Diana Wynne Jones (1934-2011)

Diana Wynne Jones, 76, died March 26, 2011 of cancer. Jones was a respected and prolific author of fantasy novels, many for children and young adults. She published over forty books, and the best known include the Chrestomanci series (1977-2006), Howl’s Moving Castle (1986), and satirical non-fiction work The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (1996).

Born August 16, 1934 in London, Jones studied at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, from 1953-56 (where she attended lectures given by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien), graduating with an English degree. She started her writing career as a playwright, and three of her plays were produced in London between 1967 and 1970.

First novel Changeover (1970) was adult humor, but afterward she shifted her focus to fantasy for younger readers. Archer’s Goon (1984) was nominated for a World Fantasy Award, and adapted into a six-part television series by the BBC in 1992. Howl’s Moving Castle was animated by Hayao Miyazaki and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2005. She won the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award in 2007, and her books won Mythopoeic Awards in 1996 and 1999 and received multiple Carnegie commendations.

Forthcoming works include short novel Earwig and the Witch (2011) and a collection of non-fiction.

Jones was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009, and after more than a year of treatment, she announced that she was discontinuing chemotherapy, which was only making her feel ill in her final months. She is survived by her husband, Chaucerian scholar John A. Burrow, whom she married in 1956, and their three sons and five grandchildren.

The Guardian in its obituary says “Her intelligent and beautifully written fantasies are of seminal importance for their bridging of the gap between ‘traditional’ children’s fantasy, as written by C.S. Lewis or E. Nesbit, and the more politically and socially aware children’s literature of the modern period, where authors such as Jacqueline Wilson or Melvyn Burgess explicitly confront problems of divorce, drugs and delinquency.”

See her Science Fiction Encyclopedia entry for more details. A complete obituary and appreciations will appear in the May issue of Locus.

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