Horror has been, almost since its inception as a genre, a boy’s club. While organizations like the Horror Writer’s Association seek out to engender equality by offering memberships based on merit, the fact remains that women horror writers are often relegated to the kid’s table, while occasionally lesser writers that happen to have a man’s name carry the forefront.
This is a societal problem, and a reflection of the lack of gender equality. Other genres are hit hard as well. Science Fiction is notorious for gender inequality. And very few men romance writers are taken seriously and often have to work harder for the same audience. There is an erroneous idea that a person’s gender identity is encapsulated by a name or that that dictates their ability to write different genres.
The NY times recently reported, Women who use a genderless pen name like P.D. James, or J.D. Robb (who happens to be Nora Roberts) have higher sales. Part of the problem is exposure. Reviewers, which can be the life blood of sales often feed into the gender gap.
According to The Guardian, in 2010, 74% of reviews by the London Review of Books were of books by male authors, 65% male dominated reviews by Granta Magazine, and 83% male dominated reviews by the New York Review of Books. Or look at this study by Edward Champion on the gender bias of individual reviewers for the New York Times. Each reviewer has their own graph of how many male vs. female authors they reviewed in 2013.
Here is a simplified one page version.
Here is another graph from Australia.
Gina Denny has another article with tons of graphs to show the discrepancy.
Okay, I’m going to stop filling you up with percents and numbers here and get to the point. Recently J. Ellington Ashton Press did something to quiet all arguments on the ability of different genders in horror. It took the current climate and put it on its ear. We hosted our own Male vs. Female horror short story contest, the results of which will find their way into two amazing anthologies.
We picked two teams. 13 men, and 13 women. Not all the participants were necessarily horror writers. A few on both teams find their voices in other genres from romance to science fiction. Amid the friendly trash talk the writers were paired up into round competitors. Each round had one writer from each team and were given a place, a weapon, and a big bad (thing that caused the trouble). Then they were set free for 30 days to write a 5 to 7k word story.
The judges were kept secret, and the authors kept secret from the judges. They were handed stories with only titles and which round they belonged to. No other information. Everything was based entirely on merit.
The results? Almost entirely equal. The women took it by one story. The honorable mentions were split equally between genders. The overall winners were split equally between genders. When gender was taken out of the equation, authors that would have otherwise been ignored stepped into the light. Primary genre had little to do with it as well. Some of the winners are not horror writers. At least one of the honorable mentions is a fantasy writer. That squashes the argument that women prefer to write certain genres and are therefore not adept at horror. Really this contest proved all previous arguments are unfounded.
But don’t take my word for it. Keep an eye out for the upcoming MvF anthologies and judge the work for yourself.
Update 2/29/16: Both books now live on Amazon!
Click the images below to buy your copy today!
Cover Art by Michael Fisher
From the twisted imaginings of:
Essel Pratt and Dona Fox
Ts. Woolard and Alice J. Black
Michael Noe and Dani Brown
Jim Goforth and Christina Engela
*Andrew Freudenburg and Brenda Evans
**Stuart Keane and Amanda M. Lyons
Brian Barr and Wendy Potocki
Kent Hill and Lisa Dabrowski
Michael Fisher and Sharon Higa*
Roger Cowin and Susan Simone
Mark Woods and Tabitha Baumander
Justin Hunter and Michelle Garza
John Ledger and Catt Dahman**
Bold indicates round winner. * Indicates honorable mention. ** Indicates overall winner.
Susan is a plural writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends.