It’s Women in Horror Month and I’m continuing to highlight Canadian women who write dark fiction of one sort or another. Today’s author is Arinn Dembo who has contributed background fiction and narrative design for 12 computer games for the PC, including a horror RPG, Fort Zombie. Her fiction has been published in F & SF, H.P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and various anthologies. The short story “Monsoon” won the Best Fantastic Erotica contest sponsored by Circlet Press in 2006.
Arinn’s military science fiction novel, The Deacon’s Tale, and a collection, Monsoon and Other Stories are currently in print with Kthonia Press. She has an upcoming RPG called Sword of the Stars: The Pit, and she is working as editor on three illustrated editions of classic horror tales, two by H.P. Lovecraft and one by Clark Ashton Smith. You can check out her day job here: http://www.kerberos-productions.com/
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 am officially described as a “multi-genre” author, but almost everything I write has a touch of horror. I cannot say why, except that people tend to write what they know. I am not an unhappy person, but I have seen a lot of pain, blood and bones in my lifetime.
2. What dark themes do you explore in your fiction?
Cannibalism is a pretty common theme in my work. I also write a lot of stories about how love not only goes wrong, but horribly wrong. And in most of my stories, anything with power that approaches the Divine is usually pretty sadistic, its desire for worship wholly selfish and narcissistic. I’m with Pablo Neruda on this one: “All gods are our enemies.”
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?
Fear is one of the primal human passions. Pain is one of the central human experiences. The Universe is not necessarily a friendly place. These are the fundamental truths that horror puts on the table; it’s definitely an important genre.
As to who inspired me—the usual male authors (King, Lovecraft, Bloch, Matheson, Poe), but I was also inspired by the fact that the genre originated with a woman (Mary Wollstonecraft-Shelley), that its most popular 19th century practitioners were women (the Gothic writers were often female), and that some of the strongest and most original horror authors of the 20th century were female. Shirley Jackson, Alice Sheldon, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Anne Rice taught me that you could aspire to the highest literary art and still write horror.
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).
Women do write and read a great deal of horror, but they are deliberately marginalized when it comes to professional recognition and awards that the genre can offer. When Rice and Laurell Hamilton hammered out a new sub-genre of horror in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was deliberately re-branded “fantasy” and then “paranormal romance” so that their enormously popular books wouldn’t drown out the “real horror” that male authors write, and male readers prefer.
I’ve read these books, and they are full of blood, depravity, witchcraft, torture and murder. The fact that the protagonists have lusty sex lives or romantic relationships would not be a problem if the protagonists and the authors involved were male. And it’s certainly not that the genre as a whole cannot cope with innovation or change—so long as men are driving it. Look what happened when David Schow, R.C. Matheson and a movement of primarily male authors came up with another new sub-genre of horror during the same period.
“Splatterpunk” is classified as “real horror” today and has been incorporated seamlessly into therest of the genre, because…penis. End of story.
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?
The violence is happening because we ARE stemming the tide. The world is changing, and The Man is fighting a desperate, last ditch battle to defend His traditional privileges. The beatings, the acid attacks, the rapes and murders, are all a frantic attempt to scare us back into our cages.
This time, don’t go back. Be willing to die rather than live as a slave. No human being has ever been free or ever will be free without that courage.
Patriarchy always has been and always will be a protection racket. It is based on the same fundamental principle that drives the economy of terror between the Mafia and the shopkeepers in a ghetto. The Man tells you a horror story about what will happen if you don’t pay up. “It would be a shame if you were to get raped or killed, if I was ever to stop…protecting you.”
Don’t fall for it. Live free or die.
6. Lastly, this is your space to add anything else you would want to say.
Keep writing, keep reading, and for God’s sake, support each other! Buy books by women, read books by women, demand that female authors be recognized and given their fair share of awards. Men didn’t get to be in charge by stabbing each other in the back or clawing each other’s eyes out, fighting on the floor for a pitiful handful of scraps.
Demand your seat at the table. Horror belongs to women as much as anyone.