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.

Publishing News: Dating in Dead World

I just got word from John Joseph Adams, editor of The Living Dead, Wastelands, Federations, and the new speculative fiction magazine Lightspeed, that his new zombie anthology, The Living Dead 2 will be landing in stores this September.

Here’s the table of contents:

Introduction — John Joseph Adams
Alone, Together — Robert Kirkman
Danger Word — Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due
Zombieville — Paula Stiles
The Anteroom — Adam-Troy Castro
When the Zombies Win — Karina Sumner-Smith
Mouja — Matt London
Category Five — Marc Paoletti
Living with the Dead — Molly Brown
Twenty-Three Snapshots of San Francisco — Seth Lindberg
The Mexican Bus — Walter Greatshell
The Other Side — Jamie Lackey
Where the Heart Was — David J. Schow
Good People — David Wellington
Lost Canyon of the Dead — Brian Keene
Pirates vs. Zombies — Amelia Beamer
The Crocodiles — Steven Popkes
The Skull-Faced City — David Barr Kirtley
Obedience — Brenna Yovanoff
Steve and Fred — Max Brooks
The Rapeworm — Charlie Finlay
Everglades — Mira Grant
We Now Pause For Station Identification — Gary Braunbeck
Reluctance — Cherie Priest
Arlene Schabowski Of The Undead — Mark McLaughlin & Kyra M. Schon
Zombie Gigolo — S. G. Browne
Rural Dead — Bret Hammond
The Summer Place — Bob Fingerman
The Wrong Grave — Kelly Link
The Human Race — Scott Edelman
Who We Used to Be — David Moody
Therapeutic Intervention — Rory Harper
He Said, Laughing — Simon R. Green
Last Stand — Kelley Armstrong
The Thought War — Paul McAuley
Dating in Dead World — Joe McKinney
Flotsam & Jetsam — Carrie Ryan
Thin Them Out — Kim Paffenroth, Julia Sevin & RJ Sevin
Zombie Season — Catherine MacLeod
Tameshigiri — Steven Gould
Zero Tolerance — Jonathan Maberry
And the Next, and the Next — Genevieve Valentine
The Price of a Slice — John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow
Are You Trying to Tell Me This is Heaven? — Sarah Langan

This promises to be a huge anthology, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. My story, “Dating in Dead World,” is a sequel to my Dead City series. The main character is Andrew Hudson, the baby Eddie Hudson spent a night of hell trying to rescue in Dead City.

It’s been almost twenty years since Hurricane Mardell swept through Houston, flooding the city and giving birth to a virus that turns the living into the walking dead. The world has been overrun by zombies and left in ruin. But there are still groups of people left alive, and they are carving out an existence in the wasteland.

Some of the survivors have moved into protective compounds, but Andrew Hudson wasn’t lucky enough to grow up in one of those. He was raised as a street urchin out in the ruins of San Antonio, where he makes a living as a special courier between the strongholds of the dead world’s warlords. During one of those runs he had the good fortune to meet the daughter of the area’s most powerful warlord, and he won her heart.

Now, they’re going on their first date. How hard could that be, right? Kids have been dating forever. Well, when taking your date out involves high speed pursuits through zombie-infested ruins and being used as pawns in an underhanded power grab scheme, nothing is as easy as it seems.

“Dating in Dead World” was written right about the same time that Kensington Publishing came asking me to do another zombie book. I had made a few readers mad with the ending to Dead City, and I wanted to address the criticism before I went on with the rest of the series.

The first person narrator of Dead City is a police officer named Eddie Hudson. The thing to remember about Eddie Hudson is that he is not a reliable reporter. Most people get that wrong about him. He’s deeply fractured by the events he recounts in the novel, and the optimism he expresses at the end of the story is…well, let’s just say he’s not telling you everything. He’s telling you about the world he wants to believe in, not the world as it really is. “Dating in the Dead World” came from that issue. And because “Dating in the Dead World” was written to refute Eddie Hudson’s optimism, the logical lead for the story was Eddie’s son, Andrew Hudson. So this story really becomes as much a conversation between father and son as it does a commentary on the Dead City series itself.

John Joseph Adams asked me where “Dating in Dead World” came from – not just the idea for the story, but the personal background of the story. I think the answer hinges on personal accountability. I don’t respect a person who can’t accept responsibility for his or her actions. That’s something I learned from my dad, and something I’ll always be thankful for.

He gave me some important advice on personal responsibility. Right before I left for my first date, he gave me the only bit of parental sex education I ever received. “Remember this,” he said. “You will be held personally accountable for everything that happens to that girl from the moment she leaves her front door to the moment she walks back in it. Conduct yourself accordingly.”

It wasn’t until after I’d written “Dating in the Dead World” that I realized I was channeling that advice. I guess it took.

This Year’s Bram Stoker Award Roll Call

The inimitable Lisa Morton, writer and HWA powerhouse, has put together a great webpage for this year’s Bram Stoker Award nominees, including a short biography for each. Check it out here.

And if you happen to be the only person on the planet who has yet to see the list of nominated works, check out the full list here.

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