Pro-animal science fiction & fantasy author Andre Norton dies at 93
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2005:
Andre Norton, 93, died on March 17 from congestive heart
failure at her home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, attended by
longtime caretaker Sue Stewart.
Born Alice Mary Norton, in Cleveland, Ohio, Andre Norton
changed her name to evade discrimination against female authors in
1934, when she published The Prince Commands, the second novel she
wrote. Her first, Ralestone Luck, appeared in 1938.
Employed in the Cleveland Public Library children’s section
until 1950, except in 1941 when she owned a bookstore in Maryland
and briefly worked for the Library of Congress, Norton at first
wrote exclusively for the young audience she knew best. Two years
after becoming a manuscript reader for Gnome Press, a science
fiction publisher, Norton produced Star Man’s Son (1952), her first
attempt at sci-fi. Reissued by Ace Books as Daybreak–2250 A.D., it
became her first mass market paperback hit.
After several more sci-fi successes, Norton left Gnome Press
to write fulltime in 1958. To that point, science fiction targeted
mostly male readers; fantasy was written for females. Norton
mingled the genre in The Beast Master (1959), introducing both the
style that would characterize the most productive phase of her
career, and the motif of telepathic communication among animals and
humans that recurs in most of her biggest hits.
The Beast Master and a sequel, Lord of Thunder (1962), were
loosely adapted into the Beastmaster television series (1999-2002),
produced in Australia. After the show was cancelled, Norton and Lyn
McConchie, of New Zealand, issued two further sequels, Beast
Master’s Ark (2002), about an effort to recover lost species using
stored DNA, and Beast Master’s Circus (2004), involving a struggle
to bring a cruel intergalactic circus to justice that mirrors current
earthly efforts to prosecute ever-moving animal acts.
Keeping as many as seven pet cats at a time, Norton as
“Andrew North” in 1953 published All Cats Are Gray, and a year later
issued Mousetrap. Having created her first cat-like creatures with
telepathic abilities in The Beast Master, Norton explored that idea
further in Catseye (1961), which starts in an upscale pet shop;
Breed to Come (1972), Star Ka’at (1976), Star Ka’at World (1976),
Star Ka’Ats & the Plant People (1979), Star Ka’Ats & the Winged
Warriors (1981), The Gate of the Cat (1987), and The Mark of the Cat
(1992), reissued in 2002 with a sequel, The Year of the Rat.
Usually known for astute judgement of her audience, Norton
in the latter made rats the villains, and may have been surprised
that the book was panned by some of the readers she had persuaded to
view animals as moral equals.
Norton also edited several anthologies featuring cats.
In Star Hunter (1961), set on a planet opened to trophy
hunting because it was deemed devoid of intelligent life, Norton
satirized the pretexts and practices of recreational hunters. She
expanded upon the theme in Night of Masks (1964) and Iron Cage (1974).
As the Civil War centennial approached, Norton produced the
historical novels Ride Proud, Rebel! (1961) and Rebel Spurs (1962),
recycling research done originally for her 1956 western Stand To
Horse. Romanticizing the pro-slavery side of the war, the Rebel
series belonged to a literature of denial made notorious by The
Clansman (1905) by Thomas Dixon, restored to respectability a
generation later by Margaret Mitchell in Gone With The Wind (1936).
Norton’s efforts, published just as the civil rights movement made
the genre anachronistic, are remembered chiefly for the characters
Shawnee the horse and Hannibal the mule.
Norton herself seems to have reappraised her direction. To
that point, Norton’s work usually featured outcasts. Thereafter,
her characters tended to be outcasts at least in part because they
belonged to despised minorities or underclasses. Many were
Key Out of Time (1963) featured Karara, a Polynesian girl
whose pair of telepathic dolphins help to save the earth from space
invaders. Scientific attention to dolphin intelligence and
communication had just begun, and the popularity of the novel may
have contributed to the growth of the marine mammal exhibition
industry–but it also helped to build opposition to human activities
that harm dolphins.
Moon of Three Rings (1966) combined pro-civil rights and
pro-animal rights themes with political satire, in which Krip the
Free Trader was turned into an animal resembling a pine marten as a
defense against “evil power seekers,” who somewhat resembled
Writing about fantastic animals based upon familiar species
was probably what Norton did best. Among her many works starring
unicorns, dragons, and griffins were Year of the Unicorn (1965),
Ride the Green Dragon, co-written with Phyllis Miller (1985),
Dragon Magic (1967), The Crystal Gryphon (1972), Gryphon in Glory
(1981), Horn Crown (1981), Gryphon’s Eyrie, co-written with A.C.
Crispin (1984), Falcon Hope, co-written with Pauline Griffin (1992),
Flight of Vengeance, co-written with Pauline Griffin and Mary Schaub
(1992), On Wings of Magic, co-written with Patricia Matthews and
Sasha Miller (1993), Falcon Magic, with Sasha Miller (1994), and
her last book, Dragon Blade, also co-authored with Sasha Miller
The unicorn/dragon/griffin stories led Norton into exploring
the lives of characters combining human and animal characteristics.
Three novels co-written with Mercedes Lackey, Elvenbane (1991),
Elven-blood (1995), and Elvenborn (2002), thematically reflect the
ongoing debate over genetically modifying humans and animals with DNA
from other species.
Norton asked in her funeral arrangements that in lieu of
flowers, memorial donations should be sent to a local charity she
supported to help indigent people obtain veterinary care for their