Timothy W. Long

My countdown to the September 3rd release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead, continues with my interview with Mr. Timothy W. Long, author of The Zombie Wilson Diaries, Among the Living and Beyond the Barriers, to name but a few of his kickass zombie books.  Timothy W. Long is ex-military but he has also been writing tales and stories since he could hold a crayon and has read enough books to choke a landfill. Tim has a fascination with all things zombie, a predilection for weird literature, and a deep-seated need to jot words on paper and thrust them at people.

Recently, Tim and I were trading emails back and forth, getting ready for this interview, and we got on the subject of the inevitable zombie apocalypse.  I thought his response so entertaining I had to reprint it here, in full:

 

“It’s only a matter of time before they come for me. That’s how I approach life. I figure that if I’m not having a good time – I need to fix that by getting into some trouble.

You do know that zombies are coming for us all. Right? Some people live every week like it’s shark week. I live every day like tomorrow will bring the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

You’re probably thinking: “Well Mr. Author-Man. I don’t believe in zombies.  So there.”

Good for you but I don’t think zombies give two frontal lobes what you think. You’ll be sitting there with your laptop open while you stare blankly at the television and occasionally type a message to your spouse who is sitting upstairs. You’ll jump up to pour another vodka and Yoo-Hoo and that’s when they will be at your door. And when I say “at your door” I mean beating the crap out of your door until it’s kindling.

They are going to smash their way inside like the mindless horde that they are. The dead — in their glorious masses. Men and women who used to be your neighbors. They’ll be covered in bite marks and drooling blood. Remember Mr. Johnson and how his dog used to piss on your petunias? That dog is currently chewing on your neighbor’s leg and old Mr. Johnson, with his lazy eye and mothball haze, has set his mouth on a collision course with your throat.

So you’ll fight them — with the power of deniability, but it won’t work because zombies don’t stop. Ever. If you think you’re going to stand in your living room while they crowd around you, and exclaim, “You aren’t real!” Well, good luck with that. I bet you’ll taste delicious.”

 

So that’s what we’re up against, ladies and gentlemen.  Now let’s see if he offers us any words of advice to keep from tasting delicious.

 

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?

Timothy W. Long:  Hi Joe. Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog.

I primarily write character driven books. I am known for being a zombie writer but I suspect my fans would say they keep coming back because I focus so strongly on the people that make up my works. My first novels are the ongoing Among the Living series. The book series takes place in Seattle Washington and focus on a number of main characters during the first week of a zombie outbreak. The books are visceral but they also contain a little bit of humor to lighten up the morbid subject of people being devoured by the hungry dead.

I have a military themed zombie book out there called Beyond the Barriers and it focuses on an ex-special forces soldier who is cut off from civilization for half a year and returns to find the world over run with the dead. The zombies in the book are bad enough but there are now ghoulish creatures that are able to herd the Z’s and direct them to do the ghoul’s bidding.

I also have a new book that is unfolding as a serial called Z-Risen: Outbreak. This is a fun project I’ve been working on for a few months and it is about 1/3 complete. When the USS McClusky (FFG-41) was overrun by the dead Machinist Mate First Class Jackson Creed, and Marine Sergeant Joel “Cruze” Kelly, were forced to abandon the ship, and take their chances in San Diego. Now they are stuck in a city that has been completely overrun with zombies and as the days go by they must range farther and farther away from ‘fortress’ in their search for supplies. Relying on military training, guts, and pure force of will, the two men face a nightmare world that is intent on killing them one bite at a time. I’m having a hell of a lot of fun writing this and the best part of fans is that the story is completely free. http://z-risen.com

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

TL:  I’m sort of prepared. I have some survival gear, a stash of food with a 20 year shelf life (although I really don’t want to test that stuff in 19 and a half years – ewww) and a number of weapons including an assault rifle. I’d say I am more prepared for a catastrophic event than a zombie apocalypse. If it came down to it I think I could have my house secure in a few hours and I already live out in the boonies.

