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.