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Tag Archives: Zombies
Some staff news, ya’ll! Cue banjo!
This coming October, if not sooner, Apex Publications is set to release Appalachian Undead, a new anthology dedicated to the walking dead. I contributed a quirky tale called “Long Days to Come.”
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The brilliant artwork was created by Cortney Skinner. Quite a lineup, too: Elizabeth Massie, Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, S. Clayton Rhodes*, Maurice Broaddus, Bev Vincent, Tim Lebbon, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Skipp* & Dori Miller, and Gary A. Braunbeck, to name a few more than a few.
If you’d like to check out the full table of contents, click here.
You can also pre-order via the above link (and get 5% off if you tweet the link), but before you do, check out this groovy contest they’re running for those who do pre-order.
As always from Apex Publications, you can expect quality.
Not to be outdone, Mercedes and John each have stories—“Murder for Beginners” and “Intruder,” respectively—in Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, the latest slab—and I do mean slab; these things are massive—in an ongoing series edited by the inimitable John Skipp which has thus far included Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, and Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed.
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Psychos is due out in September via Black Dog & Leventhal, and features new and classic fiction from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Lawerence Block, Neil Gaiman, Leslianne Wilder*, Violet LeVoit, Weston Ochse*, Kathe Koja, and many more.
If you order now, Amazon has it for $10.07. That’s 608 pages for $10! No-brainer.
We hope you’ll buy both!
* Shock Totem alumni.
When I reviewed The Infection, the first book in a seemingly ongoing post-apocalyptic series penned by Craig DiLouie, I stated that he was an author that knows his voice. The action was well paced, the emotions were real, the tension expertly portrayed. I called that novel a “really good book,” and I meant it. And then DiLouie had to go and release a second installment and make me change my definitions of his work.
That is because The Killing Floor, that aforementioned second book, goes far beyond really good. It enters rarefied air and becomes great. And when I say great, I mean Stephen King/Robert McCammon great, as in a nearly flawless work of dystopian brilliance.
The story picks up right around where the last book ends—after the destruction of bridge connecting West Virginia and Ohio. Our heroes are now scattered, both in separate militias, still struggling to both survive and make the world safe again—an obviously thankless task in a world where zombies and other unearthly beasts roam. There is also a touching subplot added to those we already know, one that follows around a group of soldiers as the US government attempts to retake Washington D.C.
Whereas The Infection follows a very tight, rigid timeline, The Killing Floor meanders a bit in the best of ways, mainly because the world has become a huge war zone, and oftentimes in war there are long periods of stagnancy that would probably come across as rather boring in print. This is not to say that this book is nothing but action, however. While there is a good deal of conflict, DiLouie picks his spots. There is much more introspection this time around, many added instances of characters mourning the loss of their friends, questioning their place in the world, wondering if, now that their existence is redefined, there will ever be a place for them again. It’s truly heartbreaking to read, real gut-wrenching contemplations that sting in their sincerity.
This aspect is illustrated beautifully by an inventive storyline dealing with a mutation of the original virus. Trying not to give anything away, one of the characters—a ne’er-do-well who became a cop in one of the survivor camps—is stung by a beastie and develops some…er, interesting abilities. This character’s story weaves his past in with his current reality through dreams and hallucinations, and does a cut-up job of showing a man who is, like society itself, a redefinition, and though it’s dangerous, though it’s scary as hell, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Even though this man was a loser in his past life, that label doesn’t have to stick with him for the rest of his existence. If I can think of two words to string together and come up with to describe the tone of these particular segments, and the book as a whole, it would be thus: horrendously hopeful.
As before, DiLouie does a fantastic job of making each character flawed but likeable, of taking clichéd personalities and giving them depth and meaning. Even the most common cliché in this type of fiction—the quirky scientist—proves to be much greater than the sum of his parts.
Also, it must be said that not only does DiLouie portray the military in a sympathetic and thoughtful light, he has obviously either done tons of research into the matter or is one of the best B.S. artists of all time. The dialogue and lingo is believable to the point where it felt like I was listening to a couple of my Army buddies talk about their past combat experiences, the knowledge of weapons and the inner workings of the system are mapped out better than any I’ve ever seen. Great job, and for that the author deserves many kudos.
