Zenna & Her
The Zenna Henderson Homepage

Zenna Chlarson Henderson was born on November 1, 1917 in the Tucson, Arizona area. She graduated from Arizona State in 1940 with a Bachelors degree in education and worked as a teacher in Arizona throughout her life. She died on May 11, 1983, at the age of 65, in Tucson.

Henderson is known almost entirely for short stories about "The People." The People are a race of sensitive, human-looking aliens with psychic abilities who are separated after crash-landing on Earth but come to find each other over a period of many years.

Publishing her "People" stories in the leading science fiction magazines of the 50's, 60's and 70's, Henderson became a pioneer in many areas of science fiction literature. She was one of the first female science fiction writers, and was one of an even smaller number who wrote openly as a woman, without using male-sounding pseudonyms or initials (James Tiptree, Jr.; C. L. Moore; etc.).

In a time during which science fiction was often marked by unquestioned rationalism and pragmatism in which spiritual elements were often a taboo, unprintable subject, Henderson was also a pioneer in spiritual/religious science fiction. The People were a deeply spiritual and openly religious culture. In the twenty years since Henderson last wrote, even with the emergence of religion and spirituality as acceptable, even common themes in science fiction, few authors have matched the depth of spirituality of her work. Some of today's top science fiction writers who are know for the realistic positive portrayals of religious people in their literature, such as Kathy Tyers and Orson Scott Card, specifically cite Zenna Henderson as an important early influence on their careers.

One interesting aspect about the People stories is the strong degree to which very different groups of people identify with it: Christians (including such different camps as Evangelicals, Catholics and Latter-day Saints), GLBT, Wiccans, and Jews have all recommended Henderson's People stories. The stories, with their exclusivity and isolation from the broader culture combined with extreme inclusivity and compassion for one's own tribe, have struck a chord with many people who feel pulled by two different worlds.

Zenna Henderson was born and raised as a Latter-day Saint. She was baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her background growing up in rural, predominantly Mormon communities of Arizona is readily apparent in much of her writing, including her "People" stories. After marrying a non-LDS man (Richard Harry Henderson) in 1943, she is not known to have been active in the Church she was raised in. The reference work Contemporary Authors lists her simply as a "Methodist." Some sources indicate she attended an independent charismatic congregation toward the end of her life. Although Henderson's writing is widely known for its positive portrayal of faith, moral values and religious communities, it also indicates conflicted, complex feelings about where she herself fit in. Some of Henderson's most personal stories are the stories she wrote which were not about "The People."

Finally, Henderson was one of the first in science fiction to truly take young people seriously and write expressive, mature stories from their point of view. She drew on her experience as a teacher of young people, and was able to bring a rare level of insight to her use of young characters. Henderson's youthful protagonists are neither adults forced into young bodies, nor are they frivolous caricatures. They are very human, complete souls, yet marked by authentic signs of youth and innocence. Interestingly enough, Bujold and Card, both of whom mention Henderson as an important early influence, have also been among the most successful chroniclers of young people, with such Hugo- and Nebula-award winning novels as Falling Free and Ender's Game.

Additional Resources on this Site

Source of Zenna Henderson article below: Anne Commire. Something About the Author, Volume 5. Full title: Something About the Author: Facts and Pictures about Contemporary Authors and Illustrators of Books for Young People. Gale Research Book Tower: Detroit, Michigan 48226 (1973).

Click here for high resolution image of this page.

HENDERSON, Zenna (Chlarson)   1917-

PERSONAL: Born November 1, 1917, in Tucson, Ariz.; daughter of Louis Rudolph and Emily Vernell (Rowley) Chlarson; married 1944. Education: Arizona State University, Tempe, B.A., 1940, M.A., 1954. Religion: Methodist. Address: Box 499, Eloy, Ariz. 85231. Agent: Willis Kingsley Wing, 60 East 56th St., New York, N.Y. 10022.

