Élisabeth Vonarburg, writer (born 5 August 1947 in Paris, France). Her internationally famous works of science fiction, influenced by the novels of Ursula Le Guin, provide a fresh, intelligent perspective on the themes of sexuality, eugenics, the transmission of knowledge, and women’s place in complex worlds of the future. Her protagonists are most often intelligent, sensitive young women attempting to reconcile their desire for a better world with the accumulated experience of generations that have lived in declining civilizations where solitude and the anguish of death are all that awaits the survivors.
Born in France, where she earned a master’s degree in modern literature, Élisabeth Vonarburg emigrated to Canada in 1973 and became a Canadian citizen in 1976. She settled in Chicoutimi, Québec. As a lecturer at several Québec universities, she taught literature and creative writing, publishing an essay on the latter topic (Comment écrire des histoires - Guide de l'explorateur) in 1986. In 1987, she earned a doctoral degree in creative writing from Université Laval.
Literary editor of the Québec science fiction magazine Solaris from 1979 to 1989, Vonarburg also contributed to numerous specialized journals, lectured throughout the world, and hosted a weekly slot on the Radio-Canada program Demain la veille. She won many awards for her criticism of works of science fiction.
Vonarburg first became involved with literature as a translator, a profession that she has continued to practice. Authors whose work she has translated into French include Tanith Lee, Marion Zimmer Bradley, James Tiptree Jr., Chelsea Quinn Yarbo, Ian Watson, Raphaël A. Lafferty, and many others. The first story that she published, “Marée haute”, appeared in an anthology entitled Vingt maisons du Zodiaque, part of the prestigious science fiction collection Présence du futur from Denoël, a French publishing house. She published her first collection of stories, L'Œil de la nuit, in 1980. Her first novel, Le silence de la cité, published in 1981, earned her the Grand Prix de la Science-Fiction Française (grand prize for French science fiction), among other awards. Next she published two story collections —Janus in 1984 and Ailleurs et au Japon in 1991—followed by her masterpiece, Chroniques du Pays des Mères, in 1992, for which she received a Philip K. Dick Award (special citation).
As of this writing, Vonarburg has over 50 short stories to her credit. She regularly publishes stories for children and teens and for the past several years has been working on a vast saga entitled Tyranaël. Her works of science fiction have been translated into English, German, Romanian, Swedish, and Japanese. A great novelist, she stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Esther Rochon and Francine Pelletier as a nuanced representative of science fiction writing by women. In 1998, Québec’s Conseil du statut de la femme (council on the status of women) presented her with its Femme et littérature (women and literature) award for the body of her work. A collection of her poetry, Le lever du récit, was published by Éditions Les Herbes Rouges in 1999.