Women in Horror
Is the average horror reader discriminatory?
Can female authors gain the same level of respect for their work as male authors?
They are both interesting questions; ones that I have wondered about since releasing my first horror/science fiction novel.
Looking through history, the horror genre is one that has been dominated by men. I have to wonder if that is a product of how society has viewed women as the weaker, fairer sex. Women have been seen as needing protection and guidance from the men in their lives and in some cases weren’t allowed to vote or speak their minds publicly until the 19th and even the 20th centuries. Yet, despite all of these forms of societal censorship, women have managed to gain popularity in the circles of horror writers and horror readers.
Horror has had a long history in literature, mainly in part because readers enjoy being scared. Society has had a long interest in all things supernatural and it’s absolutely no wonder to me that supernatural horror was the prevalent form until the advent of Gothic horror. A lot of the gothic horror coming out of the 18th century was from women writers and it was written to appeal to a largely female fan base. Women like Ann Radcliffe, Marjorie Bowen, Elizabeth Gaskill, Regina Maria Roche and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley have entertained readers with some of the most well-known and well recognized works of literature in the horror genre.
The trend for strong women in horror literature has only continued since then. Authors such as J.M. Dillard, Susie Maloney, Anne Rice, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Gemma Files, and Sarah Pinborough along with many others have only helped to propel the female voice further in horror literature as a whole. With the advent of the self-publishing revolution, many female horror authors have stepped up to the plate and delivered astonishing reads as well.
But are horror readers reading women horror authors? I think the answer to that question is yes but there is a bigger question – are they reading female horror authors as frequently as they are reading male authors who write in the same genre? That is an infinitely harder question to answer. If I look at the books shelves of my male friends, they are filled with male authors almost to the point of excluding the women. Conversely, the bookshelves of my female friends show a definite appreciation for both genders. That is not to say that men only read male authors, it’s just that some of them have yet to discover the strong and terrifying voices of the women writing in the genre.
As a woman who has just released a novel in the horror genre, I have found that the reaction to my book has been very favorable. While I realize that it may appeal to a sub sect of horror fans, I feel like I have been warmly welcomed into the fold. I had the unique opportunity to wet my feet prior to releasing a full length book so I believe that has helped me to cull a small fan base. In that regard, I am lucky and very grateful.
Given that women appear to have strapped themselves firmly into the passenger seat of the horror genre, it only serves to note that their notoriety will expand within the next ten years. With horror set to make a huge revival in the future, women authors are primed to make a distinct mark on the genre. So pick up one of the many wonderful tomes written by a woman and prepare yourself for a stellar scare.
Julianne Snow is the author of the Days with the Undead series and the founder of Zombieholics Anonymous. She writes within the realms of speculative fiction, has roots that go deep into horror and is a member of the Horror Writers Association. Julianne has pieces of short fiction in publications from Sirens Call Publications, Open Casket Press, 7DS Books, James Ward Kirk Publishing, Coffin Hop Press and Hazardous Press, and upcoming collections from May December Publications, 7DS Books, and Firbolg Publishing.
The Carnival 13, a collaborative round-robin novella for charity which she contributed to and helped to spearhead was released in October 2013. Her collection of zombie short fiction, Glimpses of the Undead is available online at all major retailers.
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