A Special Interview Featuring Joe Lansdale, Carrie Ryan, Jonathan Maberry, Gregory Lamberson and Shawn Chesser

Well tomorrow is the opening day for The Savage Dead, and that means my Zombie Masters Series is coming to an end…so I decided to go out with a bang!  Today I am bringing you a huge multi-author interview featuring a few of my favorite writers.

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First off, we have Joe R. Lansdale, one of the most popular writers working today.  He was there at the beginning, when our modern idea of the Romereque zombie was just starting to see print, and he has continued to lead the way as the master and innovator of the genre.  But this is Joe R. Lansdale we’re talking about, so mentioning only his zombie fiction is sort of like saying Ray Bradbury wrote about rockets and leaving it at that.  He’s mastered crime fiction, the weird western, steampunk, science fiction, fantasy, and of course horror.  Like Bradbury, Lansdale is one of the finest short story craftsmen in modern American fiction.  And that’s not blowing smoke either.  Lansdale really is that good.  He’s won nearly every genre award out there, and has fashioned a body of work that looms large in every genre in which he’s worked.  I’m honored to have him here as part of this series.

I also got lucky when Carrie Ryan agreed to join me here for an interview.  On her website, Carrie describes herself this way:  Carrie was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. During her time in high school she was: vice president of her class, a cheerleader (no, seriously), captain of the field hockey team (one of only two teams in SC—her team was always state champs) and founder of the girls soccer team (she played on the boys team for a year until the school created the girls team, which, by the way, went from losing every game its first season to being ranked fourth in the state Carrie’s senior year!). She also wrote her first short story, Crab Shell Angels, for Mrs. Carter’s class on Southern Fiction.

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On weekends she read. Everything from Sweet Valley High to Romance to Christopher Pike. As far as her parents know, she never threw a party while they were out of town (*cough*).

Deciding to try a different climate, Carrie went to Williams College (go Ephs!) home of the purple cows—no, seriously, that’s their mascot. She played field hockey and lacrosse for a year before becoming involved in student government and other nefarious organizations. She also spearheaded a project to renovate and re-open the local student pub. She was an avid mountain biker and a member of the Williams Cycling Team (their jerseys were white with purple cow spots—they were easy to pick out of the peloton).

During the various summers Carrie hiked the Wind River Wilderness Mountains with NOLS, worked as an intern at the Greenville County Coroner’s Office, worked on a Mayan archeological dig in El Peten, Guatemala, and taught SAT prep for The Princeton Review.

As it turns out, Massachusetts, while amazing, is cold much of the year. So after graduating and dabbling in an internet start-up (it was 2000, everyone was doing it) she moved to Middleburg, Virginia and worked at the Foxcroft School. That’s where she finished her first book and wrote her second. She tried to convince agents that they really wanted a sensual western historical romance, but they were quite adamant that they did not. So she decided to write chick lit. Unfortunately, most chick lit showcased exciting city life and Carrie’s life was pretty boring in the Virginia countryside. So she came up with the brilliant plan of going to law school and getting a job in a big city so she could have an exciting life to draw from.

And if that didn’t work out, at least she’d still have the legal career to fall back on. It was at Duke Law School where she met her fiancé JP, a speculative fiction writer who taught her all about true love. JP is the one who convinced Carrie to go to that first zombie movie, which for the life of her she can’t remember why—she must have still been trying to impress him because Carrie has disliked all horror movies since the Poltergeist incident of 1983. The remake of Dawn of the Dead fascinated Carrie and JP fanned the fires with more zombies movies and a timely gift of The Zombie Survival Guide (which he read out loud to her every night).

After graduating, they moved to Charlotte and embarked on a plan to get serious about writing. Carrie tried to write her chick lit but that market was dead and she liked young adult books so much better. After a few false starts, JP convinced Carrie to write what she loved and she started writing about zombies. There are so many movies about the days and weeks after a zombie apocalypse, but Carrie wanted to know what happened much later—generations later. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is her first published novel and she’s excited to be writing even more novels set in the same world.

That’s how Carrie describes herself; but me, I just call her awesome.

Next up we have my good friend, Jonathan Maberry.  Jonathan burst onto the writing scene with his Pine Deep Trilogy back in 2006 and hasn’t looked back since.  Like Lansdale, Maberry is a major threat in a number of formats, everything from short stories to novels to non-fiction to comic books, and Lansdale again, is a master of martial arts.  That last part is no exaggeration either.  Jonathan is an 8th degree black belt in jujutsu and a 5th degree in kenjutsu. In 2004 he was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame.  Today he’s best known as the hardest working man in horror, having cranked out so many dazzling hits that I sometimes find myself wondering if he doesn’t have a whole basement full of clones working on stuff simultaneously.  I’ll guess we’ll never know, but at least we get to benefit from his tireless imagination.  At let’s face it, isn’t the world a better place with guys like Joe Ledger and Sam Hunter in it?

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Described by Fangoria Magazine as “the sort of force that dark fantasy and horror are lucky to have,” my next guest is the one and only Gregory Lamberson.  Gifted with the art of storytelling, both on the page and in film, Lamberson is a two-time IPPY Gold Medal winner and three-time Bram Stoker Award finalist. Rave reviews of his work have appeared in Fangoria, Rue Morgue, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist. All of his books are available in print and as e-books, and some are also available as audio books. In 2013, Medallion Press will publish Lamberson’s novel THE JULIAN YEAR, the first TREEbook, which will employ revolutionary time-triggered branching technology.

Lamberson’s novel PERSONAL DEMONS, winner of the IPPY Gold Medal for Horror, is the first volume in the action packed occult detective series “The Jake Helman Files,” published by Medallion Press. Other books in the series include the zombie novel DESPERATE SOULS, the new Cthulhu themed COSMIC FORCES(nominated for Superior Achievement in a Novel by the Horror Writers Association), and TORTURED SPIRITS, which is scheduled for October 2012. PERSONAL DEMONS, DESPERATE SOULS, and COSMIC FORCES are also available as audio books from Audible.com, and TORTURED SPIRITS will be as well.  So keep your eyes out for those, because everything Lamberson touches seems to turn to gold.

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And last but not least I’m offering up Shawn Chesser for your reading enjoyment.  Shawn is the author of the Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse Series, a run that so far includes five of the best military zombie writing out there, including Trudge, Soldier On, In Harm’s Way, A Pound of Flesh, and Allegiance.

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Through a combination of tight, well-structured plots and fully realized characters, Chesser has emerged as one of the top Indie writers in the business.  He currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two children. He studied writing at Harvard on the hill (PCC Sylvania) many years ago. Shawn is a big fan of the apocalyptic horror genre. Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy and George Romero are strong influences. When not writing, Shawn spends the rest of his time doting on his two children and doing whatever his wife says.  But his wife let him off the hook long enough to come play with us today, so let’s get started, shall we?

 

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Joe R. Lansdale:  I was attracted to this branch of monsters when I was a kid. The zombies then were not the eat your flesh kind. They strangled usually. My favorite old zombie film is I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. Later, I saw NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD shortly after it came out, and that bent me seriously. I never really thought about writing zombie fiction, and I think it was an accident I wrote the first piece. I loved Westerns and horror, and an old movie titled CURSE OF THE UNDEAD had impressed me. It was a Western vampire movie, and these days it would seem tame. I had seen it a few times and just loved the whole idea of it. I decided I wanted to write a horror western, and I decided to combine the idea of zombies/ghouls/vampires/witchcraft and Lovecraftian  monsters. But it had a zombie vibe and is usually thought of as a zombie western. It’s amazing to me how much of an impact it has had on the field. I thought of it as a simple, pulp style, comic-book piece. I had great fun writing it, and also wrote a screenplay. It was optioned many times, and the film rights were finally bought by a French film company, Vertigo, and they never made it. So they have the rights, and it’s too bad they never filmed it, and they don’t have any interest in letting any one else have it. Or didn’t it. Maybe that’s changed now. I also wrote an off-beat science fiction western titled ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE CADIALLAC  DESERT WITH DEAD FOLKS.  It was originally a non-zombie science fiction tale with a modern western tone, but it died on me. And then I was asked to write a zombie story for Skipp and Spector’s BOOK OF THE DEAD, and I added the zombies in. They worked perfect. It’s still one of my favorite pieces. It’s a mixture of parody, pastiche, and at the time some original ideas  that have been co-opted by a lot of other writers and film makers. Besides those stories there have been others, including another story about my Western character with another take on the zombie theme, Deadman’s Road. I even wrote a kind of two people having trouble with their marriage, but it takes place in a zombiefied universe. And there are others. Christmas With The Dead, which my son adapted to a low budget film that’s a lot of fun. I don’t know exactly how many I’ve written about zombies. Seven or eight, I think. I don’t have plans to write others, as I’m kind of worn out on the whole zombie thing. But I never say never.

