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Present Writers: C.J. Cherryh

This is the latest in a recurring series! For more about the series, please read the original post on Marta Randall, or subsequent posts on Dorothy Heydt, Barbara Hambly, Jane Yolen, Suzy McKee Charnas, Sherwood Smith, Nisi Shawl, Pamela Dean, Gwyneth Jones , Caroline Stevermer, Patricia C. Wrede, Lois McMaster Bujold, Nancy Kress, Diane Duane, Candas Jane Dorsey, Greer Gilman, Robin McKinley, Laurie Marks, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman,Rosemary Kirstein, Karen Joy Fowler, Susan Cooper, Ellen Klages, and Lisa Goldstein.

When I heard that C.J. Cherryh had been named SFWA Grand Master, I half-shouted, “well, it’s about time!” Cherryh has been incredibly prolific for literally longer than I’ve been alive. She has over eighty novels and loads of short stories. She’s won all the major awards. If Cherryh is not a Grand Master, the term has no meaning.

So with all that gigantic body of speculative fiction work to consider, there’s always the question: where do you even start? I have several answers.

  1. The Pride of Chanur. The first of the Chanur series, this has strong family themes, interesting aliens, lots of derring-do…basically all the things you might want in a Cherryh novel. For those of you who love cats, the fact that the protagonist’s species is similar to felines may be a bonus, but if you’re not a starry-eyed cat person, it’s not the kind of cat content that gets annoying.
  2. Finity’s End. Did somebody say strong family themes? The Alliance-Union books are full of families having family drama at FTL speeds. This one happens to be a favorite for me, just because of the shape of the characters or maybe because I read it at just the right time. It’s sharper and less murky than some of the others, and the sense of space is amazing in it.
  3. Foreigner. This is the beginning of a series that is still ongoing; book 21 is due out later this year. Don’t worry, you can stop at any time! Seriously, it’s divided into trilogies, each of which is doing its own thoughtful and related thing. There’s a lot of science fiction that posits that what humanity has over other species and/or robots is our capacity to love. The Foreigner series actually considers that: what would it look like if an alien species had similar but different primary emotional wiring, what if it was not just “aliens are broken, those poor aliens who Know Not Love,” but rather “here’s how they work that’s related, here are the places they and humans could trip over the differences.” I find it fascinating, and I love watching the relationships that work in their own weird ways.

There are plenty of other good places to start if you have an interest in Cherryh’s considerations of love, loyalty, humanity and the other, but those are my recommendations. I’m really glad that she’s still around giving us more ideas every year.

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