Creating a world of modern horror and magic

A guest blog
by Dorian Dawes

HARBINGER ISLAND came out of a dark place in my life. I hadn’t written much in the way of fiction in nearly three years. I’d become isolated, virtually agoraphobic, hiding in my boyfriend’s room and doing nothing but playing video games or browsing the internet. Some days it was a chore just to get out of bed. I’d resorted to dying my hair crazy colors just to retain my creativity.

The only thing I looked forwards to was playing D&D and Pathfinder every week with my boyfriend’s gaming group. Getting to escape, be anyone who wasn’t me, and to tell a story without the pressure of succeeding. The discouragement over lack of interest in my work, coupled with personal recent traumas made the very act of writing anything out a Sisyphean task. I loved the world we built and the characters we played, and somehow out of that, found the inspiration to write my own campaign.

I wanted to do something different, to create a world of modern horror and magic and combine my various aesthetic sensibilities into one cohesive vision. Part modern-day Dungeons & Dragons and part X-Files, I created the town of Oakridge and beset it with undead horrors shambling out of the fog. I had some friends online, gay and trans alike who were interested in playing, and together we laid the groundwork for the world that would become Harbinger Island.

To help facilitate exposition for key plot-points, I created a character named Professor Bartley Prouse. He was modelled after specific horror-archetypes, the old man who’s battled evil before (Donald Pleasance in Halloween) and the eccentric and creepy scientist (Jeffrey Combs in Re-Animator). The shades of darkness and light that surrounded him compelled me, and I wanted to continue his story long after the campaign ended.

The drive to create for creativity’s sake had rekindled within me, and I set about writing the prologue story that introduces Harbinger Island. From there, once a month, I made myself write a story within that setting, some which didn’t make it into the book. I kept returning to that world, because it was something I made that I liked. Despite all its horrors, I wanted to live there.

Harbinger Island is a world where oppressive darkness exists, horrors and conspiracies that lurk around every corner, but it is a work of fiction where minorities like me are seen fighting back. Bartleby Prouse is an asexual trans man utilizing his knowledge and powers to protect the queer minority students beneath him from the horrors that surround them. He remains one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written, and ever roleplayed in a tabletop game. I’m currently embroiled in work on other projects, but I hope to return to that world someday again soon. It gave me my writing back, and for that, I will be forever grateful. No matter what I work on in the future, this book will forever be held in my heart affectionately as the one that started it all.


Manifold Press is currently offering five of our recent novels – including HARBINGER ISLAND – at discount prices on Smashwords. Follow these links, and then click the Buy with coupon buttons for the books of your choice. (Whether you then click the Give as a gift button is entirely up to you, but hey it is the silly season soon!)

Happy reading!

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