In case you haven’t heard, February is Women in Horror Month, a celebration that’s now in its eleventh year. This annual event is a perfect opportunity to highlight all the amazing female-penned horror that should promptly make its way to your bookshelf. Because I trust you already know all about The Haunting of Hill House and Frankenstein, I’ll spare you that refresher course. Instead, this list is all about the female horror authors still out there writing today. And just to be clear: these are authors you should be reading year-round, not just in February. This month, however, is an ideal time to start expanding that To Be Read pile.
Drawing influence from fairy tales, folklore, and myth, Howard’s stories feel at once unmistakably grand in scope as well as deeply personal. From her debut novel Roses and Rot, which follows two sisters who head off to an artists’ retreat that offers more than meets the eye, to her latest collection, A Cathedral of Myth and Bone, which recently made it on the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award, her work resonates with both horror fans and lovers of fairy tales alike. A modern-day Angela Carter, Howard is a vivid storyteller and undoubtedly a woman in horror to watch.
Like many of the authors here, Glasser’s work is not strictly horror, but her fiction most definitely veers into wonderfully strange territory often enough to earn her a place on this list. Her short story, “Rituals of Gorgons,” which appeared in Clash Books’ Tragedy Queens anthology, blends elements of horror and mythology to tell an incredibly layered love story between two trans women who are done dealing with the ruthless paparazzi who stalk them. Her first standalone novella, F4, was released in 2018 from Eraserhead Press to a steady stream of rave reviews, and Glasser is at work on her next book, which means fortunately for us, she’s just getting started.
With her star steadily climbing over the last few years, Pelayo has become a force in the dark fantasy and horror genres. The author of numerous collections including Loteria, The Missing, and Santa Muerte, there’s so much to love about her books, from the richly beautiful writing to the gorgeous cover art from Abigail Larson. A journalist out of Chicago, Pelayo is also a skilled nonfiction writer, and her work has been nominated for numerous awards, including The International Latino Book Awards and the Elgin Award, so if she isn’t already on your horror radar, then use this month to remedy that.
An author as well as an accomplished visual artist, Dalpe’s work delves into the wondrous and weird, always exploring what’s just beneath the surface, and never shying away from difficult topics. Her young adult novel, Parasite Life, offers a unique take on traditional horror tropes, and her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies over the past five years, including Wicked Weird: An Anthology of the New England Horror Writers and The Monsters We Forgot, Volumes One and Two. With the release of Dalpe’s new short fiction and artwork becoming something of a regular occasion, it’s always a treat to see what horrifying creations she’ll bring us next.
A multiple award nominated author and the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, S.P. Miskowski is frequently heralded as one of the foremost voices in weird and horror fiction today—and for good reason. You’ve probably come across her work in any number of Year’s Best anthologies, but just in case you aren’t reading her yet, consider this a reminder: she’s producing some of the most unsettling and uncompromising fiction today. Her latest novel, The Worst Is Yet to Come, emerged as a major force in the genre last year and is still racking up acclaim nearly a year after its release. Testament to Miskowski’s writing and her work’s staying power.
Castro is a relative newcomer to horror, but she’s already making a strong mark on the genre. Her novel, Maria the Wanted and the Legacy of The Keepers, incorporates elements of adventure and thriller while breathing new life into the old traditions of horror, and her forthcoming novella, Hairspray and Switchblades, is sure to do the same, with two shapeshifting sisters who will do whatever it takes to stay together and stay alive. As editor of Latinx Screams, an anthology featuring all Latinx authors coming soon from Bronzeville Books, Castro is proving herself again and again to be a vibrant and vital new voice in the horror genre, and someone whose work you should most definitely check out this Women in Horror Month.
As the author of glass slipper dreams, shattered, her debut collection from Apokrupha, gam is another rising star in the horror genre. In her gorgeous short fiction, which has appeared in anthologies such as Nox Pareidolia and Lost Highways, gam frequently explores themes of identity and trauma through a horror lens, crafting prose that’s simultaneously raw and visceral while also achingly beautiful and vulnerable. Her latest novelette, watch the whole goddamn thing burn, is part of Nightscape Press’s Charitable Chapbook series, with a third of the proceeds benefitting Trans Lifeline.
Blending elements of Southern Gothic, magic, and the weird, Eden Royce has a unique voice unlike any other author out there. Her collections, Spook Lights and Spook Lights 2, helped put her on the map in the horror genre, and her short fiction has appeared everywhere from Nightmare and Pseudopod to the Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror and the widely acclaimed anthology Sycorax’s Daughters. Royce’s debut middle-grade novel, Tying the Devil’s Shoestrings, which explores coming of age, rootwork, and racism in the South, is due out later this year from Walden Pond Press.
Over the last decade, Carrie Laben has been steadily building her career in horror and weird fiction, racking up a list of impressive publications in The Dark, Clarkesworld, and Indiana Review, among others. A Shirley Jackson Award winner, her story, “Postcards for Natalie,” is a virtual master class in suspense, horror, and character building. For fans of longer work, A Hawk in the Woods, Laben’s debut novel released last year from Word Horde, follows two witch sisters who return to their childhood homestead where toxic family dynamics and shadowy magic awaits them.
So those are nine female horror authors to get you started this Women in Horror Month. However, this is far from an exhaustive list. Who are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!
Gwendolyn Kiste is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, from JournalStone; the dark fantasy novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, from Broken Eye Books; and her debut novel, The Rust Maidens, from Trepidatio Publishing. Her short fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Shimmer, Black Static, Daily Science Fiction, Interzone, LampLight, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye as well as Flame Tree Publishing’s Chilling Horror Short Stories anthology, among others. Originally from Ohio, she now resides on an abandoned horse farm outside of Pittsburgh with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts. You can also find her online at Facebook and Twitter.