spoiler potential: caution: book questions.

Do not get into this page if you are trying to read a book. This is for after you’ve read it. Likewise follow the custom of putting a subject and then dropping down a number of lines to make it possible for a reader to duck out if they don’t want the information yet.

I will answer questions about pronunciation, etc, all the little questions I’m normally asked. I won’t discuss things that disturb my creative process, like where I’m going or such. You can theorize among yourselves.


  1. BlueCatShip

    It’s been a long time since I last reread the Chanur books, which I’m picking up to reread. Hani spacers cuss like sailors (of course). I wonder: CJ, did you ever come up with hani words for the distinctions hani make for concepts involving parentage and clan membership? All I recall are English used for the hani concepts, things such as “son” (disparagingly), ba****d (different from the human concept), “motherless” (implying abandonment by the mother, unknown/unacknowledged mother, orphaned by the mother’s loss), being outcast or outlawed by one’s clan, and so on. The exception being that “nef” means “formerly of clan X” or “former lord of clan X”. Then you have that Geran and Chur chose to leave their clan over something they found disagreeable, in favor of clan Chanur. IIRC, na Khym nef Mahn lost Mahn to an upstart male sponsored, ironically, by a overly ambitious daughter of ker Pyanfar (and perhaps na Khym). — I am trying to figure out how hani react to the changes, voluntary or by outside action, that happen to/in a clan.

    I don’t recall clearly. Was it decreed, or just advised / encouraged, that hani clans (and thereby hani males and children) colonize off Anuurn, in ships, stations, and colony worlds? Seems like that was one of the conclusions to prevent “all the eggs in one basket” and encourage the integration of menfolk into responsible jobs, the loss of hani chauvinism in regards to gender. (Very thorough way of showing, refuting, human attitudes about a supposedly “weaker” sex.) — All those things that’d be thrown into upheaval if the hani cultural mindset has to take in hani males as equals, crewmen.

    There’s quite a bit in there, based on how lion prides function. But hani clans would change along hani behavioral lines. Hani women and men alike get ambitious or disagree. A noticeable percentage of hani males, whatever age, are lost to competition. Yet most make it, and now a few may reach the stars. — The books don’t quite cover how brothers might operate, or hani male friendships, or any cases where there might be more than friendship develop. I don’t know if lion male cubs form clubs/gangs, as has been observed for dolphin juveniles or adolescents. No idea if that carries over into adulthood. (Points to ponder.)

    I don’t recall if hani children were ever described with spots / stripes. I don’t remember any reference to hani adults with other than solid coats, or anything beyond gold or bronze fur; no tortoiseshell (black and orange) females. Those might well not occur in them. (Not sure if they occur in cougars/pumas, either, closer to housecats genetically.) — More to the point, if the adults are so fixated on competition, aggressiveness, what are hani children and adolescents like? (Whew, I’m thinking both female and male hani teens would be holy terrors. I notice that Hilfy was fine, but they tended to curb her more “enthusiastic” moments (objecting to the captain, for instance).

    Hmm… Did they also establish something like a hani space force, not blackbreeches, but a kind of hani navy? Think I’m inventing something there that didn’t happen.

    Another point to ponder: Human contact with the Compact species was limited by treaty. But we all know that accidents, ambitions, contrariness, and powerful organizations, or changes in government all can throw that into a cocked hat, either side (all species’ sides) of the treaty…. :evil-laugh:

    No, I’m not a bit excited about rereading the books. πŸ˜‰ Much.

    …Dang, I’m known for long-winded posts, but how long did I make this thing?…

    • doctorlish

      Hi CJ,
      Your books have over decades given me more than any others. As a psychologist with a focus on evolutionary as well as organizational psychology, I am intrigued as to why this is. I believe that 1)most of your characters are essentially internally harmonious (Morgaine is not my favorite), which is restful and refreshing for me 2) the books step aside from and examine cultural assumptions without buying into them 3) the craft, particularly the inner voice, is equisite and different for each series. I am delighted to find your site!

