Women in Horror 2019: Stephanie M. Wytovich

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press. 

Follow Wytovich on her blog at http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/ and on twitter @SWytovich. For book reviews and editing services, see: https://www.stephaniemwytovich.com/

1) what is horror?

To me, horror is a genre of survival. It challenges our faith, our morals, and our sense of everything we know to be true, and that’s important in a world that is forever changing, because this forces us to constantly reassess ourselves and evolve along with it.

I also enjoy that it challenges our perception of what is good and evil, oftentimes focuses on the darkness of humanity vs the innocence of monsters. It’s a genre that isn’t afraid to push boundaries, it doesn’t sugar coat its messages or its violence, and it lets us live boldly, bravely, and unapologetically as we sift through the blood and wreckage to find the light

2) why horror?

Horror has always been a catharsis to me because it lets me embrace my shadow self and all the parts of my existence that may seem unattractive and even distasteful to others. Horror doesn’t turn its head when I whisper my confessions, and it doesn’t bat an eye when I talk about my rage. It’s there and listens to my sadness and my fears, and instead of telling me everything is going to be okay, it reminds me that it’s not unless I get up and do something about it.

It’s compassionate while blunt, both a hug and a kick in the right direction.

I love horror because it reminds me that being alive is the greatest gift that we get, and it forces me to keep living, to keep surviving, and try to make the world the best and safest place that it can be.

3) where do you see horror going?

I always enjoy trying to predict the next monster or madman that is going to hit horror, but right now I think we’re heading in a direction that is focused on the occult, specifically in regard to witchcraft with potentially another rise in satanic films like we had in the 70s and 80s. We’ve seen a lot of this happening so far, especially with films like: Oz Perkin’s The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015) Robert Egger’s The Witch (2016), Andre Ovredal’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: Apocalypse (2018), and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

All of these films deal with a focus on the satanic feminine, and in a political environment where gender roles and rights are being challenged, we tend to see a shift toward power, whether it’s personal in the form of choice, or whether it’s supernatural in the sense of cultivating rage and taking action, i.e. signing the book of the beast, eating the apple in the Garden of Eden, kickstarting the apocalypse, etc. We see/ have seen the female narrative rewritten using the archetype of the witch—a strong, independent women who isn’t afraid to own her history, her sexuality, and her power—and this focus, often associated with the feminist movement is a fierce symbol and archetype of empowerment and strength. We see that with Cordelia in Apocalypse when she takes on the Son of Satan, and we see it in Sabrina, when she makes decisions based on herself and her family, rather than what the coven wants or expects of her.

Personally, I’m really excited about this and I’m looking forward to seeing what continues to come out both in literature and cinema over the next few years; this also continues to prove that horror is a genre that is about survival and the will to overcome, so in regard to it having relevance and standing up against more literary and contemporary genres, I think we’re hitting it out of the park because we’re not afraid to pull off the mask of our oppressors and fight to the death for what’s right.

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