In 1818, a young woman wrote what many consider the greatest horror novel as well as the earliest work of science-fiction. Her name was Mary Shelley, and her most famous work, FRANKENSTEIN, endures until this very day, spawning countless movie adaptations and books adhering to its central themes about the dangers of playing God or fooling with nature. The book has never even been out of print. That is a little bit of trivia I like to carry with me on my author’s journey, like a tasty snack during the long and arduous hike otherwise known as a writing career. When I start to feel like the world is against me, that I am a “woman in a man’s world,” where the bestseller lists in my genres of choice (horror and science fiction) are dominated by my male counterparts, I remind myself that it was a woman’s imagination we all have to thank for breathing life into this particular market. I also think of her bravery. Shelley wrote during a period of time when most women authors had to give themselves male pseudonyms to entice their mostly male readers. The first edition of FRANKENSTEIN was published anonymously to that end, but in 1823, they came to their senses and put her name on the cover. Overall, Shelley was taken seriously in her day as a writer. The passage of time after her death marred her memory. Her biographical writings were censored and sterilized by her own children to depict a quiet, conventional woman, the wife of her famous poet husband, a one-hit wonder with Frankenstein (and her authorship of that was even challenged a few times). Most of her other works fell out of print and the truth of Shelley’s life, both literary and political, was obscured until recently. Now she’s receiving the proper reverence as one of the Romantic greats a century and a half later, and her stance as a beacon for civil cooperation and the importance of women in the family is also well known. Mary Shelley was, overall, a seriously righteous chick who would have fit in very well with my circle of writer friends today.
So if she could be considered the mother root for the genres I mainly focus on today, I feel extremely proud to be a tiny offshoot of that. I had my first horror novel, STRINGS, published in late 2013, and my first science-fiction novel, THE LAST SUPPER, is due out this April. I’ll be honest. I once worried I wouldn’t be able to compete as a woman in such male dominated genres. Those anxieties still haven’t faded among most female writers of certain genres even two centuries since the debut of FRANKENSTEIN, but I feel it’s important not to focus on that. The only thing any writer can do is focus on putting out damn good stories, because while there are still people shallow enough to evaluate a piece of work based on the gender of the author, there are even more people who just want to read a great yarn.
Besides, there are legions of female authors setting examples worth following. They are astounding talents, many of whom I aspire to meet or equal someday. Their achievements fuel me, their stories and characters have burned themselves into my brain and will never leave me. Those names include Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey and Rice, Gillian Flynn, JK Rowling, Octavia Butler, Shirley Jackson, Poppy Z. Brite, Cherie Priest, Daphne Du Maurier, and all the amazing women who will be joining us here at Sekhmet Press this month to speak of the great female accomplishments in literature. I can’t thank them enough for their inspirations and their legacies, for giving me a place to stand in this crowded room. We can’t all be legends like Mary Shelley, and if any of our works survive our own generations let alone four or five, it it’s a monumental accomplishment for any writer. But whether you’re a woman or a man, if anyone should say you “write like a girl,” you should think of all these great women and take it as a compliment.
Allison M. Dickson is a writer of dark contemporary fiction. Two of her short stories currently appear in The Endlands Volume 2 from Hobbes End Publishing, and two of her collected works are currently available on Amazon along with her indie pulp novel, COLT COLTRANE AND THE LOTUS KILLER. Her debut novel STRINGS, a psychological suspense story, released to rave reviews from Hobbes End, and the same publisher will be releasing her dystopian sci-fi book, THE LAST SUPPER, in spring of 2014. When she’s not writing, she’s co-hosting a weekly podcast, Creative Commoners. After spending several years in Olympia, Washington she returned with her husband and kids to her native Midwest and currently resides in Dayton, OH.
Her other obsessions include food, movies, cracking bad jokes with her family over dinner, and harboring secret fantasies of being a Bond girl/sword-wielding martial arts master.
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