CAREER: Teacher in schools throughout Arizona, at U.S. Air Force dependents' school in France, and at The Seaside, Waterford, Conn., a tuberculosis sanitorium for children; currently teaching at Eloy, Ariz. Member: National Education Association, Society of Southwestern Authors, Arizona Education Association, Arizona State Poetry Society. Awards: Second prize, Ellery Queen Contest, 1954.

WRITINGS: Pilgrimage: The Book of the People. Doubleday, 1961; (contributor) Vanguard, edited by Robert C. Pooley and others, Scott, 1961; The Anything Box (collected short stories), Doubleday, 1965; The People: No Different Flesh, Doubleday, 1966; Holding Wonder (short stories; ALA Notable Book), Doubleday, 1971.

HOBBIES AND OTHER INTERESTS: Languages, travel, needlework, collecting ephemera.


Off-site Reviews

Other Information

  • Zenna Henderson links at the Open Directory Project (dmoz)
  • Zenna Henderson page at Middle Tennessee State University - Henderson is one of the authors studied in Dr. David Lavery's English 305 course. (Includes photo).
  • Dr. Fred Erisman, Lorraine Sherley Professor of Literature at Texas Christian University (TCU), has written many academic articles about Henderson, including: "Zenna Henderson and the Not-So-Final Frontier," Western American Literature, 30 (1995): 275-285 and "Zenna Henderson's 'People' and the Quest for Self-Identity," Extrapolation, 27 (1986), 320-25.
  • Peter's Song - one of multiple songs based on the People stories, written and recorded by Terence Chua (includes MP3 recording)
  • "Out", a poem by Keith Gormèzano based on Henderson's stories
  • How Henderson's story "The Anything Box" influenced Claude S.'s music
  • A contest at MIT based on Pilgrimage


Brief Reviews:

From The WSFA Journal, 15 September 1995:
INGATHERING: THE COMPLETE PEOPLE STORIES OF ZENNA HENDERSON edited by Mark and Priscilla Olson: The People Stories are one of the best series ever written. As one reviewer mentioned: "The People are what we wish we were and I hope someday become." One of the bonuses of the book is the chronology Mark and Priscilla added. It is well done and adds a lot. The only complaint I have is that I would have preferred the stories in chronological order. With the bridging material it would have been difficult, but with the last five stories it could have been done. Mark has since told me that they decided to publish the last five stories in the order written. This was intended to show the development of Henderson's writing style.

Available Compilations of Henderson's Work:

Commentary about Zenna Henderson from the list of 200 top science fiction authors
in A Reader's Guide to Science Fiction:

Zenna Henderson is one of the authors included in the select authors list in A Reader's Guide to Science Fiction, ed. by Baird Searles, Martin Last, Beth Meacham and Michael Franklin (New York: Avon, 1979). Her biography in the "200 Authors and Their Major Works" section appears below:
Zenna Henderson is a marvelous lady, an ex-school teacher who has the uncanny ability to home in on childhood fantasies. Henderson has created a group of alien human beings who have fled the destruction of their home planet; they are living among us now. These aliens have telepathic and telekinetic abilities--the gifts and persuasions as Henderson calls them--and they are very very nice people. In fact, they call themselves The People, to distinguish from the native Earth variety.

The People stories can be found in two books, Pilgrimage: The Book of the People and The People: No Different Flesh. These constitute a history of their flight to Earth and their adventures once here, spanning about 100 years. Henderson uses the goodness of the People as a yardstick for measuring humanity, our attitudes toward difference, and for exploring the childlike wonders of our world.

Henderson has written a number of other, unrelated short stories; these have been collected in two volumes, Holding Wonder, and The Anything Box. She is particularly good at catching the feel of children, and her love for them glows throughout the stories.

(If you like Zenna Henderson, we suggest Clifford Simak, Anne McCaffrey, or Naomi Mitchison.)
It may be noted that Henderson was one of twenty female authors in the Guide's list of 200 authors, and one of only two Latter-day Saint authors (the other being Raymond F. Jones).

