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Horror wants women to scream, but not talk

This weekend the British Fantasy Society (BFS) is hosting its annual convention, Fantasy Con. Last night while on Facebook I noticed a news item, which constitutes an electronic "flyer", about the convention.

I immediately noticed the cover of a new book the BFS is launching at the convention: a collection of interviews with writers (the first in a trilogy) in which they discuss their genre. It's called In Conversation: A Writer's Perspective. Volume One: Horror. It's edited by James Cooper, and is composed of 16 interviews with horror authors Ramsey Campbell, Tom Piccirilli, Greg F. Gifune, Conrad Williams, Joe R. Lansdale, Gary McMahon, Brian Keene, Stephen Gallagher, Jeffrey Thomas, Peter Crowther, Tim Lebbon, Ray Garton, Mark Morris, Gary Fry, Graham Joyce and Norman Partridge.

Not a single woman is interviewed.

Simply put, this is not representative of the horror field today. I've been advised that women submit less to horror markets than they do to science fiction or fantasy. In those genres women submit at a rate of 35-40%, approximately. Out of a collection of 16 authors five women would indicate representation. In this collection perhaps four, or at the very least three, women would have been correct.

This isn't an anthology (although Mr. Cooper's previous anthology of horror fiction is also exclusively male). Mr. Cooper had to sit down and draw up a list of writers he wanted to contact, interview them, and transcribe their views. I'm baffled that he never considered asking a woman writer for her opinion about horror.

Plus, I find it incredible that not a single person in the BFS noticed this lack and brought it to Mr. Cooper's attention.

Here are a just a few writers he could have approached: Tanith Lee, Lisa Tuttle, M. Rickert, Sarah Langan, Margo Lanagan, Sarah Pinborough, Tananarive Due, Sara Gran, Alexandra Sokoloff, Gemma Files, Cherie Priest, Fran Friel, and Melanie Tem. That list took five minutes to compile with a friend (and it's certainly not exhaustive - there are many others). I'm sure three, four or five of them would have been happy to agree to an interview.

There are no excuses for this omission. That it happens, and it was allowed to happen, speaks to the deeply cultured disregard for women's opinion in the world. I see it every day. We are marginalised, silenced, side-lined, forgotten, conveniently dropped, patronised, under-represented, dismissed, subtly intimidated and ignored.

I'm not interested in assassinating characters or insulting a society that generally does good work.

I want this never to happen again.

I never want to see an all-male anthology or collection or essays/interviews in the speculative field again. Enough. It's the twenty-first century.

Women exist, we work in this field, and we deserve recognition. It's that simple.

Believe me, we have opinions.


( 72 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 17th, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC)

And it's not as though they're going for the writers more often read, either: not with such as Lee in your list.

(A question: I get the impression that your list is more transatlantic than the one in the book. Is that so? Not that it would affect your point anyway even if it was attempting to concentrate on British writers only, since Lee has been pretty prominent for at least a couple of decades.)

(Disclaimer - I'm not a fan of the horror field per se.)
Sep. 17th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
A good portion of Mr. Cooper's list are American. Lisa Tuttle and Tanith Lee are British, but the rest of my list are American I believe. I'm concentrating on people with a slightly higher profile, as that's what you would expect in a collection of interviews.

However, I wasn't the one who had the time to sit down and research writers for a collection. If I did I can assure you I would have met the brief and offered a better representation of the field.
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Sep. 17th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
...Caitlin R. Kiernan, Alice Sebold...
Sep. 17th, 2009 03:23 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the list goes on. As I said, I wasn't the one with the time to work on this. In ten minutes I came up with plenty of candidates.
Sep. 17th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC)
Damn - well spotted and well commented upon.
Sep. 17th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)
Cheers Katie.
Sep. 17th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
Even in 1985, Faces of Fear managed one woman: VC Andrews.

Dark Thoughts on Writing, 1997, coughed up Nancy Collins and Anne Rice.

Dark Dreamers, 2001 (not quite interviews, but still apposite for comparison) found Poppy Z. Brite*, Nancy Collins, Ellen Datlow, Tananarive Due, Christa Faust, Jo Fletcher, Paula Guran, Laurel K. Hamilton, Nancy Holder, Nancy Kilpatrick, Kathe Koja, Tanith Lee, Elizabeth Massie, Yvonne Navarro, Joyce Carol Oates, Lisa Snellings, Lucy Taylor, Melanie Tem, and Chelsea Qunn Yarbro.

Anyway, thought these comparisons might help.

*Brite doesn't identify as female, but as Dark Dreamers is a coffeetable photo book with short essays we can put him in as he presents as female.
Sep. 17th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
That really puts the collection in perspective.

Dammit, you're making me furious again. But for good reason, so thanks. :)
(no subject) - nihilistic_kid - Sep. 17th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 17th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
I had much the same reaction. Thank you for articulating it.
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
I debated for half a day about posting something, but decided I'd rather take a couple of knocks than see this go unmentioned.

