Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Women in Horror: On Their Own Merits: Musings on “Female Characters” and Some Other Stuff, Too - Molly Tanzer

Today's guest post is from Molly Tanzer, a freelance writer and editor who also works for Prime Books. I met Molly on Twitter, and I've discovered we have quite a few things in common: We write dark fiction, we're vegan, and she, too, has a debut novel coming out at the end of this year - A Pretty Mouth will be published by Lazy Fascist Press.

And I will admit, I squealed when I started reading her post because well, you'll see. Hint: She talks about my favorite movie which begins with the letter A. ;)

Welcome, Molly!

So I finally got around to watching Alien.

I know, I know. It’s iconic, it’s awesome, and most relevantly to this post perhaps, it’s a horror-scifi film with a badass female protagonist. It’s unconscionable I’d never seen it before this month; my only excuse is that space horror/alien movies freak me out more than any other kind of film. (Oh, and that’s any space aliens, not just Alien-aliens.) Really, there is nothing that can make me run around the apartment turning on lights and loudly vowing never to rent any scary movie ever again like space horror. “Everything is worse in space” is something I’ve claimed on multiple occasions, much to the amusement of my friends and family, who really enjoy showing me movies like Event Horizon. Jerks.

Anyways, Alien , motherfuckers. SO GOOD, AMIRIGHT? Lemme just answer that for you: Yes, yes it is .

I was actually surprised how good it was. I’d seen Aliens in college, after friends convinced me it wasn’t scary. It’s not. It’s a perfectly fine action/scifi James Cameron extravaganza of ridiculousness with a badass lady protagonist, but it didn’t really strike me as anything special. Upon reflection (and re-watching Aliens hot on the heels of Alien ) I think that’s for two reasons. First is something not particularly relevant to this post: atmosphere. Goddamn but Alien is tense and scary! It may be the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. No—it is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen.

But secondly—and more importantly—I think the reason I liked Alien way more is that Ripley is a substantially awesomer character in Alien than she is in Aliens .

Why? Well, in Alien , we know minimal information about Ripley. She’s the Warrant Officer on the Nostromo , and you can tell she’s hard as nails and used to people not heeding her advice for whatever reason. Sure, okay, great. But the coolest thing is, Ripley’s just a “character”—not a “female character.” She’s not cast in any sort of female-specific role. This is likely because, as the story goes, scriptwriter Dan O’Bannon wrote all the characters with only last-names so they could be unisex-casted. Ripley is therefore awesomely unfettered by boyfriends/girlfriends, children, aging parents, or any of the other external motivators that tend to inspire other lady-protagonists in horror films. She’s also not out to avenge her rape or anything like that. She’s just a working class woman, thrown into a horrible, unusual circumstance, and holy hell does she win out over adversity. She even saves that cat!

In Aliens , Ripley’s all mom, all the time. She’s a “female character” now, a maternal action-heroine, powered by ovaries of steel and pure estrogen. Cool, fine, but it didn’t really win me over in the same way.

James Cameron loves Mad Moms, and he sets this one up early: Ripley’s unthawed after decades floating in space, and of course upon awakening she asks after her daughter (She had a daughter? Okay, sure, whatever). After discovering her daughter is long dead, Ripley gets a complex about it. This makes total sense—it’s spooky to find out that while you were around, snoozin’ it up with a cat in the yawning infinite darkness of the universe (did I mention I hate space?), your little girl was busy growing up, getting married, and, well, dying.

But the thing is, that sense of failed motherhood colors the entire rest of the film. After going back to the planet where the initial Alien was discovered, Ripley encounters an orphaned girl named Newt, and the move goes into mom-overdrive. Ripley constantly attends Newt, at first attempting to bring her out of shock, and then standing in for Newt’s deceased mom to the point that Newt actually calls Ripley “mommy” by the end of the film. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough maternal bliss for your average viewer of scif/horror films, Ripley also keeps herself plenty busy fighting an egg-laying Alien-Momma, who gets called a “bitch” during the film’s climactic mecha-on-Alien battle scene because of course she does.

