Arnason, Eleanor 1942–
Arnason, Eleanor 1942–
(Eleanor Atwood Arnason)
PERSONAL: Born 1942.
CAREER: Writer. Accountant; has also worked as a clerk and warehouse employee.
AWARDS, HONORS: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (Adult), 1992, and James Tiptree, Jr., Award, both for A Woman of the Iron People; Homer Award for best novelette, 2000; Gaylactic Network Spectrum Award, 2000, for "Dapple: A Hwarhath Historical Romance"; Minnesota Book Award, for Ring of Swords.
SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS
The Sword Smith, Condor (New York, NY), 1978.
To the Resurrection Station, Avon (New York, NY), 1986.
Daughter of the Bear King, Avon (New York, NY), 1987.
A Woman of the Iron People, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991, published in two volumes as In the Light of Sigma Draconis, Avon (New York, NY), 1992, and Changing Women, Avon (New York, NY), 1992.
Ring of Swords, Tor (New York, NY), 1993.
(Editor, with Terry A. Garey) Time Gum (poetry), 1988.
Ordinary People (short stories), Aqueduct Press (Seattle, WA), 2005.
Work represented in anthologies, including New Worlds Quarterly, edited by Michael Moorcock and Charles Platt, 1973, The Norton Book of Science Fiction, Norton (New York, NY), 1993, Women of Wonder, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1995, Isaac Asimov's Camelot, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1998, and Isaac Asimov's Valentines, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1999. Author of "Dapple: A Hwarhath Historical Romance." Contributor to periodicals.
SIDELIGHTS: Eleanor Arnason is known as a successful science-fiction writer. In 1978, she published her first novel, the coming-of-age saga The Sword Smith, and readily established herself as a proficient stylist. Arnason followed The Sword Smith with To the Resurrection Station, which concerns romantic entanglements on a space colony. Belinda Smith, the tale's heroine, is a young woman capable of prompting bizarre physical changes in herself and others within range of her powers. Belinda is studying at a colony college when she is abruptly withdrawn from school and informed that a marriage has been arranged between herself and a native. Furthermore, Belinda is informed that she is herself half-native, half-Earthling. Complications ensue when Claude, the native to whom Belinda has been pledged in matrimony, falls in love with Belinda's college roommate, Marianne, who is, in turn, secretly married. After a series of adventures, Belinda and Claude, together with a helpful robot, arrive on Earth only to discover that most humans have been eliminated following a war with genetically engineered rats. More escapades ensue before Belinda, Claude, and the robot manage to escape from Earth and head into space.
Arnason next published Daughter of the Bear King, the story of Esperance Olson, a middle-aged Minneapolis homemaker who is electrocuted by her washing machine and consequently finds herself in an alternate world where she possesses magic powers, including the ability to transform herself into a bear. Olson is told by inhabitants of this other world that she actually hails from it too, and that, as daughter of the Bear King, she holds the ability to rid this other world of such creatures as dragons, cockroaches, and snail-chicken hybrids, all of whom threaten to overrun the world in plague-like numbers. Olson somehow manages a return to Minneapolis, only to be pursued by countless gruesome creatures that exert an unpleasant influence on the doings within her community. A reviewer for the Washington Post Book World proclaimed Daughter of the Bear King "quite simply the most enjoyable fantasy novel I have ever read."
A Woman of the Iron People, Arnason's next novel, was described by reviewer Richard Grant, writing in the Washington Post Book World, as "good old-fashioned science fiction of a certain type," which he dubbed "speculative anthropology." This tale, which was also published in two volumes as In the Light of Sigma Draconis and Changing Women, concerns a clash of cultures that commences after a team of eight Earthlings arrives on a faraway planet to study life there. The natives on this planet, although intelligent, are technologically inferior to the Earthlings. Their culture is a relatively primitive one in which natives abstain from sexual activity except during a brief mating period. At other times the native women and children devote themselves to handcrafts and live separate from the males. Complications develop when one of the human observers, Lixia, becomes drawn to Nia, a renegade female native whose conduct sometimes bears greater similarities to males then it does to her own gender. Grant, in his Washington Post Book World appraisal, deemed A Woman of the Iron People "lively, stimulating, intelligent, subtle and even witty."
In 1993, Arnason produced Ring of Swords, in which she again pursued the notion of clashing cultures. In this novel Earthlings travel to a distant planet and commence peace negotiations with the world's warmongering males, the hwarhaths. Nicolas, the Earthling translator, has forsaken his species and become the homosexual lover of a hwarhath general. Meanwhile, the human biologist Anna Perez has been imprisoned by her fellow Earthlings, who accuse her of espionage. When Anna is rescued by a daring band of hwarhaths, she realizes a significant opportunity for conducting further studies into the native culture. Among her discoveries is that the hwarhaths are actually grateful that the Earthlings have arrived and thus become opponents in a highly anticipated conflict. John Stadek, in his review of Rings of Swords for the Washington Post Book World, affirmed that Arnason "has a knack for inventing very human aliens." He added that he "enjoyed every page" of Arnason's novel.
Arnason's short-story collection, Ordinary People, contains six stories, a poem, and the transcript of a speech given by the author. The title suggests that while Arnason's alien characters may look strange, they are really just common, everyday people trying to make their living. In one story, structured like a traditional fairy tale, five daughters take their portion of their mother's heritage and seek their way in the world with it. The catch is that the mother's heritage is language, and one daughter is given nouns, another verbs, and so on. In the end, the prepositions, which might seem like the least useful group, turn out to be the greatest treasure. Arnason also revisits the setting of Ring of Swords in a story that tells of two lovers breaking the taboo of heterosexual love. Reviewing the book for Tangent Short Fiction Review, Lois Tilton voiced some disappointment that there was no new work in it, but added: "What it does provide is a new look at the range of her fiction, and more good reason than ever to wish for more new stories."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, June, 1987, Tom Easton, review of To the Resurrection Station, pp. 183-184.
Lambda Book Report, September-October, 1993, Susanna J. Sturgis, review of Ring of Swords, p. 32.
New Statesman & Society, January 29, 1988, Colin Greenland, review of Daughter of the Bear King, p. 30.
New York Times Book Review, July 14, 1991, Gerald Jonas, review of A Woman of the Iron People, p. 27.
Washington Post Book World, September 27, 1987, review of Daughter of the Bear King, p. 10; May 26, 1991, Richard Grant, review of A Woman of the Iron People, p. 6; August 29, 1993, John Stadek, review of Ring of Swords, p. 12.
Eleanor Arnason's Blog Spot, http://www.eleanorarnason.blogspot.com (December 8, 2006).
Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Online, http://www.asimovs.com/ (December 8, 2006), brief article about Eleanor Arnason.
Strange Horizons, http://www.strangehorizons.com/ (December 8, 2006), Lyda Morehouse, interview with Eleanor Arnason.
Tangent Short Fiction Review, http://www.tangentonline.com/ (June 26, 2005), Lois Tilton, review of Ordinary People.