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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Scary S@*#

Halloween is just around the corner. Or maybe it’s hiding in the closet or under the bed. It might be sliding from shadow to shadow as you wander wearily to the bathroom in the middle of the night. My bet is that it was watching you from the window, probably ever since you got home this evening. Did you lock the doors up? Do you dare go check? Whatever your relationship with Halloween, no one dislikes a good horror story. Everyone likes to be scared. It’s fun when you’re a kid, it’s fun when you’re an adult. The question becomes “what is scary?” There’s no shortage of Stephen Kings and Dean R. Koontzs and Clive Barkers, but is this stuff scary anymore? How many times can King tell a story about a haunted car? Three to my best estimation (Maximum Overdrive, Christine and I’m sure there’s one more…) The trend in “scary” has changed from that tingling uneasiness you get when walking in the woods alone at sunset, to scenes of gruesome torture and mutilation. Mutilation is not horror. Mutilation is a car accident or an artillery shell. Torture is not horror; it is a debased form of intelligence gathering. So what is scary? Well, it’s not vampires anymore. They’re too clever and charming, their fashion sense is overwhelming and with such perfect smiles, how could they instill fear in anything? Werewolves too, have fallen to the wayside on the highway of terror. Ghosts, while unsettling for most are recycled and trite. Zombies and some of the more gruesome undead seem to be holding out cultural attention. I personally have read a dozen books that treat the topic with excellent insight as well as innovation. Ever since the 2003 release of 28 Days Later, we’ve seen the Zombie sub-genre blossom like a yellow-musk creeper in corpse pile (old school D&D reference anyone?). Now that zombies are fast, can run and chase you, and want nothing more than to devour you, to eat you alive while you struggle vainly to protect your exposed flesh from their rotting, chipped teeth, they are a bit more frightening. The denizens of the underworld, demons and devils, always occupy a special place, a shadowy corner in the recesses of the minds of the pious. But is it the threat of eternal damnation or the threat of a being whose very existence is anathema to your continued survival that is scary? I guess we should check in with William Peter Blatty for that one. When I talk with writers about horror, about mustering up strange fears that often the audience didn’t even know it had, I always start with a conversation about what the writer...

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Scare us (if you can)!

Spectacle Publishing is looking for some terrifying fiction to publish for Halloween. Give us your best monster stories; urban fantasy, terror, horror, vampires, ghosts, goblins, spiders, bats, werewolves and high-school teachers with long black fingernails and that thing growing on their noses! What we’re looking for specifically: Full length novels (70,000 words or more) Horror/Monster fiction Character driven, immersive settings with fresh plots No clichés (unless they are damn clever) Send us only your very best work. We want to publish your work, but we also want it to be successful. Our editors take great pains to make sure your work gets a fair review. If they like your work, they work with you, becoming a creative partner, getting your work in the possible shape for success. Don’t be afraid. Really. What are you waiting for? The Query Monster lives here. 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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