Horror generally tends to be thought of as a genre dominated by men–Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Peter Straub. This list of the top 20 horror writers is full of testosterone (and awfully white). There’s not a female among them. Writer Joanna Russ may have lamented the character roles available to the heroine in general and the suppression in women’s writing in science fiction, but I would also say that women who write horror are just as overlooked.
But never fear–there’s a remedy for that. It’s Women in Horror Month!
There are many, many women horror writers who often get lost in the shuffle when we’re talking about our favorite chills. The New York Times noted in 2008 that much of the best horror writing that year was coming from women, and I would say that it was not only true then…it’s been true for a long time. Mary Shelley always comes up when you’re talking about women writers of horror, and sometimes Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Anne Rice ruled horror in the 1980s. But who else?
A lot of women, that’s who.
So in honor of Women in Horror Month, here’s a list of my favorite contemporary women writers in the genre:
Kathe Koja. The Cipher is out of print, but well worth seeking out in electronic form. Holy crap. I had some serious nightmares. Koja has such a way with language and nuance, and I highly recommend giving her a read . . . whether it’s The Cipher, Under the Poppy, or one of her other novels.
Helen Oyeyemi. Have you read White is For Witching? No. That shit is creepy. Pick it up. Her other novels are decidedly NOT horror-y, which makes White all the more fascinating.
Helen Marshall. Okay, get thee to your favorite bookstore and check out Hair Side, Flesh Side. In addition to the novel containing some great illustrations and art, the prose is gorgeous. And the story about the woman with the novel written on the underside of her skin? I get itchy just thinking of it.
There are a million more women writing in the horror genre who are just as good or better than the guys who get the wider recognition. As a horror writer (and a woman), I hope more and more women in the genre get a whole lot more attention.