by Jarrod Jones. The Queen of Bad Dreams is an intriguing story to think about. Figments from our minds, crazed from the confines of our imaginations, spring free and run amok in the living world. Then come the Inspector Judges, who round up these figments and decide whether these living concepts have what it takes to live amongst us, or if they’re to be sent back from whence they came. They get to decide whether an idea can… well, live.
It’s a fascinating concept. It sets my thoughts about dreams—and dreaming, and ideas, hopes, fears, all of it—on fire. Because what are stories but ideas that live outside of our minds? Danny Lore is in a sense an Inspector Judge, and as the writer of this new Vault Comics series, they’ve wisely set this stunner of a concept free.
More than imagination, Queen of Bad Dreams is about agency. Who has it, who gets to have it. It’s a story about those who are robbed of it. Timely themes no matter the age, but today, now, Danny Lore’s Queen of Bad Dreamsfeels exceptionally apt.
“Queen of Bad Dreams was actually conceived as a metaphor for other (and related) abuses of marginalized people—for the ways in which brown women and queer brown women in particular are told they can’t dream the ways that others can,” Lore tells me. That they have their place, and that their roles are to dance a dance they never get to lead.”
Boasting a top-shelf creative team, with Jordi Pérez on art duties, Dearbhla Kelly on colors, and Kim McLean on letters, Queen of Bad Dreams is primed to captivate this generation of dreamers, and if the world has any justice in it, those generations to come. Ahead of the book’s April 1 final order cut-off, DoomRocket spoke with Danny Lore about Queen of Bad Dreams, their appreciation for lucid dreaming, and these ideas that were given a chance to live.
DoomRocket: Why is ‘Queen of Bad Dreams’ your next writing project? And how did it end up at Vault?
Danny Lore: Before pitching the story to Vault, Queen of Bad Dreams was a possible short story or novelette concept. I’d been doing work with short stories for a little while, and I try my best to have an ongoing list of projects ready to “start” at any given time. What I ended up realizing was that there was a lot to the story that I wanted to explore that 1) A short story didn’t have the space for, and 2) Would benefit from really strong visual co-creators. Dearbhla [Kelly, the book’s colorist] and I go back, and we kind of instantly knew how weird and exciting the color palette could be on this project.
I was working on fleshing out the idea when I was introduced to Adrian Wassel. Before I pitched, we got to talk a lot about our philosophies about editing, and making space for marginalized voices (and stories). I’d seen Vault speak up in defense of their creators (and others!) while marginalized creators were being maligned for simply telling their stories, and I really respected that. So I took a chance and asked Adrian if I could pitch to him, and fortunately, he immediately had a sense for what the team wanted to do with Queen of Bad Dreams.
2. What can you tell us about Ava and Daher, the main characters in ‘Queen of Bad Dreams’? What will they be up against in this world?
DL: Daher is a lawful good character, because she believes that there’s a version of the world in which the system works. However, she’s also a brown woman, [and] has had her instincts and experience not just questioned, but suppressed by those in charge. She knows the power she wields as an Inspector Judge has real consequences in people’s lives. Her challenge in Queen of Bad Dreams is figuring out how to do good when politics, bureaucracy, and the ambitions of cruel people redefine what being “lawful” is.
Ava is a little different in that she doesn’t know who she is yet. She’s the manic pixie dream girl that’s been given the skill set of a high powered spy/assassin—but what does that mean for her? This is the first time she’s had the opportunity to hear her own voice in the world, but her struggle is staying ahead of those that want to put her back under their control.
3. Lucid dreaming allows the dreamer to take agency in their headspace, where dreams and nightmares often hold us under their sway. Have you ever experienced a lucid state while dreaming, and if so, did the experience affected your creativity in any way?
DL: I was obsessed with lucid dreaming as a teenager. I went through a pretty extensive “new age” phase for years, where I wanted to explore everything possible in order to figure out what I believe in. I was also super prone to nightmares, so I tried everything on the planet to try and at least be able to take control of the nightmares, if I couldn’t completely obliterate them. I’ve experienced lucid dreaming before, and found it super fun. That said, creatively, I’ve always found the dreams that I couldn’t control much more inspirational—figuring out how to make the weirdness of my dreams work in a logical story order.
4. Then there are dreams as they exist in people’s lives—wishes for the world, secret expectations (or even demands) of other people, etc. Does this factor into the narrative of ‘Queen of Bad Dreams’? If so, how?
DL: This is the real story behind Queen of Bad Dreams. Each character that we come across has ambitions and dreams, big and small. Everyone of us struggles with these dreams—coming to terms with them, admitting to them, achieving them, or even realizing that they’re harmful to others and putting them aside. And we live in a society where marginalized people, especially, are often expected to put aside their dreams, or reframe them, in order to cater to those in power. Queen of Bad Dreams is about how we wrestle with those dreams, and what happens when they’re attacked.
5. The narrative of ‘Queen of Bad Dreams’ is about agency—who has it, who gets to assign it. When I read the synopsis, about how the main protagonist Daher has the job of tracking down “figments” that slip through the cracks of the “boundaries” of our minds and either sends them back or lets them exist in our world—allowing them their own agency, say—it was hard not to think about the political and social calamity surrounding the U.S. border with Mexico. How does today’s way of life affect this story?
DL: This is something that I am very careful about when I bring this story together. The story has been one that I’ve been working on, in some fashion or another, since before Trump took office, and before this particular incarnation of anti-immigration sentiments took center stage. Queen of Bad Dreams was actually conceived as a metaphor for other (and related) abuses of marginalized people—for the ways in which brown women and queer brown women in particular are told they can’t dream the ways that others can. That they have their place, and that their roles are to dance a dance they never get to lead. That is why, for example, Daher and West work for the Morphean Annex. As time went by, I was very aware of how this metaphor serves multiple purposes, and I’ve been doing my best to be sensitive to that. When you see who has power, and who does the work in this comic, I hope you will find that both readings work.
6. This may be a bit wishy-washy, but I’m gonna go for it: What’s a dream you wish could be freed from your minds, meant to stay in our world forever and ever?
DL: I mean… I want to just say “the dream in which you’re all buying this book and really loving it and asking for more stories in this world?”
And if not that, the really cool dream where I’m a werewolf. Because duh.
‘Queen of Bad Dreams’ #1 hits stores April 24. Final order cut-off is April 1. (Diamond code: FEB192076)
Check out this advance gallery, including concept images by Jordi Pérez, for ‘Queen of Bad Dreams’, courtesy of Vault Comics!
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