Griffith, Nicola 1960-
Griffith, Nicola 1960-
Born September 30, 1960, in Leeds, England; immigrated to the United States, c. 1989; daughter of Eric P. (an accountant) and Margot (in business) Griffith; companion of Kelley Eskridge since December, 1989, married, September, 1993.
Home—Seattle, WA. Agent—Shawna McCarthy, The McCarthy Agency, 7 Allen St., Rumson, NJ 07760. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, performer. Singer and lyricist for music group Janes Plane, 1981-82; freelance writer, c. 1988—.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Individual artist grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts, 1993; Lambda Literary Award, 1993, for Ammonite, 1996, for Slow River, 1998, for Bending the Landscape: Fantasy and Blue Place, and 1999, for Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction; artist's grant from the Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs, 1994; James Tiptree, Jr., Memorial Award for "the work of speculative fiction which best examines and expands gender roles," for Ammonite, 1994; Nebula Award for best novel, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, 1996, for Slow River; Spectrum Award for best other work, 1999, for Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, and Hall of Fame Award, 2000, for Slow River; World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology, World Fantasy Convention, for Bending the Landscape: Fantasy.
Ammonite, Ballantine/Del Rey (New York, NY), 1993.
Slow River, Ballantine/Del Rey (New York, NY), 1995.
The Blue Place, Avon (New York, NY), 1998.
Stay, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday (New York, NY), 2002.
Always, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2007.
(Editor, with Stephen Pagel) Bending the Landscape: Fantasy, White Wolf Press (Atlanta, GA), 1997, published as Fantasy, Overlook (New York, NY), 2004.
(Editor, with Stephen Pagel) Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, Overlook (New York, NY), 1998.
(Editor, with Stephen Pagel) Bending the Landscape: Horror, Overlook (New York, NY), 2001, published as Horror, Overlook (New York, NY), 2003.
With Her Body (short fiction), Aqueduct Press, 2004.
And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes to a Writer's Early Life (multimedia memoir), Payseur & Schmidt, 2007.
Also author of the novella Yaguara. Contributor of short fiction and nonfiction to books, including Ignorant Armies, GW Books, 1989; Interzone: The Fourth Anthology, Simon & Schuster, 1989; Iron Women, Iron Press, 1990; Red Thirst, GW Books, 1990; Little Deaths, edited by Ellen Datlow, Orion, 1994; Best Lesbian Erotica, edited by Tristan Taormino and Heather Lewis, Cleis, 1996; Nebula Awards 30, Harcourt Brace, 1996; The New Interzone Anthology, St. Martin's, 1996; Dykes and Disabilities, Seal, 1999; Women of Other Worlds, University of Western Australia, 1999; Bookmark Now, Basic, 2005; SciFi in the Mind's Eye, Open Court, 2007. Also contributor to periodicals, including Realms of Fantasy, Nature, Out, Altair, Interzone, Network, Para*doxa: World Literary Genres, Century, Asimov's, SF Eye, and Aboriginal Science Fiction.
Author and editor Nicola Griffith is a respected voice in the growing field of gay genre fiction. The British native has written science fiction, horror, and detective fiction, all from a distinctly lesbian perspective. Griffith is a five-time recipient of the Lambda Literary Award, and she has also won a prestigious Nebula Award for her science fiction tale Slow River. In the Lambda Book Report, Victoria A. Brownworth praised Griffith for work that is "an excursion into the more disturbing sides of our psyches."
Griffith was born in Leeds, England, but immigrated to the United States in the late 1980s to be with her partner, Kelley Eskridge; the two women were married in September 1993. Griffith's work was just beginning to gain inclusion in British science fiction anthologies and magazines when she moved, and she quickly began publishing in America as well. Her short story, "Song of Bullfrogs, Cry of Geese," appeared in Aboriginal Science Fiction in 1991, and her first novel, Ammonite, saw print in 1993. This book garnered her both a Lambda Literary Award and the James Tiptree, Jr., Memorial Award.
Griffith did not always write for a living. Earlier in her life, she was the lyricist and lead singer for a musical group. She discussed the experience with an interviewer in Not for Hire magazine: "Ah. Marvelous.… It was a truly exalted feeling to stand up there and move people: make them scared or exhilarated, make them dance, make them cry…. But then the band folded, as bands always do sooner or later, and I gradually stopped singing.… I don't sing as much as I used to because I write now, and writing comes from the same place inside."
Though the protagonists of both Ammonite and Slow River are lesbians, and both novels are works of science fiction, Griffith resists categorization. She told Not for Hire: "I write fiction and non-fiction. I write science fiction. I write lesbian fiction. I write literary fiction. I write feminist fiction.… The bottom line is that I write. I write well. Genre labels are a convenience for sales reps and retailers, a marketing concept." The author went on to note: "I'm amused more than anything by the wrong-headed reviews that harp on and on about the fact that my protagonists & are dykes. So what? Given the way I write and what I write about, that's about as relevant as their hair colour. But it seems to be a big deal for most critics."
