Thursday, March 28, 2013

The "Good" People Might Not Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

As the saying goes, "nice guys finish last." The kind-hearted and the righteous watch their entire-world turn upside-down during an apocalyptic scenario; morality is thrown out the window.
            When we watch a show like The Walking Dead, or read the comics of the same name, we witness characters who struggle with their definition of morality in order to survive in a different world. Rick Grimes wrestles with the idea of "democracy" in several instances, often resulting in the deaths of several innocents while he tries to do the "right thing," according to his old view of the world. Without spoiling too many events within the books that might be depicted on the show, we understand that anyone who takes charge of an entire group may not be the most well-liked, because difficult, morality-challenging decisions are made for the sake of a majority. Consider this: why was Dale killed in season two of the show? While Shane descended into madness, how many of his decisions seemed to contain a semblance of logic? Even if we question his methods, his motives were often clear while some of his arguments posed solutions that might have been better-suited to their situation. While Rick debated with the opposing forces hovering over his shoulders, Shane's lust fragmented his desire to lead the group out of the moral sludge in which—as it seemed to Shane—Rick was drowning the group. Shane's arguments and his own selfish desires collided, and he couldn't overcome his own failings as a man.
            How about the Governor? Isn't he a lot like Shane? If Shane had ruled his own little town, I'm quite certain his grip on reality would shatter; all the violence and bloodshed he witnessed would further confuse his ability to lead with his lusty desires, which would only become more depraved over time. Think about how Rick's own struggle with sanity is so much like the Governor's; this is the man Rick never wants to become, but as he fights this transformation, how many others will die under his watch?
            In an attempt to be brief without writing a book about the topic as it relates to a television show, the connection to my own zombie fiction is clear. In Necropolis Now, many of the "good" people die because their ideas of normality and sanity are no longer applicable. An apocalyptic scenario showcases the "survival of the fittest" notion. Necropolis Now provides sort of a backwards version of The Walking Dead, as it relates to morality. The characters in this novel discover redemption through violence, and these changes should be clear to the reader by the first book's conclusion. As some of these characters rediscover themselves, these changes may not be timely, as we'll see in the second book; the characters become more emotionally "fragile," and their hardened personalities are challenged. If we understand that the "weak" will perish during a zombie epidemic… we may see a reversal of this concept in the second book…
            While morality might challenged, what about the social norms that children are taught? What if the standard of morality is inherited, not natural. This is an idea, of course, not necessarily my philosophy. My first zombie novel, Under a Red Sun, includes a girl was born during the zombie apocalypse and was raised in the post-apocalyptic era; what "version" of morality was instilled upon her?
            Fans of zombie fiction are able to consider the scenario from a variety of different angles and philosophies. Some colleges have recently considered the inclusion of a class that analyzes the distortion of social norms in an apocalyptic scenario. Playing in the world of a fictional apocalypse gives a writer so many opportunities to explore the human condition while having fun, notwithstanding the flesh-eating, undead "walkers."

            P.S. If you saw a dead dude walking around on the street, wouldn’t you just call it a zombie? Or is that giving credibility to an unreal, fantastic idea that you can't acknowledge is real? Give the dead guy a different label, then? Does that change what it is? How come we don’t have so many different names for vampires? Don't we normally call them vampires in most of our fiction? Hmmmmmm….

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Killer Koala Bears from Another Dimension by Pat Douglas

Killer Koala Bears from Another Dimension is a fast-paced survival of the fittest grunge-fest.
Joana Reed and her boyfriend, Tim Bortimin, use mystical stones to open up portals in the fabric of time and space, opening a gateway to an alternate reality. When savage humanoid visitors invade Lewisburg, West Virgina, Joana and Tim fight their way past overwhelming odds to leave the town but find a dome of energy has them trapped. Their only hope is to return to the woman who gave them the stones in hope she has the power to save the town. It's a race against time as the invaders increase in numbers. Will anyone survive the slaughter? 

Amazon Stars: 5/5

As a child of the eighties, I grew up with a lot of crazy horror films that probably wouldn't see the light of day in this age of torture porn, zombies, and possessed children. Pat Douglas is an author whose work I always look forward to reading because it reminds of a more innocent time, a throwback to an era where horror films were just gory and fun to watch. I've often compared his work to B-movie-style or "grindhouse" fiction, if there is such a thing, and this latest work is no different. I compare "Killer Koala Bears From Another Dimension" to films because like most of Douglas's work, it's a fast-paced thriller that seeks to entertain while slipping in just a tiny bit of social commentary that can prompt a smile from audience members who read closely enough.

When I first heard about this book, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The plot is straightforward enough; some disenfranchised youths play around with stuff they're not supposed to an open a portal to… another dimension! Out of which steps… violent, spear-chucking koala bears! What more do you need to know about the plot? Douglas always does a good job of establish "everyman" characters—average-Joe-types you can cheer for, even when you know they're going to die. In this zany adventure you'll find some cheesy characters and wild scenarios, but that's what you were expecting when you bought the book! Douglas delivers what you expect when you buy a book with such a sweet title.

