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Judith Tarr

A Horse by Any Other Name: Anne McCaffrey’s Dragons

I’ve talked before about how Anne McCaffrey modeled her famous dragons on horses, and specifically the Lipizzan horses of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. What I hadn’t done at that time was sit down and do a reread of a bunch of dragon books.

Recently I got the urge. There happened to be an eBook sale, one of those short-term grab ’em with the first volume deals, and I was looking for some high-quality work avoidance. Bonus chance to find out if I remembered the horseness of dragons correctly? Bring it on. [Dragons vs. Horses…]

Andre Norton Tackles Climate Change in Outside

Outside is amazingly topical for a short work written apparently for younger readers sometime before 1974. The illustrations by Bernard Colonna are lovely and oh so Seventies. I particularly admire the brother, who is around age 18, but is portrayed with Peter Max hair and a handsome porn ‘stache.

The story is told from the point of view of his nine-year-old sister, Kristie. Kristie and Lew live in a domed city. The world outside is an uninhabitable wasteland. The city inside is rapidly devolving into a similar state.

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Understanding Horses: Yes, Riding Is a Sport

Every four years, give or take, allowing for the occasional world war or pandemic, somebody somewhere starts up the old refrain. How can Equestrian be a sport? It’s too easy! You just sit there! Where’s the athleticism? This year there’s a bonus. Celebrity offspring makes the team. Obviously Daddy bought her slot. There’s no way she earned it for herself.

Riding is like writing. It looks much easier than it is. Everybody thinks they can do it if they just get around to it. Dash off some words. Sit on that horse and it carries you around. Simple, right? Easy as pie. [Read more]

Losing Control of the Plot: Andre Norton’s Perilous Dreams

Perilous Dreams is a collection of stories set in (and around and through) the dreamers’ Hive on the alien world of Ty-Kry. The stories are interconnected. The first two, “Toys of Tamisan” and “The Ship of Mist,” constitute a single long narrative. The much shorter “Get Out of My Dream” is a standalone of sorts, as is “Nightmare.” They do however hang together, and reading them all in sequence provides a fairly complete insight into their world.

I read the collection years ago, and remembered the titles, but not much else except that I had enjoyed them. I enjoyed them in 2021, too. They’re not perfect stories, but they are well paced, with fast action and reasonably engaging characters. They’re page-turners, in short. Good reading for a hot summer weekend.

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Understanding Horses: Chasing Cows and Other Pursuits

It’s question time again for SFF Equines, and we have another good one:

Is cow chasing a matter solely of training, or do some breeds come with it wired, as border collies seem to be wired to herd (small humans, according to report, if there’s nothing better to organize)?

Also ducks, geese, waves, clouds, and anything else that in some way resembles a sheep. Indeed: certain dog breeds will absolutely do what they were bred to do. A border collie will herd, a hound will hunt, a husky will pull. It’s built in.

The same applies to certain breeds of horses.

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Clawing Toward Hope: Andre Norton’s No Night Without Stars

No Night Without Stars was a formative novel for me. It came out in 1975, and I read it while it was still new. It gave me ideas, and a few names that I loved the sound of and adapted for my own work in the following decade or two.

All that was left of it when I picked it up again, decades later, was a memory of names and a dim recollection of the plot. Unlike, say, Moon of Three Rings or The Crystal Gryphon, it hadn’t stayed with me. It read almost like new, but through the lens of 2021 rather than 1975.

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Understanding Horses: Riding as Cooperation

Every now and then SFF Equines takes reader questions. (Have one of your own? Ask in comments.) Here is a good one from a reader who presents themself as “not much of a horse person.” They ask:

A very basic question that’s been growing in my mind the more you talk about riding as cooperation. Why does a horse with a human sitting on their back agree to let the human make most of the decisions about where to go? I mean, if you and your horse are heading down the trail on a hot day, and the trail forks with the left branch going to a pleasant, cool pine grove and the right branch going to a meadow where there are some new calves, and you think, “The pines would sure be nice but first I want to check on the calves,” and you say to the horse, “Let’s go right,” hopefully she’s going to agree even if she would prefer some shade. But why would she?

