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Women in Horror: Pippa Bailey

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteToday, for a Sunday read, with Women in Horror Month, Pippa Bailey offers a short sharp story. Enjoy the ride and I’ll see you back here tomorrow with another guest for Women in Horror.

Ride or Die

On her journey home from work Amy started to consider if she was perhaps dying, no one could endure this much pain and not be dying, surely?

The wait for the bus had been arduous, weighed down by grocery shopping tugging on her back through mesh backpack straps. The numbness in her arms wasn’t nearly explainable by the weight, she was strong she knew that, or she’d have never made it to the stop in the first place. Her arms throbbed, spindles of icy electricity pricked at her skin, chasing the thrust of pulsating arteries to her fingertips and back.

Staring out of the window streetlights flickered in the haze of rain and mist, their glow almost doubling the size of already blurred luminescence. She tried to focus her eyes between the dirt on the window and the distant lights but could only take in a wash of muted orange, eyes listing as she attempted to control her vision.

15 stops to go.

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Image from thisisinsider.com

With headphones plugged tight into her ears no one would try to start a conversation. At this time of evening on a Friday the bus clientele consisted of exhausted workers, drunks, and druggies off to the latest crash-pad or lost-view hotel, for another fix.

Her audio book mumbled, stuffing her cotton-filled brain with a jangle of words, excited characters to distract and entertain. Despite all of this she was always brought back to the pain. It tore through her like a knife, at first the image of sharp metal left a tangible taste of iron on her tongue. Peering down at her stomach there was no blade, no wound, simply a pouch of swollen flesh that had sprung over the previous three days.

Please arrive sooner, please arrive sooner, she begged. Furrowing her brow and hoping to force the bus onwards, she focused on the window as if her will was enough to change her circumstances.

Don’t die here, if you’re going, and this is it, don’t do it on a fucking bus.

She’d called her boyfriend from the bus stop near work, asking him to meet her when

Bailey

Pippa Bailey contemplating dark stories and tea.

she reached home. He’d sounded scared. His voice always a pillar of strength shook as he’d agreed. She’d ended the call at the next stab of pain, her voice an inaudible cry through grit teeth, flecks of spit hitting a metal bar that ran the length of the seat in front. A reflection of her face shone through layers of fingerprints. Tears scarred her cheeks, she’d expected them to be red and puffy but they were deathly pale.

10 stops

The pain rose again, scouring her stomach and up to her chest compressing her lungs. She wanted to vomit and cry and let herself crash to the floor amid the dirt and empty bottles that rattled from seat to seat, rolling along the scuffed plastic as the bus rounded another corner.

Sodden branches whipped against the window like ancient fingers desperately clawing at the glass as the bus trundled down another woodland road.

5 stops

She dug her fingers into her stomach, willing the pain away, her skin burning. Her blue jeans now stained red along the crotch stuck to her skin and dyed velvet seat fuzz from turquoise to crimson. She twisted in her seat, desperate to pull herself away from the mark.

2 stops

A shop sign glowed in the distance, she knew the sign albeit she’d never stepped foot in that shop. A beacon in the darkness for home. He would be waiting to take some of her burden.

This month’s period had been the worst. She’d always struggled when they came around, normally a couple pills and a bar of Cadbury’s helped. She’d try to shrug it off with a laugh and call it Shark Week.

There’s that joke that women are not to be trusted, what else could bleed for seven days and not die. A stupid joke, but it was feeling more like a question, how could she bleed so much for so long and not suffer the consequences?

Home

The bus doors opened ushering in a blast of frosty air, and two warm hands that gripped her bags and stroked a palm against her cheek as her world faded into black.

Bailey 2Pippa Bailey lives north of the wall in the Scottish Highlands. Principally a horror writer, YouTube personality and independent reviewer at Deadflicks with her partner, Myk Pilgrim. She’s known for supernatural horror with a vile sense of humour, and you can find her and Myk’s collections Poisoned Candy and Bloody Stockings through all good book retailers.

