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Birthday Reviews: C.J. Cherryh’s “The Unshadowed Land”

Birthday Reviews: C.J. Cherryh’s “The Unshadowed Land”

Sword and Sorceress II-small Sword and Sorceress II-back-small

Cover by Ilene Meyer

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.

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