2013Feb17 – Time spent in front of a computer will suck you into a rift in the space-time continuum. You doubt this? Leave a clock near your computer and voila … tempus fugit. (If you expect to get any work done, place the clock behind you. A watched clock doesn’t tock … but … ticks … you … off.) Since I’m time-jumping through rifts in the space-time continuum, I’ll exercise my poetic license (Poetic License Number: B4-uron-2-me) and declare fourth-dimensional chronological orders invalid. As such, let’s bring women SF writers into this series.
For me, the obvious, first impulse is to review Andre Norton; aka/Andrew North; aka/Allen Weston. Alice Mary Norton? Never heard of her? Let’s correct that, shall we? In this age, a woman shouldn’t have to hide behind a man’s name to get published. Ahem … unending vigilance will be our watch words here.
My childhood memories of Ms. Norton’s reputation are mixed. It seemed few of my personal SF associates remarked upon her work. Great recognition seemed reserved for writers of the male gender.
Consequently, I believed she wrote only for me. It was a private love affair, albeit platonic, and I gloried in the fifty plus Norton books in my collection. When I discovered she’d written a great deal more, I was miffed. Apparently, closing the gap on her collection was like chasing rainbows.
I’m still uncertain over her number of works. Given the discrepancy between so many websites, it’s hard to pin down her list of published novels. The Encyclopedia of World Biography and Internet Movie Database both say she has over 130 novels. andre-norton. org asserts she has over 200 novels published. I thought it at 213. Others argue 310. I doubt anyone’s got a perfect count. Ms. Norton, it appears, has written enough words to choke a sea. Next time you’re at the book-shore, raise your gaze above the crashing waves and look at that rising wall coming at you from over the horizon. It’s called the Norton Tsunami.
My first Norton experience was with Star Man’s Son, later renamed and published as Daybreak – 2250 A.D. This dystopian novel was a cold war publication, an obviously post-nuclear holocaust tale. This book immediately turned me into a Norton fan. Despite a nuclear devastation, mutations have given her protagonist marked advantages. His companion, a species of mutated feline, has intelligence to rival any human. Partnerships with animals are a natural fit for humans, but Norton is one of the few SF writers to fully exploit this theme.
I was an early fan of Norton’s Time Traders series, a cold war thriller with a time travel twist. In The Time Traders, a reprobate, Ross Murdock, is enlisted by the government to help stop communist expansion into Earth’s past where alien technology can be had for the taking. Murdock is sent back as a tribal trader to track down the communists. In doing so, he discovers communists have made contact with extraterrestrials he nicknames ‘Baldies.’
In Galactic Derelict, Travis Fox, a native American, becomes entangled with expanded time trading operations. Time Agent Ashe discovers Fox is educated in archaeology and puts him on the team, and into the past, disguised as a trader. Fox manages to locate an alien spaceship, but while a time portal brings it forward in time, an erupting volcano activates the ship. Trapped aboard, Fox, Ashe, and Murdock blast off for stellar systems controlled by the ‘Baldies.’
In Defiant Agents, Travis Fox’s Time Agents suspend their enmity with some eastern block operatives long enough to engineer the suppression of the growing threat from alien ‘Baldies,’ who, they discover, are employing telepathic means to control humans. Fourth in the series, Key Out Of Time, the terran Time Agents, Ashe and Murdock, confront the ‘Baldies’ in the stellar system, Hawaika. Using highly intelligent dolphins, they make contact with the native Rovers and Foanna. The telepathic Foanna, unable to repel the ‘Baldies,’ develop a telepathic link with Ashe and Murdock. This combined will power breaks the alien mind control, finally driving the ‘Baldies’ off the planet. The series continues with Firehand (with Pauline M Griffin), Echoes in Time, and Atlantis Endgame (both with Sherwood Smith).
Norton’s characters frequently operate within the parameters of the Norton Universe. It’s populated by the Patrol who is constantly at odds with the Thieves’ Guild. Several of her characters come from The Dipple, a worker’s state-assistance hell on an inner core world; with rare opportunities for escape, the lure of crime is always present. The Free Traders are spaceborn societies and exist outside the power politics of the class-stratified core worlds. They skirt the populated areas, explore fringe markets, bump shoulders with the Patrol … and sometimes with the Thieves’ Guild. The Thieves’ Guild has members everywhere, constantly seeking forerunner artifacts. The telepathic Zacathans, archaeologists looking for forerunner knowledge, are frequently victims of Guild raiding.
The Beast Master stars Hosteen Storm, a combat reconnaisance team leader. This is a team of intelligent, empath-sentient animals. An African Black Eagle, two mated Meerkats, and a puma-sized, Dune Cat, are telempathic with Storm.
Discharged after war has left Earth a burned cinder, Storm heads to Arzor where he hopes to settle … and kill Quade, a man he’s never met. In the sequel, Lord of Thunder, Storm, now reconciled with Quade, hopes to penetrate the mysteries of the native tribes. Beast Master’s Ark, Beast Master’s Circus, and Beast Master’s Quest (written with Lyn McConchie), continues the series. We learn more about the trade, and exploitation, of sentient animals in Norton’s far flung universe. The last three were published forty years later and conclude the series.
The Moonsinger series explores the hazards of being a Free Trader and opens a window on the diversity of cultures in the Norton Universe. Moon of Three Rings begins with a Free Trader attending a market fair on the primitive planet of Yiktor. He helps a Thassa, or Moonsinger, extricate animals from a cruel beast seller. She comes to his rescue later when his mind becomes mysteriously trapped in the body of a wolf-like barsk. The Moonsinger feels obliged to help, to try to extricate him before this state becomes permanent. The series continues with Exiles of the Stars, Flight in Yiktor, Dare to Go A-Hunting, and ends with Brother To Shadows.
The Solar Queen series, consisting of seven volumes, is about Free Trader troubles in negotiating trade with natives on planet and evading destruction by the Patrol in space. These tales about entrepreneurial spacers create an interconnectedness with her other stories and the rest of the Norton Universe.
The Zero Stone and Uncharted Stars follows the exploits of Murdoc Jern, a gem trader, in league with the diminuitive Eet, a powerful telepath and highly intelligent animal. The two are on the run from both the Thieves’ Guild and the Patrol while seeking the source of the Zero Stone. They epitomize the entrepreneurial spacer.
If you liked the televison series FireFly, or the movie Serenity, then you’ll probably understand the nature of an entrepreneurial spacer in the Norton Universe. I always liked the idea of the freelancing spacer because it made space travel seem accessible. Freelancing in space travel and trading is the ultimate exercise in freedom. It gives wings to a person’s imagination and opens up the entire galaxy for exploration.
Andre Norton’s productivity has kept numerous artists, like Jeff Jones, quite busy. (See: Jeff Jones in WIKI.) Norton started out publishing two books a year. She quickly worked her way up to four and five books a year, sometimes adding an anthology or collection of her short stories. You can usually find multiple cover designs for any given volume. Many of her books have been through several printings and there’s often a different cover for each printing.
Andre Norton is considered The Grand Dame of Science Fiction. She’s won several awards and been nominated many times for other awards, including a Hugo for Witch World and Wizard’s World. Her Witch World series began with six volumes, then diverged into the Estcarp Cycle and the High Hallack Cycle. There are more than thirty books in the series, sometimes combining ancilliary elements from the Norton Universe.
Writers can now recieve an Andre Norton Award so I encourage you to sharpen your pencil or boot up your word processor. Don’t forget to put your clocks at the back of the room … unless space-time continuum rifts are your thing. Tick-Tock.