Eleanor Atwood Arnason was born on the 28th of December, 1942, in Manhattan, New York, United States of America. Eleanor is an American author of science fiction novels, short stories, and, formerly, literary novels.
Eleanor’s father was H. Harvard Arnason. H. Harvard was a Canadian-born man of Icelandic heritage. He worked as an art historian, even going so far as to become the director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1951. Eleanor’s mother, though, was Elizabeth Hickcox Yard Arnason. She was a social worker, having spent her respective childhood in a missionary community in the western regions of China.
Additionally, Elizabeth was a feminist and a socialist, so the social conflicts and cultural alterations featured prominently in Eleanor’s writings might have stemmed from her upbringing. As such, her characters often are unable or unwilling to live by the rules of the status quo, or the society. Instead, they attempt to, in a sense, uproot, and modify it. Eleanor’s fiction work is an extensive, rich one, and we will now take a look at the best Eleanor Arnason books.
A Woman of the Iron People
A Woman of the Iron People by Arnason was published in the year of 1991. The book is, in fact, comprised of two separate books, though readers will be most familiar by the title we’ve provided. The two books that make up the whole story are – In the Light of Silma Draconis, and Changing Women.
Our main character in the story is Lixia. Lixia has freshly landed on a distant, unknown alien planet. We learn that humanity has taken up the endeavor of venturing into the distant stars, exploring them, with ideals of a high-minded quality.
They were instructed to respond or react to the indigenous people dependent on how advanced they are. Nia is a girl born from this alien race, the ones that call themselves the Iron People. Nia’s mother passed away when she was far younger, and Nia has since lived with her mother’s sister. Something peculiar hangs in the air that Nia breathes: she feels different from the people in her village, even the women.
The story, as is worth noting, is set into the future. The civilization now lives in a kind of Socialist period, as the Earth has gone through a number of damnable points and periods, but it has come out stronger, all the more.
Nia’s people, namely the women, ought to stay in the village their whole lives, while the men, once having gone through the so-called ‘the change’ – a callback to Asimov’s ‘The Gods Themselves’, perhaps –, they up and leave. The men can’t cope with being around plenty people, so they journey out and leave alone.
When spring hits, the women go in search of their mate, after which they raise the progeny by themselves. Suffice to say that Nia isn’t all up for the status quo, and she goes against all that her people know.
Infinitely intriguing, A Women of the Iron People is one of the best sci-fi books, let alone best Eleanor Arnason book.
Hwarhath Book series
- Ring of Swords, which was published in 1994;
- Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens, published in 2016;
To say a few words on the latter book, Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens, is a collection of quite a few stories, some short, some longer, as translated by the alien race Hwarhath and given to the humans to learn of their ways. It is an odd addition, having been published more than twenty years after the first book, but a great addition, truly. The striking prose of Arnason hasn’t lost a single bit of its footing, and it shows.
Ring of Swords, however, is the more well-known and loved book of the ‘series’. In a layman’s terms, it’s actually a book about humanity’s first contact with an extraterrestrial race. Humanity has, in fact, made contact with only a single other sentient race of people – the Hwarhath –, but they have been in war with one another for the better part of the last fifty, or so years.
The time, however, has come for the two races to make peace with one another. They are limited, though, in the manner that they don’t know much about each other.
Our protagonist, Anna Perez, can make a difference right here. Anna is a biologist studying the sea beings living on the planet where the humans and the Hwarhath are hosting the talks. Anna thinks that, and this is in clear juxtaposition with what her colleagues and coevals suppose, this sea race is actually a sentient one, too.
The book has quite a lot to say on the relationships between the genders in the Hwarhath society, as homosexual relationships are the primary choice, heterosexuality is a great taboo. Arnason’s magic does wonders unearthing the deeper story of the Hwarhath people. What she has in store for the reader as pertinent to our own, and the society of the alien race, is nothing short of awe worthy. Truly one of Eleanor Arnason’s best books.
Mammoths of the Great Plains
Mammoths of the Great Plains was published in 2010. Unlike the other two books – or series, as one might call them –, Mammoths of the Great Plains isn’t necessarily a science fiction story. If it is, though, it doesn’t sport quite a lot of science. At least, a lot less science than the other entries.
Instead, the book is a compelling, intriguing retelling of an eerily different history to the one we have had. In this version, the mammoths didn’t meet their end up until the first years of the 20th century. Additionally, they were resurrected because of the diligent efforts by an elderly Native American scientist.
The writing and the way that the story tackled the themes of assimilation, culture issues, and the crux of what science is, and where it crosses paths with the faculty of magic, are nothing short of brilliant. Even years after having been an accomplished writer, Eleanor’s efforts are still as substantial as years prior.
In fact, the way that this alternative take on history unfolds, one might even find themselves questioning their own historical knowledge. Eleanor Arnason is an author that never disappoints. As such, these few books are only examples of Eleanor Arnason’s best books that will surely amaze readers just as the aforementioned ones already have – Hidden Folk and Daughter of the Bear King.