Thoughts on Women Horror Authors

So I’ve been thinking lately about that age-old topic that gets my blood boiling…women and horror. I feel strongly about gender equality in genre, I think that we have a lot to contribute to the dark genres, and when I happened upon an old post about the top 25 women horror writers you’ve never heard of, I smugly checked it out only to find…

…I’ve never read anything by any of them.

I’m fairly ashamed of this. So this has got me thinking about things. I’m going to try to check out some of these ladies during the winter when I (hopefully) have some more down time.

In the mean time, women authors that can be considered at home in the horror genre that I love.

1. Anne Rice – yeah I know. Like it or love it, she doesn’t necessarily shy away from dark topics, and while I wouldn’t classify her as straight-up horror, she has pioneered a weird horror/urban fantasy/gothic blend that is uniquely hers. Many people are addicted to her vampire titles. Like them or loathe them, they have contributed a lot to the genre in their own way.

2. Poppy Z. Brite – A more modern name that also blends gothic themes with edgy, punk sensibilities. I’ve read more of her short fiction than I have her longer works, but I have to say that she definitely holds her own against some of her male counterparts.

3. Shirley Jackson – Love her. LOVE HER. She has created one of my favorite ghost stories ever, one of my favorite haunted house stories. She plays the line between paranormal and insanity so very well in The House on Haunted Hill, and truly made me realize that women don’t have to write like men (or as graphic as they sometimes do) to get their point across.

4, Nancy A. Collins – Love the Sonja Blue series, and I have to admit her Vamps YA series is a guilty pleasure for me (though it’s more brand name-dropping than plot at times. You have to admire what she’s trying to do, even if the execution isn’t as brilliant as her adult works).  The Sonja Blue series was the first splatterpunk works I ever read, and once I got my stomach back in my body, I was fascinated. What happens when you combine the hardcore insane emotions that women tend to have with the gore people might associate with a male writer? What happens when you blend it with some really ingenious ideas and gasp-worthy plot points? Sonja Blue happens, that’s what.

5. Matsuri Akino – I stumbled upon the Petshop of Horrors series when I first started reading manga. An episode-style setup with an overall theme that spans all the volumes of the series, these can be read as stand alones or all together. The plots center around people buying strange and exotic pets that reflect what lessons they need to learn or issues they need to address – and most often the outcomes are not pleasant. The way they see the pets are also always different from what they actually are, which makes for some shocking final pages in each story. These will suck you in and make you shudder, plus the personality of Count D is a trip. If you are new to manga (or even if you aren’t) this is worth checking out.

6. Kaori Yuki – I’m most familiar with her series Godchild (which is part of a much longer arc that I haven’t obtained yet). That series, at least, is a prime example of why shoujo manga isn’t just a “girly” genre. Sure, there are feminine sensibilities at times and the plot does rely on a lot of emotion, but some of the plot points, things that fuel the characters, and twists are pretty sick and sadistic. This is definitely gothic-fueled, both in art and in storyline. Godchild combines fairy tale elements with end of the world plots, secret cults, family curses, cloning, and a whole lot more. As delicate as the story can be at times and as gorgeous as the art work is, make no mistake: this lady knows how to write a sinister tale.

7. Rachel Klein – I recently read The Moth Diaries and fell in love with it. It is a modern, gothic-style version of Carmilla involving three boarding school students. It is both commentary and metaphor, plus a really great, creepy story. She is adept at having her teen characters express their vile emotions and make you believe that they are valid. Plus, her antagonist Ernessa, is so secretive that she will really make you wonder what the hell is going on for a lot of the book.

8. Ellen Datlow – has been responsible for a lot of great horror, fantasy, and dark fantasy anthologies. Her pics are usually dead on, and I’ve learned a ton from gravitating to books that feature her selections, as well as devouring her thoughts on things that may not be covered in the books in the introductions. She is truly an asset to genre fiction, and I hope we get much more from her in years to come.


So how about you? Who are your favorite femme fatale authors? What women rock the horror or dark fantasy genres? Who does the world deserve to know about?

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Women Horror Authors

  1. Selah Jane, I had no idea you hadn’t read the entire Godchild series. What a wonderful perverse pleasure that sequence is.
    I also must add to your list Tanith Lee, her of the lovely short stories and novels that kiss words with her pen. She has a bibliography site online as well as a personal site. Birthgrave is a classic and for young adults her Unicorn series and Claidi series stretch the imagination.
    She’s become darker in her writing in the last few years because I think that’s what people want, and she’s also turned more to YA books to get an audience.
    The most underrated writer I consistently read.

    1. I’ve read Godchild but…isn’t there like an Earl Kain arc or something? There’s like two other series in the main plot, right? Those are the ones I haven’t read (mainly because the library doesn’t carry them and I’ve yet to find time to go looking for them online). And I knew I was forgetting someone – I kept trying to remember if Tanith Lee was more dark fantasy or if she’s done horror. I always associate her name with Ellen Datlow, but I couldn’t remember what she’d worked on. I will definitely have to check out those titles you recommended. I agree – she’s definitely underrated.

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