Welcome to Day 3 in my Zombie Masters Series. I’m hosting a different writer each day as I count down the days till the September 3rd release date of my next novel, The Savage Dead, and with me today is one of the most inventive new voices in zombie fiction, Mr. John O’Brien.
When I first came up with the idea for this series I knew I had to have John onboard. I’m a huge fan of his A New World series, and the man himself is fascinating. He is a former Air Force fighter instructor pilot who transitioned to Special Operations for the latter part of his career gathering his campaign ribbon for Desert Storm. Immediately following his military service, John became a firefighter/EMT with a local department. Along with becoming a firefighter, he fell into the Information Technology industry starting two large casinos in Washington as the Information Technology Manager and becoming the Network Manager for the Washington State Legislature, the Northwest Information Technology Manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Network Systems Manager for Hollywood Video.
Currently, John is writing full-time on the series, A New World. As a former marathon runner, John lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and can now be found kayaking out in the waters of Puget Sound, mountain biking in the Capital Forest, hiking in the Olympic Peninsula, or pedaling his road bike along the many scenic roads.
So please help me welcome John O’Brien.
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?
John O’Brien: First, I’m not sure you could technically classify the creatures in my series as zombies as they aren’t undead but rather a mutated species of humans. The series is a survival story of a normal person, although, admittedly, he does have a skillset suited to the post-apocalyptic world. The books take one through the onset of civilization’s downfall and having to deal with living in a new world. The rules have changed and a greatly diminished humankind are no longer at the top of the food chain. The mutated beings are a ferocious and relentless new species that hunt at night.
I approach the story from a central perspective of survival in a post-apocalyptic world. The creatures are thrown in to up the ante so to speak. They add an additional element of danger. I also take the perspective that I like the fast, strong, agile type of creature which changes the strategy of dealing with them. Initially I had in mind that the creatures would be able to function day and night like zombies but in thinking about the survival strategy, it would have been almost impossible for any of humankind to survive so I limited them to just being able to be out at night.
JM: The zombie apocalypse is happening right now. Are you prepared? Would humanity win?
JO: Although not as prepared as I would like to be, I think I would be able to survive. Being in the country helps as it would be some time before any horde showed up this way. I think some shred of humanity would survive but only those who can quickly recognize and adapt to the situation would be those who would be holed up in enclaves or on the run. Any manufacturing would cease so adaptation and mindset would be paramount. Depending on the nature of Zs, life might become a nomadic way of life – moving from place to place as the zombies found those still around. As far as humanity winning, that depends on how quick the reaction is. And how quick the spread of infection. My guess is that most of humanity would disappear quickly leaving small groups to survive.
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.)
JO: I would have to say my favorite zombie-type movie is 28 Weeks Later. Although it’s not really dealing with zombies, the abilities of the rage creatures take survival to a whole new level. I like the ferocity and speed of the infected.
JM: What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?
JO: I have to go back to 28 Weeks Later when the husband kissed his wife and become infected with the rage virus.
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?
JO: I think there is a change in the air and people feel it coming. Society is moving at a sharply elevated curve that cannot be sustained. The popularity perhaps indicates and unknown future and the embodiment of our own mortality. Zombies bring the post-apocalyptic nightmare into a more personal realm. The dead walking the earth were once one of us – loved ones and friends.
There is also the aspect that a zombie apocalypse presents a survivable scenario. Everyone, well, I say this as a generality, believes that they can survive a zombie war. It brings a post-apocalyptic scenario that one can live through. There isn’t any luck, well, some doesn’t hurt, but it’s about surviving through using one’s skills and mind rather than luck of the draw with a viral, economic, environmental, or nuclear apocalypse – or some celestial body colliding with the earth.
There are many reasons and each has their own reason for enjoying the zombie apocalypse. For me, it represents the ultimate survival situation.
I would like to give a big thanks to all of the readers and fans. Your support of zombies authors everywhere means a lot.
Thanks for having me, Joe.