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Women in Horror: Barbie Wilde

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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: Nina Munteanu

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Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

Today’s Canadian woman in horror is Nina Munteanu, who likes to splice a bit of darkness into the cells of her science fiction. Women in Horror Month is sponsored by the Viscera Organization.

My writing comprises a wide range of genre and type. For instance, I write humorous children’s books, hard SF, time travel fantasy, space adventure and erotica, in addition to dark SF. Examples of my works of dark SF include:

  • “Virtually Yours” (published in Hadrosaur Tales, 2002; Neo-Opsis Science Fiction Magazine, 2004; Nowa Fantastyka (Poland), 2006; Bli-Panika (Israel), 2006—short story nominated for Speculative Literature Foundation Fountain Award
  • “A Butterfly in Peking” (published in Chiaroscuro, 2003; Nowa Fantastyka, 2005; Dramaturges of Yann (Greece), 2004
  • “The Cypol” (eXtasy Books, 2006)—novella nominated for ECATA Reviewers Choice Award
  • “Five Minutes” (published in Justus Roux’s Erotic Tales, 2004)
  • “Neither Here Nor There” (published in Another Realm, 2005)
  • “Framed and Julia’s Gift will be published in Natural Selection, my collection of short stories by Starfire World Syndicate in spring of 2013.
  • The Splintered Universe Trilogy (novel published by Starfire World Syndicate, 2011, 2012, 2013).
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Ecologist and writer Nina Munteanu

NINA MUNTEANU

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?

While my work spans a vast literary landscape from comedy & adventure to thrilling suspense, most of my adult fiction contains elements of brooding darkness. I feel that the darkness adds a compelling element of tension, reality and thrilling victory in the story arc. Without such chiaroscuro to add depth to a story, art is “flat”; it lacks contour, meaning and direction.

2What dark themes do you explore in your fiction?

I write primarily science fiction; themes like achieving forgiveness, love & compassion, overcoming fear, taking control of one’s fate & fulfilling one’s destiny, etc. are often played out through the encounter of—and often clash with—“the other.” The “other” may be aliens, some new technology, a fantastical unknown entity, or a place with strange powers. In the end, the POV characters must overcome their own darkness, reflected in “the other” to ultimately prevail.

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The Splintered Universe by Nina Munteanu

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?

Definitely. Oscar Wilde once said: “Art is individualism, and individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. There lies its immense value. For what it seeks is to disturb monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.” Susan Sontag said, “Real art makes us nervous.” Art can be beautiful; great art will have a layer to it that disturbs, knocks you off balance and takes you out of equilibrium; this is usually through darkness. This can be achieved through beauty too; in fact it may be most impactful through beauty. For me, that is what good art does: it examines our world and presents us with new perspectives to ponder, and evolve from. Without darkness to contrast it, light cannot be recognized for its virtues, nor can it even be properly seen; darkness is the platform from which light emerges in all its glory. I’m not just talking about good and evil. Metaphorically, darkness represents anything within us that is repressed, that we’re ashamed of or uncomfortable with. It is the unknown (the stuff of science fiction… 🙂 ). My main sources of inspiration came from the classics (Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky) and the metaphoric writings of Ray Bradbury.

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The Splintered Universe combines elements of SF with darkness.

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)

If you asked me this question five years ago, I might have contended that we were under-represented, particularly in some aspects of SF. I think that is changing and quite rapidly now. This is most prevalent in Canada. So many excellent women authors are emerging who are contributing fine writing in speculative fiction. I think in the hard SF area, we are still terribly outnumbered. But that is also changing. And that’s a very good thing. Women writers, particularly in the speculative genre, offer a very different perspective on story and idea and vision of our world and our future. It is an important perspective that we really need right now.

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?

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The Last Summoner is a new novel by Nina, published by Starfire World Syndicate. Watch the trailer here:      http://youtu.be/jvbe91qbWG0

All this hubbub and mayhem is actually a good sign; it means that women are finally waking up—all over the world—and reporting these atrocities (all this violence and abuse has been going on for a very long time—in silence). Women are saying to the world, “that’s enough; no more. We aren’t dumb, frail, hysterical, lesser beings.” Women are pushing out from the domination of an androcentric society and patriarchal rule. We are reaching out to our sisters around the world; we are teaching the world with our compassionate intelligence, our Gaia-wisdom, and our universal altruism. The Dalai Lama said, “the western woman will save the world”; I strongly believe that one of the ways we will achieve this is through “story” and “storytelling.” It is up to women to tell a new story. One that openly examines the horrors enacted in the world—often by righteous patriarchs—and points to a new zeitgeist of equality, respect, compassion and cooperation. A story of victory. Victory for all of humanity and the planet.

