Vonda N. McIntyre, daughter of H. Neel and Vonda B. Keith McIntyre, earned a degree in biology from the University of Washington in 1970. That same year, she attended the Clarion Writers Workshop, founded at the Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 1968. McIntyre went on to do graduate work in genetics.
In 1971, McIntyre founded the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, WA with the support of Clarion founder Robin Scott Wilson. She contributed to the workshop until 1973.
By 1973, McIntyre had won her first Nebula Award, for the novelette "Of Mist, and Grass and Sand"; this later became part of the novel Dreamsnake (1978), which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. The novelette and novel both concern a female healer in a desolate, primitivized venue.
McIntyre's debut novel, The Exile Waiting, was published in 1975. She has also written a number of Star Trek and Star Wars novels, including The First Adventure and The Entropy Effect. She wrote the novelizations of the films The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home.
It was McIntyre who came up with Hikaru as the first name of the Star Trek character Mr. Sulu, which became canon after Peter David, author of the comic book adaptation, visited the set of The Undiscovered Country and convinced director Nicholas Meyer to insert the name into the film's script.
Two story elements which McIntyre uses in many of her stories (regardless of their very different settings) are divers and biocontrol. Divers are humans who have been genetically modified to live underwater, although they retain their ability to breathe air as well. Their traits include gills, insulating fur, webbing on the fingers and toes to aid swimming, the ability to produce and hear sounds in the range used by cetaceans for communication, and retractable penises for males. Superluminal has a diver protagonist and extensive discussion of that novel's Earth diver culture; they are also featured in the Starfarers series, and a reference to divers is made in the Star Trek IV novelization.
Biocontrol is a learned ability to control aspects of one's own physiology that are normally autonomic. Its most important use is for birth control; practitioners apparently change the body temperature around their testes or ovaries so as to render their genetic material unviable. A character's experiences learning biocontrol are a plot thread in Dreamsnake; it is also mentioned in the Starfarers series (where it is also used to retard male beard growth) and the Star Trek III novelization (where characters mention taking formal biocontrol exams).
In the Star Trek II novelization, one of the characters discusses a computer game he has written, named "Boojum Hunt." In Barbary, a character refers to a computer game named "Snarks and Boojums." Both are references to Lewis Carroll's poem The Hunting of the Snark.