" The things that make us happy make us wise" John Crowley, Little Big

Friday, July 12, 2019

Let's try this again

I want to fire up my Andre Norton blog once again. This article on Tor reminded me of how much I enjoyed her work and what a big part of my childhood she was.

Heinlein's Juveniles vs. Andre Norton's Young Adult Novels

by James Davis Nicoll.

"Early Norton novels featured male protagonists and male major characters. Women were often missing, or if present, confined to extremely minor roles. One might think that human reproduction was carried out by budding. But Norton was writing what publishers wanted; she knew that there was a dearth of significant women in SFF. She wrote in 1971’s “On Writing Fantasy”:
These are the heroes, but what of the heroines? In the Conan tales there are generally beautiful slave girls, one pirate queen, one woman mercenary. Conan lusts, not loves, in the romantic sense, and moves on without remembering face or person. This is the pattern followed by the majority of the wandering heroes. Witches exist, as do queens (always in need of having their lost thrones regained or shored up by the hero), and a few come alive. As do de Camp’s women, the thief-heroine of Wizard of Storm, the young girl in the Garner books, the Sorceress of The Island of the Mighty. But still they remain props of the hero."

James Davis Nicoll also done a series of reviews of Norton's work.

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

I will be reading James reviews here as part of my relaunch.

Judith Tarr’s is also carrying out the Andre Norton Reread on Tor.com which can be found here. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Key Out of Time by Andre Norton

    The Key Out of Time by Andre Norton, The World Publishing Company, 1963, Cover by Giac Faragasso

In this novel, time agents Ross Murdoch and Gordon Ashe have lead an expedition to one of the planets located from the tapes they recovered from the alien "Baldies" at the end of Galactic Derelict. Hawaika named for the Polynesian paradise is a perfect planet, a world of shallow seas and archipelagoes, a mild climate and lot of resources. In keeping with the project policy of trying to match the ancestral cultures of the colonists with the new planet their team consists Samoan and Hawaiian volunteers including Karara Trehern and her dolphins Tino-rau and Taua, who as is typical in Norton's work have the ability for low level communicate with Karara.  There is not mention that the team has been subjected to the Redax machine which was used to awaken ancestral memories in the Apache colonists in the earlier novel The Defiant Agents, possibly because that group was never heard from again. As the novel opens Ross is disgruntled with the assignment, he is having a hard time adjusting to the introduction of Karara to the hitherto masculine teams of agents. 

"“Before being summarily recruited into the Project, Ross had been a loner—living on the ragged edges of the law, an indigestible bit for the civilization which had become too ordered and "adjusted" to absorb his kind. But in the Project he had discovered others like himself—men born out of time, too ruthless, too individualistic for their own age, but able to operate with ease in the dangerous paths of the Time Agents.” (13). 

Also his relationship with Ashe is troubled, Ashe is withdrawn growing more distant and bad-tempered, consumed by his guilt for the Project leaders betrayal of the Apache colonists he helped recruit including his friend Travis Fox.

Ace edition 43672 1963 by Cover W. Strudeski

  While the Polynesians are described as colonists we again have the Cold War focus of the earlier books. Hawaika has been surveyed to look for any Baldy ruins or technology that may exist which could give the Western alliance an advantage over the Soviets. This survey was unsuccessful so Ross and Ashe are moving on the the second phase of the plan to establish a time portal through which they can view the past civilizations of the planet and possibly gather some information of use to them in the present day. There is no plan for them actually travel back in time. But of course a storm blows in and Ross, Ashe, Karara and the dolphins are all propelled into the planet's past, a world of coastal wreckers, Viking like traders and a powerful and mysterious race called the Foanna. 

One thing I should mention is that Norton's admiration for Native Americans does not seem to extend to Polynesians despite the fact that Kana Karr the mercenary hero of her novel Star Guard (1955) is of Australian-Malay-Hawaiian ancestry.

At least the following passage seems less that flattering. “all of the settlers were good swimmers. An organized hunt ought to shake the Polynesians out of their present do-it-tomorrow attitude. As long as they had had definite work before them—the unloading of the ship, the building of the village, all the labors incidental to the establishing of this base—they had shown energy and enthusiasm. It was only during the last couple of weeks that the languor which appeared part of the atmosphere here had crept up on them, so that now they were content to live at a slower and lazier pace. Ross remembered Ashe's comparison made the evening before, likening Hawaika to a legendary Terran island where the inhabitants lived a drugged existence, feeding upon the seeds of a native plant. Hawaika was fast becoming a lotus land for Terrans.”(16) maybe it's the water.

