Horror Writers Association

Horror Roundtable 15 – Sexism in Horror


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When: 16 January, 2014
Time: 7pm EST (use the Time Zone Converter to find your local time)

Sexism in Horror

With so many brilliant female horror writers (think Anne Rice, Shirley Jackson, Daphne Du Maurier, Lisa Morton, Nancy Holder, Sarah Pinborough, Lisa Tuttle, Sarah Langan, Kaaron Warren, and many more), why is it that few of them–if any–ever appear on lists of the ‘best horror writers’? Is that the industry’s fault, or the fans? Is there sexism in the horror genre, a bias towards male writers, or is it just that there are more male writers? If a magazine gets 300 submissions for an issue and the majority is from males, isn’t it likely that the final Table of Contents will contain mostly men? Is that the magazine’s fault for not actively pursuing female submissions? And what if they’re then bullied into putting out a ‘women only’ issue; is that fair? If sexism is prevalent across the horror genre, what can be done about it, and where does the fault lie?

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Special Guests:

Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for over thirty years as fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and editor of Event Horizon and SCIFICTION. She currently acquires short fiction for Tor.com. In addition, she has edited more than fifty science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies, including the annual The Best Horror of the Year, Lovecraft’s Monsters, a reprint anthology of stories, each involving at least one of H. P. Lovecraft’s creations, the six volume series of retold fairy tales starting with Snow White, Blood Red, and Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy (the latter anthologies with Terri Windling).

Forthcoming are Nightmare Carnival, The Cutting Room, and The Doll Collection.

She’s won nine World Fantasy Awards, and has also won multiple Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards, and the 2012 Il Posto Nero Black Spot Award for Excellence as Best Foreign Editor. Datlow was named recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for “outstanding contribution to the genre” and was honored with the Life Achievement Award given by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career.

She lives in New York and co-hosts the monthly Fantastic Fiction Reading Series at KGB Bar. More information can be found at www.datlow.com, on Facebook, and on twitter as @EllenDatlow.

Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, award-winning prose author, and Halloween expert. Her most recent release is the novel NETHERWORLD (JournalStone); forthcoming this June is ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: WASHINGTON DECEASED (Constable & Robinson). She currently serves as Vice President of the Horror Writers Association, and can be found online at http://www.lisamorton.com.

R.B. Chesterton’s first horror novel, THE DARKLING, was published last March by Pegasus Books. THE DARKLING was named one of the top 10 horror novels of the year by www.bloody-disgusting.com. A second dark novel, THE SEEKER, is set for publication March 6, 2014. R.B. Chesterton is a pseudonym for Carolyn Haines, who has published in a number of genres. Haines is a native of Mississippi. She teaches fiction writing at the University of South Alabama and also runs a non-profit animal rescue, Good Fortune Farm Refuge, where she tends cats, dogs, and horses. In 2010 she was honored with the Harper Lee Distinguished Writing Award, and in 2009 the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence. You can find out more at www.carolynhaines.com.

Gary A. Braunback – bio to come.

Jason V Brock is an award-winning writer, editor, filmmaker, composer, and artist, and has been widely-published online, in comic books, magazines, and anthologies, such as Butcher Knives & Body Counts, Disorders of Magnitude (nonfiction collection), Simulacrum and Other Possible Realities (fiction/poetry collection), Fungi, Weird Fiction Review, Fangoria, S. T. Joshi’s Black Wings series, and many others.

He was Art Director/Managing Editor of Dark Discoveries magazine for more than four years, and has a biannual pro digest called [NAMELESS], which can be found on Twitter: @NAMELESSMAG, and on the Interwebs at www.NamelessMag.com.

He and his wife, Sunni, also run Cycatrix Press, and have a technology consulting business.

As a filmmaker, his work includes the critically-acclaimed documentaries Charles Beaumont: The Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man, The AckerMonster Chronicles!, and Image, Reflection, Shadow: Artists of the Fantastic. He is the primary composer and instrumentalist/singer for his band, ChiaroscurO. Brock loves his wife, their family of reptiles/amphibians, travel, and vegan/vegetarianism.

He is active on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter (@JASUNNI_JASONVB), and their personal website/blog, www.JaSunni.com.

Sephera Giron is the current head of the Ontario Chapter of the HWA and contributes to the Canadian Content Corner of the newsletter. She has over twenty books published with a new novella, CAPTURED SOULS, coming from Samhain Publishing on February 4, 2014.

Lisa Mannetti’s debut novel, THE GENTLING BOX, garnered a Bram Stoker Award and she has since been twice-nominated for the award in both the short and long fiction categories: (“1925: A Fall River Halloween” and Dissolution). Her story, “Everybody Wins,” was made into a short film by director Paul Leyden starring Malin Ackerman and released under the title Bye-Bye Sally. Recent short stories include, “Corruption,” in Nightscapes Volume 1 (September 2013) and “The Hunger Artist” in Zippered Flesh II (February 2013).

She has also authored The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (second edition to be published by Smart Rhino early 2014), two companion novellas in Deathwatch, (new edition Nightscape Press, December 2013), a macabre gag book, 51 Fiendish Ways to Leave your Lover, (Bad Moon Books, Feb 2010) as well as non-fiction books, and numerous articles and short stories in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. Forthcoming works include additional short stories and a novella about Houdini, The Box Jumper. She is currently working on a paranormal novel, Spy Glass Hill.

Lisa lives in New York.

Visit her author website: www.lisamannetti.com
Visit her virtual haunted house: www.thechanceryhouse.com

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270 comments on “Horror Roundtable 15 – Sexism in Horror

  1. I’m jumping in late, and only because Sephera nagged on her wall that women should come here and comment, and it’s good to obey Sephera! 🙂

    I haven’t read this forum in its entirety so this may have been covered.

