I recently had to write a paper (I’m in grad school now, woot woot!) and Rue Morgue’s Monica S. Kuebler was kind enough to answer a few questions for me–around her busiest time of the year–Halloween. The topic of my paper is obviously horror-related, which is why I decided to post it for all of you to read. Enjoy!
When one thinks of horror and women, they probably don’t praise the genre for its feministic messages and portrayal of females. The immediate thought for most is of the screaming, helpless victim who falls prey to the villain time and time again; in whatever scenario the horror industry chooses to put them in next. However, jumping to the conclusion that women are just eye candy in horror would be wrong because women’s roles in the genre are much more important than what audiences see at first glance.
Most horror films—specifically slashers—follow a formula; a formula that includes the ever-popular, Final Girl, who begins as a fragile girl and slowly grows into a strong woman, as she faces her demons along her mythological journey and becomes fully empowered. In the horror magazine domain, the industry appears to be a man’s world with very few female journalists. Managing Editor of Rue Morgue magazine, Monica S. Kuebler, has proved to be the quintessential “final girl” of horror publishing, paving the way for female journalists in the future.
The horror genre is viewed as a male-centered world and magazine readership in the genre adds to that assertion. Rue Morgue, one of the top horror publications, has a readership of 60% male versus 40% female while its competitor, Fangoria, has a male readership of 79% and a female readership of only 21%. Statistics show that the genre is more popular among men and when looking closely at the two magazines, it is apparent that more men are writing about horror than females.
At Rue Morgue, there are twenty-three male editors and writers and only three permanent women on staff, one of whom is Monica Kuebler. Kuebler’s story of landing her position with the magazine and making a full career out of the genre she loves resembles the slasher-film trophy, the Final Girl, due to her determination and dedication to succeeding at her goals. The horror fan happened to be at the right place during the right time—Halloween—and met Rue Morgue’s then-Editor-in-Chief, Rodrigo Gudino. Their chance encounter set off a domino effect in Kuebler’s life, and she soon became the magazine’s managing editor.
Reflecting on her start with Rue Morgue, Kuebler explains, “I met Rodrigo, Rue Morgue’s founder, in the fall of 2002 when I go-go danced at one of the magazine’s early Halloween parties. I mentioned to him that I was also a writer, and as it turned out the mag had a column in need of one, so he gave me a shot.”
She continued, “I freelanced for about a year, then a full-time position opened up, so I applied. I was initially brought on board in an assistant editor slash office admin capacity, but I began to write more and took every opportunity I could to learn more about the editorial process and editing itself, and eventually moved up to Associate Editor and then Managing Editor.”
Her Cinderella story of trying and actually succeeding at getting a position in the genre she’s passionate about only brightens from there. Although her position can sometimes be mundane—assigning and chasing copy, arranging interviews for writers, writing, editing, and finding review materials from distributors— Kuebler can’t complain. She insists that she loves her job, explaining, “I get to be submerged in a genre I love day in and day out. It’s the kind of job you look forward to going to. It’s exciting and challenging and fun, even though it can be very hard work at times and occasionally demands some very long hours.”
Kuebler describes the close-knit group of people on staff as family and praises her position at the magazine for all of the opportunities it has given her. Before Rue Morgue, Kuebler started a small press called Burning Effigy and after becoming full-time staff at the magazine, her company expanded. She explains the benefits of working with the magazine, “I’ve gotten to travel and meet most of my horror idols and influences over the years, which is pretty amazing. It’s also given me some wonderful industry connections that have helped my press, Burning Effigy, as well as myself as a fiction writer when Bleeder kicked off early this year. I’ve also gotten to appear in documentaries and have been asked to contribute to books as a result. It’s helped open up many doors.”
Although her position as Managing Editor has been positive, Kuebler is one of few women writing for the magazine. She insists that her gender has never had an effect on her job or the stories she has written and says that Rue Morgue is very open to female writers. If anything, her gender gives her an advantage because staff at the magazine is always interested in the female voice in horror. Kuebler says, “I’ve never felt like I’ve had to prove myself on any other level than the same one as my colleagues and no one has ever suggested otherwise to me either. In fact, we’re always looking for new female writers to contribute to the magazine, a diversity of voices is something that we really want, but the reality is that the majority of the resume’s and pitches we receive are from men.”
