I have always been a voracious reader, and I have always read and enjoyed the writing of women– especially women writing about subjects that aren’t all sugar and spice and everything nice. As a young reader, I devoured the works of Madeleine L’Engle, Susan Cooper, Joan Aiken, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers. Into adulthood, women writers continued to influence and inspire me: Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Shirley Jackson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, and Margaret Atwood, just to name some of my favorites.
If I am not consciously aware of it, men tend to dominate my reading. Why is that? Perhaps it’s because men dominate publishing in general. Their books are more visible, more reviewed, more awarded, published in greater numbers. Or perhaps it’s because the genres I gravitate toward–science fiction and horror–are viewed as the domains of men. Science and violence are no places for a woman, right?
Um, Mary Shelley, hello? Not only did she invent the iconic monster in her novel Frankenstein, she also gave birth to the entire genre of science fiction.
A new reader just tiptoeing into horror might be excused for believing that it’s no place for a woman. Such a reader will be advised to try Stephen King, of course, and also Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, Joe Hill, and so on.
Yet every horror reader seems to have to to discover Shirley Jackson for themselves. (Fortunately, Penguin Classics has been releasing beautiful editions of her out-of-print novels, making Jackson much easier to discover.) I am an unapologetic fan of Stephen King, but when considering an entire body of work, Shirley blows all those guys out of the water. Not only is she a great horror writer, she’s a great American writer.
Despite publishing’s best efforts, women writers have never been satisfied with being confined to the boxes created for them: romance, cozy mysteries, domestic fiction, and that most odious genre label of all, chick lit. Many women writers and readers are fascinated by the underbelly of human nature, by the darker corners of our psyches. And they write about it well.
I recently took on a reading project to seek out, read, and critique more women writers of science fiction, documented in my blog Sci Femme. That project has been so enjoyable for me that I’ve decided to expand it to my other favorite genre: horror, as well as its close relations, gothic and noir fiction. I started this blog to capture my thoughts, notes, and discoveries, to make it easier for other horror readers (of any gender) to discover these great writers themselves.
I hope you enjoy this blogging project, and please post any suggestions for what I should read next in the comments.
I also write a book review blog called Books Worth Reading and a general geeky blog under my name, Shannon Turlington. If you like this blog, please pay those a visit. You can also follow me on Google+for even more writing and reading links.
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