Andre Norton

Say her name to someone who's read her work and watch the flash in their eyes. There's something about Andre Norton.

She calls herself an old-fashioned storyteller and, indeed, whether it's fantasy, science fiction, adventure, romance or any other genre of popular literature, she manages to capture the audience's attention in the gracious style of the long-gone bardic masters. This quality, acknowledged by both the readers and critics has given her the title of the Grande Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Born February 17, 1912, in Cleveland, Ohio, Alice Mary Norton has always had an affinity to the humanities. She started writing in her teens, inspired by a charismatic high school teacher. First contacts with the publishing world led her, as many other contemporary female writers targeting a male-dominated market, to choose a literary pseudonym. In 1934 she legally changed her name to Andre Alice. The androgynous Andre doesn't really say "male," though it lets people jump to their own conclusions.

She's often classified as a writer for young adults, but maybe that should be restated as for the "young-at-heart". Anyone, either gender, or any age, who enjoys great, emotional stories will find at least one segment of her enormous range of writing to treasure.

Her style is clean and simple. She doesn't digress into an examination of minutiae, of either exterior or interior worlds. With graceful economy she hands the reader the very hearts of her characters, and cleanly etches her settings - like an artist who can suggest the whole shape of an object by the thickness of the line with which she draws. The result are lean, rich stories that move.

But there's something beyond skillful plots and incredibly imaginative settings. Something intangible that fuses her writing into the pillars and archways of your soul. The Lady, as her fans call her, reaches the hearts of people like no one else.

Most readers are in their teens when they first find her. And for those that do, it's like falling through a secret door into a universe of other worlds. Wild, beautiful worlds where being different is no crime, and great, courageous hearts overcome their own fears and prove stronger than evil and find a place.

Andre Norton is some kind of spiritual life blood to people growing up. Part of it is the validation one gets from the experience of the protagonist - the thematic elements dealt with in her books are fundamental and as close to universal as you can get. And part of it is just how well-told her tales are, how much the reader believes them - wants to live in those worlds. And part of it … well, there may be witchcraft involved.

Without profanity or graphic violence, Andre Norton weaves tense, dramatic tales. Her protagonists are frequently young. The virtues of the past, and of nature, are important elements in many of her stories. All her books are meticulously researched and provide a treasure of historical information.

It has been said that science fiction is primarily philosophy, expounding the right to be different. Nowhere is that truer than in Ms. Norton's writing, where protagonists of many ethnicities have shown their intelligence and valor, and the value of all living things is affirmed.

The critics weren't quick to support her. But eventually they began to notice the consistent quality of her work. Today she is one of SF-F's most lauded female authors, the first woman to receive the Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy and the Nebula Grand Master Award.

Her success paved the way for other women to write in those fields. Writers such as C.J. Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey are inheritors of Andre Norton's legacy.

Although her work has encompassed many genres, Andre Norton is probably most famous for her fantasy, in particular the Witch World series, begun in 1963 with the Hugo-nominated book of the same name. The popularity of the Witch World series has been so great that Ms. Norton continued it, to please her readers, to an incredible 35 books.

And then there's that something. When reading one of her books, you feel she wrote that story for you alone. That somewhere, in a world very nearby, the person in those pages' lives. Her people are real in a way authors who have expended three times as many words may never achieve. And throughout the course of your life, they remain great, great companions.

by Linda Taddeo from an old website

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