I am thrilled to share an interview with Dax Murray, where we discuss feir re-release of Birthing Orion, an f/f science fiction novel in verse which comes out on October 18. I loved getting to know more about the inspiration for and intent of this book!
A Bit About Dax
Dax Murray is a software engineer by day but fights demons writes queer fantasy and science fiction by moonlight. Dax writes worlds where being queer is not remarkable, and futures are held in the hands of the many instead of the few. Dax can often be found listening to the same seven songs on repeat, watching Revolutionary Girl Utena, reading Howl’s Moving Castle (again), or playing Rachmoninoff on feir flute. Dax is owned by three cats, two ball pythons, and one Brazilian Rainbow Boa. Dax studied political science, music, and creative writing at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. Fey currently resides in Washington, DC with feir spouse.
An Interview with Dax
How would you describe yourself to a new reader just discovering your work?
I am a cat and snake parent, a lover of alliteration, a fanby (fan + enby) of Star Wars (Leia x Amilyn headcanon), I am a Goddess of Magic in Final Fantasy XIV, and I hate wearing shoes and love playing in questionable creeks. I write messy and anxious queers trying to find themselves in worlds where being queer is normal. I love writing fantasy where structures of power are questioned and the interpersonal is always political.
What authors or books have you been reading lately that you would highly recommend?
It is October, so I’ve been reading my favorite spooky books. The Bone Witch books by Rin Chupeco and The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo are my go-to haunting reads. I recently discovered how great audio books are for getting chores done and just finished another re-listen of The Heart Forger.
What inspired Birthing Orion?
I was writing a lot of poetry–which is of course code for “going through a break up”–and I just kept writing about violent celestial events–supernova, being ripped to shreds by a black hole–and I realized I could go somewhere with that. I wanted to write about two women trying to work through conflict that seems irreconcilable. Unlike the break up I was in, I wanted it to end with them figuring out how to love the parts of the other they don’t understand. I wanted to write about all-powerful gods who still have flaws and insecurities.
What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
This isn’t fluffy f/f. The women in this story are petty and vindictive at times, deeply hurting and deeply insecure. They don’t always act with kindness. They will probably be labeled “problematic.” And they are. They are goddesses, but they are very human deities. I want readers to take away that there is always space for healing, always space for learning, always space for reconciliation. There’s this idea out there that all f/f has to be fluffy and happy. Yes, these two goddesses have a happy ending, but they are anything but fluffy.
Who did you write Birthing Orion for?
For myself, for the hurting husk my heart has been so many times, a fantasy of working through things, of finding ways to have my flaws not just tolerated but loved. For every queer person who has ever kept their hurt hidden, repressed, because what would the allocishets think if they found out?
Can you share with us something about Birthing Orion that isn’t in the blurb?
My college poetry professor would be very upset that this book isn’t about Greece, isn’t about an affair, and uses way too many enjambments.
Also not in the blurb is that I hired Aurelia Fray to do some GORGEOUS interior art. She did the chapter art for A LAKE OF FEATHERS AND MOONBEAMS and the illustrations she’s done here are even better.
Where do you usually write? What needs to be in place to make writing possible for you?
I wrote Birthing Orion at a chemotherapy infusion center, on my best friends couch as he napped after chemotherapy, in the waiting room while he had his tests and labs done. This isn’t my ideal place to write from. Those first few poems, born of the supernova of a break up, sat idle on my computer for years. I wrote The Resignation Letter (oops, that’s about the same break up, haha), and then A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams, and then I wrote some short stories about being disabled and some about being polyamorous while a revolution is going on, I outlined a trilogy about rejecting oppressive structures even when you would benefit from them, I wrote a ton that still hasn’t seen the light of day. But then, when I wasn’t still raw and bleeding, I decided to pull out those poems about stardust and comets and see how many more I could write, see how I could shape the five I had into fifty with a story. I pulled it out and then got the worst news I could ever get. I uprooted my whole life to take care of my best friend, because that’s what queer family members do. I moved back to my hometown and am sleeping on his couch and quit my job and somewhere in all that chaos and anger and rage, I finally found the headspace to write these poems. Somehow I could address the festering wound in my heart, a distraction from the ever-present fear that the my brother is not going make it. I could substitute out the pain of future-grief for a past one.
I know that doesn’t answer the question, but honestly I don’t even know how to go about answering it.
What is one of your struggles as a writer? How do you manage it?
I struggle finding time. I struggle finding quality time. I have post-concussion syndrome and chronic migraines. I have Hashimoto’s. Spending all day at a full time job and then finding the spoons to write when I get home is difficult. I try to use a calendar to carve out time for myself to do that writing though.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t be discouraged. My younger writing self couldn’t stay dedicated to a single story for more than a few weeks. There’s dozens of half-started stories on my old hard drives, hundreds of outlines for projects I shelved a week later. It’s okay to not finish every book you start.
What book is currently on your bedside table that you can’t wait to dive into reading?
I read mostly on my e-reader, but SEAFIRE. I’ve been so excited about this book and just haven’t had time to get to it!
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Immediately next is a short story anthology. Right now it is called AFTER IMAGES and it’s a series of interconnected stories about a prophecy that spells out the collapse of a kingdom. There’s a story about a domestic abuse survivor who is just trying to escape her tormentor and ends up in a web of conspiracies inside the temple she fled to, a group of polyamorous teens making a home as found family drawn into a plot to assassinate a duke, and a young fae creature trying to choose their faction but learning that their parent is involved with a secret order of priests hell-bent on making sure the prophecy does not come to fruition.
AFTER IMAGES is a prequel of sorts to a trilogy I’ve been working on that covers the actual collapse of the kingdom and what comes next. All of the stories together are critiques of sort on why fantasy needs monarchs, why the chosen one comes from royal lines and what prophecies mean about who can effect change. As always, the world I have built is queer-positive, with #ownvoices representations of bisexuality and non-binaryness, but also for things like being a domestic abuse survivor and having post-concussion syndrome.
More About Birthing Orion
Too fondly have I loved these stars;
all these galaxies we once called ours.
A beautiful love story in verse.
The relationship between two goddesses, one the embodiment of a galactic creation and the other of cosmic destruction, is tempestuous at best. They create and they destroy and then they do it all over again. Seya and Mia use their divine magic to make pulsars and nebula, to set planets spinning around stars and bind a galaxy together with a central black hole.
But when one of Seya’s favorite stars goes missing, she blames Mia. What was once a symbiotic cycle of life and death becomes a game of broken hearts and promises betrayed. These tensions and insecurities are explored in sonnets and villanelles; the arc of their love tracked in meter and verse. These poems touch on queer love, betrayal, trust, acceptance, and forgiveness cast against a backdrop of stardust and celestial detritus.
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