Henderson was a strange duck – a nice little Mormon girl growing up the Southwest during the Depression, her nose buried in books and science fiction magazines. As a young teacher she taught in a tuberculosis hospital for children in Connecticut and then a Japanese internment camp in Arizona. Like many dutiful young women she got married. Seven years later she divorced and began to appear in print – short fiction at first, and then more and more stories and novels about the People, a bunch of extraterrestrials with special powers who are stranded in the Southwest. Connie Willis and Lois McMaster Bujold both note her as influences. Some critics say her work is too cloying or “chick fiction-y,” but as Bud Webster notes:
“Zenna Chlarson Henderson (1917-1983) may have pushed the odd (sentimental) button or two, but she certainly didn’t whang on them like a lab-rat jonesing for kibble. She tweaked them gently to remind us that they were there for a reason, then held those reasons up for us to marvel at.”
Many people claim the movie “Escape to Witch Mountain,” the original version with Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards, is a story heavily influenced by Henderson’s people stories. I say that Ike Eisenmann is dreamy, or was dreamy when I was a kid – loved that movie!
“The People” was a 1972 TV movie actually based on Henderson, and stars William Shatner and Kim Darby. Kim Darby is most excellent as the mom in “Better Off Dead,” but she’s always be Miri from Star Trek: TOS to me. In the movie she’s a teacher who gets hired at a remote school and learns the community is full of stranded extraterrestrials.
Many thanks to my friend Julia, who sent along this picture of Diana Comet on her iPad – spiffy new book, spiffy new computer! You too can own Diana Comet as an ebook from All Romance or Smashwords, or on Amazon for the Kindle. Save a tree, buy an ebook!