So yes, this is one fantastic book. Personally, combining the first two segments, I put it right up there, beneath only two other novels along the same vein by the two authors I mentioned earlier. I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention that there are some juicy hints in this volume about the nature of the illness that could—and should—be expanded upon later. The Killing Floor is a seminal work by one hell of a writer. I heartily recommend it, along with The Infection, its predecessor, to just about anybody. Absolutely virtuoso read…and there better be a third and climactic book coming soon.
This book, published by Permuted Press, was purchased by the reviewer.
I have probably stated before, quite a few times, actually, the fact that I am just about zombied out. So when I received a package containing Dead Things, by Matthew Darst, I read the blurbage and sighed. Zombies. But I won the book through a Goodreads giveaway—and hey, Free book! Better yet, a signed free book.
I started it that night, and within two or three nights had finished it. It was that good.
The debut novel is set nearly twenty years after the “zombie event.” The dead have risen and eaten folks. Society has collapsed and rebuilt itself. Religious fanatics have lots of control. Our main characters are literally thrown together in a plane crash and forced to stick together to survive. Adding to the tension of outrunning the hungry dead, there is the fact that no one trusts anyone else, as anyone could be a mole for the church. I’m talking Witch Hunt kinda-church.
Darst uses a number of nifty maneuvers to keep this a fresh offering. The dialogue is smart and witty. The science behind the story is very well thought out and smart. In fact, I’d say the weakest point would have to be the ending, which seemed a bit rushed—literally rushing headlong into and messily hitting closure in a chapter.
As I stated, this is a debut novel. A well-written, smartly entertaining debut. Integral to the plot are the zombies; however, it is more than a zombie novel. It’s a novel about humans being, a novel where the monsters we become are far more frightening than the things shambling from the graves to gnaw on our flesh.
Dead Things is available from Grand Mal Press.
In 1992, James Havoc released this wonderful book of bizarre and repulsive word swill. I loved it. Still do. Then he went missing. Dropped right off the face of the earth.
Gone. Never to be heard from again.
Like a meth-fueled mixture of William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Michael Gira and Chuck Palahniuk being poured down the eager throat of Edward Lee, Satanskin is that hardcore. Graphic as anything you can imagine. Surrealism carved in the faces of the damned with a rusty razor equals Satanskin.
Havoc didn’t paint with words…he fed you the words then reached down your throat—or up your ass—and then finger-painted your brain with them. These stories are prose-beasts. Skulking ugly creations that stumble in and out of cohesive narrative. There are vampires and nameless things, aliens and undead creatures. Depraved children and Demonic butt-sex. It’s an explosion of supreme insanity and chaotic cringe-worthy debauchery. This is Bizarro, from a time when the tag didn’t really exist.
This title was released in 1992 via The Tears Corporation/Creation Press. In 2011, the 20th anniversary e-book edition, which includes the bonus story “Third Eye Butterfly,” was released by Elektron Ebooks.
David James Keaton’s Zee Bee & Bee (a.k.a. Propeller Hats For The Dead), as it was called when it was sent to me last spring, has since been rechristened Zombie Bed & Breakfast (Zee Bee & Bee). Regardless of which title you acknowledge, this is one of the zaniest sort-of-zombie works I’ve ever read. Its audacity to be so smart and ridiculous at the same time is a feat worthy of your time.
In this novella, Keaton tells the story of a Zombie Bed & Breakfast, one of those themed places where folks pay to stay and be entertained. In this case, attacked by hotel workers dressed as the shambling dead.
Keaton has a keen eye for personality and pop culture references. The broken-down hotel workers are all schooled in their zombie lore and mythos and all know their script…but when things start to meander from the scripted path, chaos and bloodshed ensue.
Bizarro and smart. Keaton has a unique voice in his writing, the literary equivalent to Geddy Lee’s vocals—those who dig it are really going to dig it; those who hate it…you know what I’m getting at. It is also worthy of mention, an urban legend suggests that Tom Savini was so offended/insulted by this novella that it led him to “unfriend” the author on Facebook.