I found The Key Out of Time a reasonable sequel/conclusion to the other books but perhaps less engaging. In the 1990's three additional Time Trader novels were produced by Norton in collaboration? with other writers, I will not be including them in this survey. The original novel had the appeal of creating a new fictional world, Galactic Derelict totally shifted the focus to outer space exploration, Defiant Agents benefited from the whole dynamic of the relationship between the Project and the Apache team. The Key Out of Time was a more standard adventure novel albeit with many of the typical Norton tropes which I will discuss below. 

But what was really driven home to me in this novel was how rarely in any Norton novel can the protagonists return home. They may find another potential home or family somewhere in time or space but unlike the protagonists of other novels of the period they do not have an adventure and then return to some stable environment. To avoid dealing with the complications of extended family or controlling bureaucracies, Norton selects her characters from the ranks of orphans, loners, criminals, refugees, oppressed minorities,  the survivors of some disaster that destroyed their plant or culture, or independent traders etc.. Robert D. Lofland conducted a long interview with Norton in her home for his MA Thesis,  Andre Norton, A Contemporary Author of Books for Young People, 1960. In speaking about Norton he notes “ she feels the hero must be an orphan in order that his parents cannot interfere with his actions." Almost all the protagonists Norton selects seem to be orphans of one kind or another. 

Spoiler alert

  The Norton tropes in this novel include some level of human animal communication, competing races on the same planet, a minority cultural group and in the Foanna you have the very typical Norton element of a powerful matriarchal ruling group. SF author Arthur C Clarke created three rules for SF writing the third rule states that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." (see link below ) and certainly the powers assigned to the Foanna seem more magic than science with wands, gates, and teleportation. I think this is typical of the arc of Norton's writing as over time she morphs from a writer of SF to a writer of Fantasy and both elements are blended together in many of her novels.


Friday, February 24, 2017

The Defiant Agents by Andre Norton

The Defiant Agents by Andre Norton, The World Publishing Company, 1962, 
Cover by Ed Emshwiller

The Defiant Agents the third book in Andre Norton’s Time Trader series is the story of Project Cochise where the Apache Travis Fox leads a group of Apache colonists to the planet Topaz.

At the end of the Galactic Derelect the team of time agents Dr. Gordon Ashe, Ross Murdoch, the Apache Travis Fox and a technician Case Renfry have made a successful round trip on one of the recovered alien space craft. They also returned with navigation tapes for a number of other planets. While the tapes have been shared among Earth governments various factions have assembled teams to be the first to claim the planets for which they have tapes. Ashe and Colonel Kelgarries have assembled “ Three teams of recruits-the Eskimos (Inuit) from Point Barren, the Apaches, and the Islanders (Polynesians) - all picked because their people had a high survival rating in the past” (18) who will be sent to the planet whose climatic conditions most closely resembles that of their naive homelands on earth. 

Because of a security breach, Russia and the Cold War are still a major focus of the series, the US tape has been copied. Despite Ashe’s objections, he feels more training is required, 40 young Apache men and women under the leadership of Travis Fox are sent to Topaz. With them are a pair of mutant coyotes created by the US nuclear tests in the southwest. Upon arrival it is discovered that the Russia have not only arrived first but they have set up an air defence system and the Apache ship is shot down. A number of the Apache travelling in cold sleep are killed as well as the entire ship’s crew. An added wrinkle is that in a attempt to speed up the acculturation of the "modern" Apache to the new planet they have been subjected to the machine called the Redax which has awaked ancestral memories. The result is the survivors are subjected to confusing mixtures of memories of the American culture they left and memories stemming from their culture's history. This was done without their permission and the Apache realize they have been betrayed by the government yet again in the name of expediency. This also places Fox, who brought them into the project, at odds with the rest of the group. Fox’s main allies are the coyotes with whom he discovers a telepathic link. And he will need all the help he can get since he quickly discovers that the Russians using a similar technology have planted a very tightly controlled group of colonists who believe they are part of the Mongolian Golden Horde. 

I want to look at several aspects of the novel overall. We have a number of Norton themes here human animal communication, Native American characters, alienated characters or groups, mutants, a distrust of technology, a distrust of government agencies,  the cold war and shifting alliances between groups of characters.

