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Fiction Lesbian

Fist of the Spider Woman

Tales of Fear & Queer Desire

edited by Amber Dawn

Arsenal Pulp Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2009
Lesbian, Horror
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2009
    List Price

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Lambda Literary Award Finalist

Traditional horror has often portrayed female characters in direct relation to their sexual role according to men, such as the lascivious victim or innocent heroine; even vampy, powerful female villains, such as the classic noir "spider women," use their sexual prowess to seduce and overwhelm married men. Fist of the Spider Woman is a revelatory anthology of horror stories by queer and transgressive women and others that disrupts reality as queer women know it, instilling both fear and arousal while turning traditional horror iconography on its head.

In this collection, horror (including gothic, noir, and speculative writing) is defined as that which both titillates and terrorizes, forcing readers to confront who they are. Kristyn Dunnion's "Homeland" reveals the horrors that lurk in your average night at a lesbian bar; Elizabeth Bachinsky's "Postulation on the Violent Works of the Marquis de Sade" is a response to Sade from a feminist (yet kinky) perspective; and Amber Dawn's "Here Lies the Last Lesbian Rental" is a paranormal fantasia about urban gentrification, set in a house rented by lesbians on the eve that it is sold to new owners.

Subversive, witty, sexy--and scary --Fist of the Spider Woman poses two questions: "What do queer women fear the most?" and "What do queer women desire the most?"

Amber Dawn is a writer, performance artist, and radical sex/gender activist who co-edited With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn.

About the author

Amber Dawn is a writer, filmmaker and performance artist based in Vancouver. She is the author of the novel Sub Rosa (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010), editor of the Lambda Award-nominated Fist of the Spider Woman (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008) and co-editor of With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2005). Her award-winning, genderfuck docu-porn, "Girl on Girl," has been screened in eight countries and added to the gender studies curriculum at Concordia University. She has toured three times with the infamous Sex Workers` Art Show in the US. She was voted Xtra! West`s Hero of the Year in 2008. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Currently, she is the director of programming for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

Amber Dawn's profile page


  • Short-listed, Lambda Literary Award

Editorial Reviews

Fist of the Spider Woman applies the tropes of the horror genre---suspense, fear, surprise---to the horrors of real life, and allows its characters the courage and grit to come out on the other side, scarred, but surviving.
-make/shift Magazine


One of the best among this collection is Nomy Lamm's "Conspiracy of Fuckers," a story about a phone sex worker.... Just as compelling is Amber Dawn's "Here Lies the Last Lesbian Rental in East Vancouver," which takes place in a house inhabited by a young dyke couple and haunted by a violent lesbian ghost.
-GLBT Roundtable Newsletter (American Library Association)

GLBT Roundtable Newsletter

Amber Dawn has a beautifully twisted mind; I'm a fan. This book isn't about desire despite fear, or fear that triumphs over desire--Fist of the Spider Woman asks, "What are you afraid of?" and then spins a multi-dimensional, multi-genre web that is sexy, poignantly scary, and politically astute. If Charlotte were all grown up, queer, kinky, and foul-mouthed, Fist would be the stuff of her dreams.
-Anna Camilleri, author, I am a Red Dress

Anna Camilleri

The most engaging stories [in Fist] are those that manipulate the horror genre to construct an elevated understanding of the queer experience.
-Xtra! West

Xtra! West

Megan Milks' "Slugs" is a perfect mix of crazy sexual tension, genderfuck and H.P. Lovecraft-inspired freakish horror. Body horror is also a theme in Michelle Tea's "Crabby," but this story is far more entrenched in real life and comical to boot. Kristyn Dunnion's "Homeland" is almost an homage to Hitchcock, as a homicidal lesbian hustler gets the tables turned on her in spectacular fasion by her would-be victim.
-Philadelphia Gay News

Philadelphia Gay News

This anthology of horror stories, with literary styles that span gothic, speculative and noir, expresses the fantasies of queer women and provides strong characters in place of the genre's stereotypically scantily dressed victims.
-Ms. Magazine

Ms. Magazine

Fist of the Spider Woman is a brave, bold, eye-opening book. Amber Dawn deserves credit for probing beyond the shiny surface of modern womanhood to the places we often dare not go, but should. By turns chilling and erotic, the stories in Fist are unforgettable, and will speak to women who are strong enough to own up to their fears and traverse to the other side of them.
-Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor, Best Sex Writing 2009

Rachel Kramer Bussel

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