Posted by Damien Walters Grintalis on Feb 14, 2013 in Apex Publications Blog: Matters of SF, Fantasy, and Horror, Women of Horror | 0 comments
With February being “Women of Horror” month, I hope to have a momentary reprieve from list after list of horror’s greatest authors. Whenever I see a mention of such lists, I invariably cringe. I click on links, holding onto hope, only to have those hopes dashed time and time again. And why? The usual authors are always listed: Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James. You can’t deny their impact. They deserve to be included. But, more often than not, those same lists reveal a glaring absence of female authors.
Sure, sure, you say, don’t get yourself in a tizzy. Those lists are only someone’s opinion. Sorry, sell me something else. I’m not buying. If I’d only seen it happen once, I would absolutely shrug it off as opinion. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Let’s look at some of the contributions from female authors: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Rebecca and The Birds by Daphne Du Maurier. You cannot convince me that they didn’t have a huge impact on dark literature.
Fast forward to best of list of modern authors. You’ll frequently see Stephen King, Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, and Brian Keene, among others. Familiar names, right? And yes, they deserve to be on those lists. They’ve all had a huge impact on the horror genre. But what about Poppy Z. Brite, Joyce Carol Oates, Anne Rice?
Sometimes the argument for the exclusion of Shelley and Jackson is that they didn’t write as much as their male counterparts. Argument or excuse?
Look, it’s not that female authors want or need to be held up on some sort of pedestal. It’s not about special attention. It’s about inclusion. It’s about acknowledgement. Horror’s lifeblood does not pump only through the veins and arteries of men. Horror’s genesis did not spring forth solely from the pens of only male authors. (And yes, I am very aware of how easily that sentence could be misread.)
Somewhere along the line, the myth that the horror genre belongs to men took shape, and lists that exclude the contributions of female authors helps perpetuate that myth. And even now, male horror writers get far more press than the women working in the genre. They’re frequently heaped with praise while their female counterparts, if mentioned, are done so as an afterthought. Have you read Livia Llewellyn, Kathe Koja, Kaaron Warren? Have you heard of them?
I wish all of this were surprising. Shocking, even. Unfortunately, though, it often seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same.
How do we address this? How do we change it? It starts with you, my reader friends. Open your eyes. Expand your horizons. Lois Duncan nudged me Down a Dark Hall to horror and V.C. Andrews taught me that Flowers in the Attic could be more horrifying than ghosts. Now I read Sarah Langan, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Margo Lanagan, and Gillian Flynn, to list a few.
I’ve given you plenty of names. Pick one. Find their work. And start reading.
Damien Walters Grintalis lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescued pit bulls. She is an Associate Editor of the Hugo Award-winning magazine,Electric Velocipede, and a staff writer withBooklifeNow. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming inStrange Horizons,Apex Magazine,Lightspeed, and others. Her debut novel,Ink, was released in December 2012 by Samhain Horror. You can visit her website, damienwaltersgrintalis.com, or follow her on Twitter @dwgrintalis.