Category Archives: entertainment

Women in Horror: Sèphera Girón Part II

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteSèphera’s back today, talking about earning a living as a writer and specifically about Patreon and how it works.

One of the things that help people like me, single people who don’t have a partner to support me financially or emotionally or even with posting a tweet and trying to figure out how to earn a living and keep all the balls in the air and get the work flowing again, is a Patreon.

Nowadays, a lot of people can turn to fund-raising events like a Go Fund Me or a Kick Starter for a specific project and things like that. I myself had a very successful Go Fund Me a few years ago. I had hoped to go to the Stanley hotel for a writers’ retreat to try and get back on track with my writing and I wanted to pay my own way, but the recession was huge here with no jobs at all, not even Starbucks would hire me. I took Amanda Palmer’s advice and laid out some of my story on Go Fund Me and asked for help. People were very generous and kind and understood how important that this retreat was. It wasn’t just me trying to go to a retreat every year and make people pay for it. It was important for my mental health to really try to get there to be with horror peers and to see where my favorite book originated, there was rumour of casting for new horror TV show, and things like that. So, I got to do the retreat through incredible generosity from the horror community and I have been very grateful!

I saw another platform called Patreon which seemed to be a different approach. The first Patreon I started, I was trying to do it more like a Kick Starter and that was not successful at all. I was trying to write a book about ghosts and ghost hunting with major emphasis on the Lizzie Borden house and I also wanted to do a New England tour. I was trying to get funding for that through Patreon and I didn’t. Patreon is not for those things but back then it wasn’t really clear what Patreon was.

Giron_APennySaved_VR3I found Patreon because I kept seeing Amanda Palmer coming through the various aspects of my social media talking about “don’t be afraid to ask for help.” I saw her blogs and TED talk and she talks all the time about not being afraid to ask for help, being on Patreon, interacting with fans and so on. For those of you who don’t know, Amanda Palmer is married to author Neil Gaiman, so theoretically he reaps the rewards of her hugely success Patreon platform.

I tried my Patreon again, taking her words more to heart than I did for the Go Fund Me and the first Patreon attempt. I restructured my Patreon and I’ve had it for over three years now.

When I first started it, I thought, “OK, I’m too depressed to write horror and so I’m going to write science fiction and I’m going to work on a space opera.”

For the first year I wrote a chapter a month for my space opera and I had one patron for the longest time (and I didn’t even know him in real life!) but then I started to realize from reading market reports that where I want to send it won’t take work that is previously on the Internet and specifically named Patreon as being previously published so I removed my monthly installations from my Patreon.

Now, my main goal is to show people the crazy writer’s life that I lead since a lot of people tell me my life is weird and it is and so I share my life with my patrons. I write or video several blogs a week, I talk about if I’m on a TV show or movie, I discuss what’s Giron2bugging me, I am disgusted with my weight, weird things happened to me such as I burned myself waitressing. Patrons of a certain level got to see pictures of my horrible burns and scars. I get weird allergies, so my patrons get to see my face all puffed up with hives and silly things like that. I might sing or do other stuff but it’s all part of the writing process, part of the being a creative human being process and so I like to amuse my patrons with various things. Sometimes I’m able to share short stories I’m working on, depending on which market I’m writing them for. Sometimes I’ll just put up rough drafts. Sometimes I’ll just put up the cue cards for the character notes, it depends on the project. There are three books I keep working on and off on for over the last few years. When they are finished, my patrons of a specific level will be acknowledged in the professionally published books. All of my patrons are thanked whenever I can on some YouTube videos. I did thank some patrons in a couple of books I republished that had been published long before I ever had a Patreon (A Penny Saved, Captured Souls, Gilda and the Prince). My patrons got to see the rough version of this blog post!

A lot of people consider Patreon to be begging. This means they don’t understand what it’s about. There are, I think, over a million creators on Patreon now. When I joined, there were a couple thousand, now there are over a million.

There are a lot of very important famous people on Patreon who have thousands of patrons in that they make thousands of dollars a month on Patreon. There are huge writers on Patreon who make thousands of dollars a month. Everybody expects something different with what they want to give and with what they want to receive.

I like to think that since I do a lot of things, I offer different experiences. Patreon is only one of many ways I attempt to earn an income so that I can get back to the business of creating actual novels and other entertainments for people. I do love to entertain other people. But when I see people calling Patreon creators “beggers” I always find that upsetting.

Patreon is more like a subscription service. There are writers who write books in a month on there. There are musicians who will create songs for you. Artists who will draw for you. YouTubers who will mention you. It’s endless in what you can offer and receive. I would bet many of us creators on Patreon work pretty hard for your subscription.

Giron7I look around on Patreon sometimes. You can only see so much if you’re not actually paying however, I do notice that some writers have Patreons and they haven’t even posted for their followers in over a year, sometimes many months, and yet they still are getting thousands of dollars. So this shows that those of you who are thinking about setting up a Patreon but not sure what to offer, some fans just want you just to get those books written and out in the world and they don’t care if you actually post on the platform, they just want to support you in your career and help you get some dental work done or see a doctor or whatever.

Speaking of which…here in Ontario, yes, we have free health care as in going to the doctor but if anything’s wrong with you, you have to deal with it. I’ve been be so grateful to my patrons that I’ve been able to get prescriptions when I got bit by a dog, had to get various prescriptions and bandages for burns and allergies, when I didn’t have money in my bank account for such things. I dream of the day I can see the dentist for the first time in ten years if my teeth stop falling out so that I have some teeth left to fix. Whether it’s through an influx of pledges from Patrons (I’d need a few hundred patrons!) or whether it’s from advances and royalties from work I’ve been inspired to create because I have patrons rooting for me doesn’t matter.

I have some health issues, a shaky hand for a few years that is growing worse every day, so my waitressing days are over. One can’t discount the impact that emotional illnesses can have on a creative person and yes, we have free “healthcare” here in Canada, but we have to pay for dentists, eye doctors, prescriptions of every kind, birth control, psychiatrists and psychologists, therapy, counsellors, chiropractors, and more. We can get diagnosed by a family doctor and can get “free” surgery, but god help you if you have anything you need to take drugs for and don’t have insurance. I’ve had dozens of jobs over the decades and have never once had insurance as it’s not a given widely here as it is in the States. I’m supposed to be on a few prescriptions like anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication and something related to the gall bladder operation, but I can’t afford them, so I just plow on through and lose days/weeks/months of work when the Black Dogs bark.

When you’re going through trauma, “going out and getting a job” isn’t so easy and when you have no present-day skills and are over fifty, well…

These days, everyone is an editor and the fees that hobby editors charge are destroying the industry much as writers who write for free destroy opportunities for all writers to get paid better. It also seems that everyone is now a tarot card reader as well so my tarot business has also been destroyed when people can get cheap/free tarot readings everywhere including from apps instead of paying a proper wage for skilled, professional work. My safety guard backup careers are just as unreliable as writing at this point. Background work pays minimum wage and I usually work one day a month. So, what do you do when you’re pushing sixty and divorced and lost everything you ever had?

