Horror Wants Women To Scream II: Response

Reading & Writing


This came in from Guy Adams, who commissioned the BFS book discussed in the post below;
‘Our new book, In Conversation: A Writer’s Perspective, Volume 1: Horror, edited by James Cooper, has come under justifiable flak for its all-male line up of interviewees. When James brought the manuscript to me with a view to our publishing it I know he intended no sexism in his selection of the authors but I feel deeply sorry that I didn’t flag the omission at the time. It is disgustingly simple for a man not to notice these things, a blindness to the importance of correct gender representation that I feel embarrassed to have fallen into. The next two volumes in the series are considerably more balanced in their table of contents but that doesn’t change the fact that I dropped the ball on this initial volume. I can only apologize and hope that the discussion has made other editors and publishers realize that this kind of lazy sexism is unacceptable and to watch their own lists in future!’

I think this is a fair-minded response from Guy, whose hard work at the BFS this year has resulted in a genuine upturn in the society’s attendance and fortunes. Here’s James Cooper’s response;

‘First off, let me point out how mortified I am that such an obvious misrepresentation has occurred. I’d like to stress that it was by no means intended, though I appreciate that this is perhaps the weakest kind of excuse one could offer.
The book itself has been a pet project of mine for the last couple of years, and was originally planned as a small press venture that would seek to interview 10-12 writers of horror fiction. The template for the book was Stanley Wiater’s 1990 offering entitled ‘Dark Dreamers’, a book of interviews of 24 key writers in the field. It was widely regarded as a definitive volume of its type. Rather interestingly, I now note, of the 24 writers interviewed (including Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, Ramsey Campbell, etc.), only one of the contributors was a woman (Anne Rice).
Still, the remit of ‘In Conversation’ was to provide a general overview of life in the horror genre in the first decade of the new millennium. Even more importantly, the writers I initially selected, rather naively, perhaps, but without any predetermined agenda, were entirely subjective. The criteria for inclusion was simple: I wanted writers who I admired and who had influenced me in some way in the last 20-25 years. I also wanted to focus on the value and significance of the small press, which has been essentially carrying the torch for horror fiction for the last twenty years, as major publishing houses have lost interest in the field. This meant I was particularly interested in writers who had a special relationship with various small press imprints, or were uniquely involved in the day-today operation of an independent press.
When it came to finding a suitable publisher, I discussed the project with Guy Adams, who suggested that it was exactly the kind of book the BFS might be interested in. His plan right from the outset was to publish a series of books, interviewing critical writers from the various fields of fantasy. It sounded like a great idea, and my humble book of interviews with horror writers seemed to complement his vision. Only problem, of course, is that neither one of us flagged up the lack of female representation. Certainly from my point of view, I was too busy focusing on the writers I’d managed to recruit to notice the writers I’d inadvertently omitted. A female perspective, of course, would have offered a keen contrast to that presented by many of the male writers.
Guy assures me that subsequent volumes in the series will provide much greater balance, and I’m sure that the books themselves will be all the better for it. I’d like to finish by adding that I am well aware of most of the female writers working in the field of horror fiction and intended no slight to any of them, though I can easily see how my negligence could be misconstrued.
I hope this helps clarify my position and goes some way towards acknowledging my own liability in the matter.’

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