We all have our Halloween traditions, from bobbing for apples Snoopy-style to trick-or-treating (or, for most of us, rushing home to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters before dusk). Maybe you throw on Hocus Pocus or The Evil Dead and have a pumpkin latte or pumpkin beer as the evening draws to a close.
Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson, English scholars and authors of Monster She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror & Speculative Fiction (Quirk Books), have a new tradition for all those who don’t mind getting spooked.
This Hallow’s Eve, learn all about the Founding Mothers of the horror genre, and, if you’re feeling brave, add one or two of their stories to your Halloween TBR.
Monster She Wrote tracks the evolution of scary stories from the OG Margaret Cavendish (also known as Mad Madge—“a Kardashian before there were Kardashians” according to the authors) to modern writers like Anne Rice and Angela Carter. Beyond being a deep dive into the works of influential female authors and lesser-known, largely forgotten ones such as Charlotte Dacre and Dion Fortune, this encyclopedia of macabre madwomen spills tea right and left on all your faves in Quirk Books’ signature offbeat fashion.
You probably already knew that Mary Shelley lost her virginity atop her mother’s grave, but did you know her family famously practiced polyamory? You’re likely aware that Shirley Jackson’s husband was a bastard and when living with him in his college town she was relegated to the role of housewife, but what if you were told this ostracism inspired her breakthrough short story “The Lottery?”
Monster She Wrote encourages readers to reconsider their scope of horror and gothic fiction. While many of these women were pioneers and effectively invented certain genres from scratch—Frankenstein is generally considered to be the first speculative/science fiction novel—others revamped tired tropes and reinvigorated the genres they wrote in.
For instance, Kröger and Anderson argue that V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic “combined the elements of Gothic horror with soap-opera-style family drama” (and “included more than enough incestuous plot lines to keep her audience mesmerized.”). Similarly, the authors acknowledge and praise the contributions of authors whose work outside of genre fiction has eclipsed their genre work which was influential nonetheless.
One such example is Edith Wharton who, when she wasn’t satirizing New York high society, had a soft spot for ghost stories. And then there’s the late great Toni Morrison, of which Kröger and Anderson ask “is she a horror writer? Is she part of the tradition of weird fiction?” The answer, of course, is yes.
This book is a loving look at the myriad talented women whose words have shaped the genre we honor today on Halloween. It’s dedicated to “all the girls who still sleep with the lights on, but read the scary stories anyway.”
If that sounds like you, pick up Monster She Wrote for an extensive reading list and examination of the lives and work of the female authors who’ve so skillfully spooked generations of readers.
Monster She Wrote is now available for purchase.
About the Authors:
Lisa Kröger holds a PhD in English. Her short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance magazine and Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road.
MELANIE R. ANDERSON
Melanie R. Anderson is an assistant professor of English at Delta State University in Cleveland, MS. Her book Spectrality in the Novels of Toni Morrison was a winner of the 2014 South Central MLA Book Prize.