As many of you may know, February is Women in Horror Month. I’ve always been a fan of it because I love horror, I’m a feminist, and I myself am a woman in horror. It seems a pretty safe bet that I’m going to love any movement in line with those things, yeah?
It’s surprised me a bit recently to read some push-back about WiHM, especially from other women in horror who I admire. The argument seems to be that women-only anthologies, all-women panels at conferences, and WiHM itself all serve to segregate more than integrate. If we keep calling female horror work “female horror work” doesn’t that just serve to keep it out of the greater sphere of “horror work” that we’re striving so hard to become more noticed in?
I see their point. But at the same time, as a young woman working in an industry that’s already hard, in a genre that doesn’t particularly welcome me, seeing successful women who’ve done it before me is invaluable. At World Horror Con last year, the “women in horror” panel was one of my highlights. Seeing all of those badass ladies in one place was incredibly inspiring – incredibly encouraging. They were lined up for me to learn from, but also as proof that what I want is possible to achieve.
Maybe the problem isn’t having all-women panels or female anthologies or even WiHM. Maybe the problem is calling them that. Because sadly, that panel was audienced almost entirely by women. The topic of the panel wasn’t women, not really, but because the only people on it were women, little to no men came. The real problem here is that male topics are considered “for everyone” while female topics are considered “for women.” So maybe what we should do is keep having these things that highlight and inspire women, but stop highlighting the gender of it. How shocking would it be for a male con attendee to walk into a panel about avoiding horror tropes and see an all-woman panel whose gender has nothing to do with the topic? Pretty shocking, which is very sad, because I’ve walked into countless all-male panels and never batted an eye.
Okay, that’s enough of that. It’s a complex topic and I really don’t think there are any simple answers. My point is not to defend or attack Women in Horror Month. My real point is to honor some of the women in horror who’re inspiring me right now. Read: here are some kickass horror authors (and an editor) I recommend following, no matter who you are, and no matter what month it is.
Lisa Morton currently serves as the president of the Horror Writers Association, and she’s amazing. She runs HWA enthusiastically and openly. She’s unbelievably generous with herself; I honestly don’t know how she does it. She works at a bookstore, has an incredibly impressive and prolific career as a writer of fiction and nonfiction, runs a major organization, and still reaches out to help other writers when she can – and she does it all with kindness and poise. She’s a fantastic role model and a very nice person, and her nonfiction book on Halloween was a blast.
Ellen Datlow has become my favorite short fiction editor over the past few years thanks in large part to her Best Horror of the Year series. I now buy each year’s edition, and am also working my way backwards through the early ones that I missed. I love reading the stories she curates. I always enjoy them, always find at least a few that deeply impress me, and often find one or two that blow me away. Ms. Datlow is incredibly hardworking, but also so generous with her knowledge and thoughts. She’s a don’t-miss for staying current in the industry.
Gemma Files, Lucy A. Snyder, Damien Angelica Walters, and Alyssa Wong
I listed these four together simply because they’re all so new to me. I don’t know them as people yet and I’ve only discovered a small amount of their work so far, but I’ve read stories by each that knocked my friggin socks off. All of them were so good that I added their names to my mental list of authors to look for more from. Here’s a quick highlight of the works I loved:
Gemma Files– “This is Not For You.” I couldn’t stop thinking about this story. I told my husband all about it just because I had to talk out loud about how brilliant it was. Feminist themes in a story about a group of serial killers? Hell yes; sign me up. As if that weren’t enough, her story “Nanny Grey” is eerie and disturbing and wonderful too.
Lucy A. Snyder– “Magdala Amygdala.” This story won the Bram Stoker Award in 2012, and holy wow did it blow me away. I remember feeling shocked that someone actually wrote it. It was just so weird and (forgive the expression) balls-to-the-wall. If you don’t like your punches pulled, this is one to read.
Damien Angelica Walters– “Sing Me Your Scars.” This one’s currently on the Bram Stoker Awards preliminary ballot. It’s unique and twisted and really, really beautiful. I’ve never read anything quite like it. “The Judas Child” is another well worth reading. Sad and twisted.
Alyssa Wong– “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.” Also on the Stoker preliminary ballot. The story is as haunting and original as the title. Equally as sad and strange and lovely: “Scarecrow.”
Linda Addison is another author I met at WHC, and she left quite an impression on me. She’s the type of person who lights up a room. She’s friendly, generous, and bold. She exudes a sense of welcoming that felt authentic and all-inclusive. I really enjoyed listening to her on panels and chatting with her, and I adore the forward motion she’s making in dark poetry. And her own poetry is great too; I had the pleasure of hearing her read some and it was wonderful.
(Being awesome on your own and giving back to the community; there’s a trend here…)
It’s no secret that I love Anne Rice’s work. Her Vampire Chronicles were elemental in my growth as a reader, writer, and thinker. She was one the first introductions I had into how thoughtful and intelligent dark fiction can be, which was tinder on the fire of my love for vampires, gothic, and speculative fiction – as well as being exemplary of upmarket fiction. But more recently, I’ve discovered her beyond her work, and if anything I’m even more impressed by her as a person. I can’t believe how generous, authentic, and kind someone who’s that busy can be. She’s unapologetically herself both in her social interactions and in her art. Not only that, but she’s confident, humble, kind, and welcoming. I really can’t think of a better role model to aspire to.
There you have it: eight women in horror who, no matter your gender and no matter the month, are well worth checking out. I hope you’re all having a wonderful February!Share this: