Friday, February 17, 2012

Women in Horror: We've Always Been Here - Cate Gardner

I'm handing the reins over today to Cate Gardner, author of Theatre of Curious Acts, Nowhere Hall, and others. If you're unfamiliar with Cate's work, you are certainly missing out. To me, her work is best described as dark and dreamlike, ethereal and evocative. Her stories are filled with beautiful and heartbreaking darkness and poetic turns of phrase.

Welcome, Cate!

"You are my creator, but I am your master-obey!" Mary Shelley

"Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay to mould me Man, did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?" Mary Shelley

As most of you will know, the original purpose of Women in Horror month was to celebrate women in horror movies. Somewhere along the way, we female horror writers stole in and claimed a corner of it for ourselves. I say we, but normally Women in Horror month passes me by pretty-much unnoticed, but then I don't need reminding that women write and read horror, unfortunately, others perhaps do. So, when our host, Damien, invited me onto her blog as part of her Women in Horror month celebrations, I delightedly said yes.

When I first started writing back in the early 1990s (please don't do the maths), I chose to write horror because most of my ideas were dark and I loved horror stories. Simple equation. I am yet to find a writing manual that dissects the genres between what women should write and what men should write. Apart from one small incident on Twitter where the writer (hopefully) soon understood that women writing horror was not an unusual or a new thing (I sent him spinning all the way back to Mary Shelley), I have been lucky enough not to come up against any prejudice. Nor do I get strange looks from people in real life when I tell them I write horror. Of course when I say I haven't come up against any prejudice, I mean, any prejudice that I'm aware of.

Back in (my) early days, when the small press included many photocopied and desk-top-published, stapled together magazines, I'd discover new magazines via advertisements or flyers in or included with magazines, there were also newsletters such as Back Brain Recluse and Zene. Those were the days (and no I don't want to go back there). My name (or rather my old name Catherine J Gardner) regularly appeared on those flyers in a 'hey, we've also published way' along with other writers, male and female. That's not an ego trip comment (far from it - some of those old stories were stinkers and if I could I'd burn the magazines that they're hiding in. I know sacrilege!), it's more a statement that I was never excluded because I was a woman. Maybe I'm lucky. Maybe I've been fortunate enough to work with some amazing editors. Heck, I know the latter is true.

The writing world is full of wonderful people. You only have to see the wealth of male writers who complain when there's a disproportionate balance of women on convention panels or in anthologies etc to know that the few who think women shouldn't write horror are in the minority. As to those few, we should leave them to fester in a corner somewhere or possibly trapped behind a wall of horror books written by both sexes.

If there is anyone (especially in the writing world) who still thinks that women can't or shouldn't write horror, that it is the domain of men, make sure to shout it loud on your blog or twitter feed so we know where to find you. And as to my location, you can find me at


AnthonyJRapino said...

It's strange to me that *anyone* would be surprised that women not only write horror, but are often the strongest voices in the genre. A large majority of the horror writers that I read and know are female.

I'm not aware of any stats in the writing arena, but I did read recently that women make up the majority of horror movie audiences/fans. In light of this, it should not be surprising that many women write horror as well.

Great post, Cate.

Steven Katriel said...

As Anthony suggested, female Horror writers are often the pride of the genre. What's more, they understand that subtlety is an essential element of fine Horror, and are peerless in this respect as in so many others.

Luke Walker said...

Very interesting post. I think the surprise some people express at knowing women are involved in Horror comes down to the generalisations made about the genre. It shares links with areas such as SF and Fantasy, and they're often seen as solely a male area. Which is no more true than Horror being a genre just for the blokes.

Cate Gardner said...

It's strange to me as well, Anthony ;)

Thanks for reading, Steven & Luke.

Damien Walters Grintalis said...

Thank you, Tony, Steven, and Luke!