Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing, 94, died at her home in London on November 17. Lessing was Guest of Honor for ICFA’s tenth annual conference in 1989, only a year after the conference relocated to Fort Lauderdale, and proved quickly to be one of ICFA’s most accessible and popular guests—working out on the hotel treadmills in the morning, hanging out by the pool in the afternoon, and inadvertently giving rise to one of the conference’s enduring anecdotes.
Lessing had expressed an interest in taking a short cruise while she was in Florida—meaning an ocean day cruise—but ICFA organizers instead booked her on a riverboat called the Jungle Queen, a notorious tourist trap largely for senior citizens, which made its way up the New River past various celebrity homes to a proprietary island, where a rather tacky rib dinner was served on picnic benches to the accompaniment of a live accordion band. Then-IAFA president Marshall Tymm was appalled, but Lessing, in good spirits, commented that she had learned a good deal more about Florida culture than she had expected.
A few IAFA members kept in touch with Lessing over the next few years, during which she continued to express her support for science fiction and fantasy both in her own writing and in interviews, revealing a knowledge of the field that ranged from Arthur C. Clarke to her friend Brian Aldiss (who had helped arrange her guest of honor appearance) to more contemporary writers like Greg Bear. Along with Isaac Bashevis Singer, she is one of two ICFA Guests of Honor to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Story and photo courtesy of Gary K. Wolfe
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