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Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage in Horror Month: An Interview with Sloane Leong




What inspired you to start writing?

I started writing stories before I started drawing. I remember the first time I wrote a story; I was 5 or 6 at a Sunday congregation meeting with my family. My mom told me to take notes on the sermon but I interpreted that as taking notes about whatever. I ended up writing a short story about dragons and angels having a picnic.

What draws you to the horror genre?

The ability to play with transgression and explore imaginary spaces that are primed to put you in contact with elements you’d usually fear or be repulsed by for biological, social, or spiritual reasons. Horror centers on weakness and vulnerability and, to me getting to be vulnerable is one of the great joys of writing and making art.

Do you include Asian and/or Pacific Islander characters and themes in your writing with purpose, and if so, what do you want to portray?

Definitely characters! As for themes…I’ve never thought of a theme as specifically ethnic so I’m not sure. I guess as a Hawaiian, I love writing stories around the friction between humanity and nature, tourism, colonialism, and living as an indigenous person, what that even means if anything.

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

That a lot of people not only prefer to shield themselves from the grotesque and the abject but that they actively fight against it when forced to perceive it. Or perceive someone making work about it. It’s also given me a deepened sense of human emotion, suffering, and our potential for endurance.

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

I’m pretty picky about what I read so I don’t pay attention to trends that much. But there’s as much great horror being written now as there was any time in history, you just have to dig for it.

How do you feel the Asian and/or Pacific Islander communities have been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?

Honestly, it’s pretty sparse for Pacific Islanders! The Asian community is another story, it’s far larger. I come from one very small population (Hawaii) so I’m not necessarily surprised. I care about the representation of authors in the field, not really characters, but the authors, and I hope we can cultivate more writers in marginalized communities everywhere.

Who are some of your favorite Asian and/or Pacific Islander characters in horror?

No idea about Pacific Islanders, they’re rare!

Can you recommend some Asian and/or Pacific Islander horror authors for our readers to check out?

Yoko Ogawa, Ryu Murakami, Shuzo Oshimi, and Indrapramit Das come to mind. Also sorry, shameless plug, but check out the illustrated BIPOC horror anthology I curate with Cassie Hart, Death in the Mouth Vol. 1 and Vol. 2! We have A/PI authors like K-Ming Chang, P. H. Low, JL Akagi, and more.

What is your best advice for horror authors today?

Write where it hurts, write what makes your chest tighten up, write what makes you break out into a cold sweat. Anything else is fluff.

And to the Asian and/or Pacific Islander writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

Same as the above but also: don’t let lack of representation in the field stop you from thinking you can’t write a certain way or in a certain genre. Follow your passion regardless of who came before you (or didn’t!).

Sloane Leong is a cartoonist, illustrator, writer, and editor of mixed indigenous ancestry. Through her work, she engages with visceral futurities and fantasies through a radical, kaleidoscopic lens. She is the creator of several graphic novels: From Under Mountains, Prism Stalker, A Map to the Sun, and Graveneye. She has been self-publishing her own comics since she was a teen and has done work for Pixar, Viz Media, New Republic, Image Comics, Cartoon Network, DC, Dark Horse, Namco, and more. Her fiction has appeared in many publications including Lightspeed Magazine, Dark Matter Magazine, Apex Magazine, Fireside Magazine, Analog, Realm Media, and many more. In 2022, she attended Clarion West’s six-week summer workshop. In 2023, she was chosen to be a Fellow in the 8th Annual Native American TV Writers Lab.

As an editor, she has Kickstarted and edited the illustrated horror anthology, Death In the Mouth: Original Horror by People of Color. She has also worked privately with clients as a fiction and comics editor and coach, providing career guidance and creative mentorship. When she’s not drawing or writing, Sloane co-hosts a show about storytelling with a focus on comics and film. As an organizer, she runs The Minicomic Awards, an annual virtual showcase that spotlights the unique, challenging, yet under-recognized work in short-form comics with Leslie Hung. She is also the co-founder of the Cartoonist Cooperative, an organization dedicated to helping cartoonists develop a generative and sustainable creative practice. She is currently living on Chinook land near what is known as Portland, Oregon with her family and two dogs.

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