Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Norton, Andre

 Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

Working name of US writer and ex-librarian Alice Mary Norton (1912-2005), who has also written as Andrew North and Allen Weston. A prolific writer, initially of historical adventures, AN made her name as the author of the Witch World series which, along with other novels of the period, were adopted as Science Fiction but are essentially fantasy, as is much of her output. (Her sf output, mostly YA, is detailed in SFE.)

AN began writing in the 1930s with the nonfantasy The Prince Commands (1934), though at the same time she was seeking story sales in the sf field. Manuscripts accepted by William Crawford (1911-1984) for his semi-professional magazine Marvel Tales in 1934 had to wait nearly 40 years for their complete publication in Garan the Eternal (coll 1972), although a few samples, such as "The People of the Crater" (1947 Fantasy Book), surfaced earlier. AN's first-published fantasy books were Rogue Reynard (1947) and Huon of the Horn (1951), both YA and based on medieval Romances (Reynard the Fox and The Song of Roland respectively). The lack of a good fantasy market caused her to focus on sf during the 1950s, but thanks to her editor at Ace Books, Donald A Wollheim, AN was able to return to the fantastic adventure with Witch World (1963). Although the story starts as sf it soon develops as a Planetary Romance. Simon Tregarth passes through a Portal in a Cornish stone (the Siege Perilous) and finds himself in the land of Estcarp on the planet Witch World, where he helps the inhabitants against the invading Kolder. The natives are called witches because they have psi-powers (see Talents) aided by jewels. The popularity of the book resulted in a series, and in the later titles AN shifted away from the sf premise and developed instead the psychic/magical abilities of the witches and the world they live in, and the mysterious Old Ones who, we presume, were earlier inhabitants or colonists who developed the superior technology of the world and created the portals. The core series includes Web of the Witch World (1964), Year of the Unicorn (1965) – first three assembled as Annals of the Witch World (omni 1994) – Three Against the Witch World (1965), Warlock of the Witch World (1967) and Sorceress of the Witch World (1968). AN then developed a parallel series set in the lands of Arvon and High Halleck, which are across the sea from Estcarp; here the society is less matriarchal and the inhabitants have Shapeshifting abilities. This series includes Year of the Unicorn (1965), The Crystal Gryphon (1972), Spell of the Witch World (coll 1972), The Jargoon Pard (1974), Gryphon in Glory (1981) and, with A C Crispin (1950-    ), Gryphon's Eyrie (1984). Other stories in the series are rather more loosely adapted to the framework and fill in gaps in the world's history. The earliest setting is in Horn Crown (1981). The rest are Trey of Swords (1977), Zarsthor's Bane (1978), Lore of the Witch World (coll 1980), 'Ware Hawk (1983), Were-Wrath (1984 chap), Serpent's Tooth (1987 chap) and The Gate of the Cat (1987). Witch World has become a Shared World, with books either edited or codeveloped with AN. With P M Griffin (1947-    ), AN has written Storms of Victory (1991) and with Crispin Songsmith (1992). AN has compiled Tales of the Witch World (anth 1989), Tales of the Witch World II (anth 1988), Four from Witch World (anth 1989), Tales of the Witch World III (anth 1990), plus Flight of Vengeance (anth 1992) in collaboration with Griffin and Mary Schaub, and On Wings of Magic (anth 1993) with Patricia Mathews and Sasha Miller. A new subseries, Secrets of the Witch World, has been developed with Lyn McConchie, starting with The Key of the Keplian (1995). The series, while itself derivative – particularly of the works of Leigh Brackett – has also been immensely influential, most evidently in the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley and the Diadem books by Jo Clayton, and to some extent in the Pern stories by Anne McCaffrey. The stories improved once AN got into her stride – the books of the early 1970s are strongest on character and plot – yet, despite their popularity, have an increasing repetitiveness.

