You owe A.C. Crispin a huge debt, whether you know it or not. As an author, she helped carve a space for women writing science fiction. She helped prove media tie-in novels could be great books in their own right. And she fought for writers to get treated fairly, with the indispensible site Writer Beware.
Sadly, Crispin died of cancer earlier today.
You couldn't really be an aspiring writer of science fiction or fantasy and not be aware of the amazing work Ann Crispin was doing on your behalf. For years now, she and Victoria Strauss have been fighting the good fight against scammers, predatory operators and slimy agents who tried to violate the maxim that the money always flows to the writer.
And even if you weren't aware of their efforts, you benefited from them — even if you only read books and have no desire to write them, your reading material is better because authors were being treated fairly. Crispin also served as Vice President of SFWA, where she likewise went to bat for authors' rights on many occasions.
Scroll down towards the bottom of this interview to read a long section where Crispin dispenses absolutely essential advice for beginning writers on how to "break in" and whether to follow trends in publishing. In a nutshell: don't try to capitalize on what's hot now, and even if you're self-publishing, understand how the business works, inside and out.
And meanwhile, Crispin wrote a series of original science fiction books, the Starbridge series, which Andre Norton called "the type of rousing adventure story which Heinlein made so popular a generation ago." They're now available as ebooks.
To quote from Michael Seidel's review of the first Starbridge novel over at Goodreads: "This is the book that turned me into a reader. It's just a great space adventure, not hardcore technobabble-filled sci-fi, just a great adventure. Perfect for the young dreamer."
Author Seanan McGuire wrote on Twitter:
I never waited for my Hogwarts Acceptance Letter—I was a Molly Grue by then—but I used to dream of acceptance to Starbridge Academy... A.C. Crispin was one of the women who made me believe that I would someday be allowed to write science fiction. She gave me so much hope.
If you are unfamiliar with Ann Crispin's work, find the Starbridge series. They supported diversity and intersectionality at a time when STRAIGHT WHITE CISGUYS IN SPACE was a valid pitch for a series.
She and Norton also collaborated on two novels in the Witch World series.
But also, among many readers, Crispin is probably best known for her media tie-in novels — and for helping to legitimize the "tie-in novel" as an ambitious form in its own right, not just a disposable extra. Crispin wrote multiple Star Trek novels, including the acclaimed Yesterday's Son and Sarek. She also wrote the Han Solo Trilogy of Star Wars novels, and novelized the original V miniseries and Alien Resurrection. She also wrote a giant Pirates of the Caribbean prequel novel.
As Lightsaber Rattling wrote the other day:
I could say a lot about Crispin's writing, she gave Star Wars fans a great gift in her crafting of a back story for Han Solo, but I think the strongest praise I can give her is that in crafting the character of Bria Tharen she created a love interest for Han Solo that even rivaled Princess Leia. As readers of The Han Solo Trilogy we all knew Han and Bria could not last, but I didn't want the trilogy to end because I didn't want that flame extinguished.
Crispin told one interviewer a few years ago:
I put my full efforts into both my media tie-ins and my original novels. With the original novels, it’s generally a bit more work, because I have to create the world, the technology, the history, the geography, the society, etc. World-building and universe-building have to be done well if you want to create the illusion of reality –- something that’s essential to writing s.f. and fantasy.
As of 2011, Crispin told an interviewer that she was "returning to science fiction, my first love. I’m working on developing an original SF trilogy for the YA market." Now, sadly, we'll never get to read it. That's just one of the many reasons Crispin will be sorely missed.