Fighting Forward: Part Seven in Our Pro-Choice Horror Roundtable

Welcome back to part seven in our ongoing Pro-Choice Horror Roundtable series. Only a couple posts left in this year’s interviews! It’s been an incredible and humbling experience talking to so many horror authors who have been affected by the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. Their voices are needed. All our voices are needed on this.

So with that, I’ll let my interviewees take it away!

There are so many things to talk about right now, but first and foremost, how are you doing personally? How has the overturning of Roe affected your life so far? How has it affected your family and friends?

JEN MARSHALL: I am furious and disgusted and terrified. I feel exactly like what I am: a second-class citizen. I’m tired of being powerless. I’ve participated in protests, called my congresspeople, donated, and volunteered. I voted my ass off. Where has that gotten us? What else can we do?

Although I live (involuntarily) in a red state, I’ve been lucky enough that none of my friends or family have been directly affected so far, but they will. We all will. I am close to three people (that I know of) whose lives have been saved by abortion, and I can’t stop thinking about what would happen to them today.

DONNA J.W. MUNRO: Personally. I hate to use slang to describe something so terrible, but I am shook to the core. The thing is, I’m past childbearing at this point and the impact isn’t personal…except it is. Abortion saved the life of a family member. She had a pregnancy in her fallopian tube that would have killed her without the abortion she had. Several of my folks had abortions in the 80s and 90s and  wouldn’t have gotten where they are now without that option. So this disruption of a carefully orchestrated political balance makes everything I believed to be solid, unshakable protections of women into something all of us could lose, have lost. As far as family and friends, I’m from Missouri (first to enact the trigger law). Abortion is a dirty secret here. We don’t talk much about it among women and isn’t that ultimately the goal? Controlling us? Keeping us quiet? And now, birth control is becoming just as taboo. Even if that’s not what is intended here, that’s the end result in the end, right?

E.F. SCHRAEDER: Deep breath on that one. I’m not sure. Along with most of the folks I know, I feel like I’m living in a jittery emotional space that hovers in chronic existential worry, jumps into utter panic, settles somewhere between outrage and numbness, and sometimes fluctuates between all those extremes (at once). The ground has shifted beneath our feet, I think there’s an undercurrent of stress that slices into the surface in the wake of a monumental implosion like this. Although there has been a constant chipping away at Roe for as long as I can remember, I can’t help but feel sadness and fear when I think about the future— the long term consequences that the decision poses are deeply disturbing and disheartening.

ELYSE RUSSELL: I’m nervous, to say the least. Physically, I’m rather “safe” at the moment, because of an IUD, but I had extreme PPD after the births of each of my children. I know in my heart that I would not survive having another child. So, I worry about that, though it isn’t an imminent threat. I worry about my daughter’s future if this isn’t changed. Meanwhile, my entire extended family (and in-laws) are conservative, and are celebrating this loss of rights right now all around me. The moral dissonance is draining.

Where were you on June 24th when you learned that Roe had been overturned? What was your first reaction?

JEN MARSHALL: I was working from home so I learned about it on Twitter. My first reaction was to find out where the protest was going to be. I felt sick the rest of the day.

TIFFANY MICHELLE BROWN: I woke up to a text from a friend that said: “Omg, they fucking did it. They overturned ROE v WADE.” Like many, I knew it was coming. We’d all seen the leaked opinion from the Supreme Court, but there was a finality and sadness that hit me that morning that I was in no way, shape, or form prepared to process. I have long been a firm believer that abortion is healthcare, and decisions regarding pregnancy are complex and nuanced and should be made between a pregnant individual and their healthcare provider.

I couldn’t respond immediately to my friend’s text. I trudged out of my bedroom, found my husband in the kitchen, told him I wasn’t okay, and cried into his shoulder. It felt like a slap in the face. A betrayal. A demotion as a human being. I felt numb and hopeless and angry as hell all at the same time. And this was just my first visceral reaction, well before I understood the reality of how this decision would affect issues related to bodily autonomy, healthcare, racial and economic inequality, and privacy that have little or nothing to do with pregnancy. As I learned and understood more, all those feelings intensified. It was an exceptionally difficult day.

