Mark your calendars for the upcoming release of horror anthology Daughters of Darkness. Written, edited and published by women, it features 43 short stories sure to satisfy a wide range of horror tastes.
The anthology began as a way to help correct a traditional imbalance in the genre.
“Women horror authors are generally underrepresented, both online and in books,” said publisher and project manager Blair Daniels. “This anthology is giving us a united voice.”
Most of the best-known horror writers are men, and you really have to go all the way back to classics like Mary Shelley to find much that is female, said contributing author Rachel Smith, who is printed under the pen name of R.R. Smith. It’s always been difficult for women to be taken seriously in this male-dominated arena, and many like her have used pen names to get around this problem.
“People don’t think that women can be scary,” Smith said. “We’re sugar and spice, and definitely not monsters in the dark.”
The genre has been missing out on all the talented women in this anthology, who have so much to offer with their stories that are “horrifying in the best ways,” Smith said.
Her own contribution titled “The Woman Upstairs” is a ghost story featuring an eight-year-old girl protagonist. Smith has done a lot of freelance and ghostwriting in the past, but this is her first time having one of her stories in print, and she is thrilled, she said.
Daniels contributed several very short stories to the anthology, including “Love Simulator,” about “a woman who wishes she had married one of her exes, and chaos ensues,” she said.
Daniels has always been a lover of horror, particularly the unnerving Twilight Zone type. She has been writing all her life but seriously delved into horror about a year and half ago to help her cope with the stress of new parenthood. She is the author of two books, The Shadow on the Stairs and Infected. Her experience of acceptance by readers of the horror genre has been mixed.
“Generally, it’s great,” she said. “But, of course, you get a vocal minority of people who are rude about it, and want to point out the fact that you’re a woman. With [Daughters of Darkness], even, we’ve gotten a bit of pushback because it’s a women’s anthology. There will always be mean people in any genre, any industry, and you just have to keep your head up and know you’re doing the right thing.”
Daughters of Darkness grew out of some of the online forums Daniels has been involved in, notably Reddit’s NoSleep.
“There are so many women horror authors in our online writing community that we decided to band together and create an anthology,” she said.
Daughters of Darkness will be released on May 15. A Kickstarter to cover publishing costs is currently running through April 22, though the book will be released regardless of the Kickstarter’s success. To help contribute, visit the Kickstarter.
For a sneak preview of what’s in store, enjoy the following excerpt from R.R. Smith’s “The Woman Upstairs.”
After a while my door opens and Mom slips into my room. I know she’s going to say something about how parents fight sometimes and that doesn’t mean they don’t love each other; I’ve heard it a thousand times. This time, she doesn’t. She looks up. Before I can ask what she wants she takes a step back into the hall, gaze fixed on the ceiling.
“Mom?” I ask, but she doesn’t speak. She just stands there with wide dark eyes looking up toward the light.
Click-clack. Click-clack. Click-clack. Click-clack.
“Mom?” I say louder. She jumps like I startled her, finally looking at me. “Mom, are you okay?” The footsteps above us pause and in that moment of silence Mom lurches forward, wrapping her fingers around my arm like a claw.
“Mom!” I cry and pull against her grip.
Click-clack. Click-clack. Click-clack.
She freezes, and I feel her heart beating like a drum through her clenched hand.
Click-clack. Click-clack. Click-clack. Click-clack.
I stare. What is wrong with her? Is she angry with me? Did I do something wrong? I look to her for answers, but her eyes aren’t on me. They’re stuck staring at the ceiling as if pulled tightly upward by invisible strings.
Click-clack. Click-clack. Click-clack. Click-clack. Click-clack.
“Honey?” Dad calls from down the hall with obvious concern. He pokes his head inside and sees Mom still frozen in an awkward lunge with fingers like a vice around my arm.
“Honey?” His voice is soothing now. She seems to hear him.
I look up, trying to see what has caught her attention so completely. I see a little red stain I’d never noticed before. I watch mesmerized as it grows from the size of a dime to a creeping, blossoming blotch as big as my bed. The ceiling sags under the liquid weight. A single drop pools from its center, falling neatly onto Mom’s hand. She doesn’t notice the drop.
“You…” Her voice shakes. She isn’t talking to me. With effort, she lets me go. She stands, but it looks difficult. It’s like she has to think hard about each muscle and limb before pulling it carefully back into place.
“Okay. It’s okay.” Dad croons and takes Mom’s shoulders. “It’s alright. Let’s get you to bed. Some rest is just what you need. Doesn’t that sound nice?”
“Dad?” I call after him, but he turns and puts a finger to his lips. I nod.
He leads her down the hall but from the kitchen I hear Mom speak again.
I look up at the ceiling, worried the red drops will stain my sheets, but the ceiling is perfectly white. The stain is gone. I shiver.