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

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Site Introduction

 The works of Andre Norton, constitute, for me a comfortable place, lying as they do at the intersection of reminiscence, memory, history and familiarity. Recently I was able to add the collection of a friend who was downsizing her books, to my own holdings. Since she had not limited herself to Norton's SF titles as I had, I now have even more books to enjoy. I will not attempt to provide a biography of Andre Norton, I have instead provided a link to an excellent site with a great deal of information on Andre Norton under Handy Resources http://www.andre-norton-books.com/ among the full-text articles provided I recommend "Andre Norton's Young Adult Novels" by Andrew Liptak, originally posted in Kirkus Review, and "Andre Norton: The Mother of Us All" by Joan D. Vinge.  The school and public libraries of my youth were stocked with Robert Heinlein juveniles, Winston Science Fiction novels, "Tomorrow's Adventures for Today's Readers!" and the novels of Andre Norton. These were beautiful hard covers often with eye catching dust jackets by Virgil Finley or Richard Powers. This experience was not unique to me.

" Writer A.C. Crispin once asked a packed science fiction convention " How many of you  received your first exposure to science fiction or fantasy when you took an Andre Norton book off the library shelves?" A full 80% percent of the audience responded in the affirmative." 

"Collecting Andre Norton" by Ed McLukie 

" When I first began to speaking to sf groups, I used to take an informal poll, to see what book had inspired people's love of science fiction. Almost invariably, it was either a book by Robert Heinlein-or Andre Norton."

 "Andre Norton: The Mother of Us All" by Joan D. Vinge

It was certainly these books that influenced my reading to this day. As I grew older I began to pay more attention to the authors bios found on the books and I was intrigued by the fact that Andre Norton had been born in Cleveland and lived in that city until her move to Florida in the late 1960's.

I was born in Windsor Ontario and lived there or in a small town on the shores of Lake Erie until I completed university. I visited both Detroit and Cleveland as a child and was therefore familiar with the region around Lake Erie, then an industrial heartland, now the rust belt. I like to think there existed a kinship based on some common history, experience, environment. Doubtless this is a silly and overly romantic notion, but a grown man, now retired who still treasures a book in which a teenaged mutant armed with a bow and sword and accompanied by a puma-sized Siamese cat adventures across a post-apocalyptic world occupying the same landscape he knew as a child must admit to a fairly wide romantic streak. This has lead me to envision Norton, perhaps living on the same kind of street I knew as a child. A street lined with solid red brick houses, and tall oaks, maples and elms, with families sitting on the porches in the humid air until forced inside by the great thunderstorms sweeping in from the lake. I like to think that on foggy nights she listened to the same Great Lake freighters, huge prehistoric beasts lost and calling out to each other in the night, as she worked through the plot of Time Traders or Star Born. I like to think works of such imagination, spanning as they do both time and space, grew out of the same prosaic world I knew a child, and that later I could walk those streets to a library where these same books were waiting for me.  

When I learned that Norton was ill I sent my first and so far only fan letter to an author. I suspect she was far to ill to read the thousands of letters that must have poured in from legions of fans, but shortly after her death I received a photo of Norton in the mail and I am grateful for this gesture in what must have been a very sad time. In my letter I mentioned that I had basically had two careers as an adult, one was in archaeology and when that ended another as a librarian, both were fields she was familiar with. 

Vinge states that " Most people don't think consciously about their role models; they absorb the attitudes of individuals and works they admire unconsciously. In that sense, a writer's work is far more important than the apparent critical response to it, which is why the influence of Andre's work in greater than many people realize," Talking about her personal experience she also says " (For my own part, Andre not only got me started reading sf, she also led me to a college degree in anthropology, because her novel The Time Traders evoked Northern Europe four thousand years ago so hauntingly that it made me obsessed with European prehistory. While doing a term paper on the Beaker Folk, I was convinced that I had found and studied some of the same source material she must have used for the novel.)" I do not claim or truly believe that Norton was the primary factor in my career choices, but when we covered the Funnel Beaker culture I did experience the thrill of recognition. 

Vinge quotes from "Andre Norton: The Mother of Us All" by Joan D. Vinge

So that is why I have created an Andre Norton tribute site, I make no claim to objectivity . I only hope that as the quote from John Crowley in my site banner states, " The things that make us happy make us wise."

A number of science fiction authors, including Andre Norton, began producing collaborations with other authors based on existing works later in their careers. For example wikipedia mentions three other titles as part of the Time Trader series, I typically do not read these collaborations and will not consider them when discussing the series.