Well, here we are on Day 2 of my countdown to the release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead, and the Zombie Masters Series is just gaining momentum. (Check out yesterday’s interview with David Moody here.) Today’s featured writer is a good friend of mine, Mr. Iain McKinnon. Iain first came to my attention around Christmastime, 2009, with his novel Domain of the Dead. It was a tough, gritty novel filled with everything I loved about the zombie genre. We chatted on Facebook, and I realized I’d discovered a kindred spirit. We now communicate on a regular basis, and we even got to share a big plate of sushi recently in Los Angeles. And it was my great pleasure to write the introduction to the sequel to Domain of the Dead, his brilliant defiance of death, Remains of the Dead.
Iain McKinnon was born in Scotland in the early seventies and lived a happy well balanced childhood, with the exception of being forced to wear flares and the 1978 World Cup. Iain is a Sci-Fi geek with a macabre streak currently writing for Permuted Press. He lives and writes from his home just outside Edinburgh.
This is Iain McKinnon!
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?
Iain McKinnon: Thanks for inviting me. You’re right I’m no stranger to zombie fiction. I guess my writing springs from my love and terror of zombies. I watched Romero’s Day of the Dead when I was eighteen and it seriously freaked me out, in a way no other horror ever had. Well that was me hooked. I devoured all the zombie movies I could and when I’d finished those I reluctantly moved on to books.
I say reluctantly because I’ve never been a reader. I blame it on my dyslexia but I struggle to read.
I’m the only writer I know who isn’t a voracious reader. I’ll maybe read two or three books a year.
As a writer though I’m nervous about reading other writers’ work. As I said I love zombie fiction and I fear I’ll read something I was planning on doing and have to abandon an idea because I’ve read how someone else approached it.
But painfully slow reading speed aside I would say my dyslexia has been a powerful force in shaping my writing. The up side of dyslexia is I’m better at planning and three dimensional thinking than most people which helps the flow of my writing. But because my spelling is abominable I use text to speech software to spot my mistakes and I think this has the knock on effect of making my writing flow to the reader.
The mechanics of my writing aside I come at the genre very much as a fan. I write the zombie horror I’d like to read. As it turns out there a lot of people out there who like the visceral and claustrophobic zombie horrors I like.
JM: The zombie apocalypse is happening right now. Are you prepared? Would humanity win?
IM: I think humanity would win. We’re smart and resourceful and adaptable but I don’t think our civilization would survive. I wrote a piece for the Zombie Research Society a few years back about our western culture’s Just In Time supply chain.
Within a few days of any disaster the supermarkets would be bare and people would start to go hungry.
While we can cope with localized disasters in the western world if something like the 1918 flu pandemic hit again things would get nasty really quickly.
I’d say I’m better prepared than most people. Just by the nature of my work as a writer I’ve explored the scenarios and had rudimentary survival training. But while my family and I are better prepared than most I think luck will be the major factor in anybody’s survival. You can make all the right decisions, have all the right kit and training but in an event as big as a worldwide zombie pandemic a lot will be down to just dumb luck.
Although I don’t hold up much hope for the Western World there are still groups of isolated hunter gathers left in the world. While the technologically savvy perish the stone aged peoples on the fringes of the world will have the advantage.
As Walter Greatshell wrote in his novel Xombies the Eskimo will be the dominant culture in a zombie apocalypse.
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.)
IM: Let me start by being sycophantic and mention Dead City straight off. I like the zombie stories that keep a tight cast of characters that work though an immediate chain of events. Fast, hard and nail biting. So you can see why I like Joe McKinney as a writer in general.
I also like the writing style in the novel. I’m a visual person so things like describing a car’s crumpled bumper like the nose of a boxer appeal to me.
Peter Clines is always a safe bet. His novels are an easy read but deceptively so. All the while he’s spinning threads into the story that weave into the final (and usually explosive) act of the novel.
Travis Adkins who has helped me a lot with my writing is worth checking out. He has a very direct and fluent voice which at first glance appears simple but is in fact beautifully constructed.
David Moody who has the knack of grabbing your imagination and dragging you into the situation. His dystopian stories hang around with you long after you’ve read his work and you constantly find yourself thinking “what would I do?”
I’ve already mentioned Walter Greatshell, great writer with the ability to dig deep into a fantastical scenario and pull out things you’d never have thought of.
Bob Fingerman’s Pariah has to get a mention for a zombie novel where the zombies are almost secondary. His characterizations are sublime. That man can tell me more about a character in one minute of action than most writers can pull off in a chapter.
When it comes to movies I feel we’ve been let down in the past few years. Yes there have been some great ones, 28 Days Later (sit back and wait for the arguments) the re-make of Dawn of the Dead and even Shaun of the Dead but other than those and a few notable exceptions we’ve been treated to a parade of no budget no script half hearted cash ins. Even Romero has become a disappointment. Sure his first three zombie movies were seminal and spell binding but he’s now made six, half of which have no merit at all.
Now that I’ve pissed off all the Romero fans in the house before you lynch me take a look at Dead Set from Charlie Brooker and tell me you can’t make a contemporary and intelligent zombie film (ok TV show). And not to forget The Walking Dead which continues to captivate the zombie loving audience.
JM: What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?
IM: Funny that. I can’t think of a single zombie death. It’s not the zombies we care about though it’s the living. We all remember Captain Rhodes, Flyboy, Ben, Shaun’s step dad, Bill Murray and dozens more. But the zombies… nope.
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?
IM: It’s the them and us tale isn’t it? We don’t want to be them. The stupid, decaying mindless monsters. The majority who are in the wrong, who we are powerless to overcome. The antitheses of all that we are. A malevolence which can take our identity from us and turn us into them.
What’s not to be scared of? It’s a metaphor that applies regardless of the age or social circumstance. It can be economic, moral, political, race, gender, the horror that is zombification can be superimposed over any issue.
Make sure and check out Iain’s books right here. He’s one of the truly good ones, and a guarantee for a good read.