Carrie Ryan:  When I first became obsessed with zombies, most of the stories I found focused on the actual zombie apocalypse itself, right when the world becomes irrevocably altered and humanity has to figure out how to adapt and survive (which I love!).  I was curious what it would be like if you’d not only been born and raised in a world with zombies, but if your parents and grandparents had too.

So I set my first novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, about 150 years after the zombie apocalypse when zombies are just a fact of life (though still threatening!).

 Since then I’ve written two sequels (that take place about 20-30 years later) and many short stories (that take place everywhere from right at the zombie apocalypse itself to just before the events in The Forest of Hands and Teeth).

One of the best aspects of zombies as a creature is that there’s really no canon and so every author is free to experiment.  For my world I decided to go with a mix of both fast and slow, non-sentient zombies.  To me, the scariest thing about zombies is that they seem like they should be so easy to kill: they’re mindless creatures who can’t work together or use tools.  And yet, they’re impossible to escape.  You can’t outrun the fast ones and with the slow ones, when you have to stop to sleep or eat or whatever, they keep moving which means eventually, they’ll always catch up.  Once you’re surrounded by sufficient masses, you’re pretty much hosed.  That’s the kind of desperate situation that I love to write about.

Jonathan Maberry:  I’ve been writing about my life-impaired fellow citizens for quite a while. I took my first swing at them in a nonfiction book, THE VAMPIRE SLAYERS’ FIELD GUIDE TO THE UNDEAD, which was published in 2000 under the pen name of Shane MacDougall. The book examined various kinds of monsters –folkloric and fictional—including various kinds of zombies. I discussed other aspects of the zombie phenomenon in a series of nonfiction books I wrote for Citadel Press: VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THE CRYPTOPEDIA, THEY BITE and WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE.

Then in 2006-08 Pinnacle Books released my Pine Deep Trilogy (GHOST ROAD BLUES, DEAD MAN’S SONG and BAD MOON RISING), which was about various kinds of vampires preparing to make war on humanity. Some of the vampire subtypes closely resembled the Romero zombie. In 2008 I did a nonfiction book, ZOMBIE CSU: THE FORENSICS OF THE LIVING DEAD, in which I interviewed over 250 experts in various fields (from molecular biology to Homeland security) about how the real world might deal with a zombie plague.

Based on some of the research I did for Zombie CSU, I decided to write my first full zombie novel, PATIENT ZERO for Griffin. It was a techno-thriller with special ops against terrorists with a zombie plague. That book was the first of a series of thrillers featuring former Baltimore detective Joe Ledger; and though the other books dealt with non-zombie threats, I return to the zombie plague in CODE ZERO, the sixth book, due out in March 2014.

I’ve done one zombie comic so far, MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN, and it was a fun collaboration with Seth Grahame-Smith (PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES), David Wellington (MONSTER ISLAND), and Fred Van Lente (COWBOYS AND ALIENS).

I’ve also written a four-book post-apocalyptic zombie series for teens: ROT & RUIN, DUST & DECAY, FLESH & BONE and FIRE & ASH (all from Simon & Schuster). That series is now being developed for film.

Griffin wanted me to do more zombie novels for adults so I did DEAD OF NIGHT for them in 2011; and I just turned in the sequel, FALL OF NIGHT, scheduled for next August. Legendary horror filmmaker Eric Red (NEAR DARK, THE HITCHER) is writing the screenplay for DEAD and plans to direct.

And I’ve done a slew of zombie short stories, some for adults, some for teens. Some of them have been gathered into an audio collection, HUNGRY TALES (Blackstone).

Gregory Lamberson:  Thanks for including me in the dream.  I’ve written four books which could be classified as zombie tales.  The first was Johnny Gruesome, about a heavy metal obsessed teen who’s murdered and returns from the grave to kill a lot of people; it’s as much a slasher story and an EC Comics story as a zombie deal.  Two of my five Jake Helman novels have pitted Jake against hordes of voodoo “zonbies,” and I was delighted to feature old school zombies instead of flesh eaters.  A variation, “aqua zonbies,” make an appearance in the fifth book in the series, Storm Demon, which Medallion Press publishes this October.  My novella Carnage Road is the only one I’ve written that sticks to the world George Romero and John Russo created, and it’s one of my favorites.  It’s about two bikers traveling across America during the zombie apocalypse, and it’s really about humanity.   This one was just optioned as a possible movie or TV series with me attached as co-writer, so with any luck I’ll be thinking of new ways to creatively kill the undead for a while.

My main concern is always the protagonist – Jake Helman, Boone and Walker in Carnage Road, and Tony Mace in my werewolf series The Frenzy Cycle.  If the reader doesn’t really care about your leads and what happens to them, they’re not going to give a damn about the threats they face.  In most of my books, I look for a way to spin traditional monsters and mythology.  Jake Helman has faced zonbies toting machetes and machineguns, a Lovecraftian beast with ties to Christian beliefs, and angels and demons who behave like gangsters, and my werewolves have a pretty unique mythology.  Carnage Road is really the only thing I’ve written where the monster follows the tropes of a given subgenre, but the heroes, who are really antiheroes, are where I departed from the norm.

Shawn Chesser:  My pleasure, Joe! You’ve probably heard other writers in the genre say they were inspired by Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Well, you can count me among them as well. My Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse universe is full of the same type of flesh eating zombies as in the movies I grew up watching. Except for the really young specimens and the newly turned, my living dead are fairly slow and tend to catch the living by surprise or by overwhelming them in large numbers—hordes and mega-hordes in my novels. Like Romero’s, some of my zombies possess snippets of memory, but in the STZA universe, don’t really utilize them to any kind of advantage… yet.

Joe McKinney:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

Joe R. Lansdale:  Humanity would win. You just wait them out. They rot. That’s the conclusion in CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD, the film version. If  humanity can gather and wait, it ends. Unless it’s in the air, then we have a new problem. Frankly, I don’t lose sleep over the zombie apocalypse.

Carrie Ryan:  If the zombie apocalypse started right now, I’d be screwed.  At the last place I lived I could have probably survived a bit (I even wrote a story based on that idea: What Once We Feared, but now I live in a one story house with thin windows and little food.  Plus I’m close to a city – if I made it out alive it would be because of sheer dumb luck.

I like to believe humanity would eventually win in a zombie apocalypse, but really it depends on what kind of zombies you’re dealing with.  If it’s disease based, there should statistically be an immune segment of the population.  If the zombies rot, eventually the large masses will “die” out (can you tell I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking through all of this?).   And in the end, my hope would be that at least some groups of humanity could find pockets of safety – I’ve always thought Curacao would be a great place to ride out the zombie apocalypse.

Jonathan Maberry:  If there was an outbreak of the zombie plague, I think we have a shot –as long as they’re slow shufflers and not the Olympic Zombie Spring Team. The fast-onset, fast-running zombies is a no-win scenario. Movies like 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead show that pretty well. But with the slow zombies –we can get in front of that. Cell phones would allow us to take pics and videos, send and share information, reach out to emergency services, warn our friends, and otherwise survive. Also, we’re sensitized to medical threats and we tend to respond faster now than we did, say, ten years ago. So, yeah, I think we’d survive.

Survival would bring with it a retaliatory attitude and deep paranoia, so having survived we might be in a medically-based version of Big Brother.

Gregory Lamberson:  Joe, I am not prepared.  I don’t own any weapons, and my cupboards are bare by the end of the week.  I know from watching cable TV that there are others out there who are prepared, but frankly, those are the last people I want to see surviving over the rest of us.  Or maybe they deserve to make it for keeping their feathers numbered in case of just such an emergency.  I’m an atheist, but the zombie apocalypse just might change my views on religion, and if a deity decides it’s time for us to go, the least we could do is follow his or her wishes, right?

Shawn Chesser:  I’m prepared for the worst. However, I try to hope for the best. I guess that’s a yes. Humanity certainly has a way of overcoming most adversity… so yes to that as well, unless they’re the fast 28 Days Later buggers. I can’t say with a degree of certainty that we’d be able to survive the turbocharged, rage virus infected type of creatures, so let’s put an asterisk next to the last yes.

Joe McKinney:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

Joe R. Lansdale:  My favorite is NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the original. It was such a game changer, and it scared the hell  out of me. It still creeps me. I also like both DAWN’S OF THE DEAD, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Though it’s low budget, I find CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD a strange zombie film, not such much a horror film, but an odd and unique sort of film, made on a shoe-string. But there’s a prejudice in that. It’s my story, my son’s script, my friend Lee Lankford directed, and my daughter did part of the music in the film. But I do think the way it’s approached is what makes it unique.  I also like ZOMBIE with Richard Johnson, an Italian film. It’s scummy and fly specked and really creepy; has a real feel of disease about it.

