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Women in Horror: Arinn Dembo

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.

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Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

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/

ARINN DEMBO

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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Sword of the Stars RPG forthcoming from Arinn Dembo

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?

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Arinn Dembo explores cannabalism.

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.

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Deacon’s Tale by Arinn Dembo, through Kthnoia Press.

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.

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Fort Zombie, the role-playing game

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.

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Moonsoon and Other Stories, by Arinn Dembo

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.

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Dating Site Pictures

So it’s just past that big day brought to you by Hallmark, florists and chocolate companies. I’ve never been big into it, single for a lot of it and find it contrived. On Saturday I bellydanced at a 50th birthday party, then stopped in the local watering hole for a drink or two before home. A woman was writing up a note to pass to a band member because she said she was there with her boyfriend, it was Valentine’s Day and he wouldn’t hold her hand. I kinda wondered if he knew he was supposed to and was thankful not to be in that boat.

But it got me thinking of the dating sites I’ve tried before (Okay Cupid, Plenty of  Fish, Lavalife) and the pictures men post. I wrote this up a while back but it’s still apropos to dating.

I have this word (many in fact) of advice for people:

  • Try updating those pics, or more likely your fashion sense. Giganto aviator glasses went out in the 70s or the latest, the 80s, and even if you were going to wear them, you’d need to have a way funkier wardrobe than is revealed by your pic.
  • And the moustache, gah! If you’re going to go with something that only cops wear you may as well go crazy and have handlebars on it or a Hitler style brushstroke.
  • Don’t stand like tweedle dee with your belly sticking out and your hands down by your sides. You look retarded.
  • Try getting a picture that is actually clear. A fuzzy pic in low light does you no justice. Unless you really want to defeat yourself at the dating thing before you start.
  • Having one eye doing something way weird from the other one makes you look like a psychopathic killer and although it may do to weed out the nonserious, it will also get rid of any sane thinking person too.
  • Putting a picture of a monkey, a horse, a tiger or any other wildlife is nice. But I don’t want to date them. And if I think you look like a tiger or a monkey’s ass I’m not going to want to date you either.
  • Likewise, lovely landscapes are nice but if I want to see them I’ll go for a walk. You are a landscape of flesh, eyes, nose, mouth. Show it.
  • Putting up your game geek pics (where you’re almost drooling, overly dishevelled, somewhat crazed looking) with words like “blank mindless stare” as the caption, well, hmm, you sound like too much of a winner for me.
  • Looking like you just puked over the side of the boat after downing a keg is not so attractive either.
  • Oh, and a picture of you covered in blood and gore (even if it is simulated) is just downright not gonna have me meeting you for a first date.
  • Pictures from South Park are original…for South Park. But not for you. Try your face. It’s unique.
  • A picture of your hand, or belly, or eyeball, or other lascivious body part, although of you does not tell me what you look like. And if I’m going to meet a stranger from online I want to at least know what you look like beforehand in case my body is never found. Oh, and silly me, I’m really not interested in what your dong looks like (unless it’s Adult Friend Finder where that’s what you’d expect).
  • Wearing your pagan/Dungeons and Dragons/Lord of the Rings robe for a picture might be something you wanna save until you get to know the person. Just listing you play RPGs or are a pagan should be enough.

Pictures in different types of clothes: sporty, tux, costume, can be okay as long as you show normal attire as well. Now, albeit there are some perfectly fine pics and you can enlighten with a caption. But trust me, one of the above with: “I’m a perfectly average chap,” or “I’m an outgoing guy who likes walks on the beach,” are just not going to cut it. If you go with the freakish pics, then you better be downright entertaining, erudite and interesting in your profile. Now if you don’t wanna date, no problem. I’m jes sayin’.

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