Join Toni as she discusses horror and the intersection with motherhood.
Motherhood and Horror
Horror has always been used as vehicle for societal warnings. Parental warnings are no different. Being a parent is one of the most rewarding yet terrifying experiences that a human will go through. Being a parent can be downright terrifying. There are so many different primal fears that start swirling around. Are you raising them right, are they okay, will xyz experience scar them for life? It is no surprise that horror fiction and films highlight the parent/child dynamic so often. Even though being a parent is terrifying; motherhood is inherently scary. The terror begins with pregnancy.
Pregnancy is meant to be sacred and beautiful time. But often times women find themselves scared. The change that women’s bodies goes through is absolutely incredible. At the beginning the changes aren’t visible but over time these bodily changes progress faster until there is a small human in the women’s arms. A women goes from having one human occupying space in her body. Her organs begin to move and her bones shift to allow for a second human. It is body horror in real life and not between the covers of a book. Women change they become something other than what they were. In most cases, the woman goes from being an autonomous person to caring for another’s daily needs. Her needs are set aside to provide the day to day care for another that is unable to care for themselves. As children grow and mature the role of the mother changes. You would think that this would lessen the mother’s worries, but it only increases them.
Motherhood tends to be a time of reflection. Mothers are continually worrying whether their day to day decisions make them a good or bad mother. While the notion of good of bad is deeply psychological and is due in large part to changes in social expectations of mothers. Mothers are told to be better or be punished. Instead of considering the individual experience of motherhood, the horror genre places mothers into two different buckets bad mothers and good mothers.
We have all read a story or have seen a movie, where the mother is just horrible. As you are reading or watching the scene unfold you think to yourself how in the world did that woman become a mother? In the horror genre the bad mother is selfish and self-focused. Many times, the bad mother is a working mother or a single mother. Which means that her children do not seem to be her main priority. They might be left unattended for long periods of time, where she is unaware of what they are doing. She isn’t there to guide them through the temptations of growing up. When she finds out what horrors her children have been up to. There is the expectation that she will change in order to earn her redemption or her children’s redemption, but she doesn’t change. When she doesn’t change horrible things befall innocent people in her life.
On the flip side you have the overbearing and controlling mother. She often smothers her child with her own fears and insecurities. She traps them in a web of protection which turns her children into monsters of her own making.
We’ve talked a bit about the bad mother stereotype but what about the archetypal good mother.
Take for example the mother figure that we were all shown in ‘80s sitcoms. She baked cookies and sacrifices everything for her family. Her life is perfect. Any conflict is talked through and in 30 mins all is fine again. The good mother doesn’t have any individuality she is a mother first and foremost. She has no outside interests besides that of taking care of her family. She is the ideal. She is the mother that everyone strives to be. Where does she fit in the horror genre? This mother has a particular place. As much as the bad mother is unaware of what her children are doing the good mother is hyper aware of her children’s activities. Many times she volunteers at their schools and knows all their friends. She is the mother that will sacrifice herself before anything bad will happen to her children. Here is the interesting thing as the story goes on her children will take on the same characteristics as herself. They are basically the anti-Damien. They take on the hero trope in the horror genre. The last person standing when the fight between good and evil is waged.
Both of the mother stereotypes are linked to the way that society views mothers and their roles in how their offspring will turn out. This links back to the nature vs. nurture debate that always seems to be raging when it comes to mothers. Do children turn into monsters due to their parenting or are they born that way. There are never really cut and dry answers to this debate.
Motherhood is a period of time when women really begin to evaluate their lives as their children change. Pregnancy is a time of bodily change that can be horrifying and hopeful at the same time. The horror genre is a perfect vehicle for dealing with the anxieties and pressures of motherhood. It allows the reader to confront their anxieties surrounding parenthood and pregnancy. It also allows a reader to explore motherhood tropes as fiction instead of reading a woman’s magazine which chides them for whatever decision they make as parents. For women authors it allows them to write about their own fears. Put them out on paper and let them go. As parent’s we are always going to have some type of anxiety towards parenthood and horror is the perfect genre to explore all the different fears that we may have.
Horror Fiction Featuring Motherhood
Everything That’s Underneath, Kristi DeMeester’s debut powerful horror collection, is full of weird, unsettling tales that recalls the styles of such accomplished storytellers as Laird Barron and Tom Piccirilli.
Crawl across the earth and dig in the dirt. Feel it. Tearing at your nails, gritty between your teeth, filling your nostrils. Consume it until it has consumed you. For there you will find the voices that have called from the shadows, the ones that promise to cherish you only to rip your body to shreds.
In Everything That’s Underneath, Kristi DeMeester explores the dark places most people avoid. A hole in an abandoned lot, an illness twisting your loved one into someone you don’t recognize, lust that pushes you farther and farther until no one can hear yours cry for help. In these 18 stories the characters cannot escape the evil that is haunting them. They must make a choice: accept it and become part of what terrifies them the most or allow it to consume them and live in fear forever.
