Author of some of the most complex tales of multispecies interaction, her 'central' universe contains the plotlines known as Alliance/Union, Cyteen, and Chanur within its multiple loci. The Alliance/Union series is an excellent beginning point, and includes the following books, in chronological order: ...did I miss any?
One of the most attractive characteristics of C.J.'s writing (I hope she won't mind my referring to her in that way for brevity) is its focus in most cases on the alienness of humans. I have read three of her major 'universe' arcs in their entirety - the above-listed Alliance/Union books as well as the Chanur stories and the two trilogies of the Foreigner series. The latter is her most recent of the three, and it shows.

While it doesn't rise above the other two in quality or in scale (indeed, compared to the others its scale is quite limited) it is probably the most political of the three. I say this not in the grand 'interspecies/intersystem' sense, but in the most personal sense. Her careful, almost obsessive attention not so much to detail but to completeness and consistency produces a two-species relationship (humans and the atevi) which is more complicated than any relationship she has introduced thus far. One reason for this is that it is almost entirely face-to-face, as both races are confined (initially) to a single planet, whereas her other stories treat worlds and stations as single players.

In any case, back to my main point about humans as aliens. Even in the Alliance/Union universe, humans are aliens on every world we see. We never see Earth, other than as a distant sort of concept, even on those books set within the Solar System. Most of the books depict humans inhabiting artificial environments or worlds which aren't theirs by birth. Despite this, however, the politics of this series are all intrahuman, with the possible exception of the azi and the slight intrusion of the Downers.

Chanur is all about the complex interactions of multiple species in a tenuous and shifting Compact, into which the potental addition of humanity is dropped to stir and shatter alliances and alignments. In those books, humanity never manages a full speaking part; the sole human with such is limited by a language barrier to a pidgen and the ever-so-subtle interpretations of motives, actions and behavior.

This is why I read Cherryh's science fiction - she has the rare ability to create not only races which look and act differently, but truly think differently. In so doing, coupled with her storytelling, I am able with no trouble at all to feel their confusion, fear, anger and wonder when presented with 'merely' human behavior with which I myself have no trouble identifying.

Her full name is Carolyn Janice Cherryh.

Besides her SF novels, she also wrote a number of Fantasy books, including the Morgaine Cycle (which was written before Cherryh got her awards and became truly successful) and The Paladin.

Most of her books are highly captivating, because she has a true talent for creating believable settings and characters you really care for. The reader is also often showered with a great amount of information and references when witnessing a character's thought process. This can be overwhelming and confusing, but it makes the stories seem so much more real.

Born Carolyn Janice Cherryh in 1942, St. Louis Missouri. For those of you who may have wondered, her surname rhymes with cherry. Cherryh began writing when she was ten but didn't publish a novel until her ground breaking work Gate of Ivrel in 1976. Until then she had been living a normal, if not exceptionally diverse, life as a teacher.

In 1962 Cherryh received her B.A. in Latin from the University of Oklahoma. She quickly followed up with an M.A. in Classics, with a specialty in Roman Law, from Johns Hopkins in 1965. After graduation she returned to Oklahoma to begin her first career. Until she published her first book, Cherryh lived in Oklahoma City teaching Latin, Greek, Ancient History, writing and coaching the fencing team.

Cherryh's writing tends to draw upon her many interests in a diversity of fields including anthropology (she's a qualified field archaeologist), botany, climatology, language and engineering. She is technically sophisticated enough to draw upon these interests and incorporate them into her writing to create believable worlds and technology without becoming so detailed that the reader is required to understand particle physics or microbiology.

While a freshman in college Cherryh realized that demands of the stories she wished to write required an objectivity from narration that would require some changes in her writing style. Her style has been described as a simple past tense third person, but she calls it "intense third person." While still a student, Cherryh devised a strict set of style guidelines that allows her to completely immerse the flow and narration of the story in the character itself and the author is almost removed from influencing the narration of the story. Cherryh believes these guidelines are what allows her to approach storytelling with a unique perspective on the physiology, perception and culture of her well crafted alien characters.

If one theme is to be perceived through many of her works it is the evolution of intelligent predators and how the alien psychology of these creatures effects their relationships with humans. Two of her most popular alien races, the Atevi and the Mri are both portrayed as honorable warrior races on a different biological track than humans. Their basic needs are different than humans and this clearly effects the friction between the two and their human counterparts.

Cherryh's complex characters and environments, combined with amazingly sympathetic portrayals of alien psychology have earned her a reputation as a hard read. Some feel her work is inaccessible and akin to mental exercise. While that may be true for some, I have never failed to be completely captured by one of her books. The first novel of hers that I read was Foreigner. At first, it struck me as being juvenile and very similar to the science fiction works of Mercedes Lackey. The characters seemed flat and the premise difficult to understand, and so, the going was initially, very slow. That all changed within a few chapters. I was rapidly drawn into the story of a man out of his league and over his head in a world of swirling, barely understandable alien politics. I have since been completely hooked on her work and her characters. Cherryh is swiftly becoming one of my favorite authors.

Cherryh has published over 50 novels, and numerous short stories, anthologies and academic works. A complete bibliographic listing is beyond the scope of this node as she continues to publish at a furious pace. Her Hugo-nominated Cuckoo's Egg was written in two weeks. Cyteen, a complex novel about the moral implications of scientific responsibility, took only six months to write. It was easily four times as long as Cuckoo's Egg and won a Hugo in 1989.

Award Nominations Hugo award for The Faded Sun: Kesrith and short story Cassandra, 1979 Nebula award for The Faded Sun: Kesrith and short story Cassandra, 1979 Hugo for Downbelow, 1982 Hugo for Chanur's Venture, 1985 Hugo for Cuckoo's Egg, 1987 Hugo for Cyteen, 1989

Awards Won John W. Cambell Award, 1977 Hugo for short story Cassandra, 1979 Hugo for Downbelow, 1982 Hugo for Cyteen, 1989 Locus Award for Cyteen, 1988

Works cited

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