Would humanity win? I hope so. I think it’s telling that so many people jump in and help without regard for their own safety in the event of a nasty situation. After the Boston Bombing we saw some great acts of courage. The same is true of earthquakes and hurricanes. People band together and help each other out so why would the zombie apocalypse have to be any different?

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.)

TL:  Shaun of the Dead is not only my favorite zombie movie but probably my favorite movie of all time. Not only is it a funny, quirky, British romantic comedy, it’s also a genuine zombie movie with real horror and gore. The cast is amazing. The scene where Simon Pegg’s group runs into an identical group and greet each other as they pass is hysterical.

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

TL:  Back to Shaun of the Dead. Definitely the scene where Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are in the backyard and they are using anything available as a weapon. I particularly enjoyed the album in the zombies head! I don’t have any albums laying around but I suppose I could make an investment in cheap zombie ammo.

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?

TL:  If anything it tells us that a lot of folks are obsessed with the end of the world. It probably won’t be zombies because let’s face it, no matter how you spin the science it simply cannot happen. But in our increasingly news media and instant social media gratification society people really want to play the what if game? Shows like The Walking Dead and Revolution all posit futures where the world has changed and we no longer have our creature comforts. This is a modern era where you can order an item on Amazon and have it delivered the next day so one of the scariest thoughts (for me) is “how would I even survive a world where the dead ruled and I couldn’t order a crossbow online to deal with them?” I know that sounds funny but it is a valid question. How many of us are really prepared for the end of the world? Not many and that’s why we love the fantasy. 

People are welcome to seek me out at http://timothywlong.com. Thanks so much for having me on your site, Joe. I’m looking forward to your new book. 

Thank you, Tim!

Check  out all of Tim’s books here.

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.

Bowie V. Ibarra

There is a whole Texas thing going on in zombie fiction.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but there is, and a lot of it seems to be focused on San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country, which lies just to the north.  My stuff takes place in Texas, for the most part, but so too does that of Rhiannon Frater, and J.L. Bourne, and my latest guest, Mr. Bowie V. Ibarra.  It’s one thing to see your hometown turned over to the zombies, but quite another to see it done so well, and in so many different ways.

Just in case you haven’t heard about Bowie V. Ibarra yet, let me tell you a little about him.  He is the author of the ‘Down the Road’ zombie horror series from Permuted Press and Simon and Schuster.  His latest book, “Room 26 and the Army of Xulhutdul” is the story of a young girl who inherits a museum in San Antonio, unaware that an awesome secret lies beneath its showrooms.  It is currently available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.com.  (You can check out all his books here.)

Bowie and I have been Facebook friends since way back.  We both did some work through Permuted, and first got to know each other through Permuted’s online forum.  But it seemed odd to me that the two of us should be working in the same field, and living in the same city, and yet had never met face to face.  I guess that’s the curse of this Internet age though.

In the end, it took giant fighting robots to finally bring us together.

My wife and I were out on one of our occasional dates.  We went to see Pacific Rim (great movie, by the way) and as we were leaving the theater, this guy grabs my shoulder and says, “Hey, you’re Joe McKinney!”  At first I thought it was somebody I’d once arrested, because that happens from time to time, and so my right hand drifted to my side, ready to pull my pistol, if needed.

Then the guy says, “It’s Bowie!  Bowie Ibarra!”

“Oh shit!” I said.  “Dude, awesome.”

He was there with his beautiful daughter to see King Kong, and as the crowd filed out around us, the four of us talked about life and writers and giant fighting robots.  It was a wonderful denouement to a great night out at the movies, and an experience I will forever treasure.

So now, please welcome Bowie V. Ibarra!

 

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?

BOWIE V. IBARRA:  Sure thing.  I’m the author of the ‘Down the Road’ zombie horror series from Permuted Press and Simon and Schuster.  Very much like your ‘Dead City’, it takes place in our great Lone Star State.  The books all stand alone and don’t have to be read in any order, but there is a great thread that followers of the series will appreciate.

