Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Melanie R. Anderson and Lisa Kroger


Goodreads: Monster, She Wrote
Series: None
Source: Quirk Books for Review
Published: September 17, 2019

Official Summary

Meet the women writers who defied convention to craft some of literature’s strangest tales, from Frankenstein to The Haunting of Hill House and beyond.

Frankenstein was just the beginning: horror stories and other weird fiction wouldn’t exist without the women who created it. From Gothic ghost stories to psychological horror to science fiction, women have been primary architects of speculative literature of all sorts. And their own life stories are as intriguing as their fiction. Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, who was rumored to keep her late husband’s heart in her desk drawer. But have you heard of Margaret “Mad Madge” Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier (and liked to wear topless gowns to the theater)? If you know the astounding work of Shirley Jackson, whose novel The Haunting of Hill House was reinvented as a Netflix series, then try the psychological hauntings of Violet Paget, who was openly involved in long-term romantic relationships with women in the Victorian era. You’ll meet celebrated icons (Ann Radcliffe, V. C. Andrews), forgotten wordsmiths (Eli Colter, Ruby Jean Jensen), and today’s vanguard (Helen Oyeyemi). Curated reading lists point you to their most spine-chilling tales.

Part biography, part reader’s guide, the engaging write-ups and detailed reading lists will introduce you to more than a hundred authors and over two hundred of their mysterious and spooky novels, novellas, and stories. 

Star Divider


Monster, She Wrote gives readers a captivating overview of the history of women writing horror and speculative fiction, referencing big names like Mary Shelley and Toni Morrison while acknowledging a large body of writers who have generally been overlooked by academia and general readers alike.  Written in a chatty voice with fun illustrations and short sections addressing biographical information and recommended reads, the book is accessible and welcoming.

Despite the approachable tone, one can clearly tell the amount of research and personal knowledge that went into Murder, She Wrote. Both authors have PhDs in literature, and while the book might seem superficially casual, it is clear it can only have been written by someone with a deep knowledge of the field of horror fiction.  Picking the most influential and interesting women writers from each time period is its own large task, while references to essays and nonfictions works reveal the authors’ knowledge of scholarship surround these women.

The one downfall of the book is that, personally, I find it difficult to read a few hundred pages of short biographies, no matter how interesting the subjects, yet this is a book I think is best looked at as an overview of the field.  That is, it makes sense to read the whole thing, rather than to read only a section or otherwise use it as a reference book.  I’m not sure there’s a solution to this; changing it would have resulted in an entirely different book.

That said, I enjoyed it immensely, from the anecdotes about the authors’ lives to the glimpses into the evolution of horror writing to the summaries of books I might read in the future.  I certainly got some ideas of novels to add to my TBR list from this, which is always a win.

4 stars

10 thoughts on “Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Melanie R. Anderson and Lisa Kroger

  1. Grab the Lapels says:

    I love when academics use their expertise to inform the general public. Nothing quite as useless as abstract, nuanced, or downright useless labors over such a niche topic that no one else will read it other than future PhDs who want to avoid roads already tread upon.


    • Krysta says:

      Your comment rather made me want to cheer. There’s so much being published in scholarly journals that, frankly, isn’t very good. And I can’t help but suspect it’s partly because no one cares. Why should they? They just publish in order to get a job and they know no one’s actually going to read what they wrote, unless they just happen to be one of the star players in the field, which is, statistically, unlikely. Who really feels fulfilled by spending months writing a piece maybe eight people will access (and then probably skim)? I suppose in a perfect world most people would find researching fulfilling in and of itself, but I think the knowledge of “publish or perish” probably affects the most enthusiastic researchers.


      • Grab the Lapels says:

        I have anecdotal evidence that with the rise of misinformation that academics are turning toward publishing for a non-PhD audience. Sure, you’re super niche theories are cute, but when the world is melting, dictators are normalized, and empathy is low, what are you doing with your education to make a difference? Publish or perish is inherently selfish; you’re only publishing to get a job.


          • Grab the Lapels says:

            Briana, that’s true, though a number of universities also want people who have star appeal to attract students. There are even some schools that pick faculty who have appeal who don’t have the best teaching skills. It’s a complicated “game.” I definitely see what you’re saying, though. It makes me wonder if universities should reassess what they want to encourage their faculty to do. If someone is in the sciences, I can see how their work wouldn’t directly appeal to the general public, the information gained from it would help other people who can make a difference (studies about cancer, societal behavior, affects of screen time on children, etc).


  2. M (the long hot spell) says:

    “I find it difficult to read a few hundred pages of short biographies, no matter how interesting the subjects”

    Me too! I’m reading a collection of biographical essays right now and my way around that is to read a few now and then.

    Murder She Wrote sounds great and I LOVE the cover.


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