Archive for the ‘Mary Shelley’ Tag

Girl Power

Growing up in the 1970s, I was acutely aware of gender stereotypes. I was a very ‘girly’ girl as a child – fond of dresses and dolls. I didn’t climb trees, I didn’t like getting dirty. Then I moved into the 1980s, and adolescence, and I became more aware of the imbalance between girls and boys. And it seemed unfair. I figured out very early on that I didn’t want to have kids, and I liked doing things that girls weren’t supposed to like doing. I started writing horror stories at age 14. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons at 15. I was the only girl in the group for much of the year, and I have already talked about how all the boys ganged up on me in a previous post.

Fortunately for me, when I want to do something, the fact that other girls don’t do it has never put me off. But this isn’t always the case. A lot of girls are put off pursuing an activity or career they enjoy, because being the only girl can be off-putting, especially if you get picked on, as was the case in my first D&D group.

This is why it’s crucial to have role models, especially for girls. Why are there not more women playing lead guitar, or bass guitar, or driving race cars? Why are there not more women pilots, or women fire fighters? There are, of course, women doing these things, but they are still very much in the minority, and they need to be a lot more visible in order to inspire the next generation of young women to follow in their wake.

My inspiration for playing bass guitar was Suzie Quatro, who I remember seeing on ‘Top of the Pops’ in the 1970s and I thought she was a cool rocking chick. My inspiration for writing horror was Stephen King, who of course is male but he writes sympathetic female characters – something some male writers aren’t able to do – and it never occurred to me, as a teenager, that writing horror was something women weren’t supposed to do. Over the years there have been a number of people who have said to me something along the lines of ‘what’s a nice girl like you doing writing horror stories?’ but it does happen less frequently these days, and I hope people are more enlightened. After all, in the view of many people the first modern horror novel was FRANKENSTEIN – written not only by a woman, but one that was only seventeen years old at the time.

Mary Shelly. Image (c) National Portrait Gallery

I’ve considered myself a feminist since the 1980s. Although we have made some inroads since then, it seems we’ve still got a long way to go. I was touched recently by a news article about four-year-old Esme, who told her mother she needed to be a boy because she wanted to be a fire fighter, and she’d only ever seen male fire fighters in books and she ‘didn’t want to be the only girl.’ This prompted fire crews all over the UK to post tweets and videos from their female fire fighters, to prove to Esme that you can be a fire fighter if you are a girl. The story is encouraging, but also highlights how important it is for female role models to get more coverage.

We also seem to be making some inroads in sports. The women’s football league got national TV coverage on terrestrial TV for the first time this year, and had the best viewing figures ever. And the England team did quite well, I note – getting to the semi-final. I am not a follower of football, but this made even me happy.

I am also happy that there is a series of races for women drivers, again on terrestrial TV, for the first time this year. I have been a fan of Formula 1 for over 25 years, and I’ve been banging on for just as long that there aren’t enough opportunities for women racing drivers. This year we have the Formula W. OK there are only six races, of only half an hour each, which is nowhere near equivalent to Formula 1, but they don’t have anywhere near the investment, and it is a start. If people watch the Formula W races, and support them, they might get more investment and most importantly these young women (and they are all young, but so are the male drivers), will pave the way for little girls who dream of becoming racing drivers to understand that this is a dream within reach.

We need these trailblazers. We need women of courage, battling against the preconception that women can’t do these things to prove that they can, and the fact that they are doing these things needs to be publicised so that young girls can see that they can do these things and they won’t be ‘the only girl’.

The final Formula W race takes place at Brands Hatch in the UK next weekend, and I have tickets. I will be there in the stands, cheering on these trailblazing women.

In a small way I hope I am also encouraging a new generation of women bass players. When I have my bass guitar lesson, there is a young girl – maybe about 12 – who watches me through the door for the last few minutes while she waits for her own lesson to start. She seems to genuinely enjoy watching me play, and always gives me a ‘thumbs up’ at the end of my lesson.

I feel that at last we are taking steps towards gender equality. They are very small steps, but at least they are being taken. Which is why it’s so important to support trailblazing women when they come along, forging a path for others to follow in their wake. And it’s why I am so excited about going to Brands Hatch next weekend for the final race in the Formula W series. It doesn’t really matter who wins the championship. In my opinion, all of these women are winners.

I’m finishing this post with a video of the trailblazing woman I still see as an inspiration: Suzie Quatro, performing ‘Devil Gate Drive’ in 1974.

What I’m Doing At EasterCon

The schedule for this year’s EasterCon – otherwise known as EightSquared Con – has now been confirmed. I am very excited because I shall be doing my first panel.

There has been some last minute shuffling due to confusions in availability, but I can now confirm that this is my schedule:

Saturday 30 March, 12pm – Genre Get Together (Fantasy)
Sunday 31 March, 1pm – Head to Head Panel:  Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker.

The Genre Get Together is billed as an opportunity for fans to meet authors and get books signed. I’m currently having recurring nightmares that all the other authors involved in this will have long queues of adoring fans waiting to talk to them, whilst I’ll be standing there alone like Billy No Mates.  So, if you’re going to EasterCon, and you’ve got a copy of SOUL SCREAMS or SIBLINGS or anything else with one of my stories in, do come along and get it signed. Even if you don’t, just come along for a chat, and stave off my nightmare.

The panel has been a last minute change, but I am immensely looking forward to it. Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker – two greats of gothic horror fiction, and I could talk for hours about these two writers. Finding things to say really won’t be a problem. More of an issue is the need to refrain from hogging the panel.

It goes without saying that there is much, much more to look forward to than just my panel debut. There are all the usual pleasures of a Con. Spending hours in the bar with fellow spec fiction fans, conversing cheerily about much geekery. The wondrous things for sale in the dealer room. The chance to meet other – more famous – writers. The chance to catch up with all the fellow geeks I only ever meet in person at conventions.

And, let’s not forget, the first episode of the new season Doctor Who, which is always broadcast on the big screen at Eastercon and is one of the Con highlights.

I am already bouncing up and down in anticipation. Four more sleeps!

Homage to Women in Horror – Part 1

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This month is Women In Horror month. As a woman of horror I want to support this worthy cause. I’m going to start by pointing you towards this website, dedicated to Women In Horror Month.

“Women don’t write horror”. This is a battle I feel I’ve been fighting my whole life. It’s as frustrating and erroneous an assumption as the notion that all SF fans are 16-year-old boys who like pictures of women in chain mail bikinis, with unfeasibly large breasts, because they can’t get anywhere near a real-life woman.

The media does nothing to disabuse the general public of this notion. Cult SF and horror magazines sport covers featuring pictures of mostly-naked women with the aforementioned unfeasibly large breasts. Books aimed at women sport pink covers with curly lettering and pictures of lipstick, shoes and shopping bags. Gifts aimed at women (and we are bombarded by such ads at Christmas) suggest that your mum or aunty or sister or girlfriend wants a make-up kit or bottle of perfume. Never have I seen an advert that says she wants the new Resident Evil game on the PS3 (which is what I want next birthday).

I would like to point out that women horror writers are hardly a modern phenomenon. One of the first horror novels to be published was not only written by a woman, it was written by a teenager. Mary Shelley was 17 when she penned FRANKENSTEIN.

In support of Women In Horror month, next week I will be paying homage to some contemporary women of horror. If you are one such woman and you want a mention and a link to your blog this month, please let me know.

Let’s hear it for Horror Women!