Women in Horror: Part Eighteen
Today, my dear friends, is the final article. Yes…it’s true. Please do not weep, do not lose hope, we will meet again. For now we can explore a great viewpoint on the whole concept of Women in Horror from editor, author, anthologist & all-round great friend…Joe Myndhardt…
Female authors, characters and inspirations… and those who have a problem with them.
by Joe Mynhardt
I learned something over the last few days; I learned that there is still a lot prejudice when it comes to the work of female authors. You’d think people who actually still read today would be a little bit more educated, right? Looks like I was a little naïve.
To tell the truth, I was not a big fan of female authors when I started reading, which was probably around the age of 10, when I started reading non-prescribed books for the first time. I just wasn’t sure how to read those books. What voice to read them in. Was I supposed to read it in a girl’s voice? You see, I just had to be educated a bit more. Add on top of that the fact that I only wanted to read fantasy and horror. Also, there weren’t a lot of female horror authors around back them, at least not in our library. The thought of a female horror author hadn’t even crossed my mind back then.
A few years later I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and I was hooked. I also realized that a lot of men wrote from the POV of a woman, so why couldn’t the opposite acceptable. Hell, a lot of women wrote amazing books under the male pseudonyms. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t spot a lot of female horror authors back then.
I can understand why a lot of women wrote under male pseudonyms. A lot of them write under their initials these days, in an attempt to fool most male readers (or maybe they just don’t like their names). Whatever reason they have, it should be there choice. So it saddens really bothers me when editors/publishers advising female authors to use their initials. Even sadder is to see this trend still happening today.
So I call bullshit.
Is selling more books and making a bigger profit so much more important than doing what’s right? Or am I just naïve once again? Perhaps the older generation of editors/publishers is just too stubborn to change. Then again, I’ve met a lot of older generation editors who are great supporters of female authors.
There’s a lot of stuff that help sell more books in the industry, and publishers have to constantly walk the thin line between what’s good for business and what irritates people. As a publisher myself, I say doing what’s right for your authors is good for business. Building a long term relationship will be a lot more beneficial than one successful book. So if you’re an editor who got into this business to use and abuse writers, then step away, my friend.
Sorry for turning this into a rant.
I just won’t stand for people asking me to change who I am. Hell, I don’t care if some people don’t know how to pronounce my surname, I’m sticking with it. Isn’t this the era of connecting with your fans? Showing them your human side. Then let’s just get the fake name out of the way first. Unless of course you don’t want people to know who you are, whether testing or writing in a different genre or protecting yourself from lawsuits etc. Perhaps you thought of a cool name that fits your online persona. Again, as long as it’s your choice.
I think men not wanting to read fiction or even articles by female authors has more to do with them being scared. As boys we grew up learning that women were more loving than men, more caring and nurturing. Just the idea of twisted thoughts coming from a woman’s minds scares them more than the books. Maybe they’re just used to women writing romance and men writing the action stuff. I wonder if they know how many men write romance under female pseudonyms.
Here’s the real reason men, and I’m talking about the uneducated men who aren’t willing to change, don’t want to read fiction by women. As readers, we know well enough that we’ll never read all the books on our reading list, so some men will rather spend their time reading a book by a famous male author, because they know the other guys are also reading it. That way he won’t be caught out as the only one in the group who hasn’t read it.
Men also have an issue about wanting to be like a woman. Perhaps it goes back to our upbringing again. “Don’t be such a girly boy, son. Be a man.” Spit, swear and watch more sport than you compliment your wife. Lucky for me I had a father who taught me the exact opposite, and it didn’t take me long to reach a level of education that made me realize that women are just as capable, if not more, at writing amazing horror fiction. You see, they already have a much more in-depth understanding of relationships and the inner workings of people’s psyche.
I guess it just proves once again how uneducated the majority of the world is. Which motivates me to write and teach even more. Hell, if we can each make a difference in one person’s life by breaking a stereotype, won’t it be worth it?
Rant over! And if I angered a hundred men and made only one see the light, it’s worth it.
Now back to business. I think as a teenager I read Frankenstein about three times in one year. I was just such a big fan of Stoker’s Dracula that I was so happy to find another monster book. I didn’t really care that it was written by a woman. Remember, I was about 12 at the time.
Now although I’m not the biggest fan of Ann Rice’s work, I did enjoy Interview with a Vampire. It’s still one of my favorites. I believe she has done a lot for the horror genre over the years, and for a lot for female authors.
I wish I read more of Shirley Jackson’s work when I was younger. She might’ve inspired me like she inspired many other authors, such as Neil Gaiman.
A few other female authors that played a big part in my education was Daphne Du Maurier, whose 1969’s Rebecca was adapted into an Alfred Hitchcock film (I was and still am a huge Hitchcock fan). She also wrote The Birds (1963) and Don’t Look Now (1973). Brilliant stuff.
