“Science fiction is a dialogue, a tennis match, in which the Idea is volleyed from one side of the net to the other. Ridiculous to say that someone 'stole' an idea: no, no, a thousand times no. The point is the volley, and how it's carried, and what statement is made by the answering 'statement.' In other words if Burroughs initiates a time-gate and says it works randomly, and then Norton has time gates confounded with the Perilous Seat, the Siege Perilous of the Round Table, and locates it in a bar on a rainy night do you see both the humor and the volley in the tennis match?”.
American Speculative Fiction
author, fairly prolific. She was a Classics teacher before working full-time as a writer, with a degree in Latin and a Masters in Classics. Unsurprisingly given the humanities background, her works tend more towards examining the social implications of things. Has written a fair amount of fantasy, but she's best known for her science fiction, having won two Hugos
for novels and one for a short story. Most of the science fiction elements in her stories tend to be of the "hard
" variety, with Faster-Than-Light Travel
generally being the only major deviation from currently understood physics, but, her works fall more in line with social science fiction.
Has her own extensive website
Works with their own page on this wiki:
Other works include:
- The Faded Sun trilogy, aka The Mri Wars, set in the Alliance/Union 'verse, and centered around a desert-based alien warrior race
- The Rider/Finisterre novels, a planet-set adventure with a number of Wild West elements. Cowboys on alien horses.
- The Fortress series, High Fantasy centered on the friendship between Tristen, a reborn ancient king and Cefwyn, the current ruler of his lands.
- Russian series, a magical ghost story set in a Slavic (vs generic European) setting
- The Dreaming Tree, High Fantasy with elves.
- Lois & Clarke: A Superman Novel, a licensed novel based on the TV series, Lois and Clark.
- Hunter of Worlds, science fiction about an alien man named Aiela who is taken as a servant by a powerful member of the predatory iduve race and technologically mind-linked to two other people (one of them human) for the purpose of resolving an iduve political conflict.
Her works display examples of:
- Action Girl: Taizu from The Paladin.
- Arrows on Fire: employed by Shoka from the Paladin.
- Amnesiac Dissonance - It's pretty clear that Tristen fell under Good Is Not Nice at best in his previous life.
- Automaton Horses: Adverted strongly in multiple works. Her characters fall off horses, get horses shot out from under them, switch remounts to prevent exhaustion, have trouble going through thick woods after people on foot, and spend a tremendous amount of time feeding, brushing, and caring for their mounts. Strongest in the Morgaine, Paladin and Finisterre novels, but it even shows up in the conventional SF works.
- Battle Couple: Taizu and Shoka from The Paladin.
- Be Careful What You Wish For - In the Rusalka fantasy trilogy, a wizard's wishes will come true — all of them. Somehow. Not always in a way that's good for the wizard. Wishing a stone to fly won't make it levitate — it'll cause something to come along and fling that stone through the air. "Wish a stone to fly — and then beware the whirlwind."
- Tristen has to watch this, because his wishes have a lot of power.
- Blue and Orange Morality - The Atevi in the Foreigner series who don't have the concepts of love or friendship, but do have something called "man'chi". Bitter experience has shown that humans and Atevi shouldn't mix except through the one authorized translator-ambassador.
- Also almost all the alien races in the Chanur novels.
- Even some of the human cultures in the Alliance/Union universe.
- Tristen just doesn't think like a human.
- In Hunter of Worlds, the iduve are this. They don't understand love or friendship—the closest they can get to saying they like someone is to say that the person has "chanokhia" (which is roughly equivalent to "virtue" or "artistry"). And they see nothing wrong with destroying an entire planet just to kill one person. And the person they want to roast sees nothing wrong with essentially marrying the woman who was going to kill him.
- Boarding Party - The power-armoured marines of Rimrunners, and other armed groups boarding stations and taking control in the Alliance/Union series.
- Bond Creatures - the night horses in her Rider series.
- Came Back Wrong - Tristen. Mauryl wanted a Badass, but got someone with the mind of a child. Even after he Took a Level in Badass, he's still a Friend to All Living Things Cloud Cuckoo Lander trying to figure out How Do I Shot Web? instead of a ruthless Magic Knight conquerer.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus/Corrupt Church - The state religion in the Fortress series.
- Dysfunction Junction - Finity's End: A boy abandoned by his family to the plight of an addict mother for two decades. Tripoint: A boy raised by an abusive mother, the product of rape and kidnapped by his father's ship. Cyteen: A woman raised to be her own clone and having to fight off her own predatory sexuality and deal with the raped clone of a man she wanted to rape... twice, while growing up. If there was a happy family in her universe, Cherryh killed it with fire.
- Eldritch Abomination - What Tristen was called back to fight. And probably Tristen himself is a Humanoid Abomination, although a very nice one.
- Fantastic Racism:
- Friend to All Living Things - Tristen, especially regarding horses and birds. Killing his birds is used to get to him more than once.
- Grey Eyes - Tristen, and any human with enough Sihhe blood to be a potential wizard.
- Grim Up North - Tristen's ultimate origin... probably. Although Mauryls thought as he prepares to shape Tristen that one man had reached the skill of shaping in the days of the Old Kingdoms, combined with Tristen's thought in Dragons about whoever had Shaped the Sihhe originally implies that the five Sihhe had an origin even further back.
- Honor Before Reason - Pyanfar sheltering Tully
- Humans Through Alien Eyes - The Pride of Chanur and Hunter of Worlds.