  2. BlueCatShip

    Another (im)pertinent question: What would happen if a hani’s parents are unknown, if the father’s known but not perhaps acknowledged, or unknown, and if the mother, for whatever reason, is no longer in the picture? Downworld, I’d think she’d be raised by some other clan as their own. Offworld, presumably the same. But there are bound to be poor or unfit mothers or other conditions that’d lead to a hani child being without a family, on the street or in the countryside or on station docks. (Compare Fletcher Neihart during events on Downbelow Station.) Would there be any hani word for such an out-clan / clanless person? — My mind’s thinking up all sorts of things, which is getting in the way of reading or of my own writing. Just wondering.

  3. CJ

    A related clan (and there are relationships between clans) would be obliged to take her, but in the way of things, not an optimal situation: hard to prevent the family-born kids from being defensive of their turf. Ultimately she’d be on her own—looking for territory, in the ancient world, looking for a means to make a living in the modern age. The females’ wanderlust is how new clans get started. She wouldn’t have any problem attracting a potential mate (a huge selection of hani males out looking for a golden opportunity like a brand new clan with no older male defending it) but she’d have to be smart to weed out the undesirables.

  4. BlueCatShip

    Huh, hadn’t thought of a landless young woman going out, finding a man, and starting up her own clan. That, despite Kara and Tahy Mahn. I was thinking, I guess, more in terms of how a displaced/orphaned (no acknowledged father OR mother) adolescent hani would make it in the world (or out of the world). But I think that, plus some more pondering, answers my question. Thanks.

    — Cargo holds, cans (canisters), containers (big, long, boxy suckers in current human shipping). — From book descriptions, it sounds like most holds are big, cavernous chambers built to house anything from cans (with the can loaders’ and haulers’ operations described) to containers. Though didn’t one ship have the containers or holds as modules, and jettison them to reveal ship’s guns/canons? Seems like that was a mahen hunter-ship (a privateer by analogy). My question is, do human or alien ships have holds, or some sort of modular arrangement, perhaps attaching the containers, or both? Would that depend on the ship’s size? Thanks in advance.

    • CJ

      The can haulers’ bodies consist of a front end crew compartment, then clamps that enable properly shaped cannisters to fit and configure the center of mass, and finally the engines. They can also handle really odd objects, viz Port Eternity, where one hauls (did I actually put that in?) an entire small mining craft. They can look like a pregnant guppy or a very starved one. Many cans for can-haulers are the size of a small building, and cylindrical.

      The regular haulers can handle things in smaller quantity and with differing temperature requirements (although cans are part of it: and each can is able to have temperature control. THere are also, in some haulers, warm compartments, and gravitied holds. You wouldn’t want to transport good Scotch in interstellar cold.

      • Jcrow9

        What took me a while to ‘get’ is that “can” is a multi-use term. A can-hauler uses huge cans (“the size of a small building”) but most any cargo ship packages at least cold-hold freight in containers called ‘cans’ as well, viz. Tully hidden in a can of shishu fruit, I think it was, or the Neiharts all vacuuming flour out of one can into another (then cleaning the now-empty container) to ensure there isn’t a concealed bomb or other infernal device in the freight they’ve taken on.
        So, I suppose, you might have cans (can-hauler size) filled with cans (bulk freight size)!
        Which seems awkward at best… to be serious only briefly. I’m envisioning clamp systems, can-tracks, power system connections (umbilicals) for can environment control, etc., inside a can-hauler can. Or are can-hauler cans only used for bulk freight-and is there enough demand for huge quantities like that? How in the world could you load the big cans if they were loaded en bloc? You’d need some sort of dock for the can iteself…
        See what happens when an engineer has a free moment or two? Bad Things Happen! :-O

        • CJ

          Interesting questions. And you are correct. The really big cans are not loaded from dockside. They are shoved out, and pusher craft brake and reorient them, then move them gently into position. Loading of a can-hauler’s larger cans is not done in dock, but with the hauler positioned fairly near the station, and in microgravity. Pusher craft first match a can, then brake it, then move it into position to be clamped in place.

          The huge quantities in such cans supply stations with hundreds of thousands of residents, and with manufacturing and life-support needs proportional to the complex of stations at a given star. With many commodities, the can is emptied in microgravity at one station, then divvied up into smaller cans going to the outlying stations by pusher-ship, many of those being robotic.