    Personally, my experience is that I’ve never avoided sending a story to a publication because I saw that only or mostly men had been published there. Like most authors, I have a certain writing style and I think it appeals to some editors and not to others. There are places I’ve submitted over the years and have never had an acceptance. There are other places where I generally am accepted. A lot of that is the editor liking or disliking my style and subject matter. At some point, if you’ve been writing and publishing long enough, it’s no longer a question of whether or not a piece of short fiction, say, is good enough. If you’ve been published in a significant number of major publications, that isn’t a question. It boils down to whether or not your style and subject matter appeals to the editor. Obviously, editors who like my style and subject selection invite me to anthologies and those who don’t, don’t.

    I believe there’s been some discussion about women feeling hopeless and not submitting to markets because they fear rejection. I don’t know what to say about that because it’s not been me so I don’t understand that attitude. I’ve always known publishing would be difficult and it has been, but, as the I CHING says, perseverance furthers. I’d hope that women of all stripes would just get out there and submit their work and keep trying and eventually success finds you.

    Maybe this, too, has been covered, and it’s a discussion we had somewhere on Facebook a short while ago, but my concern is not so much the above, but more this: why is it that there are so few women at the top of this publishing pile? Ask anyone on the street (well, anyone who reads horror) the names of the top writers and there will be very few, if any, women named. This, to me, is the glass ceiling and how to get beyond that, well, no one seems to know.

  2. Funny, Kevin!:D I write under my middle name and last name, and those who don’t know me often assume I’m using a pseudonym and/or that Shane is a man’s name. That said, men often have names like Kim, Leslie, etc… and no one suggests they’re trying to manipulate an audience. Just sayin’…

    Speaking to some posts regarding quality, I’ll self-flagellate a slip-o-the-finger typo even in a chat thread. However, it’s been my experience that my male writer friends suffer equally from OCD. It’s just how we roll.

  3. “And also does the HWA sponsor a booth/dealers table for Female Horror Writers at the WHC as a way to put more focus on the women authors in the horror genre?”

    we don’t, Michael; indeed this time we have chosen not to have an HWA table as we are fully exposed to WHC attendees.

    We do of course provide booths/tables for members at two dozen or more literary festivals and the like each year. A quick review of the photos from those shows me we have at least 50% female turnout (perhaps more) at those tables/booths. So, our female members seem to be taking those opportunities probably more seriously than our male members

  4. I agree there is a perception problem of horror, speculative fiction, etc., having an “Old Boys” network acting as gatekeepers, but I tend to doubt it’s real, if for no better reason than that being a man hasn’t helped me any!

    Maybe I should adopt a feminine pseudonym and see if that works! 😉

  5. Thanks, Jason. Lisa Morton, Ellen Datlow, Lisa Mannetti, Sephera Giron & Gary A Braunbeck, thank you all for your time and great posts. We newbies really appreciate it!

  6. Simply put, imho, we women are still treated as if we can only handle so much. We can give birth, yet we can’t “give birth” to anything more than bodice-ripping schlock??? I feel this industry stereotype is what holds us back more than anything else.

  7. A huge thank you to our special guests, Lisa Morton, Ellen Datlow, Lisa Mannetti, Sephera Giron, Gary A Braunbeck, and Jason V Brock, for a brilliant discussion.

    The Roundtable will remain open for the next week, so feel free to continue the discussion.

  8. It’s been fun. I’ll be curious to see what people say over the next week! Don’t be shy!

    Thanks everyone!

  9. Okay, I’m hereby declaring this a wrap for now, but as mentioned earlier – it will be open for more discussion throughout the week. Thanks, everyone!

  10. Hi, Everyone!

    This is a great topic that speaks to both author and characterization. One agent who’d wanted to take me on said imprints would only consider “paranormal romance” novels written in first-person/singular viewpoint, not third-person/multiple. … … … She didn’t even consider that my novel had the broad arc of a supernatural horror/thriller; she just assumed I was trying to write paranormal romance. One would think this is the part where I run and throw myself on my bed, sobbing and clutching my dog-eared copy of LITTLE WOMEN to my breast. Nope. I quickly lost her number. Adding insult to injury, an editor told me no one would sympathize with a tough female character protecting the male (through he protects her, too), and certainly no publisher would consider third-person/multiple with alternating timelines.

    In both instances, I do feel, had I been (polite cough, here) equipped differently, I would’ve been treated differently. That said, I’m with Kate. Let each work stand or fall on its own merit.

  11. I’ll try to track down a UK edition of “Little Deaths.” An Ellen Datlow antho has never disappointed me yet!

    Plus, it’ll give me something to read while I wait for Lisa Morton’s essay to go online. 😉

    Superb discussion, everyone! Caregiver duties call, but there was a lot of thought-provoking material tonight that I’ll be mulling over for days and nights to come. Thanks so much! 🙂

  12. Jason: very much agreed with that last point. Free fiction hawked like a carnival barker on PCP. Gimme a break. Okay, gotta go. Goodnight, all!

  13. Yeah, I’ve got to do laundry and help Lucy pack for CONfusion. Plus the cats are smelling like someone’s litter boxes need looked at. )TMI, I know.) I’ve had a great time — fantastic discussion and great questions, everyone!

  14. Thanks, Ellen…and I have to go as well…messages and phone calls are coming in regarding a family member’s third surgery. But thanks all!

  15. @Kate: I honestly think that the lack of editors is hurting the field. Too much POD and e-book only one-oofs that think they’ll be Stephen King overnight. And a low threshold/expectation due to all the whoring of books for a buck, or, God forbid, free. It screws everyone in the end. Lowers the bar to the sub-basement.

  16. I’ve gotta get out of here and get back to work. I”ll try to check things out over the next week to see if there are more questions/comments.
    Thanks everyone. It’s been fun.

  17. Molly: Most of the sub-genre, excuse the expression: sucks! I don’t think I’d buy a whole book of it (except mine of course (LOL) but as I said, mine was not erotic horror -in fact much of it was anti-erotic. It won the World Fantasy award. (original edition from the UK not the US which was cut to bits by the publisher).

