Scifipulse recently had the privilege of interviewing Ever Dundas. She is a queer disabled writer who lives in Edinburgh and is the author of Goblin, the Saltire Award winning book about an outcast girl growing up in London in World War 2. Additionally, Ever is the author of HellSans, a dystopian novel set in a fictional UK. Which she discusses here in this interview. Further, Ever shares her advice for disabled people who struggle with internalised ableism.
SFP: What got you into writing?
Ever Dundas: Reading. As soon as I learned to read as a kid, I devoured books. Watching films also inspired my love for storytelling and from around seven years old my only ambition was to be an author.
SFP: How would you convince someone who has perhaps absorbed a lot of ableist propaganda that disabled people are as important as they are?
Ever Dundas: What this question is really asking is: how do we convince a non-disabled person that disabled people are people?
A part of me wants to reject that from the outset; why do we always have to work to convince people of our personhood? And it’s tied up in the hierarchy of human/non-human, which I have no time for.
It’s exhausting and we shouldn’t have to do this work.
But I’d say, read HellSans and use it as a stepping-off point to interrogate your beliefs around health, illness, and disability. And read work by disabled writers, both fiction and non-fiction; you can unlearn ableist propaganda by supporting disabled artists.
SFP: Please can you tell us a little bit about your new book HellSans?
Ever Dundas: HellSans is set in an alternative dystopian UK, where the Inex, a cyborg doll-like personal assistant, has replaced the smartphone and the population is controlled by its ‘bliss’ reaction to HellSans, the enforced, ubiquitous typeface. But there’s a minority who are allergic to the typeface: so-called ‘deviants’ who are forced to live in ghettos or on the streets.
The story follows two protagonists, Jane Ward and Dr Ichorel Smith. Jane is a queer woman, and she’s CEO of the company that develops the Inex. She’s powerful and in league with the government until she falls ill with the allergy. Losing her charmed life, she languishes in the ghetto until her story collides with Icho.
Icho is a queer woman who has a HellSans allergy cure and is on the run from the government and the Seraphs who all have their own agenda for the cure (the Seraphs run the ghetto and are ‘terrorists’ or ‘freedom fighters’ depending on your viewpoint).
The book is in three parts, and the first two parts, ‘Jane’ and ‘Icho’, can be read in an order of the reader’s choosing.
Every reader experiences the same narrative differently but I like the idea of deliberately playing with that – if you read one section first you’ll get a slightly different experience of the narrative than reading the other way round, as you’re given certain information first that the reader reading the other way won’t get until later. And you get to know one character and the HellSans world through their eyes before experiencing it through the other, which can have an influence on your take on what’s happening.
Also, there’s something that’s prominent in the Jane narrative that is mostly absent in the Icho narrative; some readers might notice, some might not, but the explanation for this absence is revealed in part three.
SFP: Which writers are you inspired by?
Ever Dundas: So many! Angela Carter, Shirley Jackson, Don DeLillo, Agustina Bazterrica, Mariana Enriquez, China Miéville, JG Ballard, Nicola Barker, Arthur C Clarke, Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Nietzsche, Rebecca Roanhorse, Leigh Bardugo, Arkady Martine,
SFP: What are you working on at the moment?
Ever Dundas: Unfortunately, due to Inklusion Guide work I haven’t been able to properly start work on novel three yet. But everything is in place for it: I’ve done a synopsis, have a plan for the structure, there’s a shelf full of books for research, and I have copious notes and some scenes sketched out. I’m looking forward to getting fully immersed when all the versions of the Inklusion Guide are out.
SFP: What would you say to help a disabled person who struggles with internalised ableism?
Ever Dundas: Go easy on yourself; it’s a hard thing to unlearn. Find a community of disabled people for mutual support and encouragement.
SFP: What other books by disabled authors would you recommend?
SFP: And finally, what would be your advice to disabled people who are afraid or who have given up hope considering the way Britain is today?
Ever Dundas: I think, given the state of things, it would be condescending for me to give fellow disabled people advice. What would I say that wouldn’t simply be inane platitudes and nebulous hope?
‘Hope’ is often weaponised – keep people hoping for some distant future where things will be better, but don’t actually do anything to work towards that future. And it’s always about the future. But what about now? The pandemic has shown we can enact nationwide sweeping changes quickly, and the way society is at the moment isn’t the way it has to be no matter what lies the Tories tell to make you think that’s true.
My advice would be to people in positions of power – make positive change now, rather than making people suffer through a winter of fuel poverty. My advice to non-disabled people: be a good ally. Lobby for disability rights and justice, support your disabled friends, family, and colleagues (and not in a condescending ‘charitable’ way), and the next chance you get – vote the Tories out. For non-disabled writer colleagues – use the Inklusion Guide when you agree to do events; pass it on to the event organiser and tell them to make their events accessible.
Scifipulse would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks and warmest best wishes to Ever Dundas for so graciously taking the time to answer our questions.
Her Twitter: @EverDundas
Check out our Janet Edwards interview here
Check out our Elinor Caiman Sands interview here