Praise for Zenna Henderson from other authors:

Award-winning science fiction writer Lois McMaster Bujold cites Henderson as an important influence (as do many other sf writers) [Source: Interview on the "Women Who Rock the World" web site]:
Zenna Henderson was another woman writer that I noticed at the time although I do not write like her. She was an early influence. I read up all her stuff. So, there were enough women so it didn't seem like that was a barrier. Anne McCaffrey. Later, C.J. Cherryh.

In his 20 November 1997 interview with Allen Steele at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), science fiction grandmaster Orson Scott Card mentions Zenna Henderson as one of many early literary influences on his career:

Science fiction was just one of the many things I read. It was never really that individually important to me as a genre. I loved some of the Heinlein juveniles that I read... And I was so ignorant that I sent a woodsy story to "Analog." I'd never read an issue of "Analog." I didn't know what hard SF was versus soft SF. I'd read a little Zenna Henderson. I knew that it was in the science fiction section if you had people who could think to each other. So, you know, I had a story like that.

Few authors have won more Hugo and Nebula awards than Connie Willis. In a biographical sketch:

Willis notes that many of the writers who have influenced her are (not surprisingly) short story writers like Zenna Henderson, Kit Reed, Fredric Brown, Shirley Jackson, and Damon Knight. "I love everybody's work and I love the short story more than anything. I think almost all the great SF has been written at shorter lengths," she said in the Dozois chat.

Kathy Tyers, a successful science fiction writer (Crystal Witness; Firebird; Star Wars: The Truce at Bakura; etc.) and an Evangelical Christian, cited Henderson as a major influence in an interview:

GS: What is your personal all-time favourite SF work, and why?
Tyers: That is a terribly hard question. If you'd asked "sf or fantasy," I'd answer Lord of the Rings, of course. And there are too many wonderful sf works... At the moment, I'd either name Zenna Henderson's body of works about "The People" because of the depth of hope and love in those tales... or else Diann Thornley's much more contemporary military sf novels, because of the medical and military realism, and the deep personal ethics of the characters. (Diann is [a Latter-day Saint] -- we are friends anyway, and we both pray for each other! ;-) )

Author Barbara Clark (http://www.barbaraclarkbooks.com) wrote to us about her recollections:
I was delighted to find you Zenna Henderson web pages. I read her stories in the 1950s and wrote a letter to her in 1952 when I was in my junior year at college. She was gracious enough to answer.

Since then, I went on to be a teacher, also, but in the primary grades.

I especially related to her stories set in places similar to Tucson as I had lived there when I was 10 and 11 years old.

Now, I'm retired from teaching and writing paranormal romances for an e-publisher, Amber Quill Press, LLC . In fact, my 11th book was published in November 2004.

I often think of Zenna Henderson's stories--of her warmth and compassion that comes through in her characters.

Other Commentary about Zenna Henderson:

Biographical information and commentary from KatSpace:
Zenna Henderson was born in 1917, in Tucson, Arizona. After graduating from Arizona State College in 1940, she became an elementary school teacher, teaching in America and France and also in a Japanese Relocation Camp during the Second World War. She died in 1983, of cancer. She is most well known and best beloved for her "People" stories, gentle SF about a group of Gifted non-terrans who are forever exiled from their destroyed home, and made a home here on Earth.

Francis Ford Coppola made a telemovie "The People", starring Kim Darby and William Shatner. Her works have been published in ten languages.

Ironically, the book by which I discovered Zenna Henderson doesn't seem to be listed in any of the bibliographies. It is "The People Collection", a paperback published by Corgi Books in 1991. It contained "Pilgrimage", "The People: No Different Flesh", and four extra stories, "The Indelible Kind", "Incident After", "The Walls" and "Katie-Mary's Trip".

It is doubly ironic, because I didn't find the book in an SF bookstore, I didn't even find the book in a bookstore. I found the book in the book department of a department store -- and I never saw it again, before or since.