So, is Ripley-the-Everywoman’s transformation into a Mad Mom a bad thing? I’d say no … it’s just that Ripley-the-Everywoman is a much rarer incarnation of the female protagonist in horror. I can think of many, many examples of Mad Moms off the top of my head (Terminator 1 and 2, Poltergeist , The Shining , The Amityville Horror , etc.), and that’s not even going into Evil Mad Moms, who show up in, um, every horror movie. (My favorite? Elizabeth Nádasdy as played by Ingrid Pitt in Hammer Studios’ 1971 WTF-fest Countess Dracula ). And so it just felt a little disappointing to see Ripley’s character development in Aliens be womb-based, rather than, I dunno, anything else.

This isn’t to say Aliens is anti-feminist, anti-woman, or anything like that. Hell, it passes the Bechdel test, and it has a few neato female characters in supporting roles, too. I friggin’ love the badass space marine smart-gun operator Vasquez who does chin-ups after waking up from stasis! She’s rad. And I don’t think it’s wrong to put female protagonists in maternal roles; child-bearing and child-rearing is a reality for many, many women, and it’s neat to see women be strong whilst living traditional roles such as mother and/or child-raiser. And so I wouldn’t say Aliens does a worse job of gender than Alien (which also passes the Bechdel test!), just a different job—but one that, to me, felt more sentimental, easier, and more expected.

I called this post “On Their Own Merits” because I think feminist interrogation of films, horror or not, should be case-by-case, and it should be holistic (and they’re not absolute—if you liked Aliens more than Alien , more power to you!). There are plenty of excellent horror films that are not anti-feminist or anti-woman but don’t pass the Bechdel test (The (original) Thing , Let The Right One In ) and there are plenty of horror films that pass the Bechdel test that kinda suck in terms of gender (Twilight , Red Riding Hood ). It’s only one standard, of course. And there are horror films, too, that are feminist/pass the Bechdel Test, but might fail on other levels (The (New) Thing ).

So yeah, the new The Thing . I thought a lot about Ripley whilst watching it; the parallels are manifest—and I watched both this February, which is probably why I’m linking them in this ramblefest.

I watched the original The Thing last year for the first time (see above re: space aliens are the scariest thing in the universe) and really, really enjoyed it. Damn, that is a good, scary-ass movie. It’s smart, atmospheric, horrifying, nasty, and the ending is one of the best horror-movie endings I’ve ever seen.

It also has zero ladies. My reaction to this was “eh, whatever” when I realized the lack of female presence, because frankly, the movie was good enough that I didn’t care about its (maybe?) gender failings. Sure, it’s interesting to note that three years after Alien featured two women in substantial roles in a scifi/horror film, there were no women on that research station in the Antarctic, but I guess Alien was set in the future. (I actually believe that there’s a high probability there would have been some women on a science station in 1982, but that’s neither here nor there. Maybe John Carpenter worried that not even the thing could replicate those shoulder pads everyone wore back then?)

Anyways, The Thing (2011) foregrounds women. Or, at least, a woman. There’s another lady-type, and she and the MC do have a convo (Bechdel-approved!), but the focus really is on the protagonist, another woman-badass without 1. romantic entanglements, 2. kids, 3. aging parents, and her motivation comes elsewhere than rape/assault. Rawk! On! She’s really goddamn cool, she totally takes charge (when she’s able; she must win the battle of reason with the evil force of Patriarchal Private-Interest Douchebag Sander before people heed her wisdom) and does everything she can to stop the thing from getting out and terrorizing planet Earth.