My approach is total Romero style.  As per the themes of my books and many others out there, I present the only solution being humans working together against their common enemy.

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

BVI:  No way am I prepared.  I’m a goner if it goes down now.

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.)

BVI:  Oh, man, there’s some amazing zombie books out there, and I’ve really never read one I didn’t like.  I’d hate to make a list and leave out some of the greats I’ve read.  But if one stands out, it’s Wayne Simmon’s ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’, a bizarre, horrific, and wonderful spin on the ‘dead rising from the grave’ tale.

Movie’s are easy:  Night of the Living Dead ’68.  It’s the movie that inspired me to put pen to paper.

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

BVI:  A few come to mind, like ‘Machete zombie’ in ‘Dawn…’ as well as ‘Tom Savini getting hit by a truck’ zombie in the same flick.  But my fave is ‘Cemetary zombie’ killing Johnny by smacking his head into the tombstone.  It’s what started it all.

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?

BVI:  I’ve read the perspective that ‘Night…’ was a metaphor for the old order returning to crush or repress the new order of things.  The American flag prominently displayed in the cemetery at the beginning representing the ‘dead’ old order (and ‘living’ old, if you consider the Mr. Cooper contingent) and their eventual rise to attack the radical youth to preserve the old order.   We all know about ‘Dawns…’ commentary on consumerism, ‘Day’s…” science vs. fascism theme, and even ‘Land’s…’ 99% vs. 1% before it was cool.
But its current popularity has an essence of cruelty to it.  There’s a kind of selfishness to it, or perhaps permission to act cruelly to another human being.  The zombies are dead, so it’s okay to bash their heads in.  I admit, that was part of the original appeal to me with ‘Night…’  It seems more prevalent now, however.
But I sincerely hope people can see that the real truth of zombie apocalyptic entertainment, or any challenge humanity faces, is that humanity can overcome any and all obstacles they face if they just work together for the common good.

Network with Bowie for news, releases, videos, and more at ZombieBloodFights.com.

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.

 

Scott Kenemore

Scott Kenemore can deliver a joke that keeps chuckling to yourself all day.  I like that about his writing.  I have been a fan of his “Zen of Zombie” Series for a few years now, and his dry, smooth wit has yet to disappoint.  More than that, in fact, it’s kept me coming back to his books again and again.

But the high water mark, for me, came with his companion volumes, Zombie, Ohio, and Zombie, Illinois.  Scott Kenemore knows the Midwest, from its rural farm belt to its big city corruption.  He puts on an effortless display of social commentary and personal empathy with every line he writes, and I for one have found it hard to keep away from what he writes.  And when people ask for my favorite zombie writers, I give them a short list that invariably has Scott Kenemore’s name on it.

But what really interests me about Scott is the depth and warmth of his personal correspondence.  I wish I could share the emails Scott and I have traded over the years, for he really is a genuinely wonderful man.  Perhaps those of you who have known someone almost entirely through their letters can appreciate how special an email or Facebook message can seem from that person.  If you are one such lucky person, I bet you get how I have developed a friendship with Scott Kenemore, though we live thousands of miles apart and have met face to face only twice. He’s a unique talent in the zombie genre, and one who truly deserves the title of zombie master.

Please welcome Mr. Scott Kenemore, writer and all around great guy.

 

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 Kenemore:  I expect I’m mostly known for a zombie humor book called The Zen of Zombie, and a horror novel called Zombie, Ohio.  I started writing satirical books about zombies, and moved into horror fiction from there.  As perhaps this tells you, I really enjoy the silly, comic aspects of zombies, and I enjoy using them in social satire.

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

SK:  My money is on the zombies.  If the zomb-pocalypse were occurring this moment, I would retreat to the roof of my building with some Molotov cocktails.  I think it would be fun to catch a bunch of zombies on fire down below me.  (Although I’d be well aware that any resultant amusement would be fleeting.)

