This is a Guest Post submitted to Fangs for the Fantasy
I’d like to thank Fangs for the Fantasy for having us.
Despite such lights as Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, Tanith Lee and Suzy Mackee Charnas, and editors like Ellen Datlow, horror is perceived as a male field. There’s even a Women in Horror month, February. But it’s still generally accepted that women aren’t as scary as the men.
I asked the founding members of the Literary Underworld, (http://www.literaryunderworld.com ) an independent author consortium, to talk about their experiences writing horror while female.
The three of us, Sara Harvey, Elizabeth Donald and myself, Angelia Sparrow, all write dark fantasy or horror. Yet, all three of us are consistently relegated to romance panels at conventions. Sara and I usually get the steampunk ones, but I’m always on the 11 PM sex panel, because I write erotic horror. Elizabeth may have a zombie or vampire panel and Sara probably has a costuming one, but we almost always get at least one romance panel.
I write mostly GLBT, heavy on the paranormal and erotic horror. My gay Christmas werewolves may be peaceable pups, just wanting to be left alone and enjoy their short story series, but my post-millennialist vampires in Power in the Blood aren’t averse to forcible conversions to bring about the Second Coming and their antagonists aren’t shy about filling a megachurch knee-deep in blood to make sure it doesn’t happen.
My first experience with the general attitude that men write horror, women write sexy vampires came at Hypericon. I stopped Brian Keene and Bryan Smith, two writers I read, who were working for a press I was researching to ask some questions. I said I had written a horror novel, with about as much sex as Smith usually had, and was interested in knowing some basic stuff about the publisher. The first words out of Keene’s mouth (Smith’s very quiet) were “Are you sure it doesn’t need to go to the romance imprint?” I looked at them and said “Let me give you two words: buzzsaw penis. The main character’s reverse Prince Albert piercing turns into a buzzsaw threaded on a spindle of flesh.” They both flinched, nodded and said, “Yeah, horror.”
In that instant, I felt proud of myself for making men who give me nightmares flinch, but I also felt deeply annoyed by having to prove myself and give away the biggest, baddest scene in order to do so.
But my single experience is nothing compared to what my friends have gone through in a systemic way.
I don’t necessarily consider myself a horror writer, per se. I do like a bit of the creepy stuff and in my Blood of Angels series from Apex Publications, I definitely took things to dark places.
Two things came out of this particular experience for me.
The first was that The Convent of the Pure was reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly this is a really awesome step for a small-press like Apex and a relatively new author like me. I was completely thrilled to be noticed by such a prestigious reviewer.
The review was overall positive. Although I wasn’t sure of the reviewer had actually read the book, all the way through, all 36,000 words of it. See, it’s a very dark fantasy that some might categorize as horror. There is a romantic relationship between the lead characters but sex never happens on the page, or anywhere in the book as one of the main characters is a ghost that haunts the other. I reiterate that NO SEX EVER HAPPENS IN THIS BOOK. It isn’t even the least bit sensual, flirtatious, or smutty.
The two protagonists are both women.
This led the Publisher’s Weekly reviewer to declare my book “fluffy lesbian erotica” right after calling it “gothic Steampunk.”
Did I mention at no time is there sex in this book? For crying out loud, there isn’t even KISSING. But it has lesbians and was written by a woman and therefore must be erotica, right?
Said review also felt the need to mention that “Readers who aren’t put off by the cheesecake cover illustration of buff, busty Portia will appreciate the mix of heat, horror and humor.” So we had some fun with the cover, spoofing Penguin classics and pulp. Personally, I like it. It shows two strong women who happen to also be attractive and it illustrates a scene that happens in the book. AND no one’s ass or boobs are hanging out and no one has a tramp stamp.