It be Women in Horror Month, wahey! Don’t worry lads, only another couple of weeks and we’ll be back to Men in Everything 11 Months so don’t be worrying your pretty little heads over it. 😉 To be fair to my fairer sex all the posts from men that I’ve seen about WiHM have been extremely positive. However there is always someone who insists on behaving like something of a douche and, more than likely, starts speaking without engaging their brain-mouth filter.
Ridiculous cockwombles aside I think that any excuse to celebrate the fantastic fiction produced by women is a valid excuse. So I thought I would share some thoughts on some absolutely amazing women writers that I’ve discovered over the last few years.
Nicole Cushing has been producing short fiction in the Bizarro and Weird fiction genres for a good while now but it is her two longer pieces that I really want to bring to people’s attention –Children of No One (UK, USA) and I am the New God (UK, USA).
I first discovered Cushing’s work when I was searching online for work by Thomas Ligotti and this name kept on cropping up. Nicole Cushing, Nicole Cushing, Children of No One. My interest was piqued and so I decided to download Children of No One from Amazon. I’m not really a fan of ebooks on account of not having an e-ink reader and so having to read on my phone -I can’t read long texts on a screen and tend to even print off short stories rather than read them online. I devoured Children of No One however and went straight out to pre-order I am the New God.
Children of No One is a dark, very dark, look at the extremes to which a person can go when they are driven by a single goal and who are convinced of the overwhelming value of their desires. The story follows an extremely wealthy individual as he attempts to get access to an underground, highly illegal, art installation. Throw in a hefty dose of occult mystery and the disgusting attitude of the elite towards poor and working people and you have a disturbing, chilling, and fantastical tale of a very human darkness.
Cushing’s second novella, I am the New God, is perhaps, for the most part, a more traditional horror tale of madness and murder. A highly disturbed young man is contacted by, an, equally disturbed, monk who convinces him of his divine destiny. This results in twisted experiments to test the veracity of the monk’s claims, a murderous road trip, and a gloriously twisted and ecstatic finale.
Kiernan has been producing dark fiction since the early 1990s but I first found her fiction with the publication of the sublime The Drowning Girl: A Memoir in 2012. She has produced 10 novels, a whole bunch of comic books and hundreds of pieces of short fiction. She’s also a published palaeontologist to boot. The two works of Kiernan’s that I want to talk about are The Red Tree (UK, USA) and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir (UK, USA).
I’ve discussed The Red Tree before and so I’ll let that review speak for itself. Suffice to say this is one of the best pieces of cosmic horror produced in the last decade, at least the last decade.
The Drowning Girl: A Memoir is in some ways similar to The Red Tree in that it deals with an unreliable narrator who is fully aware that they are an unreliable narrator and makes no attempt to hide it. The Drowning Girl is the story of India Morgan Phelps, or Imp, a young woman with an undefined mental health issue kept stable with medication who has an encounter with a naked woman she meets by the side of a deserted road one spring, or possibly winter, who is a mermaid, or possibly a werewolf, and the affect this has on Imp and her relationship with her games journalist girlfriend.
Kiernan’s prose is utterly beautiful and her ability to build a sense of disorientation and weird horror is second to none.
Livia Llewellyn is a writer of erotically charged weird fiction. She has one collection of her short fiction currently available, 2011’s Engines of Desire: Tales of Love and Other Horrors (UK, USA), but has at least one new collection due out this year (I think).
I talked briefly about her story Furnace in my ongoing review of The Year’s Best Weird Fiction -you can read that here, which first appeared in the Thomas Ligotti tribute anthology The Grimscribe’s Puppets (UK, USA).
Another story of particular note that was published recently is It Feels Better Biting Down which was published in Nightmare Magazine’s October 2014 special Women Destroy Horror! special issue. A story of twin sisters with a special birth defect who encounter something weird that changes them completely yet somehow makes them even more themselves. Llewellyn’s language is rather erotically charged which adds to the discomfort the story instils in the reader.
These are just three of the prominent women currently writing wonderful weird fiction and who are some of the driving forces behind the weird renaissance that is presently underway. They are by no means alone in this however. There are some amazing women working in the field, too many in fact for me to even consider writing briefly about. We have the likes of Molly Tanzer, Gemma Files, A.C. Wise, Joyce Carol Oates, Ellen Datlow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Allyson Bird, Kathe Koja, and so many, many more. So many in fact that it seems absurd that we should need a Women in Horror Month and it is a sad fact, considering the breath taking quality of the work produced, that we still do.