C.J. Cherryh Named SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master

C. J. Cherryh. Photo by Keith Stokes.

C. J. Cherryh. Photo by Keith Stokes.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has selected C. J. Cherryh as the 32nd Damon Knight Grand Master for her contributions to the literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award is given by SFWA for “lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy.”

Cherryh joins the Grand Master ranks alongside such legends as Gene Wolfe, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Joe Haldeman.

C.J. Cherryh won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1977 and three Hugo Awards, including the Best Novel Award for Cyteen and Downbelow Station. In 1998, Cherryh was the Guest of Honor at the World Science Fiction Convention. In addition to her Hugo winning works, Cherryh is the author of The Faded Sun series, the long-running Foreigner series, and the Chanur books. Her writing spans the breadth from space opera to historical fantasy.

Cherryh responded, “I never expected this. I’m honored to join the ranks of so many illustrious writers. I have a lot of books left to write, a lot of books I want to write, stories I want to tell. I thank my publishers, who keep me in print—I thank my agent, as well. I thank everybody, profoundly, who gives me the chance to do that. And I plan to keep the books coming.”

SFWA President Cat Rambo said, “As a longtime reader and re-reader of Cherryh’s works, I am thrilled beyond measure to be able to recognize her contribution to the field in this way. She is a master of long-running series involving worlds and characters that the reader can visit and revisit with a true sense of wonder each and every time.”

Cherryh’s award will be presented at the 51st SFWA Nebula Conference in Chicago, IL, May 12-15, 2016 as will the Nebula Awards. On May 13, a mass autograph session will take place at the Palmer House and is open to the public.

47 thoughts on “C.J. Cherryh Named SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master

  1. Congratulations!

    Followed swiftly by a confession – haven’t read any of her stuff. Tried Downbelow Station back in my teens, never got past the first few pages. Gonna hunt it down agin the next time I’m home, but before I start, is there another better place to start with her sci-fi stuff?

  2. is there another better place to start with her sci-fi stuff?

    The one usually recommended is Merchanter’s Luck. You might also try the Faded Sun series, or The Paladin, which is fantasy, but not with sorcery. Cuckoo’s Egg is an interesting story, also.

  3. Gonna hunt it down agin the next time I’m home, but before I start, is there another better place to start with her sci-fi stuff?

    I really like her Faded Sun trilogy.

  4. Merchanter’s Luck is good and short so it is easy to get through. It also is a good example of one of Cherryh’s favorite themes. She takes what would be a hyper competent protagonist in most books and keeps a tight focus on them in a state of panic, operating without vital need to know information until the end of the story were you get to look back at what they have done..

  5. I also struggled with Downbelow Station on my first attempt, and Merchanter’s Luck is the one that finally ended up sucking me into the series. Others have suggested that Rimrunners makes a pretty good introduction as well. The Chanur novels, starting with The Pride of Chanur, are a nicely contained subseries (only tangentially linked to the main Alliance/Union stories) that are well-loved and quite accessible. The Faded Sun books are also quite good, although I didn’t like them as much as the ones I’ve mentioned above.

  6. The irony of recommending Merchanter’s Luck over Downbelow Station is that the former was written first, but published later because she was told she needed to establish the background for Sandor’s story.

  7. @Chip Hitchcock: Heh, I did not know that. I agree, that’s amusing.

    Although, come to think of it, knowing there were other stories in the same ‘verse did made Merchanter’s Luck a little more interesting for me.

  8. This is fantastic! (Of course I think so–why else would I have been using one of her book covers as an icon?) Ridiculous that I had to go to ABE Books to get all the Alliance-Union series, because half of them are that long out of print.

  9. Well deserved! I’ve read almost all her books and buy anything new without question.

    Where to start? Added to what others have recommended, I’d say Serpent’s Reach or 40,000 in Gehenna are other peripheral Alliance/Union tales that are really interesting but don’t require the central books to figure out what’s going on.

    There’s also the unrelated Morgainne Cycle, but that’s a 4 book commitment that reads more like fantasy.

