San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle
November 17, 2019

Dr. Michael Blumlein, San Francisco physician and highly acclaimed science fiction writer, died on October 24, 2019. He was 71.

Dr. Blumlein was a practicing physician and faculty member at the University of California, San Francisco. He also worked at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center. Over the course of his career, his patients were primarily students and the underserved.

He was the author of four science fiction novels, including “Longer,” which was published in May. His first novel, “The Movement of Mountains,” was called “a brilliant debut … one of the best books of the year,” by the Washington Post. Upon the publication of his novel, “The Healer,” the San Francisco Chronicle called Dr. Blumlein “one of science fiction’s most piercing literary talents.”

In addition to his novels, Dr. Blumlein was the author of numerous short stories published in magazines and collected in anthologies. Twice, he was nominated for the World Fantasy Award and twice for the Bram Stoker Award.

“Michael had a distinctive voice,” said prominent science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson. “He brought to science fiction both the empathy and distancing of a healer and gave us wildly original biospeculation.”

Born on June 28, 1948, Dr. Blumlein was a fourth generation San Franciscan, the son of John Blumlein and Betty Rosenblatt Blumlein. He attended Lick Wilmerding High School and Yale University before graduating from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

“Michael was a great practitioner of the art of medicine,” said Dr. Susan Rosen, who worked with Dr. Blumlein at UCSF for 16 years. “He was a charming, charismatic person who developed trust with his patients and helped them see what they did and didn’t need. He was a very provocative physician who challenged all of us.”

In 1976, Dr. Blumlein met Hilary Gordon, a dedicated horticulturalist and former garden manager and blogger at the Garden for the Environment in San Francisco. They married in 1990 and had two children, Risa Blumlein and Cory Blumlein.

Dr. Blumlein and his wife were also members of a small band of ardent hikers determined to have a peak in the Sierra named for Henry David Thoreau. Rebuffed by state and federal bureaucracies, the group nonetheless informally named U.S.G.S. peak I2,691 in the eastern Sierra for the eminent naturalist.

Their efforts culminated in a collection of writing titled “Naming Mt. Thoreau.” Dr. Blumlein and his wife both contributed essays to the collection.

In addition to backpacking in the Sierra, Dr. Blumlein enjoyed tending his orchard in West County Sonoma, playing his guitar and hanging out with his friends, kids and grandkids. He had a lifelong weakness for chocolate-covered honeycomb.

Dr. Blumlein is survived by his wife Hilary Gordon of San Francisco, his daughter Risa Blumlein and her family in San Francisco and his son Cory Blumlein of Oakland; his brother Steven Blumlein and his family in San Francisco; his sister Cathy Strauss and her family in Philadelphia; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial service is planned for January 25, 2020, at the San Francisco Film Centre in the Presidio.