1. The Forerunners Universe

Andre Norton wrote 70 'Space Age' stories during 5+ decades  [1]
Forty-five of those have the "Forerunners" as a recurrent background theme.

In analogy to Norton’s ‘Witch World Universe,’ it seems logical to bring all these books together in a ‘Forerunners Universe’. (F-U) Yet, apparently this has not happened to date. Neither http://www.isfdb.org/ nor www.goodreads.com acknowledge the Forerunners Universe and their listings show many of the F-U stories as stand-alone novels. I see several reasons for that:

  1. The Forerunners theme is a very loose connection, the history line remains quite vague and the socio-political background is generally ill-defined.  There is no over-arching story line that ties it all together in a larger mega-saga as in Isaac Asimov's Foundation Arc. In that regard, Norton's Forerunners Universe is more like Jack Vance's Gaean Reach or Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish cycles, which were also notoriously difficult to catalog until the authors stated that those stories belonged together. Unlike those cycles however, the F-U stories always have the same recurrent background themes present, although they may remain just that, a background. 
  2. Andre Norton never made a statement about her F-U stories 'belonging together.'  She never published a timeline and the documents in her estate don't have any information on that either. Apparently, this was not an issue of great importance to her. She was a writer of shorter pulp-fiction-style stories, not sweeping sagas. She wrote fast-paced adventure stories, and gave them recurrent background elements, but she didn’t worry overly much about being 100% consistent between all those separate stories.
  3. While there are many common themes in the F-U stories, there are (appear to be?) also quite a few inconsistencies and even some glaring conflicts between the various stories. Unlike other authors, Andre Norton never resorted to fix-up novels to tie her earlier stories together and 'fix' these problems. Understandably, these inconsistencies have led to disagreements about which books belong and which don’t. They also make it difficult to impose a clear chronology on these stories. (See Appendix B for details)

* * * * * * *

2. Recurrent Themes & Common Elements
in The Forerunners Universe

  1. Humans are latecomers to space.
    When they ventured beyond their own neighborhood, they met up with and were adopted in a vast multi-species galactic civilization called Central Control. Less than 3 centuries after First Contact, Terrans had already circumvented the limitations imposed upon them and secretly colonized 1000 planets. After that, they quickly spread ever-further to become one of the dominant races with hundreds of thousands (millions?) of colonies throughout the galaxy.
  2. Forerunners are ancient space-faring civilizations that went extinct long before Humans took to space. Some of those civilizations had a more advanced technology level than the current one.
    Such advanced-tech artifacts could be extremely valuable.
  3. The Zacathans are long-lived reptilians, a race of scholars.
    They are a driving force behind the search for Forerunners.  
  4. The Guild of Thieves is a very powerful galaxy-wide criminal organization.
    Jacks are localized groups of space pirates.
  5. The Stellar Patrol is the galactic military / police force. 
    When the political system breaks down, some of them go rogue and become pirates themselves.
  6. Spaceships remain the fastest connection between star systems.
    Early colonization ships took centuries to get tot heir destination.
    Even hyperspace travel between systems still takes weeks to months.
    The lack of instantaneous space travel and communication limits trade and information exchange. 
    1. Survey ships (First-in Scouts) are always looking for new planets to colonize and for signs of Forerunners. 
    2. The major trade routes in the Inner Systems are monopolized by huge Trading Combines / Companies.
    3. Free Traders compete for their leftovers and operate mostly in the Outer Systems.
    4. Trade only goes where it pays. Many systems are effectively isolated with only the occasional Free Trader or Patrol ship as off-world contact, which makes them vulnerable to pirate raiding.
    5. Many planets have reverted back to feudal societies where access to interstellar trade and technology is limited to a small privileged group.
    6. Technology varies considerably between systems, planets and even between population groups on a single planet.
    7. What is common knowledge or practice in one system may well be unknown or forgotten in another.
      Alien races, systems and planets well-known in one sector could be unknown in others.
      The location of Terra became disputed, legendary in distant sectors.

The political organizations of the Forerunners Universe -  Central Control, Council, (Con)Federation, League of Free Traders – are frequently mentioned, but remain ill-defined. The extent of their influence or inter-relation are not described in detail. The poor definition and inconsistency of these political references is imo a major source of confusion.

* * * * * * *

3. The Stories
of the Forerunners Universe

Starting with all 70 Spage Age stories, we select what belongs, and what not.

1. The Forerunner Stories
These are all the stories with the recurrent F-U themes, regardless of possible inconsistencies: Forerunners, Zacathans, Council / (Con-)Federation; (Stellar) Patrol, Guild of Thieves, (League of) Free Traders...
If one story of a series qualifies, the entire series is included.

These 'core' titles are chronologically bracketed by the so-called 'Central Control' series: ("Star Guard") is the very first, ("Star Rangers") the very last.

