Andre Norton (1912-2005)
Andre Norton, 93, the “Grand Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy,” author, poet, editor, whose published works span seven decades, died of congestive heart failure in her Murfreesboro, Tennessee home, early Thursday morning, March 17th.
Andre Norton was born Alice Mary Norton on February 17, 1912, in Cleveland Ohio. She wrote more than 130 novels, nearly one hundred short stories, and edited numerous anthologies in the science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, and western genres. She was the first woman to be a SFWA Grand Master and to be inducted in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. She received Skylark, Balrog, and World Fantasy awards, and was the first woman to win the Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy award.
Her love of books began at the age of two, when her mother started reading and reciting poetry to her. While attending Collingwood High School, Ms. Norton edited a fiction page for the school newspaper, The Collingwood Spotlight, and started her first novel, Ralestone Luck, which became her second published book. She attended the Flora Stone Mather College of Western Reserve University, studying to be a history teacher. However, financial pressures forced her to quit after her freshman year. She to work to help support her family during the hard times of the Great Depression. Still, she managed to take night courses in English and journalism offered by Cleveland College, and she continued to write. She held several jobs in the literary field, including working for the Library of Congress during WWII. She also briefly owned a book store. Most importantly, she worked at the Cleveland Public Library in the children’s section. During her stint with the library, she worked in thirty-eight of the forty branches.
The Prince Commands, a historical fantasy, was Ms. Norton’s first published novel. It was released in 1934, when she was only twenty-two. She began using the name Andre that year, after publishers told her that a masculine name would help sell to her target audience of boys. By 1950, at age 38, she had nine novels to her credit. That year she left the Cleveland Public Library to take a job as a reader at Gnome Press. By the time she left Gnome Press eight years later, she had twenty-three novels and several short stories published.
In 1958 she struck out to become a full-time writer. Over the next twenty years she wrote nearly seventy novels, two dozen short stories, and edited several anthologies. One of her most beloved series, Witch World–a wondrous planet reachable through metaphysical gateways–started with a single novel in 1963. More than thirty Witch World titles followed. In 1966 she moved to Florida, and later moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where in 1999 she opened “High Hallack,” a retreat and research library for writers. She closed the library in 2004.
Through the years, she edited several anthologies for Martin Greenberg’s Tekno Books company, including the long-running Cat Fantastic series, which began in 1989, and Renaissance Faire, which was published by DAW Books in early February of 2005.
Her last complete novel, Three Hands for Scorpio, is set to be released in early April from Tor Books. It is the last manuscript she penned alone, and she was especially proud of it. Return to Quag Keep, a sequel to her Quag Keep from 1979, will be released as a collaboration in January, 2006.
She surrounded herself with books and cats, ending each evening reading in bed with a favorite cat curled next to her. She incorporated her love of both in the many cat anthologies she edited, and in numerous short stories. Her latest published short story, “Faire Likeness” in Renaissance Faire, features a cat she adopted. When her health began to decline in 2004, she parted with a few of her cats. However, she continued to keep the oldest - RT - by her side until the end, and she managed to feed the stray cats that frequently visited her yard.
She was quick to recommend good books to friends, and to offer advice to new authors, helping to pave the way for several people to be published. She also instructed hobbyists in the art of making jewelry. Crafting necklaces, bracelets, and earrings became a passion in the last two years of her life when she found it increasingly difficult to write at a keyboard. Jewelry she fashioned continues to be featured at her Ebay Store.
Her novels are too numerous to list in full here. However, among her many novels are: Witch World, Beast Master, Secret of the Lost Race, Star Guard, Sargasso of Space (as Andrew North), The Time Traders, Catseye, Steel Magic, Fur Magic, and The Solar Queen.
Many authors and editors collaborated with her. Among them were: Robert Adams, Alicia Austin, Robert Bloch, Marion Zimmer Bradley, A.C. Crispin, Rosemary Edghill, Martin H. Greenberg, P.M. Griffin, Grace Allen Hogarth, John Kaufman, Mercedes Lackey, Dorothy Madlee, Patricia Matthews, Julian May, Lyn McConchie, Phyllis Miller, Sasha Miller, Jean Rabe, Mary Schaub, Susan Shwartz, Sherwood Smith, and Ingrid Zierhut.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has announced the formation of the Andre Norton Award for young adult novels. Andre approved this before her death, and suggested several titles for consideration. The awards will be announced along with the Nebulas, with the first award being presented in 2006. The award will be selected following the same procedure as the Nebula Awards.
At her direction, there will be no service. She requested memorials to be made in her honor to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital (Memorial and Honor Program), 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or Veterinary Services (c/o the Noah Fund) P.O. Box 10128, Murfreesboro, TN 37129.
She is survived by her close friends and caretakers Sue and Ollie Stewart, her cat RT., and her family of fans throughout the world.
Andre Norton obituary on CNN.
I just turned in a column to Mark Krieghbaum at the SFWA Bulletin in which Anthony Boucher referred to Ms Norton, accurately, as "a fresh new talent" in 1954, in spite of the fact that she published several historical novels beginning in the mid-1930s; as far as sf went, she had published Star Man's Son in 1952 and two short stories as by Andrew North in William Crawford's semi-pro Fantasy Book, "The People of the Crater" and "The Gifts of Asti," in 1947. In a letter to the editors of F&SF concerning her story for them, "Mousetrap" (in the June 1954 issue), she noted her struggle to write the short form:
"Short-stories are not natural writing for me and I have to work them over and over - seem to think only in book length plots."
Nevertheless, she managed over the years to write fifty or more short stories for various magazines and anthologies. She chose to write under an ostensibly male name for what was, at the time, a perfectly good and valid reason:
"As to 'Andre' - just a properly ambiguous either sex name to be worn by a female who makes a living writing male adventure stories - it can be a problem with readers unless one works behind such a smokescreen - especially when one writes for teen age boys. I am very used to being 'Mr. Norton' and have stunned radio program directors when acting as guest-interviewee by appearing in skirts."
That she will be missed is an understatement; she was enormously influential in the field, not only having a quiet hand in the direction the literature went in, but with readers as well - I suspect as many people can trace their earliest reading in the genre to Ms Norton as to Heinlein or anyone else.
SF and fantasy have lost yet another giant.
I first met Andre at a Magic Carpet Con so long ago, I could not tell you the year. But some time back, I wrote her and asked about the Catfantastic anthologies, and she told me she was reading at that time and invited me to submit, though she said that she already had the anthology filled.
But then she turned around and bought my story within a couple of days. It was very much a turning point.
I corresponded with her over the years. I was invited to the opening of High Hallack, and I told her then how grateful I was. She was a sweet woman, and became my literary grandmother.
She did me the honor of blurbing my forthcoming novel Dragon's Tongue.
When I was young, I read her books in awe. She wrote about fantastic places in both her fantasy and her SF.
We shall miss her.
Laura J. Underwood
I became friends with Andre not quite six years ago. I’d been handed my first anthology to edit– Historical Hauntings, and the packager told me to pick several authors, and they would select some "Daw authors" to round it out. Among the latter was Andre. She wrote a beautiful tale about a bead weaver. Then the time came to gather brief bios of the authors, and I received one from everybody except her. The packager said they would use a "stock" bio. But this was my first anthology, and so I wasn’t going to settle for "stock" anything. I dug out my SFWA directory and found a phone number, gave it a call, and she answered (I was expecting a secretary or something). She had this thin voice that sounded like crystal wind chimes, and she said she was delighted that I wanted a new bio... said no one had asked for such in quite some time. We talked for an hour, and later I sent her a thank-you note for being in the anthology.
We corresponded from then on. In fact, Andre wrote me more often than all of my relatives put together–a few times I’d get two letters in the same week, the second brief and mentioning something she forgot to put in the first one. I have many of her letters in a thick file folder in my desk, along with a handwritten list of historical books she thought I should acquire. Often she wrote about her cats... I wrote back about my dogs. She called them our "fur people." She’d call once in a while just to say hi and to ask what I was up to. Invariably, we’d talk about books and books and books... and our fur people.
She blessed me by calling me "an amazing writer" (I’d sent her my hardcover Dragonlance books), and she was kind enough to write reviews or "blurbs" for some of my novels.
