“I stand outside this woman’s work/this woman’s world”–Kate Bush
“I am a woman with thoughts and questions and shit to say. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story—I will.”–Amy Schumer
Horror fiction is dominated by male authors, writing stories about men from a male perspective, and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that.
Horror fiction is always evolving and adapting, because the genre is shaped by those who write it and those who read it. If anything is a clear indication that horror is taking on a new identity, it’s the year 2020. A quick glance at the year’s bestsellers and fan favorites will tell the story of horror knocking down antiquated boundaries and gatekeeping and instead embracing new voices telling their own stories. These are seven recommendations of horror by women who demand to be heard.
Girl Like a Bomb, Autumn Christian
This book explores one woman’s journey of self-actualization through a sexual awakening. Beverly Sykes realizes the powerful gift she contains in her natural, female body and experiments with a variety of sexual partners, changing them indelibly. “I pushed my light into him, dissolving the rottenness from his bones until he was born anew.”
Into the Forest and All the Way Through, Cynthia Pelayo
This collection of poetry is the dedicated work of Cina’s hands. The unsolved cases of missing and murdered women clearly have haunted her for a long time. Instead of writing from a posture of passivity, the author has elected to marinate in that pain and suffering long enough to then be able to sit down and bleed these stories onto the page. This is Cina’s activism and we can take part by reading, reviewing, and promoting her cause.
Apple and Knife, Intan Paramaditha, trans. Stephen J. Epstein
A short story collection featuring gothic ghost stories, supernatural tales, and short, feminist horrors. Translated from Indonesian to English, this collection explores themes of abortion, sex, race, and the female body, bridging the gap between women of one culture and another–we all experience similar trials and tribulations.
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, ed. Lee Murray & Geneve Flynn
As the title suggests, these stories are about Southeast Asian women breaking down societal and cultural expectations. I enjoyed the themes of parental pressure, love and loss, motherhood, and self-actualization/identity. The beauty of this collection is in the diversity of the voices and the individuality and uniqueness of each story coming together in one book.
Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire, ed. Nicole Givens Kurtz
This anthology celebrates a variety of subjects: vampires of the African diaspora, the LBGTQ+ community, and strong, female protagonists. I cannot recommend it enough. I came away from this collection with several new authors I want to read more of and a charged-up passion to seek out more anthologies that are assembled with intention. One of my favorite books of 2020.
Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark
Okay, this book was written by a man, BUT I’ll use every opportunity I can to sing its praises from the rooftops! This story will appeal to fans of a wide variety of genres, including historical fiction, dark fantasy, and, of course, horror. But right now I’m highlighting the fact that all the major characters are women. Badass, spirited, wild, brave, secure-in-their-own-skin WOMEN! It’s both honoring and refreshing to read a book that represents women in such a powerful, demonstrative way. Let’s celebrate men writing women well.
A Nest of Nightmares, Lisa Tuttle
This collection is sorely underrated. If you’re a horror fan who loves the short fiction form, Lisa Tuttle’s A Nest of Nightmares is perfection. Tuttle’s stories test the fragility of the human experience through stories from the female perspective. These particular nightmares typically begin in subtlety but almost always veer off into something more sinister. A must read!