January 25th, 2011


Musing About Shivers VI (or: Shivers Needs Diversity!)

Today, I finished writing a review of the horror fiction anthology Shivers VI for Dark Scribe Magazine (getting paid to review is a nice change from reviewing fo' no money, no money, no money), and I got to wondering... the contents range from fun to eerie to ugh (as is typical for any anthology), but there are only two stories by women in here. Two out of twenty-one. The two are grand--Melanie Tem's outstanding "The Shoes" (one of the best psychological horror stories I've read in months) and Lisa Tuttle's "Bits and Pieces" (a dark, surreal delight)--but only two? They are paired together, tucked in the middle of the book, and surrounded by stories by guys. White dudes, in fact (let's not get started on that). A disappointing choice on the editor's part.

Well, thinks I, might I go back and look at the Tables of Contents for the previous V volumes? Two seems to be the mean value of women contributors. Nancy A. Collins and Kelly Laymon were in the first (out of 20 total stories). Kelly Laymon and Elizabeth Monteleone (the latter cowriting with husband Thomas Monteleone) appeared in volume II (out of 24 stories). Elizabeth Massie and Meggan C. Wilson (cowriting with her dad F. Paul Wilson) appeared in volume III (out of 18 total stories). Gemma Files appeared in volume IV (out of 20 total stories). Then volume V featured Sarah Langan, Robin Furth (two contributions!), and Sarah Pinborough (out of 24 total stories). And women's stories never lead the antho, never end one, they are all buried in the middle somewhere.

On the sausage side of Shivers, several male authors get repeat appearances in the series. Dudes uniformly lead each volume, and dudes uniformly end each volume.

Add to this the fact that the anthology does not have open slush calls (I suspect it's an invitation-only dealy, meaning the editor contacts folks and says "can you send me a story?", or maybe pulls some from the slush pile to his magazine, Cemetery Dance), and this lack of female contributors ceases to be a one-off, sad-face co-inky-dink and starts to smack of Richard Chizmar's editorial bias.

This bugs me.

Now, I for one know there are some exceptionally talented female authors of horror/dark fantasy/dark crime fiction in the publishing world, including (in no particular order) Christa Faust, Lucy Snyder, Meg Gardiner, Yvonne Navarro, Caitlin Kiernan, Kij Johnson, Sarah Monette, Tanith Lee, Catherynne Valente, Cat Rambo, Laura Bickle, Barbara Roden, Joyce Carol Oates, Kelly Link, Holly Phillips, Suzy McKee Charnas, Alethea Kontis, Marie Brennan, Amal El-Mohtar... And that's just off the top of my head. There are plenty, plenty more.

So, WTF?

I have a secret hope that most of the authors I named are out of Shivers' price range for acquisition, but that hope is unfounded. This is the publisher who released Stephen King's Blockade Billy in limited form (which sold out). Perhaps they were off writing other things and were unable to put Shivers in their schedule. That's a far nicer fantasy.

So, as a nod to the authors who chose not (or didn't get asked) to be included in Shivers I thru VI, let me point the way to a handful of moving, thoughtful, eerie, and chilling stories from female authors:

"The Days of Flaming Motorcycles" and "Secretario" by Catherynne M. Valente
"Spar" by Kij Johnson
"Schroedinger's Pussy" by Terra LeMay
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