Andre Norton: Creator and Guardian of Fantastic Worlds
Student workers join the Special Collections Research Center over the summer to work on focused projects and internships. For the month of August we will be highlighting student work and student research projects from summer 2019. This week, we highlight a research post from one of our graduate student workers.
By Jana Rosinski, Curatorial Assistant
Syracuse University Libraries Special Collections' Pulp Literature and Science Fiction Collections is home to the papers of Andre Norton (other pen names: Alex North and Allen Weston), a science fiction and fantasy phenom with enough publications to inhabit the many worlds she created. The Andre (Alice Mary) Norton Papers, a gift from Andre Norton, contains Norton's writing in varying stages of development, correspondence with other science fiction and fantasy authors, and a sampling of fanzines she followed.
Amra: covers from issues vo.2, no.26, October 1963; vo. 2 no. 27, November 1963
As a writer, Norton’s some 300 titles that spanned over her epic 70 year career as a writer are awe-inspiring to me. Breaking into the largely male-inhabited realms of science fiction and fantasy in the 1940s and 50s and earning a plethora of awards for her creativity and contributions to the genre shouldn’t be overlooked—she was the first woman Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy, the first woman to be the Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master, and the first woman inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. But what is truly stellar is her immersion in the community of science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts (AKA fandom).
Norton provided support to science fiction fan communities and other writers in several ways. Aside from trying her hand at owning and running a bookstore in 1941, reading for Gnome Press (a small publisher of what would come to be considered sci-fi classics), and working at the Library of Congress and nearly every branch within her home library system, Norton subscribed to fanzines and engaged with writers, illustrators, and readers in the community.
Fanzines (way pre-internet) were DIY publications of fan fiction, original art and pieces of writing, a space for reviews of books and movies, a means of knowing the realm’s goings-on (conventions, group activities, and other events), and analogue discussion forums. These pages allowed cross-country and even global communication and connection between humans who really loved a character, series, world, or even just an element of the genre.
Review of one of Norton's books from The WSFA Journal, the official organ of the Washington Science Fiction Association, no. 37, February 1967.
SCRC has an assortment of fanzines owned by Norton that she collected as a fan, including an issue with her handwritten note about an illustrator and regular contributor, suggesting her knowledge of the publication, as well as an issue of Amra, a swordplay & sorcery fanzine about Conan the Barbarian, with a letter addressed to Norton from the zine’s editor. Since this was 1962, each issue was individually addressed and mailed to subscribers (some of the zines still have stamps and the handwritten traces of this). Noting that Norton was a patron of the publication, the editor thanks her for her support and even asks for her to contribute an original piece (while also joking about all the fanzine can offer in cents per word).
Continuing her support of writers, Norton went on to create a research and reference library of popular literature genres for writers, with a foundation of some ten thousand texts from her personal library. She called the research library High Hallack, named for a continent from her Witch World series. In addition to texts, Norton provided art and videos she collected, as well as support for mail and phone inquiries. Like fanzines, the library was a space for the celebration of fandom and the exploration of new worlds.
Through her fiction, fan patronage, and her amassed collections, Norton created galaxies for exploration that continue to serve as ready portals to discovery.
The Special Collections Research Center is dedicated to providing opportunities for student learning and research. Stay tuned for more updates from our students throughout the month of August.
The Andre (Alice Mary) Norton Papers, are part of the Special Collections Research Center's manuscript collections (Andre (Alice Mary) Norton Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries).
“High Hallack Library.” Andre-Norton-Books.com, 2019, www.andre-norton-books.com/andre-s-life/high-hallack-library.
Norton, Andre. “High Hallack Library: What It Is and Why.” The SFWA Bulletin, Winter 1999, pp. 24-25.