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Black Static

New Horror Fiction BLACK STATIC ISSUE 71 OUT NOW!

The Weekend After the Month Before

5th Mar, 2011

Author: Peter Tennant

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Women in Horror Recognition Month is now over as far as the Case Notes blog is concerned, though before normal service resumes (normal service being me blathering on about the book shaped freebies I've been sent and other nonsense) I thought it would be instructive to take a look back at some of the things that went on during February.

But first a special thanks to the ladies who've provided some entertaining and thought provoking posts here during the last twenty eight days or so - Nina Allan, Carole Johnstone, Maura McHugh and Gemma Files, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Lynda E. Rucker. Take a bow!

Maura hasn't been blogging just for us, but she's also posted 'Women in Horror: Five Recommended Writers' at the Bad Reputation site. Click on the link below to check it out and find out who they are.

Over at my personal blog I've been writing about stories by women authors that have appeared in Black Static. Check that out as well, as I need the traffic.

Laird Barron probably gets plenty of traffic already at his Domination of Black blog, but if you want to add to that then take a look at his 'I call bullshit' post of the 9th of February for some thoughts on the lack of women writers in horror anthologies.

Over at Little Miss Zombie they ran interviews with female writers and editors all through February, including Lisa Morton, Allyson Bird, Ellen Datlow and Sarah Langan. There's a wealth of insight, opinion and experience to tap into over there, so check it out.

What I found most interesting were responses to the question 'Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?' There seem to be as many different answers as there are interviewees, with even a difference of opinion as to whether there actually are fewer women writing horror, though everyone seems to agree that there is less work by women being published as horror. The most comprehensive answer comes from Nancy Kilpatrick, and if you want food for thought about this issue then she serves up a seven course banquet. Read it, even if you ignore all the rest.

Lastly, if you need an explanation of why initiatives like Women in Horror Recognition Month are necessary, then take a look at Lisa Morton's survey of the 2010 output from six major small press publishers over on her Live Journal.

This last got me wondering how we shape up in the UK, so I took a quick look at some of the small presses over here, though it's not always possible to isolate the horror output of any individual publisher, at least not without more work than I'm prepared to put in.

Contributions by women to Black Static might be running at something like 25%, but of the six books TTA Press has published over the years none have been by a woman.

Telos are probably the largest UK small press after PS, and their 'Authors' page shows eleven women out of seventy five writers in total who have been published by them.

New(ish) publisher Doghorn probably have the best track record for gender, though I'm not sure if they'd accept a horror label for much of their output. Out of eleven single author books, five have been written by a woman, and several issues of their journal Polluto have been edited or part-edited by a woman.

Screaming Dreams have published thirteen single author books so far, and only one has been by a woman, Bull Running for Girls by Allyson Bird, which won them a British Fantasy Award. They have three more titles in the pipeline that I can see listed on the site, one of them by a woman.

Nightjar have published eight chapbooks so far, one of them by a woman. It's too early to say anything useful about Spectral, with only one chapbook released as yet, by Gary McMahon, but some female names - Alison Littlewood, Cate Gardner - do appear in their forthcoming roster.

Pendragon have twelve single author works out already and another five pending, but only a chapbook by Toiya Kristen Finley scores for the distaff side. They did however publish a novelette by Allyson Bird as a free download.

With ten single author works out, Eibonvale have published only one by a female, a collection of short stories by Nina Allan. Gray Friar have published seventeen single author works, and the only one by a female is Lisa Morton's The Castle of Los Angeles, which is nominated for a Stoker. Chomu have published or announced eight titles, and none of them are by a woman.

I'm not sure what sort of gender divide you'd find in Murky Depths, but as far as books go, House of Murky Depths has published eight, and three of them are by a woman - Sam Stone's Vampire Gene trilogy (the other five are graphic novel format).

Looking at these figures, with a couple of exceptions, I'd echo Lisa Morton's conclusion that it's pathetic. While I don't expect a 50/50 gender divide across all genres and think horror is probably an area where more men than women will be published, I'm surprised to find women this poorly represented. Yes, as far as interest and participation in horror goes there is a gap between the sexes, but surely it's not a chasm.

The benefits to the horror genre of a broad fan base, a cross-gender readership, are obvious, not least because the participation of a sizable number of women authors will help us shake off the old accusations of misogyny and reach out to even more readers. And, regardless of actual output, I'm certain all of these publishers would describe themselves as sympathetic to work by women authors, and say that quality is the only criteria for acceptance

So why isn't it happening?

Have we got into a vicious and self-perpetuating circle where women don't submit because they see the small press as predominantly a boys' club and the publishers mostly feature work by men because the women don't submit?

Is it that simple?

And if so how do we break out of it?

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