Friday, February 10, 2023

THE SIOUX SPACEMAN (Beware the Horseman of the Stars) (1960) by Andre Norton, Part 1 of a Two Part Review

On rare occasions here, I've reviewed movies. On even rarer occasions, I've review books. When I do either, I'm usually fairly certain someone will take exception with my essay. That's good, because if you take exception, then I've managed to "speak to you" through the written word. Other times I take up the spirit of a blog Bruce used to host called THE RANTING ROOM. THAT blog I enjoyed! So, it's in the spirit of the old Ranting Room, that I take on this incredibly hot potato...

I’m not certain where the negative reviews came from of Andre (Alice Mary) Norton’s SIOUX SPACEMAN. There ARE cautiously positive ones though:

“Having each member of the trading team come from a different race/ethnicity…not to mention putting Africo-Venusian…in charge of the base, was probably a pretty bold move in 1960…her Chinese character…doesn’t really get the chance to break out of stereotype…Norton also fails to have any women of note; women are mentioned mainly in the context of battle spoils….A lot of authors would have written a book in which Kade would end up as central to the Big Plan; in this book, he’s just a guy who, if he is lucky, might get to be a cog in someone else’s shiny machine.” – James Nicoll (

“…Norton thought that Native Americans could be employed in such ventures because their ancestry as nomads only a few generations earlier would enable to them to relate to primitive races on other worlds…This is an idea that, as Norton presents it, strikes me as racist…Yet, I know that some Native Americans remain very much in tune with their ancestral customs and traditions, and there might be some way of capitalizing on that — in a non-racist way. In addition, there was a version of this employed in World War I and World War II — the “code talkers” who used Native American languages in transmitting coded messages.” Patrick T. Reardon ( )

“Norton doesn't give many specifics, but we learn that on Earth, the white Western civilization bombed itself into extinction. When civilization rebuilt itself, the Federation of Tribes emerged as a leader in a world dominated by Native Americans, Africans, Latinos, and the Chinese…And it works. Sort of. For reasons I wasn't clear about, the Styor lords decide to slaughter the horses and murder the human Traders…he's let into a secret: despite the official Policy of overlooking Styor brutality, there is a centuries-long Plan to undermine the Styor empire…Would he like to join and spend his life working for the eventual downfall of the Styor Empire and the freedom for mankind and for all the peoples of the galaxy? Of course he would.” Stranger Than SF (

Andre Norton was “the first woman inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, among other awards (twice nominated for Hugo awards). She wrote for over 70 years having over 300 titles published. I also found it interesting that like another woman author S. E. Hinton, she was advised to publish under a male’s name to increase her marketability to young boys, the main consumer of fantasy…I found that it was well written, with excellent main character development and well worth my investment of time for an enjoyable read of older works of science fiction…The plot is, well, just a bit juvenile (after all it was written with that reader in mind), but is sufficient to keep the reader engaged.” Jacob at Red Star Reviews (

Between Norton, Nourse, Heinlein, Wollheim, Christopher, Asimov, and others; I started my journey into science fiction (actually, I started with SPACESHIP UNDER THE APPLE TREE and THE WONDERFUL FLIGHT TO THE MUSHROOM PLANET, and MISS PICKERLE GOES TO MARS but I’ve already written about those here: and here:

I fell in love with these writers and I work at pulling their books from the shelves of “withdrawn” books whenever I can, as well as ordering some from online sources.

My question today is “Would these books pull today’s teens into SF?”

My unequivocal answer is: “I’m pretty sure it could!”

The most recent cover of the book is this one from 1978: 

It’s generic and while it was intended to be the fifth book in a series, all of which had similar covers, it doesn’t particularly grab you the way these two do:

So, "branding" would be necessary.

HOWEVER, the story holds up. I just finished it and to tell you the truth, I think whoever owns the estate could easily find a new author to complete the story with this as first in the series. It’s a fast, powerful read and despite the fact that there were no females in it AT ALL (Human, Styor, or Ikkinni – at least as far as we know of the aliens), there’s no reason to think that all females in the universe are dead or that Norton was embarrassed of being female. (The WITCH WORLD books argue strongly to the contrary). She was writing to “get boys to read”.

In 2016, a Guardian headline read, “[Boys] Read Less – And Skip Pages” ( The trend began – you guessed it – in the 1960s. (

I’m going to end here now, but I’ll back at this next weekend.

Oh, one thing from the 21st Century: the issue now is cultural appropriation. I don't think that Norton was attempting to do that. She was showing diverse characters doing the same things as the non-diverse characters were doing in her stories. There are some who would cry FOUL! and insist it's impossible for a white woman to write about characters descended from the Dakota. However, Norton was TRYING to do something about a disturbing trend. Kids were reading less. I can say that she DID capture me and turned me into a lifetime reader – of science fiction. 

She was also trying to do something radical for the time – deliberately including NON-white characters in her science fiction. She was very far ahead of her time.

Those who insist that this book is a cultural appropriation and that it was offensive that she wrote it might be interested in this story: "A few years ago, I stumbled across a series of interviews and articles that led me to Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward's workbook, Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, authors and workshop leaders. After following various leads, articles, and commentaries by other writers, I reached their “workshop book” WRITING THE OTHER, A Practical Approach. She relates this story introducing the book: 'In 1992, at the Clarion West Writers Workshop, “One of our classmates opined that it was a mistake to write about people of different ethnicities: you might get it wrong. Horribly, offensively wrong. Better not to even try.”(WRITING THE OTHER: A Practical Approach, Aqueduct Press, 2005; p 6)

“Amy closed her mouth, and mine dropped open. Luckily, I was seated when my friend made this statement, but the lawn chair must have sagged visibly with the weight of my disbelief. My own classmate, excluding all other ethnic types from her creative universe! I think this sort of misguided caution is the source of a lot of sf’s monochrome futures. It seemed to Ms. Shawl 'to be taking the easy way out.' This led her to write the essay, “Beautiful Strangers: Transracial Writing for the Sincere” (Speculations, October 1999; retrieved from:

I've worked the book twice through now and while I haven't been brave enough to introduce too wildly obvious non-white charters, I'm working on doing that in my YA/MG fiction...

This is as far as I'm going on this post, So, for now…later!

Resource: WRITING THE OTHER: A Practical Approach, Aqueduct Press, 2005

If you like what you read here, I also blog on multiple topics including writing for young people, reports on sessions from the past three or four WorldCon Science Fiction Conventions, writing SF, plus I throw out an Idea on Tuesday every week. I've had SF in ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact, CAST OF WONDERS, SHORELINE OF INFINITY, and the old PERIHELION; and kids stories in CRICKET and CICADA. *Warning! I'm also an evangelical Christian* If you're OK with that, stop over at POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS at