Friday, March 3, 2023

THE SIOUX SPACEMAN (Beware the Horseman of the Stars) (1960) by Andre Norton –Part Two of a 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...

Andre (Alice Mary) Norton’s THE SIOUX SPACEMAN is an adolescent space adventure story – duh. It’s what she wrote, from her first novel, THE PRINCE COMMANDS (“a straight-up adventure novel” – Lin Carter [an American author of science fiction and fantasy, as well as an editor, poet and critic…influential as a critic of contemporary fantasy and a pioneering historian of the genre…an editor for Ballantine Books…he sponsored the Gandalf Award…” Wikipedia], from the profile of Norton in the first edition of THE SIOUX SPACEMAN.

She did have some Native American heritage: “A common theme in the books is the presence of sympathetically presented feudal and tribal cultures. In several books Native American tribes and their various analogues are given a chance to be more successful than they were in actual American history. (Norton often told friends that she was proud of her little bit of Native American ancestry.) Nonhuman creatures and cultures are usually presented sympathetically, with human protagonists sometimes supporting them against oppressive human authorities. In contrast, several books present technological and mechanized cultures as negative or even positively evil.”

So – what do I think? I think she was daring. In an era when “America” was everything – it was the BEGINNING of the civil rights movement – she dared to posit a world where white Americans had killed each other off: “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.”

As a former teacher and now a counselor in a diverse near-urban high school, these are the kids I see most often (though, instead of Chinese, we have a large population of Hmong – again, people driven from their original lands by the Han migration of Chinese settlers during the Qing Dynasty in the late 19th Century). We also have a large number of Liberian, Somalian, and Ethiopian students as well as students from Mexico, Ecuador, and Guatemala. This future isn’t very hard for me to imagine. Also, though we don’t have many students from South Korea, I was there for three weeks this summer and I can see a future where South Korea is a far larger player than most people would think (how about this: Kia, Hyundai, Samsung, and SK Electronics…as a point of reference, my spell checker didn’t indicate that any of those are misspelled).

Kade Whitehawk is far out of the stereotype (though the cover of the books – except for the German edition I have above – do absolutely nothing to break the “injun” bias of the time, go so far as giving Kade the winged-hawk-beaked-jingle-bell-helmet/thingy on the cover of the first edition) that prevails in the US today. Politicians who claim to have Native American heritage -- unless they have clear and unequivocal proof of that ancestry -- will not impress ANYONE, where men and women who actually grew up in the culture and with the languages of indigenous peoples can perhaps move all of us toward kinder, gentler world.
At the time the SPACEMAN was written, it was far, far out of the expectations and images of Native Americans – even today in the second decade of the 21st Century. ( Native Americans STILL have to stand in the shadows as white Americans play the parts of THEM – “…Hollywood mainstream has cranked out a fledgling resurgence of Westerns with (mostly panned) movies such as Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and The Lone Ranger (2013). In these projects, Native American actors have been restricted to background roles…”

As I said before, I think some company – preferably a publishing company owned by Native Americans – buy the rights to SPACEMAN and then continue the series, developing both Kade and the Confederation on Earth. I think it would be fascinating…

But given the current political climate, Native Americans have virtually no visibility in politics – starting with the 2019 Congress, there will be “…four Native Americans. When their terms begin, Davids and Haaland will become the first two Native American women with documented tribal ancestry to serve in Congress.”
From the first in 1817, to the present, twenty-two Native Americans have served as senators or representatives. [For those interested in such things: R=8; D=12; R/D = 2]

We have a long, long way to go before we reach a place where Native Americans (in particular) play a natural role in fiction, but I believe Andre (Alice) Norton made a solid start.

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