Every once in a while you read an inspirational book. I’m hoping readers will keep in mind that inspiration comes from different locations for some of us. Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction, by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson, is a source of inspiration. With the usual Quirk Books touches, this isn’t a tome heavy on literary criticism, but it is a wonderful compendium of brief bios on women who walk(ed) on the dark side. I find books like this encouraging in a number of respects. First of all, these are women who did what they loved and were recognized for it. Secondly, it gives the rest of us some hope that getting through the establishment to actual publication isn’t as impossible as presses would have us believe. And third, it’s also a lot of fun.
It isn’t often pointed out that women played a major role in the development of the horror genre. Some of the earliest Gothic novels were by Ann Radcliffe and Margaret Cavendish. Probably the first fully fledged horror novel was Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. The real learning kicks in when the other names come out—many women found, and continue to find, the genre compelling. Most of them, like most of us, are lost to history, but many of them have been rediscovered. Here again is cause for hope; those of us who write, I think, have our eyes set on the far distant future. We’re inscribing our “Kilroy was here” on paper—I still can’t think of ebooks as actually existing—in hopes that those down the road might know us a little better. The fact that some of our sisters have been found suggests that we too may be resurrected some day.
There’s no plot here, and the point isn’t to present some great discovery. This is a book that encourages women to be who they are through example. The fact that it involves monsters and horror is simply a bonus. As a non-female reading this it struck me time and again that women have long been informed of what they should or could do by men. Men don’t like to see women knowing as much as they do about the shadow side of human existence, even as they relegated them to the shadows. It’s my hope that this book will inspire women to be themselves. And if they want to invite monsters along, so much the better.