Critics responded favorably to Ammonite, which has as its protagonist an anthropologist named Marghe, who visits Jeep, a planet populated by women who have survived a deadly virus that has killed all the men. The inhabitants are capable of reproducing with each another and communicating with each other and with their planet, using a form of telepathy. New Statesman & Society contributor David C. Barrett called Ammonite "utterly believable," and commented that the novel "makes Nicola Griffith a name to watch." Gerald Jonas, writing in the New York Times Book Review, maintained that because Griffith "takes care to create fully rounded characters, her polemical concerns never unbalance the story." Women's Review of Books critic Suzy McKee Charnas wrote: "What makes Ammonite unusually interesting and attractive is its picture of women living without men but, due to the effects of the virus, in tune … with the nature of their world."
Slow River, Griffith's second novel, is set in Europe in the not-too-distant future. The novel's protagonist, Lore Van de Oest, escapes her kidnappers and certain death after she learns that her wealthy family has declined to pay her ransom. Following her escape Van de Oest is rescued by a woman computer hacker named Spanner, "with whom she forms an uneasy alliance to scam the rich and naïve," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In the same Publishers Weekly review, the critic concluded that while Griffith's combination of first-and third-person narration at times leads to confusion, Slow River is an "exceptionally well-written novel" and Griffith is a "talented author." In his New York Times Book Review assessment of Slow River, Gerald Jonas found fault with what he considered Griffith's excessive attention to detail and her use of flashbacks and other complex narrative devices. In contrast, Women's Review of Books contributor Pat Murphy offered praise for Griffith's attention to detail, particularly in describing the sewage treatment plant run by Van de Oest's family. Murphy stated that "Griffith manages to make the intricacies of the plant fascinating and understandable—and an essential aspect of the overall story of intrigue and betrayal."
Griffith's third novel, The Blue Place, departs from the realm of science fiction to enter that of the thriller. Griffith described the book for Not for Hire as "a sort of Norwegian-lesbian-Travis-McGee-drug-smuggling-art-fraud thriller kind of thing." She reported that her genre-switch caused friction with the publisher of her first books, Ballantine/Del Ray, so she went to Avon for her third effort.
The Blue Place is a hard-boiled tale of violence and international intrigue featuring a former undercover cop named Aud Torvingen. A six-foot-tall Norwegian beauty, Aud lives for the moments when she enters the "blue place"—moments of moral peril where she must fight to survive. The story begins when she literally runs into art broker Julia Lyons-Bennett, who is fleeing a nearby home just as it is leveled by a bomb. Julia hires Aud for protection, and their relationship takes an erotic turn when they travel to Norway on business. In her review of the novel for Lambda Book Report, Brownworth wrote that The Blue Place is "as all good thrillers and all the best literary fiction are, a novel of quests and identity. Griffith's prose is intensely visual, and her sense of place … is beautifully wrought." A Publishers Weekly contributor accorded The Blue Place a starred review, noting that Griffith "breathes life into an appealing heroine in this smoothly plotted pulse-slammer." The critic concluded: "Readers will want to see more of Aud Torvingen." Booklist correspondent Whitney Scott likewise observed that "superfit, super-bright Aud is certainly one watchable sleuth and may win Griffith quite a following."
Griffith has also coedited several volumes of "Bending the Landscape," anthologies of gay and lesbian fiction. These books collect horror, science fiction, and fantasy stories by gay authors, usually with gay plot twists. In a Lambda Book Report review of Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, J.E. Robinson noted: "The editors ought to be commended for selecting such a diverse group of writers and the writers themselves praised for creating stories that bring the science fiction genre to a non-science fiction public."
Bending the Landscape: Horror, the third book in the "Bending the Landscape" anthology series, coedited by Griffith, met with mixed reviews. A Publishers Weekly contributor observed that the book's categorization as "horror" is "a convenient label for mainly ironic stories preoccupied with romance and extreme behavior." According to this reviewer, "fantasy is really the book's strong suit." Rob Gates, a Lambda Book Report contributor, observed that "the volume lacks something of the cohesiveness" of the previous "Bending the Landscape" volumes, but Gates found the individual stories "unanimously strong." A Kirkus Reviews writer commented: "As a whole the anthology really registers. … Readers may get the haunted feeling that they are reviewing their own lives."
Griffith told the interviewer in Not for Hire that she had no plans to write sequels to any of her successful novels. "Sequels don't interest me as a writer," she said. "I have far too many ideas for other books circling my head like planes waiting to land at a busy airport. Besides, I think readers are almost always disappointed by a sequel."
That said, Griffith has proceeded to encore her tough Norwegian heroine, Aud Torvingen, in two more books, Stay, and Always. In the former title, Aud is still sidelined with grief over the death of her girlfriend, as occurred in The Blue Place. Trying to pull herself out of depression, she begins a renovation of a North Carolina cabin she has inherited, only to be brought back to professional duties finding the missing lover of an old friend, a journey that takes her to New York and into the sightlines of a vicious abuser. Reviewing the second novel featuring Aud Torvingen, Booklist contributor Joanne Wilkinson praised the "complicated, supremely capable character of Aud," further terming this protagonist "one tough detective." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly similarly commented: "Aud is hugely complex and unique, and Griffith deserves a huge following." More positive words came from a Kirkus Reviews critic who called Stay a "darkly revealing, furiously entertaining adventure."
