Greg Bear, 1951-2022: Best-selling writer influenced sci-fi world on and off the page

Science-fiction writer Greg Bear wrote more than 50 books. (GeekWire Photo)

Greg Bear, a Seattle science-fiction author who played a leading role in defining how global audiences saw future final frontiers, died Saturday of complications following heart surgery.

Astrid Bear, the 71-year-old writer’s wife, said he died peacefully in a Seattle-area hospital. “He was not alone,” she wrote in a message to friends.

Born in San Diego, Greg Bear had his first short story published in 1967 and began writing full time in 1975. He wrote more than 50 books — including multiple award-winning series, a Star Trek novel and a Star Wars novel, plus a trilogy set in the Halo video-game universe. His final novel, “The Unfinished Land,” was published last year.

Bear’s influence on the science-fiction community extended far beyond the written page: He was one of the founders of San Diego’s Comic-Con International and served a two-year stint as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, now known as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association. Bear was a guest on podcasts and talk shows including “The Daily Show,” and once appeared as himself in the “Funky Winkerbean” comic strip.

And now he is gone. Rest in peace, my beloved. Greg Bear 8/20/1951–11/19/2022 pic.twitter.com/EnTE8T16jD

— Astrid “I’ve voted, have you?” Bear (@AstridBear) November 20, 2022

Bear, who moved to the Seattle area in 1987, also had an impact on his adopted home. He was a member of the team that created and organized the Washington State Centennial Time Capsule. And GeekWire contributor Frank Catalano recalls introducing Bear to the late software billionaire Paul Allen — a contact that helped lead to the creation of the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, now part of Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture.

The accolades streaming in from friends and admirers stressed the personal as well as the public contributions made by Bear over the decades. “Greg the man was a friend,” fellow science-fiction icon Harry Turtledove tweeted. “Greg the writer was quite remarkable.”

Bear was best-known as a writer of “hard” science fiction — stories that are grounded in the improbable plausibilities of science and technology. For example, in “Strength of Stones,” a novel first published in 1982, Bear laid out a world in which cities that are governed by artificial intelligence rise up against their human creators. And in his War Dogs Trilogy, Bear gives leading roles to private space ventures like Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

“I made the private ventures face forward, and called the Martian colonists Muskies, as a tribute to Elon’s dreams, if not to what the reality is going to be,” Bear told Catalano in a 2017 GeekWire interview.

During that interview, Bear said he was satisfied with his science-fiction career.

“I don’t think any writer is ever happy with the attention we get, but I have very few complaints.” he said. “My books have been read by the people I read when I was a teenager, and that just knocked my socks off when I found that out.”

Bear said there were still plenty of opportunities to turn his tales into fresh adaptations for a new generation. For example, his first published short story, “Destroyers” in 1967, was about people who registered to kill what they hated. By the story’s end, readers realize the narrator is being hunted by someone who has registered to destroy destroyers.

“That was my 16-year-old conception of the future,” he told Catalano. “And I think it’s a good HBO pitch today.”

Greg Bear is survived by his wife, Astrid Anderson Bear, and their two children, Chloe and Alexandra.

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