And yet, for all that, there’s the pressing question of, well, is The Thing (2011) as good as The Thing (1982)? Er … okay. There were several issues that held the prequel back from the atmospheric greatness of the original, for me. First, the 2011 The Thing shared a similar problem with Aliens , which was the “progression” of special effects technology. The monster you don’t see is often waaaaay scarier than the monster you do, and I was far more uneasy about the Alien in Alien than the Aliens in Aliens because OMG WTF ARE THEY AAAHH SHIT!! In Aliens , it’s like, oh there they are, that’s what they look like, fine.

In the 1982 The Thing , you only see parts/pieces of the titular thing, except for a few sequences, if memory serves. In the 2011 The Thing , the monster is out and about, running all over the place, being super-gross and kind of hearkening back to Dr. Pretorious from From Beyond . Nasty, but kind of ridiculous. I mean, I really, really liked The Thing (2011). And I honestly think it did some things better—in particular, the who-is-an-alien test scene seemed way more tense and horrifying, especially because of the lack of absolute certainty that was present in the original sequence. I think the film got a bum rap from the review-crew, frankly. The sequence with the spaceship towards the end is stupid and unnecessary, but that was just one part.

Largely, it worked (for me) and that had a lot to do with Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s portrayal of Kate Lloyd. She wasn’t depicted as a frustrated bitchy female trying to survive in a man’s world, her motivation for going on the expedition is professional rather than personal (they so totally could have had her getting over a breakup or some stupid bullshit like that), her reaction to the thing is scientific rather than emotional, and there was no “I tried to conceive but couldn’t and therefore I’ll sacrifice myself to save the world!!” (or something) nonsense to put her more in her place as a “female character” rather than just a “character.” All of the above have been the motivation for lady-protagonists in films since, um, films, but Kate Lloyd is just a scientist trying to battle a terrible shape-shifting alien. And she handles it like a pro.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s no one way to judge a horror film’s feminism, obviously, and there’s no one way to judge if “female characters” are better than “characters (who happen to be female).” It has to be taken on a case-by-case basis, because nothing will work for anyone. I do hope horror filmmaking has moved beyond the absence of female presence that (ever so slightly) negatively impacted my enjoyment of The Thing (1982). Sure, people will claim that women don’t have to be in every story told, and maybe that’s true. But, in my opinion, it’s silly to keep women out of films when there’s a high probability they would be present in whatever setting is being featured. Alien got it right; The Thing (1982) fumbled. Maybe. The Thing (2011) fumbled (maybe) on the horror front, but I think it was a great effort to make a larger-budget horror film without a scream-queen being the only lady-type around.

I guess I just think it’s telling that in 2012 I’m admiring a very recent horror film for doing as good a job with gender as a film from 1979, but so it goes. I commend The Thing (2011) for being so rad in that regard, and hope it marks a progression toward inclusion/positive representations of women in horror films. Sadly, 2009’s backlash-fest Splice is more par for the course, but the more we support movies that get it right … well, given the box office success of Alien I won’t say that Hollywood (or independent movie companies) will certainly foreground more awesome badass females in their films, but it’s a nice hope, right? Here’s looking forward to Prometheus

Monday, February 27, 2012

Women in Horror: Women Don't Write Horror: Exploring the Myth - Sara Jayne Townsend

Today's guest post is from Sara Jayne Townsend, a UK-based author of crime and horror. She has two novels - SUFFER THE CHILDREN and DEATH SCENE - published as e-books by Lyrical Press. Her first collection of short horror stories, SOUL SCREAMS, will be published by Stumar Press later this year. She is the founder and Chair of the T Party Writers' Group, the only London-based 'real space' writing group for genre writers.

You can learn more about Sara Jayne and her writing at her website and her blog.

Welcome, Sara!

I’ve been writing horror for over 25 years, so when Damien invited guest posters to commemorate Women in Horror Month, I felt compelled to contribute.

“Women don’t write horror”. I feel like I’ve been arguing against this all my adult life. There have been women writers, and readers, of horror ever since Mary Shelley penned FRANKENSTEIN. So where did this myth perpetuate?

