Wilhelm and Murdoch

[Kelley’s note: I’m combining two questions into a single response here. ]

I know Kate Wilhelm was a co-founder of Clarion, but I know her best as a prolific and wonderful writer. I have read all of her stories about Charlie Meikeljon and Constance Leidl, some of her science fiction, and the novel Death Qualified, which is based on chaos theory. I know you have probably read her stuff.

And have you ever read anything by Iris Murdoch? I discovered her work by reading her biography by Peter Conradi. She mingles her peculiar perspective of fantasy with hard reality in a way I really enjoy. Readers love her because she wrote a lot of books, some better than others.

Please tell me what you think. Thanks.


Kate was one of our instructors at Clarion ’88 — the one whose presence most excited me going in, the one I most wanted to like my work. I looked up to her.

So you may imagine that I was like a bunny in the headlights walking into the private conference with her and Damon. And there Kate told me, “You’re a writer.” I still remember how that made me felt.

She also taught me a lot about how editors (and, it turns out, screenplay readers) approach submissions: when she critiqued our Clarion stories, she drew a red line at the place where she disengaged from the story for whatever reason. A lot of those red lines were on the first page…

So yes, I’ve read her work (grin). I highly recommend the Constance and Charlie stories — wonderful characters, and I love the elements of sf and mysticism behind the mainstream mystery murder setups. I also very much like Death Qualified for that same approach.

And I love that her characters are grownups. Charlie and Constance are in their 50’s, I believe, and they are smart, capable, in love, truly married (with all the understanding and empathy and head-shaking not-again frustration of long and successful relationships), funny… characters whose stories always end too early for me, because I like spending time with them. That’s one of Kate’s real strengths as a writer, in my opinion — both in her series books and her standalones.

Have you read her collection of novellas Listen Listen? Absolutely fantastic. There’s one of my favorite Charlie and Constance stories (“With Thimbles, with Forks, and Hope”) plus the fabulous story “The Winter Beach.”

Here’s her bibliography. Start anywhere, they’re all good.

Iris Murdoch — wow, you caught me off guard with this. I read some of her work many years ago, so long that I can’t remember titles or details. I wish I had something intelligent to say about her, but instead I will thank you for bringing her back onto my radar. I will definitely read something — can you recommend a book to begin with?

One thought on “Wilhelm and Murdoch”

  1. Kelley, you may like Under The Net, her first novel, and TheSea,The Sea, one of the last. Somewhere on tne net they musy have her bibliography. See what you think.

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