Carrie Ryan:  I have to give a nod to the remake of Dawn of the Dead because it was really my first introduction into zombies and started my obsession.  But I also love the original Night of the Living Dead.  Mostly because when I first watched it, I hated it.  I was enraged with the characters and their inability to work together – they made such stupid decisions and by the end I thought they all pretty much deserved to die.  But then I heard George Romero speak and he explained that his intent with the movie was to point out that we as humanity have failed to work together to solve large and serious world problems like hunger, poverty, etc. 

That was a huge eye opener to me and suddenly I saw the movie in an entirely different light.  We were supposed to be that frustrated with the characters — that was the point. It was the first time I realized that a storyteller could want you to dislike a character and I loved that.

Jonathan Maberry:  I often have multiple favorites, with individual works held in esteem because they touch a certain nerve or speak to me in a specific way. That said, here are some favorites:

Favorite zombie novel is DEAD CITY by Joe McKinney. It’s a ‘get off your ass and get it done’ book. The hero is a cop and he survives because he uses that skill set. Too often a professional is presented as clumsy, stupid or ineffective. In Dead City we see a law enforcement professional who survives because of his training, even when everything else is falling apart. The author doesn’t waste half of the book having the character stand around and philosophize in situations where action is what’s required. And the action in the book is nonstop.

Favorite zombie anthology: BOOK OF THE DEAD, edited by John Skipp and Craig Specter. This book was released in 1989 and is pretty much the foundation upon which all zombie literature has been built. Skipp and Specter brought together Richard Laymon, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Steve Resnic Tem, Les Daniels, Douglas E. Winter, Joe Lansdale, Robert McCammon and other serious heavy hitters in a batch of stories that is as timely and readable now as they were upon publication. The editors are often criminally overlooked when people talk about zombie pop culture. They planted the seeds in the minds of many, many writers.

Favorite zombie movie: the unrated director’s cut of Zack Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD. I love slow zombies on TV and in books, but I like the higher-energy thrills of the fast ones on film. And, the cast is superb, the soundtrack is killer, the effects terrific, and the pace breakneck.

Favorite zombie TV: It’s a dead heat between THE WALKING DEAD, which is brilliant and so much fun, and DEAD SET, the BBC miniseries about the zombie outbreak happening during the filming of the TV show Big Brother. Funny, bloody, scary and so well-written.

Favorite zombie comic: Robert Kirkman’s THE WALKING DEAD runs neck-and-neck with the first of the Marvel Zombie stories, back when they were part of the Ultimates universe.

Favorite zombie short story: “What Maisie Knew” by David Liss. Elegant and disgusting –two words that seldom fit into the same description, but they work here. David is best know for his Edgar Award-winning historical mysteries, so when he did this story he came right out of left field and blindsided folks.

Gregory Lamberson:  For decades my favorite zombie flick was Dawn of the Dead, but now Shaun of the Dead equals perfection on my scale.  Besides, I can watch Shaun with my whole family; my daughter is too young for the stronger stuff, and zombies really disturb my wife.  As far as novels go, I have two favorites: Dead City, which has a fantastic pace and a really good depiction of how the apocalypse all goes down, and The Sinister Mr. Corpse by Jeff Strand, which is as funny as you would expect.  I forgot who wrote Dead City.

Shawn Chesser: The remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead really grabbed me when it came out. The credit sequence at the beginning when Johnny Cash sings ‘When the man comes around’ is priceless. I could watch that all day. Ving Rhames also did a great job of portraying a LE member trying to cope with a seemingly impossible band of survivors. Now I’m not sucking up here, but your Apocalypse of the Dead was one of the first eBooks I ever downloaded and read on my first iPhone. I’m a helicopter and aviation buff so you had me hooked with the first couple of paragraphs. Hopefully, one day I’ll hone my prose to maybe approach something close to your caliber of writing. Congrats to all of your success! OK that was sucking up. I was a fan of the Zompoc before I started writing about it… so I’m allowed that…aren’t I? Another book that resonated with me early on is Stephen King’s ‘The Stand.’ I loved the whole good versus evil scenario. I really got into the characters and enjoyed the vivid, yet bleak, depopulated landscape King describes so well. Another post-apocalyptic favorite of mine is Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road,’ his descriptive style of writing had me feeling cold and hungry during the entire read.

Joe McKinney:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

Joe R. Lansdale:  ZOMBIE, the Italian film is full of them. And there’s kill scenes that the zombies provide, like the one where they pull the character’s eye in a sharp fragment of lumber.

Carrie Ryan:  Oooh, that’s a tough one! There are so many! I’m definitely a fan of the lawnmower scene from Dead Alive.  But I think a scene that’s always stuck with me is when they have to kill the mom in Shaun of the Dead.  Especially because so much of that movie is hilarious, that particular scene becomes such an emotional gut punch.

Jonathan Maberry:  My fav is Bub’s revenge on Captain Rhodes for the murder of Dr. Logan. It was the first time I rooted for a zombie. And I’d like to think that Bub is still out there, wandering the wastelands and maybe evolving into something new and interesting.

Gregory Lamberson: I think machete head in Dawn of the Dead is the most iconic, but I thought Romero came up with some great ones in Survival of the Dead, which I love dearly and deserves to be seen by as many people who tune in to The Walking Dead every week.

Shawn Chesser: The newborn Z in the Dawn of the Dead remake is one that really sticks out in my mind. Even though you don’t actually get to see the baby being put down, the fade to black followed by the echoing gunfire paints the picture. I have a few scenes scattered throughout my series where kids kill, and also are killed themselves—both by zombies and humans—and as a result, I have received a couple of good natured tongue lashings.   

Joe McKinney:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

Joe R. Lansdale:  I think it’s the idea of our culture eroding, changing. I think we go through these periods, and then we find that we have changed with it, or at least the next generation in line has. And then it’s their turn. I think boiling this complex, technological world down to something simple is part of it. People would like for it to be simple, and on some level the idea of the whole thing collapsing, even with zombies, is appealing to some; same impulse for the goobers who run around in the woods in camo- pants hoping the government would collapse. If it did we’d all last about fifteen minutes, and for those who might last, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun as a movie, and you might not be the hero of the event.

Carrie Ryan:  What I love about zombies is that as a metaphor, they can be used to mean so many things!  Look at George Romero who used them to criticize consumerism and our inability to work together to solve large problems.  Danny Boyle used zombies to chronicle fear and/or mistrust of scientific experiments in 28 Days Later.  In Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies, the zombies are essentially emotionless shells.

Personally, I love zombies as representative of a fear of life unlived or unexamined.  When we refer to someone as a zombie at work or school, we mean that they’re just going through the motions.  There’s no thought or passion or even purposeful intent in their actions.  At least in my own writings, zombies exist for existence’s sake.  All they do is occupy space: they don’t think or love or feel or care or plan.  How is that different from a lot of the living who wake up and go through the motions of life without conscious thought?  Without questioning?

They say that whenever the economy crashes, the popularity of zombies increases.  There’s a part of me that wonders if that’s because people are suddenly shaken out of their comfort zones.  They can’t just continue as they had before and are forced to re-examine their lives and their priorities.  They’re forced to figure out what separates them from someone who just occupies space.   I think zombies remind us that we’re still alive and we should treasure that.

Jonathan Maberry:  There are so many reasons why zombie fiction and movies work and except for the shallow few, mostly it’s because it pushes some emotional, psychological or cultural buttons. Subtext has become the text in zombie pop culture. That said, the things about the genre that appeals most to me are the debates over issues like the definition of what makes us human, the value of human life, the right to survive, and exploring the line between the needs of immediate survival and the preservation of civilized societal values.

For example, in my ROT & RUIN novels he older brother of the protagonist teaches his younger brother that zombies were once people. They had lives, dreams, loves, families, expectations. All of that was stolen from them by a plague. They each died afraid and in pain. They are victims of a disease. Even though we have to fight the zombie, and kill it to survive, we can’t at any time disrespect it or what it was. To do that is to perpetuate a process of dehumanization.

Gregory Lamberson:  Zombies are popular because they’re reflections of ourselves.  Romero and Russo hit on the perfect formula, and every good zombie story someone creates, in awhatever medium, tells us something about ourselves, and that’s why such seemingly limited characters are actually limitless.  Bub listening to a Walkman or thumbing through a Stephen King novel says it all.  Zombies are obsessed with the same things we are (other than human flesh), and seeing continue our daily pastimes conveys the same sort of revealing satire as watching the apes in Planet of the Apes behave like humans.  These images tell us we build our lives around some pretty silly materialism and habits.  Because zombies are us, the idea of being eaten by them is a lot more frightening than being eaten by dinosaurs, sharks, or Martians.

