Monday, 22 February 2016

Fearful February - Women in Horror Month and some new stories

If you were asked to list ten women who write horror, could you?

It wasn't until I was looking at the listings of authors in the last two anthologies I had work published in, Hides the Dark Tower and Once Bitten, that I really began to think about how few female authors of horror are well-known. By well-known, I mean recognisable to people who don't usually read this genre. Most would probably know Mary Shelley or Daphne du Maurier, some might get as far as Anne Rice, or even, to stretch the horror genre description to extreme limits, Stephanie Meyer. But why so few?

So why are there not more well-know women horror authors?

Hides the Dark Tower was edited by two highly respected female editors and writers, Kelly A. Harmon and Vonnie Winslow Crist. Once Bitten is published by Knightwatch Press, then under the auspices of Theresa Derwin, and these are just the tip of a bone chilling iceberg of women working in horror publishing! So why are there not more well-know women horror authors? Is it that there aren't quality submissions made by women? Or perhaps the work that is submitted by women is not the right fit for a particular anthology? It might even be that few women submit work at all. Kelly A. Harmon said that the entries in Hides the Dark Tower anthology reflected the number of submissions by men and women, "-two thirds of the book are stories written by men, one-third by women--just as two thirds of the submissions came from men, and only a third from women." She also added that if more women had submitted, more would have been published.

"Women simply do not get the same consideration or outlets for their work as do men."

Strangely, the very month I was pondering all these questions, Billie Sue Mosiman (herself, an established author of horror) posed just the same questions in her call for horror stories by women to be included in the Fright Mare anthology, a publication aimed at redressing the balance, "I don't mean to upset or demean male writers, but no one can deny fiction has been dominated by males for a hundred years. Women simply do not get the same consideration or outlets for their work as do men. I hope my anthology helps that out a little bit. I love much of the work of male writers, but I think I'd love more women writers if only they were published more often." Mosiman told me when I asked her about her motivation for the anthology.

"I noticed that all, and I do mean every single one of the authors, panellists and moderators was male."

In yet another spooky coincidence, I contacted Theresa Derwin for some statistics for this post and it turns out that she has just published the aims of her PhD in an article Hear my Voice, on the very same subject. After reading about her experience at a first time Horror con, Horror in the East, I can understand why there is a need for a more reactionary response from women writing in the Horror genre. Derwin says "This con was predominantly organised by a woman...I noticed that all, and I do mean every single one of the authors, panellists and moderators was male."
 
Theresa Derwin kindly shared the following statistics from her preliminary findings with me and they are alarming:
  • Sunny with a Chance of Zombies: Submissions received: total = 44 (31 male authors, 13 female authors) female submission rate of 31.7%. Acceptances: 8 male authors, 4 female authors. 
  • Crystal Lake Publishing stats open period: Submissions received: total = 144 (115 male authors, 29 female authors) female submission rate of 20.1% 
  • Wild Things: Submissions received: total = 76 (56 male authors, 20 female authors) female submission rate of 26.3%
Women have long been portrayed as secondary characters or the victims of horror fiction rather than the protagonists or strong and determined individuals.

Then there's characterisation; women have long been portrayed as secondary characters or the victims of horror fiction rather than the protagonists or strong and determined individuals. As a writer, I tend to write more male leads than female and wonder if this is due to the male-dominated diet of horror literature that I have been brought up on - writing what one reads rather than is. Since writing this post, I have been more aware of who my protagonists are and have even altered the course of some of my works in progress so that the male and female protagonists are represented in a more balanced way if not altered entirely. It is not the same for everyone. Harmon commented, "Personally, I enjoy writing stories about strong characters--male and female. For me, it's more a matter of storytelling than anything else: I find it hard to root for a weak character of any gender" With regards to editors' choices, she says, "Since Hides the Dark Tower was conceived as a book about towers, rather than people, we weren't really concerned about publishing stories with empowered female characters. However, there are several in the book--some even written by the men who submitted."

The aim is to highlight the changing roles of women in movies and in fiction both as characters and creators of horror.

This issue is so pressing that February is officially Women in Horror Month and has been for the past seven years now. The aim is to highlight the changing roles of women in movies and in fiction both as characters and creators of horror. So get out there and read some horror written by women! If you are a budding woman writer, but worry that your voice will not be heard, just keep plugging away. If you fear that your voice is too unladylike, check out the following list of the Top Ten Women Horror Writers. How many have you read? Be inspired! Make every month Women in Horror Month.

For my part, I have written The Whistler, a short horror story with a twist of Steampunk for the Mocha Memoirs Press Women in Horror Contest. (Read through the other great entries before mine which is 11th on the list!) You can also check out my new venture into self-publishing, Close Call (for now) a Wattpad publication. (This is one of those stories that changed direction after writing this article.)

 

Remember to leave me a comment here or on Wattpad and let me know what you think!

No comments:

Post a Comment