  10. A great choice.

    I’m rather partial to Heavy Time/Helldivers, although they’re by no means her best books in that sequence or the most important.

  11. So what powers come with being a Demon Knight Grandmaster? A spectral horse at the very least one hopes.

    ISTR Heavy Time/Helldivers requiring quite a lot of effort to penetrate. Merchanter’s Luck and Finity’s End are the more accessible Traveller style SF, for those that like such things.

    ETA: Sigh. Another great writer with most of their great books only available in dead tree editions…

  12. Lurker chiming in to share my fun C.J. Cherryh fact: My father was in her class when she used to teach high school Latin. Her first novel was published while she was still teaching.

  13. @KevSaund

    Good fact!

    (I should end this comment with a witty Latin tag, but I was terrible at it)

  14. So many SF writers of my generation started with a fan-crush on Cherryh.

    I’ll add another recommendation for the Faded Sun books as entry-reading, although they can be said to be dated.

  15. I love Cherryh but I’m not sure Faded Sun is the best entry point. I read them out of order after picking up Kesrith off a grocery store rack. Kesrith rocked but was a great finale to a series that was a slow build. I’d go with Downbelow Station as the best display of her strengths while staying self contained in a single volume. Morally complex heroes and villains instead of cardboard cutouts, alien aliens, compressed action, a universe with a sense of history, etc.

  16. How come JRR Tolkein never made grandmaster? Do you have to be alive to get in and a member of SFWA? Does that mean that Robert Jordan will never get it?

  17. How come JRR Tolkein never made grandmaster? Do you have to be alive to get in and a member of SFWA? Does that mean that Robert Jordan will never get it?

    The honor can only be given to no more than one living science fiction or fantasy writer per year. The award was created in 1975. Tolkien died in 1973. As Jordan died without being named to the honor, he will never be a Grand Master.

  18. “As Jordan died without being named to the honor, he will never be a Grand Master.”

    Argh, so Joanna Russ will never be one either.

  19. I started with Morgaine and went onto The Faded Sun and didn’t stop until I kinda burnt out a bit on the Foreigner series – first trilogy was great, rest dragged a bit for me. She’s pretty much the towering figure for me in my science fiction reading.

  20. What do people think of Cyteen as an entry point into Alliance-Union? It has more SF elements with a great central SFnal conceit. It is deeply psychological, like so many of her books, but unlike many it *doesn’t* focus tightly on a single fragile, damaged psyche (he’s there, but as a side character).

  21. Congratulations to her! Well done, very well deserved, and a long time coming.

  22. Loved Cyteen, though it was long ago I read it so don’t ask me to discuss the detalis, I just remember being enthralled – I really like it on the rare occasions when her books have multiple POVs.

    I really liked Rider At The Gate and Cloud’s Rider and wish she’d write more in that setting.

  23. @jcr, Cyteen is IMO her greatest single book, but exactly which I’d recommend as a first read I’m not sure. It does stand well on its own, IMO, and does give you the full Cherryh effect.

  24. Chiming back in to also mention some of her older works that don’t get as much discussion. The stuff that used to come in those slim DAW volumes like Voyager in Night and Wave Without a Shore are pretty darn good. They also show some playfulness with ideas that maybe isn’t as front and center in her later works (then again: Cyteen!). They don’t have her fully matured voice though . Trade Offs! I vaguely recall seeing collections with 2 or 3 of these shorter stories per volume in the last few years.

  25. I was trying to explain why CJ is such a towering figure to someone who’s into SF movies but not books, and ended up with Fury Road as my example; no one before Cherryh wrote badass women because badass women were deemed not to exist.

    Bet Yeager isn’t nice, Signy Mallory isn’t nice, and neither of them is in the market for a deeply committed monogamous relationship with a fine upstanding hero, which is probably just as well because both of them have no qualms about killing for cause, and the average fine upstanding hero really couldn’t handle it.

