By Heather Taylor For Andrea Subissati, every day is Halloween. As the editor of Toronto-based Rue Morgue, a magazine considered in many pop culture circles to be the “horror bible,” Subissati knows firsthand that there’s more to the genre than just binge watching scary movies. Her stake is in keeping the content fresh for its community 365 days a year—not an easy task when you’re dealing with the undead and their insatiable readership! Ed caught up with Subissati about the challenges of writing about horror, how to create a job that doesn’t exist, and the podcast she co-hosts, Faculty of Horror. Read on if you dare…
What’s your career backstory?
I moved to Toronto in 2009 because I was fresh out of grad school and I knew there’d be more opportunities in a big city. I was aware that Rue Morgue was based out of Toronto and so I approached them to co-present my book launch party in 2010. From there, I was invited for several guest appearances on the Rue Morgue podcast, and I started writing reviews for the magazine. I also co-founded The Black Museum horror lecture series with Rue Morgue columnist Paul Corupe, and then [journalist] Alexandra West and I cooked up our own podcast. At the time, these projects were labors of love that I worked on after-hours, but they blossomed and when an opportunity presented itself to join the full-time staff at Rue Morgue, I was ready to dive in.
What drew you to the horror genre?
I had always been interested in culture, and I had originally planned to write my masters thesis on feminism and a contemporary resurgence of interest in knitting! By my second year of grad school, I had a change of heart—in learning more about sociology and the relationship between culture and mass media, I became very interested in the ways that horror movies engage with the anxieties of the time, specifically in George A. Romero’s Dead series. My thesis covers a lot of reception theory and cultural materialism before moving on to a textual analysis of the films, and I just had a blast working on it. From there, I discovered a vibrant horror community online—tons of talented and passionate people who felt the same way I did about the genre. In connecting with that community, I found ample opportunities to submit chapters to books and write articles for websites. The great thing about the Internet age is that if it’s out there, you can find it.
You became the executive editor of Rue Morgue this year—congrats! When you came on board, what was on your to-do list?
Rue Morgue is a culture and entertainment magazine and I felt like it was a little light in the culture department. A big part of my experience as a horror fan had to do with finding the horror community in Toronto and getting to know the people working within the genre. Watching horror movies can be a solo sport, yes, but there’s more to being a horror fan than consuming the media, and I want people who aren’t as lucky to have a vibrant local horror scene to feel that same sense of community and belonging when they read Rue Morgue.
Are there any challenges in covering horror year-round?
Sure, it can be challenging, but that’s part of what makes it fun! The great thing about horror—for me, anyway—is that there’s always a fresh take to be found. There’s always an unheard perspective, even when you’re dealing with classics that have been studied for years, like Psycho or The Exorcist. My challenge as editor is to try to cut through all the crap to get at the stories that really move people. Horror fans are intelligent, passionate, and engaged, and that’s what keeps them reading.
Can you share a piece that you’re proud of right now?
I’m just wrapping up the cover story for the November/December issue and I got the chance to interview Clive Barker on one of my favorite movies of all time, Hellraiser. I asked him questions that had been percolating in my head over the course of 25 years! In transcribing the interview and seeing a print record of this amazing conversation I had with a personal hero of mine, I felt very fortunate for that privilege and proud to have gotten where I am.
You also co-host a podcast called Faculty of Horror with Alexandra West. Can you tell us more about it?
The Faculty of Horror is a monthly podcast where Alex and I pick a movie (or two, or three) and we dissect them with an academic/feminist bent. We were friends first, and we formed a strong bond when we realized that we both liked to apply our areas of education to horror (theatre for her, sociology for me) and pull these themes out of our favorite horror movies. She was more into podcasts at the time, and she proposed the idea of starting a show because there really wasn’t anything out there quite like it. Over the course of 4 years, we’ve amassed a fantastic fan base of engaged listeners, and we’re about to embark on our first-ever live podcast show at Salem Horror Fest. It’s been incredibly gratifying for us to know that there are fans out there that appreciate deep analysis like we do.
What’s your advice for breaking into a vertical as niche as this one?
Do it yourself. If it doesn’t exist, start it up! Write for blogs, plan events, work your butt off without expecting anything in return and eventually, you’ll be in a position to write your own ticket. You’ll never see an ad on a job site for a gig like mine—I got it because I had a body of work behind me, startups and projects that demonstrated my ability to steer a ship such as this one. Experience is really the best education, and the best way to learn is by putting yourself out there.
Bonus! Ed’s Q&A round with Subissati on all things that go bump in the night:
The one horror icon I’m dying to interview is… Fairuza Balk because she evaded me in the Century of Witches in Cinema roundtable interview I put together for our twentieth-anniversary issue. She’s an incredible person and she’s had a unique career, and I’d love to hear about it from her perspective.
My favorite horror villain is… Freddy Krueger because he’s the bastard son of a thousand maniacs. It doesn’t get more badass than that!
If I could invite five people from anywhere in the horror genre for a dinner party I would invite… Gary Sherman, Guillermo del Toro, Clive Barker, Stephen King, and Hannibal Lecter. You know, the thinkers.
Headshot credit: Ashlea Wessel
Heather Taylor is a former entertainment writer turned brand mascot aficionado (and head writer) for Advertising Week’s Icon Blog. She shares her thoughts on pop culture at HelloGiggles and has been published in Brit + Co, The Drum, and BettyConfidential. Chat with her on Twitter @howveryheather.