Personal Essay: Victoria Winnick
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how horror treats monsters.
They’re frequently portrayed as antagonistic, almost always dangerous in some way, and of course horrific, whether through behaviour or appearance. But they’re also curious, and misunderstood, and very often, more frightened than anyone else in the story. The unique thing about horror is that it lets us sit with our monsters, lets us learn and understand them, and lets us see the humanity that underlies a fearsome exterior. Sometimes it does the most difficult thing, and helps us find our way through the complicated, unsteady process of learning to love a monster.
Picture a monster that has to live with humans every day. Picture a monster that looks almost human, but not quite. She has short, scratchy spines all over her body, her feet and hands feel too big for her frame, and her voice sounds like it belongs to someone else. Picture this monster trying to dress as a human, only to have nothing quite fit. There are drugs that will bring her closer to a human appearance, but no one is ever quite certain how well they’re going to work. Other people call her “it.” On dark days, that’s what she calls herself.
Hello, you’ve just met the monster in my mirror. With apologies to my sisters who don’t feel this way, it’s not uncommon for a trans woman to feel a strong kinship with monsters. People often find it difficult to understand or to even try to understand us; we’re often portrayed in media as predatory and deceptive, and we're subjected to violence. It’s easy to feel monstrous when so many people are staring at you, trying to work out exactly how you fit into the rules of their world.
Which brings me back to horror, and the specific form it takes in Pseudopod. A little more than a year ago, I sold my first fiction to this podcast. When Shawn asked me to fill out the author bio and discuss the story, it was an opportunity for an honesty about myself that, at the time, was a rare thing in my life. I felt comfortable - and more, I felt proud - writing about exactly who I was, and how that contributed to the story I’d written.
When the episode ran, Al's kind and appreciative commentary brought me to tears. Later, Alex and Dagny reached out to me, "reintroducing" me to the Pseudopod team, and inviting me to participate in this year’s Artemis Rising, without my ever having to ask for a thing. Their consideration and generosity of spirit has been uplifting and affirming in a way that I wish every transgender person could experience when they come out to the people in their lives.
Because the thing about horror is that, despite all the brutal, annihilating, rending, wrenching stories we create and consume, very few people wade into this genre out of a sense of nihilism. Horror can be, and often is, about the bravery of hope, about vast wells of unknown strength, and about the poignant necessity of love in the settling ashes of dying worlds. And sometimes, if we’re very lucky, it’s about a monster getting a happy ending.
My deepest thanks to Pseudopod, and to all of you who love this monster of ours enough to want to see it grow.
Victoria Winnick is a writer, editor, and chef, living in Calgary, Alberta. When she's not doing one of those things, she's usually making plans about the next time she can. In the past, she's written educational books for children, and magazine articles on sex, culture, and music. She has been an Associate Editor with Pseudopod since the Aughts, and some of her favourite episodes are "The Greatest Adventure of All" by Ian McHugh, "Corps Cadavres" by Neil John Buchanan, "Venice Burning" by A.C. Wise, and "The Box Wife" by Emma Osborne. Her own submission to the podcast can be heard as episode 467, "Doc."