I think the problem lies, as it always does, in the majority consensus and the tags that society insists on putting on us. Men behave a certain way. Women behave a certain way. Women like romance novels. Men read books filled with testosterone-fuelled action scenes, cars, guns and violence, male bonding between soldiers experiencing the hardships of the battle field, for instance.

Whether or not these preconceived ideas are nature or nurture is something I’ve been debating for years. In many ways I don’t behave like a ‘normal woman’. I don’t want soaps, reality shows or romance films. I prefer a good horror or sf film if I sit down to watch a DVD. My husband and I spend our weekends playing Dungeons & Dragons, gathering around the gaming table with dice and pencils and coffee-stained character sheets with fellow geeks. I don’t like children and have no desire to have any, I don’t cook or clean (for the latter I employ a cleaner; for the former I don’t buy anything that doesn’t have instructions on the packet), and I really can’t see the point of having more than one handbag. However, as someone that’s always been perceived as the ‘odd one out’ I accept that my point of view will always be in the minority.

However, society caters for the majority view. Books targeting women have pink covers with pictures of shoes and handbags on. Adverts targeting women often feature babies, or will try to extoll the benefits of having flawless skin, silky hair or smudge-free make-up. These are based on the opinion that the majority of women care about their appearance, want children and read novels about women succeeding in finding their Mr Right. Because that’s all that women want. Isn’t it?

Those of us who don’t conform to the majority opinion have a rough time of it. I don’t want to receive a make-up kit or perfume if someone’s going to buy me a gift at Christmas. I’d rather have the latest Stephen King novel or Resident Evil video game. Of course, anyone who knows me well enough to want to buy me a gift is well aware of that.

Women do write and read horror, and have always done so. But because we are the minority, we have to shout that bit louder to make ourselves heard. Every once in a while, someone listens. When Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he said he wanted to take the helpless blonde female who always goes wandering off in horror films and gets killed by the monster, and turn her into a kick-ass monster killer who can not only take care of herself but also become a champion of the people. That’s one of the reasons I always loved Buffy. In some ways an ordinary teenage girl, she also kicks demon butt.

It might be unfair, fellow women of horror, but we have to keep shouting. Eventually, we will be heard.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Samhain Horror Releases for 2012 and Short Story News

Samhain announced the 2012 releases, which includes Ink. I caught this by way of a link on Twitter and it definitely gave me pause. Then I did a happy dance. I am not ashamed to admit it. I hope this surreal, crazy in a good way feeling never goes away.

Here is the full lineup.

And in short story news, if you're not an email subscriber to Daily Science Fiction, my story, In Her Arms of Dresden Pale, is now on the website. You can read it free here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Women in Horror: An Essay on Short Fiction - Johnny Compton

On the blog today, I have Johonny Compton, whose short fiction has appeared in magazines such as Arkham Tales, Pseudopod, and From the Asylum. He's written an essay on two of his favorite dark fiction stories penned by female authors.

Welcome, Johnny!

There are a number of magnificent female horror writers working today: Sarah Langan, Sarah Pinborough, Mira Grant, Tananarive Due... hell, I'd be here all day writing a comprehensive list. But for Women in Horror month, I wanted to write about two stories penned by Shirley Jackson and Flannery O’Connor that continue to influence my perspective on the horror genre. (Note: there will be spoilers.)

One of the prevailing themes I look for in fiction is control. Action-adventure stories often feature protagonists who exhibit enough control over their fate to create a happy ending. Love stories often explore how much (or how little) control people have over who they love, who loves them back, and how relationships develop. Horror is often about the lack of control you have over whether you live or die. It
presents illusions of control and abuses of control by malevolent or (perhaps worse) indifferent forces that threaten the lives of innocents. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “The Life You Save May be Your Own” by Flannery O’Connor explore several of the aspects of control you might expect to see in a horror story.

