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

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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Time Traders

The Time Traders by Andre Norton, The World Publishing Company , Cleveland and New York, 1958, Cover by Virgil Finlay.

Since Andre Norton first editions can be a bit pricey
I have an ex-library copy that lived in several school libraries in Harrisburg, PA. As is obvious from my posts I love real books, not just the contents, e-text etc. but the books themselves as physical objects with a real history. I can look at a book like this and wonder how many little geeks have turned these pages before me marvelling at the adventures of Ross Murdock and his partner Gordon Ashe as they become time traders. I like to think that many of them took this copy off the shelf because of the wonderful
Virgil Finlay dustcover. The Time Traders, is the first of four books in the the Time Traders series. These books do not end in cliff hangers. but they should be read in order. The other titles are Galactic Derelict, The Defiant Agents, and Key Out of Time.

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.

 Ross Murdoch is a trouble maker, a career criminal despite his relatively young age. So it is no surprise that he finds himself before the courts yet again. However this time he has gone too far and Ross faces being turned over to the dreaded Rehabilitation Service, unless he chooses to volunteer for an unnamed government project. So Ross agrees, planning of course to escape at the earliest opportunity. However this may be more of a problem than he expected. Major John Kelgarries of the project immediately whisked Ross off via atomjet to a camp located in a mysterious snowy location.

Ross is immediately placed in a locked cell/room, here one wall appears to disappear and he witnesses a  projection of a bronze age wolf hunt, or is it?       Once this ends a power failure occurs which unlocks the door. Looking for potential escape routes Murdoch ventures into the dark corridor,only to encounter a heavily bandaged man crawling down the corridor, Kelgarries appears and Murdoch learns the bandaged man is Hardy, an agent injured in a previous mission. It is at this point Murdoch meets Gordon Ashe. 

" The newcomer's brown skin was starling against the neutral shade of the walls. His hair and brown were only a few shades darker; but the general sameness of colour was relieved by the vivid blue of his eyes." p. 25 

The machine has sorted them and assigned Ashe to be Murdoch partner, it is at this point Ashe tells Murdoch that this is Operation Retrograde. They then go to the mess hall were Murdoch encounters a number of the other staff, 

" One pair were clearly Oriental: they were small, lean men with thin brackets of long black mustache (sp) on either side of their mobile mouths. Yet he had caught a word or two of their conversation, and they spoke his own language with the facility of the native born. In addition to the mustaches, each wore a blue tattoo mark on their forehead and others of the same design on the backs of their agile hands.
 The second duo were even more fantastic. The color of their flaxen hair was normal, but they wore it in braids long enough to swing across their powerful shoulders, a fashion unlike anything Ross had ever seen. Yet any suggestion of effeminacy certainly did not survive beyond the first glance of their ruggedly masculine features." p. 27

The Ace editions have equally wonderful covers by Ed Emshwiller.

It is in the mess hall that Murdoch meets another new recruit, Kurt Vogel who immediately begins to fill him in on a few more details about Project Retrograde.

" "So they have not yet briefed you? Well, a run is a little jaunt back into history-not the nice comfortable history such as you learned out of a book when you were a little kid. No, you are dropped back into some savage time before history-" That's impossible!" "Yes? You saw those two big blond boys tonight, did you not? Why do you suppose they sport those braids? Because they are taking a little trip into time when he-men wore braids, and carried axes big enough to crack a man open! And Hodaki and his partner... Ever hear of the Tartars?" p.37 

Vogel also tells Murdoch that the base is located near the north pole and tomorrow Murdoch will be taped, a procedure that makes it impossible for him to leave the base without setting off an alarm. Vogel who can somehow avoid the alarms enlists Murdoch in an escape attempt that very night. So under cover of darkness the two men steal a snow cat. Vogel is able to navigate the minefields and they set off keeping the cat on a predetermined course for a rendezvous with some of Vogel's friends. While Vogel sleeps Murdoch come to realize that these friends are probably Russians (the dreaded Reds of all cold war era fiction) and once they rendezvous, one Ross Murdoch will become superfluous. After a struggle he subdues Vogel and heads back to base. On route they are intercepted by forces from the base who take charge of Vogel and send their own men to the rendezvous point. A large explosion occurs and Mr. Vogel is sad. Later Kelgarries asks Murdoch why he came back and he says 

" Because I don't like the line-up on his side of the fence" p.47 

and with that Ross Murdoch is introduced to the details behind Project Retrograde. It seems that after some initial success with Sputnik and later Muttnik, neither side has really been able to move into space successfully. However lately Soviet technology has made several huge leaps, leaps that do not seem to be based on a logical progression but come out of nowhere. The west begins to suspect the Soviets have been in touch with an advanced civilization. Then as Kelgarries explains they learn that 

"In a way it's another world, but the world of time-not space. Several years ago we got a man out of East Berlin. He was almost dead, but he lived long enough to record on tape some amazing data, so wild it was almost dismissed as the ravings of delirium. But that was after Sputnik, and we didn't dare disregard any hints from the other side of the Iron Curtain. So the recording was turned over to our scientists, who proved it had a core of truth.