If I know David as well as I think I do, he wears that fact as a badge of honor.
Andrew Bonazelli steps up with his slice of world-ending pie, “The Dreamt and Deathless Obscene.”
His apocalypse is sort of quiet. Set in the mid 70′s, people just start acting strange. A plague has reduced half the populace to raving maniacs, while the rest don’t seem all that better off.
A group puts down roots in Philly and tries to start again, or at least live normally until a cure is found. In this, we are introduced to the Gall family, flawed and harboring their own insanities, well before the supposed plague began. The father and his two sons struggle to come out on top, through any means necessary.
Where Bonazelli elevates this above the typical post-apocalyptic crazy plague story, is with his unique grasp of the language. Quirky phrases and characters that are real and not at all the empathetic likeable survivor-types we’re used to. He takes all the templates of this genre and sets them aside, giving us a bleak and not-all-that-positive idea of the world ending—not with a bang, but with a whimper.
You can buy this book through Vitriol Press.
I don’t like worms. They’re icky and slimy. I get it. I’ve seen the world end at the hands of worms before. Keene served it to us and the 70′s film classic Squirm did as well. Worms are scary.
In 1991, Matthew J. Costello and Diamond Books gave us his novel Wurm. These worms are the scariest I’ve read about yet. Deep sea leech-like creatures that burrow inside and become what we are…and then become more.
Filled with great strong characters and frenzied pulp horror violence and gore, Wurm reminded me of all that I loved about the paperback heyday of the 80′s and early 90′s.
Wurm begins as an exploratory group is surveying a deep-sea volcanic rift and discovers countless species of strange life. Mainly worms. Big long worms. They go deeper…and are attacked by bigger, meaner worms who live in burrows. They return to the surface with a piece of a worm. From there, bad things happen and a new god struggles to rise.
Wurm is a quick read, a crazed comic-book fun ride through sci-fi tinged Lovecraftian landscapes. Recommended!
The sub-genre of apocalyptic fiction has really taken off as of late. It seems that everyone and their mother are now penning a book dealing with the End of Days, and I’ve read my fair share of them—particularly when it comes to the subject of zombies. I’ve had a love affair with the meandering undead since I was a wee frightened lad, and ever since then I’ve torn into whatever material I can when it comes to this subject matter.
I have found, however, that with the sheer quantity offered, many of these novels blend into one huge, intestine-chewing lump in my brain. It takes a special sort of zombie novel for me to remember not only the plot (if there is one; many zombie tales end up being nothing but expositions on gore), but the emotions I felt while reading; which, to me, is undeniably more important than anything.
The Infection, the wonderful new tale of woe and man-eaters by Craig DiLouie, is one of those “special” books.
In DiLouie’s world, the end starts with a strange malady that causes one-third of the world’s population to break out screaming, suffer massive seizures, and then fall into a state of catatonia. Then, three days after the event, these “Screamers” wake up. They are violent, fast, and driven to both eat and spread their infection, which fully afflicts its victims after a rather sparse three-minute incubation period.
Society breaks down in a matter of days, leaving roving bands of survivors to try and seek a safe haven. It is at this point that The Infection begins, introducing us to a varied group (including a preacher, a school teacher, a cop, three soldiers, a sixteen-year-old boy, and a rather tainted homemaker), who traverse across greater Pittsburgh in their Bradley (basically a tank with a smaller turret designed to be a quite-deadly armored personnel carrier) in search of somewhere, anywhere, that they can rest their weary bones for a night, perhaps longer. The Infected are always at their heels, as well as a few other (rather ingenious) beasts, which, when added together, create a nice little mystery as to why this outbreak happened in the first place. Is it the wrath of an angry God? Aliens seeking to eliminate the local inhabitants so they can re-populate with their own kind? The text offers clues, but never says the answer outright, which makes for a nice little mystery in the middle of all the madness.
