C. J. Cherryh

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C. J. Cherryh at 2006 NorWesCon

Carolyn Janice Cherry (1 September 1942 - ), pen name "C. J. Cherryh", is a fairly prolific American female Speculative Fiction author.

Was a Classics teacher before working full-time as a writer, with a degree in Latin and a Masters in Classics. Unsurprisingly given the humanities background, her works tend more towards examining the social implications of things. Has written a fair amount of fantasy, but she's best known for her science fiction, having won two Hugos for novels and one for short story. Most of her science fiction tends to be of the "hard" variety, with Faster-Than-Light Travel being the only deviation from currently understood physics.

Has her own extensive website. Asteroid 77185 Cherryh is named after her.

Works written by C. J. Cherryh include:

Universes/series

  • Alliance Union, which contains many series, some only lightly connected:
  • The Foreigner 'verse, dealing with the troubles of Bren Cameron, liaison between a stranded human populace and a world of aliens with deceptively humanoid appearance and very nonhuman psychology.
  • The Fortress series, High Fantasy centered on the friendship between Tristen, a reborn ancient king, and Cefwyn, the current ruler of part of Tristen's realm.
  • A fantasy trilogy set in pre-Christian Russia, starting with Rusalka. The rusalka is the spirit of a girl who drowned. She'll be more dangerous if her death was suicide than if it was an accident, and most malevolent of all if she was a murder victim. The title character was murdered by a young man she loved. Uh-oh. See also Be Careful What You Wish For below.
  • One of her earliest works, Arafel's Saga, is a duology, The Dreamstone and The Tree of Swords and Jewels, in a place where names and terminology reflect Welsh, Irish Celtic, and Old English influences. Arafel is one of the Fair Folk, and there's a human who accidentally gets the mental patterns of Arafel's kinsman impressed on his own mind. Death appears from time to time as a character who apparently regards that one human as something of a friend....

Stand-alone works

C. J. Cherryh provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Amnesiac Dissonance - It's pretty clear that Tristen fell under Good Is Not Nice at best in his previous life. If he was who they come to think he was, he killed or worse his own son, apparently for attempting to rebel.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For - In the Rusalka fantasy trilogy, a wizard's wishes will come true -- all of them. Somehow. Not always in a way that's good for the wizard. Wishing a stone to fly won't make it levitate -- it'll cause something to come along and fling that stone through the air. "Wish a stone to fly -- and then beware the whirlwind."
    • Tristen has to watch this, because his wishes have a lot of power.
  • Blue and Orange Morality - The Atevi in the Foreigner series who don't have the concepts of love or friendship, but do have something called "man'chi". Bitter experience has show that humans and atevi shouldn't mix except through the one authorized translator-ambassador.
    • Also almost all the alien races in the Chanur novels.
  • Boarding Party - The power-armoured marines of Rimrunners, and other armed groups boarding stations and taking control in the Alliance Union series.
  • Bond Creatures - the night horses in her Rider series.
  • Came Back Wrong - Tristen. Mauryl wanted a Badass, but got someone with the mind of a child. Even after he Took a Level in Badass, he's still a Friend to All Living Things Cloudcuckoolander trying to figure out How Do I Shot Web? instead of a ruthless Magic Knight conqueror.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass - Tristen, because as mentioned above, he Came Back Wrong. Cefwyn at first thought he might be the Reincarnation of a king known for his gentle, scholarly nature ... and then Cefwyn's life was in danger and Tristen rode to the rescue, unarmed and virtually unarmored, got his hands on a sword, and started killing. And killing. And killing.
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Among those motley horsemen, from the dead or the living, Tristen had found a blade and wielded it, shieldless, turning the red mare with his knees this way and that, the blade swinging dark and deadly in the light, as enemies went down.... a dark and terrible force cutting into the enemy's ranks.... The arm was unerring, hewing down men, no move wasted.