Edited at 2009-09-17 04:57 pm (UTC)
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
You never want it to happen again, but it will. Again, and again, and again. Sorry to be so pessimistic (and I will admit that much of that pessimism is due to my distress over my own invisibility as a female horror writer), but I just don't believe the field of horror will ever place women at the same level and give them the same respect as men.
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
I know why you feel this way. All I can say is that every time we see such bias we have to call them out on it, until they pay attention.

Still, sometimes you feel like whacking your head against a wall rather than going over the same arguments again.
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this.
Sep. 17th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks Paul! But, I wish I didn't have to post about it. Better said than ignored, I suppose.
Sep. 17th, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC)
As usual Maura, you seem to have hit a nail on the head.

Sep. 17th, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC)
J, you should have seen me last night. Poor Martin. He is a supportive and patient man.
Sep. 17th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
Sep. 17th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC)
Sep. 17th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
Ah well, another book I don't have to buy...
Sep. 18th, 2009 12:06 am (UTC)
I guess that's one benefit. :)
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
Livia Llewellyn. Lucy Sussex. Pat Cadigan. Jennifer Pelland. Sarah Monette. Barbara Roden. Caitlin Kiernan....
Sep. 18th, 2009 12:04 am (UTC)
Yes, if I had even one day to sit down and evaluate the field I could assemble a killer list of interviews that comprised only of talented women writing horror.

Of course, then there is the interminable debate of what constitutes horror... always the first excuse used when trying to exclude someone.
Sep. 18th, 2009 12:01 am (UTC)
Re: Perhaps also of interest
Very interesting. Women's visibility in the field is definitely a problem. Maybe this would be a good way to address it.

I was saying to a mate that sometimes I feel like women have a semi-permanent existence: made flesh to sell produces; made ghostly when we open our mouths to speak. And this strange effect renders our names forgettable.

And when we complain we're told it's our fault it happens.
Re: Perhaps also of interest - the0lady - Sep. 18th, 2009 12:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 18th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
May I link to this?
Sep. 18th, 2009 01:30 pm (UTC)
Sure James. Both Christopher Fowler, and Josh Jasper over at Genreville on Publishers Weekly have linked or mentioned this already.
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Sep. 18th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
It seems like Mr. Cooper has never been to a world horror convention and noticed all the female authors nor did he notice the launch of the Abyss horror line back in the early 90's with Poppy Z. Brite and Kathe Koja.
Sep. 18th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
I can't comprehend it. It's 2009 for goodness sake.
Sep. 18th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
I second you in being appalled.
Sep. 18th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
It's such a glaring lack I can't fathom how it wasn't spotted.
Sep. 18th, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC)
Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Hand....
Sep. 18th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
Yes and yes and love the icon!
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Sep. 18th, 2009 11:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. It just- I don't- ARGH.

I knew that women submitted less horror than other genres, percentage-wise, although I didn't know the split was so dramatic. I edit a small SFF magazine, and we recently finished accepting submissions to our Horror issue. Usually we get about 50-55% of submissions from women, so we were pretty startled that Horror got about 26% from women. Even so, we accepted 5 stories, 2 of which are from women.

But really... it doesn't matter what the genre is. If women are excluded from any writing anthology, it makes no sense.
Sep. 19th, 2009 12:33 am (UTC)
Dear Bart, I'm on the Outer Alliance mailing list, and I was really impressed with how you dealt with prejudice from a market recently. Well done!

It's interesting to see that your submission rate dropped down to 26%. The funny thing is that women watch horror shows on TV and film in large amounts. Yet, somehow they don't think this kind of writing is for them.

To omit women from grants, awards, anthologies, prizes, juries, panels, etc. is to defy reality. It's crazy.

Apparently, we've haven't come a long way baby!

Edited at 2009-09-19 12:34 am (UTC)
(no subject) - metafrantic - Sep. 19th, 2009 12:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 19th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
Have just been directed here: was very puzzled when the long lists came out and Rhetorics of Fantasy wasn't there. Ok, so one can't be noticed for everything, but you know, it has Fantasy in the title? Unlike my colleague peake's book on Science Fiction, which, you know, is about Science Fiction. Not fantasy.

I have no idea if gender is an issue, but in context one does wonder....
Sep. 21st, 2009 08:04 am (UTC)
Some of us (members of the BFS) made our feelings plain about this at the BFS convention held over the week-end. The Chair of the Society did apologise and assured us that a) it shouldn't have happened b) it would not happen again and c) the matter would be redressed in a planned follow-up publication. It continues.
Sep. 21st, 2009 08:50 am (UTC)
Hi, and thanks for the note. I knew a number of people who were going to FantasyCon, so I'm glad the matter was broached.

It's a shame that such an omission occurred in the first collection by the BFS, but at least they've apologised and learned from it. That's the best we can salvage from the situation.

Edited at 2009-09-21 10:55 am (UTC)
Sep. 21st, 2009 08:13 am (UTC)
Sorry, wasn't trying to hide my ID in that previous posting, this is my Livejournal account. And on a better note, at the awards ceremony awards were collected by two very fine British horror writers Sarah Pinborough ("Do You See" - best short fiction) and Allyson Bird ("Bull Running For Girls" - best collection)
Graham Joyce
Sep. 21st, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Graham. Thanks for bringing it up at the meeting.
(no subject) - splinister - Sep. 21st, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
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