Saturday, February 14, 2015

5 Shorts by Female Authors of Fear

February is Women In Horror month and that includes female authors of fear. Most of what I’ve been reading in celebration of this month has been short stories that fall into the science fiction category but they also overlap with the horror one. Many of them contain mutant monsters and psychotic killers. These five stories come from either of two anthologies that I checked out at the library several weeks ago (and renewed recently). And so here is . . .

A List of Female Authors’ Fear Stories

One of the stories is by Octavia Butler and comes from a book entitled Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams. The term “zombie” has almost become the equivalent of “apocalypse” in a lot today’s sci fi and horror. However, I’m not sure if there are any zombie stories in this book since I’ve only read two contributions so far. But, sorry zombie fans, the Butler story is not a zombie one but is still a good one. 

Butler’s story is called “Speech Sounds” and is set in a time after the world’s institutions have fallen and all is anarchy. The closest things to infrastructure are buses, run by independent contractors who’s services are unreliable (sound a little like some of today’s bus systems?), and mercenary cops. And where there’s no unifying law there’s bound to be mad killers which you’ll definitely find in this story. Not to mention, universal communication has broken down making these murderers even more monstrous when they speak in seemingly non-vocabularic sounds. The story lives up to Butler’s literary appraise.

The four other stories are from the second anthology I checked out. There had been no story in it that I had intentionally been looking for. I just happened to come across it while searching for the Butler story that I was looking for to read in honour of Martin Luther King Day. But that’s the great thing about libraries: you often come across titles you weren’t originally looking for that seem so intriguing that you check them out. This anthology is called The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination also edited by Adams. The title caught my eye so much since I’ve always been a big lover of the mad scientist character which has been so closely associated with modern horror (early 20th century and on). I grew up on old horror movies involving mad scientists, including the numerous Frankenstein movies (both Hollywood’s and England’s Hammer Studios’).

Painted portrait of Mary Shelley.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Speaking about movie adaptations of classic novels, I have to pay at least a small tribute to the one who started the Frankenstein myth: Mary Shelley. She is truly a woman of horror since her famous novel gave life (pun intended) to a monster myth that would eventually permeate all the way into pop culture, a pop myth written by a female author during a time (late 18th century) when women writers were almost unheard of. 

But now for the anthology’s stories that I’ve been reading for Women In Horror Month:

“The Last Dignity of Man”, Marjorie M. Liu: This story is themed off of the super hero/villain character which is becoming a trend in sci fi novels and short stories today due to the big comic book nerd craze going on for the last 5+ years. (I in no way intend this to be demeaning, since I’m a comic book nerd myself.) The story is about a young bio engineer exec who is obsessed with Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor. The story involves mutated, waste-eating worms that the government uses under conspiracy but these worms will eat anything if desperate enough--even live humans. This story’s protagonist and even the secondary character who he befriends were both really well developed making them lovable to the reader. 

“Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution”, Carrie Vaughn: This is a neat steampunk suspense-thriller. It’s not only set in an alternative Victorian England like typical steampunk stories are, but the main characters are two of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren: Harry (short for “Harriet” I assume) and Marlowe. The story is mostly through Harry’s point of view and so she investigates the lab of a criminal scientist who is under house arrest. But it’s not an electronic manacle (“brace” as they call it in today’s “humane” language) that binds him to his home. Instead it’s a fence that’s electrified by an aetherian device. The horror in this story? I don’t want to create a spoiler but I can guarantee you that horror is inhuman enough for any sci fi-horror fan.

“Laughter at the Academy”, Seanan McGuire: This is a story that involves a two in one menace of horror: a psychotic killer who is a mutant and is psychotic because of. The psychosis is caused by an epidemic of a sort that infects geniuses for some reason, including scientists. The plot was very clever, keeping me on edge and wanting to read more.

“The Mad Scientist’s Daughter”, Theodora Goss: The daughters of several of classic literature’s mad scientists gather in this story to form an all-girls’ club as support in their struggle with their paternally abusive past. Even Sister Hyde show’s up in this one. So far it’s been interesting but I’m in progress of reading it so I can’t say exactly how good it is yet.

Some Updates

Speaking about comic book super heroes and villains, the literacy program, 916 Ink, that I intended to donate to during Christmas finally replied back with the greenlight to send them my comic books for their kids. So I was more than happy to do that and so that’s what I did last week. I want to make sure that kids in my community/home area of Sacramento are given a chance to experience creative writing and literature through the speculative mediums that they otherwise would not be encouraged to do because of their disadvantaged, socio-economic backgrounds.

The staff at had asked me if they could include a couple of my articles in an anthology they’re putting together. I said I would be delighted if they did. The staff has always been encouraging of me and my work and I was more than happy to give them my consent. So I sent them my revised copies today. The anthology is supposed to release sometime this year. I’ll keep you updated on further details as they come in.

I’m aware that today’s Valentine’s Day, and even though I don’t celebrate the holiday (mostly for political reasons related to excessive commercialisation) I still want to wish you readers out there who do celebrate it a Happy Valentine’s Day! As I said, I don’t celebrate the holiday, but my critique group wanted each of us to write a story with a love theme. My story was a horror one where Cupid is a monster of a sort, as in an evil god. Sadly, I was trying to write it too close to the meetup time and didn’t finish it. I’m not really good with writing stories based on prompts although I do plan to finish the Cupid story eventually. When? I don’t know at this time, but when I do finish and publish it I’ll let you know.

I’ll try to have more on Women In Horror and female authors of fear next time.

Until then . . . 

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