Women in Horror Month By Carina Bissett

Women in Horror Month By Carina Bissett

In 2009, a coalition of authors and editors banded together to create a grassroots initiative intended to promote women horror writers. After all, women writers were struggling for visibility among their male peers. The newly formed Shirley Jackson awards, announced at the 2007 Readercon Conference on Imaginative Literature, featured a few female winners in its first two years but, like most of horror, the field of finalists was heavily dominated by men. This divide was even more bleak when it came to the Bram Stoker awards. At the 2008 awards there were thirty-four men listed as finalists compared to only seven women. In fact, three categories (novel, long fiction, and anthology) featured only male candidates. The following year, February was named Women in Horror Month (WiHM) in hopes of raising awareness of women working in the field. This continued for the next twelve years until the organization finally disbanded in 2021 with a formal announcement stating, “not only is there enough content, traffic, and engagement for one month, we believe there is enough to take celebrations year round.” Women could rest assured that they’d achieved parity, that the scales were finally balanced.  

But history shows us that progress is not something we should take for granted. In their research for Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers: 1852-1923, co-editors Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger discovered just how quickly women’s voices can be erased. Female authors, popular in their day, had virtually vanished from the public eye, whereas the work by their male contemporaries—Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith—not only survived but became canon. “There were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them,” write Morton and Klinger (Weird Women:1852-1923). 

And it is the surprise, the rediscovery of once popular voices decades later that reveals just how easily writers can disappear. “The work of these and other women writers in the pulps has been missing for many reasons, including the dismissal of genre writing in the twentieth century by the academy and some parts of the reading public and the temporary nature of the pulps,” writes scholar Melanie R. Anderson (The Women of Weird Tales: Stories by Everil Worrell, Eli Carter, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, and Greye La Spina). “It’s the nature of the pulps themselves, but also what people were willing to teach in the academy, what people were willing to publish.” 

Is that so very different from today? 

Award-winning author Gwendolyn Kiste began publishing in 2014 and has gone on to become a leading lady in horror. She earned her first Bram Stoker Award for her debut novel The Rust Maidens (2018) and followed it up the next year with two more Bram Stoker awards in the categories of short fiction and short nonfiction. Her sophomore novel The Reluctant Immortals (2023) won the Lambda Literary Award, and the release of her highly anticipated newest novel, The Haunting of Velkwood, is scheduled this month. As an author who has consistently pushed past boundaries, Kiste keeps a close eye on horror and the ways in which women writers are labelled and marketed. “What will be interesting, and I think about this a lot, is to see in ten or twenty years how many of the books from women, writers of color, LGBTQ writers stay in print,” says Kiste. “The people who tend to fall out of print the quickest are women or anybody who is marginalized, so that’s going to be a real test for horror. That’s a much more long-term project of seeing if we are really committed to diversity or is this just something people want to do right now.”

Although the Shirley Jackson awards has always shown some measure of balance when it comes to representation, it wasn’t until the 2019 Bram Stoker awards ceremony (for works written in 2018) that women finally took the lead, winning seven of the eleven categories. By the 2020 awards, women and nonbinary authors advanced even more, outnumbering their male counterparts and winning nine of the twelve judged categories. This shift became even more prevalent in 2022. For the first time in the history of the Bram Stoker awards, female finalists outnumbered men two to one. Even more remarkable, the category for Superior Achievement in an Anthology was solely populated by women. The 2023 final ballot takes this movement another step forward with two categories dominated by women and nonbinary authors: Superior Achievement in Long Fiction and Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel.   

In 2022, women authors and editors made a united decision to continue Women in Horror Month. Even though we have made strides in representation, even though we celebrate “year round,” it has been a long road to get to the point where we are now, and we refuse to be erased from a history we are helping to shape. This is the second year that Women in Horror Month has occurred in March, which happens to coincide with Women’s History Month. Is it important to continue this tradition? Is it important to celebrate our work and our influence on this ever-evolving genre? 

