‘Oh, that,” says Ever Dundas, pointing at a petite blue figure in a wheelchair. “That’s a Monster High doll, but I stripped its face off with nail varnish remover and drew eyes on its hands instead.”

We are sitting on Dundas’s brass bed – à la Paula Yates in The Big Breakfast, but socially distanced – as she talks me through her cabinet of curiosities. There’s a small yellow robot, a couple of “Blythe” dolls, with their unheimlich gaze, a baby’s head upside down in a bell jar, and a severed hand holding an eyeball.

“I know some people find these things disturbing,” she says, “but I have no problem sleeping with them here. I’m a huge fan of films with robots and cyborgs and I’m interested in the engagement between the body and identity.”

One of Dundas’s favourite movie scenes is the one in Terminator 2 when Arnold Schwarzenegger cuts into his arm and rips off the skin to reveal the metal skeleton below. In her second novel HellSans – a satire on capitalism and the way disabled people are treated – this episode is reversed. One of her human protagonists, Jane, sticks tweezers into an arm wound to make sure she is not a machine. It’s a clever, witty allusion in a clever, witty book, which is already attracting rave reviews and comparisons to JG Ballard and Iain M Banks.

Bodies – real and artificial, whole and mutilated – are at the core of HellSans. The emotion Dundas, a self-described “Queer crip” who suffers from ME and fibromyalgia, most wants to evoke is disgust: at society, at the UK government. “I remember getting some feedback,” she says. “Someone asked: ‘Isn’t this a bit much?’ My response was: ‘Have you seen what Boris Johnson is doing?’ The Tories are literally killing disabled people. Austerity has destroyed this country.”

HeraldScotland: HellSans is a satire on capitalism and the treatment of disabled people. Dundas most wanted to evoke disgust at society and the UK governmentHellSans is a satire on capitalism and the treatment of disabled people. Dundas most wanted to evoke disgust at society and the UK government (Image: Newsquest)

It’s publication day. We are in the Edinburgh flat Dundas, 43, shares with her husband, Cinnamon Curtis, a graphic designer, her black and white cat Belle, and spiders she calls Bob and Elvis. With her lime green hair and pierced bottom lip, her look is fierce: a middle finger, perhaps, to the Department of Work and Pensions, which demands those with disabilities present as languid. But her voice is soft, her personality affable, and she is kind enough to rake around her kitchen for oat milk to put in my non-herbal tea. Dundas’s affinity with animals, apparent in the shared tenancy deal she has struck with her arachnid pals, permeates all her work, and it is no surprise to discover she is vegan.

Like Curtis, Dundas is interested in typefaces. HellSans is a fictional font, ever-present in her dystopia on billboards, hoardings and clothes. In most people, this text induces a sense of bliss; but to a significant minority – the HellSans Allergics (HSAs) – it is toxic. In order not to discomfit the rest of society, these “deviants” are confined to a ghetto, though a handful are left on the streets to bolster everyone else’s sense of their own wellbeing.

HellSans has two anti-heroes: Jane, the head of The Company which produces Inexes (cyborgs, which pulsate and bleed) and Icho, a scientist working on a cure for the HSAs. The Inexes, modelled on the Blythe dolls, are synched with the human brain, and have become essential to fully participate in society. HSAs have outdated Inexes, or none at all. Dundas’s first, critically-acclaimed novel, Goblin, was a literary work: a celebration of freakery and asserting your own identity, separate to the one your parents imposed on you (something Dundas did when she changed her name at the age of 22).

But in HellSans, she challenged herself to create something different: a highly-plotted thriller, which riffed on the Hollywood films she had enjoyed growing up: Terminators 1 and 2, but also Blade Runner and David Cronenberg’s early schlocky horror movies.

Her doubts about whether she could pull it off were unfounded. HellSans is innately cinematic, with relentless action, dramatic backdrops, unexpected twists – oh, and more puking than The Exorcist.

Dundas chuckles when she recalls the number of times her agent sent the book back with a request for less vomit. “At one point, I thought: ‘I am going to be editing out vomit forever’,” she says.