So, my longwinded point in this blog, is that, ladies, especially single ladies (even if you’re married) who get nothing from the government, nothing from any spouses−I don’t get any support from anyone except my patrons−ladies, consider starting a Patreon. Patreon is a blessing for me, emotionally and financially.

I’m happy to see more people join the platform. Everyone who has joined my Patreon has stayed on the ride. Only one person ever quit on me ever in all the time I’ve had my Patreon.

Giron5So maybe I’m doing something right. I don’t know but it’s a fun platform for me. It keeps me from being depressed and from spending days going “what the fuck is my life?” because I have to answer to my patrons. I do make schedules and I try to hit them. I take pictures and videos at events, knowing I’ll be sharing them with my patrons. It’s helping me get back on my feet, really helping me focus on having most of my space opera finished, most of my next Witch Upon a Star book is nearly finished and I’m almost halfway through my next horror book.

My Women in Horror Month wish for all of you is to start a Patreon if you don’t have one. And if you have some extra money kicking around, consider supporting an artist or two on Patreon. Even if you sponsor for $1, when one hundred people give $1, that’s $100! (minus Patreon fees, of course!)

Be warned, you cannot find someone on there. Their search function sucks. There is no way to look for writers or anyone else, even if you punch in their name! The only way you can find someone on Patreon is if you already know they are there. Feel free to add your links at the bottom of this blog.

Patreon is a really great tool for getting focused and organized, building your fan base and rewarding your fan base. You can create whatever rewards you want depending on whatever it is you do and your finances.

Interesting that three times I put a call out on my Facebook for people, women, to post their links for a Women in Horror Month article I was writing about Patreon. I was hoping for lots of women for this article. But much like calls for horror stories and novels, men are quicker to respond. In a nutshell, you can see by the Patreon response, how it likely reflects horror writer submissions.

Even though I have nearly four thousand Facebook friends, you can see here, how many people shared their links.

Do we need a Women in Horror Month? I’m still not sure. But I do know that some of us sometimes need a helping hand to get back on our feet, or maybe to get on them for the first time. Keep writing and more importantly, submitting. Don’t worry if you’re a woman; you’re a WRITER! Use your real name and stand proud behind your work.

First, let’s acknowledge Amanda Palmer who drew my attention to this ride:

https://www.patreon.com/amandapalmer

http://www.patreon.com/sephera

https://www.patreon.com/GaryABraunbeck

Http://www.patreon.com/monicaskuebler

https://patreon.com/maryrajotte

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=1002984

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2887829

https://www.patreon.com/ObnoxiousAnonymous

https://www.patreon.com/westonochse

GironSèphera Girón is an author, actor, tarot card reader, and mom. She has over twenty published books. Watch for Taurus in the Witch Upon a Star series to be released this year from Riverdale Avenue Books. She has stories in Dark Rainbow, Dawn of the Monsters, Abandon, Group Hex 1 and Group Hex 2, Intersections: Six Tales of Ouija Horror and more. Sèphera is the astrologer for Romance Daily News. Be sure to watch for her monthly horoscopes at https://www.romancedailynews.com/ Sèphera lives in Toronto.

Drop by Sèphera’s Twitch TV channel and get a free daily tarot card reading. Be sure to follow so you know when she’s online. Click Witch Upon a Star for her series. Sèphera can also be found on her website, her Tarot Card Reading website, Instagram, and Twitter. Check out Sèphera on YouTube. Be sure to follow so you know when the next video is uploaded!

Sèphera’s courses are also available on Udemy!
https://www.udemy.com/secrets-of-a-background-performer/?couponCode=BGYOUTUBE3
https://www.udemy.com/read-tarot-cards/?couponCode=TAROTCARDYOUTUBE
https://www.udemy.com/so-you-want-to-be-a-horror-writer/?couponCode=BLOGHORROR2

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Filed under entertainment, horror, people, Publishing, spirituality, Writing

Women in Horror: Tracy Fahey

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The Past is Always Present: New Music for Old Rituals

This is a story of folk horror and of its roots in much older tales. It’s a story of how these old, cautionary tales still cast long shadows in contemporary culture. And of course, it’s part of the story why I wrote my second collection, the nineteen tales of folk-horror that make up my second collection, New Music for Old Rituals (Black Shuck Books 2018).

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New Music For Old Rituals (Black Shuck Books 2018)

This collection grew organically from my own upbringing as a child in rural Ireland, where the very landscape was infused with myth and folklore. I grew up on the site of the great Irish saga of the Táin Bó Cúailnge halfway between two towns, Dundalk, where the Táin hero, Cuchulainn was born and Ardee, where he slew his best friend Ferdia at a pivotal battle−even my secondary school sits beside an ancient burial ground where mounds marked the site of Cuchulainn and his wife Emer’s graves.

But even more so, New Music for Old Rituals was influenced by the stories I grew up with, curses, stories of na Sidhe, the dark Irish fairies and their interactions with human, tales of jumping churches, of banshees, of curses and of graves cracked by a hungry Devil. These stories were told in my neighbourhood, within my family, and they formed the cornerstone of my childhood experience.

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The site of Wildgoose Lodge. Photograph © Tracy Fahey 2015

The first piece of short fiction I published in 2013, ‘Looking for Wildgoose Lodge,’ (in Hauntings, Hic Dragones Press) was based on a story originally told to me by my grandmother; a tale of a two hundred-year-old atrocity. I was fascinated by the idea of the persistence of memory in a small community, and the fact that these stories were still told. I was drawn to this topic by the fact that in folklore the past was always present−that these stories still operated strongly as cautionary tales that warned of the dangers of secrecy and of secret organisations, and the untrustworthiness of neighbours. I spent three years working on a memory project with these families and recording their variant stories of this event as part of my PhD thesis.

At the same time I was also researching the folklore and how it echoes through contemporary Irish art and literature, and have since published five academic essays on this topic in edited collections by Palgrave, Routledge, Peter Lang Publishing, Aguaplano, and Boydell and Brewer. However, this research kept inspiring new ideas for fresh fiction, and so in 2016 I started writing in earnest on a new collection that would focus on the survival of past narratives in contemporary Ireland.

Fahey Cuchulainn, The Hound of Ulster. Print by Jim Fitzpatrick

Cuchulainn, The Hound of Ulster, art by Jim Fitzpatrick

In putting together this collection, I’ve only obliquely referenced ‘real’ Irish folktales. I was more interested in the nature and character of folktales; how they seep upwards from the very landscape, how they’re mapped by real sites that act as portals to other worlds; dolmens, passage graves, fairy mounds. In 2015 I’d spent time armed with a copy of Tarquin Blake’s Haunted Ireland, visiting and photographing local spectral sites; many of these photographs would later act as triggers for some of the stories that I would write, most notably ‘The Green Road,’ ‘Graveyard of The Lost,’ and ‘The Black Dog.’