You can spot her drinking too much tea, making terrible puns, and bothering the local wildlife at www.pippabailey.co.uk.

Twitter handle: @Thepippabailey

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https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pippa-Bailey/e/B071W8DLDH

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Women in Horror: Jennifer Kennedy

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It’s Feb. 1 and that means it’s Women in Horror Month. I will ambitiously try to feature a guest each day of this month who will speak about horror. Today I have Jennifer Kennedy who talks about storytelling and writing horror.

About twenty years ago, I joined a storytelling organization, and shortly afterward volunteered to tell a story at a local Halloween event. I found myself telling alongside Marie Anne McLean, whose hair-raising versions of urban myths, re-set in and around Edmonton, set a very high bar. I still shudder when I think of the first time I heard her tell “The Furry Collar.” We both continued to tell at this event in the years that followed, and in the process I experimented with many different stories, some of which were more successfully frightening than others. One particular story was without a doubt my most successful: “The Night Doctors.”

I came across the basis for this story in a book of African-American folk tales. The entry

Kennedy

Jennifer Kennedy likes to tell tales that scare

was quite short: just a paragraph or two. It was an urban legend from an earlier time, according to which there were certain doctors in the Southern U.S. who were famous for their experimental work during the time of slavery, and suspected of using human subjects. The story was that after emancipation, they were not willing to give up their research, and so they began snatching people at night, sneaking up on them in carriages with muffled wheels, and shooting them with drugged needles.

I imagined that these Night Doctors were still active, even in modern times, and came up with a story about a teenage boy who is captured by them. He almost escapes but is injured and foolishly goes to a hospital for help. I think that what made this story effective was not just the twist at the end, but the setting. There are few situations in our lives when we are more vulnerable than when we place ourselves under the care of medical professionals. In developing the story, I had tapped into some of my own fears, and it was clear from the reaction I got that I touched a nerve in others as well. It seemed like most of the really scary urban legends had crazed serial killers as villains, but in some ways those were easier to disassociate from than a killer who might be lurking behind a surgical mask.

More recently, I became an actor at Deadmonton haunted house. The theme in 2018 was Quarantine and I ended up playing the part of a military nurse who checks people for signs of infection before they go into the building. Once again, it was clear that I was tapping into a deep discomfort in many people. One of the characters that came to mind as inspiration for the part was Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I was not surprised to learn that many people rate Nurse Ratched as one of the most chilling characters in film. One of the essential traits of the character I was playing was the ability to dehumanize: to view anyone who was infected with our fictional virus as essentially written off as a human being. In a similar way, Nurse Ratched first writes off her patient as mentally unfit and then actually acts to erase the humanity he tries so hard to assert. In a similar way, the Night Doctors choose to regard their victims as less than human.

Kennedy 2

J.Y.T. Kennedy has been published in these anthologies.

Institutions, and particularly hospitals and asylums, are always dehumanizing to some extent, and that is surely a large part of why they make us feel so vulnerable. Prototypical crazed serial killers also dehumanize their victims, but they do not generally change their status in the eyes of the outside world. There is something particularly disturbing about a monster that has authority behind them, and a society that, whether blindly or with complicity, places people in their power.

I have tried a few times to come up with a written version of my Night Doctors story, but I find that for me, some stories lend themselves to telling, and others to writing, and this was definitely a story for telling. Conversely, an unsuccessful attempt at an original ghost story to tell at the same event ended up working better written down, and was published in an anthology as “The Fatality Sign.” I expect I will come back to villains with a medical bent though, whether in writing or other mediums. The details of the story may not translate, but the fear that drives it remains powerful.

Jennifer Kennedy lives in Alberta, where she writes under the byline J.Y.T. Kennedy, as well as occasionally appearing as a storyteller or in other guises. Her poem, “The King in Red” appeared in the Alice Unbound anthology in 2018. Information on some of her other work can be found on her website.