The vomit is drawn from her own experience. Unknowingly allergic to many foods, Dundas spent a lot of her childhood throwing up.

“I was five the first time, out guising for Hallowe’en, and I ate a nut,” she says. “Another year, I ate lentil soup in a church hall. I didn’t realise I was allergic to kidney beans until I was in my late teens.”

Her body has always been a battlefield. For a period in her late teens, Dundas self-harmed as a coping strategy against depression. She has talked before about the lattice of scars on her left arm, which she sees, not as a source of shame, but as a marker of survival.

In her early 20s, she was diagnosed with ME, and then, a decade later, with fibromyalgia. Her symptoms include exhaustion, poor concentration and pain. Some days are better than others, but doing a lot on a good day can have an impact on the next.

The first time she fell ill, some friends were unkind, but her bosses were supportive. Their willingness to give her a few months off her office job meant she partially recovered and went on to gain a first-class degree in psychology and sociology, and a masters in creative writing. The second time, she was not so lucky.

“My managers would say things like, ‘I wish I could go home for a nap’, when what I was doing was sobbing on my couch. These days I would tell them to f*** right off. But back then, I didn’t push against it. I internalised it.”

It was the pummelling Dundas received at the hands of the benefits system, after giving up that job, that turned her into an activist. All that “Kafkaesque” form-filling and scrutiny.

Before she attended her physical assessment, she was warned not to wash her hair or put on make-up (advice she took) and to lean on Curtis for support (advice she ignored).

Later, she was given a copy of the report. It noted she “looked well”, had walked from reception to the assessment room and lifted a paper cup of water from the table to her lips. “It was ridiculous,” she says. “They call disabled people fakers, but they were trying to get us to fake. If we are faking anything, we fake being well, trying to function in society.”

Dundas was granted Employment Support Allowance, but not Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and was too exhausted to appeal. Not long after, Curtis was made redundant, pushing them to the financial brink. When Dundas was given a Creative Scotland grant, she channelled all her rage into HellSans.

Today, we all feel we are living in a dystopia. But Dundas argues disabled people have been stigmatised and discriminated against for more than a decade, with everyone else turning a blind eye. Some of the book’s most excessive metaphors are being played out in front of us.

HeraldScotland: 'People don’t want disabled people in the public sphere. They don’t want to see us, because they don’t know how to deal with the way it makes them feel''People don’t want disabled people in the public sphere. They don’t want to see us, because they don’t know how to deal with the way it makes them feel' (Image: Newsquest)

You don’t think disabled people are ghettoised? Take a look at the reaction to Michael J Fox and his Parkinson’s Disease tremors when footage of his reunion with Christopher Lloyd started circulating earlier this month.

“People don’t want disabled people in the public sphere,” Dundas says.

“They don’t want to see us, because they don’t know how to deal with the way it makes them feel. But it’s a cycle because if you don’t see people like Michael J Fox in the public sphere, you get a skewed view of what being disabled is.”

Others expressed pity or awe.

“One of the mantras of the disabled movement is: ‘Piss on Pity’,” Dundas says. “We don’t need your pity. But we don’t need your condescension either. When Michael J Fox meets an old friend, there’s nothing inspiring about it. He’s just doing his thing.”

Inspiration porn is one of several ableist media narratives that infuriate her. She reels off the rest. There’s the disabled-person-overcomes-illness-through-strength-of-character storyline as seen in The Goonies, when asthmatic Mikey throws away his inhaler after performing a series of brave deeds; the disabled person as villain storyline; and the better-off-dead storyline.

“We have to get rid of these clichéd tropes,” Dundas says.

HellSans is a cliché-free zone. When the privileged Jane, the most unpleasant literary protagonist since Humbert Humbert, turns HSA, the reader is denied an easy redemptive arc.

Rather, Jane remains obnoxious, and convinced of her own superiority. The quest for a cure is nuanced, too. Some HSAs are “Seraphs”, militants who oppose a cure on the grounds that society should bend to those who are allergic, rather than the other way round.

“This is where things get complicated,” Dundas says.

