Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand

McIntyre, Vonda

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novelette

Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin
  • Date of entry: Apr-26-1999
  • Last revised: Sep-05-2006


Although the setting is startlingly different, and the care provided is through highly unorthodox means, the healer in this science fiction story experiences in remarkably similar ways the everyday wear and tear of modern medical practice. Snake, a young female itinerant healer, has been asked to save the life of a young boy. Her attempts to do so, and her interactions with the boy, his family and community, and the tools of her trade (the snakes-mist, sand and grass) are detailed in the story. "Professional development" issues that this strong and complex character has to deal with include truth-telling, interfering and ignorant family members, self-sacrifice, and possible reprobation by her peers and teachers.


The science fiction style allows for wonderfully believable portrayals of very strong female characters and, conversely, of weak male ones. This story won the Nebula Award of Science Fiction Writers of America as best science fiction novelette, and the collection, Dreamsnake, also won a Nebula Award.


First published in 1972. The story is reprinted and discussed in Howard Brody’s book, The Healer’s Power (New Haven: Yale University Press)1992. The story is discussed in Chapters 2 and 3 and reprinted in the Appendix, pp. 272-291.

Primary Source



Houghton Mifflin

Place Published