Eleanor Arnason was born in Manhattan and grew up in New York, Chicago, London, Paris, Washington DC, Honolulu, St. Paul and Minneapolis. She received a BA in art history from Swarthmore College and did graduate work at the University of Minnesota, before quitting to learn about life outside art museums and institutions of higher learning. She made her first professional sale in 1972 while living in the Detroit inner city. Since then she has published five novels and over thirty works of short fiction. Her fourth novel, A Woman of the Iron People (2001), won the James Tiptree Jr. award for gender-bending science fiction and the Mythopoeic Society Award for adult fantasy. Her fifth novel, Ring of Swords (1995), won a Minnesota Book Award. Since 1994 she has devoted herself to short fiction. Her story "Dapple" won the Spectrum Award for GLBT science fiction and was a finalist for the Sturgeon Award. Other stories have been finalists for the World Fantasy, Hugo and Nebula Awards.
She lives in Minnesota, where she makes her living as the financial manager for a small arts nonprofit. Aside from accounting and science fiction, her interests include politics, economics, bird-watching, driving down two-lane country highways and exploring the remains of the Great Lakes industrial belt.
In spite of all setbacks and adversity, she remains a lifelong fan of ordinary human decency and the international working class.