  5. tyr

    I was wondering:

    Has anyone ever asked you about the origin of the society in Wave Without a Shore?

    The reason for my curiosity is that the majority of human polity exhibits identical
    behaviors to some extent, you seem to have seen it. I question whether others are
    even capable of seeing themselves mirrored in this story. I’m not implying any
    deficiency as a cause, merely the fish doesn’t know it lives in water aspect.

    People seem to want very badly to be living in a world that would falsify the record
    of human history. See Vilfredo Pareto for details, particularly the footnotes…GRIN

    The real question is what did you discover that led you to write this particular
    tale. I’m assuming it is both a question you had and a partial answer to it.

  6. CJ

    I suffered through a college course on the French philosophers. The existentialists drove me crazy. I’m kind of a Zen-Stoic…if it’s happening to you, you’re in charge of it. Or you should be.

  7. tyr

    You have my sympathy for enduring the course. The only thing I took away from Sartre
    (other than a bad taste in my mouth) was a bad joke I made up about his burial.
    His minions still exist in european academe and can make you seriously question the
    sanity of some credentialed types even today.

    I come from the philosophical school that thinks it took 16 strong men to get the
    hemlock into Socrates the old soldier. Makes me less than trusting of neatly tied
    up history events and simple explanations.

    I’d say something about Strauss and the modern desire for a fabricated mythos but it
    impinges on hot topic politics which has recently irritated a lot of people so it is
    too soon to kick that dog….GRIN

  8. knnn

    Dear CJ,

    I wanted to tell you my experiences reading your books over the years. I began with Thieves World in the 80’s from the local grocery store! I read all the Thieves World, so I am a big fan, however I considered it fun “light reading”. Right or wrong I categorized the writers that way as well. Therefore when I picked up Cyteen, I did not expect its supperior literary skill. I remember reading it and thinking “Wow this is an amazing book”. But for some reason I did not read any more of your books for about 10 or 15 years, because I think I was confused about the universes and didn’t know where to start, which is resolved with the omnibus editions now.
    Then last year I finally read Downbelow Station which blew my mind and have been on a binge reading 20 or 30 of your books in a year!!!! (I often ask my wife if I can take a second lady with me on outings, meaning taking one of your books along.)

    I have been through your site, but a few questions remain:
    1- Your main characters are often weak men, blond, or frail, stuck in one hell of a clauterphobic situation or another, with strong psychological abuse usually administerd by a woman. Is this role reversal intentional, and do you consiously use that as a starting base for your stories?
    2- You mention in one of the Union Alliance stories that there is a romantic tale of a couple of young lovers who ranaway or stowed away on a ship and were subsequently lost in space or died. Is that a reference to any particular one of your novels?
    3- Did you intend “methane breathers” as a joke, given the source of methane, or is that a scientific interpolation for possible alien life?
    4- I noticed that the physics in Hellburner/Heavy Time is more specific than your earlier writings. As I am not strong in the sciences, would you say that the physics in your stories is based on reality to the best of your knowledge?
    5- Do you like the writings of Stephen R. Donaldson? He certainly admires yours. Personally I think the Covenant novels are amazing, but his sci-fi work is heavily derivative of yours.

    Can’t wait to buy your e-books as they come out.
    The effort and detail you put in your books is amazing and we really appreciate your effort to write “smart” sci-fi, because its probably not what’s easiest to sell these days.

  9. CJ

    Goodness, so many questions. Let me get to them in order…
    1. about blond guys…I happen to think it’s a pretty hair color: allow me some latitude. πŸ˜‰ But Banichi isn’t. πŸ˜‰ Vanye isn’t, actually. Mondragon is. Justin isn’t. Grant’s a redhead. As for athleticism, some are action types, some aren’t. Vanye is. Mondragon is. Justin and Grant and Bren spend their lives at desks. So they’re pretty varied. I don’t write Conan types, not because I don’t like Conan (I grew up on those stories) but because most people aren’t Conan, and we don’t live in his world—and, I hope, won’t. Most people can’t bash whatever’s opposing them and avoid the law, the consequences, etc. Most of the opposition I hand guys is intellectually inclined.
    2. never did write that story.
    3. methane is one of the most common compounds in planetary atmospheres, and a distinct possibility in exobiology is that something out there has evolved to ‘breathe’ it.
    4. I’m pretty careful with physics. I take dramatic license now and again, but I actually run the math—and draw maps. For those books, I ran asteroid orbital calculations for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours…
    5. Donaldson is an old friend of mine. I do like his books.

