Taking another break from award winners, here’s a look at novels published in 1979 that did not win any awards.
C.J. Cherryh published Hestia, a stand-alone about an engineer, Sam Merrit, who travels to the title planet to build a damn to help the human colonists. Upon arrival, Merrit realizes that the dam will not only prove to be the panacea that is sought, but would also destroy the local indigenous species. Cherryh uses the novel to explore personal and ecological responsibility and the sense of entitlement the colonists have.
Jerry Pournelle’s novel Janissearies is the first of the similarly titled trilogy, although it is also set in the wider world of his Co-Dominium universe that began with his novel King David’s Starship. The novel follows a group of American soldiers who have been rescued from an ambush in Africa and given the chance to put their talents to use in a medieval level society among the stars. Although Pournelle’s main character faced mutiny, he wins through in the end, establishing himself as the undisputed leader of the force.
Kindred, Octavia E. Butler’s time travel novel that shuffles Dana, a twentieth century African-American author, between her own time and the antebellum South was published in 1979. The novel offers a look at the sort of compromises Dana must make to survive as a slave as be able to continue to exist in her own time. Butler offers a complex view of slavery and race relations in the novel, partly because of the way she has caused Dana’s own existence and fate to be entwined with that of Rufus, the plantation owner. …
C.J. (Carolyn Janice) Cherry was born on September 1, 1942. When she sold her first work, editor Donald A. Wollheim suggested adding the final “h,” making her byline C.J. Cherryh. Her brother is artist David Cherry, who did not add a final “h.”
Cherryh won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1977. In 1982, she won the coveted Balrog Award for her short story “A Thief in Korianth.” She has won three Hugo Awards, first for her short story “Cassandra” in 1979, for her novel Downbelow Station in 1982, and for her novel Cyteen in 1989. In 1988 NESFA presented her with the Skylark Award. She named a Damon Knight Grand Master by SFWA in 2016. Cherryh was the guest of honor at Buccaneer, the 1998 Worldcon in Baltimore.
“The Unshadowed Land” first appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress II: An Anthology of Heroic Fiction in 1985 and was translated into Italian as part of the anthology in 1988 and again in 1994. It was reprinted in English in The Collected Short Fiction of C.J. Cherryh in 2004.
Cherryh slowly creates her world in “The Unshadowed Land,” subverting the reader’s expectations as she goes along. It opens with a description of God (or a god) callously creating and changing the world by looking at it in different ways or flapping wings. This setting seems to indicate an alien world, mostly desert, at least the part Cherryh is interested in. A woman, whose name might be Akhet, is introduced to the world, giving the reader a viewpoint character, but also, like the reader, unsure of the situation she is in.
C. J. Cherryh
DAW (416pp, $25.95, May 2010)
Reviewed by Charlene Brusso
There is more to communication than mere words. Sure, words have meanings, but they are also, thanks to evolution, tied intimately to the way we think and feel, and the world we live in. Language doesn’t just describe culture or psychology, it is culture and psychology, it’s how we are wired, and assuming that a word can be translated exactly from one culture to another – or, worse yet, from one species to another – is a rookie linguist’s mistake. That is why xenolinguistics is such a challenge. And that is why “first contact” stories are so fascinating – and so difficult to do well.
Nobody does them better than C.J. Cherryh. In novels like Serpent’s Reach and Hunter of Worlds, and series like the Charnur and the Faded Sun books, she has delved deep into the tricky psychological aspects of communication between different, sometimes very alien, species. That challenge to understand lies at the very heart of the Foreigner series, of which Conspirator is the lucky thirteenth volume. Technically, it is the first book of the fourth trilogy in the arc, but don’t be intimidated by that. Cherryh slips in just enough backstory to get you grounded before taking off at full speed into the current situation.