R. D. M. WHITTAKER
Ryan emerged from the dark Satanic mills of Bolton at some point in the 1980s and now aims to add a dark and unpredictable working-class voice to genre fiction. He bleeds fantasy, science fiction and horror. Complex, morally ambiguous characters and an intense gothic aesthetic set his writing apart, delivering provocative themes while refusing to sacrifice character or plot. He has been accused of writing great villains. He currently writes professionally for globaldata.com and verdict.co.uk, and his words have been quoted by the Guardian. He dwells in Hyde with one wife and five cats.
The opening to the dark fantasy piece Western Dawn introduces us to a nameless protagonist, you, mid-torture. The opening sets the gritty, ironic tone: The Apex, a revolutionary messiah, seems to have all the power in the world, yet you, a captured terrorist, have the upper hand. How? Why are your allies attacking the city? Just who are you and will you hold out? The questions hang while hints of the wider narrative bubble to the surface. There is something powerful present, something just beyond the text. Magic, philosophy and deeply human hatreds weave together in this genre-bending fantasy horror-thriller.
‘The Inquisition send you?’ he asks, scraping the red poker out of a black brazier.
You say nothing.
The end of a scrawny roll-up glows under his hood. The smoke he exhales, thick and blue, smells sweet. It is a reprieve from the acrid stink of metal and body odour. He releases the poker and it remains aloft, suspended by invisible force. The glowing tip of the poker weaves lazily in the air.
‘Keep watching the poker,’ he says, tracing a line in the air that the poker mimics. ‘Consider how I’m going to use it. Consider that secrets will not keep you alive. Here, secrets will condemn you to pain and then to a preventable, and severely unpleasant, death.’
You ignore the poker.
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