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  • Crystal Dragon Jesus / Corrupt Church - The state religion in the Fortress series.
  • Eldritch Abomination - What Tristen was called back to fight. And probably Tristen himself is a Humanoid Abomination, although a very nice one.
  • Fantastic Racism
  • Friend to All Living Things - Tristen, especially regarding horses and birds. Killing his birds is used to get to him more than once.
  • Grim Up North - Tristen's ultimate origin... probably.
  • The Heart - Pyetr in the Rusalka trilogy. His home town saw him as at best a Lovable Rogue — one woman is quoted as saying he's so slippery that "Rain would not fall on him," but he's what holds together several high-strung wizards as an extended family. One of them, formerly the villain, tells Pyetr's wife that her husband is the only good person he ever knew. Pyetr's younger daughter feels that when he asks her to "be good," it becomes easy to be good. For him. His elder daughter didn't know he was her father until shortly before they met (he didn't know she existed), and she'd grown up taught to fear and hate him, but he won her over in only a few hours.
  • Honor Before Reason - Pyanfar sheltering Tully
  • Ho Yay - Tristen and Cefwyn, who make a good OT3 with Ninevrise. Also Justin and Grant in Cyteen, including some nice art on Cherryh's own site. Chernevog in the Rusalka trilogy takes a liking to Pyetr after failing to murder him, and will address him as "Dear Owl."
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: The Pride of Chanur
  • Intrepid Merchant - Pyanfar Chanur
  • Interspecies Romance - Double Subverted with Bren and Jago, since Jago is incapable of understanding what romance is. They still end up sleeping together.
  • King in the Mountain - There are legends of this in the Fortress series: the rulers of the second major country are called Regents explicitly because of this.
  • Long Running Book Series - the Foreigner series. Also the Alliance Union universe, if "stories in the same 'Verse by the same author" counts as a "series".
  • Of the People - Faded Sun
  • Obfuscating Stupidity - A lot of people accuse Tristen of this, and even his best friend gets paranoid about it on occasion. Subverted since Tristen just really is that clueless about the world he's found himself in, complicated by the fact that he perceives reality differently.
  • Our Elves Are Better - She uses several varieties. Wood Elves are common. Tristen is a subversion: he's a Cloudcuckoolander who spends a lot of time needing help and advice from the older and wiser humans around him, as opposed to giving them advice, and while he does give advice, it's not condemnation of human culture and so on but practical stuff like 'Remember to close the windows.'
  • Owl Be Damned - Owl in the Fortress series, especially in the beginning.
    • Kavi Chernevog in the Rusalka trilogy also associates with an owl he calls only "Owl" ... and then, after taking a liking to Pyetr, starts calling him "Owl."
  • Physical God - Tristen, pretty much.
  • Power of Friendship - Averted in the Foreigner series, or even inverted, since Bren will generally pay for feeling that way. Invoked in the Fortress series, where Cefwyn is told that about the only option he has for dealing with a Physical God who was probably brought back in order to overthrow him is to get Tristen to like him too much to want to. It works.
  • Reality Warper - Tristen, in the Fortress series.
  • Rescue Romance - Tristen and Ninevrise are sort of set up to have one of these. She marries Cefwyn instead.
  • Rightful King Returns - Tristen, who doesn't want any.
  • Ritual Magic - In the Fortress universe, complicated by the fact that a lot of ordinary actions have ritual magic significance and modern people don't know this. A Sealed Evil in a Can nearly escaped because the church had been remodeled and the priests started walking the wrong lines, messing up the Geometric Magic. It works for perfectly normal people, but better for Half Human Hybrids and it's amazing how many descendants Tristen and his fellows have running around. Tristen eventually becomes Dangerously Genre Savvy about this, leading to some Cassandra Truth and Cassandra Did It moments when people don't take the warnings seriously.
  • Rule of Three - Serious Business for Tristen, because the Ritual Magic of the setting means that repeating something three times puts magical power into making it true, and Tristen has a lot of power to throw around. Most people, on the other hand, don't get that it is that important.
    • Also a felicitous number to the atevi.
  • Samus Is a Girl - The Paladin
  • Space Fighter - Hellburner centers on a fairly realistic Space Fighter -- the titular Hellburner. Being essentially a carrier-launched missile-firing-missile it is exceptionally difficult and physically punishing to fly.
  • Tactful Translation - A central trope of the Foreigner verse, where Bren's tact and diplomacy has resulted in him being the paidhi, the only one allowed to translate between the humans and the aliens, even when he is no longer the only person who can speak to the aliens.
  • The Verse - Most of Cherryh's works fit somewhere in her Alliance Union universe. Note that her website doesn't necessarily show all the linkages, considering only the novels on the "direct line" in that universe; afterwords and appendices link many of the others in, including some of the seemingly-fantasy works.
  • The Woobie - Tristen. Mentally very young, he loses the only father he's ever known to a nameless evil and sees his face locked in the walls; then there's the identity issues and how likely they are to cost him his new home and family, and the fact he keeps getting abandoned by people especially when he really needs them. And the fact the forces of evil kill his birds a lot. Then he starts noticing that Uwen is aging.
  • Too Dumb to Live - Bren Cameron's reaction to his temporary replacement turns out she's a Not-So-Harmless Villain and the several times in the Fortress series when Tristen tells people that they really do need to do something that seems utterly trivial or like an enormous headache and they think it can't be that important.
  • Vampire Invitation - Human dwellings are guarded by lines. Making sure that those lines aren't weakened either by carelessness or enemy action is a major concern in the Fortress series.
  • Wild Magic - Tristen and the real Big Bad are sort of avatars of it.
  1. That is, she herds pigs; she's not a Half-Human Hybrid