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

Being a Romanian and an ecologist, I celebrate my position as writer on the fringe of SF and horror: dark SF. There is a term for this in ecology, for riding the edge between two worlds or genres in this case. It’s called an ecotone, that zone or region where through the interaction of two ecosystems (or the collision of two worlds) generates vibrant life. Ecotones are recognized as the richest and most diverse places for life (e.g., estuaries between rivers and the ocean; marshes and forest edges are other examples). Benefiting from what the two single ecosystems offer, ecotones team with a thriving community that takes from the rich interaction of both ecosystems. This is what dark SF does in my opinion. It infuses elements of darkness into an otherwise idea-rich, often mechanized and somewhat unemotional platform of science fiction. Just as in the chiaroscuro of light on an object, darkness in fiction adds surprising and compelling depth and perspective to an otherwise dispassionate technological and scientific “what if” scenario in SF.  Thanks so much for this opportunity, Colleen.

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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: 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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Women in Horror: Liz Strange

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Liz Strange likes to explore the vampire myth.

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. Today’s Canadian woman in horror is Liz Strange.  What a great name for writing speculative fiction, don’t you think? Liz has published the following novels: Love Eternal, A Second Chance at Forever, and Born of Blood and Retribution (The Dark Kiss Trilogy), a paranormal/horror series. She also has the following short stories: “Night of Stolen Dreams” (Bonded By Blood II: A Romance in Red), “The Memory Thief” (Unspeakable), and forthcoming,  “Riel’s Last Stand” (Dark  Harvest). www.twitter.com/LizStrangeVamp

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 fascinated with world mythology, folklore, urban legends, all of it, and the idea that all people contain some level of “darkness.” The medium can be sensational and even exploitative, but it can also be a beautiful, gut-wrenching metaphor about human nature, fate, and triumph. In particular I am drawn to the vampire legend, in its many guises throughout history and cultural presentations.

I also write in fantasy and mystery genres, with a dash of romance/eroticism, but I find that all my works have a darker edge to them. I enjoy the freedom to let my mind take the story where it will, and to push the envelope a bit, make people react and think.

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Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

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

I like to explore what it is that draws people to darkness, madness and violence, what are the triggers that make people step over the line. I think there is a “breaking point” in all of us, it just takes the right circumstances or even just the right combinations of personalities to bring our hidden monsters to  light.

I’m also interested in the shared fascination with dying, death, the afterlife and the chance of immortality. Folklore and religion have delved into and speculated about this since the dawn of humanity.

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 feel it’s an important genre, and one that is often overlooked and/or de-valued over other genres, as though horror writers are somehow less talented or legitimate. I think it gives writers the opportunity to get right to the core of what makes us human, or inhuman as the case may be. There is an opportunity to delve into our baser instincts: fear, lust, rage.

Authors that have inspires me are: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Michael Slade, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson and many others!

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Born of Blood and Retribution, by Liz Strange

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).

Like many of the creative/artistic mediums I do feel woman are under-represented. Whether the focus is on men, or simply that not as many woman write/work in darker genres I can’t say, but suspect it’s a bit of both. Maybe it’s a bit of a hold on the traditional view that women are the “fairer sex,” and therefore not of the capacity to write stories to scare, repulse, and titillate?

I also dabble in screenwriting and see an even bigger discrepancy there.

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 would like to see women own their place in society, be proud and true to themselves. Don’t accept second-class status, or abuse, speak up for yourself.

And most importantly, never be afraid to try.

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

I’d just like to say thank-you for including me in such great company, and for taking the time to highlight the many wonderful, talented Canadian ladies we have writing in the horror genre.

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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.

women in horror, viscera organization

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 Month: Nancy Kilpatrick

Continuing to highlight Canadian fiction writers for Women in Horror Month I have Canada’s grande dame of vampires and all things dark, Nancy Kilpatrick. Originally I was going to do two women a day but right now I have enough to spread the love. Women in Horror Month is sponsored by the Viscera organization. www.facebook.com/WomenInHorrorMonth

Without further ado, here is: NANCY KILPATRICK

Nancy Kilpatrick, Women in Horror, horror, dark fiction, vampires

Nancy Kilpatrick, queen of vampire fiction

Award-winning author with 18 novels, 1 non-fiction book, over 200 short stories and 6 collections of stories, and 13 edited anthologies to her credit.  Currently working on short fiction, another anthology, and a 7-novel series.  Updates at nancykilpatrick.com and on Facebook.

