Sunday, October 28, 2012
Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I write horror. Yes, I write about zombies. Deal with it.
This weekend I appeared at the Shreveport Zombie Walk with the fabulous and extremely talented Joe McKinney, author of Dead City. He is one of my favorite people in the world and a favorite author to boot. Last year we had fun sitting on the zombie panel at the Aliens to Zombies Convention in Hollywood, and hung out later in the day with our spouses and the producer who optioned AS THE WORLD DIES. The Shreveport Zombie Walk is organized by a friend of mine, author Michelle Suhar-McCrary, who edited the Dead Set anthology with Joe McKinney a few years ago. Seeing my two friends again is enough of a reason to drive seven hours to Louisiana, but the Zombie Walk also supports the Shreveport Food Bank. All the shambling zombies donate canned goods to be a part of the walk.
Soooooooo...the hubby and I loaded up the SUV and drove to Shreveport on Friday night.
I had a lot of fun during the event. It's always fun looking at the costumes and enjoying the company of friends. But one thing did bother me: I was virtually ignored by some of the zombie fans.
Joe McKinney and I had our own tables set parallel to each other. I fixed up my table with the usual skulls, etc and gave him a few things for his table, too. As the day wore on, I noticed something that started to bother me. Though I did have some really nice people come by my table to chat with me, ask about ebooks, and a few even bought a book or two, I was ignored by the majority of people who walked up to Joe McKinney's table. I watched as most of the male zombie fans utterly ignored me, not even looking at my books or at me. I began to feel like I was invisible and went out of my way to greet people. I was ignored.
And then there were the comments:
"I read ADULT books."
"So is this book gonna to replace Twilight?" said in a mocking voice.
"I bet all your fans are teenagers."
"Just women like your books, huh?"
When I corrected this person and explained that my fans are diverse from housewives to active duty soldiers I got this response:
"Oh, soldiers like your books? Really?"
I answered these questions/comments with a smile. Even when one man went out of his way to mock me as a horror writer, making sure I knew that he doesn't believe in female horror writers, I just kept smiling. It slowly sank in that I was being disregarded due to my gender and my profession.
Though I had a good time overall, on the way home last night, the fact I was completely ignored by most of the people who made a beeline for the male zombie writer really started to sting. Add in the barbed comments and I was left wondering if I can find my success in my choice of genre. I was really shaken for a bit.
In the past I have had men and women tell me they were SHOCKED a woman could write a good zombie book and were surprised when they liked mine. I have been told by readers I shouldn't write horror but paranormal romance, YA, and urban fantasy, which is to me the equilvant of telling me to get into the kitchen and make a sammich. It's acceptable for women to write paranormal romance, YA, and urban fantasy, but not horror is what that comment says to me. But I've never been blatantly disregarded in real life.
Earlier today I felt both numb and angry over the experience. The stories in my head are horror stories, but today I realized I am blessed that I am able to crossover to mainstream readers. Yesterday left me shaken and wondering if I would find the support of horror fans for my writing.
After sharing my experience on Facebook today, I was overwhelmed by the positive response. Even people who were at the walk, but never made it to my table said very nice things. Other female writers in the genre shared their own concerns while readers of both genders and all ages assured me they don't judge a book by the gender of the writer.
Yet, I am now woefully aware of the fact that there are those who dismiss a female horror/zombie writer outright. I refuse to change my name to R. Frater on my books in hopes of someone mistaking me as a male writer. I will continue to write the stories that are born in my quite morbid imagination and present them under my real name. If my gender keeps certain readers away, then I guess they're not someone I want reading my books.
My overall experience in Shreveport has always been very positive and I'm very grateful to all the kindness expressed in my direction. But yesterday there was definitely a segment of the population (a small one I'm sure) that revealed their bias.
Posted by Rhiannon Frater