February is Women in Horror Recognition Month, thanks to a cool chick and my friend Hannah Neurotica. While most of the focus tends to be on the film industry (after all it is a boys’ club) I’m pushing female horror authors. I recently saw a comment left on a particular forum where someone had asked for some recommendations for female authors. The comment in question was a response and went something like “….it is an unassailable fact that men are better writers…” and it really pissed me off. Really? You think across the board that men write better than women? Well, tell me, my friend, who have you been reading? I can name dozens of female horror authors that write stories that are just as disturbing, if not more so. Personally, I believe women can tap into the deep well of our emotions because we tend to lead with them, whether they are positive or negative. This gives women a perspective that men don’t necessarily have.
Let me begin with the obvious. Mary Shelley. Without her there would be no Frankenstein or his monster. There have been countless books and movies that use Shelley’s central theme against playing God, whether it’s creating life or destroying it. Sadly, when her novel Frankenstein was first published, it was done so anonymously because it was believed that no one would read the book if it were written by a woman.
Then there’s Anne Rice. Lestat is easily one of my favorite literary characters. In the third book of the Vampire Chronicles, Queen of the Damned (Ballantine Books 1989), Rice presents one of the best origin stories I’ve ever read for vampires and Maharet cuts an imposing figure. How about Shirley Jackson and her novel The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Books 1959)? It’s been adapted into a few successful films over the years. Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca (Penguin Books 1969) was adapted into a film by Alfred Hitchcock. Two short stories by Du Maurier were adapted into Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and Don’t Look Now (1973) which has turned up on a few scariest horror movie lists.
I also think you should be reading Linda Addison, the first African-American to win a Bram Stoker Award—and she’s won three for her horror poetry collections—Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes (Space and Time 2001), Being Full of Light, Insubstantial (Space and Time 2007), and How to Recognize A Demon has Become Your Friend (CreateSpace 2011). Elizabeth Massie’s short story “Abed” is one of the most disturbing zombie stories I’ve ever read—by a male or female author. Massie’s Bram Stoker Award-winning novel Sineater (CompletelyNovel 2010) has been re-published for a new audience. Monica O’Rourke’s Jasmine & Garlic (Biting Dog Publications 2011) was so gory and violent it has forever changed how I approach a visit to the gynecologist!
There’s Carole Lanham’s collection The Whisper Jar (Morrigan Books 2011) with its subtle but frightening horror themes, including “The Blue Word”, another very unsettling zombie story with a twist that you won’t see coming. Suzanne Robb’s Z-Boat (CreateSpace 2011) is another great zombie story with a twist—and a relevant message about overpopulation and dwindling resources. Tonia Brown expertly covers all of horror lit’s sub-genres and Jessy Marie Roberts wrote one of my favorite short stories ever about a woman who literally puts her all into a special Halloween dinner, titled “Pumpkin Soup”.
You should also seek out:
Poppy Z. Brite—Exquisite Corpse (Touchstone 1997), Drawing Blood (Dell 1994)
Mary Sangiovanni—The Hollower (Leisure Books 2007), Found You (Leisure Books 2008)
Carol Weekes—The Color of Bone (Genius Publishing 2012), Dead Reflections (JournalStone 2013)
Lisa Morton—The Castle of Los Angeles (Gray Friar Press 2010), Night-Mantled: The Best of Wily Writers (Wily Writers 2011)
Chesya Burke—Dark Faith (Apex Publications 2010), Dark Dreams: A Collection of Horror and Suspense by Black Writers (Kensington 2004)
Yvonne Navarro—Music of the Spears: Aliens Series (Spectra 1996), Deep Cuts: Mayhem, Menace and Misery (Evil jester press 2013)
Melanie Tem—The Deceiver (Leisure Books 2003), Slain in the Spirit (Leisure Books 2002)
Billie Sue Mosiman—Widow (Berkley 1995), Red Moon Rising: A Vampire Novel (DAW 2003)
Caitlin R. Kiernan—The Drowning Girl (Roc Trade 2012), Tales of Pain and Wonder (Subterranean 2008)
Gemma Files—Kissing Carrion (Prime Books 2003), The Worm in Every Heart (Prime Books 2006)
Sheri Gambino—Vicious Verses and Reanimated Rhymes: Zany Zombie Poetry for the Undead Head (Coscom Entertainment 2009), Rellik (2011)
Damien Walters Grintalis—Ink (Samhain Publishing 2012), Arcane (CreateSpace 2011)
Fran Friel—Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales (Apex Publications 2008), “Wings With Hot Sauce” (The horror Library 2005)
Tananarive Due—The Between (Harper Perennial 1996), Domino Falls: A Novel (Atria Books 2013)
Lucy Snyder—Chimeric Machines (Creative Guy Publishing 2009), Shotgun Sorceress (Del Rey Books 2010)
Alexandra Sokoloff—The Unseen (St. Martin’s Press 2009), The Harrowing (St. Martin’s Press 2006)
Sarah Pinborough—The Taken (Dorchester Publishing 2007), Breeding Ground (Leisure Books 2006)
Sarah Langan—The Keeper (HarperTorch 2006), Audrey’s Door (Harper Publishing 2009)
Tonia Brown—Badass Zombie Road Trip (Books of the Dead press 2012), Skin Trade: An Historical Horror (CreateSpace 2012)
Jessy Marie Roberts—Bloody Carnival (Pill Hill press 2010), Kinberra Down (Pill Hill Press 2010; with Eric S. Brown)
I hope the women I left out will forgive me.
Do yourself a favor and read some of these fantastic women. You will find women have been greatly overlooked in the horror industry, whether it’s film or literature. I’ve heard it said that these women “write like a man” and I guess if that’s what you need to hear to check out female authors, then so be it—but don’t say I didn’t warn you.