Shawn Chesser:  I think we are all facing a new type of world filled with a lot of uncertainty. In a way some of us are already living in a post-apocalyptic world; one where war is an ongoing occurence and everyday life has been turned upside down. Earth is becoming incredibly crowded and our resources are in danger of being stretched very thin or even running out eventually. Then, we are bombarded on a daily basis with news of the next… near-miss asteroid fly-by, coronal mass ejection from the sun, bird, or bee die off, etc… Maybe the masses find some comfort in reading and watching post-apocalyptic entertainment because it’s a way absorbing information that they may have to fall back on later. At any rate, like I said earlier, I’ll prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Thanks for presenting me with the opportunity to babble away at you, Joe.

Craig DiLouie

My guest today is a very dear friend, Mr. Craig DiLouie.  Craig and I go way back to the early days of Permuted Press, back when it was still being run out of Jacob Kier’s garage.  Since that time I’ve watched him hone his craft and become one of the premier thriller writers of our generation.  He’s tackled zombies with his books Tooth and Nail and The Infection.  He’s done the straight up psychological thriller with Paranoia.  He’s done military sci-fi comedy with The Great Planet Robbery, and his latest, Suffer the Children, nearly tore my heart out.  And in between all that he’s even managed to write several works of non-fiction on lighting and electrical design.  Talk about versatile!

But that’s Craig DiLouie.  When you read him, you get the sense that he can pretty much do anything.  I envy writers like him, so easy to read, so fertile of imagination.  He makes it look easy.

But here’s the thing about Craig.  He is totally sincere.  You cannot be in his presence long without realizing this.  He’s one of the good ones, and that’s the main reason I agreed to join with him and Stephen Knight (you can read my interview with Stephen Knight here) for an upcoming zombie novella project called THE RETREAT.  (You can check out Craig’s intro to that project here.)

But for now, please enjoy this interview with my good friend, Craig DiLouie!   

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Craig DiLouie:  Thanks for having me, Joe! I’m the author of the bestselling zombie novels TOOTH AND NAIL, THE INFECTION and THE KILLING FLOOR. These novels have garnered hundreds of positive reviews from authors like yourself, readers and magazines and websites such as FANGORIA, and they’ve been published in English, Spanish, French, German and Russian. My work differentiates itself from other novels in the field through its gritty realism, original concepts and extreme action. 

My new apocalyptic horror novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN, is coming out from Simon & Schuster in March 2014. Later this year, I’ll be working with you and Stephen Knight on a new self-published series of novellas. (Check out Craig’s official announcement of that project here.) I also blog about all things apocalyptic horror at www.craigdilouie.com.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

CD:  It would depend on the type of zombie we’re talking about. The zombies in my stories run and infect through biting. In that type of situation, humanity would have a very hard time surviving. In that situation, the best way to prepare is to take a yoga class so you’re flexible enough to kiss your own ass goodbye.

As for me, I don’t have a bug-out bag or anything like that. My city just went through some major flooding that resulted in the evacuation of 10% of the population and jeopardized the reliability of power and water citywide, and I was faced with a lot of interesting decisions to ensure my family had everything it needed. While I haven’t gone all the way and prepared for apocalypse, I do believe it’s common sense to make sure you have everything your family would need to survive for a week on its own.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

CD:  My tastes as a reader and writer tend toward the epic. For me, the biggest turn-on about zombies isn’t the zombies, it’s the zeitgeist. It’s the apocalypse and how ordinary people respond to crisis and its impossible choices. It’s not the excitement of being the last man standing, it’s the horror of being forced to fight to survive when there might no longer be much to live for anymore.

As a reader and writer, I also prefer stories about people with zombies or some other apocalyptic threat, not the other way around. For me, character must come first. The reader must care about the survivors.

Some of my favorite stories are your zombie series, Joe, with its realistic depiction of how the police would deal with a zombie apocalypse; HATER by David Moody, with its mind-blowing twist, and RUN by Blake Crouch, which is sort of the American version of HATER; Adam Baker’s series, which offer brilliant thrillers; DUST by Joan Frances Turner; ONE by Conrad Williams; THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS by Alden Bell; ON THE THIRD DAY by Rhys Thomas; and HANDLING THE UNDEAD by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Man, I can remember standing in a bookstore ten years ago and seeing DEAD CITY and Brian Keene’s work and that was about it. Now there are tons of great choices for readers and opportunities for good writers.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

CD:  I loved the movie WORLD WAR Z, not really caring how closely tied it was to the book. The movie has an epic feel and is filled with amazing set pieces. Pretty much the entire film would qualify as my favorite zombie kill scene.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

CD:  I think the surge in interest in the zombie apocalypse has more to do with the apocalypse than zombies. In the 1950s, we had Martians, in the ’60s, dystopia, in the ’70s, environmental collapse, in the ’80s, nuclear war, in the ’90s, killer viruses, in the ’00s, zombies. Today, many people feel that things are getting worse and that there’s little they can do about it. Add in things like bird flu and global warming to the normal pressures of holding a job and paying the bills, and there’s a lot of angst in modern life. Reading zombie stories offers a dramatic release. By reading survival horror, people confront danger/death and survive it. By reading an apocalyptic story, they experience the catharsis of “throwing it all away” and the true horror of losing everything that matters to them. As for zombies, well, they’re just scary and fun. Not only has the world ended, but your former neighbors are hunting you. These are the levels of psychic engagement I look for as a reader and try to work into my stories as a writer—personal, in-your-face horror combined with the awe and titillation of the end of the world.

 

That was the one and only Craig DiLouie, ladies and gentlemen, perhaps the nicest guy you’re ever likely to meet.  I had a great time hanging with him in New Orleans, and I’m looking forward to the next time our paths cross.

Now that you’ve heard what he has to say about zombies, go check out his books.  Oh, and I strongly urge you to follow his blog.  He has developed some of the best content on any author-driven website out there.

Patrick Freivald

In my day job I’m a patrol supervisor for the San Antonio Police Department, and my duties sometimes carry me through a remote part of the west side of San Antonio.  The area is in marked contrast to the rest of the west side, which is a dense hive of businesses and older, and mostly low-income neighborhoods.  But the area I’m talking about is a wide expanse of farmland, and it’s absolutely beautiful, especially in the evening when the sun casts long shadows over the onion fields and darkness pools in between the rows of the pear tree orchards.

I mention all this because in the center of one of those onion fields is a large oak tree, several hundred years old, and beneath that tree is a small apiary.  You have to know it’s there to spot it, and I suspect most people who pass that way never even notice it.  But I do, and every time I pass it by I can’t help but think of today’s guest, Mr. Patrick Freivald.

Patrick has to have one of the most interesting biographies of any horror writer working today.  He’s a teacher who specializes in robotics, physics, and American Sign Language.  He also coaches an award winning robotics teams.  All of that is pretty freaking cool, to be sure, but on top of everything else, he raises bees.  I read from time to time on Facebook of his honey haul, and my mouth starts watering.

And you know, I haven’t even gotten to the part where I talk about what an amazing writer he is.  His books Twice Shy and Special Dead are absolutely fascinating takes on the zombie genre, and demonstrate, to my mind any way, an empathy for the teenage condition rarely found in fiction.

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This guy has got both sides of his brain working overtime, and I guarantee you he’s a name you’ll be hearing a lot more from in the coming years.

So, here he is, Patrick Freivald!

 

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Patrick Freivald:  I like to turn it on its head. There are a lot of stories out there that fall into one of two types: (a) the apocalypse is happening and people are trying to survive, and (b) the apocalypse has happened, and in the dystopian future people are trying to survive. I wanted to write about a world where zombies exist, have destroyed swaths of humanity, but outside of those areas of destruction, life has continued in an almost normal manner. It’s a bit like a tsunami or earthquake that destroys one region while the rest of the world just keeps on truckin’. The details of the rest of the world interest me.

My published zombie fiction details the life of an ordinary high school junior whose controlling mother has forced her to join the emo crowd because their fashion sense covers up the fact that she’s a zombie. (Ritalin-like injections give her the ability to resist the urge to eat her friends… mostly.) I wanted to be true to the tropes of the genre while at the same time turning them on their head, and to juxtapose the normalcy of ho-hum life with the absolute, chilling terror of the walking dead.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

PF:  Am I prepared? Probably. I live in the middle of blissful nowhere, with a huge garden, limitless fresh water, and great lines of sight. The Redhead(tm) and I live out of the garden all summer, and can what we don’t eat fresh so we can eat all winter, too, and there are loads and loads of deer (not to mention rabbits, squirrels, etc, etc.) Being a beekeeper, I have access to near-unlimited calories, as well as the wherewithal to make alcohol (for sterilization or consumption), vinegar, candles, and medicine. It wasn’t on purpose, but I’ve ended up in an area particularly suited to surviving the end of the world as we know it. Now if we can only survive Washington, D.C….