There isn’t a specific reason as to why females shy away from the horror genre or writing for horror magazines, but Kuebler justifies the lack of gender diversity on staff as a reaction to the genre itself. She explains, “Horror is an often brutal, visceral genre and that will never appeal to certain types of women (or men, for that matter). But I think there’s much less of a stigma now about being horror nerd or sci fi geek – for both sexes – now than there was in the past. Some of the biggest blockbusters and hit TV series are genre these days; it’s all gone mainstream. And the more mainstream it becomes, the less an interest in it will be seen as “weird” by the general public.”
Kuebler’s reasoning isn’t completely farfetched and in recent years, horror films have become more of a staple for women than men. According to a 2009 Entertainment Weekly article, film industries are gearing their horror films specifically toward women because they are the individuals who stay loyal to the genre. Women are increasingly being shown positively in horror, and Head of Dimension Films, Bob Weinstein, explains to EW, “The appeal is in watching women in jeopardy and, most importantly, fighting back.”
Statistics prove that women audiences are making horror movies thrive. EW found that in 2002, 60% of the audiences for the box-office hit, The Ring, were female. In 2004, 65% of females helped The Grudge become a success while 51% showed up for 2005’s opening of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Before horror-themed television network, FEARnet, launched in 2006, they performed a case study and found that a majority of individuals interested in a horror network were female instead of male. This information shows that women enjoy watching horror but it does not explain why they don’t want to write for it.
Kuebler believes that people have a misconception about horror publishing and they assume it’s an industry strictly for men. She says, “Perhaps there is some mistaken perception that the industry is a still some sort of closed-off boys’ club, and the idea of that scares some women away, but that’s really not how it is, at least in my experience.” She went on to say that she is seeing more female interns at Rue Morgue but very few are actually submitting material and resumes to be staff or contributors at the magazine.
Although there are few female newcomers at Rue Morgue, there have been influential women in the past. In 2002, magazine founder and then Editor-in-Chief Gudino handed his position over to Jovanka Vukovic, who remained as Editor-in-Chief until 2009. Vukovic explained how she became involved with the magazine in an interview with website Fear Zone, stating, “I had known Rodrigo [Gudino] for a long time and would travel to conventions with the Rue Crew, working the booth. I was working as a digital effects artist at the time but was a lifelong horror fan. One day it occurred to me there weren’t enough women writing for Rue Morgue so I approached him about writing. I figured it was something I could do while my machine rendered FX shots. I wrote a review, which he nearly published verbatim, then he assigned me a secondary cover story, then, shortly thereafter, he sat me down and said ‘What would you think about taking over Rue Morgue?’”
Vukovic had no prior journalism experience at the time but agreed to join the magazine as Managing Editor, where Gudino trained her for two years. After she learned the core values of the magazine and how to run it, Vukovic was given the Editor-in-Chief position, where she stayed until 2009, when she left to pursue her career in writing books and directing horror features.
After Vukovic left Rue Morgue, then Managing Editor, Dave Alexander, took her place and Kuebler took his spot. If she stays with the magazine long enough, she can eventually surpass Alexander and become Editor-in-Chief. Responding to her future plans with the magazine, Kuebler says, “I’ve always said I’ll keep doing it as long as it’s challenging and fun. In many ways, it really is a dream job and it’s hard to walk away from something like that.”
While Kuebler continues her important role at the horror magazine, upcoming female journalists are making their way through the ranks. The magazine’s online editor and contributing writer is April Snellings while its copyeditor is Claire Horsnell. Currently, there are three female interns who may one day become contributors or magazine staff and to that, Kuebler advises, “Keep writing and honing your talents, and don’t be afraid to get in touch with us and pitch stories.”
When I spoke to Rue Morgue founder, Gudino, he explained that he receives many submissions from women; however, finding the right person for the magazine is difficult, explaining, “Rue Morgue has always had a strong female readership and to this day I have a lot of submissions from women, but talented writers—and editors and designers—are hard to come by, no matter what their gender.”
Kuebler happens to be one of the few females that meet Gudino’s standards for the magazine. She explains that the only thing that would make her leave her dream job would be to pursue a career in fiction, stating, “When I do [leave the magazine], I hope it’s to write young adult genre novels full time. That’s a bit of a big dream, I know, but I always tell myself that once upon a time working at Rue Morgue was just a big dream too”