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.)

SK:  This is a great question.  I’ll forever have a strong connection to the Romero films like Day of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead that first got me into zombies.  That said, Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead remains my favorite zombie film of all time.  It’s a rollicking mix of horror and humor, effectively scary, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I can’t say enough good things about it.  I think my favorite zombie short stories are “What Maisie Knew” by David Liss, and “Pigeons From Hell” by Robert E. Howard.

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

SK:  My favorite zombie-killing-a-person scene would probably be when Allan Trautman’s Tarman Zombie kills Suicide in Return of the Living Dead with a gruesome bite to the brain.

My favorite person-killing-a-zombie scene would probably be any of the action sequences from Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive involving Father McGruder.  (Although, does he actually “kill” zombies, or only beat them up a bunch?  That may be debatable…)

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?

SK:  I feel like every time I think I know the answer to this question, something changes my mind again.  However, answers that—at one time or another—have seemed to work for me include zombies as a statement about mindless consumerism, zombies as a comment on mob culture and mass hysteria, zombies as an inquiry into the mysterious nature of life after death, and zombies as a reminder of the tenuous and easily-overturned systems that hold modern society together.  Zombies, simply by being what they are, posit that the world could be a very, very different place.  They are agents of change, and harbingers of delightfully bad news.

Scott Kenemore, ladies and gentlemen.  One of my favorites in the genre.  Check out his books here, and if you want more, and I think you will, go here to check out his website.

Kim Paffenroth

When I released my first novel, Dead City, there were only a handful of zombie books out there.  Skipp and Goodfellow had done their Books of the Dead and Mondo Zombie, and Brian Keene had done The Rising, and Robert Kirkman was just getting The Walking Dead graphic novel series started.  If you were willing to search online you could find David Moody, J.L. Bourne and David Wellington serializing their first zombie efforts, but that was about it.  Dead City entered the market in 2006 to a hungry zombie readership, and readers devoured it.

But Dead City wasn’t alone.  That same year, zombie fans got another sweet treat in the form of Gospel of the Living Dead:  George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth, a probing analysis of the zombie films of George Romero.  The author of that book was Dr. Kim Paffenroth, professor of Religious Studies at Iona College in New York.  I was impressed with Dr. Paffenroth’s credentials, and when he contacted me and asked if I’d like to take a look at what he’d written, I jumped at the chance.

I was delighted with what I read, and I was delighted yet again when it won the Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction.

And then Kim contacted me and said he’d written a little zombie novel of his own, called Dying to Live, and asked if I’d like to read it for a possible cover blurb.  I said not just yes but hell yes, let me have a look.

I’m so glad I did, because Kim Paffenroth is a threat on all fronts.  Capable of writing non-fiction on everything from Augustine to zombies in a clear, readable style, he is also capable of writing fiction that probes deeply some of knottiest philosophical issues confronting the spiritual man living in today’s world.

I count myself lucky that Kim and I have maintained a steady correspondence over the years.  I have watched with great admiration as he’s grown as a fiction writer, and along the way we’ve shared moments of triumph and sorrow.  I count him a good friend, and one I’m proud to know.  I hope you enjoy this interview, because Kim Paffenroth is one of the truly good guys in this business.

 

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?

Kim Paffenroth:  I came at it from a different direction than most people. I started out writing nonfiction about zombies – not in the sense of “zombies are real” but I started by analyzing George Romero’s zombie films in a book, Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth (Baylor, 2006). It won the Bram Stoker Award and I got the idea to follow up with some zombie fiction of my own – instead of analyzing Romero’s zombies, I could give mine the symbolic significance I wanted.

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

KP:  Oh I don’t think I’d make it very far. I think we’d probably “win” but as in the really great zombie films (Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead) and now in The Walking Dead, I think the question would be at what cost? We’ve seen how much freedom and privacy we’re willing to give up, post-9/11: what kind of violent, security state would we have if we were always under the threat of walking, cannibal corpses?

