Donna McMahon Bio

I live in the town that was declared “The Most Liveable Community in the World” (under 20,000 population) in a UN competition in 2009. If you think that makes me feel fortunate, you’re right.

That may be partly why I’m not into dystopias, but mostly it’s that I don’t believe in telling stories of hopelessness and defeat. Human beings have tremendous resilience and creativity, and we owe it to ourselves to imagine futures we would want to live in.

I’m a native of North Vancouver, BC, Canada and have always been fascinated with the history and ecology of the Pacific Northwest. I grew up around the corner from the house my grandfather built with his WWI veterans grant, but the world has undergone such dizzying changes since then that the neighbourhood of my father’s childhood has all but vanished… or at least it has morphed into another reality.

I feel that it’s vital to understand our past—I did a BA in History at SFU—but it’s the future we’re hurtling toward that seizes my attention, especially the intersection between technology, culture and human behaviour. Most of my writing is set in Cascadia. Four years in a crumbling high rise in the seethingly diverse West End of Vancouver inspired much of the novel Dance of Knives, while summers as a child on Savary Island were the genesis of its sequel, Second Childhood. And trips up the north coast on a small freighter and a sailboat were the genesis of the story “Feeding the Eagles“.

Back in the real world, I have worked in public relations and as a freelance journalist, and done a lot of tedious but essential office work for a wide variety of organizations. For six years I worked at a cutting edge biotech company where I met a wonderful selection of smart and interesting people. I also have a great many friends from science fiction. I’ve attended scores of conventions and even chaired two. I wrote a great many SF/F book reviews that can be found at On Spec Magazine’s website and SFSite and have appeared in the Vancouver Sun. I am a member of SFWA and SF Canada.

The reality of life in a small town is that there aren’t many ways to make a living, so most people are retired, or hold down a bunch of joblets. I do freelance work (writing, desktop publishing, office administration) and also volunteer extensively in the community. Getting involved in local politics has been another education for me. Small towns are a microcosm of our planet, and this small town typifies all the frustrations of democracy, while also being exceptionally visionary in its approach to issues like climate change.

As a writer, my priority is to tell an engrossing story populated with memorable characters, in a vivid, textured setting that gives you something to think about later. My novels should be hard to put down, and when you turn that last page, I hope you think to yourself: “that was really worth reading.”


Dance of Knives (Tor, 2001;  Drowned City Press 2010)

Second Childhood (Drowned City Press 2010)


Last Resort, Tomorrow Magazine, Dec. 1994

Squat, On Spec Magazine, Spring 2000 – Republished in the anthology A Mosque Among the Stars, ZC Books, 2008.

Feeding the Eagles in Northwest Passages: A Cascadiacon Anthology, Windstorm Creative, Sept. 2005

George’s Island, Nature Magazine, July 2006 – Republished in Futures from Nature, Tor Books, 2007.