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Willis E. McNelly Science Fiction Collection: Zenna Henderson

Identifier: SC-06-ZH

Scope and Contents

Contains manuscripts for three novels and 10 short stories, including "The people", "The anything box", and "Pligramage: the book of the people".


  • 1970


Biographical / Historical

Zenna Chlarson Henderson was born on November 1, 1917 in the Tucson, Arizona area. She graduated from Arizona State in 1940 with a Bachelors degree in education and worked as a teacher in Arizona throughout her life. She died on May 11, 1983, at the age of 65, in St. David, Arizona.

Henderson is known almost entirely for short stories about "The People." The People are a race of sensitive, human-looking aliens with psychic abilities who are separated after crash-landing on Earth but come to find each other over a period of many years.

Publishing her "People" stories in the leading science fiction magazines of the 50's, 60's and 70's, Henderson became a pioneer in many areas of science fiction literature. She was one of the first female science fiction writers, and was one of an even smaller number who wrote openly as a woman, without using male-sounding pseudonyms or initials (James Tiptree, Jr.; C. L. Moore; etc.).

In a time during which science fiction was often marked by unquestioned rationalism and pragmatism in which spiritual elements were often a taboo, unprintable subject, Henderson was also a pioneer in spiritual/religious science fiction. The People were a deeply spiritual and openly religious culture. In the twenty years since Henderson last wrote, even with the emergence of religion and spirituality as acceptable, even common themes in science fiction, few authors have matched the depth of spirituality of her work. Some of today's top science fiction writers who are know for the realistic positive portrayals of religious people in their literature, such as Kathy Tyers and Orson Scott Card, specifically cite Zenna Henderson as an important early influence on their careers. One interesting aspect about the People stories is the strong degree to which very different groups of people identify with it: Christians (including such different camps as Evangelicals, Catholics and Latter-day Saints), Wiccans, and Jews have all recommended Henderson's People stories. The stories, with their exclusivity and isolation from the broader culture combined with extreme inclusivity and compassion for one's own tribe, have struck a chord with many people who feel pulled by two different worlds.

Finally, Henderson was one of the first in science fiction to truly take young people seriously and write expressive, mature stories from their point of view. She drew on her experience as a teacher of young people, and was able to bring a rare level of insight to her use of young characters. Henderson's youthful protagonists are neither adults forced into young bodies, nor are they frivolous caricatures. They are very human, complete souls, yet marked by authentic signs of youth and innocence. Interestingly enough, Bujold and Card, both of whom mention Henderson as an important early influence, have also been among the most successful chroniclers of young people, with such Hugo- and Nebula-award winning novels as Falling Free and Ender's Game.



4 boxes

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Aisle 8B, Shelf 9

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Patrons of the Library, 1969.

Willis E. McNelly Science Fiction Collection: Zenna Henderson
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Repository Details

Part of the CSUF University Archives & Special Collections Repository

University Archives & Special Collections
Pollak Library South Room 352 (PLS 352)
Fullerton CA 92831-3599 USA
(657) 278-4751