Would humanity win? That’s hard to answer, because there are many types of trope-fitting apocalypses. (Apocalypti?)

Slow zombies: Yes, at least in first world countries. I have no doubt that the modern military could and would contain outbreaks with brutal efficiency. We might lose towns, neighborhoods, maybe even entire cities before we get a handle on the situation, but we’d contain and destroy them. (If everyone who dies becomes one regardless, that’s more problematic, but not that big of a deal. New social norms could all but eliminate the problem side of that arrangement.)

Fast zombies: Same answer, with more losses.

David Moody-style plague: No. With just about everyone dead before the zombies even rise, humanity would drop below population viability even without counting the ravening hordes of violent, hungry dead people.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

PF:  Oooh, mean question. I love the unique-but-still-faithful-to-the-tropes nature of the Autumn series by David Moody. Jonathan Maberry’s Dead of Night is fantastic for its portrayal of zombies that are aware of everything they do, but can’t control themselves–perhaps one of the most chilling ideas I can imagine. I enjoyed the heck out of your own novella, The Crossing, for a great taste of the interaction between Free America and the Quarantine Zone, and because it dances around both major types of zombie stories. For sheer frolicking good fun, you can’t go wrong with the zombies-and-superheroes action of Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots by Peter Clines.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

PF:  It has to be the rooftop shootings in the Dawn of the Dead remake. The pairing of what should be a terrible and inhuman activity with a party-like atmosphere marries so perfectly with Down with the Sickness as covered by Richard Cheese that I can’t help but love it. Paired with the fantastic Johnny Cash opening credits, they make for two of the best montages in zombie history.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

PF:  Zombies are interesting because they carry with them a moral ambiguity that you can’t shake. The allegory can run all over the place–from decaying inner cities to sweatshop-driven commercialism to nanny-state totalitarianism to terrorism–but the fundamentals of the modern zombie require us to consider that yes, they may be dead, but they were and perhaps are human. They may be trying to eat your face or your children, but they were once a person with human dignity, with hopes and dreams and loved ones, and in destroying them we destroy a part of ourselves. Even if we have no choice.

 

Patrick is one of my favorites in the genre, and I strongly urge you to check out his books here.  Then go here to read his blog, where he’s putting on a blog series of his own in which he demonstrates a mastery of editing skill. 

Oh, and don’t forget, while you’re picking up some of Patrick’s books, make sure and pre-order your copy of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead.

Roger Ma

I’m excited to bring you today’s guest on my countdown to the release of my upcoming zombie novel, The Savage Dead, because Roger Ma is a total badass.  I mean a real life badass.  As in he could tie you into a pretzel before you knew how truly screwed you really were.  What’s more, he’s turned his rather considerable real life fighting skills into one of the most valuable zombie books ever published, The Zombie Combat Manual.  Roger Ma specializes in hand-to-hand combat against the undead. He is the author of The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead. His new book, The Vampire Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Bloodthirsty Undead, focuses on surviving an attack from a hunting succubus. He is the founder of the Zombie Combat Club and the Vampire Combat Club, organizations that focus on battling the undead without the aid of a firearm. He was recently featured as a zombie expert on the History Channel documentary “Zombies: A Living History.” He currently trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

I first met Roger in Long Island back in 2011.  We were on a zombie panel together (along with Jonathan Maberry, Scott Kenemore, and S.G. Browne) and it was probably the best zombie panel on which I’ve ever served.  Just look at us!

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(The panel, left to right:  Joe McKinney, Jonathan Maberry, S.G. Browne, Roger Ma, Scott Kenemore.)

Check out what Roger has to say about zombies, and then go check out the Zombie Combat Club online.  It’s a great site.

But first, meet Roger Ma, zombie ass kicker extraordinaire!

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre? 

Roger Ma:  Thanks for having me, Joe!  When it comes to the genre, I’m very much a traditionalist, in the sense that I adhere very closely to the Romero canon – shambling, formerly human creatures that want to devour your flesh, not just your “brains.”  When it came to writing about the living dead, I wanted to combine my love of the martial arts and hand-to-hand combat with zombies.  Living in New York City, I was never much of a “gun guy.”  And what do they tell you to do when you encounter a zombie?  “Shoot them in the head.”  So I thought, “Well, what if I don’t have a firearm?  What if you run out of ammunition?  What if I need to keep silent?”  That’s how The Zombie Combat Manual was born.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

RM:  It depends.  As far as humanity winning, it depends on how quickly everyone, state, federal, and local governments, recognize the situation and address it immediately.  If we do that, we’ve got a good chance.  If we don’t, we don’t.  As far as myself, it also depends.  I’m in fairly good cardiovascular shape, specifically out of my fear of needing to trek miles on foot in order to escape a threat, undead or otherwise.  However, I also live in one of the largest metropolitans in the world, so if this start here, it will be hell on earth trying to get out, literally.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

RM:  My favorite zombie media are the ones that introduced me into the genre.  For movies, it was Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead.”  My father took me to see it in the theaters when it was released.  I was 8 years old.  I haven’t been the same since.   Ever since then, at least several times a year, I’ll dream that I’m in a mall that’s teeming with zombies.  It’s a dream that I both love and loathe.  For zombie books, again, the book that introduced me to the literary zombie genre was John Skipp’s short story anthology “Book of the Dead.”  I remember seeing it in Forbidden Planet in Greenwich Village as a kid, and thought “people actually write stories about zombies, too?”  In fact, chatting about it with you makes me want to pick it up and read it again.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

RM:  Wow, just one?  That’s really tough.  If I were to pick just one, I would probably have to revert back to “Dawn.”  The scene where the zombie is climbing over the crates to get at Stephen as he fills the helicopter with fuel, and the rotor blades slice off the top of the zombie’s head.  I remember seeing that in the theater and going mental.  What’s great about it also is that Stephen doesn’t have to do a thing – the undead leads itself to its own demise.  Smart and energy efficient.   That’s one of the points I try to stress in my book and when I talk to people about the best “zombie weapons.”  The best weapons are those that require you to exert zero energy while still accomplishing the task at hand.  Sure, you can crush a bunch of zombie skulls with a crowbar or impale their brains with a katana, but how long before your energy levels give out, and then what do you do?  Wouldn’t it be better to have them walk off a building’s ledge trying to get at you?  People sometimes forget about practicality and want to go in beast mode.   That works until you gas out, which we all will do against an opponent that doesn’t tire.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

RM:  The zombie genre is one of the most malleable when it comes to subtext, we all know that.  It can represent consumerism and hive mentality, like in Romero’s work, and it can also represent one of many different fears.   Fear of death, disease, aging, plague, anarchy, that’s pretty obvious.   What’s not so obvious is what we represent in the undead scenario.  It’s my belief that if there’s one thing that we as a society are feeling now more than ever, it’s a lack of control.  I know that there are times when I myself feel like I’m barely able to process everything that’s going on around me, and that I’m holding things together by bare threads.  There’s also this feeling that whatever we do, however well we study, plan, and prepare, we are at the mercy of powerful forces that have a grip over society, be it financial, governmental or cultural, and that its sheer luck that we continue to plod along unscathed.  “There but the grace of God…” and all that. 

The zombie enables us, to a certain extent, to take that control back.  To be the hero.  Very few other genres, particular in horror, enable you to do that.  You’re not going to go toe-to-toe with an Ancient One, alien, or a spectre.  You can with the zombie, and that is incredibly empowering.  It’s like that old joke about the two guys who encounter a bear in the woods.  You don’t need to be faster than the bear; you just need to be faster than the other guy. 

Check out Roger Ma’s books here, and while you’re there, don’t forget to pre-order your copy of The Savage Dead.

David Dunwoody

With about a week to go before the September 3rd release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead, I’m going to start picking up the pace on these interviews.  This morning I posted my interview with S.G. Browne (you can check out that interview here) and now, for the evening crowd, I’m offering you one of my oldest friends in the genre, Mr. David Dunwoody.  Born in Texas and currently living in Utah, David writes subversive horror fiction, including the EMPIRE zombie series and the collections DARK ENTITIES and UNBOUND & OTHER TALES. Most recent is his post-apocalyptic novel THE HARVEST CYCLE. His short stories (and I am huge fan of David Dunwoody’s short fiction) have been or will be published by outfits such as Permuted, Chaosium, Shroud, Twisted Library, Belfire and Dark Regions. A few of his favorite authors include Lovecraft, King and Barker.