It seems as if there's a lot of people out there who remember Zenna Henderson's stories with fondness, but there doesn't seem to be much out there in the way of resources. But more than there were when I last looked, actually.

Great SF Writers - ML names four favorite SF writers: Tim Powers, Zenna Henderson, James Tiptree Jr., and Philip K. Dick:

She writes the People stories. This stuff is SO good. She was a teacher in Arizona in the fifties and sixties and most of her science fiction revolves around a group of people that were stranded here and how they live their lives on Earth with their supernatural powers. There are four books 1) PILGRAMMAGE (Of which the owner of the book store I work at owns the cover art for!!!) 2) NO DIFFERENT FLESH 3) ANYTHING BOX and 4) HOLDING WONDER. There are a few, actually six, stories that were not published in those books. Two are in Fantasy and Science Fiction digest. One in a book called CASSANDRA RISING, and the others can be found in an anthology of her short stories where many of her best stories were published called IN GATHERING - BOOK OF THE PEOPLE.

People Power, an essay by Nigel Tan. Five paragraphs, including:

While the stories are written in a charmingly anachronistic style of speech, the characters are real and well fleshed out... Zenna Henderson has a way of making us care for the characters and what happens to them, which is a lot more that what I can say about certain rather hip hard-SF writers of today.

When Western American Literature published Erisman's article "Zenna Henderson and the Not-So-Final Frontier" (November 1995, Volume 30, Number 3), they published the following synopsis:

Erisman takes on Zenna Henderson's stories in "The People" and makes a link between the American frontier and Henderson's tales of space travel and interplanetary colonization. As Erisman sees it, the nature of a frontier experience and the concerns of science fiction are united by a common question: What happens when people encounter an alien environment?

Henderson's extraterrestrial race flees its dying planet in search of a new home and makes its way to the American Southwest in the late nineteenth century. Their debarkation in the arid landscapes of the west closely parallels the same process of emigration endured by pioneering Americans' journeys to the American west during the same period. The tension between the alien race's body of existing knowledge, traditions, and customs against a new territory with its own history, culture, and strange physical surroundings is, in microcosm, the epitome of the frontier experience. Henderson rewrites it, however, by attacking the inflexible social environment that too often characterizes a frontier community trying to protect its integrity with attitudes and norms that are dangerously xenophobic. For Henderson, the frontier is a meeting point of clashing attitudes and cultures, but her version of the frontier also describes a place that is constantly adapting, growing, and synthesizing the old with the new. Henderson's frontier is never closed--as long as the people who inhabit it continually embark on the processes of change, growth, and adaptations.

In the "Lost Books Column" at the Hatrack River website, Daniel Anderson wrote:

     Do you remember "The People" Zenna Henderson created way back when, maybe 50s or 60s? I think there were only 2 collections of these stories: Pilgrimage and The People: No Different Flesh. They're wonderful old stories with a decency, a spirituality, and an intelligence that I usually don't find combined in the same story. (Card's work manages to bring them together frequently. e.g. "Gert Fram"). I like to share Henderson's stories with bright children as soon as their reading skills are up to coping with them. One of them -- "Gilead" -- won a Hugo, I think.      These aren't novels, but they ARE "Lost Books" only available in the used book stores (where I buy them up every time I spot one).

Enigmata's Book Review - Henderson's work was among a short list of favorite works recommended by a readers' poll in the Favorite Books project conducted by Scott Martin. Other works include: Simak's City; Asimov's Foundation Trilogy; and C. J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station. The list includes the following comments:

If you find Simak appealing, then you will love Henderson's style as well. In these two books, she chronicles a few decades worth of encounters of humans with a small civilization of The People, who look just like you and me, but have certain special abilities. Pastoral imagery abounds, and all stories are infused with a love of life and nature. Sadly these are also out of print and very hard to find.

The Xianworldview web site, a site devoted to reviewing literature from a Christian worldview, has the following review of Ingathering:

This is a collection of stories about people from another planet who come to earth to live. The stories were published in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy beginning in the 50s.

