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L. Sprague de Camp

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Monday 6 November 2000

L. Sprague de Camp, 1907 - 2000

Golden Age SF writer L. Sprague de Camp died this morning, Monday November 6, 2000, in Plano, Texas, at the age of 92.

Sprague de Camp's best-known novel was Lest Darkness Fall, a classic time travel story about an American who attempts to apply 20th century technology in 6th century Rome to prevent the onset of the Dark Ages.
Sprague de Camp wrote both SF and fantasy, and was especially known for humorous fantasy, as in the "Gavagan's Bar" stories written with Fletcher Pratt, and the series of stories about Harold Shea, also written with Fletcher Pratt, collected in several volumes from The Incomplete Enchanter (1941) through The Complete Compleat Enchanter (1989). Other notable short works included his first published story "The Isolinguals" (Astounding 1937); "The Gnarly Man" (1939); "The Wheels of If" (1940), an alternate-worlds story to which Harry Turtledove wrote a sequel in 1990; and "A Gun for Dinosaur", first in a series about time-traveling adventurer Reginald Rivers, to which Sprague de Camp wrote a number of sequels in the early 1990s, collected as Rivers of Time (Baen 1993). Late in his career Sprague de Camp wrote mostly fantasy, completing and elaborating upon the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard.
Photo by Beth Gwinn

Sprague de Camp was also known for nonfiction, including one of the first books about SF, Science Fiction Handbook (1953, revised 1975), written with Catherine Crook de Camp; biographies Lovecraft: A Biography (1975) and Dark Valley Destiny: The Life of Robert E. Howard (1983), with Catherine Crook de Camp and Jane Whittington Griffin; and The Ancient Engineers (1974). Sprague de Camp's autobiography Time and Chance (1997) won the Hugo Award for Best Nonfiction Work.

Other awards received included an International Fantasy Award in 1953 for nonfiction Lands Beyond, written with Willy Ley; the Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy Award in 1976; the SFWA's Grand Master Award in 1979; a World Fantasy Life Achievement Award in 1984; and a Sidewise Special Achievement Award in 1996.

Sprague de Camp served in the US Naval Reserve in 1942, working in the Philadelphia Naval Yard alongside Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. His wife of 60 years, Catherine Crook de Camp (who was born November 6, 1907), died April 9, 2000. Sprague de Camp will be cremated and his ashes, together with those of Catherine, will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.

Obituary at

A more extensive obituary, with appreciations, will appear in the December 2000 Locus Magazine.

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