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Ardath Mayhar
Born Ardath Frances Hurst
(1930-02-20)February 20, 1930
Timpson, Texas, U.S.
Died February 1, 2012(2012-02-01) (aged 81)
Nacogdoches, Texas, U.S.
Pen name Frank Cannon
Frances Hurst
John Killdeer
Occupation Writer
Nationality US
Genre Science fiction

Ardath Frances Hurst Mayhar (February 20, 1930 – February 1, 2012) was an American writer and poet. Mayhar wrote over 60 books ranging from science fiction to horror to young adult to historical to westerns, Some of her novels appeared under pseudonyms such as Frank Cannon, Frances Hurst, and John Killdeer. Mayhar began writing fantasy with a story in 1973, and fantasy novels in 1979 after returning with her family to Texas from Oregon.

Mayhar also shared her knowledge of the skills of writing with many people through the Writer's Digest correspondence courses, and via her acclaimed book Through a Stone Wall: Lessons from Thirty Years of Writing.

Personal life

Mayhar was born at Timpson, Texas, and was first inspired to write by finding Arthur Merritt's fantasy The Face in the Abyss (1931) on a remote rural news-stand at age 15. Her early life story can be found in full in her autobiography Strange View from a Skewed Orbit, but a few years after going full-time as a fantasy and science-fiction writer she summed up her life for the biographical encyclopedia for libraries, Something about the author (1985). There she stated that:

"I have spent most of my adult life shovelling manure, writing poetry, and looking up at the stars. ... hand-to-hand (sometimes face-to-hoof) with the cows, the cruddy milking machines, the manure, the hay, the weather. ... At the age of forty-three, I ‘reformed’ ... I finally realized that English teachers have destroyed any love of poetry that might remain in the English-speaking race ... so I started writing fantasy novels, and haven’t looked back in the years since. I have been influenced, to a greater or lesser extent, by Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Ayn Rand, Andre Norton, William Faulkner, and all the ‘old heads’ in the science fiction field."

Mayhar escaped from the dairy farm to run a bookstore. She owned and operated The View From Orbit Bookstore in Nacogdoches, Texas, with her husband Joe. She later sold the bookstore, which served the students of Stephen F. Austin State University and people in the East Texas area, providing a wide variety of books and literature as well as Joe's computer services that would otherwise have been unavailable to the region at that time.

Work

She moved back to Texas to become an active fantasy and science-fiction writer, and lived on a place bordering the Attoyac River as it entered the Sam Rayburn Lake, which is in the Big Thicket country (today just outside the official Big Thicket National Preserve). The imaginative work she produced at that time has been compared to that of Andre Norton and Clifford Simak. Like Simak she often places rural people of straightforward decency into strange situations. Her fantasy stories have often been compared to Lord Dunsany for their delicacy and settings.

Her juvenile novels (what would now be called 'young adult') were sharply divided between her 'East Texas' series with regional settings, and her fantasy works for that age-group. She often featured strong-minded and morally-certain adolescent girl heroines at a time when it was not fashionable to do so. This focus arose simply from her own background, not from politics.

Until her health began to fail, her reputation was such that she still spoke regularly in the area, drawing large crowds whenever she taught and spoke. She also attended occasional fan conventions, where she was treated like royalty by great writers such as Harlan Ellison:

"the transformation that came over Ellison [when he saw Mayhar walk in at Aggiecon 2000] was immediate and dramatic. He dropped everything and literally doted on Ardath. He got her a seat, brought her into the conversation and went out of his way to defer to her."

Her work was also acclaimed by noted author Andre Norton, and Joe R. Lansdale wrote simply: "Ardath Mayhar writes damn fine books!"

Papers

The main collection of her papers is the Ardath Mayhar Papers at the East Texas Research Center of the Stephen F. Austin State University. There is also an Ardath Mayhar Papers collection at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Awards

Mayhar was nominated for the Mark Twain Award, and won the Balrog Award for a horror narrative poem in Masques I, and had numerous other nominations for awards in almost every fiction genre, and won many awards for poetry.

She was the author or co-author of:

Non-fiction
  • Through a Stone Wall: Lessons from Thirty Years of Writing
  • Strange View from a Skewed Orbit (autobiography)
Short and critical articles
  • "Creating Fantasy Folk" in the advice anthology How to write tales of horror, fantasy & science, 1987.
  • "On Fantasy vs. SF writing", in the journal Quantum, Summer 1990.
  • "The Analog 'We'", in Thrust magazine (Spring 1988). (Makes the case that speculative fiction can influence the real world).
  • "Where Has All The Nonsense Gone?", in Thrust magazine (Winter 1988). (Sets out the need to retain fun, humour and optimism in the face of the changing state of science-fiction and fantasy).

With Ron Fortier

  • The Gashta Homepage. Includes a biography & an article Ardath wrote on writing her Fuzzy novel Golden Dream
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