SFWA Posthumously Presents Jennell Jaquays with the 2024 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award

The award is given for “significant contributions to the science fiction, fantasy, and related genres community”


The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have posthumously presented the 2024 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award to game designer Jennell Jaquays. From the announcement:

A multi-award winning and honored artist, game designer, editor, and activist, Jennell Jaquays left an indelible mark on the gaming industry and SFF community for nearly fifty years. Ms. Jaquays’ career began in college, when she and her friends created “The Dungeoneer,” one of the first licensed Dungeons and Dragons fanzines.

Now, from magazines to books, Ms. Jaquays’ art can be seen on multiple covers and throughout the pages of the many different forms and iterations of Dungeons and Dragons’ media. Having designed two modules of her own, “Dark Tower” and “The Caverns of Thracia,” her writing was celebrated by players for eschewing traditional and linear game mechanics and are not only playable today–but continue to inspire game designers and GMs.

Also known for her game industry work at companies such as Coleco, TSR, and id Software, Ms. Jaquays designed and contributed to multiple projects such as Coleco Vision, certain levels on the Quake II and III video games, arcade conversions of Pac-Man and Donkey-Kong, Halo Wars, and created an expansion pack in Age of Empires III.

Ms. Jaquays was nominated for multiple H.G. Wells Awards for her work and creation of the “Dark Tower” D&D module and for her design and illustrations on“Griffin Mountain.” Her work with Coleco’s WarGames won her the 1984 Summer C.E.S. original software award. Additionally, Castle Greyhawk won an Origins Gamer’s Choice Award for “Best Role-Playing Adventure,” and in 2017, the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design inducted Ms. Jaquays into their hall of fame.

Inspired by her own journey, Ms. Jaquays also became a recognized transgender activist, spending time working as the creative director of the Transgender Human Rights Institute.

“A beacon of hope and inspiration, Jennell Jaquays worked tirelessly in the spirit of community while gifting us with her art, her games, and her stories for almost fifty years,” said SFWA Director-at-Large, Monica Valentinelli. “The Board is honored to commemorate Jennell Jaquays and her indelible legacy as an artist, writer, and game designer in the video game and tabletop roleplaying industries.”

The Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award is presented for “significant contributions to the science fiction, fantasy, and related genres community”. Previous award winners include Cerece Rennie Murphy, Greg Bear, Petra Mayer, Arley Sorg, Troy L. Wiggins, Ben Bova, and Rachel Gaine. The award will be presented during the 2024 Nebula Award Ceremony on June 8, 2024, starting at 8:00 PM Pacific Time (link to live stream). Ms. Jaquays’ wife, Rebecca Heineman, will accept the award on her behalf during the ceremony.

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Darryl Mott

Darryl Mott

Von Ether

Nice! I wish more ttrpg designers in the future also get some professional recognition. It would make up for the ironic attitude of many SF/F editors and writers in the past snubbing ttrpg-media tie in novels for decades as not being "real" fiction.

Especially since lit fiction was saying the same thing about genre writing overall with the exception of magical realism, which wasn't "fantasy" for some reason?

(To avoid a full on tangent, it's obvious some members of a group will pick weird fences to gatekeep commercial fiction)
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I credit her with my love of lifepath systems for character creation.

The first AD&D campaign I joined outside of my home as a teen required the use of her Central Casting: Heroes of Legend. It introduced me to deeper ideas for stories, or even helped create a personality. My character was born decadent, and had been blessed by his goddess Sif with unearthly beautiful hands - quite an odd background and trait for a human ranger. The decadent part ended up being the reason my ranger missed his knighting, and was the only undecorated member of the Free Companions.

Glad to see her continuing to get recognition.

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