 

 

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Women in Horror: Sandy Hunter

I’m still featuring Canadian women as they pop up. Today I have Sandy Hunter.

women writer, horror, dark fantasy, magic realism

Sandy Hunter

In common with many, I’ve always written…however, I’m a late-bloomer as far as submitting for publication goes. I’ve had a short story published in On Spec and various poetry in Gaslight, Stygian Vortex, Women & Recovery and Lynx. My most definable as “horror” short story, “And the Coyotes Sang”, is in the Spinetinglers 2011 anthology currently available at Amazon.com/.uk. My first novel Elanraigh: The Vow, an epic fantasy, was released by Eternal Press in February, 2012. Currently, I’m working on a sequel to Elanraigh: The Vow and looking for a home for my latest short story “River Wraith,” a fantasy thriller with ecological overtones.

SANDY HUNTER

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?

 Anything I write has a speculative element in it. Be it epic fantasy, magic realism or paranormal—I love to stretch boundaries that way—does that makes my darker pieces more “dark fantasy” than horror? That precise boundary is always blurred… My stories tend toward female protagonists struggling against the constraints or conditions around them, who become empowered by either the revelation of an alternate side of their psyche or an actual channeling of some potent force/ entity. The victims in these stories are usually characters that I, and I expect my readers also, will little mourn. There’s something cathartic about doing them in…who hasn’t imagined themselves strangling that obnoxious petty bureaucrat, or arrogant and insufferable boss?

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

I’ve toyed with the theme of possession more than once. The antagonist in my novel is a
mage who uses mind control for his own ends; my protagonist has some defenses against
this and is horrified that one would so abuse their power, their gift. She sees the evil that
can be done. The thought of being compelled/driven against one’s will (or possessed by
evil) horrifies me. There are types of imprisonment beyond physical confinement. Perhaps
that’s why I find circuses disturbing too…bears in tutus, etc.—the distortion of a creature’s
natural behavior.

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?

fantasy, dark fantasy, women in horror, Canadian authors

Sandy’s first novel Elanraigh is now available.

 Stories that take us to scary places, be it physically or psychically, have been with us since the times of myths and legends. Through the ages it’s human nature to desire to shuffle forward and spit into the abyss, never knowing what we’ll arouse…all the better, though, if we can live the experience vicariously from our favorite reading chair.

In my early days I enjoyed Ray Bradbury (especially Something Wicked This Way Comes), Edgar Allan Poe, and Ann Rice’s lush prose, especially her novels The Vampire Lestat and The Mummy.

3.  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? 

 A lot of us may remember how sf/fantasy of the 50’S, 60’s and 70’s was predominately male-centered. Even as a kid watching those terrible 50’s nuclear-mutant monster movies on TV, I’d get so annoyed at the scientist’s female assistant who when they’re fleeing the monster, would always trip and fall screaming shrilly and helplessly while he’s trying to haul her out of danger’s path. Why don’t the girls’ ever know what to do? I’d wonder.  Of course today, we have a huge roster of established female writers of both sf and fantasy and we have kick-ass heroines like Ellen Ripley (Alien film series).

Spinetinglers anthology

Spinetinglers anthology

4.  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, father, 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?

It’s a sad commentary on society today and throughout history that women are controlled and suppressed by male members of their family unit. In medieval times we had the witch trials and the Malleus Maleficarum (the Hammer of Witches) sanctioned by church authorities. As long as men fear female “power,” as they perceive it (and on some deep level many do still equate it with evil) women will continue to suffer violence. I’m no sociologist, and I don’t know the global cure—certainly equal education for men and women, and efforts by society to move beyond despotic regimes whether in the state or the household.

Thanks again, Colleen, for the opportunity to ponder out-loud your great questions. I enjoyed reading these blogs and spending time with “Canadian Women of Horror.”

 www.sandrahunter.blogspot.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/S-A-Hunter/

http://www.amazon.com/Elanraigh-The-Vow-ebbook/dp/B0075XGQSU/

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Women in Horror: J.Y.T. Kennedy

horror, dark fiction, Canadian writers, dark fantasy

Danse Macabre, edited by Nancy Kilpatrick, also has one of Kennedy’s stories.