What I find particularly interesting is what we are to take away from the concept of Project Cochise, does Norton really believe that this is a logical method of colonizing other planets. I don’t think so, I think instead Norton wants to look at the subject of racial stereotyping and racism in general.  Norton has introduced minority populations into her SF novels since her first SF work, Star Man's Son (1952) where the migrating black sheep herders are the first group to accept the mutant Fors as an equal. Fox originally abandons his university studies when a rich patron refuses to donate money for archeological projects employing Native Americans. While the time agents of the first two books train to be Folsom hunters or Funnel Beaker traders they do this only so they can move among the native populations of the eras they travel to. 

It is interesting that when a number of the Apache men, we meet none of the women, discuss their ancestral lives, the experiences are specific not generic they name specific Apache war leaders they rode with Black Knife, Cochise, Victorio, and Magnus Colorado all of whom were betrayed, captured, tortured and or killed by the governments of Mexico and the United States. So I suspect this is deliberate on Norton’s part, she wrote historical novels and westerns and was known for her research. I think that these specific figures were named to underscore the theme of betrayal that has been the lot of Native Americans by the governments of North and South America since contact and that continues into the era of this novel and indeed the present day. 

Ace 14231 cover by Ed Emshwiller

  Another thing I found interesting is that we are clearly told that this is an attempt to establish a colony but while the Apache rescue supplies from the crashed ship they have no modern weapons they have to revert to bows and arrows. The Apache leaders I mentioned fought mainly through the 1860’s to 1880’s their warriors would have had ample experience using guns. At one point when they are attempting to set a trap in the crashed ship the Apache tasked with rigging the systems points out to Fax that he graduated from MIT. So he retained his technical knowledge. Is the lack of modern weapons stereotyping or a method to control the Apache colonists. 

I found Norton’s treatment of Fox interesting, while he eventually convinces the other Apache to help him, leadership is shared. Normally in SF novels even in Norton’s you have one character who assumes the role of hero, saves the girl, defuses the bomb whatever needs to be done while the other characters hold their coat etc. Here in part due to an injury to Fox but also because other members of the group are better suited to certain tasks Fox ends up having to stand aside, to be told how things went by other Apache rather than always participate. I thought this interesting because my reading of the history of the Native Americans of Western Canada tells me this is how they operated. They had a chief for war, a chief for peace, specialists for other tasks and decisions were often made and carried out by smaller groups (societies), subsets of the larger tribe. I wonder if Norton was trying to convey this aspect of Native American society through her treatment of Fox in this novel. 

In The Book Of Andre Norton,  Daw Books 1974 in the section "Andre Norton: A Loss of Faith" by Rick Brooks, he questions whether in books like “Dread Companion(1970) and The Dark Piper(1968) that gives the feeling at the conclusion that it is better not to see what lies ahead.” (187) Norton had come to lose the optimism of her earlier work. I would say that this is not the case, racism, nuclear destruction, class warfare, refugee populations are common in her novels throughout her career, her works are considered juveniles but the optimism of Heinlein’s Space Cadet or Farmer in the Sky is often missing. Brooks seems to agree he goes on to say, “the optimism of Galactic Derelict, where the universe and its wonders had been opened to man, have in its sequel turned to dread of the weapons of the earlier galactic empire in human hands.” (189)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Philip Castle's Andre Norton covers for Tandem Science Fiction

Even though I have a ton of Andre Norton books I could
not resist these somewhat odd and colourful examples by
Philip Castle's for UK publisher Tandem Science Fiction.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Galactic Derelict  by Andre Norton, Ace Books D-498, 1959, cover by Ed Emshwiller.

" All the classic elements are present in full measure in Galactic Derelict. It suffers not at all in being a sequel to Andre Norton's excellent Time Traders." Galaxy Magazine.

This is the second volume in Norton's Time Traders series. You could probably read Galactic Derelict without having read The Time Traders, Norton does supply  enough back story in this book to fill in the gaps. But if you are going to read Galactic Derelict first, I would suggest you stop reading now because I am going to assume you are reading the books in order. 

