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Talking Horror with Wytovich: Part II

Last week, my blog post was an interview with Stephanie Wytovich about her use of horror in the classroom. During the course of that interview, we discussed the importance of diverse voices in the horror genre. Today’s post is going to involve that discussion. 

Just to remind the reader a little about Wytovich, she is a Bram Stoker Award-winning poet, as well as, a novelist, editor, mentor, and college composition and literature instructor. One of the tools she uses in her instruction is horror literature paired with modern films to allow students to see how classic works influence modern culture. 

Wytovich says that author diversity is of the utmost importance to the horror genre. She notes that a huge amount of the classic and more contemporary works of horror literature and movies have been made by “old, white men.” This, like in many genres, is completely true. Being an early middle-aged white man, I can say that we aren’t completely representative of the population. There are a lot of terrifying stories that old white men cannot write. They simply do not have the experience necessary for those stories. People that do not fit the old white man mold (I’ll throw heterosexual and cisgender in that mold too.) have a unique perspective that the reading or viewing audience possibly hasn’t seen before.

Of using diverse voices in her courses, Wytovich says, “I try to choose stories and films (and often time art work) that ranges in time period, gender, race, and sexuality. Students need to hear and read and watch representations from all walks of life, and oftentimes, this is a breath of fresh air for them.”

It is a breath of fresh air for us all. A broader range of voices makes the song more fulfilling. It adds so much color and flavor. There are only so many times a genre can see the same or almost same story told from the same author perspective. Diversity can take the stalest of tropes and monsters and breathe new life into them. Diversity can tap into different fears that the status quo might have never thought of. Think about it. Can a heterosexual man really understand the fear a woman faces? Can a white person accurately capture the horrors of racism? Can a person who has never encountered, much less suffered from, mental illness express what that is like? I’m not going to answer this. It’s for you to ponder. 

Coming back to Wytovich and her classroom. The only way to change the way things are is to teach the younger generations about the need for that change. In the case of what this post is about, that change is diversifying the author pool in horror. Wytovich says that she tries her hardest to teach inclusion in her classroom. The actual word she used in the interview was preached. She stated that she has less “preachy” ways of pushing this idea forward. It comes by means of recommended reading lists. 

Wytovich includes a comprehensive recommended reading list on the web page for her classes. This list not only includes fiction, but non-fiction, movies, and podcasts. She says that many of her students use this list when writing papers. The ability to access other voices and perspectives makes for better thought processes and even problem solving. 

Of her students using the resources she provided to come up with different and even creative topics, she says, “It’s very refreshing (and exciting) to see.” 

Stagnation does not lead to growth; it leads to death. If diverse voices aren’t welcomed in the horror genre or to learning in general, stagnation will occur followed by a slow rotting death. Read something different by someone different. If you don’t read books by women, pick one up. A good place to start might be with Stephanie Wytovich’s books of poetry or her novel, The Eighth. If you’ve never read anything, horror or not, written by someone of a different race, creed, or ethnicity than you, do so. It will broaden your perspective, and you may start asking that more diversity be put in the horror genre that we all love to make it have more to love. 

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