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.

J.Y.T. KENNEDY

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?

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J.Y.T. Kennedy

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)

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Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

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.

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Women in Horror: Barbie Wilde

women's rights, equality, sexism, women in horror, fiction writing, horror

Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

Women in Horror Month is sponsored by the Viscera organization and today’s Canadian woman of  horror is Barbie Wilde who has also been a female cenobite. And if you know Clive Barker’s work, you know what that means. Some of her recent fiction credits include “Sister Cilice,” Hellbound Hearts anthology (edited by Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan, Pocket Books), “U for Uranophobia,” Phobophobia (ed. Dean M. Drinkel, Dark Continents Publishing), “American Mutant: Hands of Dominion,” Mutation Nation (ed. Kelly Dunn, Rainstorm Press), “Polyp,” The Mammoth Book of Body Horror (ed. Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan, Constable Robinson). New works to come out this year are: “A is for Alpdrücke,” Demonologia Biblica (ed. Dean M. Drinkel, Western Legends Publishing), “Beauty and the Skell,” The Screaming Book of Crime (ed. Johnny Mains, Screaming Dreams), “The Cilicium Pandoric” for The Followers of the Pandorics.

Canadian authors, dark crime, horror, women writers

The Venus Complex is Barbie’s debut dark crime novel.

Her debut dark crime novel, The Venus Complex, published by Comet Press, November 2012 received some great reviews: Ginger Nuts of Horror – Books of the Year 2012: “This brilliant look into the mind of a serial killer is full of poetic anger and beautiful vitriolic ranting that it makes you wonder from which pit of hell the lovely Barbie came from.  In a genre saturated with bland serial killers, and even blander plots, this book shines out like a beacon.” HorrorTalk – Top Books of 2012: “A novel by a female Cenobite that gives the world a smart, artistic, cynical, cultured serial killer who could give Hannibal Lecter a run for his money. On top of that, this is a poignant, funny, sexually-charged, hardcore critique of popular culture and a deconstruction of relationships, academia, and art.”

BARBIE WILDE

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 suppose that the dark side has always interested me, even as a child. Instead of the “girlie” books my mother encouraged me to read, I devoured the SciFi and Fantasy tales that my brother and father were reading. My father introduced me to Sherlock Holmes at an early age and I was fascinated by the character of Moriarty – the bloated spider crouching at the center of Victorian London’s crime world. Early viewings of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and Film Noir also influenced me.

Even my early female TV role models were a bit dangerous: Morticia, Mrs. Peel from The Avengers and detective Honey West. I loved the freedom that these characters enjoyed. Maybe that’s why I chose the unconventional life of an actress before I became a writer–eventually moving to London, England and ending up in such movies as Hellraiser II and Death Wish III.

women in horror, fantasy, dark fiction, horror, femal writers

Barbie Wilde

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

As a writer, I’ve always been intrigued by transgressive themes, including the sexual mindscape of art history professor Michael Friday, who decides to become a serial killer in The Venus Complex. I loved getting into my lead character’s mind, as uncomfortable as it was, and delving into psychological horror, art and eroticism. And writing in the first person from a male perspective was very “interesting,” to say the least!

In my short story, “Uranophobia,” I used the themes of child abuse and the phobias of a shut-in to tell the story. In another short story, “Sister Cilice,” I explored the sexual frustration and isolation of a nun. However, in “Polyp” I just wrote about a giant colonic polyp terrorizing a hospital. Now that was fun to write!

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 think that it’s a very important genre that’s extremely popular with the general public. Horror is part and parcel of the human experience. And although I write horror, I don’t consider myself a horror writer. I’m a writer, pure and simple. (After all, one person’s horror is another person’s crime novel, or literary fiction novel, etc.)