DONNA J.W. MUNRO: I was at the In Your Write Mind Workshop at Seton Hill University. I was chair this year, so I was completely consumed by getting all the organizational work done for our guests and attendees. I’m always surrounded there by amazing like-minded writing women and in that I thank the universe, because when the decision came down we put our heads together and kept each other close. We had to do our jobs for the conference, but in that circle of women we plotted. If writing was magic, that weekend we would have brought down the Supreme Court and the whole rest of the patriarchy.

ELYSE RUSSELL: I was at home, preparing to launch the Kickstarter campaign for The Dark Side of Purity, when I heard the news. My first reaction included a lot of profanity. I felt a sinking start in my stomach, but…I knew it was going to happen. I wasn’t shocked. We’d had warning of the decision from leaks, and I’d channeled all of my horror and anger from that into fast-tracking a related project to serve as a direct response. A clap-back. I had to do something. Writing, creativity, curating anthologies, and marketing are some of my strengths, so I threw myself into the charity work. I focused on that one small thing I could do.

As a horror writer, how do you feel like this ruling will affect your work? Are you struggling to write? Will you incorporate these themes into your writing more? Also, how would you like to see people in the genre, especially those in positions of power, do better in terms of supporting us during this crisis?

JEN MARSHALL: Certainly I have been struggling to write, and what little I have produced has already incorporated aspects of our current dystopia. Social commentary has long been an important part of horror and science fiction, and now it’s time to press even harder. I think my rage will come through in my writing a lot more now.

I have always been so proud of our progressive and liberal horror family, and of our organizations and publications that work hard to be perceptive, inclusive, and supportive. However, some of the responses I heard about, even among our usually amazing community, made me sad. When human rights are being ripped away, there should be an immediate outpouring of outrage and disapproval. There is no moral gray area here, no two sides to this issue, so there’s no reason for subtlety or diplomacy in a response. Perhaps we’re all still getting used to this new reality and it might take time for some people to absorb the magnitude of what has been lost and to calibrate accordingly.

TIFFANY MICHELLE BROWN: During times of great stress and change, I usually have a really hard time creating, but that is not the case for me right now. I feel very compelled to create, and I’m riding that wave so I can channel my feelings of rage and helplessness and bone-deep sadness into something good. My work has always been political, because my very existence as a woman is political, but damn, it’s about to get that much more brazen, in your face, and emotionally charged. It’s a privilege to be able to raise my voice against injustice, so yeah, I’m going to do it.

In terms of support within the genre, we need people and organizations to understand that they can no longer take a neutral position. There is no in between. You either condemn the actions of the Supreme Court or you don’t, and silence is complicity. The threat to the health and well-being of women, trans men, nonbinary individuals, and especially individuals within these groups who are BIPOC and already experience grave injustices and micro/macro aggressions on the daily thanks to white supremacy, is very real. We’re already seeing the effects play out in real-time. And if we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. I’m very concerned about the reversion or further degradation of rights for LGBTQIA+ folks. I’m concerned for folks who don’t fit into the cookie cutter white American ideal.

Those with power, resources, and privilege need to create safe and supportive spaces and opportunities for members of the horror community who are affected by the overturning of Roe v. Wade. And that goes far beyond making public statements, because anyone can do that. We need more than a strategic, self-serving PR move. We need to see long-term strategies and actions that align with any sort of public statement individuals or organizations publish.

It warms my heart to see many individuals and organizations rallying to fundraise and/or create opportunities for writers to express their frustration through art. Nico Bell, Roxie Voorhees, Creature Lit, Brigids Gate Press, S.H. Cooper, Oli A. White, Hillary Monahan, Sonora Taylor, Cosmic Horror Monthly, Jolie Toomajan, Cursed Morsels, Eric Raglan, Voices from the Mausoleum, and Gwendolyn Kiste – I see you, and I appreciate you. Keep going! (There are probably lots of folks and organizations who are also doing great work that I’m personally unaware of or whom I’ve accidentally left out in this instance, but please know I support the hell out of you, too!)

With regard to continued, long-term support, if you host conventions, what will you do to ensure folks affected by this decision feel safe, secure, and included? If you’re a publisher, does the work you publish reflect your values? Are your works diverse and inclusive and speaking to issues of the moment? Are you encouraging marginalized voices to submit work to your calls? How will you contribute monetarily toward causes and organizations that are fighting the good fight? And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, are you receptive to criticism? We’re all learning. We’re all responding to current events in real-time. If you fuck up, will you fix it and grow and continue to get better? Individuals and organizations won’t always get things right on the first try, but their long game will tell you everything you need to know about their integrity.