Solar Queen cycle /  x7

  1. Sargosso in Space (1955)
  2. Plague Ship (1956)
  3. Voodoo Planet (1959)
  4. Postmarked the Stars (1969)
  5. .
  6. .
  7. .

Beast Master / Hosteen Storm cycle x5

  1. Beast Master (1959)
  2. Lord of Thunder (1962)
  3. .
  4. .
  5. .

Moonsinger / Krip Vorlund cycle x4

  1. Moon of Three Rings (1966)
  2. Exiles of the Stars (1971)
  3. Flight in Yiktor (1986)
  4. Dare to Go A-hunting (1990)

Perilous Dreams SSC x4

  1. Toys of Tamisan (1969)
  2. Ship of Mist (1976)
  3. Get Out of My Dream (1976)
  4. Nightmare (1976)

Warlock / Lantee cycle x3

  1. Warlock (1960)
  2. Ordeal in Otherwhere (1964)
  3. Forerunner Foray (1973)

Forerunner / Simsa cycle x2

  1. Forerunner  (1981)
  2. Forerunner, the second Venture (1985)

Star Stones / Jern Murdoc cycle x2

  1. The Zero Stone (1968)
  2. Uncharted Stars (1969)

Janus / Naill Renfro cycle x2

  1. Judgement on Janus (1963)
  2. Victory on Janus (1964)

Dipple books x2

  1. Catseye  (1961)
  2. Masks of the Outcasts (1964)

‘Stand-alone’ novels

  1. Star Guard (1955)
  2. Star Rangers (1953)
  3. Secret of the Lost Race (1959)
  4. The Sioux Spaceman (1960)
  5. Star Hunter (1961)
  6. Eye of the Monster (1962)
  7. The X factor (1965)
  8. Dark Piper (1968)
  9. Ice Crown (1970)
  10. Dread Companion (1970)
  11. Android at Arms (1971)
  12. Iron Cage (1974)
  13. Voorloper (1980)
  14. Brother to Shadows (1993)

2. F-U Pre-History
= 1st space flight, atomic wars, post-nuclear barbarism, recovery
These stories precede First Contact with Central Control, but are remembered in the F-U as historical events.

  1. The Stars are Ours (1954)
  2. Star Born (1957)
  3. Star Man’s Son 2250 A.D. (1952)
  4. No Night without Stars (1975)
  5. Moon Called (1982)
  6. Wizard’s World (1967)
  7. Mousetrap (1954)
  8. All Cats are Gray (1953)

3. Questionable Space Age stories that are somewhat consistent with F-U

  1. Sea Siege (1957)
  2. Star Gate (1958)

A Post-Human Earth
Humans leave Earth to sentient animals.

  1. London Bridge (1973)
  2. Breed to Come (1972)

4. Exclusions Space Age stories that are imo not consistent with the F-U.

  1. Time Traders / Ross Murdoch cycle x7 (1958-2002)
  2. .
  3. .
  4. .
  5. .
  6. .
  7. .
  8. Crosstime / Blake Walker cycle x2 (1965)
  9. .
  10. Star Ka’at x 4
  11. .
  12. .
  13. .

Did I miss anything???  Let me know!

* * * * * * *

4. Problems in the Forerunners Universe

1. The Unpleasant Fate of Terra

Despite many recurrent F-U themes in these stories, there are also some glaring inconsistencies. One of the more obvious is that Andre Norton manages to kill off Terra in quite a few different ways. That is a major problem when we try to bring it all together, but this conflict can be (mostly) resolved by ordering the respective stories as shown below.

a. Earth is the center of the Confederation, loses importance after War of 2 Sectors.  ("Catseye")

b. Earth is a radioactive dead cinder ("Beast Master")

c. Earth is a legend: ("Dread Companion") a.o. ...

d. Lost, Empty Earth ("Star Rangers")

e. Post-human Earth, Sentient Animals ("Breed to come")

Ordering the stories as shown above resolves the various fates of Terra in an acceptable sequence.

* * * * * * *

2. Other Inconsistencies

There are plenty, believe me!

The way we handle inconsistencies determines which stories belong and which don't.
When we see inconsistencies, we can:  

I did a little bit of all of the above.  
Motivated by lofty principles like ‘The Least Painful’ and ‘For The Greater Good,’

* * * * * * *


[1] First: 1952 Starman's Son aka Daybreak 2250 A.D.
      Last: 1993 Brother to Shadows; or 2006 with co-author Beastmaster's Quest

* * * * * * *


Word Searches, Quotes, etc.
Word-searches I used to figure out what books belong in this collection. This is rough draft text that has not been cleaned up, but you're welcome to review it. 

  1. I. Introduction
  2. II. Recommended Reading Order
  3. III. Story Review