Pyr published her novel, Diving into the Wreck, in November of 2009. In spring of 2011, she will publish City of Ruins, the next book in the Diving universe, and she will have a new Kristine Grayson novel, The Charming Way.
You have a chance to win a signed copy of “City of Ruins” at the end of Kristine’s post, so make sure you enter.
So, without further ado, please give Kristine a warm welcome.
Women in Science Fiction: Andre Norton
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
By today’s standards, I was an athletic kid. All summer long, I was active. I swam (usually in lakes), rode my bike everywhere, walked when I couldn’t ride, played ball, played baseball, played tennis, and played volleyball.
But by the standards of the day, I was a bookish kid. I swam in the lake, then, when I was tired, got out, climbed on my beach towel, and read in the sun (without sunscreen—such dangerous days!). I walked to the local drugstore where I bought comic books and novels with my allowance. I rode my bike to the library every single day, took out five books (the maxim), and rode home. Then I read the five books in the hammock my parents had placed between the two giant shade trees in our yard.
What did I read? Everything. Mysteries, gothics, horror fiction, short stories. But what I remember reading the most were some slim paperback volumes with little rocket ships taped onto their spine.
In the United States, the library system used little icons to signify genre. The rocket ship icon was—you guessed it—science fiction. Was I reading Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein? Nope. I tried Asimov and found him dull. I didn’t read Clarke until college. I read Stranger in A Strange Land the year that Helen Reddy sang “I am Woman,” and I flung that sexist book across the car (nearly killing my dad—and the rest of us, since he was driving).
Nope. I read Heinlein after I became the first (and only) female editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. In that summer—what I privately called my rocket ship summer—what I read was everything I could find by this great guy named Andre Norton.
I had no idea until much, much later that Andre Norton was a woman. I just knew at the time that her fiction resonated with me in a way that other rocket ship novels did not. I even remember the covers—all 1960s art in muddy colors with young faces staring at me as I plowed through the pages.
Oh, yeah, I read a lot of other science fiction, mostly short stories in the Year’s Best volumes. But I loved Andre Norton. I was sad when I ran out of books by her, and picked up the new ones whenever I could.
Readers give Andre Norton lots of props for her wonderful space opera stories. But the hardcore science fiction professional world, which I entered in 1985 after I attended Clarion Writers Workshop, made fun of her. She was a hack. She was a “bad writer.” She didn’t write “quality.” There was even a nasty story that one of my Clarion instructors told about the way that Andre Norton was treated at a Milford Professional Writers Conference that just broke my heart.
She never got the respect she deserved from the professional field—the in-crowd back then—and even had her royalties miscounted, so that she never earned the money she was entitled to, until much later in life when the fraud perpetrated on her was discovered.
Which still breaks my heart. Because I wouldn’t be sitting here, typing this, without Andre Norton.
When my husband, the writer Dean Wesley Smith, and I started Pulphouse Publishing, it took us both a while to get up enough nerve to ask Andre Norton to write for us. But ask we did. Dean put her on the cover of our first issue of Pulphouse: The Magazine, and she was delighted. “I’ve never been a cover girl before,” she said.
She was—I believe—in her eighties at the time.
In my years at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, I tried to get another Andre Norton story. But she was unable to give me one—first because her writing schedule was still stringent, and then because her health wouldn’t allow it. I also tried to put stories like the ones she wrote into the magazine. The fans loved space opera and of course, the in-crowd—those in the center of sf publishing—said I was cheapening the magazine.
Yep, I was. If you look at the circulation figures for my years as editor, you’ll see that F&SF sold more copies in those years than any other year in its history. Popular fiction is called “popular” for a reason. People like it.
So when I finally came to my senses and quit editing, dedicating myself to my writing career fulltime, I decided I wasn’t going to write for the in-crowd. I was going to write for the fans, the readers, the little girls who biked to the library every day and got five books to read that very night. In addition to my science fiction, I write romance (as Kristine Grayson, Kristine Dexter, and Kris DeLake), mystery (as Kris Rusch & Kris Nelscott), fantasy, horror, and mainstream fiction.
I write in genres that in-crowd people look down their noses at because they “don’t read that sort of thing.” I love that sort of thing. And in science fiction, that love started with Andre Norton.
I like to think there’s a direct correlation between my Diving into the Wreck novels and Andre Norton’s space opera. What I do know is that the Dave Seeley covers on my three Diving books—Diving into the Wreck, the newly released City of Ruins, and the upcoming Boneyards—are the kind of covers that would have made the younger me snatch up the books in a heartbeat. A woman, in the middle of an sf scenario, having adventures. Perfect.
That’s what I love to read. That’s what I love to write.
So—to honor women in science fiction on this blog—let me simply say: Remember Andre Norton. She had more influence than the sf field (or at least the in-crowd) wants to admit. She was marvelous—and I wouldn’t be here without her.
You can find out more about Kristine Kathryn Rusch here:
Kristine and Pyr are generously giving away TWO signed copies of “City of Ruins” – one to a UK reader and one to a US reader.
To enter all you have to do is the following:
1. Leave a comment for the author
3. Only one entry per person – multiple entries will be disqualified.
Ends Sunday 29th May 2011 8am BST