  18. @Jason That you couldn’t find 5 out of 80 is a problem. Why do you think the submissions were so sparse? I noticed a marked lack of women’s names btw, so this question is related to the topic. It’s a mystery to me.

  19. Lisa: You didn’t kill it. It committed seppuku. You were just an innocent bystander 🙂

  20. I stuck to my guns one year and only cared to name one work on a jury; the jury, though, had to come up with five. And I understand that, since I am only one person with one opinion.

  21. @Ellen: *hanging my head in shame* I tend to ignore anything with the words “Romance” or “Erotica” on the cover… But if the sub-genre has your recommendation, I’ll certainly give it a try. (I did buy and read “Alien Sex” years ago, does that redeem me at all?) 🙂

  22. Thirteen HOT BLOODs, to be precise. I was in the last volume. Another anthology series I killed.

  23. No, I won’t do it. Another example: When we opened NAMELESS as a pro-rate market, we had over 1000 subs in a month. Out of that (which took a YEAR to read), I chose about forty.

  24. Luckily, I’ve been on the “Collections” jury three times now (I think). And we’ve never had trouble picking 5.

  25. Molly–what what???? I cannot believe you’ve never hear of it. Ten or more volumes of The Hot Blood Series? My own Little Deaths (although more sexual horror than erotic)…tsk tsk. Where have you been?

  26. Jason: agreed — and isn’t it frustrating as hell? Do you sometimes feel you’re settling for some journeyman-level material just to fill out the pages?

  27. On the Novel Jury we had a really hard time coming up with five good novels out of 80.

  28. What a night. I’d never heard of “erotic horror” until now, and now I’ve heard of it Gary and Ellen are kindly putting on a demonstration. 😉

  29. Ellen makes good point: the more one reads in the field, the more one will come to better recognize what separates good writing from the merely competent.

  30. @Maura: For me, I treat it all the same. If others don’t, I cannot tell. I’d hope so, so it must be brought to wider attention. That said, if the women don’t submit, as Kate has pointed out, it’s all for naught: One can’t create something from nothing.

    As to the reviewing side: Depends on what is sent my way to review. If it fires on the cylinders I am intrigued by, for sure it’ll be reviewed, regardless of who sent it, or who wrote it.

  31. Yes, but Jason the question is: is all good writing treated equally? Women would not still resort to using their initials or a male pseudonym if that was the case. Women’s good writing is not reviewed as often as men’s writing. This continues to happen.

  32. Ellen: you soul know, you read more in the field than probably all of us combined. I will always admire you and your opinions. Always.

  33. @Sephera: Good point!

    @Lisa Morton: Excellent, I very much look forward to reading that. I have a hunch I’ll be recommending it to several writer friends, as well.

  34. Ah, to heck with it — I was presenting it as an Absolute, and you know why? Because I’m a man with dangly parts, we make the rules, and or rules are to obeyed, because we always know what we’re talking about. So there. Nyah-nyah,nyah.

  35. Gary: I’m just saying that I haven’t seen that in reading stories by men and women. There are plenty of men writing quiet horror and plenty of women writing the visceral.

  36. Good writing is good writing. Period. Irrespective of genre, gender, race, social class, or language.

  37. Ellen: I wasn’t presenting that as some sort of decree, it was just my observation as a reader. I’ve no doubt I’ve oversimplified some things. Yes, it does depend on the sensibilities of the individual writer and how well she/he can filter those sensibilities into his/her characters and/or world view.

  38. Ellen, I wouldn’t accept something inferior just to keep the balance. I suppose now that I think about it seeking out women to publish is creating an old girls network… Yep I can do that. 🙂

  39. Me, too, Ellen. Bad writing by anyone is a no-no. Having edited anthologies, one sees a great deal of bad writing, for sure.

  40. Ellen: I have no doubt you’ve read godawful horror from both. Truly bad writing knows no sex.

  41. Molly, that essay will run on this very blog as part of HWA’s month-long celebration of “Women in Horror” next month. Thanks for asking.

  42. Gary: I disagree. I don’t feel that’s a gender thing at all but dependent on the skill (and interest) of the individual writer–you for one do that and do it well).

  43. I think I can be pretty gross in my work…Don’t we have to deal with gross every month?!?! Should be natural!

  44. Molly, I wrote a scene that made my agent throw up…so it’s not just men. But I also write quieter horror and care very much about literary horror. I write what challenges me, what the story needs at the time.

  45. Molly: That’s bait of an oversimplification but, yes, I think that’s largely a part of it. I think female horror writers convey dread better, and having a better understanding of what constitutes genuine tragedy over the merely tragic as a storytelling tool.

  46. Well, there is a whole sub-genre of Gay Erotica written for and by females. Fascinating.

  47. Gary: I hate to break it to you, but I’ve read some pretty in your face (godawful) horror by women as well as men. 😉

  48. I’m certainly not averse to the occasional use of the gross-out. Just speaking for myself, of course.

  49. Visceral is better than viscera, generally, though both have their place. Just as Quiet Horror does. Even Silent Horror…

  50. Not sure I agree about erotic fiction (not interested in erotica, a whole different subject)–I’ve read some pretty damned great erotic horror stories by men as much as by women.

  51. @Gary: So women often go for terror (to use Stephen King’s system), while men more often go for a gross-out? I wondered if that might be so.

  52. Ellen: Perhaps it suggests “Damned auto-correct that Gary didn’t notice until it was too late,” as well? 🙂

  53. Kate, I think polishing and perfecting–any writing–is a good thing. If writers don’t keep up the standards who will. Writing is supposed to be art.

  54. And I’m *not* saying that women can’t write effective in-your-face horror (Hi, Seph!) I just find that, as a reader, I find women have a much more deft touch than their male counterparts.

