C. J. Cherryh

From Academic Kids

C. J. Cherryh is the slightly modified working name of author Carolyn Janice Cherry (born September 1, 1942), the sister of artist David A.Cherry. She has written more than 60 science fiction and fantasy books since the mid-1970s, including the Hugo Award winning Cyteen & Downbelow Station. A former resident of Oklahoma, she now lives in Spokane, Washington with author Jane Fancher. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1964 she received a Bachelor of Arts in Latin from University of Oklahoma and in 1965 received a Master of Arts in classics from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Missing image
C. J. Cherryh at 39th World Science Fiction Convention (Denvention Two), Denver, Colorado, 1981


Writing style

Cherryh often uses a style she calls "very tight limited third person". In this writing style, not only is the story told through the point of view of the current viewpoint character, but the only things that get narrated are what the viewpoint character notices or thinks about. So, for instance, if a starship captain arrives at a space station, the narration won't mention what the space station looks like or how it operates, even though these things might be of interest to the reader, because these are details that the captain is already well familiar with, so she doesn't notice them or think about them. This writing style is sometimes like directly reading the mind of the viewpoint character, in which cases it strongly resembles stream of consciousness.

Major themes

Cherryh's works depict fictional worlds with great realism supported by her strong background in languages, history, archaeology, and psychology. Her world-building skills rival J. R. R. Tolkien's, and allow her to create uniquely believable alien cultures, species, and perspectives, and to make the reader reconsider basic assumptions about human nature. Much of Cherryh's alien world is conveyed by impression rather than description, but very little narration is needed because her work is so elegantly simple in its complexity.

It is an oversimplification to say that Cherryh writes strong female characters. Gender is an important theme in several of her novels, but she is more subtle about it than Marion Zimmer Bradley or Jean M. Auel; over the course of her most overtly feminist series, men's liberation takes place. Her characters, both male and female, have many strengths and weaknesses; it is what makes them human, whether they are human or not. The classic hand-wringing, scantily-clad, passive female protagonist is nowhere to be found. For that matter, it is difficult to find an indecisive character anywhere in her fiction: Cherryh's creations know what is important to them, why it's important, and what they will or won't sacrifice for it. Even when they have conflicting loyalties, they don't do things for random, shallow, or inexplicable reasons, but for reasons well-rooted in their personalities, physiologies, and cultures, and consistent with their preceding decisions. Comparing Cherryh to most science fiction is like comparing a great drama to a soap opera.

Cherryh's fiction appeals strongly to sometimes marginalized science fiction readers partly because of a prominent recurring theme in most of her novels: an outsider finding his place. The outsider may be human or alien, male or female, the protagonist or a supporting character. He may be different from everyone else for cultural, biological, psychological, or magical reasons. Whether his struggle to find somewhere to belong is the primary plot or a background drama, the moment at which the puzzle piece clicks into place can be part of a powerful and exuberant ending.

The Cherryh Odyssey (2004, ISBN 0809510707; ISBN 0809510715), edited by Edward Carmien, compiles a dozen essays by academic and professional voices discussing the literary life and career of Cherryh. A bibliography is included.


The Alliance-Union Universe

This is a science fiction future history series, in which the development of nations and cultures occurs over a long time-scale. Major characters in one work may be refered to or appear briefly in another. The development of the fictional history is a major aspect of this series. Some of the works in this series are considered space opera by many critics and readers.

The Company Wars

  • Downbelow Station (1981)
  • Heavy Time (1991)
  • Hellburner (1992)

The Era of Rapprochement

  • Serpent's Reach (1980)
  • Merchanter's Luck (1982)
  • Forty Thousand in Gehenna (1983)
  • Rimrunners (1989)
  • Tripoint (1994)
  • Finity's End (1998)
  • Cyteen (1988)
    • also published in a 3-volume edition as The Betrayal, The Rebirth and The Vindication

The Chanur Novels

  • The Pride of Chanur (1981)
  • Chanur's Venture (1984)
  • The Kif Strike Back (1985)
  • Chanur's Homecoming (1986)
  • Chanur's Legacy (1992)

The Mri Wars

  • The Faded Sun: Kesrith (1978)
  • The Faded Sun: Shon'Jir (1978)
  • The Faded Sun: Kutath (1979)
    • The Faded Sun Omnibus (3-volume edition of the above books)

Merovingen Nights (Mri Wars Period)

  • Angel with the Sword (1985)
    • Merovingen Nights shared world series, featuring "braided" stories by Cherryh and others

The Age of Exploration

  • Port Eternity (1982)
  • Voyager in Night (1984)
  • Cuckoo's Egg (1985)

The Hanan Rebellion

  • Brothers of Earth (1976)
  • Hunter of Worlds (1977)
  • At the Edge of Space (Omnibus) (2003)

The Morgaine Cycle

  • Gate of Ivrel (1976)
  • Well of Shiuan (1978)
  • Fires of Azeroth (1979)
    • (Above three collected as The Morgaine Trilogy (US) or The Book of Morgaine (UK))
  • Exile's Gate (1988)

The Foreigner Universe

  • Foreigner (1994)
  • Invader (1995)
  • Inheritor (1996)
  • Precursor (1999)
  • Defender (2001)
  • Explorer (2003)
  • Destroyer (2005)
  • Pretender (anticipated publication 2006)

Gene Wars

  • Hammerfall (2001)
  • Forge of Heaven (2004)

Miscellaneous science-fiction

  • Hestia (1979)
  • Wave Without a Shore (1981)

Fantasy Works

  • Legions of Hell (1987)
  • The Paladin (1988)
  • Rusalka (1989)
  • Chernevog (1990)
  • Yvgenie (1991)
  • The Goblin Mirror (1992)
  • Faery in Shadow (1994) (Sequel to the short work "Brothers", included in Visible Light.)

The Fortress Series

  • Fortress in the Eye of Time (1995)
  • Fortress of Eagles (1998)
  • Fortress of Owls (2000)
  • Fortress of Dragons (2001)
  • Fortress of Ice (2005) in progress


  • The Dreamstone (1983)
  • The Tree of Swords and Jewels (1983)
    • also published as an omnibus


External links


de:C. J. Cherryh fr:C. J. Cherryh nl:C.J. Cherryh pl:C. J. Cherryh sv:C. J. Cherryh


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