Because I’m a woman who loves horror, people always ask me who my favourite women horror writers are, and I’m a little ashamed to admit I don’t always have the best response. Beyond the obvious choices like Mary Shelley or Shirley Jackson, sometimes it’s hard to come up with a comprehensive list when your bookshelf is made up of 90% white men.
This is especially true with horror, I think, in a genre where H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King are household names, but nobody knows who Daphne du Maurier is until you bring up Alfred Hitchcock (FYI, she wrote the short story The Birds). But I was delighted when I found out that Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson came out with this handy little guide for the women pioneered horror and speculative fiction entitled Monster, She Wrote, of which I will now pass out copies at cocktail parties.
This book is more of a reading guide than a biography, with a short biographical summary for each author and a reading list. The reading list is especially helpful because it is broken down into further subcategories including “Not to be missed,” “Also try,” and “Related work.” “Not to be missed” gives you a synopsis of essential reading material by the author in question, while the latter two categories point to other works such as biographies and works by related authors. For example, if you enjoyed the psychological horror of Vernon Lee, Kröger and Anderson recommend “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman because it explores similar themes.
Kröger and Anderson are also excellent as summarising the thematic importance of the author’s works in terms of the larger historical context and trends in literature that were circulating at the time, which is incredibly helpful if you are a researcher. Even though this is not technically an academic text, it could be helpful in gathering a literature survey or as a pocket guide to authors and themes that were of interest in a particular time period. It also gives voice to authors who might have easily been forgotten as horror or speculative writers, or were simply labelled as “fiction” without being credited for their influence on horror as a genre.
If you’re a book collector, this volume would look great on a coffee or bedside table ready to flip through, because it also contains gorgeous, creepy illustrations in a green and blue colour palette. The sections are divided by theme, but also by decade, so if you are looking for more contemporary horror writers, you should be able to find them in one of the later sections. It’s like having a portable spooky librarian at your disposal to make personalised recommendations for you based on your tastes.
Monster, She Wrote would make a terrific gift for the monster lover or horror fan in your life, especially if they are looking to branch out from male horror writers and want to learn about the forgotten contributions of the women who helped create this genre. I’m hoping this will spark a trend in the horror community about celebrating the achievements of creators of all kinds.
Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson is published by Quirk Books. Buy the book from Amazon or find it at your nearest indie bookshop.