When reporter Cora Mayburn is assigned to cover a story about a snake-handling cult in rural Appalachia, she is dismayed, for the world of cruel fundamentalist stricture, repression, glossolalia, and abuse is something she has long since put behind her in favor of a more tolerant urban existence. But she accepts the assignment, dredging up long-buried memories as she seeks the truth.
As Cora begins to uncover the secrets concealed by a veneer of faith and tradition, something ancient and long concealed begins to awaken. What secrets do the townsfolk know? What might the handsome young pastor be hiding? What will happen when occulted horrors writhe to the surface, when pallid and forgotten things rise to reclaim the Earth?
Will Cora–and the earth–survive? The answers–and pure terror–can only be found in one place: Beneath.
She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.
She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.
Warm and cozy feelings of the maternal and all things domestic. Closest to hearth and home…with only faint whispers of the dark and horrific underbelly. The things inside home that aren’t spoken of. Monstrous domesticity.
Pan Asian American Heritage Month
- The Book of M by Peng Shepard
- A Collection of Nightmares by Christina Sng
- Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Latino Book Month
- Maria the Wanted by Violet Castro
- Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
- Poems of My Night by Cynthia Pelayo
- Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal
- She Walks in Shadows by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
What I am Currently Reading
Releases for May
- The Lingering | S.J.I. Holliday | May 1
- Inside the Asylum | Mary SanGiovanni | May 7
- When Darkness Loves Us | Elizabeth Engstrom | May 7
- Tomb of the Ancients | Madeleine Roux | May 14
- Small Kingdoms and Other Stories | Charlaine Harris |May 21
- The Ghost in The House | Sara O’Leary | May 28
- Watch the Whole Goddamn Thing Burn | Doungjai Gam | May 28
May release I am looking forward is
Kathy has been hired to assess the threat of patient Henry Banks, an inmate at the
Connecticut-Newlyn Hospital for the Criminally Insane, the same hospital where her brother is housed. Her employers believe that Henry has the ability to open doors to other dimensions with his mind—making him one of the most dangerous men in modern history. Because unbeknownst to Kathy, her clients are affiliated with certain government organizations that investigate people like Henry—and the potential to weaponize such abilities.
What Kathy comes to understand in interviewing Henry, and in her unavoidable run-ins with her brother, is that Henry can indeed use his mind to create “Tulpas”—worlds, people, and creatures so vivid they come to actual life. But now they want life outside of Henry. And they’ll stop at nothing to complete their emanicipation. It’s up to Kathy—with her brother’s help—to stop them, and if possible, to save Henry before the Tulpas take him over—and everything else around him.
The LOHF read along is getting ready to wrap up. We all have really enjoyed The Winter People. Make sure that you check out the discussion posts. Even if you have already read the book we want to hear what you have to say.
The LOHF has also started a Good Reads Group. Make sure you join to stay up on what we are currently reading, reviews and discussions about horror books written by women.
The LOHF is currently accepting submissions for the LOHF awards. If you have a novel, short story, collection or novella. Please make sure you check out the LOHF awards submission post and get your story into us for consideration.
The LOHF is now taking submissions for the Ladies of Horror Fiction Presents Stories of Horror. July is going to be creature feature month. So, if you have a trunk story or an idea for a creature feature story please have a look at the submission post on the Our Podcast page for the submission criteria.
Horror Community News
The LOHF had a Skype group watch of the Stokers and there may have been some tears (Tracy) however, it was a fabulous time and we got to cheer along with everyone. The LOHF would like to congratulate:
Gwendolyn Kiste Superior Achievement in a First Novel for The Rust Maidens
Kiersten White Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel for The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein.
Rena Mason Superior achievement in long fiction for The Devil’s Throat (Hellhole: An Anthology of Subterranean Terror)
Jess Landry Superior Achievement in Short Fiction “Mutter” (Fantastic Tales of Terror) (Crystal Lake Publishing) and the Silver Hammer Award.
Meredith Averill Superior Achievement in a Screenplay for The Haunting of Hill House: The Bent-Neck Lady, Episode 01:05 (Amblin Television, Flanagan Film, Paramount Television),
Ellen Datlow – Superior Achievement in an Anthology for The Devil and the Deep: Horror Stories of the Sea
Sara Tantlinger- Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection for The Devil’s Dreamland (Strangehouse Books)
Specialty Press Award was presented to Jennifer Barnes and John Edward Lawson of Raw Dog Screaming Press!!
Ladies get your submissions into Journalstone’s imprint Trepdatio publishing!!! Submissions opened June 1st and will be closing July 31st.
The horror community has been sadden by news of the passing of Frank Errington. Frank wrote reviews for his own site as well as Cemetary Dance online. Our throughts are with Frank’s family during this time.
If you would like to reach out to the LOHFpodcast, our email address is LOHFPod@gmail.com. We would love to hear about new releases, news in the community, and suggestions for the podcast. You can find out more about the members of the Ladies of Horror Fiction via our website at www.ladiesofhorrorfiction.com.
The music for this episode is from Nicolas Gasparini at thedarkpiano.com