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The Best Science Fiction by C.J. Cherryh ‘Grand Master of Science Fiction’

By / February 18, 2016 / no comments

The SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) has announced that C.J. Cherryh has been named the 32nd Damon Knight Grand Master for her contributions to the literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The Damon Knight Grand Master Award is a lifetime honour presented annually at the Nebula Awards banquet in May. The award goes to a living writer chosen by past and serving officers of the SFWA, and is recognised as the ultimate honour in the sf field.

The first Grand Master was Robert A. Heinlein (1975), and others so honoured include Arthur C. Clarke (1986), Isaac Asimov (1987), Ray Bradbury (1989), Brian Aldiss (2000), Harlan Ellison (2006) and Gene Wolfe (2013). Cherryh is only the fifth woman to receive the honour, after Andre Norton (1984), Ursula K. Le Guin (2003), Anne McCaffrey (2005) and Connie Willis (2012).

C.J. Cherryh won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1977, and won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Downbelow Station and Cyteen (which also won the Locus Award for Best Novel). She also won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Cassandra”.

downbelow station
Cherryh’s 60 or so novels are mostly set within a series of overlapping and interconnecting universes. The main sequence is her Alliance-Union universe, an extended future history that so far includes 27 novels and an assortment of short stories, anthologies and other pieces. The overall story concerns tensions between military and corporate bodies as humanity slowly extends across space, creating a series of distinct cultures but all in some way dependent upon Earth. Within this universe there are several distinct arcs, and I’m going to pick out one or two representative titles from each which, along with the two award winners listed above, make a really great way to start with C.J. Cherryh if you’ve not read her stuff before:

merchanter's luck
The Company Wars pretty well gets the Alliance-Union sequence off to an explosive start with novels like Merchanter’s LuckHeavy Time and Finity’s End.

The End of Rapprochement includes Serpent’s Reach and Forty Thousand in Gehenna.

The Chanur novels introduce us to a fascinating range of aliens, and the best place to start is the first novel in the sequence, Pride of Chanur.

gate of Ivrel
Cherryh’s earliest novels, the Morgaine Cycle with its time-travelling heroine, is loosely connected to the Alliance-Union stories, but only very tenuously. The first in the sequence is Gate of Ivrel.

There’s also the First Contact sequence that consists of six separate trilogies (18 novels in all, of which 16 have so far appeared) and that begins with Foreigner.

And that really only scratches the surface, but for densely textured space operas, with vividly realistic setting, complex politics, dramatic plots and curious aliens you really can’t go wrong with C.J. Cherryh.

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