“I very much want to see a cure for ME and fibromyalgia, but some people with autism and cerebral palsy see those neurotypesas part of who they are. They don’t want to be cured. And, even as someone who wants a cure, I still don’t feel like I need to be ‘fixed’.”

Dundas can be intense about her activism. While writing HellSans, she co-produced an “Inklusion Guide” to making literary events and venues more accessible to disabled writers and audiences. But she is also fun, and happy to duck down conversational alleyways, such as our shared enthusiasm for TV drama series Stranger Things.

Once, she and Curtis went to a Stranger Things event as characters Steve and Robin. I saw a picture of them in their matching “Scoops Ahoy” sailor suits. It brightened my day. Dundas has always loved dressing up. She can do horror, steampunk, goth, giant pastel flowers and Anne of Green Gables puff sleeves.

For a recent publicity shot, she wore a bright yellow jacket, yellow-rimmed sunglasses and a black T-shirt with “SICK” splattered across it in yellow capitals, prompting her editor to proclaim it “the coolest author photo” of anyone he’d ever worked with.

“I think there’s an idea that an interest in fashion is frivolous or shallow, especially in the literary world where you are supposed to be more intellectual.”

Dundas says. Writers are expected to blend into the background and observe people. But she stands out wherever she goes. “When I was at the [Edinburgh] book festival, a friend messaged me to say: ‘I just saw your green hair go by’. I thought: ‘I am just floating hair now’.” She says life can be bleak, and glamour makes it nicer.

“But it’s taken me a long while to adjust to the public side of being a writer, so it’s also armour.”

Could her passion for costumes be linked to her desire to be transformed? When Dundas changed her name, she received a new birth certificate. She doesn’t want her old name referred to even in obituaries. “Obviously, I don’t know what it’s like to be trans,” she says, “but I do have some empathy in terms of having control over your identity: who you are and who you want to be.”

What she is less willing, or less able, to articulate is why it was so important to her to be remade in this way. Her relationship with her parents, former missionaries in Taiwan, was not always easy. But they are closer these days, and Dundas is cautious about saying too much about that time. She believes there were pros and cons to her Christian upbringing.

“Some of it was experienced negatively in terms of having a religion imposed on me,” she says. “On the other hand, though I am no longer religious myself, I am grateful for having an insight into the power of spirituality.”

Nor was her bisexuality a source of angst. Dundas realised she was attracted to girls at 13 when she developed a crush on the flowing hair, “Meat Stinks” T-shirt and kick-ass attitude of Darlene in the TV sitcom Roseanne.

“Weirdly, I wasn’t at all conflicted,” she says. “To me it was like, I just am. Why would I be tortured by it?”

She has talked about being bullied at Edinburgh’s James Gillespie High, and says she was outraged by the gap between the way people around her presented themselves and “the darkness going on underneath”.

One of her favourite quotes is from Ballard’s Crash (later repurposed by the Manic Street Preachers, who helped fill the void left by the loss of her faith): “I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit, and force it to look in the mirror.” That’s what Dundas did in Goblin, and what she has continued to do, more literally, in HellSans, where Inex technology depends on animal experimentation.

“We see ourselves as civilised, but our whole civilisation is built on torturing animals,” she says at her Glasgow book launch a few days after we meet. Yet her slight evasiveness makes me wonder whether there are things from her own life Dundas has not fully confronted; whether, for all her attempts to shed it, the past is lurking.

The frenzy around the publication of HellSans takes its toll. In Glasgow, Dundas struggles with a migraine. Nevertheless, she is already hatching new plans. She would like to see HellSans on the big screen, and has already part-cast it in her head: Charlize Theron or Sarah Gadon as Jane, and Ben Barnes as creepy Prime Minister, Caddick. She has another novel on the go, too.

This one will be set in Venice, where she and Curtis married in 2013. She loves Venice for its beauty, but also its precariousness, which will feed into the book’s climate change themes.

“I wanted to set myself another challenge,” she says, “so this one will be different in style and structure to either Goblin or HellSans.

Dundas is a creative whirligig, ideas spinning round her head like freshly-washed laundry.

Not that I’m suggesting she’s an inspiration. I wouldn’t dare. Let’s just say she’s doing her thing.