On Saturday I was at Derby’s bi-annual speculative fiction event, Edge-Lit. This is my third year attending its summer instalment, and it was yet another fantastic event where I could be my usual book-nerdy self without judgement.
While I admittedly spent most of my time in the bar (everyone here pretty much knows everyone, so it means a lot of the day is spent shaking hands, hugging, catching up with friends, and getting introduced to people), I did go to a couple of very interesting panel discussions, book readings, and one workshop which I was very excited about.
The workshop was led by Maria Lewis, a journalist and author all the way from Australia. She was raised on werewolf stories, a love that became an obsession, and, according to her website, harbours the belief that unicorns exist. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t disagree with that. Her werewolf novel, ‘Who’s Afraid?’, is out now.
The feminine grotesque is a concept I’ve been fascinated with since I read Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Sexing the Cherry’ at university, sixteen years ago now. As Maria pointed out, if you think about female monsters (whether human, supernatural, or animal), they are usually presented with the usual Hollywood sex appeal we’re all force fed a diet of. Even while tearing someone’s throat out, or ripping them limb from limb, there’s something inherently attractive about them.
Of course, there are fantastic examples of the feminine grotesque; such as Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s ‘Misery’, the ghosts in ‘Crimson Peak’, or Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of The Red Queen (she excells at the feminine grotesque characters, such as in Sweeney Todd and Harry Potter), but we’re more often shown the combination of deadly and sexy, dangerous and alluring, cabalistic and intriguing.
The workshop really got me thinking about the creation of a true feminine grotesque, and inspired me to up the ante with characters from both my current works in progress: ‘The Visionary‘ (The Paper Duchess Book 3) and ‘The Memory Trader‘. So watch out for some truly fearsome women soon!
What are your favourite examples of the feminine grotesque?