My guest today is a ‘new to me’ author from the US – Dorian Dawes – who is promising a new and unique voice in gothic horror. They have been previously published published in a some horror anthologies such as Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous, Attic Toys, and In Poe’s Shadow and they have written non-fiction articles and essays for Catalyst Magazine, Harlot Magazine, Bitch Media, and Glitch Witch. Harbinger Island is their first full length publication
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I grew up in a small town where the satanic panic of the 80’s never really ended and continued well on into the 2000’s. They didn’t always react to me with the most tolerance, and at one point I was told that the way I dressed was glorifying to Satan. My teenage fashion sense wasn’t that horrendous, I hope! I’ve always wanted to be a writer though as books and stories were my rare escape from that awful place.
What are you reading?
At the moment, I’m re-reading a manga I discovered in my teenage years, Kaori Yuki’s Godchild. It’s a tale of gothic horror and intrigue, and it has beautiful men batting eyelashes at each other so I love it.
In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation, or character?
None! My ideas typically start with a style or an aesthetic, or even a mood. From there the world starts to sprout up in my head, then characters, and with those characters the plot begins to form.
Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Bartleby Prouse from Harbinger Island was extremely clear when I first met him, but he’s become so much more complex and detailed as I’ve gotten to know him over the past two years.
What inspired you to write supernatural horror?
For most of my life I’ve been a big horror not, always drawn to things that are spooky and mysterious. My one frustration was that horror so rarely features queer people or people of color, instead coming from a homogenous white-centric heteronormative narrative that I feel has caused the genre to stagnate. I wanted to bring other stories into the genre, personal stories of marginalized people fighting against oppressive horrors. I wanted this to be a horror book for the rest of us spooky people who might not be white or straight or cisgender. We deserve to be protagonists and have our stories told too.
Villains are incredibly important in fiction. What sort of villains do you prize?
I love writing and creating villains of all kinds, but I’d say my personal favorites are ambitious visionaries or mysterious forces working from the shadows. Both are equally terrifying; delicious to write about and to read.
What are you working on at the moment? I’ve been working on an adventure-comedy set in space about four cranky mercenaries and bounty hunters hired by a shadowy corporation to embark on a hostile planet in order to retrieve an ancient alien artifact. Their conflicting histories and motivations turn out to be their own undoing and shenanigans ensue.
Put together your ideal team of men/women – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?
I live in Florida, so alligators and fundamentalists are a very real threat! I’d put together a group of intimidating and inspiring individuals. Magneto, Laverne Cox, Carrie Fisher, Bela Lugosi, and Luke Cage.
Could we please have an excerpt of something?
From Harbinger Island:
An awful smell greeted her inside. Some animals had broken in at some point, leaving their little paw prints in dust along the floors and counters, as well as their own little droppings here and there. The kitchen cabinets had been ransacked and old, moldy food left there to rot in festering piles. A pile of unwashed dishes was stacked in the kitchen where cockroaches and worms bathed in their own putrescence.
Dissonant sounds of white noise shrieked from the living room beyond. Veronika winced and struck a defensive position. Yiggie came uncurled from her forearm and rose, hissing back at the noise. She crept cautiously into the living room, bathed in the eerie white glow of an old television set. Her eyes darted about carefully, seeking out intruders.
“Flesh-thing …” Yiggie called her attention towards the TV.
She crossed over the half-turned molding and frayed carpet to the television set at the far corner of the living room. There were at first only images of raining static, but gradually other images came through. She saw the living room from a wide angle, like that of a camera on the ceiling. Gradually, the image became clearer and clearer.
A figure wandered into view. She never got a good look at their face, as every time they looked up at the camera, the static worsened until the image was completely obscured. They were wearing what appeared to be a stained hospital gown. The top of their head was swathed in bloody bandages.
Veronika felt her skin start to craw as she watched the figure wander around the house, hunched over and sniffing at the air. They were a gangly thing, tall and unnaturally thin, and their flesh was discolored and graying, corpse-like. They had long bony fingers, and even longer yellowed fingernails that had grown brittle and curved.
by Dorian Dawes
Every community has a dark side, a sordid past that’s kept to hushed whispers and out of the ears of prying tourists – and Harbinger Island has the darkest shades of them all. Professor Bartleby Prouse is obsessed with the secrets and occult conspiracies surrounding the island’s myriad of unsolved murders and mysteries. He’ll have to use every bit of magic and cunning at his disposal if he is to protect his students after they unwittingly draw the attention of one of the island’s most insidious cults.
A collection of character-driven stories which combine dark fantasy and horror elements within a modern setting. The diverse cast of LGBT+ individuals come from various backgrounds, and the stories examine the prejudices they experience in their day-to-day lives along with the supernatural horrors they face.
84,500 words/322 pages
Dorian Dawes is a self-described social justice witch and full-time gender disaster. They also like to write things. Their work attempts to bring a diverse queer perspective into the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres. When not writing they can be found watching horror movies, playing too many videogames, or hiding from the existential horror of it all beneath a black, fuzzy blanket.