I once attended World Horror Convention and a seasoned, white, male horror writer decided to convince me I should join the Horror Writers Association. That was cool. I appreciated that he felt HWA was a good organization to be a part of and I did want more information. The way he decided I should get this information was, “[I had] to meet Chelsea. She’s a great gal.” Of course, my blackity black, female senses started tingling. Gal? Okay.
When he finally found “Chelsea” and me in the same place, he introduced us. “Chelsea” was, of course, another Black woman. And her name wasn’t even Chelsea. After she rolled her eyes in the universal soul weary way we do, she told me her real name and said it was good to meet me. I felt just as weary as she, but I was also fan-girling because I’d read her work and I admired her and her artistry. The only redeeming thing about the whole incident was I got to meet an excellent writer whom I considered a trailblazer.
Other experiences that weren’t quite as egregious as that were still hurtful. I’ve been told I was “so cute, like a little black Kewpie doll, with your gapped teeth” by a fellow female horror writer—nevermind that I couldn’t remember ever seeing a Kewpie doll with its mouth open so you could even see its teeth. Check the box for Public Racist Microagression.
I’ve had my work rejected by venues that support submissions by writers of color because “The actions of the main character are unbelievable”, when her actions were expressly those of a poor, Black, single mother. Check the box for Black Experience is Not the Black Experience We Approve.
I’ve had publication venues tell me my stories were, basically, too Black for them. Another check for the box labeled Our Other Readers Won’t Want to Read About Black Folks.
I’ve been given congratulations on winning an award that a different black, female artist won…while still at the event. Check: All Black Women Look Alike. The list goes on and on.
At this point, it’s fair to question why I continue to write horror and write about the horror genre. The answer is simple: I can’t not do it. I love the horror genre and my writing is a huge part of who I am. My critiques on gender and race within the horror genre come from a place of love and a lifetime of engagement. I’m not the only female horror writer of color who has experienced these types of things. We have to be better, horror peeps.
If someone who loves you painfully but unconditionally can’t hold you to a higher standard of inclusivity and equity while motivating and imploring you to be better, who can?
R. J. Joseph is a Texas based writer/professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her. A life-long horror fan and writer, she mostly enjoys writing creatively and academically about the intersections of race and gender in the horror genre. She is excited to have been a contributor to two Bram Stoker finalist works: the fiction anthology of black female horror writers, Sycorax’s Daughters, and the edited collection of academic essays, Uncovering Stranger Things: Essays on Eighties Nostalgia, Cynicism and Innocence in the Series. Academic endeavors include an upcoming academic presentation at StokerCon 2020, in Scarborough, UK, at the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference. She is also directing the academic programming track for the Multiverse Convention of Science Fiction and Fantasy (October 2020) and organizing the POP-UP Academic Conference on Popular Fiction at Lone Star College University Park campus (October 2020).
When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can be found wrangling one or seven various sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry hellbeasts that like to pretend they’re dogs sometimes.
R. J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:
Facebook official: fb.me/rhondajacksonjosephwriter
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/rjjoseph