“The Lottery” has an ending that is legendary and horrific, but there is more to the story that makes it frightening. The town’s annual lottery is treated as though it were some sentient force of the cosmos that must be appeased. A town elder cites a local adage, “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.” And yet there is discussion of other towns that have stopped holding the lottery, with no mention that said towns have endured consequential hardships. The story opens on a scene that suggests the land is fertile and lush even a full year removed from the previous lottery. Whatever nameless deity or force the lottery is intended to appease, it's only exerting an illusion of control.

The abuse of control actually comes from the townspeople themselves, in an interesting, ignorant and terrifying way. While many readers cite the story as a criticism of blind traditionalism, the townspeople have already broken several traditions of the ritual. Over the years they've gone from wood chips to slips of paper, gotten rid of the traditional chant and dropped the salute. It's easy to picture them as barbarous zealots, but by the time they get around to murdering one of their own they actually go about the entire process with an impatient orderliness. They start early so that everyone who didn’t die a stony death can “get home for noon dinner.”

Different people in town repeatedly talk about hurrying up so they can get the ritual over with. Once upon a time, people in this town may have genuinely been passionate acolytes, but at the time of the story they're more like punch-clock murderers who set their own hours. They have all the control, but they've convinced themselves otherwise. It's as if they've successfully conducted a version of the Milgram Experiment on themselves so that they may go back to their normal lives, blameless in their own minds.

The same refusal of accountability displayed by the townspeople in “The Lottery” is part of what makes the protagonist of Flannery O'Connor's “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” deplorable. “The Life You Save...” isn't as overtly horrifying as “The Lottery.” Most people probably wouldn't even consider it a horror story. Admittedly, I tend to have a broader definition of horror than most. As a Southern Gotchic writer, O'Connor's ventures into things simultaneously quotidian and grotesque feel like precursors for the kind of horror tales Joyce Carol Oates would come to master. Stories that cultivate a sustained sense of unease and dread.

The character of Tom Shiftlet is part of a tireless horror tradition of untrustworthy and scary faux-preachers. In comparison to the likes of Reverend Harry Powell or Kane from Poltergiest II, his menace is mundane, but no less present. While Shiftlet’s sermonizing isn’t explicitly religious, he still comes to Lucynell Carter's farm eager to proselytize his personal philosophy. He speaks of a world going rotten, a world where an innocent woman is impossible to find. Before he introduces himself he swings out his arms while taking in the sunset, letting his figure take the shape of a “crooked cross.” He refers to himself as a carpenter. He has fooled himself into believing he is not only a decent man, but one of few remaining in the world.

Lucynell Carter, who has a daughter of the same name, doesn't seem to be stupid enough to completely fall for Shiftlet's cheap words. But she is “(R)avenous for a son-in-law.”. Her daughter is a thirty-year-old invalid who literally cannot speak for herself, and her mother sees Shiftlet as a potential suitor that she can marry the girl off to. After he’s proven himself useful by doing handiwork around the house, of course.

It’s easy to underestimate Shiftlet as nothing more than an amateur con man. He talks Lucynell Carter into rewarding him with a car and some money for a honeymoon, while she offloads her daughter onto him. From her point of view, this is a fair barter. She doesn’t imagine that such a feeble-looking and transparent man would have it in him to abandon a helpless deaf-mute girl a hundred miles from home inside a diner while she is asleep. This is the story’s bleakest moment, when it’s petty, vicious horror pricks your skin. This is when all the elements of control at play in a horror story come to a head. Younger Lucynell is the powerless victim whose future and well-being are, at best, left in serious doubt (imagine when she wakes up in this strange place with no familiar faces in sight, and zero capability to communicate where she’s from or what’s happened to her). The elder Lucynell only had an illusion of control. Shiftlet abuses his ability to control the circumstances, then divorces himself from accountability for actions that could qualify him as a sociopath.