The same can be said of her Magic books, which are derivative of the Children's Fantasy novels by Edith Nesbit, where everyday objects become magical Talismans able to whisk children into past times or worlds of legend. These Time Fantasies began with Steel Magic (1965; vt Gray Magic 1967), where knives and forks transported the children back to the age of Arthur. In Octagon Magic (1967) a Victorian house is a portal to the Civil War, and in Fur Magic (1968) an Indian medicine bag transports a girl back to the days of Indian legend. These three were assembled as The Magic Books (omni 1988). Others in this loosely connected series are Dragon Magic (1972), in which a magic box transports four children back to each of their ancestral origins; Lavender-Green Magic (1974), where a maze in an English stately home transports children to Puritan England; and Red Hart Magic (1976), where the model of a 16th-century English inn is the portal to that period.

AN's other solo fantasies follow similar patterns, usually involving children or adults transported through time or into other dimensions. Here Abide Monsters (1973) takes two children into an alternate universe of Avalon. Merlin's Mirror (1975), another Arthurian fantasy, portrays Merlin and Arthur as aliens with superscientific technology. Somewhat different is Mark of the Cat (1992) where AN develops Karen Kuykendall's cat paintings into a story about the Cat people. The Hands of Llyr (1994) tells of a couple's search for light in a land of darkness, and may almost be treated as an Allegory. Mirror of Destiny (1995) uses a mirror to stop a war between mankind and Faerie, and is perhaps the most refreshing of her novels.

Much of AN's later work is in collaboration. The main Otherworld fantasy is the Black Trillium series, developed from a concept by literary agent Uwe Luserke. The first volume, Black Trillium (1990), is a collaboration with Marion Zimmer Bradley and Julian May, a modern Fairytale (with many Technofantasy and Planetary-Romance elements) about three princesses seeking to regain their kingdom. The series was then continued by each writer individually, AN's novel being Golden Trillium (1993). With Mercedes Lackey AN wrote the Halfblood series starting with The Elvenbane (1991) and Elvenblood (1995), set in a world where cruel Elves do battle with men and shapeshifters. AN's less typical collaborations are with Phyllis Miller (1920-2001), beginning with the Nesbitesque Seven Spells to Sunday (1979) and including the admirable House of Shadows (1984). With Robert Bloch she wrote The Jekyll Legacy (1990).

Although AN has concentrated on novels she has produced enough short fiction to fill the following volumes: The Many Worlds of Andre Norton (coll 1974; vt The Book of Andre Norton 1975) ed Roger Elwood (1943-2007), High Sorcery (coll 1970), Perilous Dreams (coll 1976), Moon Mirror (coll 1988), Grand Master's Choice (coll 1989) and Wizards' Worlds (coll 1989), the last three compiled with Ingrid Zierhut.

Despite frequent superficiality and repetitiveness, AN manages to create much memorable fiction. Its particular appeal has been in the development of female characters and the encouragement of other women writers – for this AN will have left a significant legacy. Her popularity and impact on the field has won her many honorific Awards, notably the Grand Master World Fantasy Award and the Gandalf Award in 1977 and the Fritz Leiber Award in 1983. [MA]

other works: The Moon Magic or Moon Singer series, imitation Witch World, being Moon of Three Rings (1966), Exiles of the Stars (1971), Flight in Yiktor (1986), Dare to Go A-Hunting (1990). Singletons include Dread Companion (1970), Forerunner Foray (1973), Wraiths of Time (1976), Quag Keep * (1978) – based on the Dungeons & Dragons GameYurth Burden (1978), which is another planetary romance, Moon Called (1982), Wheel of Stars (1983) and, with Phyllis Miller, Ride the Green Dragon (1985).

as editor: Small Shadows Creep (anth 1974; cut 1974 UK), featuring children's ghosts; the Magic in Ithkar series with Robert Adams, being Magic in Ithkar (anth 1985), #2 (anth 1985), #3 (anth 1986) and #4 (anth 1987); and the Catfantastic series with Martin H Greenberg, being Catfantastic (anth 1989), II (anth 1991) and III (anth 1994).

see also: Susan Shwartz.

Alice Mary Norton


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.