Before I dive into the list of some of the more under-recognized women on this list, I will say that there are several women who have made contributions to the horror and dark fantasy genres and that they can’t all possibly be named. But if I can highlight at least a few female writers who make readers take a second look, my women of horror features will come full circle.
This month, I decided to dedicate my blog posts to the women of the horror genre with a decidedly literary bent. I wanted to show readers that although there seems to be a disproportionate amount of men in the horror genre and some people insist on continuing the archaic “boys club” model of interaction, there are plenty of women making important contributions to this genre, and who have made important contributions. They are just as talented, their work just as visceral and edgy, and they deserve to be recognized for their work. Hopefully there will come a point one day when gender won’t be a part of the equation, and horror writers, regardless of whether they are male or female, will be acknowledged because of their talent and how good their fiction is.
I hope there are some new finds on this list for those who read it.
1. Kathe Koja – With a strong debut like The Cipher, it’s a shame more people haven’t heard of Koja, who is one of the most outstanding novelists in the genre.
2. Mehitobel Wilson – Fangoria Magazine has said she’s the real deal – read some of her fiction, including stories “Heavy Hands” and “Land of Odds, One Mile” and you’ll know why
3. Charlee Jacob – With more than 950 publishing credits, Charlee is one of the most prolific scribes of dark poetry and prose. I recommend Dread in the Beast (Necro Publications)
4. Fran Friel – two-time Bram Stoker Award finalist and winner of the Black Quill Award, Fran Friel is no stranger to dark fiction, and is a frequent contributor to anthologies such as Horror Library Volume 1, Tiny Terrors II, and Legends of the Mountain State III.
5. Mary Sangiovanni – If you haven’t read The Hollower, you’re missing out on one of the most truly disturbing and chilling works in recent years.
6. Sara Gran – don’t let this pretty face fool you – Come Closer will thoroughly disturb you (in a good way, of course).
7. Lisa Tuttle – This John W. Campbell Award Winning author has gotten better and better with each work, including recent novel The Silver Bough (2006).
8. Barbara Roden – hailing from British Columbia, Canada, Barbara is noted as a great editor in the field, but she’s also an accomplished writer in her own right
9. Marly Youmans – award-winning author Marly Youmans has a decidedly more darkly fantastical vibe to her than “traditional” horror but has produced some of the most beautiful dark fiction
10. Catherynne M. Valente – since she emerged on the scene with debut novel The Labyrinth, Catherynne has quickly made herself one of the most memorable genre writers. Her work is highly original and memorable.
11. Margo Lanagan – an Aussie with a passion for writing macabre fiction, Margo Lanagan is at the top of her game, and should definitely be checked out. Start with Tender Morsels.
12. Caitlin R. Kiernan – one of the most eclectic genre fiction writers, she’s also one of the most controversial. Her fiction is some of the darkest, strangest, and most wonderful stuff out there.
13. Melanie Tem – along with her writer husband Steven Rasnic Tem, Melanie makes up one half of one of horror’s power couples. Individually, they’re both powerful writers, but when they combine their talents, as they have with In Concert: Tales of the Fantastic, they’re an unstoppable force.
14. Kaaron Warren – representing some more thunder from Down Under, All You Can Do is Breathe is one of her best pieces to date – the Bram Stoker jury certainly thought so, which is why she’s nominated for the prestigious award.
15. Suzy McKee Charnas – The New York Times book review called The Vampire Tapestry among the genre’s few classics, high praise indeed for one of the most memorable vampire fiction works in recent memory.
16. Kit Reed – she has had a long and storied career, and that can be attributed to her psychologically gripping and thought-provoking works.
17. Marjorie Bowen – often a forgotten author, she published her first novel The Viper of Milan to great acclaim when she was 21. Her supernatural tales and mournful gothic romances are wonders waiting to be discovered.
18. Tananarive Due – also one half of another genre fiction power couple (Due is married to novelist Steven Barnes), her made some of the most important contributions to the genre. If you’re a fan of Nalo Hopkinson’s work, you should definitely read Due’s.
19. Sandy DeLuca – Sandy possesses one of the most distinct voices in the genre, and should definitely be on your TBR pile.
20. Tina Jens – The Blues Ain’t Nothin’ represents a cool fusion of music and the supernatural. She’s also the editor of Twilight Tales.
21. Tamara Thorne (aka Chris Curry) – another prolific writer, this fan of the spooky gained prominence in the field with such works as Candle Bay and Bad Things.
22. Amanda Stevens – The Restorer is one of the most haunting works, and forces readers to slow down and appreciate the beauty of a true craftswoman.
23. Deborah Leblanc – a Louisiana native, she has authored such great works as Family Inheritance and Water Witch among others.
24. Nina Kiriki Hoffman – another Bram Stoker Award-winning author, The Thread that Binds the Bones is a testament to how truly talented this writer is
25. Dion Fortune – another forgotten horror scribe, she’s definitely one of the most obscure writers on this list, with a colourful past, most of which included being drawn to the occult. The Demon Lover is a great place to start.
26. Gemma Files – another Canadian, her dark fantasy and horror works are among the most praised in the genre, and with good reason. She won an International Horror Guild Award. A Tree of Bones, the third novel in her Hexslinger series, is forthcoming this year from ChiZine. Start with the first novel in the series, A Book of Tongues.
For those who are interested in women-only horror anthologies dedicated to celebrating the often under-recognized female talent in this genre, there have been a few published:
- Women of Darkness I (ed. Kathryn Ptacek)
- Women of Darkness II (ed. Kathryn Ptacek)
- Witches’ Brew: Horror and Supernatural Stories by Women edited by Marcia Muller and Bill Prinzini
- Women Who Run With the Werewolves: Tales of Blood, Lust and Metamorphosis edited by Pam Keesey