Tag Archives: Haunting of Hill House

Women in Horror: Pat Flewwelling

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteFrom Canada, writer and editor Pat Flewwelling talks about horror, scary reality and maybe, just maybe why women write horror.

Writing Horror All Along

For some folk, horror is synonymous with supernatural evil and/or gore. I think that’s unfair. There are plenty of horror stories that are all creep and no gore, like the Haunting of Hill House, Turn of the Screw, and Beloved. And there are stories that have no supernatural evil and yet are still shiver-worthy, like the original Stepford Wives, We have Always Lived in the Castle, The Yellow Wallpaper, Rebecca, and Flowers in the Attic.

Pat asks, what is scary? Image: MoviePilot.com

So, for the purposes of this argument, let’s take the supernatural and the gore out of the equation, because to be fair, there are a select few well-paid authors who have diluted all fright out of things that go bump in the night.

Without eldritch beings, evisceration, and eyeballs dangling from their sockets, what horror have we got left? Scary evil human beings. Let’s pretend then, that we want to write an in-your-face-scary horror story, leaving out the supernatural—and the swearing!—while sanitizing the gore and the violence, shall we?

Perhaps we should tell a story about an anonymous serial killer. Those are always big box office sellers, right? Maybe we can make the killer that creepy lurker on your street corner, standing there with his mental checklist, hunting for That One hidden amongst The Many. We don’t know he’s there until it’s too late, and by then, he’s become a pernicious and inexorable threat.

Oh wait…that story has already been told. A lot. Like, a lot.

Or perhaps he’s not that snaggle-toothed rando lurking in the shadows. Maybe he’s known and trusted, maybe even has a “special bond” with your children. There’s no safety at home, because that’s where he lives; there’s no safety with your parents; there’s not even a safe refuge for you with your friends. He always seems to know where to find you.

But perhaps it’s all in your mind. You’re just being hysterical. You’re overreacting.

Ah, but you perceive a threat— everyone knows there’s a threat—but since he hasn’t actually done anything to you, the police can’t help you. You show them the emails, the text messages, but that doesn’t prove anything, does it? All the makings of a great psychological horror, if overdone. In non-fiction.

Scary, sure, but what about evil? Like, deep-down, weapons-grade evil? This is a horror story after all. Why not some psychotic doctors, or baby-stealers, or people who slash genitalia? That kind of evil doesn’t really exist in the world, right? I mean, if true evil existed in the world, we’d see things like rape of incapacitated patients, forced sterilization without consent, systemic child abduction, husband stitches, and FGM (female genital mutilation). Besides, it can’t be evil if it’s legal, right?

Yikes. I sound a little biased. Let’s redirect this conversation, shall we? Maybe we should flip the script and have a scary, evil woman.

Well, the old serial killer trope still comes to mind. Black widows are standard fare, too, but in some cases, that horror plotline can quickly become a comedy. Well, we could always pull in a standard stalker, or a not-so-standard stalker. It’s strange that all the “evil” female villains seem to engage in—and the really, really evil ones attack children, especially their own. The worst? When they attack children sexually. Not always, of course. Don’t get me started on articles about the psychological or financial abuse they commit on all genders and ages. Women are a nasty bunch of creatures all on their own. After all, who do you think supports FGM? Who do you think performs it?

I won’t even consider writing a story about violence done against or by transgendered women, so don’t ask me to go checking how often a story like that has been done before. Thanks anyhow.

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Find Pat’s Blight of Exiles through Tyche Books

Maybe women horror writers add that supernatural element in order to create a monster they can actually see, define, and conquer. A monster we’re allowed to attack, encouraged to destroy. In a story like that, we can become the Mama Bear you just don’t want to mess with. We don’t just beat up the demons and send them home again; we undermine them. We can get inside their heads, understand what makes them tick, and use that to our advantage. And oh, how we will destroy them. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, sure; but hell hath no single-minded, red-raged resolve like a mother whose children you’ve threatened.

And maybe we write the gory details because we know what it’s like to suffer the indignities of our bodies uncontrollably mutating throughout our lifetimes—puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, menopause. Maybe it’s our reaction to having our bodies and our lives constantly, publicly, dissected and deconstructed, not just by the male gaze, but by our own sisters and mothers and friends.

Maybe some of us are so sick of being never-good-enough that we just want to chuck deuces and become the whole-hearted villain they make us out to be. No holds barred, no flinching, all biting, all punching back, taking (for a change) instead of offering it up. Shackle-breaking. Free. Light. Instead of placating our attackers, standing up and fighting back. Striking first, instead of enduring a lifetime of hypervigilance, waiting, watching, wondering. Stabbing at ideals. Slashing at double-standards and artificial boundaries and self-imposed limitations. Bloody-toothed violence, but with a purpose and an end goal: Leave me and mine alone.

Or maybe women have been writing horror all this time, but calling it something else, like “autobiographies,” “statistical analysis,” and “autopsies.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaybe we’ve been calling it “journalism” all along.

Pat Flewwelling writes dark fiction of all kinds, from short stories like “The Great Inevitable” in Expiration Date (Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, ed. Nancy Kilpatrick) and “Cyphoid Mary” in Alice Unbound (Exile Editions, ed. Colleen Anderson), to full-length novels like Blight of Exiles, Plague of Ghouls, and Scourge of Bones (Tyche Books, 2015, 2016, 2017 respectively). Forthcoming works include “Nowhere Time” in Canadian Dreadful (Dark Dragon Press, ed. David Tocher), and the fourth novel in her Helix series: Sedition (Tyche Books, 2019). On the side, she also runs a travelling bookstore, is a co-editor at ID Press, and works full-time as a senior business analyst.

You can find some of Pat’s work, Expiration Date, Alice Unbound and the Helix trilogy on Amazon.

 

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Women in Horror: Penny Jones

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Today, from the UK, author Penny Jones talks about why she loves horror and how it might just be normal.

Women in Horror month is a strange concept for me; on one hand, as a fairly new female writer I love it (any exposure is good exposure), and I get to learn about what some of my favourite writers are up to, and read some work from other writers who are new to me. But on the other hand, I’ve always read female horror writers. At my first ever convention I was a giggling mess when I met John Connolly and Simon Bestwick, but I was equally in awe of meeting Cate Gardner and Thana Niveau at the same convention. My bookshelves have always been pretty 50/50 when it comes to male or female authors. So I wonder if the issue isn’t around women in horror, but around people’s perception of what horror is.

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Penny Jones indicates her part in Great British Horror

Now I’ve always been lucky (though I didn’t realise this until I met other horror writers). My family and friends have always been big readers, and they’ve also been big horror fans. So, when I first went to a convention it was a shock to hear other authors saying it was nice to be around people who understood you, and who didn’t ask, “Why don’t you write something nice?” Because I’ve never been in that situation (see told you I was lucky).

As a child I was more likely to be watching a Hammer Horror than I was a Disney film, and my parents happily bought me Mary Danby’s ghost stories, as well as a Rupert the Bear annual at Christmas. Horror has never been a dirty word in my life. Also, horror wasn’t introduced to me as being all about excess gore and shock value. In fact, I don’t really like what I term “Tits and Torture” (I’ve been trying to gear myself up to watch Saw for years now. I love the concept behind the story, but I really am too scared to watch it). But most of the “Tits and Torture” that I’m too squeamish to watch isn’t actually sold as horror anyway; it’s sold as mainstream TV such as Game of Thrones or Vikings. That’s not to say I won’t read the more extreme side of horror. One of my favourite writers is Alex White who wrote several stories for the Pan Book of Horror, including my favourite of the entire series The Clinic and, you guessed it, Alex White is a female author (though I only found that out a couple of years ago). It is something I see time and time again−female horror authors who people think are male, either that or female horror authors who aren’t described as horror writers.

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Penny shares her poetry in a unique fashion

If you walk into your local bookstore and look at your meagre one shelf of horror books, it is a pretty sure bet that the only authors you will see there will be Stephen King, Dean Koontz, with the occasional Herbert, Barker or Neville thrown into the mix. But if you look elsewhere in the book store and take a peek at the crime, the classics, and the literary shelves, you’ll find plenty of amazing female horror writers. There’s a joke that if you want a horror book to sell you call it a literary book and put a picture of a tree on the front, but I think what’s equally true is that if you want a female horror writer to be commercially viable you don’t put their work on the horror shelf. Look at Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House; it is quite clearly a horror book. It has the word “Haunting” in the title for God’s sake, but still you will usually find it snuggled next to James Joyce on the literary shelves in the store.

If you weren’t as lucky as me, and your only concept of horror is the trailer for the latest slasher flick or seeing the latest Stephen King bestseller on the shelves at WHSmiths, then here are some of my favourite female horror writers for you to get your teeth into:

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Dark Voices includes one of Penny’s tales.

Priya Sharma−All the Fabulous Beasts

Tracy Fahey−New Music for Old Rituals

Alex White−The Clinic (Which can be found in: Back from the dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories)

Shirley Jackson−The Haunting of Hill House

Daphne du Maurier−Don’t Look Now and Other Stories

Susan Hill−The Woman in Black

Alison Littlewood−A Cold Season

Laura Mauro−Naming the Bones

Cate Gardner−Theatre of Curious Acts

Thana Niveau−Unquiet Waters

Georgina Bruce−This House of Wounds (Out later this year by Undertow Publications)

Charlotte Brontë−Jane Eyre

Mary Shelley−Frankenstein

Marie O’Regan−Times of Want

A.K. Benedict−Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts

Sarah Pinborough−The Death House

Jones 4Penny Jones knew she was a writer when she started to talk about herself in the third person (her family knew, when Santa bought her a typewriter for Christmas). She loves reading and will read pretty much anything you put in front of her, but her favourite authors are Stephen King, Shirley Jackson and John Wyndham. In fact Penny only got into writing to buy books, when she realised that there wasn’t that much money in writing she stayed for the cake.

Penny’s horror has been published in: Great British Horror 2: Dark Satanic Mills, Dark Voices, Black Room Manuscripts IV, and Along the Long Road. You can find out more at www.penny-jones.com

 

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