Sunday, January 9, 2011

Why I Write Fantasy -James Dorr

Welcome James Dorr, short story fantasy author! 

Amber: Why do you write fantasy?

I write dark fantasy and horror primarily, though with a bit of science fiction and mystery from time to time too.  I enjoy stretching my -- and readers' -- imagination by looking beyond the surface realism of the things around us, perhaps to find inner, deeper, more universal meanings.  I also enjoy exploring beliefs, mine and those of others, and working with characters under stress when those things believed prove no longer to be true. 

Amber: You say you write primarily darker shades of fantasy.  What are some of your favorite books? 

I was asked that question once on a horror panel and, without hesitation, cited Dracula.  Bram Stoker generally wasn't that good a writer, but in this case he got everything to work perfectly for him:  a genuine mystery as we, though a series of journal entries, newspaper accounts, letters, etc., attempt with the characters to piece together what's happening; fantasy; adventure; horror (and people weren't as complacent then about vampires not existing -- in Austria 150 years before, the equivalent time for us between now and the Civil War, reports were taken seriously enough to bring out the army); and even science fiction.  More broadly, I'd cite The Complete Greek Tragedies: Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes.  These were among the first works of literary horror and still stand with the best.  For other authors who've influenced me, I'd add Edgar Allan Poe (The Complete Tales and Poems), Ray Bradbury, Bertolt Brecht (real-world societal horror reset in [to him] semi-mythical places like China and the USA, but also the idea of "epic theatre" and how it relates to old forms like fairy tales).  The list goes on....

Amber: Why do you think readers love fantasy? 

  I suspect for much the same reasons I do:  To be taken to places outside one's usual sphere of activity, be it another part of this world or one entirely of the imagination.  Or perhaps to be taken to one's inner self, at least to catch a glimpse or two of what may lurk there.  The neat thing about fantasy is that you can, ideally, give (and get) both.

In a broader sense, I think readers in general like to think, to add their own imaginations to what the author has offered.  In that way reading, especially in speculative genres like science fiction, fantasy, and horror, becomes a dynamic experience, unlike, say, watching movies or TV which are tailored to a more passive reception. 

Amber:  Would you write fantasy even if no one read it?

That's a difficult question.  I write what interests me, certainly, but I also wish to share my work with others.  When I was younger I enjoyed reading the work of others, so maybe I'm paying forward in some sense, to plant the seed to write to at least a few of those ahead of me.  In that way maybe writing is a kind of contract between writer and reader which would be incomplete without both parts.  I have written stories that never sold and yet that I don't regret having written, but that doesn't mean I haven't stopped sending them around, at least occasionally.  But taken literally, if I were in some place where no one else who could read (or be read to) existed, a desert island with no chance to be visited by explorers even centuries after, surrounded by currents that guaranteed any manuscript tossed out in a bottle would sink before it could reach any shore, I really don't know.  (I might “make up” stories, but I have a notion I might prefer to spend my time constructing a flute to make music instead.  Or possibly paint pictures on cave walls -- that is, I think there might be something even more fundamental than stories that I might seek to let out through art.) 

James Dorr is a short story writer and poet with two collections, Strange Mistresses:  Tales of Wonder and Romance and Darker Loves:  Tales of Mystery and Regret, published by Dark Regions Press (  He also has a novella, The Garden, available in electronic and print chapbook form from Damnation Books, LLC, along with several hundred appearances in magazines and anthologies ranging from Aboriginal Science Fiction and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine to Xenophilia and The Yellow Bat Review.  Dorr has worked a number of jobs including technical writer, city editor on a regional magazine, full time freelancer, and semi-professional musician, and now resides in southern Indiana with one cat, Wednesday, and a full-size book of poetry, Vamps (A Retrospective), due out in 2011 from Sam’s Dot Publishing.  

For more information on his work and upcoming projects of 
James Dorr, please feel free to have a look at his website.
Comments are welcome.


  1. Nice interview, and though fantasy is not a favorite genre of mine, I must say you make a good case for it.

    Victor J. Banis