Where did the idea to start Anatomy of a Scream come from?
I’ve always been pretty fascinated with the darker side of life. My mother loved horror, and I have vivid memories of both hiding from the films she used to watch and sneakily trying to see them for myself. I grew up obsessed with Stephen King novels, 90s teen horror and slashers, ghost stories, and the paranormal. AOAS began as just a quiet, personal blog, where I could practice non-academic writing and have an excuse to watch movies. It kind of grew from there, as I wanted to start featuring the work of other writers who could offer feminist takes on genre film, as well as highlighting the work of women in the industry. Another goal of mine is to promote Canadian film, so we tend to cover indie Canadian productions and filmmakers as well.
AOAS also launched during a low time in my life – I’d just graduated, was having trouble finding a job right away, and was in an unhealthy relationship that was taking a toll on my self-worth. Creative projects have always been a soothing balm for my soul at times like that – at all times, really. I’m not genuinely happy unless I’m working on something.
How long has the website been around for?
We’re coming up on the second anniversary of Anatomy of a Scream this May. For the first year or so, I was the sole writer for the site. I asked Suri Parmar and CC Stapleton to join the site last summer, and then added Michelle Swope to the roster. The solo blog became more of a team effort in terms of content, and I picked up the editing duties in addition to my writing. I also started accepting pitches from guest contributors. As we’ve added new writers and expanded the content, we’ve started to really build an audience, which is very exciting. It’s wonderful to know that there are horror fans looking for different voices and perspectives, who are seeking us out.
What are your plans for the future of the website?
I’d like for the site to continue to grow and to build up a community of readers who value the perspectives we offer. We actually just brought on two very talented new writers, Alejandra Gonzalez and Joe Lipsett. They’ve pitched a few intriguing ideas already. I’m excited to see how their involvement and contributions will shape the future of the site.
You also started Grim Magazine. I had the pleasure of reading an early edition of the first issue and enjoy where you’re taking it. What was the inspiration behind starting the magazine?
The way that I pitched it initially was the same way that I pitched Anatomy of a Scream; a cross between Bitch and Fangoria. I wanted to have a horror focus, but take a more critical, intersectional feminist approach to it. To that end, I made it a goal to seek out and feature a diverse group of voices and perspectives. I wanted to offer content that looked at horror in a way that differed from a lot of the mainstream horror coverage, giving space to viewpoints and opinions that aren’t often showcased.
I think that representation is really important. If some horror fans are able to find content in Grim that they’re able to really relate to and can’t find anywhere else, that’s wonderful. If others find content that makes them look at certain films, tropes, or even costuming choices in a new way and opens them up to new ideas, that’s also great.
I think another reason for starting Grim was the fact that I was too nervous to pitch pieces to magazines like Rue Morgue, so starting my own magazine seemed like the easier path! <laughs>
Can you tell us about some of the hardships that come with running a website/magazine that exists to put the emphasis onto Women, LGBTQ and People of Colour? I’ve done promotions and themed events in the past through this website and although they were well received by the general community, there was some backlash from people who felt they were being excluded.
Just this morning I was called racist and sexist by a man who believes that, by putting a focus on underrepresented voices, I’m promoting “segregation and alienation of half of the population”. He was angry because I declined to accept copies of his self-published book to review. (We actually don’t even review fiction in Grim, just film and horror theory texts. Ironically, our book reviewer is actually a white man.) There are always going to be people who feel entitled to space on every platform, because society has socialized them to believe that they belong everywhere. Generally, arguing with these people leads nowhere, particularly because many of the people espousing these views don’t actually respect women at all. I’m trying to develop a thicker skin and a certain level of insouciance when these situations come up.
One thing I enjoyed about Grim was the layout, as a web developer I can kind of understand the work and frustration that goes along with formatting and presenting something. How difficult was it to get everything looking the way you wanted?
On one hand, it was a labour of love, so I cherished every minute of it. On another hand — don’t get me started. I actually had to design the digital and print versions on two separate programs from scratch, because the proprietary software for the publishing site wouldn’t export high-quality PDFs. So, all of the work that you imagine went into the magazine? Multiply that by two. I was also a little limited by the fact that I’m not skilled at creating graphics from scratch, so the magazine had to do without the added flourishes of custom graphics. Instead, I tried to create a clean, pleasing aesthetic using the tools at my disposal: colour, spacing, fonts, and images. This goal would have been better reached if I’d been able to plan out the editorial content logistics a little bit better, but it’s a learning experience. I’m excited to continue building these skills in future issues.
What can we expect in future issues of Grim?
Well, our next issue is going to be slasher-themed, and I’ve already received (and accepted) a few pitches that I’m rather stoked about. You can expect us to continue featuring content that applies different gazes to the genre that we all love.
Any rituals or superstitions you have before you begin writing? Need a special chair? Can’t start until x amount of seconds into a certain song?
Obviously, there is the stereotypical writer ritual – the ever-present cup of coffee. I also really prefer a tidy workspace. Maybe it’s because I write better when not surrounded by clutter, or maybe I just enjoy the ten minutes of procrastination that I get from cleaning. Oh, and I always write while wearing Mark Duplass’s Peachfuzz mask from Creep. That’s important.
Any advice for our readers who may be thinking about starting their own horror website or magazine?
- Focus on the things that you do best and outsource the things that you need to outsource. Bringing on Joe Lipsett as a copy editor for Grim was the smartest thing that I did, especially once I stopped pre-editing the pieces before sending them to him and just trusted him to do his thing. Not only did he do an amazing job, but it allowed me to focus on the billion other tasks that I had to do, like following up with sponsors and other writers, researching licence-free fonts, working on social media marketing, and the enormous task of layout.
- Research all vendors before committing. Don’t make the same mistake I did with the aforementioned design software. If you’re self-publishing, research the different avenues available. Research digital subscription services. Research hosting. Make sure that your bases are covered before you commit any amount of time or money.
- Network, network, network. Even if you have social anxiety.
Valeska can be found on twitter here
Grim Magazine can be found on twitter here
Anatomy of a Scream can be found on twitter here