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At the same time I was releasing my first novel, Dead City, David was serializing EMPIRE, the first book in his EMPIRE series online.  I remember following along with the story, completely engrossed in his story.  David has continued to keep me reading since then.  In fact, his short fiction (a healthy dose of which deals with the zombie in one form or another) has matured to a frightening level.  So much so in fact that I would now count him one of the horror genre’s best short story writers.  Don’t believe me?  Check out three of my favorites by him:  “The Reluctant Prometheus,” “Grinning Samuel,” and “Dead Man and the Sea.”  By the way, his website offers one of the most thorough and easy to use bibliographies I’ve ever seen on an author’s website.  Check that out here.

But for now, enjoy this conversation with one of horror’s most fertile imaginations!

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

David Dunwoody:  When it comes to zombies my only rule is that there are no rules. Well, I guess that isn’t quite true – they gotta be dead. But I wouldn’t begrudge anyone their own unique take. Romero’s ghoul is a brilliant monster archetype with endless potential. In my two Empire novels, I decided the best nemesis for the undead would be Death himself, so I pitted the Reaper against the zombies. There are traditional shambler-types and there are some weird-as-hell variants.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

DD:  I’d like to think that the optimism in World War Z’s (book not film) ending – a world where Man was brought to the brink of extinction, but there is still a lot of infrastructure and hope to rebuild – is grounded in reality. But I have to admit I’m a misanthrope and my faith in the collective human spirit is nil. Similarly, my preparedness is at a minimum. I have no family. I don’t want to live through a zompoc that isn’t ruled by my pen!

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

DD:  Paffenroth’s Dying to Live is my favorite novel, followed by WWZ. (Check out my earlier interview with Kim Paffenroth here.)  While neither skimps on the cynicism, both are very thoughtful and really champion the human spirit – kinda odd picks for a misanthrope! In film it’s a dead heat between Dawn of the Dead ’78 and Return of the Living Dead. I am in love with ROTLD’s punk sensibility, both in terms of style and its eagerness to explore all the different permutations of the undead condition. I think ROTLD really inspired me to write novels featuring different degrees and types of undead. When I think of zombie shorts I always think of McCammon’s Stoker-winning “Eat Me” from Skipp & Spector’s Book of the Dead. It’s a beautiful story and one example of how you can portray monster love without it being a teen melodrama or comedy.

Video game is the original Resident Evil. I’m a sucker for big spooky houses as much as I am zombies. Plus they throw in tons of crazy shit. Likely inspired the zombie shark in Empire.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

DD:  Awesome question. Though it’s not a badass visual, the unseen execution of Roger in Dawn does it for me. It really brings the whole concept of the zombie home when you see him suffer and die and then rise, and Peter knowing what he must do.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

DD:  One is that we are increasingly connected and more aware of ourselves as a community. The other is that, in spite of this, we are increasingly narcissistic.
The internet and the digital self have grown our egos like tumors.  While the thought of one’s lover or friend or child turning into an empty, hungry vessel is, I’m sure, a timeless horror, the appeal of the “They’re us” monster is a particular one. The zombie rose in the 20th century because it was time for that type of monster. One that expresses broad themes of xenophobia and fear of contagion but that is also us, each of us, without ceasing to be a monster.

The vampire and werewolf fill this role at times but I don’t think they started out that way, and besides today they are often self-parodies or the focus leans too far toward either human or monster. Zombies are balanced for our time.

That all said, for many storytellers I think it’s often the case that all this media connectivity makes them more conscious of us as a people. And so zombie stories examine common human nature, social constructs and crowd psychology. It may be that this broader perspective drives many storytellers while our self-absorption drives consumer appeal. And the thing is, you and I and a ton of zombie nuts are both fans and storytellers.
I can only conclude that this means we are the most healthy, balanced people on the planet. 

Check out David’s website here, and then go and read his stuff here!

S.G. Browne

There was a time, for about three years or so after the publication of my first novel, Dead City, that I could sincerely claim to have seen every zombie movie ever made and read every zombie novel published in English.  Since that time the genre has grown so large that even the most hardened zombie fan would be hard pressed to make that claim.  But for a while it was true for me.  And for me, one of my favorite early discoveries came in the summer of 2009 with a wonderfully inventive and darkly funny novel called Breathers.

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I’ll be honest.  What stood about the book was not the title, or the clever and interesting description of the story, but simply the author’s last name.  Browne.  Spelled with an “e” at the end.  One of my favorite writers is a man named Sir Thomas Browne, a contemporary of Shakespeare.  Sir Thomas Browne wrote very learnedly and objectively about the many terrors of the night, and I still from time to time go back to his monographs on those terrors for inspiration.  And here was a zombie writer who shared the same spelling of the name.  It was a foolish thing to latch onto, but I believe life is full of such foolish coincidences, and the wise person learns to take note.  So I moved Breathers to the top of my To Be Read Pile and have been a Scott G. Browne fan ever since.

For those of you who don’t know him, Scott is the author of the novels Breathers (2009), Fated (2010), and Lucky Bastard (2012), as well as the novella I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus (2012) and the e-book short story collection Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel (2012).

He was born in Arizona and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, spending most of his formative years in Fremont, California, as well as a short stint on the island of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, two-thousand miles southwest of Hawaii. From 1984 to 1989 he attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he majored in business organization and management and eventually realized that he wanted to be a writer.

After college, he moved to Hollywood, where he worked as a driver and an assistant producer doing post-production work on television spots and theatrical trailers for the Disney Studios. In 1992, he moved to Santa Cruz, California, where he lived for fourteen years writing novels and short stories and working as an office manager. In 2006 he completed his fourth novel, Breathers, which would become his first published novel in March 2009.

His writing has been influenced by Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, Kurt Vonnegut, and the films of Charlie Kaufman and Wes Anderson, among others.

In addition to writing, he enjoys biking, golfing, tai chi, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. He currently lives in San Francisco.

And here he is, ladies and gentlemen, Scott G. Browne!

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Scott G. Browne:  I always like the idea of flipping things around and wondered what if would be like if I were the zombie instead of the human. But rather than your stereotypical mindless, shambling zombie with an obsession for human flesh, I was a sentient reanimated corpse with no rights who was gradually decomposing. I wondered how society would treat me. What my parents would think. If I could join a bowling league. These were the questions that compelled me. When you think about it, most zombie fiction is about humans and how they deal with the problem of zombies. My stories are about zombies and how they deal with the problem of humans.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

SB:  I am definitely not prepared. I live in San Francisco and I don’t even have an earthquake emergency kit, so chances are I’m not on Darwin’s short list. And I’m not overly optimistic that humanity would win. We have a lot of issues and once the zombie apocalypse happens, I’m guessing everyone who needs therapy is going to implode.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

SB:  This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs. It had a unique narrative structure with compelling characters and beautiful prose.  It felt as real as anything I could imagine and was one of those rare novels that made me wish I’d written it.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

SB:  The splinter-through-the-eye scene in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (aka Zombi 2). I saw that film at the theater when I was fourteen in a double bill with Scanners and the scene has always stuck with me.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

SB:  I’ve heard it said that the popularity of zombies is a direct reflection of our global fears about the economy and terrorism. Maybe it is, but I didn’t write Breathers or I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus out of any concern about Wall Street or Al-Qaeda. I dealt more with the concepts of prejudice and discrimination and civil rights. So I’m probably not tapped into the pulse of the nation on this one. You ask me, I think the current popularity of zombies is telling us that we’re tired of vampires and that we’re just not ready for the idea of a werewolf apocalypse. 

Check out Scott’s books here, and his website here

Oh yeah, and while you’re shopping Scott’s books, don’t forget to pre-order your copy of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead.

Armand Rosamilia

Armand Rosamilia is a New Jersey boy currently living in sunny Florida, where he writes when he’s not watching zombie movies, the Boston Red Sox and listening to Heavy Metal music.  Besides the “Miami Spy Games” zombie spy thriller series, he has the “Keyport Cthulhu” horror series, several horror novellas and shorts to date, as well as the “Dying Days” series: Highway To Hell… Darlene Bobich: Zombie Killer… Dying Days… Dying Days 2… Still Dying: Select Scenes From Dying Days… Dying Days: The Siege of European Village… and many more coming in 2013.

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He is also an editor for Rymfire Books, helping with several horror anthologies, including “Vermin” and the “State of Horror” series, as well as the creator and energy behind Carnifex Metal Books, putting out the “Metal Queens Monthly” series of non-fiction books about females who are really into Metal.  It’s as editor that I first got to know Armand.  He invited me to submit to an anthology called Undead Tales, which also features my good friends Scott Nicholson, Eric S. Brown, and Mark Tufo.  (In case you missed it you can catch my interview with Mr. Tufo by going here.)  I happily agreed to take part in the book, and was impressed by Armand’s editorial style.  We worked well together as a team, I thought.