We’ll let you be the one to decide.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Women in Horror Month By Carina Bissett

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carina Bissett is a writer and poet working primarily in the fields of dark fiction and fabulism. She is the author of numerous shorts stories, which are featured in her debut collection Dead Girl, Driving and Other Devastations (Trepidatio Publishing, 2024), and she is the co-editor of the award-winning anthology Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas. She is currently a Bram Stoker finalist for her essay “Words Wielded by Women” (Apex Magazine, 2023), a comprehensive retrospective of women in horror. Links to her work can be found at http://carinabissett.com.

Dead Girl, Driving and Other Devastations

 Dead Girl, Driving and Other DevastationsWomen in Horror Month

In this powerful debut, Carina Bissett explores the liminal spaces between the magical and the mundane, horror and humor, fairy tales and fabulism. A young woman discovers apotheosis at the intersection of her cross-cultural heritage. A simulacrum rebels against her coding to create a new universe of her own making. A poison assassin tears the world apart in the relentless pursuit of her true love—the one person alive who can destroy her. Dead Girl, Driving and Other Devastations erases expectations, forging new trails on the map of contemporary fiction. Includes an introduction by Julie C. Day, author of Uncommon Miracles and The Rampant

Praise for Dead Girl, Driving and Other Devastations

Check out Steve Stred’s Review of Dead Girl Driving here

“Carina Bissett is one of my favorite speculative authors writing today—magic and myth, horror and revenge, wonder and hope. Her stories are original, lyrical, and haunting—Shirley Jackson mixed with Ursula LeGuin and a dash of Neil Gaiman. An amazing collection of stories.—Richard Thomas, author of Spontaneous Human Combustion, a Bram Stoker Award finalist

“Carina Bissett’s collection is a thing of wonder and beauty. It is a true representation of Carina herself: whimsical, visceral, lovely, and fierce. You can hear women’s voices screaming while roses fall from their lips. Dead Girl, Driving and Other Devastations is a triumph.”—Mercedes M. Yardley, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Little Dead Red

“From fairy tale revisions to fresh takes on monstrous transitions and the absolute horrors of being female, no one knows how to write a story like Carina Bissett. Fierce yet fragile.”—Lindy Ryan, author of Bless Your Heart

“In a debut collection weaving folklore and fairy tale and told in magical, lyrical, irresistible prose, Carina Bissett inveigles readers with the breadth of her skill. A feat of woven wonder, with spells sketched in the air and strands stretched taut, Dead Girl Driving and Other Devastations is an enchanting tapestry of silken stories, the collection establishing Bissett as a world-class author of fabulism, fantasy, and horror. A must-read for lovers of Neil Gaiman, Angela Slatter, and Carmen Maria Machado.” —Lee Murray, five-time Bram Stoker Awards-winning author of Grotesque: Monster Stories

“Ravishing flights of fantasy.”—Priya Sharma, Shirley Jackson award-winning author of All the Fabulous Beasts and Ormeshadow

“Dark, often violent, Dead Girl, Driving & Other Devastations doesn’t lie to you about the nature of its stories. Between the title page and the Afterword lies a harrowing alliance of nightmare and fairytale. The pages are full of strange birds, resurrections, second chances, monstrous women, enchantments, and inventions. These stories explore a dark and permissive imagination, unafraid to disturb the monster at the back of the cave. It is a collection for the brave and forlorn, for those seeking escape, vengeance, transformation, or grace. There is wonder here, and freedom from shackles—for those fierce enough to wrench loose of them.”—C. S. E. Cooney, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Saint Death’s Daughter

“Carina’s short stories are absolutely luminous and deeply unsettling. Savour this collection like a fine blood-red wine. It’s absolute perfection and will linger long after the pages are closed.”—KT Wagner

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Author

  • Carina Bissett

    Carina Bissett is a writer and poet working primarily in the fields of dark fiction and fabulism. She is the author of numerous shorts stories, which are featured in her debut collection Dead Girl, Driving and Other Devastations (Trepidatio Publishing, 2024), and she is the co-editor of the award-winning anthology Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas. She is currently a Bram Stoker finalist for her essay “Words Wielded by Women” (Apex Magazine, 2023), a comprehensive retrospective of women in horror. Links to her work can be found at http://carinabissett.com.

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