As mentioned above, I’ve always been fascinated by the shadows in life rather than the sunlight. Certainly as an actress, it’s always much more fun to play the baddies than the goody-two-shoes. (And didn’t we all love Arnie a little bit more when he was the Bad Terminator? And what about that special affection that Darth Vader holds for millions of people?) So writing about so-called “evil” characters is far more interesting to me. (By the way, I hate using the word “evil.” Humans are humans. There are no supernatural forces making us bad, in my opinion – just the extraordinary scope, length and breadth of humanity.)

Inspiration: What truly inspires me is human behavior — good, bad, indifferent — we are such interesting creatures!

Clive Barker, horror, dark fiction, fantasy,

Barbie as a female Cenobite.

Inspiring artists: I love Clive Barker’s work – his writing is so muscular, sexy, funny and imaginative. I admire true crime writer Colin Wilson. I think that Red Dragon and American Psycho are two of the best books about serial killers I’ve read. (However, the original Psycho is still my favorite serial killer movie.)  I love Rod Serling for his genius. I love stories and books by Paul Kane, Shirley Jackson, Margaret Atwood and Sarah Pinborough. I admire the Soska Sisters for their audacious films. And last but not least, I love Quentin Tarantino for being a “silver-penned devil,” as actor Christoph Waltz recently called him at the BAFTA Awards 2012.

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)

It appears that there are plenty of women writing in the genre, which seems to be a pretty healthy sign to me.

Something like 3.5 million books were released last year – not including Kindle versions – which is a pretty devastating statistic whether you’re a male or a female writer! However, it is a man’s world and some of us will always be fighting to get our voices heard.

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 and what we can do to stem the tide?

The Venus Complex, dark crime, women in horror, Canadian authors

The Venus Complex by Barbie Wilde

As mentioned above, it’s a man’s world – even now, after all the battles to get our right to vote, own property, etc. And although your examples of Third World cruelty towards women are valid, there are a lot of things to continue to fight for in the Western World: one only has to cast one’s mind back to the recent American election–when some right-wing politicians were saying some outrageous things about rape–to be reminded of the primitive mindset of a lot of people throughout the world.

It’s a difficult job to try and change the way men’s (and some women’s) minds work, but only legislation and more importantly education can turn the tide. Of course, religion (one of the biggest culprits in the propagation of women as second class citizens) is another obstacle. I remember seeing the head of the American Catholic Lay Association on CNN some years ago. He said that the reason women couldn’t become priests was that it was Eve’s fault that we all got thrown out the Garden of Eden. Gobsmacking.

However, trying to wean people off the “addictions” of religion, superstition and tradition will not be easy. I can only hope that at some point, people will just want to live in peace with each other, no matter what sex, or religion, or political party, or sexual orientation they belong to. (Unfortunately, the ideology of Star Trek: The Next Generation is still centuries in the future!)

For more info, reviews and interviews, please go to: www.barbiewilde.com

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Women in Horror: A.F. Stewart

horror, gothic, dark fantasy, dark fiction

A.F. Stewart

Women in Horror Month is sponsored by the Viscera Organization and you can find them on Facebook and their website. Their Mission and Vision are at the end. Today’s Canadian woman of horror is A.F. Stewart, an indie author with several published story collections and novellas, such as Killers and Demons, Ruined City, Chronicles of the Undead, Once Upon a Dark and Eerie… and Gothic Cavalcade. She loves her villains and sometimes keep a tally of the body counts in her books on herTwitter account. Reviews, interviews and news can be found at the blog: http://afstewartblog.blogspot.ca/

A. F. STEWART

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?

women's rights, equality, sexism, women in horror, fiction writing, horror

Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

I rather fell into writing horror fiction gradually. I started out to write standard fantasy fiction, and only occasionally drifted over into the dark side. However, I soon noticed my characters had a tendency to die, often in gruesome ways and after I wrote my first serial killer story there was no going back; horror has even spilled over into my poetry.

I enjoy the horror/dark fantasy genre because of the psychological aspects you can play with and I don’t dabble too much with the gore factor, although there have been one or two occasions where I used graphic violence for effect.

