Maureen F. McHugh is an acclaimed science fiction writer and all-round nice person who used to live in Cleveland, OH and currently lives in Austin, TX. Her work displays a gift for language and characterization that is unusual among science fiction authors.
McHugh was born in a small town in southwestern Ohio in 1959. As a young woman, she earned her undergraduate degree at Ohio University and then went to grad school at NYU where she obtained an MA in English literature.
After college, she spent a year teaching in Shijiazhuang, China and also lived in New York City. During her time in the Big Apple, she hung out with a good many gay writers and says that she became interested in their lives.
The combination of her explorations in China and her investigations into the gay demimonde led to her writing her breakthrough 1992 novel, China Mountain Zhang. This first novel was widely hailed by critics and readers alike and is unusual amongst SF novels in that it features a gay Chinese protagonist. It was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards, and it ultimately won the Lambda and Tiptree awards.
At a recent science fiction convention in Cincinnati, McHugh talked about the circumstances that led to her writing China Mountain Zhang. “I was in a writer’s group in New York City,” she told us. “We were crazy. We met every week, and we had to have 5,000 words written for each meeting. I’d been writing about typical science fiction tropes, but after a while, I ran dry, just utterly bone-dry of ideas. And that’s when I started writing about the stuff I really cared about, and China Mountain Zhang came out of that.”
McHugh met her engineer husband after she returned to Ohio and was soon married into a ready-made family. “We joke about me being the evil stepmother,” she says. “In fact, the joke is that I am the Nazi Evil Stepmother From Hell. It dispels tension to say it out loud. Actually, Adam (her stepson) and I do pretty good together. But the truth is that all stepmothers are evil. It is the nature of the relationship. It is, as far as I can tell, an unavoidable fact of step relationships.”
McHugh is as well-known for her short stories as she is for her novels; her story “Lincoln Train” won the Hugo award in 1995. She taught creative writing at John Carroll University and is a frequent instructor at the Clarion science fiction workshops. She was also a member of The Cajun Sushi Hamsters From Hell writing workshop.
Novels & Collections
- China Mountain Zhang (Tor Books, 1992)
- Half the Day Is Night (Tor Books, 1994)
- Mission Child (Avon Books, 1998)
- Nekropolis (Eos Books, 2001)
- Mothers & Other Monsters: Stories (Small Beer Press, 2006)
Selected Short Fiction
- “Kites”, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Oct. 1989
- “Baffin Island”, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Aug 1989
- “The Queen of Marincite”, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Mar 1990
- “Render unto Caesar”, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Mid-Dec 1992
- “Protection”, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Apr 1992 and The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Tenth Annual Collection Ed: Gardner Dozois, 1993, St. Martin’s Press
- “The Missionary’s Child”, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Oct 1992
- “The Beast”, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Mar 1992
- “Tut’s Wife”, Alternate Warriors, Daw Books, ed. Mike Resnick
- “A Foreigner’s Christmas in China”, Christmas Ghosts, Daw Books, ed. Mike Resnick and Martin Greenberg
- “Whispers”, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Apr 1993 and The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Eleventh Annual Collection Ed: Gardner Dozois, 1994, St. Martin’s Press
- “A Coney Island of the Mind”, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Feb 1993
- “Virtual Love”, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan 1994
- “Nekropolis”, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Apr 1994 and The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Twelfth Annual Collection Ed: Gardner Dozois, 1995, St. Martin’s Press
- “The Ballad of Ritchie Valenzuela”, Alternate Outlaws, Daw Books, 1994 Ed: Mike Resnick
- “The Lincoln Train”, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Apr 1995 and Alternate Tyrants, Daw Books, 1996 Ed: Mike Resnick and The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Thirteenth Annual Collection Ed: Gardner Dozois, 1996, St. Martin’s Press
- “Joss”, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Feb 1995
- “In the Air”, Killing Me Softly, Ed: Gardner Dozois, 1995, HarperPrism.
- “Homesick”, Intersections Ed: John Kessel, Mark L. Van Name, and Richard Butner, 1996, Tor
- “Learning to Breathe” Tales of the Unanticipated, Fall/Winter 1995/1996
- “The Cost to Be Wise” Starlight, Ed: Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 1996, Tor Books.
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