  55. Gary: That’s funny to me “visceral” doesn’t necessarily suggest “viscera” to me at all ;-).

  56. Responding to Molly: I don’t. In fact, I just did an essay on the use of female protagonists in horror novels, and six of my ten favorite novels featuring women as lead characters were by men.

  57. Overall, I find horror written by women to be more thoughtful and less visceral than that written by men — that’s just me speaking as a reader, one who prefers the more thoughtful approach to horror over the in-your-face viscera.

  58. Yes Sephira, I’d say submissions are 10/1 male to female. Of course it may be different for others. I suppose it is cultural. Women seem to want to polish and perfect before they even try.

  59. Gary: Oh -I thought she meant going out of her way to encourage women to submit to them…
    Kate: which DO you mean? 😉

  60. With the segregation/special accommodations issue in mind, wouldn’t “Women in Horror Month” function on a similar level?

  61. I think Kate was referring to the idea of an “all-women” anthology or zine issue.

  62. I would prefer anthologies catalogued by subject themes then by “type/gender/race” of writers.

  63. Question for the panel, if I may?

    Do you find a significant difference in the themes women writers of dark fiction favor, versus the themes favored by men?

  64. Kate: Encouraging more women to submit to your publications is not “lowering the bar” for women, unless you choose stories that are not as good as those by men.

  65. Gary, what I meant by ambivalent was that I would like to read more horror fiction from women and I would like the playing field for publication to be even, but making special accommodations for women is offensive to me personally. I wouldn’t want to win a prize if the bar was lowered.

  66. @Ellen: LOL, I thought about the probable advantages of writing under a male pseudonym. I decided I’d rather work to make people react the same way to the name “Molly” as to the name “Morticia.” With shivers. Thanks to years of studying your horror anthos, maybe I’ll even succeed. 🙂

  67. Just curious: why, when we discuss all-women anthologies, it’s a matter of segregation, but if one were to announce, say, an all-Canadian author altho, or an all African-American writers anthology, or an all Former Catholic School Dropouts horror anthology, this is considered “spotlighting” a group rather than segregating them?

  68. Jason, I had no idea you used the exact same phrase as I did….great minds thinking alike…perhaps. 🙂

  69. Statistically from the perspective I have as publisher of NAMELESS, we have had MANY fewer subs from females. Like HUNDREDS less.

  70. Right on the money, Gary. If it’s not an issue there would be no need to have these discussions.

  71. CANNOT AGREE MORE about the segregation theory! Right on the money. And @Kate Jonez: That’s true. Sad to say.

  72. So, Kate, you’re suggesting that women are submitting less than men and in fact, have to be practically invited to do so? These are the kinds of things I like to hear about because it helps to put everything into perspective.

  73. Just an observation: for all those who say that sexism in horror isn’t an issue, isn’t it interesting that this issue consistently comes up every few years?

  74. Karen Russell fully embraces writing horror. Her publishers, however, would not be happy if anyone referred to her that way.

    Molly-that’s great. (and to me, surprising).

  75. Kate: Not trying to start anything, but where in this discussion was it mentioned that anyone should “pander” to “female sensibilities”? (I find that idea as offensive as you, btw)

  76. “Instead why not just include more women in your regular anthology or magazine issue?” – Well…..yeah. 🙂

  77. I actually received one ‘professional’ review that said my books were too terrifying; another on Amazon that found my book too scary.
    I wonder if men would a) get reviews like that and b)whether that’s happened to any male writer the men here know of c) if the women here know of reviews like that for male horror writers…
    Just curious….

  78. I’m not wild about “all female” anthologies or magazine issues. As Lisa says, it smacks too much of segregation. I felt that way when I first read some and I still feel that way. Instead why not just include more women in your regular anthology or magazine issue?

  79. Sephera and all: Don’t forget that this roundtable will be left open for the next week, so feel free to check back and respond to individual comments at any time!

  80. I think at this point in the game, an all-woman issue isn’t necessary and in fact, possibly hurtful. If we want to be equals in the genre, then we shouldn’t be having women-only stuff!

    I will say that the Women in Horror Month celebrations might be working to raise the profile of the genre and women in it. I think we should have a Men in Horror Month too and raise the genre MORE!

  81. Some of the best writers of horror don’t even acknowledge the genre. Karen Russel who wrote Vampires in the Lemon Grove for example. Maybe reaching out to some higher profile women might make the genre seem more welcoming. Although, I’m a little ambivalent about pandering to women’s delicate sensibilities. As someone who actively tries to publish fiction by women, I’m getting a little tired of having to ask women for submissions all the time while I get a steady stream from men whether or not I’m open for them.

  82. It goes back to media on some level, and the focus different things are given at home. How can one fix such a cultural bias? Raise children more gender neutral is one idea.

  83. Ellen: My best-paid and most-liked publication to date was actually (dark) military SF written under my own name. It can be done, but (just between us here in this chat) I had to heavily reassure the editors I’d done my homework. I don’t doubt having a girly, brainless cheerleader name like “Molly” made that a tougher sale than it would have been if I published under a male pseudonym.

  84. Oh, there are so many ideas I want to respond to. I wish that we could comment on the specific comments we want to comment on! And I’m spoiled with the “like” buttons too! lol…

    Lisa, yes, Billie Sue talked about using the male name and how that unknown man outsold her regular books! Scary.

    So many women use initials. I thought about that a few times over the years but never did it. Even when I have secret identity, it’s a woman.

  85. I used to think all-female anthologies were a bad idea, like segregation…but I’ve also heard many readers mention favorite writers they discovered as a result of such books (like Kathy Ptacek’s WOMEN OF DARKNESS), so now I’m starting to lean the other direction.

  86. Leigh: I think a reader might pick up a book if there’s a photo of an attractive male OR female author on the cover, but these days I really doubt anyone would buy it on that alone.

    I do think that some male horror readers are very biased against reading anything by women (can’t prove it, just my perception from online groups of various types).

