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Women in Horror: Colleen Anderson

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Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

Yes, today, the last day of February and Women in Horror Month, I’m interviewing myself. After all, it’s only fair to subject myself to questions I gave the other writers. But stay tuned through March as there will probably be more women in horror and even a guy or two as well. I hope to expand on the interviews with some people.

I’m a twice Aurora Award finalist in poetry, and have received several Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror (or Science Fiction) honorable mentions, as well as being shortlisted for the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, the Rannu competition, the Friends of Merril contest and the Speculative Literature Foundation. The anthology Deep Cuts with my story  “Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood” is hitting the shelves (and the virtual world) as we speak. Check out Evil Jester Press. Bibliotheca Fantastica is about to be released with “The Book With No End” from Dagan Books. Then, by April “Tower of Strength” in Irony of Survival through Zharmae Publishing, and “P is for Phartouche: The Blade” in Demonologia Biblica should also be released through Western Legends Publishing, with a poem out in Bull Spec later this year and a story in Chilling Tales 2 by fall.


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?

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Colleen works for Chizine Publications, full of dark and disturbed things.

I actually span the landscape from fantasy, SF, mainstream, poetry, erotica to horror or dark fantasy. I never did set out to write dark fiction but found even when I thought a story was just fantasy I was getting comments from magazines that they didn’t take horror. A few years ago I sold a dark tale to Evolve and one to Horror Library IV and I realized I was selling more of the dark fiction than other works. In fact, I guess I’m not as funny as I think I am because no one buys my humorous stories. I seem to be more a natural at digging into the viscera of a tale. I’ve only ever written one tale, a flash fiction piece where I set out to write something truly gruesome and horrible. In doesn’t dig much into a person’s psyche but is just a tale of terrible deeds. That’s probably why I could sustain it past 500 words.

2.  What dark themes do you explore in your fiction?

I was asked this once by a fellow writer and I had no clue but in the process of compiling my reprint stories for Embers Amongst the Fallen it became clear that I do a fair number of morality tales. These aren’t overt but the protagonist may be faced with making a hard decision: honor their dying partner’s wish or take revenge, follow the rules of society or satisfy their own desires, become a monster or give compassion, etc. We make decisions every day and many aren’t life or death or defining moral character but I find it fascinating and squirmy to put characters into these dilemmas. Through them, I define myself better and hopefully get people to think.

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?

The fact that we separate tales into genre is a falsified categorization by marketing departments the world over. The dark side is inherently part of our lives. We cannot appreciate the light without the darkness to counterbalance it. This is in every tale from gods and heroes of the ancients to Luke Skywalker confronting his fallen father. If you have conflict, in some ways you always have darkness. Horror for the splatter and gore of it only isn’t that deep but some people enjoy it because of that thrill of terror that lets us know we’re alive and that our lives are better than what we’re watching.

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A collection of previously published speculative fiction, available through Smashwords and Amazon.

With the more fantastical tales, it lets me take something to an extreme, to show a story and make one think and ponder the what-ifs. Sometimes there’s too much political finger pointing and the world of the fantastic lets us explore these things or say, you know it could go this way if we’re not careful. Sometimes we write cautionary tales.

As a child I loved reading the Norse myths, then those of Ireland and Greece, and fairy tales of course. Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, Edgar Allan Poe were probably the first to pull me onto the road of the fantastic. My older brother left a lot of his books behind, and then there were shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, not to mention scary movies with Vincent Price and Bela Lugosi.

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)

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Demonologia Biblica comes out this spring with “P is for Phartouche: The Blade”

I can see how this could be a problem in the movie industry more, and there is still a predominance in mainstream literature to believe that only if you’re a dead white male was your writing worth studying. That’s shifting both in terms of the living and the non males. I don’t think it’s much of an issue anymore as some of the best writers out there are women. Though I recall a collection being put out last year called something like the Decade’s or the Centuries Best SF. There wasn’t one woman listed and the editors were lambasted so it’s not completely equal yet. But I don’t think I’ve ever run into my stories being taken or rejected because I was a woman.

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 or what we can do to stem the tide?

I actually worry because some people feel that this is a backlash because women are getting stronger. Contrarily, I think it’s because religion is become less centralized and more dichotomized into fundamentalism. The fact that some men feel they need to fear and/or control women does not mean women are getting a better shake at things. A picture posted going around shows Mogadishu with women in front of a college in the 1960s and one in recent years. Only in the recent one is every single person veiled and covered head to toe. That’s not progress. That’s not giving equality to women but putting them back in the basket where women caused the downfall of mankind, or are vixens or seductresses. We have a very long ways to go yet.

What we can do is to not step back, not be complacent. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This goes for women as well. If we pretend or think it won’t happen to us, all you have to do is look to the US and how right-wing fundamentalism is trying to take away women’s rights. It’s partly why dark fiction lends us a canvas where we can paint something as simplistic as a revenge fantasy but we can also show the strength of women and that all people of any gender can be good or evil. We have to continue to speak against this or one day even women will believe they shouldn’t have the right to vote because they should be in the kitchen serving the power of their man. And it makes me sad that some women have no opinion about this. Really?