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

Gothic Cavalcade by A.F. Stewart

Gothic Cavalcade by A.F. Stewart

My favorite theme is consequences, of the nasty variety.  In my book, Ruined City, the entire storyline spins off one terrible act of revenge and Chronicles of the Undead explores the lengths people will go to achieve something they desire and the effect that has on others. My paranormal book, Gothic Cavalcade, deals with abuse as part of the plot, and the stories in Killers and Demons are about murderers and their victims.  I like to examine the aftermath and fallout that comes from bad choices or extreme circumstances.

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 do believe horror/dark fiction is an important genre because it can allow a deeper exploration of the controversial topics of human behavior. There are certain expectations when someone reads a horror story, which in an odd way allows more leeway to delve into the wicked side of human (or in some cases inhuman) nature.

As for inspirations, I don’t read horror novels as a rule (I’m too much of a chicken), so about the only muse in horror I have is Edgar Allen Poe. Most of my writing influences come from dark fantasy/sci-fi writers like Ray Bradbury or Neil Gaiman.

Killers and Demons

Killers and Demons

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 would say that there are probably more men than women writing speculative fiction, but you could most likely say that about quite a few genres. I’ve met several talented female horror writers (as well as fantasy and sci-fi) in the indie world and they can hold their own with any writer, male or female. And while the emphasis does still seem to be on the paranormal genres for women, there are female speculative writers willing and able to branch out.

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?

A.F. Stewart likes to explore the dark side and keeps body counts.

A.F. Stewart likes to explore the dark side and keeps body counts.

Women have progressed in many ways, but there is quite a bit in societal attitudes that have to change before abuse and exploitation of women will cease to exist. While some of what needs to change is beyond our control, I believe that women can focus on self-respect and self-esteem, and less on characterizing themselves through their role in life. They should define themselves by who they are first and what they are (be that mother, wife, daughter, professional, etc.) second. It is too easy to label yourself and then try to identify and live up to some perfect ideal of that label. You have to be true to yourself and believe in yourself before you can be anything else.

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

I love writing horror and dark fantasy and nothing pleases me more than to delightfully disturb my readers.

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THE MISSION

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.

THE VISION

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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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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Women in Horror: Sandra Kasturi

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Has Elvis entered the building or just possessed Sandra Kasturi? Photo by Weston Ochse

Today’s Canadian woman in horror is Sandra Kasturi. Besides being an award-winning poet, and a fiction writer, Sandra and her husband Brett Savory are co-owners and publishers of Chizine Publications. Not only do they publish dark fiction but they hold a reading series and sponsor the Rannu Fund competition. Women in Horror Month is sponsored by the Viscera Organization.

SANDRA KASTURI

Author of two poetry collections: The Animal Bridegroom (with an intro by Neil Gaiman), and Come Late to the Love of Birds (http://tightropebooks.com/come-late-to-the-love-of-birds-sandra-kasturi/).
I’ve been published in a number of venues, including: Contemporary Verse 2, Taddle Creek, On Spec, TransVersions, Chilling Tales, The Rhinoceros and His Thoughts (titled after my poem), A Verdant Green, Northern Frights 4, Star*Line, Abyss & Apex, Strange Horizons, Body Parts & Coal Dust, Evolve, Evolve 2, Shadows & Tall Trees, and several of the Tesseracts anthologies.
I’ve received the Whittaker Prize, the Lydia Langstaff Memorial Award, the Aurora Award (Best Fan Organizational), the Bram Stoker Award (for editing), and Arc Poetry Magazine’s Poem of the Year (first prize), and have been shortlisted for: the Rhysling Award, Arc’s International Poem of the Year, THIS Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt, and the Troubadour International Poetry Prize.

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?

