Traditional horror has often portrayed female characters in direct relation to their sexual role according to men, such as the lascivious victim or innocent heroine; even vampy, powerful female villains, such as the classic noir “spider women,” use their sexual prowess to seduce and overwhelm married men. Fist of the Spider Woman is a revelatory anthology of horror stories by queer and transgressive women and others that disrupts reality as queer women know it, instilling both fear and arousal while turning traditional horror iconography on its head.
In this collection, horror (including gothic, noir, and speculative writing) is defined as that which both titillates and terrorizes, forcing readers to confront who they are. Kristya Dunnion’s “Homeland” reveals the horrors that lurk on your average night in a lesbian bar; Elizabeth Bachinsky’s “Postulation on the Violent Works of the Marquis de Sade” is a response to Sade from a feminist (yet kinky) perspective; and Amber Dawn’s “Here Lies the Last Lesbian Rental” is a paranormal fantasia about urban gentrification, set in a house rented by lesbians on the eve that it is sold to new owners.
Subversive, witty, sexy—and scary—Fist of the Spider Woman poses two questions: “What do queer women fear the most?” and “What do queer women desire the most?”
Amber Dawn is a writer, performance artist, and radical sex/gender activist who co-edited With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn.
Emily’s LOHF Review
“Where does one / live when one fits nowhere but in fiction / and insanity?” – Elizabeth Bachinsky
Fist of the Spider Woman is an anthology of 16 horror and erotic stories and poems by queer women. This was my first time reading an anthology with erotic stories, so it was an interesting experience and a fun read. This book is unique, and I appreciate that it introduced me to a lot of new authors.
I didn’t love everything, but there were a lot of solid stories in here. My top 5 were Shark by Kestrel Barnes, All You Can Be by Mette Bach, In Circles by Aurelia T. Evans, Homeland by Kristynn Dunnion, and Every Dark Desire by Fiona Zedde. I think that Shark & All You Can Be are both going to stick in the back of my head for a while. They were both heartbreaking and fascinating. I am hoping to read more from some of the authors in this book.
I do want to give a warning to potential readers that this book has stories with violence and rape / lack of consent. It’s not in every single story, but it’s pretty prevalent throughout the book. It was a bit jarring at times. I’m glad that I read some reviews beforehand so that I was prepared.
I think a lot of these stories may fall more under speculative fiction or erotica, but it was still an intriguing anthology all around. I would definitely pick up a second volume if one ever exists.
I love that this book gives readers a chance to see queer women in all sorts of different roles in different stories. They are heroes, survivors, monsters, victims, villains, just regular people living – it’s a very human set of stories. If you are looking to make your horror reading more diverse, I think that an anthology like this one is a good place to start.
About Editor Amber Dawn
Amber Dawn is a writer, filmmaker and performance artist based in Vancouver. She is the author of the novel Sub Rosa (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010), editor of the Lambda Award-nominated Fist of the Spider Woman (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008) and co-editor of With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2005). Her award-winning, genderfuck docu-porn, “Girl on Girl,” has been screened in eight countries and added to the gender studies curriculum at Concordia University. She has toured three times with the infamous Sex Workers’ Art Show in the US. She was voted Xtra! West’s Hero of the Year in 2008. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Currently, she is the director of programming for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.