Fahey The Black Dog

The Black Dog. Photograph © Tracy Fahey 2015

I was conscious when writing of other contemporary Irish authors like Patrick McCabe, who creates evocative dark, small towns with a savage magic realism, and Peadar Ó Guilín whose dystopian novels are influenced by his erudite knowledge of Irish folklore. The stories that I wrote between 2016 and 2018 all feature the pervasive power of the past; how old, bitter stories ripple outwards and continue to shape our culture. Some reference the Irish fairies, but the tales that do so consider them in contemporary contexts; man-made fairy villages (‘The World’s More Full of Weeping’), children’s games (‘Under The Whitethorn’), burial rites (‘The Cillini’) and gender identity (‘The Changeling’). The collection also references modern Irish phenomena like ghost estates (‘Scarecrow, Scarecrow’) and the Celtic Tiger economy (‘What Lies Beneath’). What all stories do is consider the ties between the past and present, and how certain themes are both repetitive and timeless; ideas of loss, love, sacrifice, family, inheritance and transmission.

There were also two things that were important to me in writing this collection; I wanted it to have a strong female voice (most of the protagonists and narrators are women), and also that it represented the Irish lived experience of folklore as a continuum between past and present. The reason for this is that New Music for Old Rituals sits squarely within the canon of folk horror, a term that has gained popularity since the BBC4 TV series A History of Horror of 2010 where Mark Gatiss used it with reference to Piers Haggard’s The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), and also Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968) and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973). Folk horror is also characterised in terms of contemporary contributions towards the genre: Ben Wheatley’s Kill List and A Field in England, Robert Eggers’ The VVitch (2015), David Bruckner’s The Ritual (2017), and The League of Gentlemen (1997-2017).

However, there are two interesting things to consider when looking at this genre since the 1960s: the fact it tends to be Anglo-centric and male-dominated. This isn’t to say that women are omitted in the canon−especially in terms of literature with Angela Carter’s marvellous The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979) and Susan’s Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence (1965-77)−but there Carter’s contribution, as with so many other outstanding works by female writers like Margaret Atwood, Tanith Lee, Gemma Files, Kelly Link and Helen Oyeyemi tend to be categorised under the heading of ‘revisionist fairy tales.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with revisionist fairy tales−the rewriting and re-questioning of these forms is a valuable part of the feminist canon of writing−but it’s strange that many of these are not considered as folk horror. James Gent’s definition of folk horror could be used to sum up some remarkable short stories by women including Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’ or Angela Carter’s ‘Wolf Alice.’

Hermetically sealed (usually rural) communities; imagery of agriculture, fertility and the soil; modern man standing on the precipice of deeper, hidden, horrors and the friction that arises; a haunting of the present by the past; and the arrival of an innocent outsider drawn into this hinterland. (Gent 2017)

Fahey The Cillini

The Cillini. Photograph © Tracy Fahey 2015

Women in Horror Month is more than just about celebrating the women who are or have been active in the field; it’s also about honestly examining whether female achievement is correctly attributed across horror. The horror genre−and the folk horror genre−is richest when it encompasses a breadth of diversity and experience−from across genders and nationalities.

I’m glad to see that recent folk horror collections; Green and Pleasant Land (2016, Black Shuck Books), The Fiends in The Furrows (2018, Nosetouch ress) and This Dreaming Isle (2018, Unsung Stories) all feature a very balanced number of contributions by outstanding female writers. I’m also delighted to see the accolades coming in for Alma Katsu’s The Hunger (2018), which draws upon oral folklore of The Dinner Party and ideas of the Wendigo, and Gwendolyn Kiste’s The Rust Maidens (2018), a meditation on urban folklore.

And of course, I’m very grateful to my publisher Steve J. Shaw of Black Shuck Books for taking a chance on my ode to Irish folk horror, Old Music for New Rituals, and to all who have bought, read and reviewed it. Folklore continues to evolve and to be part of our lived experience, and I’m proud to have offered a small reflection on it with this collection.

References

Gent, James. ‘Robin Hardy, The Wicker Man and Folk Horror.’ Etext at http://wearecult.rocks/robin-hardy-the-wicker-man-and-folk-horror. Last accessed 9.05, 29/06/2018.

FaheyTracy Fahey is an Irish writer of Gothic fiction.  In 2017, her debut collection The Unheimlich Manoeuvre was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award. Two of her short stories were long listed by Ellen Datlow for honourable mentions in The Best Horror of the Year Volume 8. She is published in over twenty Irish, US and UK anthologies and her work has been reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement. Her first novel, The Girl in the Fort, was released by Fox Spirit Press in 2017. Her second collection, New Music for Old Rituals was published in 2018 by Black Shuck Books. Her website is at www.tracyfahey.com

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Women in Horror: Caitlin Marceau

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteCanadian Caitlin Marceau talks about horror in film and a few Canadian authors of horror fiction today for Women in Horror Month.

Great Canadian Horror

When you think of great American horror authors, a myriad of names come to mind: Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Shirley Jackson… the list goes on and on. When we think of great British horror authors, there’s also no shortage of names: Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Clive Barker, M. R. James, Neil Gaiman, Susan Hill… youMarceau JulianneSnow get the picture.

But how many popular Canadian horror authors can you come up with?

It’s okay if you need a moment to think about it, most people do.

In truth, there aren’t many Canadian horror authors who are as popular or internationally renowned as those from other English language countries. Australia has the likes of Angela Slater, Kirstyn McDermott, and Greig Beck, and even New Zealand has Maurice Gee, but when you mention Canadian horror most people stare into the distance and come up empty.

Although there are a few powerhouse names that can be found here in the great white Bittennorth—like Black Christmas’ Roy Moore, Ginger Snaps’ John Fawcett, and horror twins Jen and Sylvia Soska—few of them are known for their literary contributions. Even David Cronenberg, praised internationally for his work (which includes The Fly, Dead Ringers, Scanners, and Shivers), is left out of the authorial conversation despite his reputation and having released his debut novel, Consumed, back in 2014.

But why does this matter?

Because storytelling is an invaluable tool in building a nation’s identity, an issue that Canada has struggled with since it was first formed. We’re a country with a complicated past, and an even bigger identity crisis. Summed up best in Earle Birney’s poem “Can. Lit.,” we’re a nation that’s always been at odds with ourselves, at odds with our history and origins, and at odds with what it even means to be Canadian (just ask someone from Quebec, Alberta, and Nunavut). Where other countries have fought to forge empires, to gain independence, and to find their place in the world, Canada has never really needed to. We didn’t revolt against England’s rule, our internal conflict between the French and the English never had the same violent conclusion that America’s Civil War had, and so—as Birney eloquently writes in his poem—”it’s only by our lack of ghosts/we’re haunted.”

