Ever enter a crowded room and notice a someone assessing the crowd? Maybe she's the quiet member of a group or quietly sipping chardonnay on the periphery. What's on her mind? Work? Kids? If she's my next guest, Stacey Longo, she might be scheming ways to terrify you.
Women in Horror by Stacey Longo
I am a horror writer. I am also a woman.
The horror genre is largely dominated by men. Yes, there have been some amazing women who have left their imprint on the field: Mary Shelley, of course, with the incomparable Frankenstein; and Anne Rice’s Lestat series redefined vampires for a generation. Shirley Jackson’s influence on the genre, from the short story “The Lottery” to The Haunting of Hill House, cannot be denied. But if you were to Google “top ten current horror writers” (as I just did), the list would look something like this: Clive Barker, Joe Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, Richard Matheson, Jonathan Maberry, Dan Simmons, Robert McCammon, Dean Koontz, Ramsey Campbell, and of course, Stephen King. Not an ounce of estrogen on that list. Why? I believe there’s a perception out there that women, as the fairer sex, write softer. Weaker. With less carnage and suspense and overall terror.
Boy, are they wrong.
I can tell you that Monica O’Rourke’s novels are so violent, so gore-filled, and so twisted that you’ll find yourself putting it down if only to speculate for a moment on what kind of sicko would think of such things. I can also report that Sarah Pinborough’s elegant prose will lull you so comfortably into a cozy blanket of security that you won’t see the knife coming until it is plunged in to the hilt. And Elizabeth Massie’s novels are chock-full of murder, mutilation, and violence, and yet still manage to evoke a tear from time to time. These women are brilliant, ballsy writers. They also deserve a hell of a lot more attention than they’re getting now.
A lesser woman might look at the excess of sometimes undeserved recognition paid to men in the field (be honest: when was the last time Dean Koontz wrote something you really enjoyed?), coupled with the cold shoulder that talented female scribes often receive, and give up. Try a different genre. Romance sounds nice, doesn’t it?
But I’m the kind of woman who thinks Monster, serial killer Aileen Wuornos’s autobiography, was, underneath it all, a romance. (You can’t deny she was crazy about her girlfriend Tyria. My goodness: Aileen killed just to keep a roof over that woman’s head!) Bodice-rippers are not my style, unless there are human organs being ripped out as well. I don’t always choose to write horror. I wrote a lovely short story once about a girl who moves to an island, finds a job and a boyfriend . . . and then kills and skins her boyfriend, cuts his flesh up for stew, and feeds it to her neighbors with cyanide seasoning. It started out as a fun, happy little piece. (I’d argue that it ended that way as well.) The horror just seems to bleed through when I’m writing. And when I look at the writers I truly respect—not just King, and Brian Keene, and Jeff Strand, but also O’Rourke, and Pinborough, and Massie—I figure I’m doing okay. Those women may not be recognized enough for their brilliance, but they’re not stopping. The viscera and body parts continue to splatter on the pages of these women, and I love them for it.
One of the men in my writer’s group once described me like this: “That’s Stacey. She likes to muck around in the dirt with the rest of us.” I’ll take that compliment any day.
|Stacey Longo, author and editor|
Stacey Longo is an award-winning author and editor. Her books include Ordinary Boy, a dark fiction novel, and Secret Things: TwelveTales to Terrify, a short story collection, among other titles. Her next book, My Sister the Zombie, is due out in 2016. Longo’s short stories have been published in dozens of anthologies and magazines, including Shroud magazine and Shock Totem. Her non-fiction pieces have appeared in the Litchfield Literary Review and The Works magazine. Longo is a former humor columnist for the Block Island Times, and writes a weekly humor blog at www.staceylongo.com.
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