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A Point of Pride 2024: An Interview with Sofia Ajram



What inspired you to start writing?

My pre-teen years were limned to AOL chat room roleplays and Livejournal blogging. Role-playing has a kink connotation to it (unless you worked in retail, by which, it’s the hellish exercise you’re coached with to practice customer service scenarios), but before websites like FanFiction.net or AO3 were popularized, roleplaying was the sort of way you’d collaboratively generate stories. I wrote with my first ever cyberbuddy from the age of eleven: we’d go back and forth with bare-bones dialogue like a screenplay, progressing into more elaborate paragraphs, and finally into full stories. And then, inevitably, like so many digital childhood friendships, their interest petered out and they stopped writing. So I had all these characters and whenever I was upset or bored I’d retreat into this endlessly iterative mind palace of four or five stories that would hold my attention, and one day one of them pulled at the thread of me so insistently that I decided to write it down.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I have great affection for the genre! Horror punctures at the most evocative and instinctive responses we have. I love to see what people do in the face of brazen hopelessness and unconstrained immorality. It’s the genre of transformation, of obsession, of unfinished intent, of presence and absence, of embodied trauma, of liminal space—all while perpetually reflecting the world we live in. That lends so much opportunity for perspective and catharsis. I also love an underdog. Dismissing the genre because of garish or rote conventions is a bit of a tired and contemptuous take. Speculative work is so often snubbed of awards and recognition by proxy of being genre work.

Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

I actually consider it quite automatic. The stories I write are rarely about queerness but are always about queer characters. That said, I think it’s a deliberate practice of liberation and rebellion to center stories around queer characters, especially in the recent face of an uptick in deleterious anti-LGBTQ ideologies. That’s when reading, writing, and championing diverse stories and artists becomes most important.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

I find myself repeatedly visiting the same thematic framework in different ways, and that’s helped me understand myself and my anxieties a lot more. A significant amount of what I write looks at systems of capitalism and fascism—how they isolate us—and the sort of attraction and repulsion to self-destruction we face when we’re forced to operate within those structures. Writing is a great way of answering questions on larger philosophical concepts for yourself. You don’t want to brave what you would do in the face of immense unthinkable suffering? Double your trauma and pass it to the next guy. The next guy is your protagonist. Now press play and see what happens. By writing, you’re forced to put your character(s) through means of entertaining certain experiences in order to answer those questions you might be pre-grieving or avoiding.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?

Horror publishing seems to finally—vitally—be holding space for diverse identities and encouraging diverse stories. Those voices are really the ones testing the limits of fiction, so I hope that’s something we continue to champion.

How do you feel the LGBTQ community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?

It’s taking gentle strides in the right direction. Editing Bury Your Gays: An Anthology of Tragic Queer Horror was inspiring because it was an open-call project that allowed me to discover hundreds (literally!) of stories exploring the title theme as written by queer-identifying voices. I’m looking forward to more mainstream publishers endorsing queer writers telling stories from their perspective. I’m also excited to see more work from trans creators. I’ve got six or seven transmasc writers on my radar who have horror books out this year, which is exciting!

Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?

Beth in Gretchen Felker-Martin’s Manhunt. Eleanor Vance in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. The Plague Doctor in Cassandra Khaw’s The Salt Grows Heavy. I love to be utterly devastated by a character.

Who are some LGBTQ horror authors you recommend our audience check out?

Conner Habib, whose novel Hawk Mountain absolutely leveled me. A guest on his podcast described him as something along the lines of “a human acid trip” and that’s exactly what it feels like when you hear him speak. It’ll completely rewire your brain. M. Lopes da Silva, who writes lyrical and affecting stories alive with queerness. Their collection Infinity Mathing at the Shore & Other Disruptions was exceptional. I’m also deliriously obsessed with anything LC von Hessen puts to paper.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

Make yourself a commonplace book of sorts. On your phone, in a journal, in the margins of a book—wherever you’re most likely to use it. Write everything down: story ideas and titles, lines that come to you, specific and unconventional words as you discover them, quotes that inspire, bits of overheard conversations from your day, etc. Externalize your mind into a library. When you reward the part of your brain that feeds you ideas, even in the gentlest of ways, I promise it’ll surprise you by gestating strange and delightful ideas for you to work with.

And to the LGBTQ writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

Write for yourself first. Write what you want to read. It will find its audience.

Sofia Ajram is a metalsmith, writer, and editor who specializes in feverish stories of anomalous architecture and queer pining. She is the designer of Sofia Zakia jewelry as well as the writer of the novella Coup de Grâce and the editor of Bury Your Gays: An Anthology of Tragic Queer Horror. He has also given lectures on contemporary horror films at Monstrum Montreal and serves as a moderator of r/horror on Reddit. Sofia lives in Montreal with her cat Isa. Find them on X and Instagram @sofiaajram.


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