When I first heard of the Women in Horror Month a couple of years ago, I wondered why would we even need such a thing. I mean, it isn't like anybody is stopping women from publishing what they want, right? Well, yes. I don't know a publisher who will not publish your story--if it's good--just because you have breasts. BUT, and this is a big but, I was surprised to discover a few people openly state they wouldn't buy horror books written by female authors. Why? "Because what do women know about horror?! They should stick to writing romance!"
That's how I jumped into the boat, determined to stop this stupidity from spreading. Then I realized the problem might be more complex than dealing with a few neanderthals... If you ask any random person to name five horror writers by memory, they'll most certainly mention King, Hill, Straub, Koontz, after those it gets really hairy. Few extra names will stick, maybe a few classics like Poe, Stoker, or Shelly.
Only one woman in that list, and she hasn't written anything in centuries.
People I confronted with this question responded by telling me it's not their fault they can't name but one; there simply aren't any female horror writer superstars. To which I ask, "Have you heard of Anne Rice, Daphne Du Maurier, or Shirley Jackson?"
But maybe they are right and we aren't giving enough recognition to the female voices in the genre. A month dedicated to celebrate them seems like a good place to change that. And so, I compiled a very short list with a few examples of outstanding female horror writers, both published by small houses as well as by any of the Big Five.
Do yourself a favor and pick one of their books.
Kathe Koja: Recipient of the Bram Stoker and Locus Awards as well as the Deathrealm Award for Strange Angels. Koja has published 14 novels, a collection of short stories, and numerous uncollected stories.
Charlee Jacob: Nominated for the International Horror Guild Award and Bram Stoker Award, she has won the latter in two different occasions. Jacob has published 8 novels, 11 collections (short stories and poetry), and participated in several collaborations.
Caitlin R. Kiernan: Considered by scholars as one of the front faces of Weird Fiction, Kiernan's work has won 4 International Horror Guild Awards, 2 James Tiptree, Jr. Awards, 2 Bram Stoker Awards, 2 World Fantasy Awards, and a Locus. She doesn't consider herself a horror writer, though... "[...] I've said I don't write genre 'horror'. A million, billion times have I said that. It's not that there are not strong elements of horror in a lot of my writing. It's that horror never predominates those works. [...] I don't think of horror as a genre. I think of it--to paraphrase Doug Winter--as an emotion, and no one emotion will ever characterize my fiction."
Lucy A. Snyder: Recipient of the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry and Short Fiction, Snyder has published more than 60 short stories in a variety of magazines, anthologies, and collections. On top of 4 novels, she recently released her first non-fiction book. Students of Seton Hill University's MFA program are also lucky to count her as their mentor.
Gillian Flynn: With only three novels published, Flynn might look like a weak link, but her 16 awards for screenplay adaptation prove the idea wrong. She considers herself a feminist and will fight for the right of every woman to be inherently bad. To hell with the cliche of an innately good, nurturing female.
Joyce Carol Oats: To attempt a short synopsis of Oats's awards and publications is to attempt the impossible. She has won every award in existence but the Nobel, for which she has been constantly mentioned. Examples? O. Henry (2), National Book, M. L. Rosenthal, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker (2) Awards among many others. She has been awarded several Honorary Doctorates, and nominated for three Pulitzer prizes. Her work often deals with rural poverty, sexual abuse, class tension, female childhood and adolescence, and, since 1980, the supernatural.