Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Andre Norton 1912–

(Pseudonym of Alice Mary Norton; has also written under pseudonym of Andrew North) American novelist, short story writer, and editor. Although she began her literary career by writing historical novels in the 1930s, Norton turned to science fiction in the 1950s and it is in this genre that she has made her most significant contribution. She is generally regarded as one of the foremost writers of "space opera", and is certainly one of the best-selling women authors in the field. As a teenager Norton planned on a career as a history teacher; she eventually became a children's librarian and a professional writer. Both her early interest in history and her library training in research have played significant roles in her writing. Norton extensively researches each of her books, using folklore, legends, history (especially Greek and Roman), archeology, anthropology, and the occult in her fiction. Her careful scholarship is evident in her work, which is frequently praised for its convincing, detailed backgrounds. Norton's first novel, The Prince Commands, was accepted for publication before she was 21. She continued to write primarily historical fiction until the 1940s, when she turned to adventure and spy stories. An espionage novel, The Sword Is Drawn, was given an award by the Netherlands government in 1946 for its portrayal of that nation at war. Although she had been writing science fiction sporadically for some time, it was only after she had edited several science fiction anthologies that Norton found a publisher for her first science fiction novel, Star Man's Son. The success of this book and Norton's subsequent titles helped to open the field for other writers. She aims most of her fiction at a young adult audience; however, her work is also read by a considerable number of adults. Strong elements of fantasy and magic color much of her science fiction, and she has written some pure fantasies. Norton's universe is menacing, with the lines of Good versus Evil clearly drawn. Ambiguity has little place in her vision, and her characters are either heroes or villains. For this reason her works have been likened to Westerns, and her moral certainty has led some critics to consider her pompous or didactic. Although her vision is of a hostile universe, Norton is essentially an optimist, and her protagonists are given the courage and resourcefulness to prevail against tremendous odds. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 1.)