The plot of the book is rather simple—folks run from monsters, find shelter, run again, find shelter again, discover they don’t know how to live like real people anymore, and go destroy a bridge to stop the Infected and friends from crossing the river. As I said, not the most complex plot in the world.
But plot isn’t where The Infection gains its significance. Yes, there are zombies (or pseudo-zombies) and other assorted baddies, but this is a book about them as much as The Telltale Heart is about a fancy puzzle box.
DiLouie does a cut-up job of presenting what it would really be like if everything were to fall apart. The human element is on full display here—the longing, the despair, the paralyzing fear. There is sadness aplenty, and much longing for loved ones lost. The book’s structure is excellent in presenting this—it is told in present tense (which adds to the tension), with constant flashbacks pertaining to the individual journey of each character. Every one of them has lost something important—some more so than others—and all must come to grips with the fact that no matter if the planet recovers or not, they, as individuals, will never be the same again.
To say that I found The Infection to be astute and poignant would be an understatement. It’s inventive and fresh, offering an insider’s perspective on pain and terror. The characters are wonderfully flawed and likeable, and I felt for them whenever I discovered what horrible events had played out in their pasts. The action scenes are concise and easy to follow, and DiLouie seems to have done his homework when it comes to the more technical aspects of modern warfare.
This is a really good book, folks. It made me edgy, sad, joyous, and angry—sometimes at the same time. DiLouie is an author who knows his voice, and he uses it to near perfection. I will definitely be reading more of him in the future, and if you have any appreciation at all for tales of the apocalypse, this small-press offering is just about as good as it gets.
Originally appeared in Shock Totem #4, July 2011.
“You called me a symbol, and you’re right. This suit stands for something. It isn’t me living some childhood fantasy or anything like that. It’s about hope.”
This novel was sent to me for review by the good folks at Permuted Press.
As a man who loves zombies, I especially appreciate two aspects—their creation story, and the way they’re used as metaphor. As a man who loves superheroes, I’m fond of the authors who take the usual conventions and either places them in an unusual situation or messes with the tropes to toss the concept of the “hero” on its head.
Ex-Heroes, the novel of post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, by Peter Clines, combines all of this into a hearty, thought-provoking, and completely satisfying experience. Every aspect I just wrote about is explored…and then some.
The plot is simple enough. The undead have risen across the land, forcing martial law upon the citizens. Everything crumbles, leaving it up to the superheroes who populate this world—who’ve only discovered their abilities in the last couple years, as if Mother Nature knew this was going to happen and took steps to help stem the tide of destruction—to pick up the mantle of protection. After all, when society collapses, it is up to the best of us, no matter what form they take, to help keep society alive.
The book is written in a very unique way. Each chapter is separated into two segments—“Now” and “Then.” “Now” is told in third person, telling the story of the survivors and their guardians as they try to go on each day inside The Mount (a reinforced Paramount Studios), fighting back the legions of zombies and scrounging for supplies. “Then” is told in first person, and it is here where the author bucks convention. Each of these subdivisions introduces us to the heroes individually, telling the tales of how they became what they ended up being in their own words. When I mentioned tossing the concept on its head, this is what I was talking about. Each of the heroes is revealed to be a real, live human being, one with doubts, faults, desires, fears, and missteps. There are no cartoons or cardboard cutouts here. Each hero is valid; they’re individuals from various walks of life who just so happened to be blessed with a unique gift.
In post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, there are two warring factions—those on The Mount, and the Seventeens, or SS, a roving street gang whose numbers have surprisingly grown larger since the end of the world. While the heroes have to fight back the zombies each day hidden behind walls and barricades, the Seventeens seem to live on the streets with very little protection. All of which says there is more here than meets the eye, some behind-the-scenes mystery that just might spell doom for our heroes.
All of this is tied together nicely with the vagueness of the disease that caused the dead to rise in the first place. We learn the virus itself isn’t lethal, it simply re-animates dead tissue. The reason folks die from the bites is the ungodly levels of bacteria and other diseases harvesting in their mouths. This was something new to me, and I almost jumped up and applauded the writer for his resourcefulness. And then, toward the end of the book, it is revealed what truly caused the outbreak, and all I could do was keep nodding my head, over and over and over. Just like the heroes, the plague got itself an original—and unexpected—origin story.