  87. To respond to Lisa, I think it’s probably improving for women in all genres…just as it has over the last few decades for women in all fields. But like Gary, I’d like to see the percentages for women in horror increase substantially.

  88. Leigh, I think it’s human nature to judge somewhat on appearances. There would be no need for snazzy author photos were it not the case.

  89. myoung: yes, I think it’s one helluva good way to draw attention to the problem — and to take steps correcting it.

  90. Perhaps. It only helps if it reaches men and women though, and doesn’t just preach to the choir as it were.

  91. I noticed in the Facebook discussion Billie Sue Mossiman said she used a male pseudonym for a recently published book and it was outselling those under her own name by a huge margin.

  92. Leigh: I have a friend who, in her early 20s, is already an accomplished professional of dark fiction. You’d certainly never look at a photo of her and think, “Wow, I bet she writes some wonderfully creepy stories.” But … she does!

    Jason: I’d like to see more women discover the joy of horror. You’re right, it’s not a ghetto. (Romance is more a ghetto than Horror could ever be, methinks.) But our culture sends women a clear message that they should crave love and marriage and happily ever after, and I think our culture also sends a clear message that nice girls don’t like scary stories. Which is a shame, because I personally find Horror a lot more relevant to real life than Romance…!

  93. I do feel it’s improving, but a part of me wonders if this improvement is too little, too late. I hope that isn’t the case. I hope by the time we do a roundtable on this topic next year, that 17% is more like 37%, or 47% percent. (But I also voted for Mondale ….)

  94. Can I ask folks what their thoughts are on the special women only issues occasionally published. Is that a good way to go about drawing attention to the problem?

  95. Let me clarify: Do you think there is any possibility that there is bias holding people back from even reading–not assessing the work, merely making the decision to read or not read–some horror authors’ works based on physical appearance? (On the flip-side, just to add further perspective: Might some people be more willing to read a romance written by a young, pretty woman?)

  96. Michael: I think there is less of that now. But it happened in all fields, not just horror. Alice Sheldon used the pseudonym of James Tiptree Jr to write sf. Same with C.L. Moore.

    But I’ll bet it’s difficult for a women to write military sf under her own name (but perhaps I’m wrong).

  97. Plus, there are other issues for reviewers: a woman friend of mine noted that she kept being given women’s work to review for a venue, as there was a perception that she was there to review women’s work. She often wanted to review men’s work, but it wasn’t assigned to her (it was given to men). She wanted to ensure the women got reviewed so she did it, but she despaired of lack of variety in the material she was assigned. This inadvertent ghettoisation of women builds up, which gives the impression that women’s writing, is for women only (or of interest to women only).

  98. Technical note: Several comments are being held for moderation and I don’t know why…sorry to those who’ve posted comments that aren’t coming through.

  99. But seriously, the problem Leigh addresses is a very real one — I’m not sure how deep it runs or how widespread it may or may not be, but it’s there.

  100. There was an interesting comment made earlier regarding reader’s perceptions. There are plenty of stories of women who published under male nom de plumes or used their initials because they thought that they would not be accepted. Do you think there is a false assumption on the part of some readers that women don’t write “real horror?”

  101. Yes, Seph, Lizzie Borden is a case in point–but O.J. Simpson’s status allowed him to be acquitted, too. So, we’re back to celebrity. Thomas Tryon was a well known actor before he wrote The Other. (e.g.)

  102. I’ve always judged by the writing and writing only. And am glad people don’t decide whether or not to read me based on how I look. 🙂

  103. Lisa: Yes-that IS a problem. However, not EVERY guest needs to be a big name to attract con-goers.

  104. I don’t judge ANY work except on its merits, even with people I detest. And there are plenty of those on my FB page! HA!

  105. *standing o for Sephera* Yes. Cultural sexism leaking into publishing. It was definitely a problem in Mary Shelley’s time, but how much of a problem is it in ours?

  106. Agreed. The flips side of it, Ellen, is that with so many more well-known horror writers, the folks running conventions are more likely to want the draw of name writers which tend to be men (so far). A kind of microcosm of Catch-22.

  107. I was thinking it might be romance. So the issue is, to me, appealing across the gender “divide” CULTURALLY, as it were… To show that Horror isn’t a ghetto, but an inclusive group of folks wanting to do the best works possible in the field.

  108. I’m curious about how many people here can personally admit to prejudging an author based not only on gender but appearance as well. How many people see a young, pretty face, for example, and automatically think, “There’s no way she could writing anything scary”?

  109. Hi all, interesting discussion. I think there is a perception problem, and it is not helped by the actual problem women’s work has being reviewed. The ‘Vida’ count shows that there are fewer women reviewers in magazines, and there are fewer works by women being reviewed. There is a cultural bias that deems women’s writing ‘less significant’, generally. I think in horror there is a perception that women’s work is not ‘horror enough’ (or say, in sf – it’s not ‘hard enough’ sf). Strange Horizons has done a survey in sf/fantasy and has found that while the journals are getting high percentages of women’s fiction, their work is not being reviewed in equal numbers (here’s the link: http://strangehorizons.com/2013/20130422/2sfcount-a.shtml). If women’s work doesn’t even get publicity after it is published (which seems to be difficult enough), there is a perception that there are fewer women in the field. So, they go to the niches that welcome their work: paranormal fantasy/dark fantasy.

  110. Even Mary Shelley first published Frankenstein anonymously because, hey, a woman wouldn’t write that stuff!

    Which reminds me of how Lizzie Borden got away with murdering daddy and step-mom…women just don’t DO those horrible things!

  111. Jason V. Brock asked:
    “Well, where is the greatest concentration of writers who are female? What genre? And if they are there, why?”

    Isn’t Romance the only genre dominated by women? (To the best of my knowledge…)

  112. I do remember a great comment R. B. Chesterton (Carolyn Haines) made at the Women in Horror panel in New Orleans last June: She actually got one letter (I think from someone at her publisher) about her book THE DARKLING that began, “Dear Mr. Chesterton”.

