Had an interesting conversation on Twitter (shut up, that’s a real thing) the other day with another writer that started off with him asking this:
Now, I’ve had this conversation and this exact thought before: either there are not enough women writing in those genres, or (vastly more likely) I’m not reading enough of their work. If I went through my shelves and started writing down names, I’d probably write down a couple dozen before running out of names. That’s not enough.
This isn’t why I’m bringing the conversation up on the blog, though. I literally couldn’t think of a single female author who qualified in my head as a “horror writer.” Not one. Lauren Beukes, who wrote last year’s The Shining Girls, sorta qualified, but I thought of her stuff more as supernatural crime fiction.
Did you catch the move I did there? I kept thinking about it over the course of the evening and eventually it hit me that I couldn’t name more than two or three male horror writers, especially if I limited myself to writers who were still alive. Stephen King. Dean Koontz. Clive Barker. My wife tossed Christopher Pike, who I haven’t read, into the mix.
Of the four, the only one whose work I’m still regularly reading is King, and at least two of his last several books (Joyland and Mr. Mercedes) have explicitly not been horror.
Eventually it hit me that, at least in my head, and with respect to novels, “horror” as a fiction genre seems to barely exist on its own anymore. I found this list from last February (did you know February is “Women in Horror Month”?) and found several authors who I’m quite fond of or at least familiar with– Cherie Priest, Mira Grant, Cat Rambo, Catherynne Valente, Elizabeth Bear, Patricia Briggs, Laurell Hamilton and a couple of others– and the only ones who I thought “yeah, okay, she’s a horror writer” where Hamilton and Briggs– who are the two I haven’t read.
In every other case, including when the list specifically referenced books I’d read, I thought to myself “Huh. I thought that was (insert other genre here.)”
Which is weird, right? Horror (at least to me) seems to be something that exists as an element inside books of other genres, as opposed to something that is a genre unto itself. I’m not even sure I know anymore what it would take for me to read something and think “Yeah, that’s a horror novel.”
I don’t know that I even really have a direct point for this post other than to ask who you guys think of as “horror writers” or maybe less specifically as “horror books.” This doesn’t have to be limited to women; the conversation started off that way but as I said it quickly got beyond that point when I realized I could barely name any horror writers of either genre. (Late edit: the Faceyspace has already brought up Mary Shelley; I’m mostly thinking of living authors right now.)
(Note: Beukes herself popped up on the thread a bit later to suggest a few other writers– Sarah Lotz, Sarah Pinborough, and Kaaron Warren, none of whom I’m familiar with and who I’ll have to look into. Just FYI.)