These stories range from happy stories, where families are reunited, to amazing stories, where the people rescue one of their own almost lost forever in a Russian space launch. They show imperfection on the part of humanity, hating the aliens for what they can do, and imperfection on the part of the aliens, for feeling superior and wanting to live by their own rules on someone else's planet.

The characters are breathtakingly real. The stories amazingly realistic. And while I know there are a lot of weirdos out there, many people wrote the author asking where they, who were clearly of The People, could find the ones she wrote about.

For interest, for diversity, for across-time portrayals, this is a wonderful collection of stories.

When the "Powers That Be" Spiritual Metaphysical Bookstore highlighted Ingathering on their site, then said:

One of the few female writers during SF's earlier years, Henderson provides a warm, emotional voice, prefeminist yet independent, examining issues of identity, loneliness, nostalgia and caring...this is a renewal of hope and wonder.

Henderson's work is recommended on a list of literature about the New Fantasy Woman:

If you enjoy encounters with the new breed of fantasy woman, dip into this collection of titles recommended by readers from the alt.tv.highlander, alt.tv.xena, rec.arts.sf.fandom and rec.arts.books newsgroups.

Personal Reflections about Zenna Henderson, by Bo Leuf:

Zenna C. Henderson (1917-1983) has a given place in SF history as a writer of exceptional stories, notably about about alien interactions with human society (the People), at a time (50s and 60s) when female authors in the field were rarities. Most of ZH's stories revolve around the themes of being different, and of being persecuted for being different. The People series, written between 1952 and 1975, focuses on a thematic suite of stories that follow the experiences of a group of humanoid aliens stranded on the Earth (in rural Arizona) when their starship crashes, parallelling their hardships and persecutions trying to live their lives undetected, with those of their unknowing human neighbours. The alien nature of these involuntary immigrants is exemplified by their telepathic and paranormal abilities such as levitation, which they occasionally use to help humans despite the risks this means. Little is told of their actual background, or why they were on their space migration "the Crossing" to begin with, yet this profound event always resonates as a background tragedy of the race.

The emotional underpinning of the stories, People or others, is that all sentient beings are "people", have the same or similar hopes, fears, aspirations and problems, and that persecution in any form is wrong. Characteristic for ZH's stories is that they often start with the child's point of view -- alien or human, a child who discovers what it means to be different. Other stories may use the human adult (school teacher) who discovers that one or more children are not what they seem. These themes are timeless, and the strength of ZH's writing is such that her stories are still readable as we enter the next millennium, however dated the milieu of the American Southwest of the 1950s may seem today. In a sense the People stories have become a sort of Alternate History of that region.

Long out of print, and very hard to find anywhere, the People stories were in 1995 reissued in a single volume. It is hoped that the other collections of non-People stories may also be reissued at some future time. Readers of ZH form a group who were profoundly touched by her stories when they came across them, usually when growing up themselves and discovering the hardships of being different and becoming adult.

We may note that a TV movie was made based on The People in 1972. It starred William Shatner, better known as Captain Kirk from Star Trek. The film focuses on the new (human) teacher encountering "abnormal" children at a rural school and discovering the existence of the alien settlement.

Henderson is one of Spike R. MacPhee's favorite short story writers, along with Cordwainer Smith; John Varley; James Tiptree Jr.; R.A. Lafferty; and Fredric Brown.

In L. Neil Smith's essay "Parallax" (March 1990), he cites Henderson as "human sf":

But you can also write science fiction about "warmware" -- meaning human beings -- which requires even greater honesty and careful thought, like Zenna Henderson, whose stories of interstellar refugees from an exploding star stranded on Earth contain no science or engineering, as such, yet within their science fiction framework, capture the essence of everything it means to be human.

Smoot (UC-Berkeley) writes:

Ah, Zenna Henderson. She was one of the best writers at portraying believable, three dimensional children. This was probably due to being a school teacher for a number of years. Her best known stories deal with "The People", a group of alien humans who fled the destruction of the world and are now living hidden on Earth. These aliens have psychic abilities and how they interact with normal humanity forms the core of most of these stories. These stories also formed the basis for an O.K. film "The People" [1971] starring Kim Darby and William Shatner.

