The Zombie Thing

Since it’s the season for horror writing (though I think true Zombie aficionados are always alert and wary for the possibility of an undead uprising, regardless of the time of year) I thought it’d be a good time to talk about a tidal wave of a trend in fiction. I’m guessing if you’re any sort of Zombie fan, you’ve read The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z by Max Brooks. These two books, so well researched and cleverly assembled helped to make the concept of a species-ending epidemic or plague, very real, bringing them close to home at the same time, viewing such terrific events from a cool and clinical perspective. This perspective added a level of plausibility that the genre had lacked before. Max Brooks two books are clear, concise, informative and not the blood-spattered, hysterical screaming gore fests many of us have come to associate with the genre.   But if we jump back a little further, I want to say 2002, there’s a film written by Alex Garland and directed by Danny Boyle that I think not only revitalized the genre, but sent it spiraling off into new directions in both literature and cinema. 28 Days Later is the tale of a virus outbreak that spreads rapidly from person to person, causing not cannibalistic hunger as we’ve come to expect from zombies, but simple, unchecked rage. This infection forces a loss of reason and freewill upon its victims, essentially turning them into mindless killers (zombies.)So far, we’re not seeing major differences in the plot; same disease vector, same results, panicked civilization, trains are no longer on time, et cetera. Then it hits you right in the face: these zombies can run. Now only can they run, but they’re fast! This simple change in an otherwise clichéd monster’s behavior not only made them actually frightening again, but increased the plausibility of the whole event, not to mention revitalizing a dead (heh) sub-genre of horror. Zombies create the perfect union of post-apocalyptic settings.   Opportunities for characters are limitless. For example, how would survivors behave knowing there were no consequences for their actions? Without law and order, who decides right and wrong? Perhaps more to the point, who is stop those who choose to do wrong? This setting provides for limitless exploration of ethics and morality plays. As long as your internal cosmology is consistent, your plausibility remains high and the fictional elements are not even doubted.   AMC’s The Walking Dead is a good example of this. The situation is internally consistent – the laws of physics and the cause-effect pattern of the zombie infection is consistent. In situations where there is doubt, the writers take special care to place just enough exposition dialogue to allow the audience to...

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Inspiration

Inspiration comes in many forms to the Writer. The mind of a writer is a cramped place, a barely contained cacophony of images, sights and sounds, ideas and things. But, what happens when the whirlwind stops and the dreams fade to the background and the words… don’t… flow?   A professional writer doesn’t have the luxury of writer’s block. That’s something you throw up when you’re a student and would rather go have a beer or six with friends. If you want to be paid to write, you become an adept in self-entertainment and finding inspiration. Every hour you sit and stare at a screen waiting for inspiration to strike you like lightning is an hour you’re not being paid. You might have better luck waiting for the lightning strike. So go make your own inspiration.   Literary history is littered with a cast of nefarious writer-types of dubious moral standing, plagued by psychological trauma or just plain weird. Learn about them – that maybe inspiration enough right there. A writer like Hunter S. Thompson might wander off after munching some mescaline and try to find a fountain of whiskey, upon discovery declaring it a fountain of youth. That works for him. I don’t recommend it for everyone. In fact, I don’t recommend it at all. Charles Bukowski (a personal favorite) might suggest a trip to the racetrack and a six-pack of watery American beer. Though it’s somewhat safer than the mighty Hunter S. Thompson’s idea of a good time, it’s still probably not for everyone.   I personally like Toy Stores. They’re packed with colors and shapes and sounds, all of it vying for your attention. It’s stuff designed to grab the attention of children with short attention spans. The flood of imagery and marketing and icons and logos will make you wildly agitated and confused. It’s good for you. You can’t help but subconsciously internalize some of the concepts. If a toy store visit doesn’t get your creative juices flowing, you’re not paying attention.   There’s always the bookstore… well, one less bookstore option these days, but there are still some out there. The shelves are backed with words and colors, images – all designed to hook you. Wander through your favorite genre section. See what’s being displayed in the end caps.   Something I think most fiction/creative writing professors would balk at (or at least deny most vehemently) is that you can get a powerful education in writing by listening to music. Perhaps not Lady Gaga, but tick-tock back a few decades and we see some lyrical brilliance, stuff that’s still sloshing around in the cultural consciousness. Though not a huge fan myself, Bob Dylan can...

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2012 – Let the End begin!

