SFX forgets women in horror

It’s ironic that during Women in Horror Recognition Month I have to draw attention yet again to another major publication that has a blind spot when it comes to women in horror.

Five months ago I was irked when the British Fantasy Society published a collection of interviews of horror writers that omitted women. A minor Internet outrage ensued, which died down with the society’s quick and honest apology. Naïvely, I thought maybe a lesson had been learned.

This month the British magazine SFX published a special edition devoted to Horror that overlooks women almost entirely.

In his opening words editor Ian Berriman says:

“You see, some people think horror is a limited one-dimensional genre, but I don’t see it that way. Horror is a broad church. It encompasses everything from the classy chillers produced by Val Lewton through to the likes of Saw and Hostel. It comes in an almost infinite variety of forms, and I love nearly every single one of them.”

Except those created by women, it seems.

There are 132 pages in the Horror edition, and a chunk of that consists of advertisements. There are a variety of features, from the usual “Top 20 Villains” (the only female is Sadako from The Ring), items about new movies, and specials like a piece on Spanish horror cinema, and an overview of the British horror anthologies: the Pan Book of Horror Stories series (at least in that article Fay Woolf’s story “Slowly” gets a nod). Belgian filmmaker Hélène Cattet gets a deserved tip of the hat in the “Amer Time!” article about Amer, the film she co-directed with Bruno Forzani.

Actress Ingrid Pitt is the only woman in the magazine with any alone-time in the spotlight: half a page in the “My Life in Horror” section.

I doubt I would have noticed a bias in the SFX horror edition if it wasn’t for the seven-page article “Horror’s Hidden Treasures” smack in the centre of the magazine. That was when I realised women did not register on SFX‘s horror criteria.

In the article the magazine asked 34 directors, screenwriters and authors to name an obscure or under-rated cult horror that deserved better recognition.

Yup, you guessed it, not a single woman was asked for her opinion.

Of the 34 men interviewed, only one of them, Toby Whithouse, suggested a woman’s work (Kit Whitfield‘s Bareback) as deserving attention.

I’m sure each of those individual men responded with his favourite, under-rated horror gem, and none of them were attempting to exclude women.

However, the overall picture presented to the reader is that women’s work in horror does not rate with men, if they are aware of it at all.

What’s embarrassing, unprofessional and shameful is that SFX – by simple oversight or thoughtlessness – did not seek women’s opinion for the article.

This does matter. SFX purports to be “The leading science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine”, and this omission is indicative of a pervasive indifference toward women in the genre.


  • Pat Cadigan

    You would think that when people talk about horror, one of the first people to get a mention besides our own Stephen Jones would be Ellen Datlow, winner of multiple awards for her horror anthologies, filled with good work by both men and women.The late, great Dell Abyss imprint’s authors were almost all women (with a couple of exceptions).You really have to go out of your way to avoid women in horror (not to mention sf or fantasy).

    • Maura

      I know Pat! I find this absence extraordinary. It’s not like the genre isn’t full of smart women working in all aspects of the field.

  • Harmsden

    It’s pretty bizarre with the current boom in sales of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, a boom dominated by women authors, that there’s barely a mention of them in SFX’s horror special (though attention was paid to them in their Vampire special a couple of months back.)What’s more frustrating is the number of women working in the film industry, past and present, who are completely ignored. Say what you want about John Carpenter, but his movies wouldn’t have gotten made without Debra Hill producing. Look at the indie scene today and you’ll find women like Debbie Rochon, Emily Perkins and Eileen Daly, people who aren’t household names but who producing a consistent body of disturbed, entertaining work. And does anyone remember the buzz around Emily Hagins? In 2006 she had the drive and ambition to finance, direct and cut together a zombie movie and she was just 12 years old. I barely have the stamina to pull a 3 minute together. I remember people being talking about her. I talked about her.All these different stories and characters to choose from and all we get is Ingrid Pitt. I love Hammer movies, but there was a lot more women working at Bray studios than Ingrid Pitt. Frankenstein created woman. SFX needs to create more column inches.

    • Maura

      I totally agree.And let’s not forget that Kathryn Bigelow, co-wrote and directed the vampire flick Near Dark, early in her career. She has refused to be pigeon-holed as a female director/creator. Respect!It’s incredibly frustrating to see this happening. I just read somewhere that “no publicity is bad publicity”. Then when it comes to women’s work everyone is so surprised that they haven’t heard about them! This is an example of why it happens!

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