very important early influence on me when I was about 17 was C.S. Lewis.""When I am fascinated by something, I like to play with it.""Writers tell stories better, because they've had more practice, but everyone has a book in them. Yes, that old cliche.""Writing is writing, and stories are stories. Perhaps the only true genres are fiction and non-fiction. And even there, who can be sure?"
Tanith Lee's debuted with the children's book The Dragon Hoard in 1971, while her first adult book was The Birthgrave in 1975.Lee's prolific output spans a host of different genres, including adult fantasy, children's fantasy, science fiction, horror, Gothic horror, Gothic romance, and historical novels. Her series of interconnected tales called "The Flat-Earth Cycle", beginning with Night's Master and Death's Master, is similar in scope and breadth to Jack Vance's The Dying Earth.
Night's Master contains allegorical tales involving Azhrarn, a demonic prince who kidnaps and raises a beautiful boy and separates him from the sorrow of the real world. Eventually, the boy wants to know more about the earth, and asks to be returned, setting off a series of encounters between Azhrarn and the Earth's people, some horrific, some beneficial. Later tales are loosely based on Babylonian mythology. In the science-fiction Four-BEE series Lee explores youth culture and identity in a society which grants eternally young teenagers complete freedom, including getting killed and receiving a new body, gender, identity over and over again. Lee has also dabbled in the historical novel with her offering The Gods are Thirsty, a book set during the French Revolution.
A large part of her output is children's fantasy which has spanned her entire career from her The Dragon Hoard debut in 1971 to the more recent The Claidi Journals containing Wolf Tower, Wolf Star, Wolf Queen and Wolf Wing in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Lee has been published by a myriad of different publishers, particularly in regards to whether she is offering adult fiction or children's fantasy. Her earlier children's fantasy novels were published in hardcover by MacMillan UK and subsequently printed as paperbacks in the US often by DAW, with occasional hardcovers by St. Martin's Press. Some of her work was only printed in paperback, mainly in the US by DAW in the 1970s to the early 1980s. She has received somesmall press treatment, such as the Arkham House edition of short stories Dreams of Dark and Light: The Great Short Fiction of Tanith Lee in 1986, and in the first "Night Visions" instalment published by Dark Harvest. Some of her work has been exclusively released in the UK with US publications often pending.