The Norton gateway to science fiction

Science fiction? Fantasy? With Andre Norton, one could never be sure!

On Tor.com, Martha Wells, herself a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author (for 2017’s The Murderbot Diaries), confesses to her inspiration for writing coming from Andre Norton (first female winner of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Grand Master award in 1984, and the only founding female member of SAGA, the Swordsmen and Sorcerers Guild of America). Like innumerable sf/f readers, Ms. Wells came across Ms. Norton’s work while in junior high school, and she was so taken with the novel (Star Gate) that she had to surreptitiously purchase a used copy under her father’s frugal eye. (In my case, it was Ms. Norton’s first sf novel, Star Man’s Son, which I purchased from the Scholastic Book Service under a later title, Daybreak: 2250 A.D.)

Perhaps not the first Andre Norton that I read, but the first that I purchased

Ms. Norton’s fiction was not particularly radical in its avoidance of standard stereotypes or cliches of the Golden Age of Science Fiction (1940s to 1960s). But, as Ms. Wells notes:

Norton’s main characters were often people who had been ripped out of the life they had expected to have, who were set apart or isolated in some way, who were desperately searching for a place to belong. This was also terribly attractive to the kid I was at the time. Her male characters felt a lot more relatable to me than those in other books. There were none of the brash confident boys sneering at their incompetent or bossy sisters.

Ms. Norton’s longest running series was her Witch World science fantasies, where the magic is controlled by virgin women, until Simon Tregarth, an exile from Earth, arrives and demonstrates that men and sexually experienced women, too, can possess magic.

Women with magic, men with blasters? Must be Andre Norton territory!


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5 Comments

  1. Sometimes I think Norton’s work is quietly radical. Take for example, Sargasso of Space (1955) — it has a multi-racial starship crew (an African-American apprentice engineer and two crew members of Asian descent). Years before Star Trek…. She hints at a future, although I’ve not seen it clearly stated in few works of hers I’ve read (you know me an pulp), that is tolerant and accepting.

    • I read through my review from 2012…. I did point out that there were no female characters.

      • Eugene R.

        Judith Tarr is conducting an excellent re-read of Ms. Norton’s novels on Tor.com. Ms. Tarr has noted both the ethnic diversity and the gender imbalances, and how they affect the stories. Of interest for all Norton fans.

  2. Ms. Norton was also a peer of the Restored Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor.

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