Yeah, I guess you could say I fell in love with this novel. Is it the best book ever written? Of course not. There are a couple plot holes that could use some further explanation and on more than one occasion I wanted to run into the page and slap the heroes upside their heads when they made a few stupid decisions. But none of that matters, because it’s the afterglow of any literature that one must judge it by, the way you remember the experience long after it’s done. And I can honestly say that Ex-Heroes has stuck with me ever since I read the last page. It’s affecting, exciting, inventive, and even, surprisingly, innocent. There’s a message of hope—both in human nature and society in general—between those pages that is refreshing. I can’t wait to dive into its sequel, Ex-Patriots, and can say without second thought that this book is in the top five of zombie literature I’ve ever read. Seriously.
I briefly met Sarah Langan at a convention this summer, and by “briefly met” I mean, I think I said “Hello” as I walked by. I’m a bit shy at times. I picked up this book after hearing wonderful praise for her most recent novel by revered authors like John Skipp and Jack Ketchum. I’m glad I did.
The Missing is a sequel to her debut novel, The Keeper, but is a fantastic standalone read. It concerns the haunting of a small town, in both the literal and figurative sense. A school field trip to a disaster site serves as the catalyst of darkly disturbing events. A troubled young boy strays from the group, only to awaken something malevolent and hungry that will not stop until it has consumed all. What the boy and the other affected do over the course of this book played back in my head for days upon completion. The infected and their “de-evolution” to an almost animal state, as well as the feedings, made me almost giddily jittery. This novel gave me a feeling I have not felt in a long long time while reading. It was a nostalgic vibe along the lines of what my teenage self would feel when a new Stephen King book dropped.
Langan’s prose is lean and smooth and carries an old-school tone, both intelligent and easy to read. Not to say it is simple, but that it is a classically constructed novel. The characters are brilliantly painted and the setting and events are well rendered. Above all of these other positive attributes, and most importantly, it is a scary book.
It has been widely documented that I have been a fan-boy of the mighty John Skipp since I was a teenager and I was loaned that paperback copy of The Light At The End. I have since read almost everything available from this twisted genius. Reading a John Skipp book, solo or collaboration, is usually like having a conversation with a hyperactive savant, a “Rain Man” raised on monster movies and Rock & Roll. The latest collaboration, Spore, once again with evil cohort Cody Goodfellow, is well up that twisted razor-edged bar.
Spore tells the surrealy bizarre tale of a nice young couple, Rory and Trixie, hip deep in love and trying to forget their troubled pasts. A wild turn of events finds them up to their necks in an adrenaline drenched horror show. A sentient fungal entity has rooted itself beneath the city of Los Angeles. It works itself into the drug supply, mixing its spores in with the cocaine that is oh-so-readily available. The spores infest the brain and eventually drive the infected to acts of barbarism and savagery.
While some of the characters seem to be more caricatures, it plays out smoothly and is an over-the-top festival of fun. Jaw-dropping images are a main staple of this tale, some of which will no doubt haunt you for a long time to come. It’s a Hollywood zombie apocalypse as only these cats could write. It’s the slam-dancing progeny of The Stuff and Scarface. But more important than all of that, it made me fucking smile.
The Loving Dead was another recommended read. Skipp touts this novel quite a bit, and I usually listen to whatever he tells me (I know, I know!). Amelia Beamer gives us a zombie novel that is not about zombies much at all. It is a stark portrait of the real monsters. It’s about us. People, with their dishonest nature and skeevy motives, even in the face of a major crisis and looming danger, we can’t get our heads out of our asses, our minds out of each others pants and just get down and be “real” with each other.
Kate and Michael are housemates. They also have a thing for each other, one of those mutual-but-held-down-so-tight-that-no-move-has-ever-been-made sort of things. The story begins with Kate saving her belly-dance instructor from a feral derelict. She takes her home where there is a party in full swing. Things happen, people get naked…and a zombie virus rears its ugly head. Zombie virus…as in STD. The only apparent warning symptom being horny moaning followed by a breathy “something’s happening,” after which it’s all milky eyes, cannibalism…and fucking. Lots and lots of fucking.