Marceau OmensAlthough, if Canadian women in horror have anything to say about it, hopefully not for long.

Horror fiction has always been a great way of bringing people together. It gives audiences a safe space to explore their deepest fears and understand national anxieties. Horror also allows people to explore socio-political issues in a visceral, engaging, and sometimes more approachable way. While film has been especially great at this (just look at 2017’s Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele, which explores racial tension and problematic white liberalism in the United States or 1954’s Godzilla, by Japanese director Ishirō Honda, which explored the fear of nuclear weaponry), literary works have been effective in this too (including both Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, by American novelist Ira Levin, or Dracula by U.K. born Bram Stoker).

While Canada has a slew of great horror films that examine everything from gender issues to sexual assault through a cinematic horror lens, more and more female authors are doing their part to build Canada’s pantheon of horror creatures.

Nancy Kilpatrick is reinventing vampire lore through her Thrones of Blood series, and Marceau Nancymade speculative fiction with erotic undertones mainstream long before Stephenie Meyer. Kelley Armstrong is a fan favourite and legendary horror author, with her thriteen-book Otherworld series inspiring the show Bitten (2014-2016). Armstrong not only caters to adult horror fans, but has written several young adult trilogies (like the Darkest Powers & Darkest Rising series) which appeal to young readers and older ones alike. Her work features a diverse range of women, and explores both the idea of what it means to be a woman and what really makes a monster. Julianne Snow’s Days with the Undead series takes a northern approach to zombies, and breathes new life into an otherwise lifeless monster.

Canadian women are creating a national horror canon, are encouraging more women to get involved in the genre, and are inspiring new readers. It’s a legacy that—unlike Canada’s complicated identity crisis—will hopefully last for years to come.

Caitlin Marceau is a Canadian author and professional editor living and working in Montreal. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing, is a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the Quebec Writers’ Federation, and spends most of her time writing horror and experimental fiction.

Marceau_AuthorPhotoShe’s been published for journalism, poetry, as well as creative non-fiction, and has spoken about horror literature at several Canadian conventions. Her workshop “Bikinis, Brains, and Boogeymen: How To Write Realistic Women in Horror,” was acclaimed by Yell Magazine, and her first co-authored collection, Read-Only: A Collection of Digital Horror, was released in June of 2017.

As of 2018, she is the co-owner and CEO of Sanitarium, an indie publishing house dedicated to encouraging diverse voices in horror media.

If she’s not covered in ink or wading through stacks of paper, you can find her ranting about issues in pop culture or nerding out over a good book.

For more information, or just to say hi, you can reach her through infocaitlinmarceau@gmail.com, her website, or via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

 

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Women in Horror: Arinn Dembo

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteArinn Dembo, game and fiction writer, hails from Canada. Today, for Women in Horror Month she talks about a very special house.

Haunting the House

Horror did not just spring up out the Earth like a mushroom. Horror was built by human hands. And I would argue that those hands belonged to women.

Women came to the Lonely Place of Dying and called it home. Isn’t Death always a female realm the world over–ruled by a pretty young queen and her doting husband? There is a reason for that, woven into human flesh and bone. They call it “the maternal mortality bump” for a reason.

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Illustration from Thasaidon: Tales of Death Magick by Clark Ashton Smith. Edited and annotated by Arinn Dembo, Kthonia Press

Our ancestors dug a foundation deep into black bedrock.

They built the walls from shipwreck timber and hanging trees.

They dug a cellar deep enough to keep wine and potatoes, and to soak up screams.

They hung windows that blankly reflected the bone white sky, and mirrors that reflected your true face.

In the warmth of evening firelight, women would spin thread and pass the time with ancient, bloody tales–the kind that we share when the children have gone to bed.

Men who smile, and flatter, and kiss, and kill.

Unlucky girls who marry a man in black.

Mad women. Mad men. Damned priests and cruel governesses. Girls who said “yes” to the wrong offer of employment. The unwanted…abandoned. The unloved…locked in freezing garrets or hurled bodily down the well.

In the 18th century parlors and the libraries, young women sat and scratched away with busy pens, writing the most popular novels of the age. Ann (Radcliffewas the reigning champion, of course—the best-paid writer in the English language during her time, just as J.K. Rowling is today.

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“Proteans Attack” – Illustration from Black Section: The Complete Files, by Kerberos Productions

Ann retold those old stories, gave them winsome young heroines with pretty faces and salted the old meat with a dash of romance. She grew rich on her tales, traveled the world with a pretty husband and fine clothes. And with her wealth she plastered the bare beams and dark walls of the House with new paper, laid carpets in the drawing room, hung curtains to discourage the curious.

The stories of that generation are still being told today, over and over. I can turn to any movie channel and find a dozen stories about women fighting for their lives and their families against the forces of psychopathy and abuse. And those tales are not “thrillers” or “psychological dramas” or what-have-you. They are Horror, grounded in fears that still have teeth. Because women in any generation have to live with the same threats: when passion fades and love sours, women DIE.

Men have walled off those old rooms, of course. The only part of the house that they want to call “Horror” is the part they have appropriated for themselves. And they actually believe they can keep women out! They try to make us unwelcome. (Unless, of course, they need a limp doll to play the Victim in one their pathetic little puppet shows…then our bodies will do.)

But it was Mary (Shelley) who built the new wing that they strut around in today. She lit the first gas lamps, and split the night with the crackle of electricity and the shrieks of rebirth.

Just as Shirley (Jackson) is the reason that stones rain from the sky, that houses eat their owners and knives whistle through the air with no hand to hurl them.

There is no age or era of horror as a genre that you cannot find female excellence. The house of Horror is built from the flesh and bone and blood and sweat and tears of women. Small wonder, then, that women remain loyal to the House, and have never left it…no matter how male dominated and obnoxious the mainstream offerings of Horror have become.

Female readers still buy the books. Female viewers still come to the theatre. They still turn out to honor their great-grandmothers and the old ways. They come to watch the Final Girls run screaming through a Man’s World, and those footfalls echo through eternity.

Why?

Denbo ICHTHYS

ICHTHYS – An Easter tale of horror in the catacombs of ancient Rome

Because every woman who exists on Earth today is the descendant of a Final Girl, even if her struggle is lost to memory.

Nothing has changed. The women in the stories still emerge alive. Bloodied and traumatized, crippled by loss and cynicism, older and wiser…but alive.

I would argue that the reason that women never abandon Horror is simple: Horror belongs to us.

Because Horror is the story of women’s lives.

Horror is the experience of being female in the world.

Horror is the genre where hypervigilance is a female super power and can be a guarantee of survival. Where Trauma becomes an asset, not a liability.

Horror is the genre where boundaries crossed result in the lethal consequences that women have always longed to see.

