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Women in Horror Month Guest Blog: J.H. Moncrieff



J.H. Moncrieff is relatively new to the horror genre, but she's been a professional writer her entire adult life, with hundreds of articles published in national and international magazines and newspapers. Her work as a journalist has included tracking down snipers and canoing through crocodile-infested waters. Her fiction is dark and expressive, and you can bet that she'll be around for many years as part of the new generation of horror writers.

Women in Horror
By J.H. Moncrieff

I’m used to being a woman in a man’s world.

At my first big journalism gig, there were four female reporters in a newsroom staff of well over fifty.

When I started training in muay thai, the women’s changing room was a makeshift lean-to. We couldn’t touch the wall because it still had nails poking out of it. There was no light, so we dressed in the dark, stumbling into a dojo that didn’t have the faintest clue how to deal with us. Let me tell you, you had to be damn tough to survive, no matter what gender you were.

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Of course I noticed that the names synonymous with horror were men’s—Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, John Saul. But I didn’t think that was cause for concern—instead, it excited me. There was a niche available, an opening I could fill. The world needed a kickass female horror writer. Anne Rice and Shirley Jackson had stopped writing in the genre so long ago that their names were rarely mentioned anymore. There was plenty of room at the top. All I had to do was step up and seize my rightful place alongside King and Koontz. Piece of cake, right?

After Samhain published The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, I got to know more and more horror authors. I then realized that being a woman who wrote dark fiction wasn’t unusual. Tons of women write horror, and tons of women read horror. It wasn’t that female horror writers didn’t exist—we were just treated like we didn’t.

That truly shocked me.

People used to think of the newsroom as a man’s domain because journalists routinely place themselves in dangerous situations. Muay thai can be a brutal, ruthless sport. But writing? How on earth can the act of sitting down at a computer be seen as something gender specific?

And yet, for some reason, when it comes to horror, it is.

This really hit home for me last month, when horror writers and reviewers blogged about the best dark fiction they’d read in 2015. List after list appeared without a single female name on it. Even the lists women compiled! When a reviewer who had loved my book enough to recommend it for an award followed suit, I was devastated. I don’t think women were ignored on purpose—after all, I knew this particular reviewer had read my book and really enjoyed it. But when people think about the best of horror, they forget about the women. It’s as if we’re suddenly invisible.

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Most of the men I’ve gotten to know in the horror community are wonderful, kind-hearted, generous people. They’ve never made me feel second best, or like I have something to prove. They’ve blogged about my writing and shared my work on social media. However, when it came time for a major award, I was saddened to see they only recommended their male cohorts—leaving the women standing beside them in the dust.

Why is this still happening? It’s not because women can’t write as well, or as dark, or as extreme. Trust me—if you think women can’t be sadistic or twisted, you haven’t known enough of us.

It’s not because we don’t read or love horror—lots of us do. (Women are also quick to say their favorite horror author is Stephen King.) As far as improving awareness, we’re doing what we can—Women in Horror month is an example.

But we can’t do it on our own. We need readers to stand with us. Readers who will pick up a book by Chantal Noordeloos, Mercedes Yardley, or Catherine Cavendish and give it a chance. Readers who remember the legacy of Mary Shelley. Readers who loved being scared by Shirley Jackson and Anne Rice.

Don’t read these books because women wrote them. Read them because they will scare the shit out of you. In the end, isn’t that what every horror fan wants?

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J.H. Moncrieff loves scaring the crap out of people with her books—when she's not busy being a journalist, editor, book doctor, and publicist. In her "spare" time, J.H. loves to travel to exotic locales, advocate for animal rights, and muay thai kickbox. She blogs about unsolved mysteries, the supernatural, and creepy places in the world at www.jhmoncrieff.com.

Comments

  1. Wow, great article. I love it when blog posts can make me look at something completely differently. I've never thought much about gender in horror, but you've given me something to chew on. Do you think publishers consciously pass over women?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not sure. I don't think publishers do - this is mostly an issue with readers, not publishers.

    Thanks for commenting!

    ReplyDelete

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