Vonda N. McIntyre’s 1978 Dreamsnake is an expansion of the story begun in her 1973 novelette Of Mist and Grass and Sand. Of Mist won a Nebula and was nominated for a Hugo. Dreamsnake won both the Best Novel Hugo and the Best Novel Nebula, it placed first in the 1979 Best Novel Locus Award, was nominated for a Ditmar and was denied a stab at the Tiptree on a mere technicality (that being that the Tiptree Award was still thirteen years in the future); as it was, the novel made the Tiptree Retrospective Shortlist.
Nuclear war left much of the Earth uninhabitable, although not before the first starships left Earth and founded the Sphere. Little is left of the civilization that gave humanity the stars, and what is left is isolationist. Denied access to the knowledge and resources of the Sphere, Terrans are forced to make do with what is available on depleted, battered Earth.
Snake is a Healer, a wandering doctor who relies on bio-engineered snakes rather than conventional medicine. Earth is vast, communities isolated; cultural misunderstanding is inevitable. A momentary lapse on Snake’s part costs her her dreamsnake and quite possibly, her standing in the Healers. Dreamsnakes are valuable and nigh-irreplaceable.
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