Horror is the school where we take night classes in Know Thy Enemy.

Women built this House. And we will always haunt this house.

We still prowl the oldest depths of the ancestral manse, telling stories of the poisons that leach from bad faith and black hearts.

We still kick open the doors that men try to nail shut and shout our stories into the room—even though we are seldom greeted with applause.

And women are still building new wings to this house. Sometimes the sounds that come from those new halls are unearthly, full of pain and terror…but sometimes they are orgiastic. In this brave new age, women are not always shy about pleasure as well as pain.

Women in Horror Month is a time of celebration, but I also see it as a time of truth and reconciliation. And really, if this is the only time of the year that you SEE Women in Horror…it’s because you know exactly Jack and Squat about Horror.

And Jack left town.

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Fort Zombie 2 – The royalty of Erebos. Queen Zombie concept art from Fort Zombie 2, by Kerberos Productions.

Arinn Dembo is a professional writer and game developer living and working in Vancouver BC. She was the lead writer of Fort Zombie, the cult classic indie game which spawned a legion of zombie base-building and defense titles, and has brought a little extra creepiness to many other PC games for her home studio, Kerberos Productions. Her short fiction has appeared in HP Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror, F & SF, Mad Scientist Journal, Lamp Light, Deep Magic and a number of horror anthologies, including Gods, Memes and Monsters, She Walks in Shadows, and What October Brings. To sample her short fiction and poetry, you can try her single-author collection, Monsoon and Other Stories, or grab her horror one-shot ICHTHYS.

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Women in Horror: Sara C. Walker

 

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteToday, for Women in Horror Month, we’re back to Canada with Sara C. Walker who gives a list of some inspiring female authors and Canadian writers who do science fiction horror.

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an early example of SF horror.

When asked to name a woman writer with stories at the intersection of horror and  science fiction, Mary Shelley is first to come to mind. Author of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, originally published in 1818, Shelley is credited for writing the first science fiction story, though it’s often forgotten the story was intended to be horror. With that story, the sub-genre science fiction horror was born.

Science fiction horror ponders the current state of science and projects all the worst ways things could go wrong. As in Frankenstein, the true monsters of science fiction horror are human. From horrible dystopian societies to nightmare post-apocalyptic landscapes to brutal experimentation in the name of science, the stories are varied but also seek to answer the same question of every horror movie: who will survive?

Two hundred years since Mary Shelley’s creation, the genre crossing is a fertile playground for Canadian women writers, and while there are plenty of short stories that fit the science fiction horror genre, here are several suggestions for novel-length works to keep you up at night. This list is by no means exhaustive but is meant as a beginner’s guide.

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Real life SF horror–cancer ad from the 1800s

When looking for Canadian women who write science fiction horror, the first to come to mind is Margaret Atwood, specifically The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985, which has been adapted into a film, an opera, and now an HBO series, airing since 2017. This dystopian story imagines a pretty horrific future for women.

Ten years ago, the Canadian documentary Pretty Bloody: The Women of Horror interviewed actors and producers in the genre, along with Tanya Huff and Nancy Kilpatrick, two of Canada’s top horror writers. Huff’s contemporary vampire series was turned into Blood Ties, a television show that aired in 2007, but Huff also writes military science fiction series with a female protagonist—start with Valor’s Choice (DAW, 2000). Kilpatrick is also known for her vampire series, Thrones of Blood, but she also writes science fiction horror, as in Eternal City (Five Star, 2003).

Well known for her Otherworld series, especially her first novel, Bitten (Vintage Canada, 2009), which became a television show for three seasons in 2014 to 2016, Kelley Armstrong also dabbles in science fiction horror. The Darkness Rising series, beginning with The Gathering (Doubleday Canada, 2012), is a trilogy in which the main character, who lives in a medical-research town, finds strange things happening, beginning with the drowning of the swim team captain. Armstrong is also brilliant at writing psychological thrillers that will scare your pants off. Just try reading the beginning of Omens (Random House, 2013) or Exit Strategy (Seal Books, 2010).

Author Ada Hoffman’s novel The Outside, a science fiction horror, is due to be published June 2019 by Angry Robot. Hailed as “fast-paced, mind-bending Big Idea science fiction, with a touch of Lovecraftian horror”, The Outside features cyborg servants, a heretic scientist, and an autistic protagonist.

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The Handmaid’s Tale, base off of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel.

I do love Frankenstein, The Handmaid’s Tale, and stories that seek to show us what future might come of our choices, but my true love is for urban fantasy, a genre that’s a sibling to horror as both have roots in urban myths. So, with that in mind, I have one more reading suggestion for urban fantasy that fringes on horror, although this one leans more toward fantasy than science fiction.

These days she lives in Los Angeles and is more known for being the ex-wife of Elon Musk, however, Justine Musk is from Peterborough, Ontario and wrote horror back in 2005 with her first book, BloodAngel. The sequel was released in 2008, Lord of Bones (both published by ROC, in imprint of Penguin Books). We’re still waiting for more books from Musk.

walkerSara C. Walker writes fiction, usually urban fantasy, from short stories to novels. “True Nature” can be found in Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland (Exile Editions, ed. Colleen Anderson) and “If Wishes Were Pennies” in Canadian Creatures (Schreyer Ink Publishing, ed. Casia Schreyer). Forthcoming stories include “Stag and Storm” in Canadian Dreadful (Dark Dragon Press, ed. David Tocher) and “Call of the Ash” in Not Just A Pretty Face (Dead Light Publishing). She’s edited two anthologies of stories set in the Kawartha Lakes. When not writing, she works at a library and is always ready to give reading suggestions. You can find out more at www.sarawalker.ca.

 

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Women in Horror: Halli Lilburn

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteHalli Lilburn, author and editor, speaks about what makes horror addictive.

Halli on Horror

Horror has its perks. A rush of hormones and adrenaline is addictive. The fight or flight mechanism in our brain is activated without ever being in danger. A good jump-scare is equal to extreme sports. But if you analyze the underlying conflicts behind monster versus man, the message can continue to disturb you for months and even years.

lilburnMy parents wouldn’t allow me to go to a friend’s and watch Poltergeist, so I snuck out. I was thirteen. Curiosity and rebellion were my motivators. Mostly curiosity. I wanted to know what happened to human beings when their souls became corrupted and what kind of damage could they do to the living. I learned that it didn’t take much for a soul to cross the line from human to monster. It was the first time a show gave me nightmares. The morbidity rate on and off screen proved the truth of the rumors that demons had cursed the set. One actress was strangled to death by an ex-boyfriend, and the main character also died of mysterious health complications. I will never watch those movies again. The idea of retribution from beyond the grave will never not be scary. Thirteen is a very vulnerable time for a developing brain.

