Kenneth W. Cain is the author of The Saga of I (These Trespasses, Grave Revelations, Reckoning), The Dead Civil War, the acclaimed short story collection These Old Tales, and his latest short story collection Fresh Cut Tales. He lives with his wife and children in Eastern Pennsylvania. kennethwcain.com.
What’s This “Horror” You Speak Of?
by Kenneth W. Cain
When people discover I am a writer, the first question is almost always to ask what genre. I’m quick to snap off that I write horror, but despite a childhood filled with speech therapy I still sometimes have trouble with my R’s. Their reaction is just that, horror, when the last syllable has been dropped off the word. An awkward silence follows until I clarify my preferred genre as dark fiction.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
Inspired by such so-called “Greatest Horror Writers” lists as this and this — which include zero women — I asked our esteemed panel the following questions…
Q: Who are your favorite women horror writers? Which current women horror writers deserve more attention?
The founder of the award-winning Buzzcity Press, Ann VanderMeer
currently serves as an acquiring fiction editor for Tor.com, Cheeky Frawg Books, and weirdfictionreview.com
. She was the editor-in-chief for Weird Tales
for five years, during which time she was nominated three times for the Hugo Award, winning one. Along with nominations for the Shirley Jackson Award, she also has won a World Fantasy Award and a British Fantasy Award for co-editing The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories
. Other projects have included Best American Fantasy
, three Steampunk anthologies, and a humor book, The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals
. Her latest anthologies include Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution
, The Time Traveler’s Almanac
, and an as-yet unnamed anthology of feminist speculative fiction.
Here are some of my favorite women writers who write horror:
- Gertrude Barrows Bennett (writing as Francis Stevens) – She wrote a number of uncanny stories in the early 20th century and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy.” Indeed, it has been said that her fiction was a huge influence on H.P. Lovecraft. Although not all of Stevens’ work has dated well, she was the first American woman to have her weird fiction widely published and acclaimed.
- C.L. Moore – Catherine L. Moore was an American science fiction and fantasy writer, most often known as C.L. Moore. She was one of the first women to write in either genre, and paved the way for many other female speculative fiction writers. Her earliest stories appeared in Weird Tales and a lot of her work was very dark, hence I add her to this list.
- Daphne du Maurier – Although her work was incredibly dark, she was still a very popular writer during her lifetime. Many of her most prominent works have been adapted into movies. My favorite is “The Birds” from Alfred Hitchcock. Although her background could be considered more from the gothic side of fiction, I find her work very dark and disturbing.
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