Today we celebrate two female genre writers: Elizabeth Hand (1957- ) and Mary Gentle (1956- ). Those these authors share the same birthday and nearly the same birth year, they are known for vastly different material.
Hand’s most well-known (and on-going!) series, beginning with Generation Lost, is noir detective novel, following Cass Neary. Hand described her anti-heroine as “this total screwup-alcoholic-speed freak” and that Cass continues to be trouble. Check out a video about the most recent book in the series Hard Light (2016).
Today we celebrate Hand for being unafraid to delve into darkness of action and psychological darkness. Especially for creating complicated, screwed up female characters for readers to love. As Hand explained in an interview with the Portland Press Herald, after the publication of Hard Light, “if I make somebody cry at the end, then I know that my work here is done. Or if I know that I’ve succeeded in really disturbing somebody.”
Liz Bourke, writing about Mary Gentle’s novel The Black Opera, similarly describes Gentle’s work as “uncomfortable or at least disconcerting is the way she plays with expectation, genre, and continuity.” For instance, her alternate history novel Ash: A Secret History (the omnibus was released in 2013), is unflinching in its depiction of medieval violence, especially through the female captain Ash. Looking for flawed female characters and grimdark before grimdark was a coined term? Pick up Mary Gentle.
Thank you Hand and Gentle for giving us flawed women to admire, love and shy away from, with all their imperfections laid bare. Happy birthday to two women, unafraid to venture into darkness to bring light to women’s stories.