I am a vivid dreamer. Could be inherited from my dad or could be the anti-depressants Lilburn weshallbemonstersI’m taking. Probably both. When people ask me where I get my bizarre ideas the answer is usually a nightmare. And the more outlandish the better. In horror, a writer can get away with anything. In my story Hidden Twin I found a way to make one body rip apart to find another body inside it like Donna in Poltergeist III (spoilers).

Still, there are areas in the genre that I avoid: (living) serial killers and body mashing are not my cup of tea. The thrill of witnessing a murder is petrifying but once you are dead, it’s over. The stories that get to me are the hauntings; images that churn in your mind over and over for years, being trapped inside your mind, not knowing what is real, losing control of your sanity. Ghosts are especially convincing when they reach out to their families for help, but their method of communication so cryptic it fails. When the dead stick around the living are bound to get hurt. Some examples include The Others, Sixth Sense, Delirium, and Haunting of Hill House. Like I said, if it gives me nightmares, it is well written.

SKULL SPEAK

A skull is what I see through

Through my hollow eyes

A skull is what I speak through

With chattering teeth

Always smiling

With no lips it’s impossible not to

A ribcage is what I love through

It is cold here in your heart

Can you find a way to love me?

The skeleton sits on my shelf

A corpse of me

Sporting a felt hat and smiling

Always smiling

Showing teeth in a carefree, neurotic way

“You are obsessed with me” it laughs

I tap its tiny noggin

I let you take up precious space on my shelf

Precious space meant for books.

It replied, “Ah, but the stories I could tell.”

Lilburn steampunkHalli Lilburn writes speculative, sci-fi and poetry, but she always tries to spice it up with something horrific. Her most recent releases include stories in anthologies: We Shall be Monsters by Renaissance Press, Tesseracts 22: Alchemy and Artifacts by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy. She is a freelance editor with essentialedits.ca and you can read more at her blog.

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Women in Horror: Sara Townsend

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Today we’re back in the UK for Women in Horror Month, where Sara Jayne Townsend talks about how she discovered horror and what draws her in.

WHY HORROR?

I was 13 years old when I discovered horror. Before then, I was scared of anything remotely creepy. But something changes in you when you hit puberty, and it’s not just about all the previously undiscovered angst coming out. That year, I picked up Stephen King’s Different Seasons while browsing in the school library. I liked it so much I went looking for more books by the same author and came across Carrie. After that, I was hooked.

The same year, my English teacher gave the class an assignment to write a horror story. Townsend The Whispering Death New E-book Master (3) (400x640)Mine was about ten teenagers who went on a camping trip in a remote field and unearthed an ancient evil that possessed some of them, who then went around murdering the others. I really enjoyed writing it, and the teacher seemed to like it as well (she gave me an A+). It was something of a flawed story, but I was only 13 and had a lot to learn about the craft of writing.

That was 36 years ago, and I’ve been writing horror ever since. Over the years I’ve had many people ask some variation of the same question: “What’s a nice girl like you doing writing such nasty stories?”

So what is it about horror that’s so fascinating? I’ve asked myself the same question several times. Part of it is about exploring the dark nature of humanity. I am not interested in stories about people discovering love and living happy every after. I am much more interested in writing, and reading, about the darkness in people’s souls. What makes someone take the life of a fellow human being? The majority of people can’t imagine doing this, and yet it happens in our world, every day. Serial killers are fascinating to me because I want to understand what makes them do what they do. Is it some misfiring synapses in their bTownsend Suffer The Children 200X300rain that makes them want to kill people? Or is it that such people are truly born evil?

Part of the appeal of horror on a personal level is being able to exorcise one’s own demons. I have certain recurring themes that seem to pop up in a lot of my stories−isolation; loneliness; despair. These seem to represent my own inner demons, and writing about them helps me to find a way to externalise them, and come to terms with them.

Another aspect of horror writing is escapism. A lot of readers like fantasy because it allows them to escape to a fantastical land of magic and strange and marvellous creatures, and a world that seems far more appealing than the one they live in. In horror, the reader escapes to a much darker world, of monsters and evil entities. Townsend OUTPOST H311 MASTER (3) (200x320)Sometimes it puts your own problems into perspective. If you are reading a story about a world where a plague has wiped out all of humanity, and the few survivors face a daily battle of survival against brain-eating zombies, your own everyday worries seem somewhat insignificant in comparison.

And then of course there is the element of fear. We all like to be scared, but we much prefer to do it in a controlled environment, where we know the threat isn’t really real. That’s why people like roller coasters. The ride might be scary, but when it’s over you get off and the fear goes away. The same thing happens when you finish a scary book, although a really scary book might stay with you for a few days after you finish reading it. If I can do that to a reader, then I’ve done my job as a horror writer.

For all of these reasons, I love horror. I deal with my own fears by re-imagining them onto the page. And if I can write something that gives you nightmares–well, I’d take that as a compliment.

Townsend sara-121-Web (2)Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer, and someone tends to die a horrible death in all of her stories. She lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. She is author of several horror novels, the latest one being Outpost H311, the story of an oil exploration team who crashland on a remote island in the arctic to discover a hidden base that is hiding some sinister secrets.

Learn more about Sara and her writing at her website and her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter and Goodreads, and buy her books from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

 

 

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Women in Horror: Colleen Anderson

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteIt’s the ides of February. Well technically, that would be true possibly every four years, but it is halfway through the month and there are still many other women in horror to showcase. I would be remiss if I left myself out of the Women in Horror Month. So I too will talk about how I stumbled upon horror.

story collection, fantasy, horror, SF

Available on Amazon

Like many of the people who have already posted, The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery were stories that stayed with me but I really don’t think I read them when I was a child. (And I have to mention the very good TV series of The Haunting of Hill House.) Most likely I watched these as a teenager. My first brush with horror was earlier with movies though. Not so much Dracula for me, though I do remember Frankenstein. When I was about six or seven my parents fought so badly that my mother would bundle us in jammies into the car and off to the drive-in we would go. The House of Seven Gables and The Fall of the House of Usher with Vincent Price, another king of horror, are forever conflated into one movie for me. I was that young and my mother certainly didn’t seemed worried about our young minds being warped.

Those two movies where Vincent’s character pickaxes his sister and buries her in the walls (or under the floors) stuck with me, along with the first nightmare I remember at age six. After that, the endless recycling of The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits coupled with reading Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury made me who I am today.

horror, dark fantasy, death, speculative fiction, Season's End.

The Beauty of Death contains “Season’s End”

While I always liked the weird I was not a fan of horror. I detested most horror and gore movies. Slasher and murderer thrillers were not and still aren’t really my cup of tea. But the strange is and always has been, and that may be reflected more in the shows I watched and books I read.

When it came to writing, I was writing fantasy and SF. I wasn’t writing horror. I was a member of SFWA for a long time before I even knew of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). But I found stories I sent to magazines of SF or fantasy would be rejected with a note that they didn’t do horror. I was confused; maybe I still am, but my stories didn’t seem scary to me. Of course, they came from my mind so I knew where they were going.