We’ve communicated regularly over the last few years, and this past June, in New Orleans, we got to spend some quality time, and more than a few drinks, at the JournalStone pre-banquet party.  Armand is one of the hardest working writers out there, and one whose star is on the rise.  He writes extreme horror reminiscent of Edward Lee and Richard Laymon, but with a voice all his own.

Enjoy!

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Armand Rosamilia:  I write the Dying Days extreme zombie series. Currently Dying Days 3 is out but there are other books running parallel to the main story of Darlene Bobich, and there are quite a few new releases coming out before 2013 is over with. My take on the zombie story is a bit different in that I focus more on the survivors and how they realistically interact, and also the fact the zombies don’t just want to bite you. They want to sexually violate you.

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JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

AR:  I am fully prepared to die first. I am actually hoping to be patient zero so I don’t have to worry about a world without M&Ms and plenty of coffee. In that respect I could care less if humanity wins or loses, I just want to go out first.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

AR:  “Dead Like Me” by Adam-Troy Castro is my favorite zombie short story. It is simply amazing, and is tongue-in-cheek while also having such a kick of an end line it makes you smile. I got into reading anything I could find zombie thanks to The Rising by Brian Keene.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

AR:  In the remake of Dawn of The Dead, when Ving Rhames is writing out names of celebrities for the guy across the street to shoot: Burt Reynolds, Jay Leno and Rosie O’Donnell, and the guy is picking them off. It was a different and cool part to me, and I did my own little take on it in my “Zelebrity Money” short story in my Zombie Tea Party collection.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

AR:  That we think zombies are cool. I suppose you can delve deeper into the mindset of our current plight, with wars, rising gas prices, the political and religious climate we find ourselves in… but I also think (with any spec fic) it is simply the escape into something else so we can forget about our miserable lives for a few hours. I’m sure some people will try to make it more than it is, and for them that is fine. For me reading (and writing) about zombies is just fun. 

That was Armand Rosamilia everyone.  Check out his books here, and learn about all his goings on here, at his website.

Tonia Brown

I love coming of age stories.  I also love stories about characters who have their notion of loyalty tested to the breaking point.  So I was very pleased when I found both in a book called Skin Trade, written by today’s guest in my countdown to the release of The Savage Dead, Mrs. Tonia Brown.  The book takes place against the backdrop of the Great Undead Uprising of 1870, and features some of the best world building I’ve read since my first encounters with Cherie Priest and Robert Jackson Bennett.  I loved the story, and was delighted to provide a cover quote for it. I have since made it a point to read everything of hers I can put my hands on, including her latest, Devouring Milo, which, while it doesn’t contain zombies, is nonetheless some of the coolest horror to come along in recent years.

Tonia Brown describes herself as a southern author with a penchant for Victorian dead things. She writes everything from humor (Badass Zombie Road Trip) to horror (Skin Trade) to steampunk (The Cold Beneath) to erotica (Lucky Stiff: Memoirs of an Undead Lover.) And yes, all of those books contain some form of zombie. Even her long running weird western webserial Railroad! has at least one undead character in it, though in truth Ched prefers if you call him not-dead.  He’s not alive, yet he’s not dead either.  She has also recently launched yet another webserial, Confessions of a Villainess, which follows the diary of super villain Sylvia Fowler as she laments her various and often failed efforts toward world domination.

If you haven’t read Tonia Brown yet, you’re in for a treat.

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Tonia Brown:  Thanks for having me, Joe! While I love traditional zombies, when writing I find myself leaning toward unusual forms of zombies and zombie tales. I like writing sentient zees or weird origins for the undead or strange ways of dealing with them. Such as Peter, the undead lover in Lucky Stiff, or in the Skin Trade, where folks hunt and skin zombies for profit.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

TB:  Me? Prepared? Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. You see, there is a word for someone like me when the z-poc hits. That word is lunch.  As for humanity, there is a word for you when I turn. That word is also lunch. See how easy that was?

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

TB:  “I’m running this monkey farm now, Frankenstein and I wanna know what the *&$% you are doing with my time!”

The original Day of the Dead. I love this film because it moves past the ‘origins’ phase which I think slows down most films. Then it moves past the ‘survivor’ phase, which can be enjoyable, I think is a bit overdone as well. This one throws you right into the ‘getting on with it’ phase of the z-pocalypse.  It asks more questions than it answers, sure, but that is the whole thing about such a scenario—there are no answers, no matter how hard you look.  The pilot had the right idea from the beginning. Leave it all behind and enjoy the time you have left.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

TB:  The lawnmower scene in Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive.  (AKA Braindead) Just when you think our intrepid heroes are done for, and that the hordes of undead monsters will eat them all, Lionel comes out with that lawnmower strapped across his back and just starts hacking away at the lot of them. The blood! The horror! The awesomeness! Why did no one else think about a lawnmower? Everyone goes for a chainsaw or other gardening instruments. Trust Jackson to get weird about it.  Bless him.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

TB:  They say a great zombie tale isn’t about the undead but is in fact about the survivors. And aren’t the survivors always such unique cast of characters? The focus of these stories always seem to consist of completely different men and women that bring something exclusive to the clan. But what about the rest of us? We can’t all be sharpshooters or doctors or whatever else the story needs. So, what is left?

While the story may focus on unique survivors, the zombies themselves represent the average human. You know us well. We’re your neighbors and coworkers and the parents of your kid’s friends. We work for retail outlets and watch hours of TV and get very little exercise and eat things that are terrible for us. Most likely, we are, in fact, you.

I think that is why zees are so popular these days, because in those hordes we recognize ourselves. There is very little difference between the brain dead consumer and the shuffling, undead masses. Except maybe the smell. But then again…

Check out Tonia’s books here, and her great webserial Railroad! here.

Wrath James White

This is how Wrath James White describes himself:

“I am a writer, former fighter, former MMA trainer, husband, and father of three. I fought professionally for 9 years and trained fighters for 6. I may look mean as hell and write some gruesome stuff and am capable of beating most fools within an inch of their lives but I’m actually a nice guy. Really, I’m a Teddy bear. I am a humanist who believes in man’s responsibility to his fellow man and that too many do too little for too few. I’ve been publishing for 10 years. Succulent Prey was my first mass-market release followed by The Resurrectionist. If you have a taste for extreme fiction with socio-political and philosophical messages that push boundaries, break taboos, and leave you thinking long after the book has ended then check out Teratologist co-written with Edward Lee, Poisoning Eros co-written with Monica O-Rourke, my short story collection, The Book of A thousand Sins, His Pain my novella from Delirium Books, Hero my novella with J.F. Gonzalez from Bloodletting Books, Population Zero from Cargo Cult Press, Yaccub’s Curse by Necro Books, and my latest, Everyone Dies Famous In A Small Town published by Thunderstorm Books.”

Pretty cool, right?

Yeah, Wrath is one hell of a cool guy.

But let me tell you about the Wrath I know.

It was Thanksgiving, about, oh, I don’t know, four years ago maybe.  I’d been invited up to Austin to celebrate the holiday with Lee Thomas, Nate Southard and Wrath James White.  I went up expecting a writer retreat, a chance to talk with old friends and new – for Wrath and I had met at a convention several months earlier – about the business.  Instead, Wrath’s darling children greeted my family and me at the door, and they immediately took my two girls in tow and lead them upstairs to play.  That set the tone for the evening.  Rather than talk about writing, we talked about real stuff, about being dads and parents and the importance of family.  I got to know Wrath that night, not just as a fellow writer, but as a good and genuinely kind man.  I will forever treasure that evening.  Wrath and his lovely wife Christie roasted a turkey and together we shared an evening and a meal that was truly something special.  Good times indeed.

I have been a fan of his extreme horror for a while now, and I was over the moon to learn that he had finally decided to do a zombie novel.  And when he mentioned that the story would take advantage of his considerable skill in MMA fighting, I knew it was going to be a hit.

I wasn’t wrong.  To the Death is a brutal, no holds barred MMA zombie mashup.  Check it out here.

So let me get right to it.  Please welcome Wrath James White. 

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Wrath James White:  When I wrote my zombie novel, To The Death, the most important thing for me was to not repeat what had already been done. I wanted to bring something to the iconic monsters that only I could bring. So, naturally, I decided to put them in cages and make them fight humans. Fighting is something I know quite well. The emotions a fighter feels, the excitement, the fear, the joy, the rage, the sorrow, the disappointment. I wanted to express those emotions, to bring the readers in the cage with me and let them feel that adrenalin rush, only heightened ten-fold by the fact that the guy on the other side of the cage isn’t even human. Not anymore anyway.

