February is Women in Horror Month. It is part of an initiative designed to celebrate and bring attention to the achievements of women in all aspects of the horror genre. Women have always played an important role in the genre, and as long as women have been in the genre, they have also bridged the gap between horror and other branches of speculative fiction. For example, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” a fine example of gothic horror, is also considered by many to be the first entry into the science-fiction genre. Elements of gothic horror are infused in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and although it is generally considered a part of the overall gothic genre as opposed to specifically horror, it is in many ways a ghost story. Brontë and her sisters had to use male pseudonyms to publish, because female writers were not taken seriously at the time.
We have come a long way, and there are many successful female writers today, but women remain underrepresented in the genre. Women in Horror Month helps to highlight the women who are breaking down doors and making inroads into the genre now, as well as those who have historically contributed to it. Some of those women are from right here in the Bay Area.
In honor of Women in Horror Month, here is a list of ten female horror writers who live in, are from, or have spent long periods of time living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Anne Rice (San Francisco, Berkeley)
Best-selling gothic horror writer Anne Rice is the most recognizable female horror novelist to come out of the Bay Area. Born in New Orleans, she spent thirty years in the Bay Area in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and lived in San Francisco and Berkeley when she launched her writing career. She is a San Francisco State University alumnus. She wrote eight novels, including the first three of her bestselling “Vampire Chronicles”, while living in the Bay Area, before returning to her hometown of New Orleans in 1988. Her latest supernatural series, “The Wolf Gift Chronicles” takes place in the North Bay. She currently lives in Southern California.
Rain Graves (San Francisco)
Bram Stoker Award winning poet, horror and science-fiction writer Rain Graves is known not only for her prolific contribution anthologies and periodicals and for a writing style Publisher’s Weekly called “Bukowski meets Lovecraft,” but is an active participant in “The Haunted Mansion Project”, a series published by Damnation Books including the works of several artists who spend four days in a haunted house for inspiration. Her most recent literary offering is “The Four Elements,” with fellow Bram Stoker award winners Charlee Jacob, Marge Simon, and Linda Addison.
Jewelle Gomez (San Francisco)
Lambda Award winning poet and writer of speculative fiction Jewelle Gomez contributed to the worlds of horror and paranormal romance with “The Gilda Stories”, which follow the activities of Gilda, a former slave become vampire over a two hundred year period as she searches for meaning and family. The stories have been praised for their depiction of multiethnic, multicultural vampire clans and for their feminist, lesbian protagonist Gilda, and for creating a tribe of bloodsuckers who eschew traditional vampire brutality enacted upon humans in exchange a gentler, more enlightened and erotic take on blood drinking called “sharing,” where the vampires infuse the humans upon which they feed with positive inspiration and emotion.
Fran Friel (Monterey Bay)
Black quill award winning horror, science-fiction and fantasy author Fran Friel is the author of “Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales,” and “Beach of Dreams.” She is a two time Bram Stoker Awards finalist. She has been included in a number of horror anthologies, including the “Necrotic Tissue” series, the “Haunted Mansion Project,” “Slices of Flesh,” “Legends of the Mountains,” and “Barbers and Beauties.” In addition to her tremendous body of fiction work, she has written a number of essays, and maintains a horror blog.
Emerian Rich (San Francisco)
The multifaceted horror novelist Emerian Rich has five novels to her credit and crafts her stories on the page, in podcasts, and in a number of collaborative projects with other horror authors. Collaboration and support for other writers is nothing new for the gregarious Emz, who founded the horror magazine “Dark Lives” in 1997 and is currently one of the hosts for the online horror magazine HorrorAddicts which sponsors the annual Wicked Women Writers competition.
Linda Kay Silva (Oakland, East Bay)
Oakland native Linda Kay Silva is the award-winning author of four different series of books, two of which fall into the horror or paranormal categories. “Maneater,” her tale of the zombie apocalypse, is up to its third installment now. The trilogy deals with not only the undead, but also more human dangers present in her post-apocalyptic world. The “Echo Branson” series deals with paranormally charged, genetically altered human beings called supernaturals who use their abilities to fight on the side of good or evil. Echo Branson is one of these, an empath who, like other supernaturals, gained her powers after being the subject of brutal experiments by the evil corporate goons at Genesys. Silva is a recipient of the Golden Crown Literary Society Speculative Fiction Award, and the Alice B Award for career achievement in lesbian fiction writing.
Laurel Anne Hill (San Francisco/East Bay)
Winner of the ForeWord Magazine bronze award for science fiction, Laurel Anne Hill writes horror fiction but is best known for her contributions to the steampunk subgenre in speculative fiction. She wrote “Till Death Do Us Part,” set against the backdrop of the Berkeley fire of 1923 for the HorrorAddicts anthology “Horrible Disasters.” She won the 2011 Most Wicked Award for the short steampunk horror story "Flight of Destiny.” Her short story "Wings of Revenge" is part of the Wicked Women Writer’s anthology “Wickeds.” Her steampunk/martial arts short story is in the “Shanghai Steam" anthology. "Shanghai Steam" was nominated for an Aurora Award in 2013.
Sumiko Saulson (Oakland)
Horror and sci-fi writer and poet Sumiko Saulson has written three horror novels and a short story anthology, in addition to contributing short fiction to a number of periodicals. Her titles include “Solitude,” “Warmth,” “The Moon Cried Blood,” and “Things That Go Bump in My Head.” She was selected as an ambassador for Women in Horror Month in 2013 for her series of interviews with diverse women in horror. She compiled a list of 60 Black Women in Horror Writing for the occasion. Sumiko was once profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle as an up and coming poet in the beatnik tradition.
Loren Rhoads (San Francisco)
The editor for “The Haunted Mansion Project (Year Two)” Loren Rhoads is also the author of “Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel” which outlines her visits to graveyards around the USA. Her succubus character Lorelei has appeared in short stories in a number of anthologies and is the protagonist of her work with Brian Thomas, “As Above, So Below.”
Serena Toxicat (Oakland)
Dark fantasy writer and poet Serena Toxicat is the author of “Paper Wings” and “Evangeline and the Drama Wheel.” “Evangeline” is the tale of an interspecies hybrid pre-apocalyptic gothic band, Evangeline and the Discarnates, and is filled with magical surrealism. The local organizer is behind ManulFest, an annual musical event heightening the awareness of the near-endangered Pallas Cat, and is the lead singer in local catwave band Protea. She is also a lyricist.