The cult section of the literary world

On Working With Excellent Women (Cuz why the hell wouldn’t you?)

by John Skipp

This Sunday, July 17, I’ll be a sort of special guest at the Viscera Film Festival in Hollywood. It’s an event featuring short horror films from around the world that were written, produced, and/or directed by women.

This, to me, is extremely exciting. Why? Because I hardly ever get to see horror movies created by women.

And neither does anyone else.

I’m one of a handful of “industry” guys who were invited to attend: not as judges or anything, but as enthusiasts who might happily help spread the word.

Not sure why I was chosen, but I’m guessing it’s because I always make a point of deliberately seeking out talented, kickass women to work with (whether in books or movies or music or any other creative enterprise I might undertake).

I don’t point this out to make myself look all fancy. I point it out because it just makes sense to me that you would want as many awesome, smart, capable women on your team as possible.

Not just for parity’s sake. But to broaden the perspective. Balance the interpersonal dynamics. And, flat out, to winnow down the sweaty adolescent boy’s locker room jockstrap mentality as much as possible.

Which – in film, particularly – strikes me as incredibly important.

Historically, on a lot of horror sets, women have mostly been there to do makeup or show their tits and die. If they were “too old” to undress, there were always moms, teachers, grandmas, unpleasant next-door-neighbors, and so forth.

It’s been a real pleasure to watch this change. Albeit slowly, and by degrees.

The 70s evolution of the “Final Girl” – wherein the (oft-times virginal) female lead is the sole survivor, largely by virtue of her pluck and, well, virtue – was the first big nod toward horror egalitarianism.

Indeed, much horror sort of bent over backwards to put women in the narrative driver’s seat, as a sort of backhanded apologia for disempowering and killing them, all these years.


Yes, it still played the whole Madonna/whore thing. But at least the Madonna got to stab the monster in the eye, or shoot it out of the airlock, by movie’s end.

She wasn’t waiting for a man to save her. Or if she was, that just didn’t work out.

And she was forced to save herself. Which was a good thing.

I honestly think that these weird female empowerment fantasies helped raise oodles of young women who barely even question their power or capability, when push comes to shove. As my daughter Melanie might say, “FUCK YEAH, I’d stab him in the eye! If I had to? Are you kidding?”

But as for women in the actual driver’s seat – making the creative decisions, and running the show – we’ve still got a long way to go.

The sheer number of women who have put themselves through film school, business school, or the School of Hard Knocks hasn’t remotely leveled the playing field. But it has definitely brought more highly-skilled, highly-motivated women to the table.

The question is: do they get a shot or not?

On ROSE: THE BIZARRO ZOMBIE MUSICAL, I’m the writer and director, as well as a producer. And, yes, I’m a guy.

But ROSE is a total She-Power production, with an eponymous character so iconic that little girls already want to dress like her on Halloween.

She’s Auntie Mame meets Maude from Harold and Maude meets Angelina Jolie from Tomb Raider, without the super powers.

Can you imagine the party those three would throw?

That’s pretty much who ROSE is to me.

Past that, and down to brass tacks…

My production partner is Jane Hamilton, who’s got waaaay more hands-on experience than I have, and to whom I defer on most nuts-and-bolts issues. She is the Reality Check Queen, straightening me out not just on logistical matters, but on creative and emotional ones as well. As such, I trust her 1,000 percent.

The unquestionable star of the movie is Chase McKenna, who will spend easily 90% of the picture holding up the screen as Rose herself. It’s a spectacular collaboration, I gotta tell ya. One of the most joyous and productive of my life.

I created the character, but she completely embodies it; and together, we have shaped Rose into someone neither of us could never have brought to such vivid life alone. So full of heart. So full of surprises. And so utterly throw-down cool.

Also on the team are Rachel Arieff (original songs and inspiration), Mary Robinette Kowal (puppet set design), Leah Mann (puppet design), Marianne Walter (makeup), Jairlyn Mason (wardrobe), Sarah Nutt (art director), Rebecca Larson (lead vocals), Lisa Wimberger (percussion), my daughters Melanie and Mykey Skipp (both singing and acting).