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’ve also written some fantasy, mystery and erotica and like to think I would write anything that appealed to me.  I prefer horror and dark fantasy writing because it suits my nature.  If there’s ever anything negative from anyone it’s this comment accompanied by a scowl: “Oh, like all those slasher movies.”  I explain (briefly) what horror is about, from Stoker, Shelley, Stevenson and writers of other classic literature into the present.  Education is everything.

Edge Publishing, vampires, horror, dark fiction, women authors, women's rights

Vampyric Variations, by Edge Publishing is a collection of Nancy’s fiction.

2. 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?

This is THE most important genre because it’s the only one that looks at the dark side of life by confrontation: “We humans don’t know everything.”  It’s rife with undercurrents  and always controversial.  The network of people who read and write in this realm are, like me, interested in the dark side, and that always flies in the face of the mainstream’s preference for happiness, as if happiness is a goal, rather than an occasional state of being.  Reality is more than the sun.  The moon is equally important and some of us prefer it.

Everything and everyone inspires me.

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? (or examples of how there is a balance).

writing, horror, dark fiction, Danse Macabre, women in horror

Danse Macabre, published by Edge Publications and edited by Nancy Kilpatrick.

Women in this realm are both underrepresented and undervalued.  I guess you could say that about a lot of areas.  Women still have a difficult time getting into major anthologies and magazines in this field–check most of these types of publications in this genre and you’ll see few contributors are women.  If a woman writes what’s deemed “women’s horror,” which is generally paranormal, supernatural and/or gothic romance, and/or YA, it’s much easier to get published.

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, 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 have no answer for this.

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

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

Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

Most horror was, in the past, written by men, and that’s still the case today. Many women write with a unique voice; female concerns naturally filter into our work.  We face more real-life horror–if we didn’t there wouldn’t be so many women’s shelters, or high statistics of rape and murder of women.

Horror is a difficult genre for women to move forward in (unlike, say, the mystery or romance genres, both of which feature large numbers of A-list women writers).  In horror literature, women are not taken seriously because some of what we face is not faced by men, who do not menstruate, give birth, or go through menopause.  Women have enough testosterone floating through their systems that it seems we can relate more to male situations than men can relate to female situations.  I’d like to see that aspect of publishing change, but that involves readers changing and maybe society changing.  In my years in this business, there have been several attempts at broadening the base of best-selling women writers in this genre and with each attempt women lurch forward a notch (mostly in paranormal and YA), but there’s still a very long way to go.

Tomorrow I bring you E.M. MacCallum.

women in horror, viscera organization

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 Month: Suzanne Church

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

Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

I bet you didn’t know it was Women in Horror Month and neither did I, that is until I stumbled upon it last week. This is sponsored by the  US based Viscera organization, which is “expanding opportunities for contemporary female genre filmmakers and artists by raising awareness about the changing roles for women in the film industry.” But it does include the other arts as well. I’ll have more on the organization at the end of the month but suffice to say it’s about equality and I’m big on that. Here is the mission and vision for Women in Horror.

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.

After I read this, I found that I had a great idea for participating. Not only would I talk about women in horror on this blog, but about Canadian women in horror. There are many of us and I don’t even know them all. For now, I will feature one to two women each day (but it may not be every day) throughout the rest of February. Should I have more people than time in the month, you will see them featured after the month ends. I have not determined who truly is a woman in horror. If the authors believe that she writes horror or dark fiction of any sort, then I’m including her here. Because, as I told them, my normal might be your dark. So, to start the Women in Horror blogs, I have Suzanne Church, winner of last year’s Aurora Award in short fiction for a horror story.

women writers, dark fiction, horror, women in horror

Suzanne Church, winner of the 2012 Aurora Award for short fiction.

SUZANNE CHURCH: 2012 was a great year for me, winning the Aurora Award for short fiction for my horror story, “The Needle’s Eye” in Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd I Did Live. Then my first appearance in Clarkesworld in May followed by my appearance in Danse Macabre: Close Encounters With the Reaper with my story, “Death Over Easy.”

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 probably love to write horror because I love to read horror. Delving into the darker side of humanity is a great way to explore human nature.

2. 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?

Stephen King is a huge inspiration for me. I remember reading Carrie growing up. Horror is important because it resonates with us on a fundamental level. Many of us tend to make decisions in our daily lives based to some extent on fear.

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

writing, horror, dark fiction, Danse Macabre, women in horror

Danse Macabre, published by Edge Publications and edited by Nancy Kilpatrick.

than on men? (or examples of how there is a balance).

I try not to spend too much time counting the numbers either way. But I must say that when I meet new people and tell them that I write horror, they often give me “that funny look,” if you know what I mean.

