July’s Author of the Month, Mary Gentle, occupies that most interesting of places – the area where Fantasy and Science Fiction meet and mingle. Did we say ‘area’? Perhaps that should be ‘areas’. Or perhaps we shouldn’t use the word at all, singular or plural; perhaps we should say ‘attitude’ or ‘approach’ or . . . look, we’ll start again.
Mary Gentle writes wonderful books and uses whichever tropes of SF, Fantasy or Historical fiction seem best-suited to getting the job done. Yes, that’s the ticket!
Gentle began her career with the YA fantasy A Hawk in Silver, moving on to planetary romance with the acclaimed Orthe sequence – Golden Witchbreed and Ancient Light – before creating a Moorcockian multiverse with her White Crow series, comprising novels Rats and Gargoyles (1990) and The Architecture of Desire (1991) and collection of linked stories, Left to his Own Devices. The major work of Mary Gentle’s career (thus far) is Ash: A Secret History, a massive historical fantasy . . . or perhaps SF. Or maybe alternate history.
Classification is . . . difficult.
And, almost as if to taunt us even further in out attempts to apply rigorous sun-generic taxonomy, there’s the fantasy parody Grunts! to consider – an account of a certain war of Good vs Evil (you know the one) told from the point of view of the poor, downtrodden footsoldier of the armies of darkness: the Orcs.
Regardless of how Mary Gentle’s books are classified, it’s clear that her abundant talent is appreciated by both readers and critics alike. Mary has been shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award twice, the BSFA Award five times (winning once), the James Tiptree,Jr Memorial Award twice, the Sidewise Award twice (winning once) and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award once (tying for second place).
Perhaps, in the final analysis, Mary Gentle’s work exemplifies the truth that the only category that really matters is ‘good books’.
You can find Mary Gentle’s work via her Author page on the SF Gateway website, and read more about her in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. For the month of July, all of her SF Gateway eBooks will be available at reduced prices.