Howard (Jan. 15, 2000) is another reader whose favorite author is Zenna Henderson:

Favorite writers? We've been there before. For SciFi I still recommend Zenna Henderson, James Schnitz, Asimov, Keith Laumer, Sterling Lanier.
My wife got me the "Harry Potter" books (all three) for Christmas, and I'm enjoying them very much. Very well written, nicely plotted, and just plain fun.
Other authors I really enjoy: Calvin Miller -- his "singer" trilogy is exquisite -- Max Lucado, Steven Lawhead (Celtic Christian themes)and Frank Perretti. Also Steven King, Ray Bradbury, Tolkien, early Heinlein, and a host of others.

Abstract of Farah Mendlesohn's article "Gender, Power, and Conflict Resolution", Extrapolation 35(2):120-129 1994:

Mendelsohn defines a method for studying gender in sf without falling into the feminist trap of studying "women in sf" or female sf writers. Historically examines the question of gender and power in science fiction. Also examines how Zenna Henderson uses gender as a way to explore power and shifts her focus from gender conflict to conflict resolution through the issue of gender.

Dr. David Lavery's English 305 course (Middle Tennessee State University) includes Zenna Henderson's "As Simple as That" in its course of study. Here are study questions that go along with this story [online source]:

As Simple As That
Discussion Questions
1. How is the major novum, the Torn Time, introduced into the story?

2. What is the effect of limiting the narrative to a single scene, the classroom?

3. By setting up an altered reality, Henderson makes a number of familiar habits seem strange. What are some of the habits carried into the post-holocaust world by the teacher and her students?

4. The blind girl, Maria, seems to have acquired precognitive vision after the Torn Time. How does this gift fit into the general picture of the catastrophe?

5. Ken and the other children refuse to read stories that are not true. Are they referring to fiction? Is "As Simple as That" true in the sense they mean?

Henderson is one of the select Congruent Liadian Authors:

I decided that a single-mention author was not congruent enough - -that is was not all that likely to be found on other Friends of Liad shelves or be "must reads". After reviewing the list I decided that a method must be found to bring some order and sense to the list. So I went to a quasi-mathematical approach and came up with the following information and procedure. Note that in general contributors did not rank author mentions and the ranks generated here are by number of mentions only. The original list of 306 total authors yielded 988 total mentions, for an average of approximately 3.25 mentions per author. Using this average as a baseline, I removed from the list any author with less than 3 mentions. This resulted in a list of 134 authors with a total of 800 mentions, for an average mention per author of approximately 5.9.

Bo Leuf wrote:

The emotional underpinning of the stories, People or others, is that all sentient beings are "people", have the same or similar hopes, fears, aspirations and problems, and that persecution in any form is wrong. Characteristic for ZH's stories is that they often start with the child's point of view -- alien or human, a child who discovers what it means to be different. Other stories may use the human adult (school teacher) who discovers that one or more children are not what they seem. These themes are timeless, and the strength of ZH's writing is such that her stories are still readable as we enter the next millennium, however dated the milieu of the American Southwest of the 1950s may seem today... Readers of ZH form a group who were profoundly touched by her stories when they came across them, usually when growing up themselves and discovering the hardships of being different and becoming adult.

Henderson's passing was noted in Ansible 34: "RIP: Zenna Henderson of `People' fame died on 11 May, of cancer. She was 65. (LOCUS)"

Bruce Williamson (Playful Activities for Powerful Presentations) credits Henderson with coining a word:

Many people experience a degree of fear bordering on panic when asked to "go find a partner" in the midst of a bunch of strangers. Part of our job as facilitators is to help make that process as nonthreatening as possible. Twoing. To ensure that people feel safe and keep having fun, use a simple "twoing" activity to get them creatively arranged in various combinations. (I am indebted to the writer Zenna Henderson for coining the word "twoing" in one of her novels.)

