February is Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization. Its purpose is to highlight women who are under-represented in the artistic field. You can find their vision and mission statements at the end of this article. Today’s Canadian woman in horror is Lorina Stephens, publisher of 5 Rivers Chapmanry and writer.
And the Angels Sang, collection of short fiction, some of which is horror. From Mountains of Ice, dark fantasy novel, Shadow Song, historical tragedy fantasy. Forthcoming: Caliban, dark speculative fiction The Rose Guardian, dark speculative fiction
1. Why do you write dark fiction/horror? Some people consider it only a sensationalistic tableau. Why this genre over others or do you span the literary landscape?
Dark fiction draws me because of the complexity of ordinary human life. It often seems to be the joys and triumphs of life, and thereby stories, are only made remarkable by the inevitable accompanying counterpoint of darkness and tragedy. This balance, this Yin Yang, resonates with me as a writer, because there is such a range of emotion, action and experience to bring to that stage.
2. What dark themes do you explore in your fiction?
The dark themes I explore in my fiction are those of relationships, I suppose. I’m always fascinated by the great good and great evil we can dispense with equal measure. I also have a tendency to explore isolation and the effects that has upon human development, upon the psyche, upon societies.
3. Do you feel horror/dark fiction is an important genre and why; what does it bring to the table or allow you to explore? Who inspired you?
Of course I feel horror and dark fiction is an important genre. Some of the world’s greatest literature has drawn upon our primal fears and monumental tragedies. One need only look to much of Hardy’s work for dark fiction. Isn’t a happy ending in the lot, to my knowledge. In fact, most of it is downright wrist-slitting depressing. Look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which is an examination of the beast in humanity. Go back farther and look at the dark tragedies of Shakespeare, in particular Titus, which could be categorized a catastrophe rather than a tragedy, and draws upon utterly horrific human nature. Or look at some of the ancient Greek classics such as Oedipus Rex. Dark, tragic tale that has ended up forming the foundation of some of our psychological profiling.
In more modern literature, I’d point to female writers like Caitlin Sweet and her dark, poignant tale, The Pattern Scars, which examines boundaries which, once crossed, never allow return. Or Candas Jane Dorsey’s Black Wine, which is a relentless tragedy of epic proportions, beautiful in its rare halcyon moments, devastating in its conclusion.
For me, as a writer, delving into humanity’s heart of darkness allows me to examine human nature free of the restrictions of genre. These stories transcend, if they’re done well.
4. Do you feel women are under-represented in any way in the speculative arena or do you think there is more focus on them than on men? (or examples of how there is a balance).
My response to this will be purely empiric, without substantive evidence; however, I do feel women are under-represented, or perhaps I should say under-showcased. Why this is so, is probably part of the eternal struggle women have for recognition. Equally, I do think some of the finest dark fiction and even horror comes out of the female psyche. Why is this? I think we’re just better at screwing with people’s heads.
Now, that’s not something as a woman I’m particularly proud of. But it doesn’t surprise me in the least. When I hear women bleating on about how the world would be a better place if women ran it, I smile and shake my head. Just as in a good work of dark fiction, life needs that balance, that Yin and Yang.
So, yeah, I think women are better at writing dark fiction, because I think our minds are generally more subtle, even sneaky.
5. Abuse against women is worldwide: the gang rape of the Indian woman, women assaulted in various terrorist attacks or protests against regimes (Egypt, Syria, etc. throughout time), domestic violence and murder at the hands of boyfriends, fathers, families and husbands, sexist representation, being treated as second class citizens or possessions and made to dress in a particular way, etc. With all that’s going on, what do you want to say about where women are what we can do to stem the tide?
Stem the tide? Really? I think statements like that are looking to create an impossible utopia. (Heretical statement from me which will no doubt bring down hellfire.) Remove all the rhetoric, and what you witness when you see violence against women is base,
biological instinct. Control the breeding females. It’s the herd instinct. And the way you control them is through violence, whether it’s physical or emotional.
Violence against women will never go away. We may try to legislate against it, as we should. A man should not be allowed to beat a woman, rape a woman, kill a woman with impunity. Just as a man should not be subject to any of those brutalities. Women should be given equal pay for equal work, equal recognition, equal representation. But although we will and should legislate for a woman’s right to live in peace and without fear, we will never completely eradicate base biological instinct. We may modify it, learn to control it.
But even in our most intimate sexual relationships, that instinct will be there.
6. Lastly, this is your space to add anything else you would want to say.
And because of all that I’ve revealed above, of the complexities of human relationships and human nature, I write dark fiction. How could I not? It is the most fascinating of all wells from which to draw, because it so illuminates, even in a fantastical setting, our everyday lives.
Women in Horror Recognition Month (WiHM) assists underrepresented female genre artists in gaining opportunities, exposure, and education through altruistic events, printed material, articles, interviews, and online support. WiHM seeks to expose and break down social constructs and miscommunication between female professionals while simultaneously educating the public about discrimination and how they can assist the female gender in reaching equality.
A world wherein all individuals are equally given the opportunity to create, share, and exploit their concept of life, pain, and freedom of expression.