Sometimes I’d send her books that I’d read and thought she might enjoy–usually ones that had cats in them. And sometimes she’d call and say "I’ve just finished the most wonderful book that someone sent me. You must get it!" I’d reply: "I’ve read that one... I’m the ‘someone’ who sent it to you." Then she’d giggle in her wind chimes voice and tell me her memory got slippery from time-to-time.
We’d talk about hobbies. A few years back I was into embroidery, and I tried to work seed beads into my designs. I told her I was having a tough time finding a needle small enough for the beads. She lectured me I was doing it wrong, said I needed to get beading wire. Then she sent me a big catalog on beads and beading supplies. And hence she got me hooked on another hobby–making necklaces and bookmarks out of various beads. My husband is not particularly fond of this hobby, as good beads are not cheap.
After that, we talked and wrote each other about books and books and books, politics and the war in Iraq, our fur people... and beading. I’d send her extra cat beads I’d pick up. Actually, I’d pick those beads up just for her. I’m a dog person.
Two years ago she agreed to edit an anthology with me... Renaissance Faire, which came out this February. The packager wasn’t sure she’d be very involved. Boy, was she! Andre read every story that came in, and we’d confer about them–what we liked and disliked, what needed to be rejected or rewritten. We discovered we had much the same taste in tales and liked the same authors. What a joy that project was!
And then an even better project appeared–Return to Quag Keep, the sequel to the first "D&D" novel–Quag Keep--that came out in 1979. Andre did a line-edit on my first draft, which I have tucked away in a treasure box. Quite a bit of work she put in on it, and quite a lot she taught me. To get a lesson by the "Grand Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy" was priceless. I fully believe she has made me a better writer, and made me see things through different eyes.
When she closed her High Hallack Library last year, she selected a big box full of historical mysteries and reference books for me. It was a great present that I will enjoy for many, many years–a treasure tucked away on the shelves of my office.
But the best treasure... that’s been enjoying her friendship, her letters, and her wind chimes voice.
I will so very much miss my friend.
"I keep my friends as misers do their treasure, because, of all the things granted us by wisdom, none is greater or better than friendship." -- Pietro Aretino (1537)
Andre was a great and gracious lady, a fundamentally kind and courteous person, and my dear friend, teacher, and senior collaborator. I was privileged to work for and with a woman whose writings I've read lifelong.
She rarely traveled, but she went farther into space and into the human heart than most people I will ever know.
My life is words, but I have no words that can describe the impact, personal and professional, that she had on so many people in a long and well-spent life.
Although I have never had the fortune of meeting Andre Norton in person, I feel I have known her forever through her books. Indeed, my first jumbled memory-swirls of learning English and imbibing books of the fantastic are all Norton. The full harvest moon of Horn Crown, the perfect love story of Joisan and Kerovan in The Crystal Gryphon, the mysterious sleeping gods of Exiles of the Stars, the curious images evoked by The Jargoon Pard -- these are my most formative and profound visions that will always be with me when I think of perfect wonder fiction, the truest fantasy. The debt I owe Andre Norton as a writer cannot be measured. The treasure of yearning and vision she granted me as a human being will remain with me always. Thank you, dearest lady. Without you there would not have been a moonlit garden of Laelith in my own writer's dreams.
My first published novel was an Ace Paperback Double -- the kind where you read the book to the middle of the book and then it stopped, The End, and you turned it over, and there was a whole other novel starting upside down on the other side. It may sound ridiculous, but for fifty cents it was a bargain. Fifty cents was pretty much what the author got paid, also.
Anyhow, it was my first published novel, and I was proud of it, but nowhere near as proud as when I got a letter about it from Andre Norton. The letter is in my files at the U. of Oregon now and I don't remember the words, only that she praised the book discerningly, and encouraged me to write more. As she was, in the mid 1960's, a Major Person in the field of imaginative literature, it seemed miraculous to me that she had taken the time from her own work to write a newcomer at all -- let alone telling them, hey, it's good, write more!
I treasure the memory of that letter, and the kind, shy, brilliant, and generous woman who wrote it. It was completely characteristic of her.
Ursula K. Le Guin
Photo courtesy of Jean Rabe.
Posted March 17, 2005