Kiki Katz linked to this page and wrote simply (2002-05-16):

Zenna and Her People: The Zenna Henderson Homepage -- If you like Anne McCaffrey or Lois McMaster Bujold or even Marion Zimmer Bradley, and you haven't read Zenna Henderson's "People" books--well, you should, that's all.

Harvard-educated mathematician Steven H. Cullinane includes Henderson on his page of Literary Links (September 20, 2000):

This page furnishes some links to areas of literature that I have enjoyed [Wallace Stevens, G. M. Hopkins, R. M. Rilke, Hermann Hesse]. The links at left are to classics, while those below are to some twentieth century authors [Mark Helprin, Alfred Bester, Zenna Henderson] I think are underrated. Bester and Henderson are particularly good at fictional accounts of telepathy. The noted Harvard philosopher W. V. Quine doubts such a thing exists, but I prefer the "There must be a pony" argument.

Mr. Showbiz Movie Guide has this to say about the movie "The People", based on Henderson's work (which starred William Shatner):

Adapted from Zenna Henderson's science-fiction novel, the soft, gentle tale takes its time as a new schoolteacher puzzles over an isolated community of stoic parents and students who don't laugh, sing, or play games. Her quiet probing into the community's past results in an unusual revelation, and the climactic scenes contain a Thoreau-like message.

Sarah Heiner, who calls herself "Bookworm" online, explains the name further:

Quite often, I find books to be much more satisfying than real life. And I often wish that they were real. Though I'm not as bad about that as some others...In Ingathering, the book that contains all of Zenna Henderson's People stories, she writes that she was "saddened by others who insisted that the People were real and that, if I wanted to, I could tell them where the People were. They had to know because they were one of the un-found-yet People." Well, I'm not *that* immersed in books--I know that fiction is fiction. But I am rather like a character in "The Gate of the Kittens," a short story by Wilanne Schneider Belden...

What books do I like to read? I'm glad you asked that question... and if you didn't, too bad. I'm telling you anyway.

Science Fiction
I must admit, I'm not a great fan of really hard-core sci-fi, except for the short stories of Larry Niven and Isaac Asimov. What sci-fi I do like, however, I'll list here.

I'm a big fan of Anne McCaffrey, especially the Dragonriders of Pern series, the Crystal Singer series, the Ship Who Sang series, and the Rowan series. Many of the older books I have are getting rather worn out from all the times I've read them. She creates very vivid characters and places, and usually writes enjoyable storylines.

Patricia Keneally-Morrison's Keltia books are quite enjoyable--a good mix of pretty hard science and mysticism (even if I don't agree with the mysticism).

I *really* love Zenna Henderson's stories about the People. Of all the books I've read, I think her creation is the one I most wish existed in real life. The collections of her stories can be difficult to find, but it's well worth the time and effort.

I also enjoy Harry Harrison's Eden trilogy, The Dragon's Egg and Starquake by Robert L. Forward, Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress, and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

In the Autumn 2001 issue (published in April) of the ISCAST BULLETIN 32 (published by the Institute for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology), the Editorial mentions Zenna Henderson (along with C.S. Lewis) as an example of a science fiction writer whose writing reflected her Christian faith. (Henderson was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.):

2001 - an ISCAST Odyssey?

Watching the famous Kubrik and Clarke film 2001, a space odyssey was a defining moment in the cinematographic experience of many in the late 60's and early 70's. This epoch making film not only raised the look of the science fiction movie to a level which has, in many ways, not been surpassed, it also framed the combination of anxiety and hope with which many viewed the coming millennium.