- I Am X Sonof Y - The amaut introduce themselves as X son of Y son of Z son of A of karsh (clan) A. In especially formal circumstances, they will list their entire pedrigee.
- Intrepid Merchant - Pyanfar Chanur
- Interplay of Sex and Violence: Iduve fight before mating (not that the actual mating is much gentler).
- Interspecies Romance - Double Subverted with Bren and Jago, since Jago is incapable of understanding what romance is. They still end up sleeping together.
- Pops up again in Hunter of Worlds, almost exactly the same way. Margaret (human) is in love with Tejef (iduve). This confuses and sometimes distresses him because he has no idea what it means. Iduve will also sometimes engage in mating for pleasure with their hereditary bond-servants.
- King in the Mountain - There are legends of this in the Fortress series: the rulers of the second major country are called Regents explicitly because of this.
- Long-Running Book Series - the Foreigner series. Also the Alliance/Union universe, if "stories in the same 'verse by the same author" counts as a "series".
- Manof Steel Woman Of Kleenex: Played with. Iduve are much stronger than every other species in the setting, but when they engage in pleasure-mating they're usually able to keep themselves under control and it's not a problem. However, Margaret treats Tejef like her equal since she wasn't raised to be a nas kami, so he sometimes gets the urge to respond to her as he'd respond to an iduve woman—ie, violently and with his full strength, since iduve having sex beat the crap out of each other first and during. He's able to repress it but he has to get away from her first.
- Of the People - Faded Sun
- Obfuscating Stupidity - A lot of people accuse Tristen of this, and even his best friend gets paranoid about it on occassion. Subverted since Tristen just really has that little clue about the world he's found himself in, complicated by the fact that he perceives reality differently.
- Our Elves Are Better - She uses several varieties. Wood Elves are common. Tristen is a subversion: he's a Cloud Cuckoo Lander who spends a lot of time needing help and advice from the older and wiser humans around him, as opposed to giving them advice, and while he does give advice, it's not condemnation of human culture and so on but practical stuff like 'Remember to close the windows.'
- Her novelette "Pots" was published in Janet Morris's anthology "Afterwar"...and was submitted after Morris complained that she was getting a lot of (unwanted) post-apoc stories about elves. Morris took the story anyway - probably because these elves had spaceships, AI moonrovers, and rayguns.
- "Scapegoat" (a Hugo nominee) uses 'elves' in-universe as slang for the aliens.
- Physical God - Tristen, pretty much.
- Power of Friendship - Averted in the Foreigner series, or even inverted, since Bren will generally pay for feeling that way. Invoked in the Fortress series, where Cefwyn is told that about the only option he has for dealing with a Physical God who was probably brought back in order to overthrow him is to get Tristen to like him too much to want to. It works.
- Rape Is Love - In Tripoint, Tom has to deal with a nightwalker, who shows her loneliness and desire for any sort of human contact by repeatedly and sadomasochistically raping him.
- Reality Warper - Tristen, in the Fortress series.
- Rescue Romance - Tristen and Ninevrise are sort of set up to have one of these. She marries Cefwyn instead.
- Rightful King Returns - Tristen, who doesn't want any.
- Ritual Magic - In the Fortress universe, complicated by the fact that a lot of ordinary actions have ritual magic significance and modern people don't know this. A Sealed Evil in a Can nearly escaped because the church had been remodeled and the priests started walking the wrong lines, messing up the Geometric Magic. It works for perfectly normal people, but better for Half-Human Hybrids and it's amazing how many descendants Tristen and his fellows have running around. Tristen eventually becomes Dangerously Genre Savvy about this, leading to some Cassandra Truth and Cassandra Did It moments when people don't take the warnings seriously.
- Rule of Three - Serious Business for Tristen, because the Ritual Magic of the setting means that repeating something three times puts magical power into making it true, and Tristen has a lot of power to throw around. Most people, on the other hand, don't get that it is that important.
- Also a felicitous number to the Atevi.
- Samus is a Girl - The Paladin
- Space Fighter - Hellburner centers on a fairly realistic Space Fighter — the eponymous Hellburner. Being essentially a carrier launched missile-firing-missile it is exceptionally difficult and physically punishing to fly.
- Tactful Translation - A central trope of the Foreigner verse, where Bren's tact and diplomacy has resulted in him being the paidhi, the only one allowed to translate between the humans and the aliens, even when he is no longer the only person who can speak to the aliens.
- The Verse - Most of Cherryh's works fit somewhere in her Alliance/Union universe. Note that her website doesn't necessarily show all the linkages, considering only the novels on the "direct line" in that universe; afterwords and appendices link many of the others in, including some of the seemingly-fantasy works.
- The Woobie - Tristen. Mentally very young, he loses the only father he's ever known to a nameless evil and sees his face locked in the walls; then there's the identity issues and how likely they are to cost him his new home and family, and the fact he keeps getting abandoned by people especially when he really needs them. And the fact the forces of evil kill his birds a lot. Then he starts noticing that Uwen is aging.
- Too Dumb to Live - Bren Cameron's reaction to his temporary replacement turns out she's a Not-So-Harmless Villain and the several times in the Fortress series when Tristen tells people that they really do need to do something that seems utterly trivial or like an enormous headache and they think it can't be that important.
- Vampire Invitation - Human dwellings are guarded by lines. Making sure that those lines aren't weakened either by carelessness or enemy action is a major concern in the Fortress series.
- Wild Magic - Tristen and the real Big Bad are sort of avatars of it.