Monday 19 February 2018

Interview with Raymond Gates

Next up in our “monstrous season” of interviews, we’re joined by Raymond Gates, one of the authors of Fox Spirit Books’ Pacific Monsters, who comes to answer a few questions about Australian horror (and other genres), his writing (and other art-forms), monsters and horrors in general.

Raymond Gates is an Aboriginal Australian writer currently residing in Wisconsin, USA, whose childhood crush on reading everything dark and disturbing evolved into an adult love affair with horror and dark fiction. He has published many short stories, several of which have been nominated for the Australian Shadows Awards and one, “The Little Red Man,” received an honourable mention in The Year’s Best Horror 2014. His most recent publications include “The Sung Man” in Christopher Sequieria's, Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casefiles (Echo Publishing), an anthology examining the explorations of Holmes and Watson in late-19th century Australia, and coming in April, “There Is Such Thing as a Whizzy-gang” in David Moore's Not So Stories (Rebellion Publishing), a dark twist on Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories for Children.

The Future Fire: Tell us more about the Bunyip, the Australian monster that is featured in your Pacific Monsters story “The Legend of Georgie,” and what should we do if we ever meet one?

Raymond Gates: The Bunyip is a classic Australian cryptid that most, if not all, Australian kids learn about. It generally favours Australia’s inland waterways, and sightings of it appear all over the country. From my research, written records of Bunyips were first made in the nineteenth century as Europeans began learning the stories of various Aboriginal clans. To me it’s reminiscent of the platypus in that accounts of it describe it as having many features of other creatures: canine or feline face, reptilian head, tusks (or without), horns (or without), flippers—regional descriptions vary considerably. If you meet one, run.

Are there more monsters in Australia, or in Wisconsin?

RG: I think both Australia and Wisconsin are untapped mines of monsters and other terrors. Each presents a unique home for an assortment of creatures. I’ve previously written about the Yara Mar Yha Who, Australia’s own vampire (in “The Little Red Man,” part of Ticonderoga Press’ Dead Red Heart anthology) and the deadly Drop Bear (in “Tourist Trap,” part of the Demonic Visions anthology series). Think of Australia’s diverse landscape, much of it remote, even inaccessible. Who knows what’s out there? The same goes for Wisconsin. Bordered by two of the great lakes (Michigan and Superior) with a rich wilderness and quiet, rural areas. When I’m driving some back road late at night, only the road ahead visible amongst the towering corn stalks, I often wonder what could be out there. Waiting.

Is there anything particular to Indigenous horror and speculative fiction, that makes it stand out from similar genres in other parts of the world?

RG: The thing that stands out to me in Indigenous spec fic is that there’s not enough of it, especially in horror. I’m fortunate to know several Aboriginal Australian spec fic writers who mainly write in sci-fi and/or YA dystopian, and their work often mirrors some of the historical and contemporary issues Aboriginal peoples have and continue to face. I think that makes it stand out, but perhaps in a more subtle way. It’s like a subtle, perhaps subliminal, form of education. However, as I meet Indigenous authors from other cultures, I’m finding that they are engaging audiences in the same ways. So perhaps not unique, just different. Aboriginal peoples are oral historians; it’s in our nature to tell stories. I’d just like see much more of it!

What brought Holmes and Watson to Australia?

RG: You would probably do better to ask the editor, Christopher Sequieria, about Holmes’ motives for travelling to Australia. As for the motivation that led to my story, “The Sung Man,” I like to think Holmes would be intrigued to explore the Australian outback, and in some of the unique features of our land, like Uluru. As for poor Watson, let’s face it: he goes where Holmes goes.

What was the thing that scared you the most when you were a child?

RG: My personal horror was dealing with bullies on an almost daily basis throughout the majority of my pre-teen and teen years. When you wake up every morning and wonder what kind of ridicule, or beating, or abuse you’re going to have to deal with that day, the thing under your bed or in your closet doesn’t seem that bad.

How did you pick horror and dark as your genres? Have you always been attracted to them?

RG: I don’t think I chose horror so much as it chose me. From the time I was old enough to cross the road by myself I would visit the local second-hand bookstore and buy back copies of Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella. I remember reading the novelised version of Friday the 13th Part 3 when I was in sixth grade. In seventh grade my creative writing piece was titled “The School That Dripped Blood” and earned me requests for re-reads from my classmates and requests for an explanation from my principle. Horror has always been part of my life. We all encounter darkness throughout different stages of our lives. For me, horror has been a way of me giving it a creative outlet. Who knows what would happen if I didn’t let the darkness out once in a while?

Who is your favourite female horror writer and which of her stories would you recommend?

RG: I honestly don’t have a favourite, and if I pretended to have one it would only get me in trouble with the others. Having said that, I recently discovered and made the acquaintance of Lori R Lopez, who writes both short fiction and poetry amongst other things. I admire someone who can write horror poetry effectively, because writing horror is challenging under the best of circumstances, without having to put it into verse. That Lori does it in such a captivating way is a credit to her and the genre. Lindsey Goddard is another who I was privileged enough to read and critique a short-story for. Lindsey has a great and terrifying imagination.

One hundred years in the future, one of your descendants finds something that used to belong to you. What would you like that to be?

RG: Hopefully enough DNA to bring me back! I won’t mind sticking around for another hundred years. I’ve go too much to do!

Next to which author would you like to see your first novel on the bookshelf, when it hits the stores?

RG: Well just going alphabetically I hope to be within the same bookcase as authors such as King and Koontz. (I mean, who wouldn’t?) Frankly it would just be a thrill to be on a bookshelf. There isn’t much point to being an author if your stories aren’t out there for people to read and enjoy.

What are you working on next? What can fans of Ray Gates look forward to?

RG: I’ve pledged 2018 to be the year of my first novel. I’ve been promising myself and others that I would get this done and this year is the year I plan to do it. In line with that, I’m both looking at a mentoring opportunity through Crystal Lake Publishing, and hoping to find an agent that I can work with to progress my career. I’m limiting my short fiction this year, however I have been offered a chance to come up with a Cthulhu-based story for an anthology featuring Cthulhu’s denizens in Australia. I’m also in negotiations with an actor/film-maker about collaborating on a short film. A busy year indeed if all goes to plan. You can keep track of my progress through my website: or via social media—look for Raymond Gates Dreaming.

Thanks for joining us, Ray!

1 comment:

Raymond Gates said...

Thank you for the opportunity Djibril - was great talking with you!