Now that 2001 is here, it is perhaps appropriate for us to reflect on ways that the human imagination has regarded the far reaches of space. It gives us ISCASTians the opportunity to show that we don't just read "serious" books, but also indulge in speculative fiction. Science fiction has been called the mythology of our age. As Christians interested in science, this mythology needs to be faced and also used for, as the pieces by Andrew Sloane and Ian Barns in this bulletin show, there are opportunities for Christian reflection and witness. Zenna Henderson and C.S. Lewis showed what can be done by Christians with literary skill and baptised imaginations in this field. So if there are any budding authors out there, be encouraged to persevere.

Whether or not there are actually intelligent aliens "out there" is a question that raises important theological questions, not least in the area of Christology. Three articles by Mark Worthing, based on his address to ISCAST Victoria last year, and a fourth by Lewis Jones, examine different perspectives on these implications.

Rick Albright (Department of English, Lehigh University, Pennsylvania), cites the Henderson compilation The People: No Different Flesh as one of his favorite books about telepathy, along with Bester's The Demolished Man; Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels; Van Vogt's Slan; and Silverberg's Lord Valentine's Castle

Henderson's books are listed in the Church of All Worlds Expanded Bibliography (by Anodea Judith and Oberon Zell) in the "Inspirations and Visions of Community" section.

Walter Zeichner lists Henderson's Ingathering on a short list of Spiritual books:

  • C.S. Lewis's 'Till We Have Faces
  • The Autobiography of The Dalai Lama
  • George Downing's The Massage Book
  • Bradley's The Mists of Avalon
  • Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land
  • works by Starhawk
  • Henderson's Ingathering

According to Amazon.com, people who bought books by Zenna Henderson also frequently bought books by the following authors (2000):

  • James Schmitz
  • Cordwainer Smith
  • J. K. Rowling
  • Orson Scott Card
  • Jan Siegel
The "also bought books by" list on Amazon.com was different when it was checked on 18 July 2002:
  • Sharon Lee
  • P. C. Hodgell
  • Andre Norton
  • M. R. Sellars
  • David Brin

Henderson / Key / Witch Mountain Controversy

In a list of Great Kids' Books, Jed Hartman recommends the works of Alexander Key, with the following comments:
Nearly all of Key's books were really good, fascinating sf. The only ones I don't recommend are Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain, because he stole the entire concept and much of the specific plots from one of my favorite authors, Zenna Henderson. For a much better treatment of the same ideas (though not oriented toward children), look at Henderson's Pilgrimage: The Book of the People (Avon Books, 1961).

Post on this topic from Galaxy Science Fiction Webzine (posted by nlc on 11 March 1999):

I have read Ms. Henderson's "People" books, and every time I see the Disney movies "Escape to Witch Mountain" and "Return from Witch Mountain", I wonder who infringed who's copyright, because the plotlines, premise, and even the characters are so similar. The credits to the movie, however, say that it is based on a book by Alexander Key. Does anyone out there have an answer for this? Or is it just one of those grand coincidences??

: One person's reply:
: I have read the book(s) by Alexander Key - and enjoyed them. I can see some surface resemblance to the Henderson books and stories, but the book at least, didn't come across to me as a "rip-off."

: I think the People books date from the sixties and maybe even fifties. Can't remember for sure, and don't remember at all when the "Witch Mountain" books were written.

A brief review by Alan P. Scott of Hoffman's The Silent Strength of Stones mentions the "Witch Mountain" books and Henderson's work and says that Hoffman's novel contains similar plot and thematic elements:

Nina Kiriki Hoffman, The Silent Strength of Stones (fantasy novel): Escape to Witch Mountain for grownups. And if you think that's a slam, you don't know how I feel about that classic YA novel and Disney movie. Hoffman's mining some familiar territory (Zenna Henderson hit the motherlode here long ago) but her modern sensibilities and deft hand with relationships keep this book from seeming at all stale to me. This is one series (there is a previous book, The Thread that Binds the Bones) that I find myself wanting to continue - Hoffman's not done telling the story yet.

The question of what influence Zenna Henderson's "People" stories had on the writing of Alexander Key's Escape to Witch Mountain is further explored on another website: Was "Escape to Witch Mountain" based on Zenna Henderson's "People" stories?

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