Gertrude Barrows Bennett, who at the time wrote as Francis Stevens, is said to have inspired H.P Lovecraft, another of my favorite authors. So how can we admire the men and not the women who inspired them?
Living in South Africa, how can I not mention Nadine Gordimer? What an inspiration.
And as a young boy hooked on books, movies and comics, I also felt drawn to the female characters in horror fiction. Hell, who doesn’t still have a few lingering crushes on the Brides of Dracula or Poison Ivy from the comic books? It’s in books that I learned a lot about the female mind. Yes, even the psychotic ones like Ann Wilkes.
So, since they’re also women and this is Women in Horror month, here are my top 10 female horror characters (literature and movies), and no, these are not the ones I crushed on:
10. Barbara from Night of the Living Dead
9. Carrie White from Carrie
8. The alien-human hybrid from Species
7. The Brides of Dracula
6. Samara from The Ring
5. Mila Jovovich from the Resident Evil movies
4. Eli from Let the Right One In
3. Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs
2. Ann Wilkes from Misery
10. Ellen Ripley from Alien
I tried to fit Cruella De Vil in there somewhere, but I just couldn’t cut anyone from the list. There are also a lot of female characters being written about these days, especially in series, whether written by men or women. Hopefully one day it won’t even matter if a book was written by a man or woman. Which makes me think… Most people have a problem with racism, but those same people practice prejudice each day.
Now let’s take a look at female horror writers of today. During my research for this article I came upon some amazing lists of female authors. That’s why I’m such a big fan of February being Women in Horror month. The only problem is my ‘to read’ list just gets longer and longer. But is that really such a bad thing? Having a world of options should be a good thing. I hardly ever read two books by the same author, unless of course I end up being completely hooked. There are just too many books I still need to read. With all the editing, writing, publishing and marketing in my schedule, reading for fun has become a luxury I can’t indulge in every day.
Here are a few authors I found and believe are worth checking out (I’m pretty sure I’m late to a quite a few of them), and I hope you’ll give each of them at least one try, as well:
Nancy Holder, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Sarah Langan, Fran Friel and Gabrielle Faust.
I cannot let this opportunity go by without mentioning the most influential woman in the horror industry today, and I’m sure for a long time to come, Ellen Datlow. I have not had the privilege of meeting her yet, but I’m an avid follower of her contributions to the horror genre, and enjoyed every online conversation we’ve had.
Here are a few more female authors I’ve had the privilege of working with. Be sure to keep an eye on them. There’s a lot of talent in this list:
Lucy A. Snyder
Joan De La Haye
Here are a few more women whose work I absolutely love and would ‘kill’ to work with (and I’m pretty sure I’m leaving someone out):
Sarah Pinborough – very touching
Lisa Morton – amazing
Joyce Carol Oates
Lisa Tuttle – who collaborated with George R.R. Martin on Windhaven
Yvonne Navarro – also amazing
Kathe Koja – very disturbing
Cate Gardner – just as amazing
Nerine Dorman – great potential
Which brings me to the pinnacle of this article: I invite all female authors to send me their biographies and a short example of their work. I am going to fill two or three anthologies later this year, and instead of only having one or two female authors on a TOC, I’d like quite a few more this time. I pay between $15 and $45 per story, depending on the project as well as the length of the story. You can email me at email@example.com.
Have a great 2014,
Crystal Lake Publishing
Joe Mynhardt started his writing career at the end of 2008, and has enjoyed considerable success ever since. With 58 short story publications, he still has a tome of story, movie, comic and play ideas scraping for a chance to be written. His influences stretch from Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P Lovecraft to Stephen King, John Connolly and Joe Hill.
Joe contributes to speculative fiction in more ways than his own fiction. He maintains a constant presence on several of the major horror writer’s forums as a contributor and adviser. He’s a moderator for a major writer’s group, Mywriterscircle.com and moonlights as an Assistant Submissions Manager at The South African Literary Journal, New Contrast. Joe is also the owner and operator of Crystal Lake Publishing, where he publishes horror short story collections and anthologies. All in all, like all horror writers should, he keeps his finger on the active pulse of current horror.
By day Joe is a primary-school teacher who enjoys reading, jogging, and collecting rare oddities. After matriculating in 1998, he moved to Bloemfontein, South Africa, where he received an honours degree in Education Leadership and Management.
Joe devotes himself to his wife, his work, and to feeding his two dogs. I’m sure if something happened, and he was incapacitated, he wouldn’t mind if his dogs ate him. After all, it would be a shame to let all that talent go to waste.
See more at Joe’s site.
You’ve heard him ladies, get subbing! Some very heartfelt thoughts there, good to see the passion Joe.
I enjoyed editing this feature (along with the odd gap) & I hope to meet you all again soon. I’ve learnt a lot, laughed a lot & increased my TBR pile rather a lot!
Thank you for joining me here at The HWA with all of the wonderful contributors. So farewell until next time & remember…keep supporting our Femme Fatales!