"Time travel has been written up as fiction; it has been discussed otherwise as an impossibility. Then we discover that the Reds have it working_""

Further more they seem to be bringing this new technology not from the future but the past. The west now has it's own agents who travel into the past disguised as natives to find the Russian posts. Both sides are quite circumspect avoiding the obvious hinge points of history and concealing their technology as much as possible to avoid changing the future. And it is this need to operate clandestinely, that requires the recruiting of people like Ross Murdoch, as Kelgarries states, 

"That is a question to which our psychologists are still trying to find the answer, my young friend. It seems that the majority of people of the several nations linked together in this project have become too civilized. The reactions of most men to given sets of circumstances have become set in regular patterns and they cannot break that conditioning, or if personal danger forces them to change those patterns, they are afterward so adrift they cannot function at their  highest potential. Teach a man to kill in war, and then you have to recondition him later.
  "but during those same wars we also develop another type. He is the born commando, the secret agent, the expendable man who lives on action. There are not many of this kind, and they are potent weapons. In peacetime that particular collection of emotions, nerve, and skills becomes a menace to the very society he has fought to preserve during a war. He is pressured by the peaceful environment into becoming a criminal or a misfit.
 "The men we send out from here to explore the past are not only given the best possible training we can possibly supply for them but they are all the type once heralded as frontiersman. History is sentimental about that type-when he is safely dead-but the present finds him difficult to live with." p. 51 

While this passage may seem a fairly standard SF trope, the man out of his time, I have quoted it at length as it will become an important part of the plot in the later books. It is a this point Murdoch actually becomes part of the project. Which is just as well because no one who learns of the project can leave the base of the foreseeable future. 

And so Murdoch become a travelling traders, part of the Funnelbecker culture, Ashe has already visited this period and established an identity. This culture was selected because they were a group of peaceful traders who were expanding throughout Europe during the period the team wishes to investigate. And thus our heroes enter the past.

As someone who studied and worked in archaeology for a number of years, I can attest that the Funnelbeaker culture was discussed extensively when studying European prehistory. But don't take my word for it. I quoted Joan D. Vinge in my introductory post and I enjoyed her comments so much I will repeat them here.

" 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.)"

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


 Dated Plots. One of the first things I wanted to discuss regarding this series is something I wonder about regarding a lot of literature as a whole. When does it date, people are happily reading about Jane Austen's heroines or Doyle's Sherlock Holmes but do they continue to read potentially dated genre literature in the same way? Some years ago when tensions between East and West were largely forgotten, the wall was down and glasnost was all the rage I gave some duplicate Norton novels to my niece's sons, they were about the same age I had been when I started reading them. As I handed them Sea Siege, another book set in the cold war era, I thought for a minute and said your parents case explain the cold war if you have any questions. But I do wonder about books so clearly of their time. At the same time I was reading Norton, I read and enjoyed my parents Helen MacLinnes novels, a favourite was Neither Five nor Three, a 1951 thriller about communist infiltration in the worst spirit of the McCarthy era. Another favourite author was Alistair MacLean, my father in law enjoyed him as well. His best known work became the movie Ice Station Zebra, (the book is way better), but would young people read these books today. Will a series like Norton's Time Traders be as popular to new readers as her Beast Master series, which because it is set in space after the destruction of Earth does not date as badly, beats me. I hope so because there is a lot here to enjoy. I agree with Vinge that Norton does a good job of evoking the landscape and people of Northern Europe. I also think that Ross Murdock, his partner Gordon Ashe and some of the other time travelers we meet in the subsequent books are much more interesting people that the cardboard cutout "Lensmen" types we meet in a lot of the science fiction, especially the books intended for the young adult market. I thought it was interesting that Norton acknowledges the technical accomplishments of the Soviets and has the west playing catch up. I also found the discussion of the problems in integrating soldiers back into society really interesting for a novel written in 1958 long before post traumatic stress disorder (PST) associated with military service was as well known as it is today or mentioned much in genre literature Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey clearly has it, Heinlein's Starship Troopers clearly don't.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Star Man's Son 2250 A.D.

Star Man’s Son 2250 A.D. by Andre Norton, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc 1952, illustrated by Nicolas Mordvinoff. When I got serious about collecting Norton I knew I had to get a copy of this edition as this Star Man’s Son with it’s bright red cover was the first Norton book I remembered reading. While most of the library hardcovers I read then had great dust jackets by Finlay or Powers, the Mordvinoff copy had great interior illustrations as well. My copy is ex-library copy from the Miami Dade Public Library, not that it matters but I like knowing the history, and it is in nice shape. This is Norton’s first science fiction title. She notes in an Algol Profile by Gary Allan Ruse, “ As I stated producing more, it was at the same time that science fiction became saleable” she says, “So from then on I went into science fiction. Before that I had written spy stories, and adventure stories and historical novels. Things of that kind. You see, you couldn’t sell a science fiction book prior to 1951.” The publication of science fiction novels really took off in the 1950’s, before that science fiction appeared primarily in the pulp magazines and even longer works were serialized in several issues of a magazine. Despite an appearance of her story People of the Crater, as by Andrew North in Fantasy Book Vol.1 No.1 1947, Norton, unlike most of the science fiction writers of her generation really did not publish much short fiction. 