The shuffling nympho-dead are more of a set piece than anything in this novel. The skeleton of this book is about people and how they interact, how we interact. We are selfish and distrusting as well as untrustworthy. The characters are honest and scarred…and scared. Sympathetic and not entirely likeable. This is what made this such a compelling work.
If the fate of the free world hung from your shoulders would you shrug or bear it as long as you could, and would you still find time for a quickie in the restroom?
This weekend, Shroud Publications hosts the first—and hopefully annual—Anthology conference (Anthocon) up in Portsmouth, NH. Special guests include Christopher Golden, Jackie Gamber, Michael Boatman, Rick Hautala, Jennifer Pelland, Jonathan Maberry, Catherynne M. Valente, and more…
Sarah and I will be there as well, sharing a table with Kurt Newton, and selling copies of Shock Totem, The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1 and 52 Stitches, Vol. 2, the latter two of which feature one of my stories. Kurt will likely be selling copies of his new novella The Brainpan Concerto, among other things.
And on Friday, 11-11-11, Shroud Publishing will officially release Epitaphs, the anthology featuring members of the New England Horror Writers group, of which I am a part of.
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The artwork is a woodcut done by Danny Evarts, with some digital coloring. You may recognize his work from the interior illustrations found within Shroud Magazine. A wonderfully unique style within the small press.
Included in Epitaphs, is “A Deeper Kind of Cold,” my (light) sci-fi horror/tragic love story, as well as 25 other stories and poems. I’ve already zipped through the whole anthology, and it’s a fantastic thing. If you’re interested in a copy, on Saturday, there will be a mass signing/panel with most of the authors. A perfect time to pick up a copy.
Anyway, it looks like its gonna be a helluva good time. Stop by the Shock Totem table and say hello.
The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1 is the first anthology published through the new Apex Publications imprint, The Zombie Feed Books. It features zombie-fried fiction from seventeen authors, of which I am one. Recently, contributing author Maggie Slater offered up her blog for a series of three-question interviews with several of the anthology’s authors, so I am returning the favor.
Below you can read Maggie’s interview as well as those interviews hosted on her blog.
And if you’re interested, check out The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1. You can pick up your copy from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, or from The Zombie Feed directly. Get it on your Kindle or your Nook (or in any e-format from Smashwords) for just $2.99! Seventeen kick-ass zombie stories for $2.99! Can you dig on that?
1. The Writing Question: If you could sit down with one author, from any time in history to today, to get a writing lesson, who would it be?
I had three answers for this initially—Samuel R. Delany, Edith Wharton, and Roald Dahl. If I had to narrow it down, though, I’d pick Samuel R. Delany for several reasons. First, I’d love to just talk fiction with him—I’m about 90% through Dhalgren, and reading it as a writer is a little Twilight Zone-esque. All of Kid’s thinking and working and pondering the process and experience of creating a work of writing feels so intimately familiar, even as his process is different. I’ve also read Mr. Delany’s book About Writing which is hands-down the best book about the writing process I’ve ever read. It’s not an instructional manual, but almost a treatise on the creative endeavor. His discussions about the inner editor were very influential on me, and his emphasis on care when drafting, of really visualizing the scenes, works much better for me than the mantra “just write the first draft as fast as you can” which seems to work very well for others. His essays feel very close to a one-on-one discussion, as do the letters in which he’s critiquing a work sent to him, but it’d be great to get a few pointers in person!
So that’s one part. The other part is that whenever I read a novel by Samuel R. Delany, it reminds me of what writing can be. Not just in terms of style and poeticism, but in the sheer vividness of imagination, both in content and in execution. Reading his work always reminds me that I can push my own boundaries and play in realms that aren’t common in the books you’ll find on the bookstore shelves, that not all stories have to be told the same way. I can lock myself into tunnel vision pretty easily when it comes to “how you’re supposed to write”, so reading a good Delany novel can kick me out of that and set me on better paths.