DONNA J.W. MUNRO: The shadow of this ruling, the long reach of a conservative SCOTUS, had already impacted my writing. First, I’m in EF Schraeder’s Abortion Anthology and as PRO CHOICE as I am, I struggled with my story in it because I’m in such a deep red, evangelical place on the map. Putting my name next to a pro choice story might have repercussions for my day job as a teacher, so I was already worried. I wrote it because if I didn’t, who would? The ruling hadn’t come down when I wrote about the near future horror of a world without Roe, and here we are. What I thought of as dystopian horror will now be reality for young women in the school where I teach. Since the ruling, I find myself writing with an anger I’ve never felt. I’m not just angry at the system and politicians. I’m angry at us all. The next story that needs writing is about how easy it is to watch rights taken away and then accept it because we just don’t have the power or will to stop it or the news cycle moves on or there’s just too many things to care about. Yes, there have to be more stories about abortion rights or the loss of them.

ELYSE RUSSELL: Women’s issues have always featured heavily in the majority of my work, and that isn’t going to change at all. I’m just doubling down on my efforts to get more underrepresented voices heard in both the prose and comic communities. More fuel for the fire, so to speak. I’d like to see more charity anthologies, honestly. They’re a double-whammy. The money can go to a good cause (like reproductive rights), and they can get more voices heard. Some very poignant tales can be told to highlight this issue at a critical time. They just need to be given a platform.

What’s your greatest fear right now? And also, what’s your greatest hope for where we can go next?

JEN MARSHALL: I am so afraid for all the people who will suffer and die because of this. I’m afraid for my daughter who has to grow up without any rights to her own body, in a country that values guns more than her life. We are at the mercy of corrupt politicians and a morally bankrupt supreme court, and illegal gerrymandering and voter suppression will likely keep them in power indefinitely. It almost seems naïve to hope at all.

TIFFANY MICHELLE BROWN: My greatest fear right now is that the overturning of Roe v. Wade is a precursor of what’s to come. More stripping of human rights. More attacks on marginalized communities. More white supremacy. More patriarchy. Because it’s all intertwined. This isn’t just about abortion. And even if it were, the rollback of a court decision that has been in place for nearly 50 years and affects so many people is a dangerous precedent.

However, the fact that we’re here, facing these threats right now, also means we’ve shaken the patriarchal, white supremacist status quo to its core. It means we have numbers. We represent a “threat.” We have the ability to fight this, and I have faith that we will, so let’s give ’em hell.

E.F. SCHRAEDER: It has seemed like here in the U.S. we’ve been in the prequel to Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale for quite a while. I would like to be part of creating a different story, and my hope is that folks find new connections and new ways to make change as they resist and re-group.

One thing that’s next for me is a project I’m truly grateful to be part of, as co-editor of an anthology that’s donating 100% of proceeds to benefit the National Network for Abortion Fund, In Trouble. The collection is planned for release on the anniversary of Roe v Wade January 22, 2023 from Omnium Gatherum. We began the project prior to the overturning of Roe, but that recent change has brought on an intensified purpose and passion for all of us. I’ve been working with some incredible folks to bring this to fruition, and I’m excited to see other collaborations and projects with similar goals emerge in recent months. This kind of project is an important testament to the power of creative energy to resist and reshape the world, and it’s an honor to be part of it.

DONNA J.W. MUNRO: My greatest fear is that the Congress will go even redder. The only way to fix this is through the Congress and its lawmaking power. My greatest fear is a MAGA wave that will sweep in kooks and radicals to make this worse. Imagine a federal law that will make women’s health a government tracked objective with decisions made by those in power. Margaret Atwood can’t be happy about her dystopian predictions coming true. Hope? The only real hope I have comes when I see folks offering help to actual women in need, using social media to get around state prohibitions. We have to beat this. My hope is that need will unite liberals behind one banner. Let’s go blue wave!

ELYSE RUSSELL: My greatest fear is of the slippery slope: that more rights will be taken away, and we will wake up one day and feel powerless to protect our daughters.

I fervently hope that if enough of us speak up, and let our stories be heard, we can reverse this and stop it from happening again. We can’t slide back. We have to fight it.

Tremendous thanks to this week’s interviewees!

Happy reading, and happy fighting fascism!