PILGRIMAGE by Zenna Henderson, 1961, Doubleday Books
This is the 39th in my series of Forgotten Books.
This will be a relatively short review column this week. My wrist is still extremely sore from the sprain not quite two weeks ago. We take a look at another example of pastoral science fiction – quiet stories with a rural setting that hearken back to a different time.
For those familiar with my reviews, including last week’s Thomas Burnett Swann and discussions of Tom Reamy and Clifford Simak, it will come as no surprise that I am a fan of the work of Zenna Henderson’s stories of The People, descendants of a space faring race of people who have crashed in America many years earlier and who are in some danger of losing their unique identity. To the outside world, they appear as a religious cult or sect, similar to the Amish or Mennonites. The People do possess special powers. They can levitate or read minds; there are evidences of telekinesis. The stories examine their problems and trials in trying to remain undiscovered and be who they are. They are well-written stories of any genre, not just science fiction.
These stories were written by an Arizona schoolteacher who had some knowledge about the subjects. Generally the stories appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction beginning with”Ararat” in 1952. When the present volume was published, it collected six individual novelettes of The People and gave them some bridging material and tried to disguise it as a novel.
If you have never tried these stories, you are in for a treat. The volumes have been popular over the years with numerous editions, including a book club hardcover of the collected stories.
The hardback was published by Doubleday with a singularly uninspiring cover. This volume is very scarce. I have never seen one and I have seen lots of scarce books. In fact, before I began writing this piece, I always assumed the Avon paperback was the first edition, because it was what I saw.
There was a second volume of People stories entitled THE PEOPLE: NO DIFFERENT FLESH which also had a Doubleday hardcover and Avon paperback. More common is the NESFA Press edition of INGATHERING: THE COMPLETE PEOPLE STORIES from 1995 which includes several People stories which had not been included in those two collections and one piece which had never been published.
In 1972 ABC ran a made-for-TV movie The People (based on the short story “Portage” which is in PILGRIMAGE) which starred Kim Darby, William Shatner and Diane Varsi. I know I saw this then and it was pretty decent though not spectacular. Amazon has an offering for the older VHS tape and a made on demand DVD.
More next time when I can stand to type for more than a few minutes.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.