However, the story gives us one last gem to consider and be afraid of. Shiftlet drives off, his mood sour though he doesn’t seem terribly remorseful. The weather looks to worsen and Shiftlet decides to pick up a hitchhiker in what appears to be a random act of kindness. When he begins to wax sentimental over his saintly mother, however, the young man he’s picked up insults him and leaps out of the moving vehicle like he’s escaping the devil. It’s as if the hitchhiker can sense the deeper evil that motivates Shiftlet’s actions.

The environment seems to sense it as well. When Shiftlet calls upon God to wash the slime off of the earth, the nearby storm cloud descends and unleashes an exaggerated torrent, with rain drops “like tin can tops” beating down on the vehicle. This appears to go beyond symbolism. It would seem that the heavens have answered Shiftlet’s oblivious prayer by attempting to wash him away. And yet, the final line of the story says that he races the storm into Mobile, Alabama. He is reaching his destination. There’s no indication that Shiftlet’s progress is impeded, much less that he’s in danger of divine retribution. If this was an EC Comics horror story, he would have driven off a washed out bridge and drowned in a preternaturally swift flood (it’s even set up perfectly by the road signs that feature a title-drop). In this story, however, wrathful providence is ultimately impotent. Instead of featuring or suggesting the existence of an evil, nigh-unstoppable supernatural force, as is common in horror fiction, “The Life You Save” suggests a (possibly) benevolent, (certainly) vengeful supernatural force that can’t even force a single despicable wretch off the road. In the end, Shiftlet remains the sole controller of his immediate world.

I read these stories when I was much younger and remain an admirer. They provide a perspective on horror that is not frequently seen. But this is only a small example of what female horror authors have contributed. They are, of course, as varied as male horror authors. There are those that write more graphically gruesome stories, those that delve into psychological terror, those that write of monsters, those that write of serial killers. If for some unbelievable reason, you’re a horror fan who has never treated yourself to a story written by a female author, there’s never any time better than the present to rectify that situation. And to all the talented women of horror out there, thank you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Women in Horror - Mercedes M. Yardley

On the blog today, I am pleased to have a guest post from Mercedes M. Yardley. Her short fiction is filled with dark whimsy and beautiful prose and has appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Pedestal Magazine, Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, and Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed. She is also the nonfiction editor for Shock Totem: Curious Tales of the Macabre and Twisted.

Welcome, Mercedes!

Women know a thing or two about horror. In fairy tales, women are always stolen away by nefarious villains. Little girls are raised by witches who pretend to be their mothers. I can’t think of a single fairy tale where the man pricks his finger, is smothered by a piece of apple caught in his throat, or opens the forbidden door only to find his wife’s seven murdered husbands inside.

We’re taught that it’s unsafe to travel alone. Self-defense classes tend to have more women participants than men. Our boyfriends walk us to our door; it’s seldom the other way around. They are fairly sure they can get home unmolested.

When we’re young, we’re warned that our bodies will gush blood every month for the rest of our lives. It will hurt. It will make us ill. It has the potential to be humiliating. The junior high choir/band/drama competition is five hours long and we’re forced to wear white dresses. That is true horror.

The blood prepares us for pregnancy, where something will grow within our bodies and ripple under our skin. The baby either bursts out of our bellies or is sliced out with surgical tools. In the case of the latter, the smell of cauterized flesh accompanies the birth. We look at the first pictures of baby and realize that we’re staring at our own flayed-open abdomen, at our own guts.

Yet often there is a disconnect when somebody hears the words “women” and “horror”. Women are stereotypically known as the fairer sex. It’s supposed to be our job to beautify things. We’re supposed to soothe fevered brows, take a few walls and make a home out of them, and throw stardust and glitter everywhere. Women are, again stereotypically, supposed to be beings of love and light. Often it is unseemly to mention the darkness.

But it’s there. It’s always been there, and we have a front row seat. We write what we know, and we know loveliness. We know want, and desire, and bloodshed. We know joy, especially, we know horror.