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.)

KP:  I’ll never forget the original Dawn of the Dead and the effect it had on my imagination, or even deeper elements of my being and values.  To me, it’s the perfect balance between survivalist fantasies of how to prepare and equip, but with a sense of how those things don’t matter, in the face of an existence that has no meaning or purpose.

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

KP:  Again, it’s a corollary of seeing something when you’re at a particularly impressionable age. The helicopter partial decapitation in the original Dawn of the Dead is pretty hokey by modern standards, but I remember I could not get over that scene and “How did they do it?” You take a more spectacular kill in a more recent film (I like the bridge-severing in Land of the Dead) and you just can’t look at it the same way, it doesn’t fill you with wonder, because you’ve just come to expect really over the top and complicated and realistic looking scenes like that.

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?

KP:  I think the zombie may well survive and be re-imagined for future generations with different perspectives and contexts, but the way you frame the question does underline our current situation as a way of understanding the zombie phenomenon. And by “current situation” I don’t just mean “post-9/11”: that’s the challenge, to see the zombie as somehow responding to something that’s been with us since 1967. So in that sense, I’d say the zombie does embody all our fears of the decline of imperialist America, and the zombie can stand in for a myriad of fears associated with that gradual, painful, violent decline: Vietnam, consumerism, racism, the military-industrial complex, terrorism, the surveillance state, the class divide, colonialism, environmental degradation and catastrophe. 

You can check out Kim Paffenroth’s many books here, and check out his blog here

Monique Lewis Happy

Book trading.  Does anybody else remember doing this?

As a young teenager, I didn’t have a whole lot of cash.  I mowed lawns in the summers, and had a paper route for a while, and worked for a very short while in the shrimp camps down in Kemah, Texas.  But money was still short.  I couldn’t just skip over to the bookstore and buy an armload of books, even if it was 1983 and most of my favorite stuff was coming out in mass market paperback and selling for $1.25.

Money was scarce.

I do remember skipping lunch for days on end, saving my lunch money to buy the books of Robert McCammon and Stephen King.  But even then, there was a limit to what I could buy.

And there was most definitely a limit to what my school library had available.

So I turned to my friends.  We developed a sort of fiction underground, trading paperbacks amongst ourselves the way some kids traded baseball cards.

I’ll give you three of my Guy N. Smith giant crab novels for that James Herbert you’ve got there, I remember myself saying.

To which I got:  No way.  Give me that Charles Beaumont collection and I’ll give you the collected stories of Ambrose Bierce.

That was a snapshot of my teenage years.  My education, if you will.

Trading books.

And it was just such a shared history that convinced me I had to include today’s guest in my countdown to the September 3, 2013 release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead, Ms. Monique Lewis Happy.

You see, when she was a young girl, her parents took her out of school and set out for a three-year trek across the world’s oceans in a 40 foot Newporter called The Caprice.  They dragged all over the globe, and the main source of her education during that time was the limited collection of paperbacks her father stowed aboard.  These included John D. MacDonald and J.R.R. Tolkien, to name but a few.  Not a bad start for a tike, but hardly a complete education.  Sensing as much, Monique began to trade paperbacks with other boats she’d meet on her way.

And so her education grew.

Much as my own did.

Hearing that story I felt an instant kinship with her.

Also, it didn’t hurt that since her return from that round-the-world voyage she’d managed to become a noted editor in the Indie zombie genre, counting among her clients the legendary Mark Tufo.  (Check out my interview with Mark Tufo here.)

I thought Monique’s unique role in the zombie genre might provide an interesting turn on the whole zombie conversation, and so I am pleased to bring you Ms. Monique Lewis Happy, editor-in-chief of zombie mayhem.

 

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 projects?  How do you approach the genre?