Plus a ton of female zombies, puppets, and survivors.

It’s not quite 50-50 in the male/female ratio, but it’s pretty damn close. And the power spread is fairly close to even as well.

Not to mention Esther Chilcutt (Seattle, WA), Kenyetta Todd and Constance Fitzgerald (Petaluma, CA), and Brandi Jording (Raleigh, NC), all of whom have brought or are bringing the grassroots Zombie Walk action to ROSE. Getting their friends to kick in like crazy. Taking the reins, and the coolness, upon themselves.

All of which helps account for why this project is so special, and means so very much to me.

But it’s not just about the movies.

In the course of putting together this piece, I went back through every anthology I ever edited, and alphabetized all the amazing women I have ever had the honor to edit and/or publish.

Many of whom were full-fledged literary goddesses before I got there. Many of whom I was lucky enough to give their first pro credit, or help them upon their way.

1 Anne Abrams

2 Laura Lee Bahr

3 Amelia Beamer

4 Francesca Lia Block

5 Poppy Z. Brite

6 Angela Carter

7 Nancy Collins

8 A.C. Crispin

9 Nicole Cushing

10 Dana Fredsti

11 Violet Glaze (recently renamed Violet LeVoit)

12 Tessa Gratton

13 Charlaine Harris

14 Kim Harrison

15 Alice Henderson

16 Nancy Holder

17 Margaret Irwin

18 Marcy Italiano

19 Caitlin R. Kiernan

20 Nancy Kilpatrick

21 K.H. Kohler

22 Kathe Koja

23 Alethea Kontis

24 Roberta Lannes

25 Livia Llewelyn

26 Elizabeth Massie

27 Lisa Morton

28 Justine Musk

29 Yvonne Navarro

30 Kathleen O’Malley

31 Melanie Skipp

32 Maggie Stiefvater

33 Lucy Taylor

34 Melanie Tem

35 Danielle Trussoni

36 Athena Villaverde

37 Leslianne Wilder

38 Mehitobel Wilson

39 Mercedes M. Yardley

Admittedly, I’ve probably edited and/or published a hundred guys. But easily 50 of them were reprints, from a past wherein easily 95% of published authors were men.

We can’t change the past, but we can change the present.

And in the present, a lot of women are kicking ass.

As the brilliant Justine Musk (see above) recently pointed out in Twitter form:

I look forward to when people don’t feel the need to refer to a woman as “strong” but take female strength as a given

To which I say: I don’t take anyone’s strength as a given.

But I know it when I see it.

And so, in conclusion, here’s a little piece of ROSE, which spells shit out as clearly as I could possibly hope.


Please give to our Kickstarter campaign, now in its last week, if you know what I’m sayin’.


And if you’re in L.A., please catch the Viscera Film Festival. Cuz it’s gonna be amazing.


Yer pal,


8 responses

  1. edmundcolell1

    Makes me think of a Troma movie with a feminine touch!

    Also, I find it interesting that you mention Poppy Z. Brite among the literary goddesses. As I understand it, Poppy Z. is a non-operative transman (female body, male identity) who simply chooses to continue dressing as a woman.

    July 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    • Poppy dresses and looks like a man now. He started the transition last year I think. He would actually be a bit offended at being considered a “goddess.”

      July 15, 2011 at 8:55 pm

  2. Nice article, Skipp! Viscera is good stuff. I am actually in the process of helping to bring the festival to Philly. Keep rockin!

    July 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm

  3. Pingback: Skipp on Women « Immigrant Song

  4. Those beasties are so cute! Thanks for the link.

    July 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    • Fuck, wrong post. This is what I get for having 30 tabs open simultaneously. I love the puppets. Good luck with raising funds.

      July 15, 2011 at 8:47 pm

  5. Pingback: I Join the Club of Kick A** Women « A Broken Laptop

  6. Pingback: John Skipp and Poster for “Rose” | E WEEKLY

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