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, 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 think many of us, at one time or another, have faced these issues head on, from feeling unsafe walking down a street at night to getting passed over on the promotion at work in favor of a man with lesser qualifications. I have been known to write stories with
protagonists who are less than savory, maybe as my way of evening the score, perhaps. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that women tend to take on greater pressures in the world, on the home front, in the workplace, and out on the streets.

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

I’m always delighted to connect with readers. Feel free to check out my website, follow me via social media, and peruse my blogs. You can find links to all of them at www.suzannechurch.com.

Stay tuned tomorrow, when I have two more authors: Nancy Kilpatrick and E.M. MacCallum.

women in horror, viscera organization

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Women Were Meant to be Victims

women's rights, abuse, subjugating women, female victims, sexual abuse, spousal abuse

Did you tell your woman that god would disrespect her if she shows her face? Did she believe you? Creative Commons: lakerae, flickr

Did that get your attention? If it did, then what happens every day in the world around you and probably in your city should also get your attention. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems people don’t care to read about such things unless they’re titillating and sexy. As a woman, and a human being, I can do no less than talk about this.

Recently the sexual assaults (which covers everything from rude and suggestive language to groping to rape) in Egypt was highlighted on the news. Some women have created harassmap site to alert others to areas where women have been abused. But this isn’t new. We have heard of numerous nations, groups, and forces who, as part of their terror, overthrowing or rebellion, rape women and girls as part of their undermining of the other side. It’s horrible and we know it’s horrible. Or at least everyone says that until they’re involved, so in fact there are some (and I mean ONLY SOME) men who do not feel it’s too horrible to be a perpetrator in such times of violence.

virgins, sexualization, victimization, women's rights, subjugation

If you’re not a virgin, you must be a slut, and maybe, like this cover, you’ll be both.

How long have women been made victims in one way or another? I don’t know but we know one aspect begins with the Bible when Eve was blamed for taking the forbidden fruit and giving it to Adam. As if he couldn’t make up his own mind. As if he were a child. As if she used coercion that was more than handing it to him. Myth for some, apocryphal for others, yet truth for yet another group, this motif has flavored treatment of women for many ages. Yet Christianity is by far not the only religion to blame. While religion may or may not be the reason women are treated as lesser beings, it also goes to cultures that decided to make cultural rights and practices part of their religion. (the veil is not part of the Quran). Ownership and a man’s superior physical strength made women chattels, or possession or slaves. So yes, there is a long history of women being victimized.

Adam and Eve, sexism, women's rights

Was Adam too stupid to get the fruit for himself, or was he just making Eve do all the work? Lucas Cranach 1538

There are those who, for whatever misguided reason, believe that women belong in these categories. Are you one of them? Should a woman walk behind a man, answer only to him, be kept housed or hidden for only his desires, be blamed for all the faults of humankind? Think about it. Most women are not the perpetrators of war and violence. It is mostly men who go to war.

Let’s take religion out of it for a minute. Yes, women are still victimized. Raped because a criminal won’t control his urges. Beaten because a man is angered. Killed because she leaves her abusive partner or mars something as ephemeral and subjective as honor, in the eyes of a father or brother or husband. She’s the sex kitten who is of course a slut and good for one thing. She is a prude who won’t let a man control her, she is a virgin to be idolized by men because when they get her she hasn’t been tainted by other men, as if she’s a holy relic, as if it’s okay that they have been with other women. She is raped by a gang of men and yet she is charged with adultery or another crime. Look at that poor woman in India. Look at your own city and see how many women and girls have been raped or beaten or murdered or just hit upon. The news doesn’t report even half of them. George sleeps with a different woman every night and he’s just sowing his oats while those women are all sluts. That’s fair, isn’t it?

sexism, sexist ads, women's rights

Ask yourself, why isn’t it a man’s body for a man’s shoe?

A police officer recently told women to not dress provocatively if they wanted to avoid being sexually assaulted. In some Middle Eastern countries anything less than covered in the burqa is considered provocative. In other countries you can be in a loincloth and nothing more and that’s not provocative. Whether a person’s dress is considered to be salacious or not, that is no reason for sexual abuse of any sort. They’re not “asking for it.” If you think your god will disapprove, let him or her decide, not you. If you are afraid it will incite a man to his base desires, then what are you saying about men, that they are only beasts and uncontrollable? And if that’s the case, then it’s they who should be caged. I like to afford everyone the same right. The right to be free, think for themselves and have an equal chance at jobs and life. Men and women. No one group gets painted with a big brush.

