The Chronicles of Tornor by Elizabeth A. Lynn

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(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

When the books of the Chronicles of Tornor were first published, Lynn’s career as a fantasy and science-fiction author appeared full of promise. She had published A Different Light (1978), a science-fiction novel, before publishing the three Tornor novels, and she followed them with another science-fiction novel, The Sardonyx Net (1981), and a collection of previously published stories, The Woman Who Loved the Moon and Other Stories (1981). She was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award in 1977, and in 1980 she received the World Fantasy Award for Watchtower and for the short story “The Woman Who Loved the Moon” (originally published in Amazons!, edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, 1979). Her work received good reviews. In the remainder of the 1980’s, however, her only two full-length books were both for children: The Silver Horse (1984), a fantasy novel, and Babe Zaharias (1988), a biography of the athlete.

Lynn’s range as a writer is easily seen in the collection The Woman Who Loved the Moon and Other Stories. The stories include science fiction (set both on Earth and on alien worlds), fantasy, and what Lynn herself calls “category-straddling” stories that contain elements of science fiction and crime fiction, among other genres.

Science fiction was for a long time a market dominated by men, both in readership and in authorship. It was not until the 1960’s and 1970’s, with the rise of the women’s movement, that women began to both read and write science fiction. Suzy McKee Charnas and Joanna Russ have both written of the difficulties they had in beginning to write science fiction with only male role models available to them. Lynn’s work shows her own attempts to shape the genre into one in which women have a place. Lynn was teaching in the women’s studies program at San Francisco State University when the Chronicles of Tornor were published, and the importance of feminism to her is clear in the novels. She uses the freedom generated by the creation of an imaginary world to create a society in which women are truly equal to men.

The Chronicles of Tornor resist many of the clichés and stock characters of fantasy. There are no wise old men, great warriors, submissive love-struck damsels in distress, or warrior women who learn their place as wives. Nor is Lynn concerned with the outward action of an adventure story, one of the traditional masculine forms of fiction. Although the novels are not free from violence, and Ryke and Paxe are both soldiers, the significant development and action of the novels tends to be internal rather than external. All three novels include external conflicts resolved by some form of...

(The entire section is 672 words.)