The third series title, Always, takes Aud to Seattle where she visits her mother Else, who is an ambassador. While there she stumbles into a crime that needs solving when a television pilot is disrupted by sabotage. She also finds romance in the form of a former stuntwoman and current caterer. A Publishers Weekly contributor found this an "intense" thriller. Booklist reviewer Whitney Scott also had a high assessment of the novel, writing: "Fist-slamming physicality is beautifully balanced with raised emotional stakes as Griffith dares to take her lethally forceful heroine to a new level." Likewise, Jane Jorgensen, writing in Library Journal, termed Always "a stellar example of mood and tone working to engage the reader one page at a time." Speaking with a contributor for the Seattlest Web site, Griffith explained her plans for her half-Norwegian protagonist: "I'd always imagine[d] Aud as a sequence of five novels. I had another two after … [Always] all mapped out. But Always took a turn I hadn't expected and now I'm not sure how to proceed. I think I'll have to sit with Aud a while and try to work out what she'll do in light of my deeper understanding. But I'm definitely not done with her. There's at least one book to come."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Griffith, Nicola, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes to a Writer's Early Life (multimedia memoir), Payseur & Schmidt, 2007.
Advocate, April 16, 2002, review of Stay, p. 66; April 16, 2002, "Violent Femme: Nicola Griffith Spills the Beans about Stay, Her New Novel Starring Kick-ass Lesbian Crime Fighter Aud Torvingen," p. 66.
Booklist, June 1, 1998, Whitney Scott, review of The Blue Place, p. 1732; March 15, 2001, Whitney Scott, review of Bending the Landscape: Horror, p. 1359; March 1, 2002, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Stay, p. 1095; March 15, 2007, Whitney Scott, review of Always, p. 29.
Entertainment Weekly, June 6, 2003, review of Stay, p. 83.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1998, review of Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, p. 1075; March 1, 2001, review of Bending the Landscape: Horror, p. 279; February 1, 2002, review of Stay, p. 143.
Lambda Book Report, March-April, 1993, Severna Park, review of Ammonite, p. 32; September-October, 1995, Suzanna Sturgis, review of Slow River, p. 39; July, 1998, Victoria A. Brownworth, review of The Blue Place, p. 23; October, 1998, J.E. Robinson, review of Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, p. 14; July, 2001, Rob Gates, "Bumps in the Night," p. 22; September, 2002, review of Stay, p. 7; September, 2002, "Living a Big Life: Victoria A. Brownworth Interviews Nicola Griffith about Her Breakout New Novel, Her Battle with MS and Her Sustaining Love," p. 6.
Library Journal, June 1, 1998, review of The Blue Place, p. 150; September 15, 1998, Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, p. 117; May 1, 2007, Jane Jorgensen, review of Always, p. 72.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September, 1995, Charles de Lint, review of Slow River, p. 39; March, 1997, Charles de Lint, review of Bending the Landscape: Fantasy, p. 33.
New Statesman & Society, April 30, 1993, David C. Barrett, review of Ammonite, p. 47.
New York Times Book Review, March 14, 1993, Gerald Jonas, review of Ammonite, p. 14; August 13, 1995, Gerald Jonas, review of Slow River, p. 30.
Not for Hire, 1995, Liz Georges, interview with Nicola Griffith.
Off Our Backs, July, 1993, Angela Johnson, review of Ammonite, p. 10; April 28, 2002, King Kaufman, review of Stay, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, June 26, 1995, review of Slow River, p. 90; February 24, 1997, review of Bending the Landscape: Fantasy, p. 68; June 1, 1998, review of The Blue Place, p. 47; August 24, 1998, review of Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, p. 54; March 5, 2001, review of Bending the Landscape: Horror, p. 67; March 11, 2002, review of Stay, p. 52; March 26, 2007, review of Always, p. 62.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 2, 1997, review of Slow River, p. 327; June 29, 2003, review of Stay, p. 6.
Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1997, review of Slow River, p. 327.
Women's Review of Books, Volume 11, November, 1993, Suzy McKee Charnas, "A Labor of Love; Judging the James Tiptree, Jr. Awards"; July, 1995, Pat Murphy, review of Slow River, p. 22; July, 1998, review of The Blue Place, p. 22.
Anachron City,http://www.euro.net/mark-space/ (June 7, 2001), "Nicola Griffith."
Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (August 28, 2007), Colleen Mondor, review of Always.
Mostly Fiction,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (October 13, 2002), Judi Clark, review of Stay.
Nicola Griffith Home Page,http://www.nicolagriffith.com (August 28, 2007).
Nicola Griffith MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/nicolagriffith (August 28, 2007).
Seattlest,http://www.seattlest.com/ (May 3, 2007), "Seattlest Interview: Nicola Griffith."
Strange Horizons,http://www.strangehorizons.com/ (December 12, 2005), Lynne Jamneck, "Interview: Nicola Griffith."