Can men and women of equal talent and similar style write about the same subject matter and be reviewed and, subsequently, received differently? The propensity for women to assume male pen names when they write in so-called stronger categories/genres begs the question. Are women relegated, in large part, to what has been termed chit lit or beach books (lighter material designed for fanciful escapism) if they are to be successful? Either that, or mask their work as that of a male? Finally, for the female author, is the horror genre too commercially unrewarding to claim? Many female authors who have written horror fiction merely dabble in it, coming to visit for a time, then moving on to greener pastures. Mary Shelley did the same as many contemporary female authors, offering a fantastic piece of work in Frankenstein and moving on to write in other genres. While a woman is not credited as the original practitioner of Gothic horror (Horace Walpole’s 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto is widely considered to be the first Gothic horror novel), Ann Radcliffe has been said to have legitimized the sub-genre with works such as The Mysteries of Udolpho and A Sicilian Romance. Why, then, is any reference to her name relatively obscure, yet Bram Stoker’s can be met with nods of recognition? Does society think that males write horror fiction better than women? Do they believe that women are too fragile to imagine unsettling horrors? If dark thoughts lurk in a woman’s mind, is it somehow improper (unladylike?) for them to be entertained and transposed onto a page for all to read? Is this mindset a socialized gender bias?
What do you think?