Because I read fairy tales and mythology in their original versions at way too early an age. I didn’t get the cleaned-up Disney versions til much later. Plus, my parents didn’t always think about whether or not some movies were appropriate for children…I saw a lot of Hitchcock and other sinister films before I was ten, for which I’m grateful! I do write in other landscapes, but I think my work always has a darker edge. Books about cheery shopaholics really don’t interest me the least bit.

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

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Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

Love, marriage, unhappy endings, the dark side of fairy tales, the absurdities of mythology, the humour in anthropomorphizing animals.

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 think it’s the first genre that existed. When we first started telling stories (as a species), we talked about gods and monsters–those are horror stories. Horror allows us to explore the breaking of boundaries. It’s also domestic: it hits us where we live.

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)

Of course they are. The genres (SF, fantasy, horror) still trend toward white men, at least in the English-speaking/reading world. Is it just that more white men are drawn to these arenas? Who knows. But there are certainly terrific women out there that are helping redress the balance. One hopes that attention is being paid to them.

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?

How about we teach boys not to rape anybody? Teach them at a young age. Boys are still raised with a sense of entitlement–that they will grow up to own everything, that they are special. I’m not sure hammering it into any kid’s head that he (or she) is the most special little snowflake that ever lived is a great idea. Growing up thinking that the world is there for the taking is kind of a rape mentality. So, how to raise boys (and girls, for that matter) so they grow up confident by don’t turn into rapey douchebags? Wish I had a real, workable answer to that. Maybe we should start with a question: Why do so many men still hate and fear women so much?

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

Buy my wee bookie-wook! It’s poetry that doesn’t suck.

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Women in Horror: Catherine MacLeod

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Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

Women in Horror Month is sponsored by the Viscera Organization. This group tries to highlight women in film and other arts related to horror to give equal representation. Their vision and mission statements are at the end of this article. Now, here is another Canadian woman who writes about the dark side of life: Catherine MacLeod.

CATHERINE MACLEOD

My story “The Salamander’s Waltz” will be out in Chilling Tales 2 from Edge Publishing this fall. I’ve had a productive winter, working on several new stories, and finding lots of odd hours to write. I find that, generally, a nor’easter will give you all the time you need.

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 write horror because it’s what I like to read. I’m not good at watching it, though. Season of  The Walking Dead? Thank God for the pause button.

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

Children in peril. I can’t think of anything more horrifying. Loneliness. Betrayal.

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?

Horror is the genre I understand best. (I tell people I’m a professional coward.) I’ll probably never solve a murder or catch a spy, and happily-ever-after isn’t even in my lexicon, but I’ve got fear down pat.

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Chilling Tales 2 is out this fall, with a story by Catherine.

My biggest inspirations were Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling, who taught me that darkness can be beautiful, and Stephen King, who taught me that it lives next door. King’s novel, Salem’s Lot, was a revelation. Up until then I’d been reading M.R. James, Saki, William Hope Hodgson. All great writers, but they wrote about people I couldn’t quite imagine, doing things I didn’t quite understand, in places I’d never seen. There was always some distance between me and the story. There was none between me and Salem’s Lot. I live in that little town; I know those people. Salem’s Lot got right in my face. In a manner of speaking, it brought horror home to me.

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.)

Honestly, I don’t think about it much.

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 and what we can do to stem the tide? 

Last year a man told me, “Stories like yours just bring more evil into the world.” He explained that by encouraging people to believe in evil I was making it stronger. Then he started talking about the Stephen King story he was reading. Apparently he didn’t see anything wrong with a man having that kind of power.

(For the record, I think the evil is already here, and that it gets stronger when we look away. I don’t think my stories make much difference either way.)

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

Usually I just work in a quiet corner, hoping to write something good enough to get read. It gets lonely sometimes. I appreciate the light that Women in Horror Month shines into my corner.

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THE MISSION

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.

THE VISION

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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www.facebook.com/WomenInHorrorMonth

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Women in Horror Month: Lorina Stephens

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Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

February is Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization. Its purpose is to highlight women who are under-represented in the artistic field. You can find their vision and mission statements at the end of this article. Today’s Canadian woman in horror is Lorina Stephens, publisher of 5 Rivers Chapmanry and writer.

