Monday, 18 November 2013

Female authors of gothic, horror, fantasy & science fiction (part 4)

Now we finally move into living authors. As the genres have grown (and women’s presence in them), the output is increasing and some of these writers have huge back catalogues:

Ursula K Le Guin (1929-) - A prodigious writer of fantasy and sci-fi, Ursula has won several awards and is probably best known for her Earthsea series (1964-2001). This started with a short story, The Word of Unbinding (1964), and ended in 6 novels and 6 more short stories published up to 2001. Her books often explore themes of sociology, anthropology and psychology, which play out in treatment of gender, political systems and issues of difference/otherness.

Margaret Atwood (1939-) - A noted Humanist, Margaret is a Canadian novelist and poet who includes myth and fairy tale among her inspirations. She has won many awards, taught in many universities and been given many honorary degrees. She is included in this list for works such as The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and Oryx and Crake (2003), even though they were described by Margaret as speculative fiction rather than science fiction i.e. they might actually happen rather than being stories about squids in space. Also, she was a guest character (playing a post-apocalypse self) on one of the episodes in the Zombies, Run! mobile phone game.

Anne Rice aka Anne Rampling aka A N Roquelaure (1941-) - One of the most widely read authors in modern times (with around 100 million book sales), Anne has produced an unusual mix of work that includes horror, gothic fiction, fantasy, christian literature and erotica (published under one of the pseudonyms)! She is best known for The Vampire Chronicles (1976-2003) spanning 10 books (12 if you include the new tales of the vampires), which also has some some crossover with The Lives of the Mayfair Witches series (1990-1994) in Blackwood Farm (2002) and Blood Canticle (2003). Her return to Catholicism in the naughties changed her literary direction somewhat and more recently she has turned away from organised religion while still retaining a personal faith.

Susan Hill (1942-) - Susan has the honour of being a Commander of the Order of the British Empire! She has an interest in the classic English ghost story and influences in this respect include Daphne du Maurier. I would say that Susan is most famous for writing The Woman in Black (1983), but she has written much more, including short story collections and children’s books. Other ghost stories include The Mist in the Mirror (1992), The Man in the Picture (2007), The Small Hand (2010) and Dolly (2012). She now has her own publishing company (Long Barn Books), which produced one work of fiction a year.

Tanith Lee aka Esther Garber (1947-) - Tanith Lee writes a lot (including 2 episodes of Blake’s 7!) in the genres of sci-fi, fantasy and horror. Although brought up in a house full of wonderful and strange fiction and having struggled to learn to read (later diagnosed as due to mild dyslexia), Tanith was first paid for writing when she was 21 (for a 90 word vignette). Working for around a decade in ‘regular’ jobs (e.g. waitress, file clerk, librarian) it wasn’t until The Birthgrave (1975) was published as a mass market paperback that Tanith could become a full time writer (10 years of trying takes persistence). The Tales from the Flat Earth series (1978-1986) is also recommended, but there are so many books to choose from (for adults and for children), that I advise you to investigate yourself and see what takes your fancy.

It’s a good sign that there are more and more authors coming through as we get nearer to the present day. Tune in next week as we move into the 50s.

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