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ix Preface Though mute throughout, she’s [Grace Jones] a powerful presence as vampire queen Katrina. —Ian Berriman, SFX.com I can say that I can’t think of any one [black woman] that has ever been an author or illustrator in the genre whatsoever. . . . It’ll happen eventually, I’m sure. It’s just one of those things that hasn’t surfaced yet. —William, attendee at the World Horror Convention 2013 I was a seven-year-old curled up in a movie theater seat watching Ms. Jones as Katrina in Vamp (1986). My fingers were curled in anticipation on either side of my head, ready to plug my ears in terror at any hint of surprise or film-constructed danger. I was ensconced between my beloved aunt Errolyn—whom I had convinced that I was old enough to handle horror—and my older cousin Lee—whom I believe had more fun snickering at my reactions to the film than actually watching the movie himself. My eyes were glued to the (then) gargantuan screen at the Joy Theatre in New Orleans, Louisiana—well, at least until a vampire appeared on screen—then they were glued to the recessed lighting in the floor. My imagination began to ponder the space behind those lights, calculating if it was big enough for a vampire’s hand to fit through and grab my leg. I watched the film in a semicatatonic state of a terror I had never felt before, hoping, wishing, and praying that it would just END! I was so proud of myself and x Preface I sighed with relief as the credits begin to roll—I had survived! And then my aunt Errolyn tore my world asunder as she announced that since she’d enjoyed the movie so much we were going to stick around for the next showing! I died a little inside as I collapsed into my seat ready to endure another round of torture, and Lee collapsed into another round of raucous laughter at my expense. I now recognize the genius of my aunt Errolyn and appreciate the gift she gave me that day, the gift of an intellectual curiosity about horror. It was the second showing that gave me the bravery to truly look at the film, as I now had the ability to move beyond my terror and began to enjoy the movie and become enraptured by the dark beauty of Grace Jones.1 And though I loved Katrina, my young mind had a strong sense that there was something wrong with Grace Jones’s distinctive beauty ultimately being portrayed as a horrific vampire, that her features became exaggerated and monstrously ugly when she finally revealed her “true” self. I also began to wonder, why the heck didn’t she talk?2 Was her character mute? Even at seven years old I could see the need to communicate in those eerily colored eyes in the midst of her painted face and wondered, why didn’t they let her talk? Why was she silenced? I would eventually learn that the word for which I was searching for Katrina’s characterization was “problematic.” My active little mind began to wonder if there were there other central black female characters in horror movies that were not painted so scarily. And, even more important, were there cool black girl characters that kicked the monster’s butt and got the cute guy in the end? As I grew older, my aunt Errolyn and aunt Linda introduced me to Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie from Halloween (1978) and Kim from Prom Night (1980) and other cool girls who kicked butt and sometimes got a cute boyfriend in the end. Yet I began to realize that the girl was always white. And after a somewhat traumatic introduction to zombies revealed even more about my growing love for horror: we black girls were absent—we were never there!3 As I grew older, I gained a love of literature from my mother and a love of genre fiction from my father. My lived experience Preface xi as a young black woman continuously highlighted the erasure of black women in mainstream horror. I began to ask questions as my consumption of genre media increased in my late teens. Why were there never any black people in Sunnydale, California? And was I the only one who thought the Chinese slayer (Ming Qiu) and the Afroed blaxploitation slayer (April Weeden) from the season five episode of A...


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