It is two hundred years after the Blow-up, the Atomic War which has decimated the world and Fors of the Eyrie has been passed over for admittance to the Star Hall. The Star Men are explorers who search the wilderness for forgotten knowledge and goods for the Eyrie. Fors has several strikes against him, his mother was a outsider, a member of the plains tribes and Fors had been brought to the Eyrie as a child, by his father Langdon. Langdon a Star Man himself was killed on his last trip and so cannot speak for him. And most importantly Fors has enhanced hearing and sight and his white hair clearly marks him as a mutant. So that night Fors pillages the Star Hall for his father’s bag which contains a map to a pre-blowup city and sets out into the wilderness with Luna his great hunting cat, a beast the size of a mountain lion but marked like a Siamese. Dogs have died out and been replaced by these larger versions of domestic cats who have the ability for limited unspoken communication with some people and they are the companions of the Star Men. Now for Fors his adventures begin, he moves across a devastated and largely unpopulated landscape that is returning to the wild. He encounters more and more remnants of the pre-blowup civilization and obtains a horse that has strayed from the plains tribes. Eventually he finds the city pictured on his father’s map. Once in the city Fors rescues a black youth Arskane from a Beast Thing trap. Arsine is a scout for a clan of black sheep herders who are migrating into the area. Together they have encounters with both the Beast Things and the plains tribes and things get really exciting as they realize they are caught up in a much larger conflict.

Star Man’s Son 2250 A.D. is an enjoyable read, it was originally marketed as a Young Adult novel but the later Ace publication made no mention of this and the book seems to have sold well. Donald A.Wollheim the head of ACE Books at the time notes in his book The Universe Makers, 1971 p.60 “I was thinking the other day of ACE Books’ most unsuspected best seller, a novel I reprinted and whose title I changed to Daybreak, 2250 A.D.. it was written by Andre Norton as a juvenile novel, and it was her first science-fiction book-length work. She called it Star Man’s Son…, It has sold continuously and rapidly for fifteen years, in printing after printing, with steady price rises to meet the rising costs of production, has broken the record for any book ever published by what has become a major paperback publisher and continues to sell with unabated interest. Well over a million copies would be my conservative estimate of its total sale to date. There is nothing in our ACE edition to indicate it is supposed to be a juvenile novel. " Wollheim also discusses how readers of Norton’s novel, as well as other science fiction novels of the time took for granted that an atomic war could happen, and the result could well be a devastated world inhabited by mutated survivors. 

But this does not seem to have been an important consideration for Norton when she wrote the novel. Paul Walker interviewed Norton for his book Speaking of Science Fiction and raised this point.

PW “ Of you books, my favourite is Starman’s Son. I wonder if it reflected your own anxieties about the Bomb?”

AN “ No, I was not thinking of the Bomb, except as a means of the plot beginning. What had always fascinated me was trying to imagine my home city of Cleveland as it might be as a deserted ruin. Cleveland, then is the city of that book-only distances in it have been telescoped.”

Star Man’s Son 2250 A.D. is a great introduction to Norton’s work since many of the plot elements will appear again and again in her work. The protagonists are often young orphans or outcasts. 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." Norton will often introduce minority characters, examples include Fanyi of No Night Without Stars, Hosteen Storm of Beastmaster, and Travis Fox of Galactic Derelict.  In the same thesis Lofland states “ she does feel strongly about racial prejudice and does not feel it should exist.” One of the most obvious threads running through her novels is some level of communication between humans and animals which can be found in many other novels including, Catseye, Beastmaster, Storm over Warlock, Moon of Three Rings, and No Night Without Stars

So why did I like this novel so much?  Fors has a sword, a bow and a giant cat, for a pet crazed kid with hamsters, wow. As enemies the Beast Things are pretty scary and clear cut. Like almost all protagonists in YA literature Fors is unappreciated (weren’t we all at that age ) but wins his place in the world in the end. While Norton states The Bomb did not influence her thinking in this work, but as a child who was taught to crawl under his deck in a Windsor public school in case the big ones launched from Cuba, it certainly influenced my reading and my thinking. Norton books were common in both my school library and the public library across the street and I loved authors with a big back list, knowing there were many more books by them to enjoy had great appeal. Often I would read one book, be it a historical novel, mystery etc and then seek out and read all the other books by that author without embracing the entire genre.

So Star Man's Son was just the beginning, Andre would take me out of my own life, across the galaxy, into our future and our past, with aliens, animals and adventures galore. Thanks Andre!

All articles/books quoted here except the Walker and the Wollheim titles can be found at