Monique Lewis Happy:  Well, actually I’m not a zombie writer, or at least not a published one. I’m a zombie editor.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the zombie genre. In 2010, I read the beginning of a new zombie series by Mark Tufo, and liked it so much I went on his blog to introduce myself and tell him how much I loved it. We became friends on Facebook. One day he gave a shout out to his fans, and asked if anyone wanted to review and edit his latest book. I volunteered, having been a legal secretary for over 25 years. I felt confident that I could do a good edit, plus I was dying to read his next installment on the series! I did that first book for fun and for free, and he liked my work so much he hired me. That gave me the courage to begin my own editing services, and I’ve been going strong ever since.

I’ve had the privilege of working with some other really stellar indie authors such as Robert DeCoteau, who has some great books out there, and G.R. Mountjoy, who has written an intense military zombpocalypse series. Most recently, I’ve been working steadily with Shawn Chesser (who’s a great guy, by the way — I’ve really enjoyed working with him), and my newest client, Sean Liebling, who is a kick in the pants and has begun a new series entitled Blood, Brains, and Bullets. Not for the faint of heart!

It’s been very exciting to work with all of these authors because of the experience and knowledge which they bring to the table. These guys really know what they’re talking about. I’ve learned so much about weapons systems and nomenclature. And they are writing really good stuff. They are revitalizing the zombie genre, along with other great authors like John O’Brien, J.L. Bourne, Joe Talluto, Shane Gregory, and yourself, of course!

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

MLH:  I am in no way prepared, except for the knowledge I’ve gained from working with the aforementioned authors. Physically, I probably could not outrun a zombie, unless they are of the shuffling variety. But I would be determined to survive, and I have children to protect. Not sure who would win if it came down to Mama Bear vs. a zombie. *grin*

I seriously think that the majority of mankind will be snuffed out in the first few days. The Preppers will probably outlast us all, and good for them! I can only hope to make it long enough to hook up with a group of people and make it to a safe enclave.

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.)

MLH:  I know you’ve heard this before, but I’m a huge fan of ANYTHING that George Romero has had a hand in. My favorite zombie movie is probably Dawn of the Dead (the original, although I enjoyed the remake), followed by Shaun of the Dead.  Next in line on my faves list is Day of the Dead (by Romero) and Zombieland. I can watch Zombieland over and over again. Especially the final scene with Bill Murray.

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

MLH:  The fight scene in the bar in Shaun of the Dead, when Queen is playing on the jukebox. I just watched it again and couldn’t stop laughing. Zombies and campy humor. Good stuff right there.

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?

MLH:  Personally, I love to lose myself in the world of the apocalypse. It’s not just about the drastic climate change or zombie virus or whatever else brought about the end of the world. It’s about the human spirit, our survival instinct, our true characters that come out when all that counts is where our next meal comes from and what we are willing to do to live one more day on this earth.

I think the current popularity stems from a desire to have a “do over” – to wipe away the old, material ways that are so clearly not working and begin anew with just the basics. To even out the playing table, so to speak. It’s very appealing to a lot of people.

Thanks for having me!

I can be contacted on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueHappyEditorialServices

I’m also blogging at http://moniquehappyeditor.wordpress.com/

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Lisa Morton

Did you happen to catch my interview with Weston Ochse?  In that interview I talk about sitting with Wes at the HWA’s table at the Book Expo America convention, which remains one of my favorite events I’ve ever attended…for several reasons.

I’ll explain.

First off, I got to meet a lot of people I now hold as dear friends.  (I remember sitting in the little backseat of Lisa Morton’s short crew pickup, my knees crammed into my chin and a pile of boxes leaning against my head, talking with Gene O’Neill about his history as a boxer, for example.) It was my first introduction to major conventions and all that they can do for an author’s career; which is, believe me, an article all unto itself.