2. The Horror Question: What used to scare you the most as a child?
Funny story: zombies, actually. Back in fifth grade, I went to a Halloween party a friend of mine was having, and they showed Night of the Living Dead Returns, which completely freaked me out. (I mean, it didn’t take much back then: I was terrified of ET, also.) Needless to say, after watching about thirty minutes of NotLDR, I left the room and couldn’t watch any more. For a month I didn’t sleep unless my mom was in the room, I closed my eyes whenever we passed any kind of structure that looked like a medical warehouse, and it seemed like ages until I could hear the word “paramedics” without feeling queasy.
That experience actually set me back probably five years: I actively avoided horror movies (or even not-so-scary PG-13s, like Jurassic Park) until I was about fifteen. Then I saw The Sixth Sense, and fell in love with it. I’d always loved ghost stories, but the film format always made me nervous. After that, and after realizing that I could watch certain spooky movies without getting horribly vivid nightmares afterwards, I started pushing my limits of tolerance bit by bit, until in college I finally watched Shaun of the Dead, and thus my fear of zombies was…well, not quite over—they’re still creepy as hell—but at least resurrected as a fondness, rather than abject terror!
3. The Oddball Question: If you could be friends with one fictional character, who would it be and what kind of venue would you meet at?
Oh, hands down (and this is rather like using one of my three wishes to wish for more wishes): Nero Wolfe. We’d meet at the brownstone, of course, on West 35th Street in New York City, and have a delightful meal (perhaps game hens) prepared by his brilliant chef, Fritz. Of course, Archie Goodwin would have to be there too, and (don’t tell my husband) I’d definitely let him take me dancing once in a while, just to keep my footwork sharp, of course. I certainly wouldn’t protest if Saul and Orrie and Fred joined us, and if Jackie Jaquette or Lily Rowan wanted to stop by, I wouldn’t mind at all! Then, after dinner, Wolfe would show me his most recent breed of orchid, and we’d discuss potting material, plant genetics, and books, of course. It’d be the perfect evening!
Maggie Slater writes in Maine, where she lives with her husband and two old, cranky cats. She has seen her work published in a variety of venues, such as Dark Futures: Tales of SF Dystopia, The Zombie Feed Anthology Vol. 1, and most recently in Leading Edge Magazine. She currently moonlights as an assistant editor for Apex Publications. For more information about her and her current writing projects, visit her blog at maggiedot.wordpress.com.
And if you’re interested in the rest of the Three Questions interviews…
I love me a good zombie tale. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite movie of all time, Romero is a god to me, and my first book is about those meandering, rotting corpses. So when I was sent The Zombie Feed, the new compilation put out by Apex Publications and edited by Jason Sizemore, for review, I was more than pumped to dive right in.
Inside this volume are 17 tales of zombies in all of their various forms. At first I expected a grouping of run-of-the-mill apocalyptic, undead stories. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered how different the collection is, with how many various directions the authors took what very often are clichéd tropes and plot devices.
In order to adequately break down this fantastic collection, let’s look at The Zombie Feed story by story.
Not Dead by BJ Burrow: A woman wakes up on her deathbed, questioning if she’s still alive. A touching story of the nature of faith and what really defines humanity.
Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs by Monica Valentinelli: An original, if somewhat clunky, take on the origins of the outbreak and the privileged nature of the wealthy. It could’ve been spectacular given the original premise the author came up with, but it falls flat. A little too “Ah, gotcha!” for my taste.
Cold Comfort by Nathaniel Tapley: What is this? A zombie tale without a true zombie? A fantastic story dealing with the undead that only exist in the narrator’s head, as a Russian mortician whose wife is cheating on him communes with his recently-departed patients. Ironically enough, in this particular tale it isn’t the dead who should be considered zombies.
The Final December Day by Lee Thompson: This one follows more along the lines of a traditional zombie tale. A lone cop, searching for his long-lost partner on his last day on Earth, runs across a young photographer. An interesting take on the apocalypse where the zombies are simply drug-addicted, insane humans, and aliens roam the earth. I enjoyed the message, but it fell a little short. This is one short story that begged to be longer.
