ANDRE NORTON – ANOTHER WRITING HERO
It was the early 70’s when I was stationed at Torrejon Air Base in Spain that I discovered Andre Norton. At that time, they must’ve done a reprint of her Captain Jellico novels under the pen name Andrew North. I easily became hooked on those space adventures.
From there, I discovered her real name, Andre Norton, (actually Alice Mary Norton). Turns out that in the Stars & Stripes bookstore, there were plenty of titles in the fantasy section under her real name also. This was around the time I made my first ill-fated attempt at a story, bought the typewriter and made it through three quarters of a page of my Star Trek satire. At least it was science fiction!
Maybe it was the simplicity, the plotting, or the way she drew the worlds, but I always liked the Captain Jellico series the best. Though I moved on to the Witch World, at that stage of my life, I could more relate to space adventures, probably because of my love of all things icky bug. However, there was no mistaking Andre’s signature style, her plotting, and her voice. It’s something I’ve carried into my own writing.
I probably have been doing it subconsciously, but her protagonist always coming out on top is something that drew me. Her generally positive outcomes, despite overwhelming odds, is another aspect I use.
Despite the male name Andrew North and the gender-neutral Andre Norton, I picked up pretty quick that this author was female. Though information was extremely hard to come by back in the early 70’s, I found a brief bio somewhere and discovered that Andrew/Andre was indeed a female author. Being a male, did this turn me off, make me stop reading her work, make me move on to other “less girly” stories?
I have and always will be a gender neutral reader. Of course, I have no interest in reading girly romances. Of course, that’s not my genre. Andre didn’t write in that style at all. In the Captain Jellico series, I don’t recall any romance at all. They were pure adventure, one of my favorite genres. Her Witch World series may have had a bit, but they weren’t Harlequin Romances!
Was I surprised to learn Andre was a female? Not really. Was I surprised to discover her stories weren’t full of girly romance? Maybe a little, in my naiveté. One thing I’ve learned is not to judge. If I were that biased, I would’ve missed out on so many wonderful authors like Carol Davis Luce, Rhondi Vilott Salsitz (Elizabeth Forrest), J.A. Jance, Kathy Reichs, Catherine Coulter, and on occasion Patricia Cornwell among others.
Do those authors leak in a bit of girly romance? Sure they do, but do they focus on it? No, their stories are wonderful adventures, icky bug, mysteries, thrillers that happen to have a bit of romance in them, sometimes. No Harlequin Romances.
Andre Norton, besides all her other great qualities, taught me another great lesson, like the pen name Carolyn Keene of Nancy Drew fame. You can’t judge an author by their gender.
Andre Norton, the self-described “Old fashioned storyteller” set the bar very high. She had a great influence on me, another late-blooming story teller. I can only aspire to do the same.