In 2015, Escape Artists ran Artemis Rising, a contest for woman- and non-binary-people-authored genre fiction. The contest ran across all three of their sister podcasts, Escape Pod (sci-fi), Podcastle (fantasy – which I wrote about here), and Pseudopod (horror). Today, I’ll be highlighting the horror stories from the contest.
The four stories span a variety of horror sub-genres and tones, and since Pseudopod couldn’t be bothered to include individual content warnings, I have.
Pseudopod 424: ARTEMIS RISING Women In Horror Showcase: The Godsmaid Clara And Her Many Smiles (Feb. 6, 2015). By Shannon Dodge (2015). Read by Kim Lakin-Smith.
A Victorian steampunk horror tale of a dry-witted godsmaid sent to rid her client of his pain. Contains monster/parasite body horror (not the body of the narrator, however).
“‘Godsmaid,’ I say, and the butler’s eyes immediately glaze over. That’s pretty much always the case. It’s remarkable how little attention they pay me, how consciously their eyes slide over me as soon as I’ve announced my profession. Too dirty and gross, too much something no one wants to think about. Not unless you have monsters crawling all over the floor, anyhow. Of all people, the butler should know me, should appreciate me, but he’s new; I haven’t been here often, but often enough to have known his previous incarnation.
‘We have no need of one at present,’ he said. ‘Thank you for your offer, madame.’
‘I have an appointment, sir. His Lordship requested me,’ I say, and this time he actually looks me in the eyes.
Pseudopod 425: ARTEMIS RISING Women In Horror Showcase: Works Of Art. Feb. 13, 2015. By Nina Kiriki Hoffman (1988). Read by The Word Whore.”
A queer-woman couple invite an unconventional artist to create–and destroy– a work in their home. Contains tattoos, the creation and destruction of art.
“Cerveza’s call came four days later.
‘Can we meet you for tea somewhere?’ Sally asked. I watched her face as she listened to his reply. Her blue eyes narrowed, then widened, tear-bright.
‘No, I—’ she said. A pause. She bit her lower lip. ‘You don’t understand. Your art cries out to be preserved.’
She waited. She squeezed her eyes shut and tears spilled out. When she opened her eyes, she stared at the ceiling, twisting the phone’s coiled cord around her wrist and pulled it tight. ‘Denial,’ she whispered. ‘Very well.’ She hung up the phone as though it were an egg and might crack if mishandled.
‘Oh, Lucy,’ she whispered.
I went to her and offered what comfort I could.
When her sobs slowed, she said, ‘He’s coming tomorrow morning, with an ax.’”
Pseudopod 426: ARTEMIS RISING Women In Horror Showcase: The Devil Inside. Feb. 20, 2015. By Shannon Connor Winward (2013). Read by Tatiana Gomberg.
The reason why so many stories can be compared to Rosemary’s Baby is because, in addition to the multitude of cultural stigmas and fears surrounding pregnancy and (cis)motherhood, is that the topic of gaslighting mothers and pregnant (cis) women is still relevant, particularly when the person doing the gaslighting is a husband and/or doctor. Just look at “The Yellow Wallpaper”!
Contains mental illness, gaslighting, possibly demonic children, PPD.
“‘What do you mean by that, Rebecca?’ the doctor queried. ‘What did no one tell you?’
Becca studied the drops of rain on the window, little falling jewels of light.
She felt evil, just saying it. ‘I read all the books. They warn you about everything that can go wrong. Preeclampsia. Preemies. Feeding problems. But no one tells you what to do when you don’t love your baby. Like it’s … unthinkable.’
Her words hung for a time, as Dr. Marsh scribbled on his pad. ‘It’s quite common. Many women experience post-partum depression …’
‘I’m not depressed, I just don’t love him.’
‘Why is that, do you think?’
Why? Because he didn’t love her back? Because he cried? All the time, always, screeching until his little voice cracked. Because Becca couldn’t cry?
‘I just don’t feel it,’ she murmured.”
Pseudopod 427: ARTEMIS RISING Women In Horror Showcase: Carnation, Lily, Rose. Feb. 27, 2015. By Kelly Link (1998). Read by Anson Mount.
A dead man trapped on an island writes letters to his wife, whose name he cannot remember. Contains bad relationships, animal death, a protagonist who is one of those guys who claims to care for his girlfriend/wife and treats her like shit, frequent descriptions of male masturbation. I found the concept of letters from beyond the grave interesting, but I would rather read about skin squick all day than have to listen to this privileged jerk apologize, so this is very much in the horror genre for me. The fact that he can’t remember his wife’s name is, in my eyes, more a function of his role in showing how women’s identities and needs are often subsumed in m/f relationships than a function of the narrator being in the afterlife. :drops mic:
We were going to name the baby Beatrice. I just remembered that. We were going to name her after your aunt, the one that doesn’t like me. Didn’t like me. Did she come to the funeral?
I’ve been here for three days, and I’m trying to pretend that it’s just a vacation, like when we went to that island in that country. Santorini? Great Britain? The one with all the cliffs. The one with the hotel with the bunkbeds, and little squares of pink toilet paper, like handkerchiefs. It had seashells in the window too, didn’t it, that were transparent like bottle glass? They smelled like bleach? It was a very nice island. No trees. You said that when you died, you hoped heaven would be an island like that. And now I’m dead, and here I am.
Artemis Rising will return in 2016 with Hecate Strikes Back: Women and Nonbinary Authors in Horror Showcase, which was open for submissions in Sept. 2015.
*My favorite story from the was actually “Hoywverch” on Podcastle.