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 50s, 60s and 70s, 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.
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.
[from Preston Hunter’s tribute page]
Many of Zenna Henderson’s stories were republished extensively. Listed here are the first publication of each story and reprintings in collections of her works. For a more extensive bibliography, see the Mormon Speculative Fiction Bibliography.