Monday, October 19, 2009

I Aim To Join the Women's Horror Club

by Sophie Littlefield


This time of year, I love to pick up an unapologetically creepy horror novel and shudder my way through it. I love horror, and consumed the usual amounts of Stephen King, particularly the short stories, when I was a kid. Since then, I haven't read as much horror, but that is changing. After consuming HEART-SHAPED BOX in a couple of breathless days, I moved on to Joe Hill's short story collection, and that re-ignited my old fondness for the genre.

It's been exciting to discover women who are writing what I have, probably ill-advisedly, dubbed "girl horror." (That is a terrible term for many reasons, not the least of which is we don't need to give men any more encouragement to disregard books written by women.) What I mean by that is a story that is character-driven first and foremost; in which the plot is inextricably linked to the characters (meaning it would not unspool the same way with a different cast - hey, that was pretty smart, wasn't it? I just came up with that but I think I'll start using it); in which sensory details run a broader spectrum than those associated with terror (this richness makes for a far more ambiguous and thus more interesting novel); and in which relationships change as a result of the psychological response to horror, not just to the events themselves.

The first such author I encountered was Alex Sokoloff. Avid blog readers already know Alex for her essays on writing and craft. The same year I met Alex, I also met Rhodi Hawk, whose horror novel will be out shortly; I am looking forward to it.
And the following year I met Laura Benedict, whose novels exemplify the creepy/character mix I really enjoy. Other women on my horror TBR pile include Sarah Langan and Sara Gran.

That's by no means meant to be a complete list, and I'd love to hear suggestions from you. One group of writers that deserves more attention is those who write in the short story form.
Cemetery Dance and The Shroud, among others, publish women authors who do a commendable job of stretching the limits of what we consider horror.
I have been writing horror short stories for several years, but only recently did I place one. It will appear in a print anthology edited by David Cranmer - I'll keep y'all posted.


Pop Culture Nerd said...

Sophie, you spent a whole long weekend partying with Hoosiers and still managed to post this today? You are superhuman.

At first, when I read the term "girl horror," I thought, How did you know what my bangs looked like in the '80s? Though I love the term, I must admit to being a total chicken when it comes to reading and watching horror. It gives me nightmares for months. The movie The Changeling (with George C. Scott) disrupted my entire adolescence and early 20s.

But I do like dark, twisted, sick thrillers so I guess there's a part of me that likes toeing the line.

Unknown said...

Congrats on your pending short story! Looking forward to reading it and exporing the other writers you mention.


Martha Flynn said...

That scene in heart shaped box where he first realizes the razor...AGH! AGH AGH AGH! I'm also guessing in girl horror there's not some older dude banging a hot young offense to Joe Hill's characters, of course. :)

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