Today’s highlighted Canadian author for Women in Horror Month is J.Y.T. Kennedy who writes mostly science fiction and fantasy, of varying levels of darkness. Her novel, Dominion, might be described as tragic fantasy. Her most recently published story is “Fingernails,” about the Norse goddess Hel, in the Danse Macabre anthology, a collection of stories featuring death as a character.
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?
I tend not to think of myself as a horror writer, but I am drawn toward the darker, weirder side of the imagination, and this comes out in my writing. I also perform as a storyteller, and find that scary stories are some of the most fun and challenging to tell. I haven’t mastered transferring that skill to print all that well yet: my written stories tend to be more weird than scary. I can frighten people much better in person.
2. What dark themes do you explore in your fiction?
Mortality, despair, choices that go wrong.
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?
I like the old fashioned notion of the connection between terror and the sublime: the idea that we can be uplifted by confronting the darker side of things. There is a feeling in some of the more science-fictional horror, such as that of H.P. Lovecraft, of being face to face with the universe, and with the terrible realities of our place in it. I also have a fondness for monsters, which started early in life. As a child, I was fascinated by the tale of Medusa, and saw nothing contradictory in sympathizing with both her and the hero of the tale. I still don’t tend to think in terms of good guys and bad guys: I enjoy writing characters that have a dark streak, but have little interest in outright villains.
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)
I see less inequality in the writing scene than in, say, the film industry, but I can’t say I keep track of statistics.
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?
I write quite a bit of fantasy, and find that it is challenging to write female characters in societies which I feel are believable for the early periods I am aiming at. Having been raised among people who, for the most part, believe in the equality of the sexes, I find it strange to think for what a small period of history this has been the case, and how many women there still are in the world for whom it is not the case. At the same time I think we sometimes underestimate just how strong and resourceful women of traditional cultures can be. It can be empowering to show women succeeding in traditional male roles, but too much of that can actually lead to us not valuing things women do within a more typically female role. I think perhaps the best thing we can do as writers is to try to show women in all their marvelous, and sometimes terrible, variety.