Thursday, February 28, 2019

Women in Horror Month - the Finale

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:

My 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 activities.

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 sex. 
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 growth.
Go forth and represent, my sisters!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I hear ya. I disregarded so many ideas early in my writing attempts as outlandish and dumb, yet loved other writers(mostly male) who indulged this itch. It wasn't until I said eff it, I'm writing what I want, that I got published.