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Colleen’s launch for A Body of Work takes place Feb. 23 at The Heatley.

Somewhere along the way I started to submit to some of the darker markets and like the sun setting on the longest day, I finally figured out that I sold more stories if I went darker. I have written a few truly terrifying depictions of horror in the gore sense, such as my flash piece “Amuse Bouche,” but while it was an exercise for me, it wasn’t where my heart lay. A writer friend once asked, “What theme are you exploring? We all explore a theme.” Hers were animals. Another writer’s was children…

 

I never thought I explored one theme until I put together my first collection of fiction Embers Amongst the Fallen. At that point, it became clear that I do morality tales. Not all of them but there is often a disturbing moral dilemma that a character must face (“The Healer’s Touch,” “An Ember Amongst the Fallen,” “Season’s End,” “Hold Back the Night”). In that sense, as opposed to the “other” outside of you invading your sanctity of life or home, it is the “other” inside. What deals with the devil will a character make to save something dear? I find that extremely interesting and personal, something to which we can all relate.

SF, fantasy, horror, jabberwock, mad hatter, bandersnatch, Alice, March hare, dormouse, mock turtle

Alice Unbound contains 22 speculative stories and poems inspired by the world and character of Lewis Carroll.

As with many of the writers here, we have a fascination with vampires, or werewolves, or creepy crawlies, or disturbing dolls, or clowns, or the dark, or subterranean depths or things hidden in fog or water or space. Just a readers do. It is as old as humankind–that fear and need to conquer it, and an intense curiosity about the unknown and the strange.

I have written several stories that also explore the psychopath/sociopath (modern studies don’t really distinguish between the two) intellect. The mind encased in a human body where that the person doesn’t think like a regular human. It is alien. I’ve look at aspects of this mind in such stories as “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” “Sins of the Father,” “The Book With No End,” and “Gingerbread People.” The first was one story that very much disturbed me in the writing, and the last was an examination of the nature of evil based off of the two Canadian serial killers Paul Bernardo and Carla Homolka, where she was given a lighter sentence because she said he made her do the terrible crimes. Can you be made to commit horrors that go against your fundamental core, and who is more evil–the person committing the crime or the one making that person do it?

And this gets down to what is the scariest thing: to many it is man/woman as monster, the feral side, the side the loses control; like Dracula, like werewolves, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You could say my fascination with the weird is my fascination with people and that no matter how normal all of us look there is something that makes us individual, and sometimes it is disturbing. Thankfully though, most of us are just  harmless eccentrics.

hoodieColleen Anderson is a Canadian author with over two hundreds works published including fiction and poetry. She has two fiction collections, Embers Amongst the Fallen, and A Body of Work which was published by Black Shuck Books, UK in 2018. She has been longlisted for a Stoker Award and shortlisted for the Aurora and Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, as well as having placed in several poetry contests. A recipient of a Canada Council Grant, Colleen has served on Stoker and British Fantasy Award juries, copyedited for publishers, and edited three anthologies (Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, Exile Publishing 2018).

Look for some of her work in Canadian Dreadful, Tesseracts 22, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias and By the Light of Camelot. A book launch for A Body of Work will take place in Vancouver of Feb. 23, at 3pm at The Heatley. Come by and say hi and hear Colleen read. Read a review of the collection here.

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Women in Horror: Nancy Kilpatrick

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteIt’s bloody Valentine’s Day and who to know more about the horror of vampire’s than Canada’s own Nancy Kilpatrick. Nancy talks about collecting, vampires and all that crazy killer love of them.

Vampires. Now you see ‘em, now you don’t. They’ve been around at least since the first written records of humanity’s history, and likely since the first mortals ventured out of caves and decided they enjoyed being bipeds. As we’ve evolved, so have the Undead. After all, we imagined them, so we have creators’ rights to bring them up to our speed.

Being one of those insane types who becomes obsessed about certain things, I’ve ended up with a library of vampire novels totaling over 2,500 volumes, which will be hard to move if I ever need to. I also own a hundred or so movie posters, games, dolls, toys, pamphlets, PhD dissertations, small press non-fiction offerings, movies, vinyl and CD music, poetry, jewelry, clothing, toys and much other memorabilia related to Bloodsuckers (and their less physical cousins who don’t want to sip our blood but do want to imbibe our energy, our dreams, our souls, or whatever else they desire which we possess).

kilpatrickI’ve also written quite a bit on vampires. Currently, my 22nd novel has just been released in a vampire series for adults called “Thrones of Blood.” Vol 4: Savagery of the Rebel King follows the bite trail of Vol 1: Revenge of the Vampir King; Vol 2:  Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess; Vol 3: Abduction of Two Rulers.

Being awash in this crimson milieu has resulted in a bit of knowledge about these supernatural creatures, especially in terms of what’s been written, and what hasn’t. Which is why the great hoopla about the Twilight books and movies and others of that ilk has astounded me. Both the pro and anti positions are strong still and within those are factions like: Camp Edward (vampire) or Camp Joseph (werewolf)—pick your own fantasy guy.

Twilight has been viewed as teen fodder, but it was not only young adults and not only females that adored the material. Rumor has it that moms also jumped on the coffin wagon. This sanitized vampire world spoke to budding hormones, since the human protagonist didn’t have sex until marriage, which came at the end of the series. Edward Cullen (approximate age 117 years), aka The Good Boyfriend, was always there for his still-in-high school human sweetheart Bella Swan. Attentive. Kind. Not pushy. Self-effacing to a fault; he would rather harm himself than harm her, abandon her instead of inflicting his questionable true self on his true love. Much tease, little payoff.

But vampires have always had problems being accepted. Derived from legends and mythology with a few “true” accounts, in the past this creature was portrayed as horrific, violent, a fearsome, murderous, blood-drinking resuscitated corpse.

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Bela Lugosi as Dracula

The review in the Manchester Guardian on the 1897 release of Bram Stoker’s book is so scathing. Bela Lugosi played Dracula on stage and in 1931 on screen. While the movie was well received by the public, some of the female persuasion reputedly fainted en masse in the theater, The New Yorker’s negative review included, “there is no real illusion in the picture” and, “This whole vampire business falls pretty flat.” The Chicago Tribune did not think the film as scary as its stage version, calling it “too obvious” and “its attempts to frighten too evident.” Despite that, The Tribune deigned to conclude it was “quite a satisfactory thriller.”

All this to say that the vampire has floated side by side over millennia with us and that each incarnation has met with acceptance and rejection. Ultimately, the vampire, IMHO, is composed of many facets, which is why its popularity ebbs and then flows again at a re-envisioning, and why it likely will always remain the most popular supernatural. This monster is recognizable as us. Vampires were human and can still take human form.