  10. philospher77

    Another very important thing to remember about Cherryh books is that you have to be very careful about describing someone as weak or strong. Vanye is often described as a weak man, dominated by a the strong female Morgaine. But I think a lot of that is because you get to hear his inner angst, and only see her actions. If the roles were reversed so that Morgaine was the viewpoint character, we would probably get a lot more of her angst (and based on some of the conversations that she and Vanye have, I am sure that she has a lot of it), while Vanye would appear as a quiet, capable, decisive man based on his actions. I have, in the past, actually taken a scene from the book and edited out all of Vanye’s internal monolog to show just how different he seems when all you consider are his actions. It was interesting to see how much of a difference that makes to the impression you get of him!

    • Neco-ji

      I also disagree that her male characters are “weak”. Bren, for instance, stands up incredibly well under pressure, even while being interrogated in the basement, and again under extreme pain when they strung him up at the end of the novel and were beating him. He was still cunning enough to give them the fake password to the computer, even while making it appear that he was giving in to the interrogators will.

      That shows an amazing amount of strength, the ability to function in a highly stressful situation. And his hint that he knew several ways to commit fast and painless suicide… that is hard core dedication to a job. His training was clearly a lot more than just maths and book work!

      • Neco-ji

        He may appear to be a “weak man”, simply because he has a desk job- but his reserves of inner strength are immense.

  11. CJ

    πŸ˜† there is the time Vanye rode through an entire company of the enemy: where he wanted to get to happened to be on the other side of it, and from his viewpoint he didn’t view them as anything but in his way. He does Conanesque things—he just doesn’t view them as an achievement.

  12. smartcat

    Morgaine’s view of Vanye can be summed when he tells her he was made ilin for cowardice . ” ‘Cowardice.’ She gave a breath of a laugh, dismissing such a thought.”
    I have been rereading Morgaine. What I like most is how well it stands up after 34 years. πŸ˜€ Such is not always the case. πŸ™

  13. joekc6nlx

    Question about the Fortress Series. In Fortress of Owls, Tristan and Emuin are having their second “enlightening” talk wherein Emuin describes the Great Year and the Year of Years. Okay, if the Great Year occurs every 62 years (when the “wandering stars” hold court together), is that a planetary conjunction of all of the planets, or of the naked-eye visible planets? As for the Year of Years, is that 12 Great Years? That would add up to 744 years, well within the scope of Hasufin’s first attempt to suborn Mauryl and the coming of the Sihhe. Now we are in the last cycle (year?) of the last Great Year of the current Year of Years, which started with the Shaping of Tristen, and will end with the birth of Elfwyn.

    Do I have my definitions correct? Great Year – planetary conjunction every 62 years; Year of Years – 12 Great Years = 744 years.

  14. joekc6nlx

    I tried finding which planets come into conjunction at the same time every 62 years (a Great Year), but nothing seemed to match. I’m wondering if it’s just the planets from Mercury (doubtful, since it’s difficult to find Mercury in the Sun’s glare except very early in the morning or the evening), so that leaves just 4 planets, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Uranus is too faint to see with the naked eye, and forget about Neptune, much less Pluto (yes! It’s STILL a Planet, at least to me, it is.). I’ll have to dig a little deeper to find out, but it gives me an incentive to study a little more.

  15. vanillajohn

    Does anyone know the book in which Bren Cameron learns that Banichi is Jago’s father? I think it is “Inheritor” or “Precursor” but I can’t seem to find it.


    • iminnocent

      It’s in Inheritor.

      • Sabina

        Nope, the family relation’s in Precursor. Chapter 17, page 288 of the paperback edition.

        Inheritor is the tent near Morgari-nai.