LORINA STEPHENS

And the Angels Sang, collection of short fiction, some of which is horror. From Mountains of Ice, dark fantasy novel, Shadow Song, historical tragedy fantasy. Forthcoming: Caliban, dark speculative fiction The Rose Guardian, dark speculative fiction

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?

Dark fiction draws me because of the complexity of ordinary human life. It often seems to be the joys and triumphs of life, and thereby stories, are only made remarkable by the inevitable accompanying counterpoint of darkness and tragedy. This balance, this Yin Yang, resonates with me as a writer, because there is such a range of emotion, action and experience to bring to that stage.

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Lorina Stephens is publisher of 5 Rivers Chapmanry

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

The dark themes I explore in my fiction are those of relationships, I suppose. I’m always fascinated by the great good and great evil we can dispense with equal measure. I also have a tendency to explore isolation and the effects that has upon human development, upon the psyche, upon societies.

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?

Of course I feel horror and dark fiction is an important genre. Some of the world’s greatest literature has drawn upon our primal fears and monumental tragedies. One need only look to much of Hardy’s work for dark fiction. Isn’t a happy ending in the lot, to my knowledge. In fact, most of it is downright wrist-slitting depressing. Look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which is an examination of the beast in humanity. Go back farther and look at the dark tragedies of Shakespeare, in particular Titus, which could be categorized a catastrophe rather than a tragedy, and draws upon utterly horrific human nature. Or look at some of the ancient Greek classics such as Oedipus Rex. Dark, tragic tale that has ended up forming the foundation of some of our  psychological profiling.

And the Angels Sang, by Lorina Stephens

In more modern literature, I’d point to female writers like Caitlin Sweet and her dark, poignant tale, The Pattern Scars, which examines boundaries which, once crossed, never allow return. Or Candas Jane Dorsey’s Black Wine, which is a relentless tragedy of epic proportions, beautiful in its rare halcyon moments, devastating in its conclusion.

For me, as a writer, delving into humanity’s heart of darkness allows me to examine human nature free of the restrictions of genre. These stories transcend, if they’re done well.

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).

My response to this will be purely empiric, without substantive evidence; however, I do feel women are under-represented, or perhaps I should say under-showcased. Why this is so, is probably part of the eternal struggle women have for recognition. Equally, I do think some of the finest dark fiction and even horror comes out of the female psyche. Why is this? I think we’re just better at screwing with people’s heads.

From Mountains of Ice

Now, that’s not something as a woman I’m particularly proud of. But it doesn’t surprise me in the least. When I hear women bleating on about how the world would be a better place if women ran it, I smile and shake my head. Just as in a good work of dark fiction, life needs that balance, that Yin and Yang.

So, yeah, I think women are better at writing dark fiction, because I think our minds are generally more subtle, even sneaky.

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?

Shadow Song by Lorina Stephens

Stem the tide? Really? I think statements like that are looking to create an impossible utopia. (Heretical statement from me which will no doubt bring down hellfire.) Remove all the rhetoric, and what you witness when you see violence against women is base,
biological instinct. Control the breeding females. It’s the herd instinct. And the way you control them is through violence, whether it’s physical or emotional.

Violence against women will never go away. We may try to legislate against it, as we should. A man should not be allowed to beat a woman, rape a woman, kill a woman with impunity. Just as a man should not be subject to any of those brutalities. Women should be given equal pay for equal work, equal recognition, equal representation. But although we will and should legislate for a woman’s right to live in peace and without fear, we will never completely eradicate base biological instinct. We may modify it, learn to control it.

But even in our most intimate sexual relationships, that instinct will be there.

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

And because of all that I’ve revealed above, of the complexities of human relationships and human nature, I write dark fiction. How could I not? It is the most fascinating of all wells from which to draw, because it so illuminates, even in a fantastical setting, our everyday lives.

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THE MISSION

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.

THE VISION

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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