Horror Writers Association

Beating a Dead Cliché: Women in Horror Month Series Intro by Meghan Arcuri


Meghan Arcuri is a Bram Stoker Award®-nominated author. Her work can be found in various anthologies, including Borderlands 7 (Borderlands Press), Madhouse (Dark Regions Press), Chiral Mad, and Chiral Mad 3 (Written Backwards). She is currently the Vice President of the Horror Writers Association.

Prior to writing, she taught high school math, having earned her B.A. from Colgate University—with a double major in mathematics and English—and her masters from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

She lives with her family in New York’s Hudson Valley. Please visit her at meghanarcuri.com, facebook.com/meg.arcuri, or on Twitter (@MeghanArcuri).

Welcome to the HWA’s Women in Horror Month interview series!

As I sat down to write this introduction, I found myself in a coffee shop, earbuds on, hands hovering over my keyboard, surrounded by mismatched leather (pleather?) furniture and works of art by local artists.

And I realized: I’m a damn cliché.

With the deadline approaching, I didn’t have time to despair or berate myself. So I decided to lean into it. I cranked up my instrumental soundtrack (The Queen’s Gambit), thought longingly about my eleventy-hundred too-perfect-to-write-in notebooks, checked Facebook and Twitter, and finally went back to Word … only to stare at the blinking cursor on my blank page.

The clock kept ticking, the cursor kept blinking, and I started getting desperate. Naturally, I checked Facebook and Twitter again. Then I turned to Google. The word cliché is kind of fun, so I messed around with it a little bit. I searched “cliché quotes about women,” and “cliché quotes from horror,” hoping to see any overlap or anything I could apply to the topic of Women in Horror Month.

Surprisingly (or not) there was quite a lot.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • “We’ve come a long way, baby.”
  • “We have such sights to show you.”
  • “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”
  • “They’re here…”
  • “We can do it!”
  • “I see dead peop—” No, wait. Wrong topic. How about this one: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Ooo … that last one … well-worn, yes, but beautiful and funny and thematically appropriate, and holy crap, did I just stumble upon my thesis for this intro?

(Spoiler: I did.)

Sumiko Saulson and their social media team are the brains and hard work behind all our interview series. On occasion, they ask for outside assistance in the selection process. Enter Lindy Ryan and me. Lindy wrote last year’s fantastic intro. Since Sumiko had already asked me to write this year’s intro, the three of us made a natural team.

First, we emailed the membership to ask for suggestions.

Here’s how it went from there:
1:22 pm – The email arrived in my inbox.
3:00 pm – Sumiko DMs Lindy and me: “OK we are getting a really large number of nominations right now.”
3:01 pm – We are simultaneously excited and freaking out.
3:47 pm – We ask Catherine Jordan (our fab iMailer manager) to send another email asking for patience as we sort through the “record number of suggestions.”
3:48 pm – I beam at the phrase, “record number of suggestions.”
4:37 pm – The update arrives in my inbox.
5:16 pm – Sumiko DMs again: “There’s 108 names … and I still have like 30 unread WiHM emails in my inbox.”
5:17 pm – I am reminded of the chocolate scene from I Love Lucy.
5:18 pm – More excitement. More freaking out.

After two days, we had 169 suggestions. A few days later, when all was said and done, we had just under 200 names, and I’m sure a number of people weren’t even suggested.

The response to our email was swift, tremendous, and overwhelming in the best possible way.

But we had a problem: 200 names. 31 days in March.

You don’t need a degree in higher mathematics to understand the issue.

We had some decisions to make.

Time for another well-worn phrase: old boys’ club. Occasionally, I hear it used to describe the HWA, or even the horror community, at large. Then, I see something like the response to the WiHM email, and I have to laugh.

I see some amazing statistics about the HWA, like:

  • The Board has 6 women and 5 men
  • We’ve had 4 female presidents
  • Karen Lansdale played a seminal role in forming the HWA
    … and I have to laugh.

Does that sound like an old boys’ club to you?

This is not to say women no longer face sexism in our community or in society as a whole. We do. We may have come a long way, but there’s more work to be done.

The numbers don’t lie, though, and they make me feel good. They suggest it’s becoming less and less of an old boys’ club.

Every one of the women who was interviewed—everyone who was nominated—brings a unique and wonderful perspective to the genre. They’re here, they’re doing it for themselves, and they have such sights to show you.

Narrowing it down to thirty-one names was not easy, but in the spirit of Rosie the Riveter, Sumiko, Lindy, and I knew we could do it. Eventually, we agreed to not only choose thirty-one women to interview, but to list every person who was nominated.

We wanted to give everyone their due.

We wanted your TBR piles to grow exponentially.

