Andre Norton

I’m just about finished reading Andre Norton’s Witch world.  Of course it’s an “Appendix N” title from the Dungeon Master’s Guide and it spawned many sequels and even a few collections of stories by other authors set in the same world.  But I’d never read anything by Norton apart froma short story here and there and I actually knew almost nothing about it or her.  I did know “Andre” was a pen name, as female fantasy authors used to be told their audiences were mainly boys who would not read something with a woman’s name in the byline, back in the old days.

Anyway the book is OK.  It was probably a lot more innovative in 1964, when it was published.  The story is basically a variation on the ‘sword & planet’ genre, only in this case the earthman goes to a fantasy world rather than an imaginary Mars or Venus.  However the fantasy world is pretty gonzo, with some advanced technology mixed into the otherwise relatively medieval world. It would make an interesting game setting.

When I looked into the author a bit more I was surprised to find she actually worked for the same library I do (almost 70 years ago).  In fact the branch she worked at has been relocated to be adjacent to the technical services facility I work in.  Small world.

I have to admit I don’t find her writing all that compelling, and I believe that most of herwork was aimed at the “young adult” audience (Witch world is not though).  I’ll probably still check out her  Quag Keep and it’s sequel though, since they were written specifically about a D&D campaign.

If there are any Andre Norton fans reading this…what do you recommend?

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Published in: on June 23, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Not a fan. 🙂 The only Andre Norton book I’ve read is Quag Keep. It turned me off the author, for good! That was over 25 years ago. It’s possible that I just wasn’t prepared to appreciate the author, as a teenager. On the other hand, I wasn’t the most discriminating reader, at the time and if a book taking place in Greyhawk, failed to excite me, that says something. I’d be interested in your thoughts on Quag Keep.

  2. While I believe the Witch World series is the strongest of her work (& I recommend reading them in publication order before worrying about her other books), Sargasso of Space (1955) (& other Solar Queen books) and Forerunner Foray (1973) were good reads as well as quite influential on early SF RPGs.

  3. Actually, I was really into Andre Norton as a kid. She certainly did target that young teen reader. I only read a few of the Witch World things and didn’t find them her best. My personal favorites were the “Magic” books, particularly _Octagon Magic_. _Star Ka’at_ world was pretty good, but targeted at an even younger reader IIRC. I think I still have a copy of that, maybe I’ll bring it to gaming for you. More adult-y was _Empire of the Eagle_ which I thought was fair to good. The Gryphon trilogy started strong but slid downhill IMHO. I have fond memories of “Star Rangers”, but they are mostly about how awesome I thought that book was as a kid.

    Basically, she cranked out a lot of pulpy scifi and fantasy. It is what it is. I’m kinda surprised syfy or somebody hasn’t started cranking them out with cheap FX, but maybe she didn’t command the audience.

    Also, I was never really “fooled” into thinking she was male. I somehow knew, even as a child, that she was a female author…messed me up for years thinking Andre was a feminine name.


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