On Facebook, I found a list of “The Top Twenty Horror Writers of All Time” that featured a lot of worthy folks, some folks who were good but not great, . . . and not a single woman.
It made me mad. Plum loco, mean, angry mad. All lists are subjective, and hardly definitive, especially on some website whose focus is really on movies and not literature. But this omission seemed like another link in the sad chain of ladies being ignored/diminished in horror. The truth is, tons of women in horror kick ass. And maybe that scares the fanboys!
Once upon a time, I thought I was a horror writer. And when I was investigating the best and the brightest and maybe a career path to follow, I also discovered than many women in horror felt isolated, ostracized, and stigmatized in a way I found rotten and sad. Because many of my favorite horror writers are women. Many of them are far better, IMHO, than lots of the gents on this list. Any list of the best horror writers of all time that does not include Mary Shelly, Patricia Highsmith, Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, Joyce Carol Oates, and so many other women betrays a pretty myopic reading life. And just because you don’t like Anne Rice or Chelsea Quinn Yarborro does not mean they did not have an enormous impact on the genre.
And the tradition of excellence continues, despite these feelings of exclusion. I recently finished reading CHILLING TALES, an antho of Canadian horror fiction edited by Mike Kelly. And, yes, I’m in it, but this isn’t a plug for my stuff. What leaped out for me immediately was that my favorite stories came from the women in the collection. Don’t get me wrong, the guys did terrific stuff, too (especially Richard Gavin, if you want my .02 cents). But the work of Leah Bobet, Sandra Kasturi, Tia Travis and Gemma Files was all killer, no filler, each one a gem that stayed with me after the story was done and I was off to the next one.
I could also sing the high praises of other contemporary horror writers like Sarah Langan, Lynda Rucker, and my fave, Melanie Tem (who is best known for her novels but her short stories are terrific, check out THE ICE DOWNSTREAM if you do not believe me). The point being, don’t be a fanboy whose only love of women in horror is Scream Queen’s of the Silver Screen. Much of the best dark fiction being produced today is being done by the ladies. Read their works, yea mighty, and despair.