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L. Sprague De Camp

By Denise Dumars     November 10, 2000

Golden Age science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp passed away on Monday, November 6, in Plano, Texas. He was 93. He was preceded in death by his wife, Catherine Crook de Camp, who died on April 9 of this year. He is survived by his brother, Lyman Lyon de Camp, and by his two sons, Lyman Sprague de Camp and Gerard Beekman de Camp.

L(yon) Sprague de Camp was born November 27, 1907 in New York City and came to prominence among the 'Golden Age' science fiction writers of the 1930s and '40s. He stopped writing for a time in the mid-'50s but resumed writing and achieved fame for a second time in the 1970s. De Camp was known as a writer of entertaining space adventures, lush historical fantasy, humorous space fantasy and some of the best short stories in science fiction. He wrote several Conan novels, continuing in the spirit of the character's creator, Robert E. Howard, and some viewed him as merely a writer of space opera and blood-and-thunder sword and sorcery fiction. But de Camp was much more.

While he rose to prominence again as an SF writer in the 1970s, so too was there a resurgence of interest in the works of H. P. Lovecraft. De Camp responded to this interest by writing one of the first biographical and literary studies of Lovecraft, called simply H. P. Lovecraft: A Biography. It was published in 1975.

Science fiction writer and critic Scott E. Green says of de Camp's later work that his 'importance to the SF/fantasy genres cannot be easily reduced to a few years, but as the principal champion of Robert E. Howard and his work during the post-WWII years he helped set the foundation for the revival of heroic fantasygood, bad, or indifferentas a major component in American genre fiction.' De Camp also wrote nonfiction and poetry. 'His work as a novelist, poet, and historian of technology was magnificent, but it is overshadowed by his energy and work as the single most important champion of Robert E. Howard and his fiction,' says Green.

Those who view his work as lightweight need to take a second look at some of his novels, including Rogue Queen, which has included with its space adventure an examination of gender roles that set the stage for later writers such as Ursula K. LeGuin and Samuel R. Delany. His most popular novel, the time travel book Lest Darkness Fall, was first published in 1941 and is still in print. De Camp authored over 100 novels, and counted among his awards the Grand Master Nebula from the Science Fiction Writers of America and the Gandalf, the Grand Master Award for Lifetime Achievement in Fantasy.

Some of his excellent short fiction, including the classic tales 'A Gun for Dinosaur' and 'The Gnarly Man' are collected in a volume available at most libraries called The Best of L. Sprague de Camp. His humorous Tales of Gavagan's Bar is another collection to be savored and enjoyed.

De Camp served in the Naval Reserve in WWII. He will be cremated and his ashes interred along with Catherine's at Arlington National Cemetery. For more information, see the official L. Sprague de Camp website: www.lspraguedecamp.com.

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