(Ed. Note – horror should read horror/dark fantasy/crime/noir/scifi/weird/strange/magical stuff where really sexy or bad things happen to somebody or something)
So the question is where does the feminist side of things come in?
You’re gonna hate us for saying this, but you know it when you see it, and see it when you don’t have it.
The consensus at editorial meetings is that women just do things differently, and a woman typically writes horror differently than a man. We’ve talked voice, plot, character development, vocab, and it all seems to come down to ‘it.’
Some stories have it, some don’t.
What is this elusive ‘it’? we’re talking about?
A feminist sensibility, might be the easiest way to describe ‘it’. This can include a female voice, female characters that may or may not be strong, but are action-oriented. We’re not talking arm props here, so strong, kickass female characters are an easy way in. Check out Meat Whiplash, Payback, and Gary Clifton’s work for guys that created some killer chicks.
A feminist sensibility also includes respecting diversity (weird, I know, in genres known for their hardboiled stereotypes) and creating complex characterizations. This could be the good in every bad, or just understanding that people exist beyond cardboard shells, and sure, the thug cracking your head against the car door might go home and work on crocheting his afghan rug while sipping a nice cuppa. (We’re stretching it here, but you get the picture.)
Of course, respecting diversity includes racial, ethnic, economic, neurological, gender and sexual differences (did I leave anyone out?). And feminist work tends to do that.
This doesn’t mean the female character always wins, or escapes whatever evil befalls her, but, things are fair, and she’s expected to fight her way out of a situation as best she can, rather than fall into a passive faint on the floor.
Another point that came from the editorial meetings is that women tend to focus on different details than men, and this comes through in writing. I recently read a flat, blood-free, and relatively unemotional description of what should have been a harrowing childbirth experience – you got it, it was written by a man. (Liz McAdams takes this one to task in an indirect way in Fortune Becomes Her.)
What was missing? The blood and gore for starters, as well as the drama and the character’s reactions. Let’s just say it sparked great discussion in our editorial team (and left us saying that a highly detached (think lots of telling), third person point of view was not the best way to cover this subject).
Now, that brings us to what do we like? Honestly, what most folks do – give us complex characters who do things, and we’re happy; added bonus if they’re female agents of action. If you send us something that’s exclusively straight, male, action, we’re probably not gonna see the value in it.
And that leads us to the big WHY – why on earth would we torture ourselves to seek out and publish feminist fiction, especially horror and dark fantasy???
Good question. We ask that ourselves. A lot.
There’s a few answers to this, and they all connect, so bear with us.
First, it’s about female representation in a genre that’s typically been monopolized by men. We want to see female writers and female characters creeping along the edges of noire and kicking ass along the way. We want to see our writer (and characters) stand up and get shit done.
This leads to a snowball effect – if some women see female writers doing scifi, horror, or dark fantasy, they’ll be more likely to follow suit. They’ll start to develop their own voices and styles and ways of doing things. We all grow together (as cheesy as it sounds, it’s true).
It sounds weird, but it validates horror, scifi and dark fantasy as a genre. Yes, they’ve been around for years, but they’re not typically what female writers write about (romances about sparkly teenaged vampires aside).
Kelley Armstrong does a great job of breaking this mold, and even her paranormal romances feature some serious kick ass action by female protagonists; which is what it’s all about. The Hunger Games pushes this further, but we still have a long way to go.
So why keep doing this ongoing quest for feminist dark fantasy, horror, and scifi?
Because it’s fun. (Really, it is on some level, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post at 2am.) But in all seriousness, check out some of the ladies’ bios around here – you’ll see ‘long time fan of Stephen King’ over and over. We (as women) like horror and dark fantasy, and we want to write it, in our terms, in our way.
And, as people who believe in equality among all, we want to promote new writers, and help showcase unique voices that might not otherwise be heard.
Now, to see what it’s all about, be sure to check out our All Lady-Writer’s Round Up and in the mean time, here’s some quick links to notable work around Twisted Sister:
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner by Linda Barrett
Something from the Garden by Catherine McKenzie
And, some great work by guys too
Columbus Was Always An Asshole by S.S. Sanderson
The Conroys of Monroe by Michael Anthony
The Fountain by Joshua Scully
Payback by Steve Tillman
Safe House by JJ
And if you’re thinking on sending us some flash, fiction, or poetry, be sure to check out We Want YOU!! Just copy and paste in an email firstname.lastname@example.org or on the form over here, and don’t worry about formatting. (NO attachments please)