    Both of them are capable of passionate love; it’s just not the sort of passionate love which women are supposed to feel if, for example, they are a character in a book written by CS Lewis, or his spiritual heirs. As you can probably tell, I’m really happy that CJ has the Grand Mastership which she so richly deserves.

  26. I have, I think, two major holes in my Cherryh reading: Foreigner (which, tbh, I probably won’t attempt at this point because it’s something over a dozen books) and Regenesis (which I just never got around to when it came out, and at this point I’d want to reread Cyteen first).

    Oh, I also haven’t read the Rider at the Gate or Hammerfall sequences.

  27. I guess it makes sense to honor someone alive so they can come to worldcon and such. I think there were some years were no grandmaster was named. Does anyone know why that is?

  28. Guess: What in the world does being named a SFWA Grand Master have to do with going to Worldcon? Cherryh was perfectly capable of going to Worldcons before being named a Grand Master (indeed, I met her and had a lovely conversation with her at one, years and years ago). And it’s not like the Programming department of any Worldcon would have kept her off panels, either. So please explain what you’re trying to say, because I can’t make head nor tails of it.

  29. I assume that was in reference to the discussion upthread about Grandmaster status being limited to living writers?

  30. I think there were some years were no grandmaster was named. Does anyone know why that is?

    There used to be further limitations on the number of Grand Masters that could be named in a given time period (i.e. no more than six Grand Masters named in a decade).

  31. Joe H

    Hammerfall reminds me somewhat of The Faded Sun trilogy; certainly readable but not my favourite; Rider at the Gate and Cloud’s Rider have a completely different vibe, and I wish she would write more set in that world.

    Regenesis is, in my view, underrated but you would certainly need to reread Cyteen before tackling it. I don’t think CS Lewis would have approved of Ariane Emory – original and clone – either, which is another point in their favour…

  32. SFWA’s Grand Master award was never originally intended to be an annual event, but the impulse to award has proved near-impossible to resist.

  33. I think the biggest reason I hesitate to recommend Cyteen as an entry point—even though it’s one of my all-time favorites—is that it starts off kind of slow. And Old Ari is not exactly a sympathetic character. You may find yourself wondering: “who is this Machiavellian bitch, and why should I care?” If you’re already invested in the ‘verse, you have at least a partial answer for the “why should I care?” part.

    Is Regenesis underrated? Or merely underdiscussed? It’s certainly a book that deserves more attention, but it’s also a direct sequel, so it’s more likely to be discussed along with Cyteen than on its own. Anyway, I also loved it. 🙂

    Rider at the Gate…yeah, I’d like to see more exploration in that ‘verse.

  34. I also think that it helps to have read, at a minimum, 40,000 in Gehenna and the Chanur books before Cyteen, if only because some of the events in Cyteen make more sense if you know what’s happening elsewhere at the same time.

    And maybe Downbelow Station for general Union/Alliance backstory.

  35. It’s fun to read the discussion about where to start reading CJ Cherryh’s work. She’s written a lot of books. Sorry, but they are all good. Some of them may seem daunting, but they are worth the effort. My recommendation would be to read all of them.

  36. Great news. Well deserved.

    Anyone knows when the Nebula nominees for this year would be announced? It should be very soon (in previous years it’s always on or about 20th of February), but I can’t find an exact date anywhere.

  37. Good! About time!! In my hierarchy of Really Great Writers, Cherryh stands second only to Jack Vance.

    I’ll agree what a few others said… Downbelow Station is a dense read, and it made little sense to me first time through. It got better on reread after I’d also read the whole rest of the set… several times. In fact I’m not sure I got all the nuances until … well, now I’ve read the entire Union/Alliance sequence five times (except for Cyteen, which I’m less fond of) and am starting to itch for another trip. Merchanter’s Luck and Rimrunners are more accessable, and probably better entry points into the series.

    And I’d really, really like to see the story that’s hinted at the end of Merchanter’s Luck.

  38. Had I won the $1.5B Powerball (I suppose that would’ve required a ticket), I’d’ve probably used at least some of my winnings to try to commission additional Chanur, Alliance/Union and Morgaine books.

Comments are closed.