I've been reading Ingathering, the complete collection Zenna Henderson's short stories about The People, a group of very human aliens who fled the destruction of their planet some time in the late 19th Century. A few scattered groups crash-landed on Earth, mostly in the West and Southwest. Their technology was largely psionic and only a few among them are powerfully gifted, so it's a long, slow process of rebuilding while concealing their differences, surrounded by people who look like them, but have none of their powers--
This is a setup that in different hands could be genuinely dreadful, a swamp of pulp cliches. Not in hers. Zenna Henderson was a lifelong teacher, usually in rural elementary schools; she had a deep affection for the best of small-town life and it permeates these stories. She was also a gifted writer of understated prose, with an fine eye for just how much to leave unsaid. The People are, by and large, genuinely good and a typical Henderson story has them overcoming adversity, rediscovering their past and/or helping others -- as if The Waltons could levitate and do a little mind-reading (etc.), while being careful to not get caught at it. They're also genuinely, if somewhat ecumenically, religious, presented in a positive way rarely encountered in science fiction. I suppose they could be considered a bit sentimental -- but far too much SF has no heart at all, or only a tritely bloody or bleeding heart. Hers is neither. Henderson's tales are far back from any front lines, mostly between the wars or riots, set with the healers, home and hearth. She finds plenty of conflict there.
Most of Henderson's work was published in a few paperback collections, now long out of print but still available. A few were only published in SF magazines, or not at all -- until Ingathering was published in 1995. I started reading near the end, past the stories I had already read and enjoyed, and so arrived at Shadow On The Moon (1962).
The plot is not too dissimilar to Robert A. Heinlein's Requiem, and yet the story she tells is very different. I recommend it, and won't go into details lest I spoil your enjoyment.
5 months ago