Vintage Treasures: Assignment Nor’ Dyren by Sydney J. Van Scyoc

Vintage Treasures: Assignment Nor’ Dyren by Sydney J. Van Scyoc

Assignment Nor Dyren-small Assignment Nor Dyren-back-small

Sydney J. Van Scyoc is an American science fiction writer. She was born in 1939, and published her first story, “Shatter the Wall,” in Galaxy magazine in 1962. She was very active for the next three decades, publishing eleven novels and around 30 stories between 1962 and 1991, including Saltflower (1971), Starmother (1976), Cloudcry (1977), Sunwaifs (1981), and the Daughters of the Sunstone trilogy. Most of her novels were published as paperback originals from Berkley or Avon. In 1992, she reportedly retired to make and sell jewelry, but in 2004 & 2005 she sold two new short stories to Gordon Van Gelder at F&SF.

Assignment Nor’ Dyren, her second novel, is one of her most well known. Compared by some to The Left Hand of Darkness, it’s the tale of two human agents to the planet Nor’ Dyren who discover the inhabitants have a social order that divides them into three specialized castes. But the world seems to be crumbling — broken machines are not being repaired, there’is no innovation, and society has been in decline for over two centuries. Tasked with saving the planet, the human agents find themselves up against strange and sinister opposition.

We last covered Sydney J. Van Scyoc with her 1989 fantasy novel Feather Stroke. Assignment Nor’ Dyren was published in October 1973 by Avon Books. It is 222 pages, priced at 75 cents. Believe it or not, the gorgeously baroque cover is uncredited, and no one seems to know for sure who painted it. It looks a lot like the work of Paul Lehr, but it’s hardly likely there’s an unidentified Lehr out there. Click the images above for bigger versions.

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Rich Horton

Certainly reminds me of Paul Lehr. That said, in that time frame Lehr seemed to work mostly for Putnam (and Berkley), Dell, and Fawcett Crest.

Of the artists of that period who worked for Avon (which unfortunately often didn’t credit anyone) Gene Szafran seems a possibility.


It’s Lehr. Has his usual globes/spheres, the shadowed crowd in the foreground, etc. This book is from 1973. He was also doing earlier Avon covers–and for Van Scyoc books– a few years earlier in 1971. See link:

Rich Horton

Good catch, Dave. I think that clinches it, for me anyway.


Back in the mid-70s my girlfriend was taking the same college SF course I had just taken, and with the same professor, natch. Each student was supposed to do some project by the end of the semester. Girlfriend screwed the pooch timewise and needed a project at the last minute. So I stepped in and did a 100-page visual survey of the SF covers by Paul Lehr. It had about 65 covers or thereabouts out of the 100 pages. The rest of it was me writing about Lehr and his work as it was at that time (lots of Damon Knight Orbit covers, etc.). She got an A, and to this day I can spot a Lehr cover across a darkened huckster room. 🙂

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