I am haunted by zombies.

Posted: May 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

In A River Runs Through It, Norman MacLean’s protagonist says: “I am haunted by waters.” I currently find myself similarly haunted, but my ruminations aren’t on rivers, but on the undead.

I’ll admit it, I haven’t worked on any zombie literature in a good minute – most of my latest work has been more of the straightforward, fascist government takeover, 1984 dystopian type. However, one of my fondest memories at university is of coming across a BBC April Fool’s hoax which pointed to an outbreak of zombism in Cambodia (April 2008). The accompanying pictures and newsbreaks were engrossing, and it was the BBC – they’d never lie, right? Me being your typical navel-gazing college student, I didn’t even think the consider the fact that it was April Fool’s Day. Me and my housemates were so excited at the thought of a zombie apocalypse and the potential zombie-hunting adventures that might ensue.

The result of that jokey news story (and our disappointment that our grandest zombie-hunting fantasies would never come to fruition) was a short story about a group of American zombie hunters in Cambodia called Zombie Monkey, currently under review for publication at the online zombie apocalypse fanzine Tales of the Zombie War.

http://www.talesofworldwarz.com/

I just came across this website a few days ago and was immediately endeared to it. I’ve always had a soft spot for a good tale of the undead (dystopias of any sort really float my boat, actually) and the stories found on this sight are both horrible and massively entertaining. Yesterday I read Kevin Fortune’s “The New Vikings” and would recommend it to any fan of dark horror – it’s a little bit Clockwork Orange, a little bit Exquisite Corpse, and a whole lotta gruesome with some real literary style through in for good measure. A link to the full short story here: http://www.talesofworldwarz.com/stories/2009/12/04/the-new-vikings-by-kevin-fortune/

I also just submitted a werewolf piece called “Animal Person” to another great horror magazine, Comet Press. It was a submission for their Extreme Creature Anthology Sick Things, and although I received a very kind personalized rejection of the piece (one I think Neil Clarke would probably classify as a “near miss”) it did not make the anthology. REJECTED. 🙂

However, Comet Press is also in the middle of another anthology contest called Deadcore, which is a zombie-themed anthology. As a result of this happy news, I am going back and reworking a novella I started in college called “She Rises”, which is about a voodoo priestess in New Orleans who raises her murdered granddaughter from the dead (with the help of her granddaughter’s cursed fiance) to seek vengeance on the young woman’s murderer. It’s set during Hurricane Katrina, and I had a lot of fun writing the first draft of it, but I ended up shelving the story without an ending because I realized quickly that the finished product would be entirely too long to sell to any fiction market as a short story.

The Deadcore contest is giving me an excuse to restart “She Rises” and give it the ending I know it deserves – I mean, who puts ten thousand words into a good zombie story and just shelves it because it doesn’t meet some arbitrary length qualification for short story markets? My only concern is that even with a murder, a curse, human sacrifice, and zombies, “She Rises” might not be ruthlessly horrific enough to compete with some of the really gory, depraved lit that passes for horror these days. In the era of Rob Zombie’s Halloween and the equally disturbing stuff at Tales of the Zombie War, is atmospheric horror going to be enough to cut it?

What does hardcore, gruesome, and twisted entail? How much of the blood has to be “on-screen”, and how much of it can be left behind the scenes? It’s an interesting question.

On top of “She Rises”, I am also working on a new short story called “Neighborhood Watch”, which is about one man’s attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse. This story spawned from a combination of things – my dread of being trapped out at our rural 15-acre property on the insanely remote off-chance of an undead uprising, and my irrational fear of getting a cat caught in the fanbelt of my car.

Nom nom.

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Comments
  1. Trina says:

    You bring up a very good question: “What does hardcore, gruesome, and twisted entail? How much of the blood has to be “on-screen”, and how much of it can be left behind the scenes?”

    Personally, I don’t mind the blood and gore, but I also want atmosphere and an interesting plot. It is hard to find them all.

    Trina

  2. kellyeparish says:

    “Personally, I don’t mind the blood and gore, but I also want atmosphere and an interesting plot. It is hard to find them all.”

    ^ Agreed. I can see some pretty gruesome stuff in print and not be fazed by it (I read Pet Sematary in the third grade, so I’m probably a little desensitized) but for some reason an ultraviolent piece of fiction or one that’s particularly gory/vulgar seems to be greatly diminished if it has an underdeveloped narrative.

    I think I tend to agree with the theory that “less equals more”; horror stories with strong atmospheric conflict and twisted plots (like the movie High Tension) greatly outmatch stories which rely more heavily on their shock value, like the remade version of Friday the 13th. (My examples are in cinema, but you could easily find a correlating set of them in literature.)

  3. scottmaiorca says:

    I have to agree less does equal more. But does the modern reader agree?

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