  16. libera

    i can’t believe i’m writing here…
    every time i read the morgaine saga something deeply touch me, something marvellous but bitter, leaving me melancholic… It would ease my melancholy some new stories πŸ˜‰
    … kidding…
    Even if it stops there, two horses striding in the dark, two souls bounded together in the eternity, i’d like to thank you for the magic, the marvel, and all the strong feelings that your novels gave me.
    By the way: I’m from italy and i have to read a lot of your novels in a foreign language (thanks to a really shorteyed and low quality oriented editors policy…). It’s also the way i started to love english… so: thank you two times!!!
    mmmm and “The Tree of Swords and Jewels” was one of the first fantasy book i owned, in the remote 1988… I have to thank you three times!!!
    So… What do you think about some news from our dear Vanye and his Lady? and, most of all, how are Chei-Qhiverin doing? Are they ok?
    … kidding again…

    • CJ

      Thank you so much! Mille grazie!
      Now that I’m working on e-books, and as soon as I get my backlist out in e-books, I may turn to some older series that could continue. And Morgaine is on that list.

  17. petersig

    I’d been wondering about whether your backlist would come out in ebook formats. When I first checked the Closed Circle List, there were only two C. J. Cherryh books on it. Now there’s either two or three Finisterre (Nighthorse) novels: Rider at the Gate, and Cloud’s Rider. (Is there a third to come?)
    My wish list includes: the novel (not the blog) Wave Without a Shore, which is out of print. If you need supportive letters from fans to get the rights back from publishers, I’d be glad to write.

    • purple_reading_giraffe

      Wave Without a Shore is available within Alternate Realities (along with Voyager in Night and Port Eternity) in print as paperback or a Kindle edition.

  18. lily

    I have a couple of questions about the Russian series. I am really embarrassed asking, as I admire you so hugely as a writer, and also my questions reveal my sad lack of intelligence. I am only asking because my absolute love for the books (especially the last) drives me to do so. I know this question was asked earlier, but I notice you have rewritten Rusalka for Closed Circle (yay!) and so hope it’s worth asking again … Could you clarify the ending of Yvgenie for this feeble-minded sod? I really just want to know who exactly was responsible for the problems. Was it Hwiuur, or was he just an agent? Also, what did the leshys want Kavi to do with Ilyana? What about Malenkova? And what was the prognosis for Yvgenie and Kavi – if positive, how was that achieved? (Oh, and any chance for a further sequel???) In lieu of answers, I’ll gladly accept a reassurance that the books will be available soon as e-books … πŸ˜‰

    May I also take this opportunity to say, you have a real genius for creating complex characters. Kavi in particular is so very well written (except I’m not sure if he’s supposed to have fair hair, as in the first book, or dark hair, as in the others, lol! I stubbornly see him as blond ;-)) You also are expert at creating deep impressions from a few calm, well-chosen words. Your books make me think. So now I’ve made even myself queasy by such drooling sycophancy, I shall be brave and click “submit” …

    • lily

      Er, never mind – I reread the ending and applied my brain, and figured it all out. (Rolling eyes at self.) Except for Kavi, I’m not sure if he was still rusalka at the end; if he could survive (as a ghost) without borrowing. Sorry for asking before thinking! But the compliment part of my comment stands πŸ™‚

  19. evea

    Dear CJ, I’m a big fan of your books. Someone from Italy wrote, also I see, I’m not the only non-english speaking person here, crazy enough to buy and reed books in some other language:) (altrough I’m not italian). (Btw, sorry for mistakes)
    I actually have most of your books, I just need the time to reed:). Wishing my skills were better so I could better understand the stories and all the nuiances:).
    I just want to thank you for all the wounderful stories, with the relationships, societies, worlds in them. The first of your books I red, were the Morgaine and Vanye books, and they are still my absolutelly favorite.
    I would like to once read another book about them:).
    I love Bren & co as well – will there be more about Banichi or Banichi’s story (I love his little comments)? (By the way, love Ilisidi, too, she is great, I can’t – no, I don’t want to imagine the story without her.)
    I just can’t get used to the name “Krukczy Straz” in “Goblins Mirror” and some of the character names. (Krucza Straz would be my preference, but it’s just me:)).
    All the best for you and thank you, e.

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