Working name of US writer Carolyn Janice Cherry (1942-), who taught for some years (1965-76) before becoming a full-time writer; she is the sister of David A. CHERRY. Since 1976 - when she won the JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD for most promising writer - she has produced more novels than stories, publishing several before her first story, "Cassandra" (1977). Her first novel was Gate of Ivrel (1976), initiating the Morgaine series - continued in Well of Shiuan (1978) and Fires of Azeroth (1979), the trilogy being assembled as The Book of Morgaine (omni 1979; vt The Chronicles of Morgaine 1985 UK), and the much later Exile's Gate (1988) - a romantic HEROIC-FANTASY quest epic whose interplanetary venue and underlying rationality prophetically underpin a hectic and perhaps rather florid imagination.In all her work - which runs a gamut from SHARED-WORLD fantasies to HARD SF - an almost unfailingly creative tension can be sensed between argument and fantastication; and her underlying instinct for construction has been confirmed in the late 1980s by a retroactive and ongoing coordination of more and more of her work - singletons and series both - under the aegis of her sf-grounded Union-Alliance Future HISTORY, which embraces most of the home Galaxy through the third and fourth millennia, during which period the Alliance, structured around the Merchanter cultures which operate the huge interstellar freighters necessary for trade, manages to survive at the heart of the more ruthless, expansionist Union. A third force whose influence is felt throughout human space is Earth itself, hugely populous, dominated by aggressive supra-planetary corporations, still the heartland of Homo sapiens. Unusually, the sequence is not planet-based, much of the significant action of the central texts taking place in artificial environments, including a wide variety of spaceships, Merchanter freighters (each huge vessel housing an autonomous culture), satellites, waystations and self-sufficient habitats. The "Gehenna Doctrine", which prohibits the cultural contamination of newly discovered planets and therefore serves as a vital structuring device for the series, justifies the focus of those central texts while at the same time - for the Doctrine is often honoured in the breach - providing an enormously malleable frame: thus highly disparate tales may be fitted into the overarching sequence - almost to the point where singletons with no apparent connection to the sequence, including some PLANETARY ROMANCES, might still be thought to belong within the whole because their isolation from any other book proves that the Gehenna Doctrine is working.The Union-Alliance structure, rough at the edges as it might be, serves primarily to hold and sort background material - a necessary aid for an author whose better work almost invariably offers too much material, too many ALIEN races intersecting too complexly for easy comprehension, a stricture true even of early novels like Hunter of Worlds (1977), in which three cultures express themselves in harrowing detail in too few pages; a sense of bustling, impatient cognition pervades the otherwise garish tale of an alien mercenary race fatally involved with Homo sapiens. But with her second series - Kesrith (1978), Shon'jir (1978) and Kutath (1979), all three assembled as The Faded Sun Trilogy (omni 1987 UK) - the Union-Alliance dichotomy, here presented late in its history when the antipathetic Union has begun to seem more attractive, works to order the profusion of material. Unlike the great majority of sf writers, the most consistent complaint about her work must be that individual stories are too short, though the Merchanter novels perhaps most central to the overall series use their galactic space-based venues with considerable skill to articulate busy narrative lines. Along with Heavy Time (1991) and Hellburner (1992), a 24th-century pre-Alliance series that currently, in terms of internal chronology, kicks the entire sequence off, these novels - Serpent's Reach (1980), DOWNBELOW STATION (1981), which won the 1981 HUGO, Merchanter's Luck (1982), CYTEEN (1988; vt in 3 vols as The Betrayal 1989, The Rebirth 1989 and The Vindication 1989), which won the 1988 Hugo, and Rimrunners (1989)-are perhaps her best and most central work, generating a remarkable sense of the living density of space-born life. CYTEEN is a book of enormous girth set on the intricate Union home planet and dense with speculative plays on genetics (CLONES), identity, family and power; while Rimrunners, unusually for CJC, fits into its normal length a shapely closet drama about life and survival below decks on an armed spaceship. Closely associated with these books in tone and hard-edged complexity are Union-Alliance novels like Hestia (1979), Wave without a Shore (1981), Port Eternity (1982), Forty Thousand in Gehenna (1983) and Voyager in Night (1984). The Chanur Saga, made up of The Pride of Chanur (1982; text restored 1987), Chanur's Venture (1984), The Kif Strike Back (1985), Chanur's Homecoming (1986) and Chanur's Legacy (1992), another deft and crowded depiction of alien psyches in a complexly threatened interstellar venue, has also been fitted into the overall series. As the years have passed, individual stories within the structure have tended, very roughly, to shift their concern from honour (a focus typical of the "shame cultures" found in preliterate societies on Earth and endemic to much SPACE OPERA) to the responsibities of power (a problem central to literate "guilt cultures").The lineaments of the Union-Alliance series remain unclear, but the sense grows that for CJC the Universe, and everything imaginable within its particoloured quadrants, is both evanescent and full of marvel; and that sentient species must revere whatever habitats remain to them after the terrible years of species growth and species destruction hinted at in those books set early in the Universe. It is a vision which, after so many busy books, will take some time to settle, though within terms she has already cued us to anticipate.
   Other works: Series: The Arafel books, comprising Ealdwood (1981; rev vt The Dreamstone 1983) and The Tree of Swords and Jewels (1983), both assembled as Arafel's Saga (omni 1983; vt Ealdwood 1991 UK); the Merovingen Nights BRAIDED series (several titles being shared-world BRAIDED anthologies ed CJC, and all remotely connected to the Union-Alliance overview), comprising Angel with the Sword (1985), Merovingen Nights \#1: Festival Moon * (anth 1987), \#2: Fever Season * (anth 1987), \#3: Troubled Waters * (anth 1988), \#4: Smuggler's Gold * (anth 1988), \#5: Divine Right * (anth 1989), \#6: Floodtide * (anth 1990) and \#7: Endgame * (anth 1991); the Heroes in Hell SHARED-WORLD enterprise, co-created with Janet E. MORRIS and comprising Heroes in Hell * (anth 1985), The Gates of Hell * (1986) and Kings in Hell * (1987), both with Morris, and Legions of Hell * (fixup 1987); the Sword of Knowledge shared-world enterprise (all vols in fact written by the various "collaborators"), comprising A Dirge for Sabis (1989) with Leslie Fish, Wizard Spawn (1989) with Nancy Asire (1945-) and Reap the Whirlwind (1989) with Mercedes Lackey; the Rusalka sequence, comprising Rusalka (1989), Chernevog (1990) and Yvgenie (1991).Singletons: Brothers of Earth (1976); Sunfall (coll of linked stories 1981); Cuckoo's Egg (1985); Visible Light (coll 1986), which contains the 1978 Hugo-winning "Cassandra"; Glass and Amber (coll 1987); The Paladin (1988).
   About the author: C.J. Cherryh: A Working Bibliography (1992 chap) by Phil STEPHENSEN-PAYNE.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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