  113. Yes, Jason, also at Necon. But quite often the guests of honor at conventions (again generally speaking) are males. Many fewer women.

  114. Michael, I recently decided to go look at self-published Kindle horror books to see what kind of gender breakdown was happening there…and I was astonished by how many had gender-neutral initials! So I, too, wonder about the use of pseudonyms and initials, and I’m not sure how you’d find out.

  115. Lisa, Yes! It’s always assumed I write romance no matter how much black I’m wearing in a bookstore or convention!!!! Where I said I write paranormal romance in the above post, I actually don’t but people perceived it as such because I wrote six books in a series for Ravenous Romance. The romance people wouldn’t read it because they thought it was horror. The horror people wouldn’t read it because they thought it was romance. It’s really erotica with a coven of witches (hey if you like Coven, you’ll probably like these) but everyone likes to pretend that since I’m a woman, it must be paranormal romance. I’m not sure I’ve ever written a happy ending yet.

  116. Perhaps. I know that Ellen, S. T. Joshi, Paula Guran, and Steve Jones all seem pretty open to all writers. When I function as an editor, I try to be mindful of that as well, so perhaps that’s a shifting cultural bias. I hope.

  117. One thing I have wondered is the use of male pseudonyms by female authors, is that common in the horror genre?

    And also does the HWA sponsor a booth/dealers table for Female Horror Writers at the WHC as a way to put more focus on the women authors in the horror genre?

  118. I sometimes wonder if horror is too confining a term as well–there are some pretty brutal scenes in Titus Andronicus. I think two of the most terrifying novels I’ve ever read are Sister Carrie and Emma Bovary; but I do think women are not taken as seriously (generally speaking)as writers.

  119. I think there’s definitely a cultural prejudice against women writing and enjoying dark fiction. Girls are supposed to be “sugar and spice and everything nice,” right? The best editors in the field are still people, and products of their culture. Some of the sexist stereotyping of our culture can’t help but leak into the genre, I’d suppose.

  120. Drake: Several of the British women I mentioned have been published in Black Static–the one major horror fiction magazine in the UK.
    Something that’s been happening has been that there are no less than three publishers in the UK now publishing horror story chapbooks of one story–and they’re been publishing a lot of women (maybe as many as men).

    Although there are a few publishers in the US doing the same, I think they’re using far fewer women (for whatever reason). Lisa–several of your stories have been published in chapbooks over here. Is that your perception?

  121. Well, where is the greatest concentration of writers who are female? What genre? And if they are there, why?

  122. Leah Bobbet lives here in Toronto. I believe her first novel was YA and fantasy/scifi.

    I found it interesting when Lisa Morton presented the rough stats a few weeks ago that Chizine Publications had the best balance. They are run by a husband and wife team here in Toronto. Canada. Don’t know if that’s significant.

  123. A better way to put it might be: what is there about horror fiction that we feel *should* attract more women writers?

  124. I also think that part of it may be that there’s a (deliberately, imo) somewhat nebulous definition of what constitutes horror. Yes, we can say that there are many “sub-genres” (a term I personally despise) but the more of these “sub-genres” that crop up, the more the core intent of horror fiction gets lost. But that’s just me. And maybe a lot of women writers are turned off from writing more horror because there is no central (for lack of a better word) heart to the field.

  125. I think that they are a lot better at writing it, personally. I’d rather read a female author’s take on erotica than a males. Maybe it’s just due to the different perspective…

  126. I’ve had work rejected over the years because it was cross-genre and therefore, not easy to “slot.” But that’s more about marketing and publishing house quotas and such than it is about being a woman. I’ve written paranormal romance, witchcraft, sex manuals,abusive relationship books, but my main love and focus is horror. But I earn the least from horror…

  127. Seph, one comment you made in a Facebook discussion was interesting: You said that your work is often mistakenly called “paranormal romance”. There’s a case of being categorized whether you like it or not!

  128. I noticed most of the writers Ellen mentioned were from the UK. Do people think there is a difference between US and UK when it comes to women in horror?

  129. Mixing the genres in one piece of work isn’t going to attract editors/publishers any more than using one genre in your work. Male or female. Unless they’re looking for mash-ups.

    But sf/horror and sf- or- horror/mystery, etc etc are all common within the field.

  130. A lot of my own ideas are cross-genre. I think that “horror” can be confining. Perhaps females are less willing to be categorized in this manner than men?

  131. Working in a various genres is, I think, a good move on the part of any writer, for the record.

  132. Ellen: Both, but mostly the former. You’ve already mentioned female writers who work in various genres — look at Kate Wilhelm, for instance, or Joyce Carol Oates.

  133. I think in Sunni’s case, she seems to have fewer “horror ideas” than S/F-type ideas. Maybe a lot of females are thus?

  134. Gary: do you mean mixing genres in one piece of work or working in different genres with each piece of fiction?

  135. I know that ten years ago it was nearly impossible for me to get stuff read by a number of the small presses – I literally waited years in one case, while friends were getting overnight responses. Was that gender-based (yes, the friends – who were not better known writers – were all male)? Or did they just not like me in particular? I have no way of knowing, but I will say the situation has noticeably changed, and I hope that’s the case for all writers submitting.

  136. Jason: but then we move into the grey area of cross-genre work. While I’m proud to be considered a horror writer, most — if not all — my work is a blend of several genres. It could be that I get cut more slack in that direction because I’ve been lurking around for a while AND because I’m a guy. How many cross-genre female writers can you name off the top of your head? Maybe — maybe — those female writers like Sunni, who write science fiction and fantasy are deliberately tailoring their work to those fields because they think anything not easily pigeonholed doesn’t stand a chance in horror.