Broken Bough by Daniel I. Russell: A particularly heartbreaking tale of the end of the world, told from the point of view of a young family of three struggling with the ultimate decision. Truly sad, it makes you wonder what you might do should the unthinkable happen. Would you be able to take the actions necessary? Haunting.
The Sickness Unto Death by Brandon Alspaugh: A somewhat convoluted tale of the recently departed rising up, remembering their pasts and able to act as human, though they’re no longer living. A bit confusing, and written in a way that I think might seem like the author is trying to “put one over” on the reader. I’m all for an original, inventive story, but this one seemed too clever for its own good.
A Shepherd in the Valley by Maggie Slater: Now this one was creepy. A man, all alone and living in an old airport, has figured out a way to “tame” the dead. A heartening examination of a parent’s love and the sacrifices one must make in the face of absolute terror.
Twenty-Three Second Anomaly by Ray Wallace: Eh, I could give or take this one. The story of human experimentation and how exact science can be. Interesting, but the punch isn’t punchy enough and the emotions seems forced. Not bad, but could be better.
The Last Generation by Joe Nazare: Another very interesting and not-quite-zombie story. All people have fallen over and entered a state of non-death, and only a few wake up, albeit minus their memories and sense of self. An inventive story, but lacking in some important information (such as how do they remember pop culture references and not their names or pasts) that could have made the story much more affecting. Decent nonetheless.
Bitten by Eugene Johnson: One of the few standard zombie tales in the whole collection. A very short story of a bunch of folks trying to protect a house at the end of the world. It is what you’d expect.
Lifeboat by Simon McCaffery: A very entertaining story of a group of people surviving the apocalypse by sailing the ocean on a cruise ship. Intriguing and imaginative, the narrative takes twists and turns I never expected, coming out at the end in an intense, hell-bent-for-leather climax. One of the best in the bunch.
Rabid Raccoons by Kristen Dearborn: Now this is what I call taking a genre and flipping it on its head. A teen girl does her friend wrong, only to be assailed (possibly mystically) by zombie raccoons. A stupendous job of telling a story from the viewpoint of a young adult, this tale captures the sense of seclusion and fear beautifully. Great story.
Zombies on the Moon by Andrew Clark Porter: Another short tale, and while the imagery of a moon cluttered with zombies has stuck with me since I’ve read it, this is another example of a story that could use some fleshing out to be perfect.
The Fare by Lucian Soulban: The absolute best story of the bunch. A lonely man in the aftermath of the world’s end hires a mysterious cabbie to help him obtain closure for his past sins. A tremendous study of the human condition, of how guilt can guide our actions after a traumatic event, no matter if we were in the right or not.
What’s Next? by Elaine Blose: This is the only story that I don’t think belongs in this collection. It wants to be campy, describing a world where aliens bring about the zombie apocalypse, only to have monster after monster appear in their wake, but it comes off as amateurish. The rest of the stories in this collection are so strong and insightful, it seems entirely out of place.
Goddamn Electric by K. Allen Wood: Another ingenious story, imagining a “different” sort of zombie, when the skies open up during an apocalyptic storm and fry everyone who wasn’t smart enough to find shelter. High on anxiety and even (surprisingly) emotion, this story follows an old man who’s lived a long life and isn’t quite ready to give it up.
Hipsters in Love by Danger_Slater: This is the oddest story of the bunch. I absolutely hated it until I was a couple pages in, when I went back to the beginning and re-read the title. This is a complete farce of a tale, a satire poking fun at a certain segment of our modern culture, complete with kids and their ironic t-shirts worrying about obtaining some Pabst Blue Ribbon in the face of the undead. A highly funny romp, it’s the perfect choice to end this anthology.
So that’s it! In all, I’ll say this is well worth the read, and the best zombie anthology to come out in years. Congrats to Apex and to Jason Sizemore. You’ve collected something highly entertaining and even touching. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves this genre of story.