That means whether they’re of one religion or none, any color or ethnicity, any gender or gender preference. Unfortunately the world is not fair nor equal but we, you and me, could all do better at ethically getting rid of stereotypes and not feeding into this view. Scoffing and continuing in the vein of labeling women sluts, whores, tramps and seductresses only leads to more women being subjugated, raped, owned or downtrodden as lesser beings because of someone’s beliefs. The only belief that should really matter is that you can do what you want, as long as you do not hurt or subjugate anyone else. Let’s try living like that for awhile.

sluts, whores, tramps, subjugating women, sexual abuse

The slut walk came about because men’s attitudes mean women ask for or deserve whatever they get. Creative Commons: Spanginator

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Miss Universe Should Be Miss Trophy Wife

jenna tacklokova, sexism, women, beauty pageants

Jenna Tacklokova walks the razor’s edge between equality and sexism. Photo: Model Mayhem. com

Jenna Talackova, Vancouver’s representative for the Miss Universe Canada pageant has made headlines recently because she was disqualified as not being genetically female. Genetically, some women will be more female or male than others, as will men. And while her gene pool designated her as male at birth she obviously never felt or believed she was male. Could you tell whether my female friend or I was more genetically female? And really,  why did it matter what she was born as if she is a woman today?

Because the veneer of depth to any beauty pageant is as thin as the fact that these are set up as a shopping mall for rich men. What? You think this isn’t true? Have you looked at what they’re judged on? At least they call it a beauty pageant. Just check out the wiki entry, which outlines that you’re judged on poise in a bathing suit and in an evening gown. Why not business attire and casual clothes? They added in a tough question or two that contestants have to answer on goals, dreams, ethics, maybe favorite fruit, but that’s supposed to give some depth while trends indicate the organizers have dropped the emphasis in recent years. So really, it’s about the prettiest flower in the bouquet. Even if most of these women are intelligent and achieving great things in their own right, such a pageant put greater emphasis on the coating than on the interior.

beauty pageant, miss universe, sexual exploitation, sexism, miss universe canada

A beauty pageant of a different sort. This one’s for perfect spines, but they still used women. Life photo archive–Wallace Kirkland 1956

sexism, beauty pageants, exploitation, bigotry, beauty

Beauty pageants like to keep women in their place, as ornaments and chattel. Creative Commons

Is it so wrong to be judged on beauty? I guess it depends. I’ve already commented on the severe wrongness of the toddler beauty pageants; at least these people are adults, even if they have to jump through hoops. We all like beautiful things and are drawn to the good looking people or animals or resorts or dinners. And while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the beholden tend towards certain standards. The Mr. Universe “pageant” seems to just be about body building so one could say it’s all about the body as well. But let’s get back to the transgendered Jenna. Originally she was disqualified because she wasn’t female enough. Why on earth would it matter when she looks like a woman and has all the body parts of a woman? You can’t be Miss Universe if you have children or are married, either. Oh heck, here’s what the site says: They must not have ever been married, not had a marriage annulled nor given birth to, or parented, a child. The titleholders are also required to remain single throughout their reign. Now why might these restrictions make a difference to the title of Miss Universe? Well, if you’re pregnant you might have to drop out of your one-year tour of duty. But married, divorced or having a boyfriend/girlfriend (they don’t mention that you must be straight)–well gosh, if you had a relationship, then all those RICH MEN might not think that you can be theirs. And all those men would FREAK OUT if they thought they were chatting up a potential trophy wife who might once have had the same tackle as what dangles between their legs.

I don’t think we should make this equal and start parading men for their body parts either. I believe that Vancouver once moved away in the past from teen beauty pageants and then just had youth ambassadors, who could be any gender. That makes more sense. Judge people as a whole, not on that thin veneer that will wrinkle and age like anyone else’s. Your merits, intelligence and demeanor can last longer than ephemeral beauty.

Miss Bala, beauty pageant, sexism, female exploitation, womens rights

Miss Bala was a movie about a fixed beauty pageant and how a woman gets victimized as the winner and is a drug lord’s mule.

Miss Bala was a gritty movie about a woman who wins a fixed contest because the winner is nothing more than a sex and drug puppet for the local drug lord. On one hand I give Ms Talackova kudos for slapping the Miss Universe (and Donald Trump) organizers upside the head. On the other, I ask why she’s bowing to these exploitative conventions, except that life can be very hard for transgendered people and there is a lot of prejudice out there, so if she can get some money and positive attention, that could make a big difference. When the organizers disqualified her for not being female enough I wonder if they also looked at those who have botox, breast implants, any sort of reductions or cosmetic surgery, false eyelashes or even makeup. After all, what’s true beauty? It’s what resides within that matters most.

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