Secondly, it introduced me to life as a professional writer, which at the time, I’ll honestly say, I didn’t put in the same sentence with my own literary efforts.  But Lisa Morton helped to change that.  This was the woman who pulled me aside and said she thought I had a promising career ahead of me.  She was, in so many ways, the gatekeeper for my transition from interested hobbyist to pro.  I can’t thank her enough for giving me that early confidence.  I’ve often wondered how you can repay that sort of early helping hand up, and the only thing that comes to mind is mentorship.  Lisa was there for me when there was no formalized such thing as a mentorship, and I have tried to emulate that same voice of confidence and experience when I myself became a mentor.  I can think of no higher words of praise to say to a senior fellow than thank you; and to you, Lisa, I say a sincere and honest “Thank you!  You rock!”

She has won her share of Stoker awards.  She has turned out stories that challenge our view of how things should be (Don’t believe me, check out her story “Sparks Fly Upwards” – it’s one of my favorites.), written novels that reimagine our idea of the monster, and highlighted the fact that women deserve a bigger presence in the horror genre.  (To this day I would love to see Lisa Morton write the feminist take on the Last Girl trope.  I would stand in line for that short story.)  And in the course of becoming a leading voice in the horror community, she has also managed to become the leading authority on Halloween.  That’s not hyperbole, either.  She really is the world’s leading authority on Halloween.  (Check this out to see what I mean.)

But enough of that.  I can go on all day about Lisa Morton, because I love her so.  All you really need is to read her, and I’m presenting that opportunity now.  Please 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?

Lisa Morton:  I’m occasionally shocked to realize that I’ve written enough zombie short fiction to fill a book! Most recently I’ve been part of the two shared-world Zombie Apocalypse anthologies edited by Stephen Jones, and I’m currently working on a tie-in novel called Zombie Apocalypse: Washington Deceased.

Zombies are us, with our personalities scrubbed out and replaced by the most basic, most primitive of needs (to feed). They’re not sensual and intelligent like vampires, savage like werewolves, or mysterious like ghosts; they’re just blank. Because of the blankness, they’re like the horror equivalent of an erased blackboard that you can write anything on. Religious allegory, political commentary, social satire…the zombie story can easily become any of those.

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

LM:  Sorry, but I don’t see us taking great care of the joint without zombies; they’ll just make the final fade-out happen a little faster. I might last a little longer than everyone else, but I have an unfair advantage (as do you!): We’ve spent more time thinking about this stuff than everyone else.

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.)

LM:  I’ve got to go with Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead. I saw it in on opening night, when I was in my second year of film school. A teacher’s assistant who knew I liked horror insisted that we go; I’d somehow never seen Night of the Living Dead, and had absolutely no idea what I was in for. And yeah, it pretty much destroyed me. I didn’t sleep that night. I couldn’t get it out of my head. It took me a while to realize that what bothered me wasn’t even so much the idea of the hungry dead as it was the living survivors, sealing themselves away in a shopping mall. One of the great scenes in movie history for me is when Fran, the female lead, kind of wakes up and says, “What are we doing here?” Horror movie as rejection of consumer society…I’d certainly never imagined anything that subversive.

I also have to give a shout-out to the follow-up, Day of the Dead, which I think is an extraordinary and underrated film. The way Day suggests that the ultimate breakdown comes as the result of a battle between right (the military) and left (science) seems more and more prescient.

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

LM:  Does it have to be a zombie being killed, or can it be zombies doing the killing? If it’s the latter, I’m going with the end of Day, when the zombies rip apart the military leader Rhodes who screams “Choke on it!” while he watches parts of himself being eaten. I even love the way Romero cuts back a couple of times to parts of Rhodes being dragged around the abandoned facility by listless zombies.

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?

LM:  That we fear we are being erased by the very culture that tells us to be unique, that sells us products by subtly preying on our fear that we’re really not different at all. That dread of conformity works two ways in the zombie mythos: By turning the dead into one big, indistinguishable hungry mass, and by suggesting that the living are nothing but walking meat lockers. It strips intellect, emotion, and self from all of us, and replaces it with nothing but consumption and gore.  Yeah, that’s pretty terrifying. 

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