A.C. Crispin dies at 63; author of sci-fi and tie-in novels

September 7, 2013

A.C. Crispin, a best-selling science fiction and fantasy author who wrote tie-in novels for the “Star Wars” franchise and a prequel providing the back story for the popular movie series “Pirates of the Caribbean,” died Sept. 6 at the Hospice of Charles County in Waldorf. She was 63.

She had bladder cancer, her husband, Michael Capobianco, said. She lived in the Charles County community of Hughesville and was known to friends by her first name, Ann.

Although Ms. Crispin published many original books, she developed a niche in writing studio-authorized “tie-in” volumes that filled in the background, family lore and emotional development of favorite on-screen characters. She may have received her greatest acclaim for a best-selling novelization of the 1980s science fiction television series “V” and other books in the “V” series.

In 1983, she wrote the first of several best-selling novels based on “Star Trek,” exploring the family background of Spock, the character played in the original TV series by actor Leonard Nimoy.

A 1994 review in Publishers Weekly of “Sarek” — nominally about Spock’s father — noted that Ms. Crispin “packed everything a diehard Trekkie could want” into the book.


Ann Carol Crispin poses for a portrait in this undated handout image. Crispin, an American science fiction writer who authored 23 published novels, died at the age of 63. (Keith Stokes)

In 1997, Ms. Crispin published three tie-in novels based on George Lucas’s “Star Wars” movies. Her books — “The Paradise Snare,” “The Hutt Gambit” and “Rebel Dawn” — were prequels that outlined the early life of Han Solo, the hero of the space-action series.

“Ann was particularly good at capturing the voice of the characters,” said Keith R.A. DeCandido, a tie-in writer who has written books associated with “Star Trek” and other film franchises. “She was really good at digging into the characters and knowing what made them tick. She had a very strong understanding of these popular characters.”

Ms. Crispin later turned to a different kind of fictional adventurer, Jack Sparrow, the witty and flinty buccaneer played by Johnny Depp in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series of movies. In 2011, Ms. Crispin published a 230,000-word epic, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom,” which portrayed the youthful exploits of the seafaring trickster. She toured tall ships to make sure the nautical and historical details in her book were accurate.

In addition to her tie-in work, Ms. Crispin developed the seven-novel StarBridge series, most of which she wrote with co-authors. The books, aimed primarily at young readers, were built around an outer-space academy that taught students how to explore the universe and develop beneficial relationships with other cultures and forms of life.

Ms. Crispin also collaborated on two books with Andre Norton, the first woman to be named a grand master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Ms. Crispin served 10 years as eastern regional director of the writers’ group and helped found the watchdog committee called Writer Beware in 1998.

Writer Beware is a group that alerts people to online scams of would-be agents and publishers, seeking to entrap and defraud would-be writers unfamiliar with the publishing world. Ms. Crispin helped uncover hundreds of cases, testified in court, and assisted the FBI and prosecutors in sending several scam artists to prison.

“I think that’s her most amazing legacy, because it’s been so tremendously helpful to so many people,” DeCandido said.

Ann Carol Tickell was born April 5, 1950, in Stamford, Conn. Her father, a naval officer, later settled in the Washington area, and she graduated from Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine in 1968.

Ms. Crispin received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland in 1972 and spent several years as a technical writer and computer programmer with the U.S. Census Bureau. She turned to writing fiction full time in 1983.

In April, she was named a grand master by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

Her marriage to Randy Lee Crispin ended in divorce.

Survivors include her husband of 12 years, science fiction author Michael Capobianco of Hughesville; a son from her first marriage, Jason Crispin of Waldorf; her mother, Hope Tickell of California, Md.; and a sister, Faith Treadwell of Deale.

Ms. Crispin often led seminars at science-fiction gatherings and taught at several colleges, including a semester-long course on writing at Charles County Community College.

“From the days when people sat around campfires, there have been those who entertained them with stories,” Ms. Crispin told the Contemporary Authors reference source. “There is a dignity in writing to entertain, as long as the story told is an honest one, one the writer enjoys telling.”

Matt Schudel has been an obituary writer at The Washington Post since 2004.
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