  137. I think HWA could provide a safe perhaps an anonymous place where people of both sexes could post incidents that involve sexism so we can understand it all better. Remember we used to have that place where you could post advances and complaints anonymously? Something like that.

  138. Hi Lisa – apparently when Marty opened it to the public, it let you in. Arggghhh! Well, please chime in.

  139. Seph: I think that’s back to fear of being perceived as aggressive plus having too many other things on their plates if they have kids. (just guessing)

  140. I have been trying for forty five minutes to get in to this–no matter what I did it kicked me back out and told me to enable cookies on google chrome…then about five minute ago it logged me in, but I could not find where to reply…apologies to all.

  141. I think it might behoove all of us were a handful of people to do an independent study on what differentiates horror written by women from that written by men. Jason’s comment of female writers being more attuned to all the senses in their work sparked this idea, btw, so blame him if you don’t like it; if you do like it, then it was all my idea.

  142. I think that’s an interesting point, Ellen. In the GLs for our digest and our anthos, we prohibit anything of that nature from being submitted, even… Yes: The scholarship is a nice move in the right direction. I know that Sunni prefers to write S/F, just as an aside…

  143. All I know is that when I was a teenager and Stephen King was brand new on the scene, I said to myself that when I grew up, I wanted to scare the hell out of people just like Stephen King scared the hell out of me. It never once occurred to me that I was a girl and couldn’t do it. I just wrote crazy creepy stuff and got it published. Not until recent years when other girls say they can’t get published or that there’s a boy club and so on that I saw there might be some issues. That’s why I wanted to be on this roundtable. I want to understand what is really going on with women. Are they just not submitting or are they being “held back?” And who is holding them back?

  144. I don’t think anyone deliberately excludes women, POC, or anyone else. I think it’s carelessness as much as anything else.

  145. Jason, depends on whether we’re discussion the content or the publishing of it.
    I DO get tired of reading dozens of stories during which the only point is to abuse women (or men for that matter) but it’s way more prevalent to beat up on women in horror fiction.

  146. I would never exclude a really good writer from anything I’m doing. Of course, I try not to be biased with regard to any writer’s ideas, style, interests, etc. Is that so rare, do you think?

  147. Okay, here’s a big one, then as we close out our private half-hour before opening this discussion to the public: What can an organization like HWA do to help women writers?

    I’ll start by mentioning the recent Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley scholarship, and of course this roundtable!

  148. Jason: No. The female writers who I find really interesting are writing in several genres: eg. Priya Sharma is a full time doctor who writes sf/f/h (short fiction).

  149. So the topic is “Sexism in Horror.” Do we all believe that there might be this undercurrent? Or is it more of a cultural thing?

  150. Gary, I did hear tons of grumbling back in the day about how Leisure horror ladies weren’t pushed and there were not enough of them. So maybe you’re correct about why they aren’t going to Samhain. I almost didn’t but only because they don’t pay advances. But I wanted to work with Don again so I went for it.

  151. I think that all parts of the genre have their place: Torture Porn, Erotic Horror, Gothic, what have you. Perhaps female writers prefer to write more in one sub-genre than males do?

  152. I’m thrilled to hear that, Ellen! That kind of fresh influx of talent is fantastic for the genre.

  153. Lisa: No. They’re young (at least the ones I’ve actually met) : Leah Bobet, Anna Taborska, Carole Johnstone, Priya Sharma, Catherine MacLeod, Siobhan Carroll. (off the top of my head). (three of those I picked out of the open subs to Fearful SYmmetries.

  154. If anything, the female writers I’VE read are more in tune with the senses (rather than JUST the visual, I mean). That is better, so kudos to at least that aspect.

  155. Ellen, of those new women writers you’ve mentioned…do you generally find they’re older, maybe even middle-aged? I’ve noticed that lately – some of my favorite new writers are women who’ve waited until their kids were older to really start their own writing careers.

  156. Jason, you would not believe how many panels I’ve been to (mostly spouse panels) where the husbands are completely pampered by the wives so they can write. The wives even work full time outside of the home and STILL do everything for their men. I think this kind of thing is fading over the years, but certainly, early in my career, I was pretty darned envious of those men and their secretary/pr/editorial/chef wives!!!I never once, over the years, saw a woman author say a man did that for her though I’m sure many do.

  157. I think that Leisure, after a point, had to put a lot of weight behind their cash cows — Brian Keene, for instance — and so maybe didn’t give the female writers the extra push. That may have turned off female writers who otherwise might have submitted to Samhain.

  158. Gary: That is funny because Nalo definitely writes some horror. See? That’s my point-more women than you think is writing horror -but they just don’t realize it because horror has gotten such a bad name from torture porn films.

  159. Most writing is terrible, I have to say. Everyone thinks they can write, and they don’t bother learning more than basic literacy. I think that is also a part of the issue: That the level of craft bogs down the genre. Same in film, but there is a MUCH higher entry bar.

  160. I could name at least a dozen excellent female writers who have been writing terrific horror stories only in the past 5 years or so. And I’ll bet most of the readers have never heard of or read them.

  161. I have this running joke with halo Hopkinson. She claims that she can’t read my work because it’s too dark and emotionally disturbing, and for the same reason she can’t write horror. But her last couple of collections have contained at least 45% stories that can and should easily fall into the horror category. Then she admits that there term “horror fiction” carries too many negative connotations in the fields she publishes in.

  162. Lisa posted some interesting statistics a couple of weeks ago. One that I was interested in was Samhain Publishing. Now, I worked with Don at Leisure and I’m working with him at Samhain. He’s great to work with and I’m not convinced his agenda is anything more than a “good story.” So, how come there were ninety-something men and four or five women being published in Samhain horror? Are women just not submitting to him? And WHY?

  163. I’d love to know more about how horror fiction is reviewed–percentages of male/female reviews/reviewers.

    There have been studies in the mainstream that men get reviewed far more than women. That’s depressing and wrong.

