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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Debbie Painter on Womandom in Horror Fandom!!

I recently spoke to Debbie Painter about women in horror. She’s a writer, historian and close, long-time Forrest J Ackerman friend (mine too). Her much anticipated Forry-bio is about to be released! She’s also an equestrian and a dinosaur expert! Horses and Dinosaurs? She must love Valley of the Gwangi! Anyway, we’re gonna have a casual chat about women in genre fandom through the ages.

Debbie Painter

JOE MOE: Debbie, you’ve been a fan for a while now...


JM: 30 years, she says with a mischievous grin. So, since the 60s and 70s. During the peak reemergence of classic Universal horror and the slay-day of Hammer British horror - ramping up to modern day slashers, huh? Uncle Forry has said that back in the ghoul-den age of horror, "female fans were as rare as Pterodactyl Pteeth".

DP: Back then I thought there were plenty of female fans. There was always an abundance of female fan letters in genre publications. Primarily Sci-Fi, but horror as well. I never dreamed that in the year 2010 female fans would be regarded as rare?

JM: Did you attend many fan events back in the day? What was the population of female fans at those early Cons?

DP: Actually, the first Cons I went to were Sci-Fi oriented. I didn’t start going to specifically “monster cons” until the 90’s. There were definitely more women in Sci-Fi but I would estimate nearly 30% females at classic horror oriented conventions I attended.

JM: What are some of the specific contributions you feel women have made to the horror genre over the years?

DP: Generally, I think women tend to be more involved in the artistic creation of art and costumes. Jewelry. Architecture of film. Set designers. And there’s no shortage of female actors in classic horror - and modern horror as well.

JM: Can you name some influential women in the genre?

Some Horror-fying ladies: Donna Lucas, Jovanka Vuckovic, Ann Rice, Pam Keesey & Jessie Lilly

DP: Let’s see? Obviously authors like Ann Rice who stoked and evolved Vampire lore. We also have spitfire Jovanka Vuckovic (former editor of Rue Morgue magazine) who always makes a space for classic horror. Jessie Lilley who was publisher of Richard Valley’s seminal genre mag Scarlet Street and then publisher of Worldly Remains mag before assuming the editor's chair at Mondo Cult mag. Jessie is now moving on to editorship of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. And let’s not forget Pamela Keesey who wrote Women Who Run With the Werewolves and Vamps. Those are some accomplished contributors. Just the tip of my particular iceberg.

JM: Would you say the oft perceived “boys club” in the horror community has been more receptive to women fans as time has gone by?

DP: I’m probably gonna get myself in trouble…

JM: Do it!

DP: Well…(way too long pause)

JM: That’s a no! (Debbie laughs raucously) So, tell me why?

Penny Dreadful

DP: I think it’s true, Joe. I don’t think many male fans think of female fans as much more than attractive loiterers. If you’re pretty, like horror host Penny Dreadful for instance, you’re in! If you’re not, well…

JM: Hi, Penny! A talented horror host, filmmaker and writer. Love her!

DP: She is terrific! Generally speaking, there seems to be a lot of ignoring of women fans. There’ve been female writers forever. For example, Pamela Caron and Deborah Felan wrote for many genre magazines. I found their writing to be equal to the best of the boys. I don’t know why their work hasn’t been given as much attention as it deserves?

JM: In your opinion, what entities in our community have the best track record for honoring the talents of female fans?

DP: Book publishers are becoming more and more receptive. Producers are opening up to women filmmakers too. Midnight Marquee Press told me that I was the first woman who had ever written for their book series when I wrote “Hollywood’s Top Dogs – The Dog Hero in Film.” That was in 2008.

Debbie Painter's Doggie book!

JM: A lot of husband and wife teams putting out quality product. Gary and Sue Svelha put out the Midnight Marquee imprint, right?

DP: That’s right.

JM: Tim and Donna Lucas publish the highly respected Video Watchdog mag. Jim and Marian Clatterbaugh produce Monsters From The Vault mag.

DP: I heartily endorse all their efforts.

JM: They are the best of our community. So, wrap it up for us, Monster-sis!

DP: I don’t want to sound like I’m sucking on sour grapes. I just hope that the day is coming when male fans will look upon us female classic horror fans as equal contributers and not just as someone who resembles the Mom who threw out their Famous Monsters of Filmland mags when they were ten years old!

JM: Ha! Testify!

Debbie smacks Ack!

[Deborah Painter has written articles for such magazines as Filmfax and Horse and Horseman. She is currently an environmental services director for REMSA Incorporated. Debbie's McFarlane-published biography: "Forry: The Life of Forrest J Ackerman" is due out on October 31st or November 1st, 2010 - with a "Forryword" by ME! Please support this wonderful woman of horror!]


  1. Great interview... this woman rocks!
    Where can I order (or the dreaded phrase 'pre-order') the Uncle Forry bio? Can't wait!

  2. Testify is right. You GO girl! And thanks for the very cool shout out.

    Jessie Lilley
    Famous Monsters of Filmland