By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

Science Fiction Short Story Review: "The Gifts of the Asti" by Andre Norton

This is another in the series of “It Came from the Pulps!” where I review science fiction short stories that were originally published in the pulp magazines of mid-20th century. Many of these have become available in electronic form as free downloads, particularly from Project Gutenberg, or for a low price.

Varta, the last of the virgin Maidens of Asti, is watching her world die. The barbarians of Klem have hunted Memphir to its death and even here, in the forgotten mountain retreat of Asti, Varta can smell the stench of the fires of their destruction. It’s time to leave.

With a Lur, a reptilian creature who cannot speak but who can read her mind, she takes the replica miniature sun with its four worlds from the hooded statue of Asti and descends through the hidden door.

This is another story with an ending that is not a surprise, but has some striking imagery. Its references to destruction by detonation of an atomic bomb are unusually subtle for the times and that makes it stick out. It also seems to appeal more to young girls than young boys and that is not the norm in the literature of the time. While I liked much about it, I would not read it a second time.

Author Andre Norton was born Alice Mary Norton but added “Andre” when her agent told her that her audience, young boys, would more be more likely to read her books if they thought she was male. Unable to finish college because of the Great Depression of the 1930s, she got a job as an assistant librarian and worked for years as a librarian. She never married and died at the age of 93 of congestive heart failure.

An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has since been removed and is no longer visible there or anywhere else. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion on PP.

Title: “The Gifts of Asti’” first published in Fantasy Book July 1948

Author: Andre Norton (1912-2005)

Source: ISFDB

Encyclopedia of World Biography



©2015 Denise Longrie

Image Credit » by geralt

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alexdg1 wrote on May 23, 2015, 11:49 AM

As much as I like science fiction and space fantasy, I have a hard time reading authors who wrote SF before the 1960s. For some reason I tend to imagine the "future" in most pre-Space Age stories with visuals that mimic the special effects of the time. I also can't read H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds' without seeing the odd juxtaposition of Martian invaders on 1890s Earth.

msiduri wrote on May 23, 2015, 12:09 PM

Maybe because I spent a year as a kid without TV in the Marshall Islands and listening to some of the old radio dramas I don't see it that way. Granted, the original "War of the Worlds" is incredibly florid and by today's standards is almost parody. Some of the stuff from the 30s and 40s pulps magazine is crap and craps by design. But I love the dreaminess of some of Lovecraft's stuff, even making allowances for his archaic language and such.

alexdg1 wrote on May 23, 2015, 12:17 PM

I suppose that the visuals of post-1950s science-fiction movies and TV shows influence how my brain translates the written word to mental images. And, of course, I was a child of the Apollo era, so I know what real space vessels look like.

Maybe that's also why I had SUCH trouble getting into "Star Trek: The Original Series" before seeing "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." Back then I was put off by the low-budget look of the 1960s TV show and wasn't mature enough (at 14-16) to appreciate that good SF depends on good stories rather than realistic visuals.

Last Edited: May 23, 2015, 2:01 PM

msiduri wrote on May 23, 2015, 12:23 PM

All that applies: I think I am just a few years older than you, IIRC. And I was unusual b/c girls weren't supposed to like science fiction back in the day. Devil with that. I read what I wanted to read.

alexdg1 wrote on May 23, 2015, 12:32 PM

You do recall correctly. I was born only eight months before JFK was shot in Dallas, was 6 when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon, and 14 when "Star Wars" was released in theaters.

MegL wrote on May 23, 2015, 1:17 PM

This story was written even before I was born, though not much. I suppose everyone then was influenced by the atomic bombs that were detonated at the end of the 2nd world war. I know that during my childhood there were posters up covering the atom bomb and showing the familiar mushroom cloud.

MegL wrote on May 23, 2015, 1:18 PM

Whereas I remember where I was when Kennedy was shot!

alexdg1 wrote on May 23, 2015, 2:15 PM

I'm glad that you did not buckle to the closed-minded expectations of what women were not supposed to like.

KristinRavelle wrote on May 23, 2015, 2:27 PM

Project Gutenberg is the most amazing resource for free literature in many different languages. Great topic for a post! Thanks for the Sci Fi review.

msiduri wrote on May 23, 2015, 4:49 PM

I don't remember where I was when Kennedy was shot. I was just a bit shy of my 4th birthday. But I do remember everyone watching TV. I remember everyone being upset and I remember not quite understanding why.

msiduri wrote on May 23, 2015, 4:53 PM

Mr. Siduri grew up in California and remember "duck and cover" drills in school. We had tornado drills in the Midwest. But everyone was frightened of THE BOMB. I remember seeing "fallout shelter" signs up at various places as well. It took me a while to catch on to what they were.

msiduri wrote on May 23, 2015, 4:55 PM

It's it fantastic? I try to donate $1 every time I download something just cuz. And thanks for the kind words on the post. Glad you enjoyed it.

msiduri wrote on May 23, 2015, 5:11 PM

alexdg1 Not much chance of that. The pressure actually came from my peers. None of the librarians or teachers ever said anything when I checked out odd books from the library. Maybe they figured I was a lot case already. emoticon :smile: