Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Cherryh, C J

Working name of US writer Carolyn Janice Cherry (1942-    ), who has established a very high reputation as an sf author since publication of her first novel, Gate of Ivrel (1976), a tale which, though its narrative strategies are fantasy-based, is tied by its underlying premise to sf. This novel begins the Morgaine sequence, which continues with Well of Shiuan (1978) and Fires of Azeroth (1979), all three being assembled as The Book of Morgaine (omni 1979; vt The Chronicles of Morgaine 1985 UK), plus Exile's Gate (1988). Morgaine is a member of a Pariah Elite whose task it is to travel through Portals that connect various worlds (each transit involves a shift in Time as well as space) and to destroy each portal (or gate) they travel through in order to protect the worlds from an alien race, which has used the gates to manipulate time. Any sense that Morgaine and her kin are a kind of Time Patrol is submerged in the tone, specifically in the abiding sense of Time Abyss which controls that tone, for Morgaine – to those she encounters – is a figure of Story, a fearsome manifestation from a legendary past.

CJC's Arafel sequence – Ealdwood (1981; rev vt The Dreamstone 1983) and The Tree of Swords and Jewels (1983), assembled as Arafel's Saga (omni 1983; vt Ealdwood 1991 UK) – is more orthodox, being a tale of traditional Thinning. In Ealdwood, a magical Forest which could also be described as a shrinking Polder, Arafel, the only surviving Elf, becomes involved with humans and half-humans in various conflicts based on Celtic material (> Celtic Fantasy). Similarly set in a Land-of-Fable Britain, though this time in Scotland, and also crosshatching (> Crosshatch) Faerie with an impinging world, Faery in Shadow (1993 UK) works as an elegy for loss of richness, and has been criticized for its bleakness.

The Rusalka sequence – Rusalka (1989), Chernevog (1990) and Yvgenie (1991) – also focuses on a crosshatched world, a Land-of-Fable medieval Russia, in which Rusalka, a Ghost, haunts and enamours a mortal; adventures ensue, presented in CJC's usual complex, intense, seemingly rushed but in fact highly crafted pellmell idiom. Fortress in the Eye of Time (1995) concentrates on a protagonist who is the Avatar of some Underlier figure of world-shaking importance, though for much of the novel he cannot find out just who; in the end, like a time-bomb, the action explodes. It might be suggested that CJC's idiom is perhaps better suited to the daunting scope and complications of her main sf work, the Union-Alliance sequence, which encompasses most of her oeuvre; but her fantasy remains vividly in the mind, and its lack of compromise or nostalgic warmth bodes well for its survival. [JC]

other works: The Paladin (1988); the Heroes in Hell Shared-World sequence, co-generated with Janet E Morris, being Heroes in Hell * (anth 1985), The Gates of Hell * (1986) and Kings in Hell * (1987), both with Morris, and Legions of Hell * (fixup 1987); the Sword of Knowledge shared-world sequence, being A Dirge for Sabis (1989) with Leslie Fish, Wizard Spawn (1989) with Nancy Asire (1945-    ) and Reap the Whirlwind (1989) with Mercedes Lackey; The Goblin Mirror (1992).

Carolyn Janice Cherry

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.