Jo Clayton

Last week I wrote about Anne McCaffrey. I’m doing a return to some favorite fantasy sci fi series read long in the past. This week I started back into one of my all time favorites, The Diadem Saga, by Jo Clayton. The series has nine books in all—a good binge, It had been a long time since I read these novels so I couldn’t be sure what I’d think now. I am not at all disappointed. James W. Fiscus, chairman of the Oregon SF Emergency Fund Board of Trustees, described her writing in a short biographical statement: “Jo Clayton’s writing was marked by complex, beautifully realized societies set in exotic worlds, lyrical prose, and compelling heroines.” That line could be more artful, but I think it sums up her appeal somewhat well (I’ll say more about this Fund later).

Born Patricia Jo Clayton in Modesto, California, she was raised with two sisters by farmsteading parents. She attended UC Berkeley and graduated from USC, subsequently worked as a teacher for thirteen years.

Intriguing in life as well as in her writing, she thought she’d become a nun but left the order in New Orleans after three years, just before taking vows. While in New Orleans she wrote profusely and also worked as an artist, painting people’s pets in the park.

At age 44, she moved to Portland, Oregon. She wrote 35 novels in all, and many short stories. Her works sold over one and a quarter million copies.

At age 57 she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow, and died from this condition a year and a half later. During her stay in the hospital she continued writing, completing a full novel and half of the last book in a trilogy, The Drums of Chaos. The last book, Drum into Silence (2002), was completed posthumously.

Sci fi writers and fans took up the cause for Jo Clayton during her illness. She lacked the funds to cover the medical costs and the Oregon SF Emergency Fund Board of Trustees was formed. I’m grateful that I discovered her books, that she had a chance to write them in her short life. 


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