We’ve cleaned up the vampire to meet our exacting germ-obsessed 21st century kilpatrick2standards. And that’s fine because it’s what the public demands. Each generation finds a new facet to engage with. Generation X had the most recent crack at redefining the vampire as a being that sparkles. A backlash resulted to return to the more terrifying Undead. We will have to wait to see what Gens Y or Z concoct. But if history means anything, it tells us that the vampire will not be staked into oblivion. If that was going to happen it would have already occurred. This dark archetype resonates in its myriad forms. Twilight is already part of the comprehensive history of the most intriguing of supernaturals.

Nancy Kilpatrick, who has been called Queen of the Undead, Canada’s Anne Rice, and That Hot Vampire Chic, says these monikers leave her delirious because “Somebody’s got to own it!”  Kilpatrick writes vampires, not only, but mostly. Her website lists her novels and collections. In addition, she has published over 220 short stories, 1 non-fiction book—The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined—as well as graphic novels and stories and lots of non-fiction articles. She whiles away her limited free kilpatrick3time visiting crypts, catacombs, cemeteries, mummies, jeweled skeletons and Danse Macabre artwork. Her latest creations are the sinister and seductive vampires in Thrones of Blood, with the first 4 books of this 6 book series out now. Check out the ebook of #4, Savagery of the Rebel King here  as well as at Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk.

Nancy Kilpatrick’s website is here and if there’s something not there that you want to know about her, ask at the bottom of the page. Nancy can also be found on Facebook,
Twitter, Instagram and on her Blog.

Links to the Thrones of Blood series:

 

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Women in Horror: Maura McHugh

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteToday we stop in Ireland to hear from Maura McHugh for Women in Horror Month. Maura gives a thoughtful review of a movie cult classic: Ginger Snaps.

Howling for Blood: Power and Puberty in Ginger Snaps

One of my favourite werewolf films is Ginger Snaps (2000), based on a story by Karen Walton and John Fawcett, with a screenplay by Walton, and directed by Fawcett. It has developed into a cult classic for a reason: it’s a well-crafted film about the body horror of puberty and learning to deal with new and powerful urges.

McHugh GingersnapsPoster

Cult classic Ginger Snaps explores werewolves and puberty.

Central to its story is the bond between two sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) Fitzgerald, who don’t fit in at school due to their death obsession and Goth tendencies. Most of their peers are relentlessly replicating middle-class American attitudes exemplified by the boxy suburban landscape they inhabit. Although 16 and 15 years old, they remain on the cusp of puberty, so an interest in boys is just beginning to impinge upon their intense friendship.

Ginger is bitten by a werewolf just as she begins to menstruate, and she starts to change in literal and metaphoric ways. Brigitte tries to protect her sister as Ginger becomes more predatory and lost to her lycanthropic self. Power for Ginger is depicted as becoming more sexually aware and depending upon her ability to draw male attention. There’s the vamp walk down the High School hallway with the boys biting their fists at her attractiveness (a scene central to so many teen films), but this is not the “mousy girl becomes Prom Queen” dynamic. Ginger has always been attractive but was previously uncomfortable with the attention it brought.

This is the Jekyll & Hyde narrative with the girls representing both sides of the self. The werewolf is violent ID, rampaging without restraint. The more Ginger enjoys her destructive power the more alien she becomes. The physical transformation into a werewolf is slow in Ginger Snaps, it hits peak power during the full moon but it is a continuous build. As it progresses, the bond between the sisters erodes. Brigitte begins to embody the rational self that Ginger has rejected, so Ginger will eventually be driven to destroy her sister.

Brigitte attempts to figure out a way to stop her sister from becoming a beast (Ginger graduates from killing animals to killing humans with ease), but Ginger enjoys the power and has the strength to carry out her lethal impulses. “I’m a goddamn force of nature. I feel like I could do just about anything.”

The werewolf is a metaphor for the physical transformation (hair growth, strange appetites and smells) and the emotional roller coaster triggered by the onset of menstruation: mood swings, hormonal imbalances, etc. The film glories in its taboo subject and even offers a biology lesson about some of the more unpleasant aspects of monthly bleeding described in plain language. Older women encourage the girls to embrace it. Menstruation−that hidden, messy issue that usually described in euphemisms (one of the film’s taglines is “She’s got the curse”)− is central to the film.

An overlooked and under-appreciated character in Ginger Snaps is Pamela (Mimi McHugh ginger-snaps-sisters-togetherRogers), the girls’ mother. She has a calm, open and nice relationship with her children, but she doesn’t suppress or shame them. When she realises what’s happening after discovering a dead body, she tells Brigitte, “First thing tomorrow I’ll let the house fill up with gas and I’ll light a match.” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. A mother’s instinct to protect is as strong as a werewolf’s need to devour.

When the two sisters confront their estrangement Brigitte says, “You want me? You want me, stop hurting everyone else and take me, take me!” But Ginger is too far gone, and Brigitte is unrecognisable to her.

Brigitte realises that she needs to reconcile the two parts and willingly takes the curse to demonstrate to Ginger that she will continue to have an ally who understands what she is experiencing. She has faith in a cure that will save them, as developed by the local weed grower Sam (Kris Lemche). Ginger’s earlier beau Jason (Jesse Moss) has not been a true threat to the girls, but Sam is thoughtful, smart and rejects Ginger’s advances. When he attempts to help Brigitte cure Ginger, the fully transformed Ginger attacks him with all her rage.

Brigitte shares a communion of blood with her sister (courtesy of Sam), and though she feels the draw of lycanthropic power, she cannot lose herself to it. She rejects this frightening power, doubting her ability to control it (and she’s given no sign that’s possible).

The final denouement happens in the sisters’ bedroom, place of their childhood and shared secrets. Now a symbol of their divide.

Brigitte knows what the uncontrolled monster will bring: a destruction of her ability to fit into the world rationally. “I’m not dying in this room with you!” she yells. But it is werewolf Ginger’s leap onto Brigitte’s knife that kills Ginger—a deliberate act or animal impulse? The beast cannot win against life’s sharp realities.

The girls had played at death in their earlier, staged death scenes, but truly being riven from each another is far more tragic than they ever imagined. Brigitte weeps over the corpse of her werewolf sister/self. To live in the world, she has given up something essential.

Ginger Snaps remains a rare horror film that concentrates exclusively on women’s struggles with their powerful urges and desires, and the double difficultly involved with inhabiting that power in a healthy way in a society that continues to mistrust powerful women−for at any point they might bleed, and of course, lose control…

mchugh-2018You can view a trailer to Ginger Snaps here.

Maura McHugh is a horror writer living in Galway, Ireland, who writes articles, prose, comic books, plays and screenplays. Most recently she wrote a book about David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and has a collection of fiction forthcoming from NewCon Press in the UK. Her web site is splinister.com and she tweets as @splinister.

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