Thu, 17 September 2009 Horror wants women to scream, but not talk

This weekend the British Fantasy Society (BFS) is hosting its annual convention, Fantasy Con. Last night while on Facebook I noticed a news item, which constitutes an electronic “flyer”, about the convention.

I immediately noticed the cover of a new book the BFS is launching at the convention: a collection of interviews with writers (the first in a trilogy) in which they discuss their genre. It’s called In Conversation: A Writer’s Perspective. Volume One: Horror. It’s edited by James Cooper, and is composed of 16 interviews with horror authors Ramsey Campbell, Tom Piccirilli, Greg F. Gifune, Conrad Williams, Joe R. Lansdale, Gary McMahon, Brian Keene, Stephen Gallagher, Jeffrey Thomas, Peter Crowther, Tim Lebbon, Ray Garton, Mark Morris, Gary Fry, Graham Joyce and Norman Partridge.

Not a single woman is interviewed.

Simply put, this is not representative of the horror field today. I’ve been advised that women submit less to horror markets than they do to science fiction or fantasy. In those genres women submit at a rate of 35-40%, approximately. Out of a collection of 16 authors five women would indicate representation. In this collection perhaps four, or at the very least three, women would have been correct.

This isn’t an anthology (although Mr. Cooper’s previous anthology of horror fiction is also exclusively male). Mr. Cooper had to sit down and draw up a list of writers he wanted to contact, interview them, and transcribe their views. I’m baffled that he never considered asking a woman writer for her opinion about horror.

Plus, I find it incredible that not a single person in the BFS noticed this lack and brought it to Mr. Cooper’s attention.

Here are a just a few writers he could have approached: Tanith Lee, Lisa Tuttle, M. Rickert, Sarah Langan, Margo Lanagan, Sarah Pinborough, Tananarive Due, Sara Gran, Alexandra Sokoloff, Gemma Files, Cherie Priest, Fran Friel, and Melanie Tem. That list took five minutes to compile with a friend (and it’s certainly not exhaustive – there are many others). I’m sure three, four or five of them would have been happy to agree to an interview.

There are no excuses for this omission. That it happens, and it was allowed to happen, speaks to the deeply cultured disregard for women’s opinion in the world. I see it every day. We are marginalised, silenced, side-lined, forgotten, conveniently dropped, patronised, under-represented, dismissed, subtly intimidated and ignored.

I’m not interested in assassinating characters or insulting a society that generally does good work.

I want this never to happen again.

I never want to see an all-male anthology or collection or essays/interviews in the speculative field again. Enough. It’s the twenty-first century.

Women exist, we work in this field, and we deserve recognition. It’s that simple.

Believe me, we have opinions.

Comment Pages

There are 9 Comments to "Horror wants women to scream, but not talk"

  • Josh Jasper says:

    I’m a huge cheerleader for Caitlín R. Kiernan.

    • Maura says:

      Josh, I agree with Caitlín as an excellent choice. I was not the one who had the time to sit down and research the field. That list took me a few minutes. If I had weeks I would have rocked the world! :)

  • Harmsden says:

    Ditto Caitlin R. Kiernan. She’s one of the most experimental contemporary horror writers. There’s also Poppy Z Brite of ‘Lost Souls’ and ‘Exquistie Corpse’ fame, although she’s moved on from the genre.It’s annoying how horror is viewed as a boys’ club. A friend of mine was over at Frightfest this year. She had a great ime but she couldn’t believe how sexist some of the fans were, particularly the Irish fans. Example: Coming out of ‘Human Centipede’ she voiced her opinion to a fan. He then ignored her and told the friend she was with: “You need to take your woman to more horror movies.”She has an MA in film and wrote her thesis on George A Romero, but apparently biology takes priority over experience.

    • Maura says:

      You are kidding me! I would have torn strips off him for such a remark.I really hope this guy is not a writer or a director!I’m often quite critical of how women are protrayed in Horror (very easy to be if you consider some of the lower grade stuff), and would have no problem voicing that opinion to my mates. That comment just underlines that there is a serious problem in this industry (well, it’s endemic in all cinema).I’m fuming!

  • oldfeminist says:

    I’ve posted on these events on my own blog, and I’m wondering, as I ask there, what you think of the idea Adams floated about a separate book of “women in horror interviews”? Seems to me like ghettoization, and buys into the “male as default” fallacy, but is it better than nothing?Thanks for raising the roof about this.

  • This is such an excellent post. I’m going to spread it within my channels. Sexism within horror is an issue often ignored.

  • Lianne says:

    Another one, although not currently writing horror, is Poppy Z Brite (who I would love to read an in-depth interview with)

  • Hobbes says:

    Lets not forget racism. All the authors chosen for James Cooper’s collection are white.Just like the directors/writers whose horror movies you mentioned from Frightfest were overwhelmingly white and male. Maybe the next Frightfest will be more inclusive. Don’t hold your breath.

  • Very well said! Women exist! I love this article. Thanks for the nice post and for bringing up the issue on this.

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