This volume starts with Travis Fox a young Apache range rider scouting for water holes for his brother Whelan's cattle. Travis is conflicted, he is pushing into a new area based on the traditional wisdom of his Apache mentor, an old man named Chato. He knows his brother would disapprove, Whelan has no use for traditional knowledge, he prefers to live as a member of the non-native culture, or "white-eyes" as Travis calls them. It is while exploring the desert canyons that Fox stumbles upon a group of men in the process of building some kind of scientific installation. Fox is captured by one of these men, it turns out to be Ross Murdoch, armed with an unusual sidearm. Fox is taken into camp and questioned by the archaeologist Gordon Ashe, whose name he recognizes. It seems Fox was studying archaeology at the local university until a wealthy donor threatened to suspend funding for any projects employing Native Americans. So Travis Fox's suspicions of the non-native culture seem perfectly reasonable. After learning of Fox's interest in archaeology Ashe and Ross show Fox a series of Folsom Points, 10,000 year old spear points, used by an early Native American culture. After examining the points Fox can distinguish between  
10,000 years old points and identical modern copies. Upon examining the Ross's handgun he is amazed to find out that it is even older that the genuine Folsom points. It seems Travis Fox is a time guesser. This ability, a check of his archaeological credentials and his experience as a Native American rancher and hunter result in Fox being offered a place on the Project Folsom One. It seems that Ashe, Murdoch and Fox are going to be disguised as Folsom Hunters and sent back in time to locate the remains of the same type of alien spacecraft discovered by the Russians in bronze age Europe in The Time Traders. Soon the team is off, encountering Folsom hunters, saber toothed tigers, dire wolves, mammoths, active volcanoes and several crashed spaceships along the way.

The Beast Master, Harcourt Brace & Co., cover by Richard M. Powers

 Norton has always included minority characters in her stories. In 1959-1960 she wrote three novels with Native American protagonists,  Galactic Derelict in 1959 with Travis Fox an Apache, Beastmaster in 1959, with the Dineh (Navaho) character Hosteen Storm and in 1960 The Sioux Spaceman, with Kade Whitehawk a Sioux. In the passage below Norton mentions a Native American ancestor, which may explain some of her interest in native culture and characters. 

"My family history in America begins in 1634. Although we are the last of the Eastern branch of the Norton family line, I heard several years ago from a family member in one of the Western branches. She told me that my uncle, who was a great deal older than my father, had five daughters, and the last one of these had just celebrated her one hundredth birthday. It is unfortunate that mother's history was never documented. We know that there had been an Indian marriage way back. Mother's mother had three brothers who had served in the Civil War, and her fiance was killed in the Battle of Gettysburg."

A conversation with Andre Norton
by John L. Coker III 


The Beast Master cover Ed Valigursky, The Sioux Spaceman cover Ed Valigursky

I thought this was a good sequel to The Time Traders, it is not a repetition of the earlier book, the is plot are quite different with Fox becoming the main character. There is lots of action, some interesting twists and it is certainly not predictable. With the addition of Travis Fox, Norton also expands the range of the story adding a level of complexity that will resonate through the next two volumes in the series.


It is interesting that in both books in this series, time travel is simply a mechanism  allowing the team to encounter aliens and space travel. In Galactic Derelict after locating the alien ship Fox, Murdoch, Ashe and the technician Renfry are accidentally launched into space, while the ship, following some preset course takes them on a tour of several alien planets. This theme of stowaways on spacecraft, intentional or otherwise is a common one in SF and Norton handles it well.

Monday, April 4, 2016

New Arrivals, Thanks Jan

As mentioned in my Site introduction the collection that forms
the basis for this blog consists of my own collection and that
of a friend who is downsizing her books. A few weeks ago she
mentioned she had found additional titles, today she dropped 
them off. Wow, what can I say, these are lovely, they will be 
real highlights in the collection.

Thanks Jan.

The Zero Stone, Viking Press, 1968
Jacket Painting by Robin Jacques 

Uncharted Stars , Viking Press, 1969
Jacket Painting by Robin Jacques
sequel to The Zero Stone 

Ice Crown, The Viking Press, 1970
Jacket Painting Laszlo Gal

Gryphon in Glory, Atheneum, 1981
Jacket painting by Jack Gaughan

Tales of the Witch World, A TOR Book, 1988
Cover art by Mary Hanson-Roberts
Cover design by Carol Russo
Maps by John M. Ford

Daybreak-2250 A.D., ACE Books, 1952 (13989)
This was the first Norton book I discussed, under
the title Star Man's Son. This cover illustration is
similar to the original ACE cover, I would say
the depiction of Lura is better here, but Fors does
not look like a teenager. Both covers are uncredited. 

Redline the StarsA TOR Book, 1993
Cover art by Martin Andrews
A collaboration continuing the adventures 
of the Solar Queen.

The Magestone, Warner Books, 1996
Cover design by Don Puckey
Cover illustration by Kevin Johnson
A collaboration continuing the Witch World series.