The key to how a horse thinks is what a horse is. A horse is a herd animal. She’s designed to live in groups, to be part of a larger whole.

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Closing the Book on a World: Andre Norton’s The Warding of Witch World

Although I was encouraged to read several of the collaborations before venturing this epic roundup of all the Witch World threads and stories, I was stubborn and stuck to my schedule, and here I am. I see why it might have been useful to have read the Griffin collaborations at least, for the backstory on some of the characters and situations, but I didn’t have any particular trouble figuring out what was going on.

The Warding of Witch World is Norton’s longest novel by far. It seems to have been meant to be a tour de force, and for the most part I think it succeeded. Here for the first time I really felt how epic the scope of the Witch World is.

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Understanding Horses: The Familial Bond Between Horse and Human

This was going to be a “Links to Take Into Summer” post, lining up a series of horse-related links for fun and delectation. Then I watched the whole video I meant to link first—Dr. Kelsey John’s lecture “Animalities: Navajo Horse as Healer and Educator”—and all I want to do now is wrap it around myself and let it keep telling me its stories. I want to sit down with the horse and her human sister and ask questions. So many questions. And listen carefully to the answers.

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Variations on a Theme: Andre Norton’s Spell of the Witch World

Andre Norton seems to have really liked writing stories set in High Hallack and the Dales of the Witch World. Or maybe her fans really liked her to write them. Three are collected in this volume, two longer works, “Dragon Scale Silver” and “Amber Out of Quayth,” and one much shorter, “Dream Smith.”

They’re all pretty much the same story with some variation. Misfit protagonist learns to wield magic under influence of the long-vanished Old Ones, against a backdrop of the devastating war against the Hounds of Alizon. All three stories feature victims of the war and its aftermath, and all three protagonists have some form of magic.

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Understanding Horses: Living in the World

A frequent subject of my Morning Manure Meditations—the hour of the morning when I feed horses and clean stalls and finish waking up because Not A Morning Person Here—is the way horses live so completely in this physical world. I’ve written about it before, but it keeps showing me new faces of itself, or illuminating older ones.

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So Much Story, So Little Page Count: Andre Norton’s Dare to Go A-Hunting

Andre Norton has a habit of running out of page count in her novels. Her adventures gallop headlong from peril to peril, swerving past monsters both human and otherwise, diving underground, careening through weird and wonderful landscapes, until they screech to a halt on the very last page, sometimes the very last paragraph. Then the characters of opposite sex, if any, suddenly swear eternal—something. Not love so much as end-of-movie lip-lock and rapid fade to black.

It’s not often that she loses control of her material. Her adventures for the most part are tightly plotted. She might run out of plot halfway through and repeat it all over again to fill out the page count, but in general, abrupt ending aside, she knows how to keep the story moving and how much information to provide in the process. Even the abrupt ending has a reason: She is not really interested in the mushy stuff, but if there’s a girl and a guy and they work together to solve the big plot-problem, the standard expectation seems to be that they’ll become a romantic unit. Or aromantic unit. Something more or less heteronormative.

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Winged Magic: Andre Norton’s Flight in Yiktor

I don’t know why I waited so long to reread this, but the way it turned out, I’m glad I did. It’s one of the greater delights of reading all of Andre Norton that for every work that really doesn’t cut it, there are many more that do. When they happen back to back, as happened here, it truly is a gift.

I remembered Flight in Yiktor as being quite a lot of fun, and so it was. It was so much fun that as I read it, I felt guilty for reading it when I should be, you know, working. Then I smacked myself upside the head. I was working. I was rereading it for this series.

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Understanding Horses: Caring for Wise Elders

Keeping the elder horse fed and healthy is as much an art as a science. Horses, like humans, change as they age, and every individual is different. Even the speed at which they age: breeding and genetics, time and miles, wear and tear, all have something to do with how well or how fast a horse grows old. One horse may be broken down in their mid-teens or even earlier; another may still be lively and vigorous well up in their twenties or even thirties—especially if they’re a pony. Ponies are famously long-lived.

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