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.
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.
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.