We round out #WIHM 2019. Thank you for reading and please visit the ladies' pages and show some support.
Please read on for Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert:
Journey to Horror (and Why Women’s Representation in Horror Matters)
I’ve always loved horror. I didn’t fully realize it
until a few years ago.
As a panelist on horror-related topics at genre
conventions, I often joke that “scifi was my gateway drug to horror.” This is
true; and scifi partly obscured my love of horror until I was in my 40s.
One of my first exposures to horror was the TV
adaption of Planet of the Apes, circa
1974. I think I’d already seen the movie/(s) by then, but I distinctly remember
sitting in my living room, on the green shag carpeting, eyes glued to the
television, watching humans suffer at the hands of intelligent apes. Even at
six years of age, a part of me understood that this was a metaphor for how
people treated each other.
Although most would consider the “Planet of the
Apes” products to be scifi, there are definite horror elements—who can forget
Charlton Heston seeing the Statue of Liberty buried on
the beach at the end of the 1968 film?
Scifi was on quite a bit at my house because my father was a fan. Reruns of Star Trek. Dr. Who. Creature Double
Feature on the weekends (if you grew up in the Boston area, and are of “a
certain age” you should know what this is!) All of these have noticeable horror
elements, even though, again, they were primarily billed as science fiction.
I grew older and discovered my love of reading; I
was particularly attracted to dystopias. I began to write dark poetry. A few
years later I was reading the early Steven King novels, V.C. Andrews, Coma by Robin Cook, and in high school
“true story” novels such as Helter
Skelter. By then I’d seen movies such as Amityville Horror, 2001, and Alien
(which continues to be one of my top five movies of all time.)
But I did not consider myself a horror fan. In the mid-to-late
80s, the kids I knew who “liked horror” listened to heavy metal music (I didn’t)
and watched the predominant horror movies at the time, which were quickly
becoming the slasher variety. While never adverse to blood and gore, the
“slasher” type of movie never appealed to me (give me demonic possession or an
alien bursting out of a chest any day.) In contrast to the “horror fans” I knew,
I was a three-sport athlete and involved in various school clubs and
By the time I was in college, it was clear I liked my entertainment “dark,” but
I did not embrace the “horror fan” label. I still did not have any close
friends who were horror fans, although I did seek out the scifi-loving,
“alternative” crowd at my small, catholic college.
Looking back now, I can see that despite being a
lifelong feminist, it never occurred to me that “liking” horror was a viable
option (there’s an important point to be made here about representation, and
I’ll elaborate on that below.) I was already considered odd because I wrote
poetry and liked to read science fiction. And the science fiction I was reading at that
time did address more feminist, intersectional, and queer-positive themes (e.g.,
The Handmaid’s Tale, Woman on the Edge of Time, The Left Hand of
Darkness.) Many years later—after almost a decade of often debilitating
anxiety and depression—I would re-discover my love of writing and my love of
dark fiction. I stumbled upon Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower, and my life was never the same.
If you haven’t read Butler’s work (and if you
haven’t, you must rectify that immediately) you know how perfectly she combines
science fiction and horror, while speaking to issues of race, privilege, gender,
And now, back to representation.
Every February during Women in Horror Month, people
make statements such as “we need to get to a place where we don’t need a Women
in Horror Month.” I agree. And until we get there, we need Women in Horror
Months, Black History Months, and similar ways to raise awareness of
traditionally-underrepresented groups. This is why representation matters.
I wonder what kind of difference it would have made
for me as a youth if I knew of more women writing in horror and other
speculative genres. If I’d seen women represented in these genres on-screen in
more nuanced and humanizing ways.
As Women in Horror Month draws to a close, I hope to
be more visible. I especially want my sisters of color and my queer sisters to
be more visible. Our visibility is crucial to the world. Who knows how many
girls are out there, waiting to be inspired? Waiting to be told their love of
reading, watching, and writing speculative fiction—including horror—is
perfectly okay? Similarly, males need to see women represented in fully human
ways, no longer simply the “Mary Sue,” the “Manic-Pixie Dreamgirl.” Women’s
suffering in fiction should no longer be the easy plot device, driving men’s
Go forth and represent, my sisters!