We wanted you to see what we saw: we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Here are the close to 200 women who were nominated this year: Lisa Kroger, Premee Mohamed, Alma Katsu, Stephanie M. Wytowich, L. Marie Wood, Lindy Ryan, Amy Grech, Rachel Harrison, Ai Jiang, Kathryn Ptacek, Jo Kaplan, Lauren Elise Daniels, K.P. Kulski, Amy Grech, Kelsea Yu, Carol Gyzander, Rebecca Rowland, Christa Carmen, Nadia Bulkin, Tananarive Due, Tonia Ransom, V. Castro, Victoria Nations, Zin Rocklyn, Jo Fletcher, Gemma Files, Sheree Renee Thomas, Beth Massie, Jill Girardi, Sadie Hartmann, Jemiah Jefferson, Kathe Koja, Erica Couto-Ferreira, Augustina Bazterrica, Alison Rumfitt, Catriona Ward, C.J. Tudor, Jeani Rector, Ginjer Buchanan, Ania Ahlborn, Erika T. Wurth, Kaaron Warren, Kathleen McFall, Pamela K. Kinney, Pamela Jeffs, Carol Clover, Katherine Silva, Naching Kassa, S.P. Miskowski, Gwendolyn N Nix, Sara Jayne Townsend, Cherry Weiner, Melissa Singer, Kaaron Warren, Alex Woodroe, Alison Peirse, Alp Beck, Andrea Subissati, Caroline Kepnes, Cassandra Khaw, Chesya Burke, Chloe Spencer, Chris Marrs, Christi Nogle, CJ Tudor, Darcy Coates, Elana Gomel, Erica Couto-Ferreira, Eugen Bacon, Francesca Maria, Gini Koch, Gretchen Felker-Martin, Maryse Meier, J.S. Breukelaar, Kai Leakes, Kelly Florence, Kinitra Brooks, Kristi DeMeester, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, Nadia Bulkin, Kristin Dearborn, Kyla Lee Ward, L.S. Johnson, Larissa Glasser, Lauren Beukes, Lila Denning, Linda Addison, Lisa Tuttle, Loren Rhoads, Rachel Harrison, Lucy Snyder, Lucy Taylor, Marge Simon, Marianne Halbert, Ruthann Jagge, Marsheila (Marcy) Rockwell, Maryse Meijer, Meg Hafdahl, Natasha Sinclair, Nicole D Sconiers, Ruthann Jagge, Sandy Deluca, Sarah Read, Sheri White, Sue Rainsford, Sonia Lupher, Staci Wilson, Sue Rainsford, Tamika Thompson, Tina Jens, Yi Izzy Yu, Yvonne Navarro, Holly Rae Garcia, Lauren, Elise Daniels, Maria Alexander, Juliet Landau, Leah Fong, Claire Fitzpatrick, Sarah Hans, Colleen Anderson, Yvette Tan, Catherine Cavendish, Kodie Van Dusen, Eda Obey, Sarah Walker, Willow Becker, Jennifer Brody, Dana Hammer, J.L. Delozier, Denise J Bryson, Alannah Pearson, Kyla Ward, Amanda Worthington, Annie Neugebauer, Cary Herwig, Cassandra Sachar, Emily Ruth Verona, Erica Ciko, Jenny Kiefer, Jessica Drake-Thomas, Kate Maruyama, Katherine Silva, L. C. Son, Linda Watkins, Lori R. Lopez, Megan Hart, Melissa Pleckham, Nicole Cushing, Nicole Willson, Noelle Ihli, Pauline Yates, Rebecca Fraser, Renee DeCamillis, Sonora Taylor, Susan McCauley, Sylvia Bourgoin, Theresa Derwin, Tiffany Meuret, Victoria Dalpe, Wendy Vogel, Christa Wojciechowski, Jennifer Brozek, Tiffany Morris, Kasey Lansdale, Rebecca Jones-Howe, Jamie Zaccaria, Andrea Blythe, Lenore Poyer, Gretchen McNeil, Jennifer Fawcett, J. M. Heluk, Abbie Bernstein, Anne Heltzel, Denise Dumars, Carole Ann Moleti, Azzurra Nox, Natasha Morningstarr, Erika Wurth, EV Knight, KC Grifant, Kaaron Warren, Jacqueline West, Eden Royce, Tiffany Jackson, Anastasia Garcia, Tiffany Ashley Bryant, Victory Witherkeigh and Leslie Lutz.

2 comments on “Beating a Dead Cliché: Women in Horror Month Series Intro by Meghan Arcuri

  1. Incredible that you appear to only have two African women in your list of 200. Where are Nuzo Onoh, Lauren Beuke, Nnedi Okoroafor, Helen Oyeyemi, to mention but a few? African writers voices matter too, so this is a disappointing list

    • I saw African American, Latinx, and Asian American writers listed and assumed the focus was on U.S. lit versus international or diasporic writing. At least 10% POC which is honestly better than other genres.

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