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 www.categardner.net.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cover Art for INK

Not only do I get to work with the fabulous Don D'Auria at Samhain, but this cover is so gorgeous and so close to the concept I had in my head for INK, I can't stand it! The art department at Samhain did a brilliant, fantastic job! I am so incredibly lucky.

Although I'm certain that my editor will come up with something much better, here is a quick and dirty blurb of my own making:

A tattoo can be a work of art or a terrible mistake.

When Jason Harford meets the tattoo artist he nicknames Sailor, a little ink seems like the perfect thing to help celebrate his return to the single world. After all, his ex-wife hates body art. Sailor’s work is nothing short of extraordinary. The griffin tattoo looks real enough to climb out of his skin, and if Jason changes his mind, Sailor also specializes in tattoo removal.

With new ink and a new girlfriend, life is good for Jason. Until he hears the flutter of wings in the night. Until he finds drops of blood staining his sheets. Until he discovers a brick wall where the tattoo shop should be.

Jason hunts Sailor down and demands answers. The truth is as sharp as a needle, as dark as the ink in his skin, and comes with a heavy price.

A price Jason refuses to pay.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Happy Birthday, H. R. Giger!

Without your brilliance, the Alien simply would not be.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Alien ABCs

This started when I mentioned on Twitter that I'd made alphabet flashcards for a young family member. My friend, @ECthetwit, responded with this: A is for Alien who lives out in space, B is for Buggy when he crawls on your face.

I continued with C through F via Twitter, but decided I needed to do the entire alphabet. I have mentioned my love of Alien before, right? When I finished, I tried tweeting them, but after I tweeted K/L, Twitter decided to eat my tweets. No matter how I posted them, with or without a hash tag, they would not appear.

So, without further ado, here are the Alien/Aliens ABCs, best read aloud in the sing-song voice you'd use with a toddler:

A is for Alien, who lives out in space,
B is for Burke, who is a disgrace.

C is for Crew, they get all eaten up,
D is for Drake, whose guns aren't enough.

E is for Ellen, Ripley's first name,
F is for Facehugger, not easily slain.

G is for Gorman, he is quite a fool,
H is for Hicks, now that dude is cool.

I is for Ignorant, the Company is that,
J is for Jones, he's one lucky cat.

K is for Kane, he has a tummy-ache,
L is for LV-426, a big, big mistake.

M is for Mother, of Nostromo so large,
N is for Newt, let's put her in charge.

O is for Orbit, where we nuke the site,
P is for Pulse-Rifle, good in a fight.

Q is for Queen, who moves very fast,
R is for Robots, like Bishop and Ash.

S is for Space Jockey, he has a strange nose,
T is for Terraforming, and you see how that goes.

U is for Uh-oh, this will not end well,
V is for Vasquez, A grenade? Oh, hell.

W is for Whine, Hudson never shuts up
X is for Xenomorph, need I say tough?

Y is for Yucky, the Alien hive
Z is for Zero, your chance to survive.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Women in Horror Month

Wait. Women write horror? Oh, the...horror.

Seriously, though, February is Women in Horror Month, and as a woman and a writer of horror, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the many fabulous female authors working in the genre.

And yes, there are many.

Here are links to a few works I highly recommend. This is not a comprehensive list, but a taste, if you will, of what is out there.

Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

For Emmy by Mary SanGiovanni

Theatre of Curious Acts by Cate Gardner

Engines of Desire: Tales of Love and Other Horrors by Livia Llewellyn

Audrey's Door by Sarah Langan

Demons edited by John Skipp Hey, wait a minute. That's not a woman! I know, but the anthology contains a short story by Mercedes M. Yardley, a phenomenal writer who is most definitely a woman.

The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan

And last, but not least, one of the many anthologies edited by the brilliant Ellen Datlow:

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 3 edited by Ellen Datlow

That list should keep you busy for a while, right? Perhaps I'll even be able to convince some of them to do a guest post on the blog in the coming weeks.