Women & Non-Binary Noir

Several months ago, I was invited to be the guest editor for this special folio dedicated to crime/noir fiction by women around the world. As a longtime fan of the genre and now as a publisher of crime fiction by women, I was excited by the opportunity to help extend the framework of this popular genre to include the underrepresented voices of women authors in English translation. I had hoped that this topic would resonate well with the translator community, and the stream of submissions from Asia, Europe, and South America proved that it did. The stories you will find here hail from points as distant as Japan, Poland, and Ecuador.
       Despite its popularity with readers, crime fiction suffers the same malady as most other genre fiction: It is rarely taken seriously by the dispensers of critical acclaim and prestige. Crime titles seldom make it onto the literary awards lists (excepting the awards specific to the crime genre). I cannot count the number of times I have encountered the trite accusation that crime works are formulaic and thus not “great literature,” lacking the flexibility and breadth that literary fiction seemingly possesses. Nonetheless, in the right hands, crime fiction provides a unique opportunity to critique contemporary society and the factors that shape it. As South African author Charlotte Otter has noted, “Just as science fiction set in other worlds is a chance to reimagine our own, crime fiction offers us the chance to see our world as it is – with all its gritty, bleak and tragic details – and to repair it.”
       Last but not least, the crime world has long been dominated by male authors and viewpoints. This reason alone lends weight to any effort to elevate the voices of women and their perspectives, especially those women whose works can only reach English readers via translation. With men still dominant in the upper echelons of the publishing world and in the crime genre specifically, women authors in solidarity can create meaning by banding together wherever possible and demanding that their distinct viewpoints be valued. I could not say it any more eloquently than award-winning German author Zoë Beck, so I will close with these words: “In my opinion, it is both significant and amazing that we can come together in the midst of our diversity and differences, providing mutual support to each other in our efforts to find, maintain, and exert our voices.” 
       Here’s hoping you enjoy and learn from these amazing women authors just as much as I have!

Rachel Hildebrandt
January 2017

Rachel Hildebrandt

 

With degrees in art history and historic preservation, Rachel Hildebrandt worked for years as a historical consultant and academic editor before transitioning to literary translation (German). She has published both fiction and nonfiction works in translation, including Staying Human by Katharina Stegelmann (Skyhorse), Herr Faustini Takes a Trip by Wolfgang Hermann (KBR Media), and Collision by Merle Kroeger (forthcoming, Unnamed Press). Rachel is also the founder of Weyward Sisters Publishing, which focuses on bringing contemporary works of crime and noir fiction by women authors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland to English readers.