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11.20.13 An Author’s Journey: Finding the Literary Side of Epic Fantasy: 5.3 Otherworldly Sci-Fi Influences (Pt 1: Public Library & Andre Norton)

11.20.13  An Author’s Journey: Finding the Literary Side of Epic Fantasy: 5.3 Otherworldly Sci-Fi Influences (Part 1: The Public Library & Andre Norton)

When I think about influential writers who’ve informed my writer’s journey, often I go back to adolescence, a time that Sophia and I are currently re-living as we watch our kids, Adriana and Seth, grow up.

Trajan's Library (c. 100 A.D.)

Trajan’s Library (c. 100 A.D.) — A bearded 12-year-old A.J. seated at center table

Now, whenever I discuss my youth, the kids roll their eyes and brace for an ancient history lesson.  (Contrary to my family’s belief, I wasn’t always a crotchety fellow, nor was I born a Benjamin Button-like old man.)   What I was at ages ten to thirteen was a boy with a library card; a good thing, since I was usually stuck in a library from 2:45 until 5 or 6 o’clock when my father got off work. 

Andre Norton (1912-2005)

Andre Norton (1912-2005)

Little did I know at the time that one of my favorite authors, Alice Mary Norton (1912-2005), began her career working in the same atmosphere, but in her case as a librarian, serving 18 years in one of the branches of the Cleveland Public Library.  In order to have a chance of selling her books and short stories in a mostly male marketplace, she legally changed her name to Andre Norton. 

Think about how the years have passed in your own life, and you’ll appreciate how long Norton’s kind of “shadow life” lasted – for over twenty years writing as a woman in the 1930s and 1940s, but disguised under the pseudonym of a man!  Norton sold some fantasy stories before trying out the newly emerging “science fiction” market, but she finally broke into the big leagues in the early 1950s with Daybreak – 2250 A.D., a science fiction book that sold over a million copies.

Andre Norton, Daybreak - 2250 A.D. (1952)

Andre Norton, Daybreak – 2250 A.D. (1952)

Norton eventually quit her librarian job, and by the time of her death in 2005, she’d become known world-wide as the Grand Dame of Science Fiction, twice-nominated for the Hugo Award, and given the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1998.  The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) gave her a “Grand Master” award in 1983, with the organization creating the “Andre Norton” award in 2005, so as to honor the best in young adult sci-fi and fantasy books.

Of all her hundreds of works, though, the one series that I followed was the best (and currently, the most difficult to find), Witch World.

Next time: Andre Norton’s Witch World Series…

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