  164. Gary, I absolutely think the amount of rape-mutilation-murder fiction that was sold as horror in the past turned off a lot of women from submitting (it almost did that for ME). But I do agree that we’re seeing less of that fiction these days (gawd, it was so overdone, for one thing), and that might lead to more women returning to the writing side of the genre.

  165. Of course, men have to deal with wives, jobs, write, etc. Cuts both ways, that. But I think Gary might have a point vis-a-vis films and books.

  166. Traditionally, we could say things like women have to raise the kids, work, deal with husbands, and by the time they’re done, who has time to write? However, I will say that I was on the loop of “Leisure Ladies” which was pretty much all romance writers. Those women are machines! They work full time, kids, husbands, clean houses, committees, and still crank out those huge romance novels! So we can’t REALLY use the excuse that women have more to do then men do.

  167. Jason hit on something — the misperception of the filed in the eyes of many writers (not just women). I think, still, that horror fiction — before it’s even read — is still too unfairly equated with horror films — and most horror films are terrible so, therefore (in the eyes of many) horror fiction must be the same way.

  168. Seph, you nailed something I’ve heard from a lot of female writer friends: That it’s very hard for them to be confident and assertive. That’s sadly a cultural thing that’s very hard to get past. But…one way publishers can do it is by making sure they’re very open about their submission processes. Don’t make it seem like submissions are a secret cabal…or a boys’ club.

  169. I recall one commenter (I don’t recall if it was a reviewer or just some random person) complaining that one of my anthos was “dominated” by women…when in fact there were several fewer than half women in the book.
    So yes, there are readers who can’t “see” what’s in front of their eyes–if they’re biased against a certain type of writer.

  170. I agree that the number of women represented in the filed is better than it was, but jumping from, say, 11% to 17% isn’t exactly a grand triumph.

  171. I think that some of the readers are “pig-headed male” types. Then again, I’ve ready many stats that claim women are the ones driving book and e-book sales, so that doesn’t jibe entirely. Perhaps there aren’t that many that feel confident enough to sub? Or they have a misperception about the field?

  172. Jason I really don’t think anyone IS “excluding” on that basis. What I think is that they’re “unaware” –once a problem can be identified and editors/writers are more aware, the field starts changing.

  173. I think part of the problem is that some women find it hard to put themselves out there. And in a way, it IS hard because there aren’t a lot of ways for women to be perceived. Bitchy, militant, sexual…it’s rare to be just a “normal” person when you’re a woman trying to get ahead in the arts. If you’re aggressive, you’re a bitch. If a man is aggressive, well, that’s what men do!

  174. But getting back to Lisa’s stats: 17% i pathetic. Lucy and I have what we call the “altho test” that we perform from time to time; we pick a half-dozen recent anthologies, at random, and compare the percentage of female to male writers in the ToCs. Guess what we find? (Way ahead of me, aren’t you?)

  175. I think that is’s a shame if there are folks excluding based on gender, sexual orientation, etc. There is no reason to exclude anyone that’s really good. That said, I am always looking for talented writers of every stripe, and the more diverse the better. It should reflect society (the genre, that is).

  176. Gary, that’s certainly possible.
    The good news is that I think there’s definitely been an upswing in women writing horror (remember guys, I’m usually talking short fiction, as that’s what I know best and see the most of).
    The first ten years (at least) of my YBFH was dominated by male writers-which to me means that I read a LOT more stories by men than women.
    Only in the past five years or so have I been taking more stories by women in my Best of the year anthos.

  177. I thick part of it also stems from the field being perceived — and rightly so — as an “old boys’ network,” and the sometimes pig-headed ways that many (read: male horror writers) go out of their way to point out how wrong that assertion is.

  178. I sometimes wonder if it’s a vicious circle – because women don’t see a lot of other female authors in the genre, they assume they don’t have much of a chance. Meanwhile, there’s the siren call of paranormal romance and urban fantasy…

  179. Ellen — no doubt, but I think too many have been discouraged by the lack of seeing women better represented.

  180. Gary, I read that article and feel we have the same thing going on in horror as we do in the film world. The arts at large, possibly. I think the ground floor opportunities are difficult for women to get into and therefore, it’s hard to climb up the ladder if you can’t get to the first rung.

  181. It could also be that many female writers, discouraged by the lack of women in the field, have simply directed their works in other directions — paranormal romance, urban fantasy, etc.

  182. I find a lot of women are writing horror but don’t even realize that’s what they’re writing and so most horror venues don’t go after them for their mags or anthos.

  183. My gut feeling is that there are fewer women writing horror than men and even fewer of those actually submitting anything on a regular basis.

  184. I think it’s a case of submitting less. A director who had a short film nominated for an Oscar recently said “It’s not that there’s a lack of female directors, there’s a lack of people willing to give opportunities to female directors.” I think the same can arguably be applied here. It’s not that there’s a lack of female horror writers, but there’s a lack — for the large part — of people willing to give them a chance.

  185. That’s a difficult question to answer without more info.
    From reading many many published short stories I believe fewer women are being published. The question is why? I personally think there are fewer women writing horror than men. If that’s so, the question is why?

  186. Okay, I’ve got 4:01 here (PST), so let’s go ahead and get started, and everyone can chime in as they arrive.

    Welcome, all, to HWA’s “Sexism in Horror” roundtable. I’d like to get us started with a loud explosion by quoting UK Tor editor Julie Crisp’s figure on the number of women submitting horror novels to her company: 17%. Can we suggest that might be close to an industry standard? And if so…does that mean fewer women are writing horror, or are they instead submitting less?

  187. My cat, Bella might be volunteering. She’s been walking back and forth on my lap while I type.;-)

  188. Hi Ellen, Sephera, and Gary!

    I understand Carolyn (R. B. Chesterton) is having some log-in difficulties, so she may not be able to join us until the discussion is opened to the public at the half-hour mark.

    We’ll just wait now until I see Lisa and Jason log in…

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