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Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction

Friday, June 17, 2022

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction (2019) Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson

Monster, She WroteIt’s (somewhat) common knowledge that Mary Shelly wrote the first SFF book: Frankenstein.

But there were so many other women at the start of the horror, science fiction, and speculative fiction genres, and this book tells you a little about each of them.

Since I can’t find it anywhere, here is the Table of Contents:

Part One: The Founding Mothers
Margaret Cavendish: Mad Madge
Ann Radcliffe: Terror over Horror
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: The Original Goth Girl
Regina Maria Roche: Scandalizing Jane Austen
Mary Anne Radcliffe: Purveyor of Guts and Gore
Charlotte Dacre: Exhibitor of Murder and Harlotry

Part Two: Haunting Tales
Elizabeth Gaskell: Ghosts Are Real
Charlotte Riddell: Born Storyteller
Amelia Edwards: The Most Learned Woman
Paula E. Hopkins: The Most Productive Writer
Vernon Lee: Ghostwriter à la Garçonne
Margaret Oliphant: Voice for the Dead
Edith Wharton: The Spine-Tingler

Part Three: Cult Of The Occult
Marjorie Bowen: Scribe of the Supernatural
L. T. Meade: Maker of Female Masterminds
Alice Askew: Casualty of War
Margery Lawrence: Speaker to the Spirits
Dion Fortune: Britian’s Psychic Defender

Part Four: The Women Who Wrote The Pulps
Margaret St. Clair: Exploring Our Depths
Catherine Lucille Moore: Space Vamp Queen
Mary Elizabeth Counselman: Deep South Storyteller
Gertrude Barrows Bennett: Seer of the Unseen
Everil Worrell: Night Writer
Eli Colter: Keeping the Wild West Weird

Part Five: Haunting The Home
Dorothy Macardle: Chronicler of Pain and Loss
Shirley Jackson: The Queen of Horror
Daphne du Maurier: The Dame of Dread
Toni Morrison: Haunted by History
Elizabeth Engstrom: Monstrosity in the Mundane

Part Six: Paperback Horror
Joanne Fischmann: Recipes for Fear
Ruby Jean Jensen: Where Evil Meets Innocence
V. C. Andrews: Nightmares in the Attic
Kathe Koja: Kafka of the Weird
Lisa Tuttle: Adversary for the Devil
Tanith Lee: Rewriting Snow White

Part Seven: The New Goths
Anne Rice: Queen of the Damned
Helen Oyeyemi: Teller of Feminist Fairy Tales
Susan Hill: Modern Gothic Ghost Maker
Sarah Waters: Welcome to the Dark Séance
Angela Carter: Teller of Bloody Fables
Jewelle Gomez: Afrofuturist Horrorist

Part Eight: The Future Of Horror And Speculative Fiction
The New Weird: Lovecraft Revisited and Revised
The New Vampire: Polishing the Fangs
The New Haunted House: Home, Deadly Home
The New Apocalypse: This Is the End (Again)
The New Serial Killer: Sharper Weapons, Sharper Victims

First off, I loved learning about these women who have in some cases been all-but forgotten.

And I loved all the random details.

Cavendish scandalized polite society more than once; on one occasion, she showed up to a theater event wearing a dress that exposed her breasts, including her nipples, which she had thoughtfully painted red.

the Spiritualist Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president, with the abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass as her running mate.

The pulps, along with dime-store paperbacks also made from cheap paper, got fiction into the hands of a wider audience because they were so affordable. But the transitory nature of that low-cost material meant that unknown numbers of those stories were lost forever as the paper they were printed on decomposed to nothing.

All of which helps explain the accepted wisdom that few women wrote speculative fiction in the early 1900s and that, instead, the lineage starts in the 1960s and 1970s with writers like Ursula Le Guin and Joanna Russ.

Although horror is not my thing, I very much appreciated learning about these women who were writing SFF and horror–and possibly found a couple stories that were less on the horror side that might interest me (assuming one can find them).

I was also pleased to discover that I knew the majority of the “modern” writers–even if I hadn’t necessarily read their books.

I can think of some friends for whom this might be a perfect book–because they love SFF and horror. And others because of the biographical and horror bits.

Publisher: Quirk Books

Rating: 8/10


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