6.  Lastly, this is your space to add anything else you would want to say.

I have several pieces eligible to be nominated in this year’s Aurora Awards in which Canadians can nominate and vote.

I have three stories:

The collections is also eligible as well.

There are three poems:

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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.



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Writing Update: Co-Editing Tesseracts Anthology



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Get writing and send us your best.

I can now announce that East coast author Steve Vernon, and I (West coast author) will be co-editing the Canadian Tesseracts anthology. Subtitled “Speculation Canadian Fiction from Coast to Coast to Coast” Steve and I will be looking for stories from all territories and provinces. You have to have been born in Canada or currently live in Canada to submit to this publication so when you send in your stories, please tell us where you were born and where you live now.

Tesseracts has always been a bout Canadian fiction and many of the past Tesseracts have been themed. This one has no theme so we’re looking for anything that’s speculative: steampunk, alternate history, horror, gothic, SF, fantasy, magic realism, anything. I’m hoping that we’ll have a diversity of stories. Perhaps they’ll have that sense of Canadian where the elements and geography can play a great role, or maybe they’ll deal with cultural influences from First Nations, or early setters, or futuristic Acadians or even tales of the Basque who had a whaling station in the middle ages. Maybe the tales will deal with Wendigo or Sasquatch or Ogopogo and maybe they’ll take place in space or an underground warren.

Really, we want to see it all and we want variety. While we hope to have stories or poetry from all of

Steve Vernon, Tesseracts 17, Canadian fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, SF

Nova Scotian Steve Vernon will be co-editing Tesseract 17, a collection of Canadian speculative fiction.

Canada’s provinces and territories, it will be originality and quality that will be the final tellers. Yet another ghost story or descent into madness story won’t necessarily make it, unless (and that’s a big work) it is uniquely and well told, with deft language and a good twist.

In some senses, competition will be fierce because there are many authors in Ontario, for example, but we might only be able to accept one story from that province. While authors of smaller provinces and territories have a better chance, there is still no guarantee if the story isn’t great. You have until Feb. 28, 2013 to submit. Read on for the guidelines.


Colleen Anderson has been nominated for the Aurora Award, Gaylactic Spectrum Award, finalist in the Rannu competition and received several honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, the Year’s Best SF, and Imaginarium. Her poetry and fiction have been published in Britain, Canada and the United States. She has attended both the Clarion West and the Centre for the Study of Science Fiction (CSSF) writing workshops and has a degree in creative writing. Colleen is a member of the Horror Writers of America and SF Canada.

Steve Vernon has read on CBC radio, Breakfast Television, Global Noon and at schools and libraries across Nova Scotia. His high voltage storytelling production, Word of Mouth, was written under the auspices of the now dissolved Nova Scotia Arts Council and presented two years running at the Halifax Fringe Festival.

Steve has written several ghost story collections for regional publisher Nimbus – including the bestselling Halifax Haunts: Exploring the City’s Spookiest Spaces – as well as a very popular novel for young readers Sinking Deeper and a children’s picture book Maritime Monsters. Steve’s latest ghost story collection is The Lunenburg Werewolf And Other Stories of the Supernatural. Blog: www3.ns.sympatico.ca/stevevernon

  • The Tesseracts Seventeen anthology will reflect as broad a spectrum of stories as possible; highlighting unique styles and manners.
  • Submissions must be speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, magic realism, slipstream, supernatural horror, weird tales, alternate history, space opera, planetary adventure, surrealism, superheroes, mythic fantasy, etc.
  • Submissions may be either short fiction or poetry.
  • The maximum length for stories is 5,000 words, with shorter works preferred.
  • The Tesseracts anthology series is only open to submissions from Canadians, landed immigrants living in Canada, long time residents of Canada, and Canadian expatriates living abroad.
  • Canadian authors who write in languages other than English are welcome to submit an English translation of their work, provided it otherwise falls within the parameters of this anthology. Translation into English is the sole responsibility of the author. Please supply details of original publication for any submission that originally appeared in a language other than English.
  • Deadline: February 28, 2013 (midnight).
  • Do not query before submitting.
  • Email submissions to: tesseracts17@edgewebsite.com
  • Emails MUST contain the word “submission” in the subject line, or they will be deleted automatically by the server. Please also include the story title in the subject line.
  • Submissions MUST come in an attachment: only .RTF and/or .DOC formats are acceptable.
  • Emails MUST contain a cover letter in the body of the email; for security reasons, email attachments with no cover letter will be deleted unread and unanswered.
  • Cover letter: include your name, the title of your story, your full contact information (address, phone, email), and a brief bio. Do not describe or summarize the story.
  • If your address is not within Canada, please indicate in the cover letter your status vis-à-vis Canada.
  • Reprints (stories having previously appeared in English in any format, print or electronic, including but not limited to any form of web publication) can be considered but will be a hard sell; reprints must come from a source not easily available in Canada. If your submission is a reprint, please supply full publication history of the story. If your story appeared previously, including but not limited to anywhere on the web, and you do not disclose this information to the editor upon submission, you will be disqualified from consideration.
  • Submission format: no strange formatting, colour fonts, changing fonts, borders, backgrounds, etc. Leave italics in italics, NOT underlined. Put your full contact information on the first page (name, address, email address, phone). No headers, no footers, no page numbering. DO NOT leave a blank line between paragraphs. Indent paragraphs. ALWAYS put a # to indicate scene breaks (a blank line is NOT enough).
  • ALWAYS include your full contact information (name/address/email/phone number) on the first page of the attached submission.
  • Payment for short poetry is $20.00. Payment for short stories is prorated as follows: $50 for stories up to 1,500 words, rising to a maximum of $150 for stories up to 5,000 words (longer stories are paid a slightly higher fee, but in order to exceed the word length limit of 5,000 words, the editor must judge a story to be of surpassing excellence.)
  • Rights: for original fiction, first World English publication, with a two-month exclusive from publication date; for all, non-exclusive anthology rights; all other rights remain with the author.
  • Spelling: please use Canadian spelling, as per the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.
  • Response time: initial responses (no / rewrite request / hold for further consideration) will be prompt, usually within fifteen days. Please query if you’ve not heard back within 30 days. Final responses no later than 15 April 2013.
  • We do not advise that you submit more than one story.
  • Simultaneous submissions are not encouraged but are acceptable. Should you receive a “rewrite request” or “hold for further consideration” response, please indicate immediately whether your story is under consideration anywhere else.
  • Publication: Fall 2013 (trade paperback & e-Book).
  • Email submissions to: tesseracts17@edgewebsite.com

    Canadian fiction, speculative ficiton, horror, fantasy, dark fiction, SF

    My reprint collection is available through Smashwords and soon through Amazon and in print.


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Vanity Searches

I spent a couple of hours this week searching myself out. Why? To fluff up my ego? Hardly likely. A vanity search will often reveal how insignificant we are in terms of the Google universe. At least I’m on the first google page but not so much for my published stories as for this blog. So maybe I’m the second most famous Colleen, on Google, for what it’s worth. Which is not much.

But still, I thought I better find what’s listed about me before it all disappears. Should there come a day for me to prove I published something or to apply for a grant, then in some cases this may be the only published proof, such as my online flash fiction “On Wings of Angels” in Vestal Review7. I found that still up and printed the page since I didn’t have a “published” copy, it being only internet published.

The vanity search also let me find out I had received two honorable mentions for my story “Hold Back the Night,” which had appeared in the Red Deer Press Open Space anthology. I’d known I had received an honorable mention in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best SF, but only a few years later did I find out the story had received the same in Datlow and Windling’s Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. One story, both SF and fantasy honorable mentions, when there was no SF I know of in it. 🙂 But who’s complaining: not me. Still, the vanity search has shown what few reviews of my work are still out there and though none scream that my work is stellar, most don’t say it sucks either. And I do have the distinction of “Hold Back the Night” being the only story in the anthology to receive two honorable mentions, plus having been shortlisted for the Gaylactic Spectrum award (a gay character in speculative fiction), which I only ever found on the net and otherwise didn’t know about either.

But still, I’m a small pea in a large pod and there are a lot of Colleen Andersons, some 80 google pages in fact. There is a songwriter and poet (Mother Wit) who seems to have the most hits, plus another writer with the same name. There’s a minister, a scientist, a professor, a real estate agent, a tax assessor, a nurse, etc. Of course I’m some of these things too. But I’m certainly not the only Colleen Anderson and perhaps I’m not the real one. I’ve run into a couple others in this city alone.

Still, a vanity search can be enlightening in just how many of your posts or even how your address ends up on the internet. I can’t help but think of my childhood nemesis Laura Morse who lived two doors down from me. We met at the age of 4 and never liked each other, and had the dubious pleasure of spending grades 1-12 together, going to the same schools. Her younger brother and mine were the best of friends. We were barely playmates. She used to say she would only read books that had her name in them.

Searching for Laura Morse today doesn’t turn up her name but then she married and changed her last name. Yet, google might still be useful to her if she has to find books with Laura in them (more by authors though, than characters, though google’s new wish to scan everything would change that). One can only hope her horizons have broadened.

And we, that fill one page in 8o, hope that some day there may be many pages, indicating perhaps a rise in pay for being a writer. Of course, one could always do something notorious and then your name would rise on the google listings. In the meantime, I now have printed copies of any reviews, should I decide to try and get a grant for writing speculative fiction. Hmm, I think I’ll wait a bit longer.

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