Saturday, November 21, 2009

Zenna Henderson

I'm not sure how I arrived there -- I know I was looking at Wikipedia articles about Heinlein novels, though how I ended up doing that is a mystery, it's not like I haven't read them all, most several times over -- but I found myself reading about another of my favorite authors, Zenna Henderson.

Her stories of "The People," very human-looking aliens fleeing disaster who crash-landed in lifeboats scattered all over North America in the early part of the 20th Century, offer a nearly unique take on one of the genre's more uncommon ideas and her work outside that series is at least as strong. Widely enjoyed -- L. Neil Smith speaks highly of her and he is hardly alone -- her work is anything but conventional SF, despite straightforward narrative and a deft touch at setting scenes and establishing characters.

Somehow, she makes mindreading aliens as real and as homey as Aunt Bea. Well worth checking out if you never have; despite a lack of rayguns or futuristic appurtenances, Zenna Henderson's worlds are wonderful places to visit.

11 comments:

Asphyxiated Emancipation said...

Can you recommend a good starting point for someone who hasn't read her stuff? I hate reading something new, only to find I am reading out of sequence...

Roberta X said...

Delightfully enough, there's no "sequence;" the stories are not toghtly connected, but illuminate a coherent image of the shipwrecked survivors finding one another and putting their lost past together by way of vignettes. "The People: No Different Flesh" is one of the easier titles to find or remember.

A bit over half of her published work -- nearly all short-story collections -- fits into The People series. The rest tend to be stand-alone yarns.

reflectoscope said...

I'm in.

Jim

As for wikipedia... Here.

D.W. Drang said...

For all that there is to dislike about living in Martin Luther King County*, WA, the library system is pretty good. They have the New England Science Fiction Association Press edition of Ingathering : the complete people stories of Zenna Henderson.
Oooh, look! His share of glory : the complete short science fiction of C. M. Kornbluth , too!

D.W. Drang said...

Added: ISBN for the Zenna Henderon is 0915368587; for the Cornbluth 0915368609.

charles said...

I will have to see what IMCPL has of her writing. Never heard anything of her before.

Popgun said...

Hi, Roberta;

I've read everything by Zenna Henderson I could get my hands on, several times. I second your opinion.

About Heinlein also. I just finished rereading Stranger in a Strange Land for probably the 20th time over the years.

Some fiction is worth reading twice.

-Popgun

Mark Alger said...

Oo! Zenna Henderson. Yes. One of the greats, IMNSVHO. I have named several tool containers and one paint box "The Anything Box." (Serially, of course, not all at once.)

My friend Jamie Voss writes in a voice that is reminiscent of ZH. I wish Jamie could get wider publication.

M

BobG said...

I read all of her stuff when I was a kid; they're quite enjoyable and good at any age.

Crucis said...

There was at least one collection of her stories. I had it at one time but it's since gotten lost amid the time since its purchase and amid moves and all.

As I remember, she wrote short stories. I don't think there ever was a novel length "People" book, just a collection of the stories.

Thanks for the remembrance, Roberta. I hadn't thought of her in a very long time.

pax said...

Hush! It's difficult enough to find her work as it is. Don't you go messing us up by sending a whole new generation out looking for her...