You learn so much about yourself in those weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds before that bell rings. Most people never get to experience that, can’t relate to all that see-saw of self-doubt and over-confidence you feel before a fight.  My book gives them a glimpse of that. I remember when people used to say they’d get in the ring with Mike Tyson for a million bucks, but what if Mike Tyson was a man-eating zombie? That million dollars may not seem quite so appealing then. That was something unique I could bring to this sub-genre.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

WJW:  Fast zombies or slow zombies? I’m prepared for slow-zombies. I keep a machete by my bedside. I’d hold out as long as my chopping, slashing, hacking, arm held out, which I’d imagine would be pretty long with fear and adrenaline pumping through my veins. I don’t think anyone is ready for fast zombies. Humanity would win, but we’d probably lose much of our humanity in the battle.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

WJW:  28 Days Later was definitely my favorite zombie movie. It was my first experience with fast zombies and I found them absolutely terrifying. There was a scene in the sequel, 28 Weeks Later, where the main character is running across a field, trying to escape from a horde of zombies. The camera angle is tight on him and then it pans out and you see that there are hundreds of zombies chasing him across the field at a full sprint. That was terrifying. You can’t outrun them and there’s too many to fight. That’s scary.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

WJW:  I’d say my favorite scene was a zombie that was killed before he had a chance to become a zombie. In 28 Days Later, a guy gets blood in his mouth after killing a zombie, and the girl he’s traveling with doesn’t hesitate a second. She picks up a knife and hacks him to pieces before he could turn. It was brutal and realistic. Usually, in zombie movies, you see characters not wanting to admit their loved ones are infected and even trying to hold onto them after they become zombies. This reaction was vicious and unexpected, but far more realistic, I felt, than someone hesitating to kill a friend or loved one who’s turned after watching hundreds of others suffer the same fate. I think you’d be pretty callous to it by that point. The way people become callous to murder during war. By then, I think most people would react as this character did. Self-preservation would trump sentimentality in that situation, I believe.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past. Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

WJW:  That we fear mob rule. We fear the loss of individuality and autonomy, even as we acquiesce to the inevitability of that loss at ever y turn. We dread it, but do nothing to fight it, because we want to belong. We want to be part of something. We want to be in agreement, in harmony, in unison, and that is contrary to individuality. Peer pressure trumps all.

As we become an increasingly global society, it is becoming more and more difficult to tell cultures apart. New York looks a lot like Tokyo which looks a lot like Hong Kong which looks a lot like Bangkok which looks a lot like Rio. You walk down a street in Austin and you see a kid wearing skinny-jeans, Vans, and a faded t-shirt. That kid would look the same in just about any major city in the world. This wasn’t the case even ten years ago. You can go to the darkest recesses of the African continent and still find someone wearing Nikes and a Lakers jersey. Humanity has become more homogenous. Our individuality is being lost. When I was a kid, I could tell what neighborhood a guy was from by the clothes he wore, the slang he used, and his accent. Now, people in San Francisco use East Coast slang. Everyone dresses like the people they see in music videos no matter what city or even what country they live in.

To take it even further, there’s a trend toward group think that is even more frightening. I can’t remember a time when people have been more willing to parrot their political party’s line. In the eighties and nineties, everyone was for saving the environment. Then it got politicized and now you have one party that denies there’s even a problem, when just twenty years ago there was no debate about the causes of global warming. And anyone who calls themselves conservative now has to show the same skepticism, and they do. They don’t just pretend to believe. They whole-heartedly believe that global warming is some big hoax perpetrated by all the scientists in every corner of the globe in order to force US companies to spend money on needless safety and health precautions. They didn’t come up with this idea themselves, it was fed to them by the Rush Limbaughs of the world. The patient zero who spreads this group think through the airwaves like a virus. Same is true of abortion, gay-rights, capital punishment, healthcare spending, immigration, and dozens of other issues. You tell me who you voted for in the last two elections and I’ll tell you everything you believe. We have become political zealots marching like lemmings to the party line. Marching like zombies. We no longer think for ourselves. Our political leaders and pundits tell us what to think now and we believe it and spread it to others without questioning it. There are no more individuals or independents. There is only the horde.

As we see the results of this type of group-think, this fanaticism, all over the Middle-East, Africa, and elsewhere, we rightly fear it even as we become this thing we fear. The monster is us. The zombie, the zealot, the fanatic, are one in the same.

Okay, soap-box abandoned. 

That was Wrath James White, ladies and gentlemen.  Go check out his books here, and follow his blog here.  He’s got lots of good things to say.

Stan Swanson

I am very pleased to announce Mr. Stan Swanson, my next guest as we count down the days until the September 3rd release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead.  Mr. Stan Swanson is a Bram Stoker award finalist and the author of eight books including Forever Zombie (a collection of short stories), Write of the Living Dead (a highly-praised writing guide written with Araminta Star Matthews and Rachel Lee) and Return of the Scream Queen (co-authored with Michael McCarty and Linnea Quigley). He is also editor/publisher for Dark Moon Books and Dark Moon Digest.

I first became aware of Stan Swanson through his humorous short story collection, Forever Zombie.  Like my interview subject from yesterday, Scott Kenemore, Stan uses the zombie’s potential for dark humor with great effect.  But there’s always an unsettling aspect to humorous zombies.  We want to laugh, and we do laugh, most of the time, but there remains that nagging feeling in the back of the brain that we are laughing at our own mortality.  That tone buoys up much of the best of the humorous zombie sub-genre, and Stan has long since proven himself a master of that delicate balance between humor and unsettling self-realization.

Stan didn’t stop with humor, though.  Don’t get me wrong.  It continues to flavor much of his later work, but it is by no means the leading note these days.  Perhaps this is due to his editing skills, which is how I next encountered him.  I read his non-fiction book, Write of the Living Dead, and found an editorial guide that reminded me of the bastard love child of George Romero and Strunk & White.  After that, I knew Stan was one to watch.

I have since published several short stories through Stan’s publishing company, Dark Moon Books / Dark Moon Digest, and I did it because of how impressed I was with Stan.  One of those stories, in fact, a flash fiction piece called “Sabbatical in the Ohio Methlands,” has morphed into a novel, one that Stan and I are currently co-writing.  You’ll be hearing more about that next year.

For now, enjoy the words of my good friend, Stan Swanson.

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Stan Swanson:  I have written off-and-on most of my life, but I never seriously gave much thought to writing about zombies until about five years ago. I’ve loved zombie movies since the first time I saw Night of the Living Dead many decades ago, but realized I had never heard much about zombie fiction. Research revealed many titles in the genre, but not near as many as one might expect. I tried my hand and wrote a short story titled “Every Death You Take” which became the first story in my short fiction collection, Forever Zombie. I was “true” to the original Romero archetype zombie—slow-moving, non-thinking creatures—but that didn’t last as I quickly realized that “sticking” to this formula closed too many doors to the creative process. Now I approach each zombie work and the zombies within as characters just as I do all of my characters in the hope that they are not always quite what you expect. I think you will find that very true with the “zombies” appearing in the book I am currently co-writing with Joe McKinney.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

SS:  The only thing I am really prepared for is a hurricane and I’m not even 100% prepared for that. The one thing I am really good at is procrastinating. Hey, it took me almost two weeks to answer Joe’s list of questions. Humanity has always found a way to survive, but it is usually through dumb luck. People use their heads fairly well as individuals, but the more people you throw into the mix, the less well we fare. We would likely survive the zombie apocalypse, but not because we are collectively brilliant.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

SS:  Night of the Living Dead started it all. I’d never even really been a huge horror fan until I saw that. The only zombie movie I have probably watched more times is the original Dawn of the Dead. I am one of those individuals who enjoy humor mixed with my horror and Dawn of the Dead never got old.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

SS:  My favorite scene is the garden scene from Shaun of the Dead which begins with the lady falling on the pipe, continues with Shaun and Ed throwing everything at the zombies but the kitchen sink and ends with them throwing vinyl disks. Not sure they ever killed any zombies, but it was a classic scene.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

SS:  There is probably no truer representation of humanity than through the zombie stereotype. We’ve seen it in everything from books and movies to television commercials. I’ve been repeatedly told that the zombie genre is dying, but I haven’t seen that happening. It is one of the few monster genres that people can personally relate to. Werewolves. Swamp creatures. Blobs from outer space. It is always us against them. But it is not always that way with zombies because each of us can identify with the monster. All we have to do is look into the mirror. 

Make it a point to check out Dark Moon Books here, and check out all of Stan’s books here.

 

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