We all know it’s not going to happen. We’ve lived through one Rapture, this next supposed Apocalypse might be worthy of opening a bottle of champagne, but not much else. But that doesn’t mean people don’t want to read about it! “End of The World” stories are making their mark as one of the most popular sub-genres of Science Fiction, Horror and even some other less obvious styles. That’s why Spectacle Publishing Media Group LLC is assembling top-notch fiction stories for our upcoming anthology Omega. You got it my friend; this is a flat-out call for submissions! You want to be published! You have a story to tell! We want to publish you! We want to tell your story! Here are the details on what we’re looking for: End of The World, Civilization or Species  stories 2,500 – 10,000 words Strong CHARACTERS Unique Plots (or common plots told in face-melting style) Error FREE, proof read and spell checked submissions For inclusion in this Anthology email submissions@spectaclepmg.com with the subject line “2012 anthology” Short story submissions DO NOT need queries. DO NOT put your story in the body of an email. Attach as a Word doc or RTF file. Deadline for submissions: December 31st, 2011 (however, this date may be changed at our discretion due to scheduling and content needs) By submitting your fiction to SPMG, you are agreeing to allow us to publish in print and eBook format. As always, if you have a longer piece that fits this genre, prepare a query and send it to queries@spectaclepmg.com. Got it? Let’s review: Short Story about the end of the world go to: submissions@spectaclepmg.com (subject line: 2012 Anthology) Do not put your story in the body of an email Longer stories (novels) need a query and they go to: queries@spectaclepmg.com Hurry up! Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...

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Why Not Self Publish?

Writing. Editing. Publishing. Marketing. It’s easy right? It’s easy to put together thousands of words into a coherent and compelling narrative. Easy. Like staring down Nolan Ryan and thwacking a fast-ball right over his head and into the upper deck. That looks easy too. Perhaps my reference is a bit dated or topically irrelevant for my intended audience–sounds like something an editor might comment about. The joke is often something along the lines of a writer spends months bleeding their soul onto the page and an editor comes along and fixes their spelling. Sure. I’ll fix your spelling. I’ll check your facts. I’ll even explain the difference between an em-dash and an en-dash. But, these things are just a part of the process–perhaps even an afterthought. The main task of an editor is to coax out the best possible version of your story all while keeping keeping the whole thing from jumping the rails and smashing into a propane-pipeline. With self-publishing, vanity-press, a writer is at a fundamental and distinctive disadvantage. Lack of review. In every field, every profession, there is a peer-reviewed vetting process. A scientist’s ideas and conclusions constantly squirm within the crucible of scrutiny from one’s peers. Designers and advertising agencies produce hundreds of marketing ideas before just a single idea makes the cut and gets accepted by other marketers. Think of how athletes are constantly training and conditioning to be better, faster and stronger. The peer-review process, the editorial process, is basically the same as an athlete’s conditioning process. With a publishing company, with an editor, an author has the security of knowing their work is in peak form, and that ol’ aunt Agnes won’t be phoning up in a couple of days to report all manner amateur mistakes. Why do we buy Cheerios? Nike? Coca-Cola? The reason is simple: marketing. Okay, so you’ve gone the vanity-press method: you have a link to your ebook and you paid a hefty sum of money for several dozen print copies, you have Agnes waiting on hold and now what? You’re already down perhaps thousands of dollars, not to mention the time it took you to write the book, and suddenly no one seems to have any interest. Well, the answer is simple: marketing isn’t as easy as it looks and ought to be left to those with experience. When buying a cut of beef I want the butcher’s opinion–not the cow’s opinion. Your book comes from you. No one is going to listen to you mooing all over the place talking about your tasty beef. That’s the butcher’s job, and it’s the job of professional marketing to spread the word about your delicious book. Simply put, this...

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September Fiction Contest!

While our diligent editors devote hour after hour to the completion of On The Brink…Volume 1, working through threat of hurricane and earthquake (literally), we can’t forget about Volume II. We’re taking submissions for OTB Volume II , with the same sweet prize: $100.00 Same rules as before, except with a positive spin this time. Come on, we know you’ve got a warm and fuzzy in your head, somewhere. We’re seeking original fiction or creative non-fiction tales about “life changing events” for the better. The collection is entitled “On The Brink… Volume II” 2,500-5,000 words character driven stories all genres This contest continues until the 15th of September. There is NO submission fee. Submission fees go against everything we believe in.   Send your stories with a brief introduction to Submissions@spectaclepmg.com. Please be aware that by submitting your stories to SPMG you are granting consent for those materials to be published. All stories will be considered for the contest, but only the best ones be published. Click here for more information about publishing with SPMG.   Spectacle Publishing is always looking for novels as well. So if you’ve got a winner, send us a query. Remember, short fiction contest submissions to not require a query and can be emailed here. Full manuscripts require a query first. Click here for more info. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...

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