Ginger Nuts of Horror
Ginger Nuts of Horror's Motherhood of the Monstrous continues its celebration of female horror writers of the past present and future. Today we welcome local author Georgina Bruce to talk about the female writers that matter to her.
Georgina Bruce is a writer and teacher based in Edinburgh. Her stories have been published in Black Static, Interzone, Strange Horizons and various other zines and anthologies. She keeps a sporadically updated journal at www.georginabruce.com and tweets as @monster_soup. She is currently working on a novel in which the concerns of Philip K Dick meet the sensibilities of the feminist gothic… on the moon.
There are so many genius women writers whose books have blown my world wide open – it’s impossible to pick just one! I could write thousands of words about the female writers who have profoundly influenced not just my writing but my understanding of the world: Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Marguerite Duras, Shirley Jackson, Helen Oyeyemi, Han Kang, Ursula le Guin, Sarah Hall, Tanith Lee, Clarice Lispector, Rikki Ducornet – the list goes on and on… But I must choose, so I’m going to pick on Charlotte Bronte, and in particular her novel Jane Eyre. I first read about plain Jane when I was nine or ten, and I reread the story over and over in the years that followed. What appealed to me was Jane’s fortitude against terrible odds. She wasn’t pretty, she was poor and very lonely, and she suffered greatly. And yet she had a core of integrity, conscience, and strength of mind that made her heroic to me. This book triggered a lifelong appreciation of the gothic sensibility in literature. When I finally got around to reading Jean Rhys’ novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, I was struck by how it drew out those themes that are buried in Jane Eyre, of control and manipulation, and of how society works through us as individuals, how it gets inside our heads. The terrifying and disorienting experience of being gaslighted, manipulated, told that reality is not real – this is something that is part of many, many women’s lives, and a great theme in women’s writing through the centuries, particularly in the subgenre of the feminist gothic. However, a theme with such relevance and resonance cannot be confined to a genre. Notably, the great writer Siri Hustvedt in her masterpiece, The Blazing World, brings this theme into another dimension and updates it with extraordinary nuance and sensitivity.
There is a very long list of women writers who deserve more attention – and again, it’s hard to choose just one who is blazing a path now. Writers like Lynda Rucker, Priya Sharma, Helen Marshall, Laura Mauro, Tracy Fahey – to name a few – are expanding the boundaries of horror fiction in very exciting ways. In keeping with the gothic theme, however, I am particularly interested in V.H. Leslie’s first novel, Bodies of Water. This is a very accomplished novel, firmly positioned within the feminist gothic, which draws on the history of systematic torture and abuse of women – something which should resonate widely in a time when women and girls are still routinely subjected to FGM, domestic violence, rape, and legal discrimination in every country in the world. Bodies of Water is a brief, terrifying novel which deserves to be read and discussed extensively. I also want to mention Padrika Tarrant’s excellent and extraordinary novel, The Knife Drawer. While in some ways drawing on the gothic, particularly in its portrayal of the orphaned and abused child, Tarrant moves us beyond this mood, through fairytale into the surreal territory of dreams and madness. The novel is an experience, a sensory, hallucinatory read which pries open the inner workings of a mind. That interiority, the claustrophobic experience of oppression leading to madness, makes for a powerful and potentially transformative read. But in these times, we cannot have too many tales of the downtrodden overcoming terrible odds, and so I must finally talk about Christina Henry’s book, Alice, a wildly offbeat and imaginative retelling of Alice in Wonderland, in which the Caterpillar, the Walrus, and the Jabberwock make the world very, very dangerous indeed for lost little girls. The villains’ brutality, cruelty and torture is unbounded, but we never lose sight of the heroic Alice, who has suffered so much and yet is unbroken. She is a heroine we can believe in: it is her strength of character that makes it possible to break down the forces of evil arranged against her. Like Jane Eyre before, it is her humanity, compassion, and moral core which make Alice strong and ultimately victorious. We can learn from this book.
WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH LINKS
THE WOMEN IN HORROR MIXTAPE
INTERVIEW WITH KAYLEIGH MARIE EDWARDS
THE HISTORY OF WOMEN IN HORROR 1: A MAN EXPLAINS
28 Days Of Black Women In Horror
Interview with Lee Murray
Women in Horror Month
The Monstrous Regiment of Women in Horror