Douglas has a gift for storytelling that cannot be overlooked. Sometimes I watch a Michael Bay film, and sometimes I watch some artsy-film from Spain; in the end, I want to be entertained. Douglas delivers the thrills I expect; this book gives you exactly what it advertises, with page-turning excitement that is full of heart, fun, and most importantly, killer koala bears. Douglas wrote the story I wanted to read. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013


            The majority of authors who write zombie fiction adequately explore the idea that the living are far more dangerous to the survival of the species than walking corpses. If we consider the zombie phenomenon as a "plague" then Stephen King himself described how the center of civilization would collapse upon itself in his iconic novel, The Stand. The military is well-equipped and there are plenty of emergency plans in place in the event of an outbreak, however, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
            Any zombie-virus outbreak that has been imagined in popular fiction is an extension of a severe natural disaster—on a much larger scale. The tragedies of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy have devastated families and have altered lives forever; there has been much criticism levied at the procedures that were implemented to protect and preserve. But there are tales of heroism and sacrifice, of people coming together for a common good, but in the media, we often read the stories about long lines for gasoline amid fights and looting.
            The events of 9/11 were generation-defining, etched forever into the memories of a country that will forever grieve. While my own recollection of the event remains vivid, fear touched every corner of our country and challenged our way of life.
            It's not my intention to summarize these disasters and the ripple-effect upon society; however, we should observe these disasters, and popular fiction, as factors that demonstrate the relevance of zombie fiction as a genre.
            We understand that George Romero's films display a microcosm for many problems we face in a self-serving world. Indeed, we can analyze all of his zombie films and pick them apart for the sake of critical analysis for years, but essentially, Romero didn't need a big budget or explosions to provide apocalyptic stories that demonstrate our failures—and why such an event would be possible. In comparison, The Walking Dead comic book series by Robert Kirkman analyzes the social and psychological impact of a cataclysmic disaster. While characters attempt to define morality, city-state structures rise and fall as the result of fledgling social experiments. I'm reminded of Ancient Greece, and from a historical perspective, I have to consider what it took to finally unify those cities into one nation.
            There are many authors who offer their own unique perspective regarding the reaction and the fallout from a zombie apocalypse, and many of these concepts explore the definition of humanity in the face of a crisis. Zombie behaviors also allow us a glimpse into the hive-mind mentality of a consumer-culture.
            I believe that showcasing an apocalyptic scenario in the city of Detroit would provide the backdrop for many of these themes. Necropolis Now utilizes characters who are damned by their own flaws, though what makes them weak in a civilized world may help them in a crumbling city.
            The zombie genre is significantly relevant. While I don't dare compare myself to Romero or King, I believe there is plenty of room to explore important themes with a disaster-scenario that uses zombies, while still being able to entertain. Zombies are certainly an extension of the contagion-outbreak scenario; but as King and Romero masterfully explained, our human failings—our paranoia, greed, and self-loathing—are the greater catalysts for the unraveling center. In a fictional apocalypse where suffering and violence are rampant, there emerges a human spirit capable of love and virtue; our search for these heroes within the pages of a zombie novel where norms have dissolved in the wake of terror mirrors our need for more heroes to emerge out of the muck and negativity of the real world. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Hall of Twelve by REBECCA BESSER

Rebecca Besser originally wrote Hall of Twelve as a flash fiction story (1000 words or less) for a contest on the Collaboration of the Dead forum. Although she didn’t win, she and a few others were in love with the concept of the story – beings for an alternate realm that had flesh craving monster pets. These Beings captured those who didn’t serve as immediate meals for the pets and took them to the Hall of Twelve, where each captive was given the chance to win their freedom by a roll of dice.
This version – the short story version – is much expanded past the original one that didn’t even reach 1K, and she plans to expand Hall of Twelve into a full length novel sometime in the future.
The short story in ebook form usually sells on Kindle for $.99, but she has decided to give Hall of Twelve away for free March 15-17th (2013) so you can “taste” her brand of horror. I hope you enjoy the story and look up more of her writing. You can find out more about Rebecca Besser by visiting her website: or by searching her name on Amazon to find more of her work. (She recently released a novel entitled, “Nurse Blood,” for Kindle.)
To “wet” your appetite for Hall of Twelve, enjoy this brief excerpt!
Excerpt from Hall of Twelve by Rebecca Besser:

Lying on the bottom step was his daughter’s tennis shoe with a bloody bone protruding out of it, pointing into the corner. Blood dripped from the leg to the step and onto the tile of the foyer; strips of muscle and skin hung loosely from the bone, slouching limply against the red, saturated carpet.
Jack bent over as he lost the contents of his stomach, adding color and acidity to the already wet floor. He fell to his knees, and that’s when he saw Regan’s head; it was sitting in the potted fern by the door.
Her eyes were gone, leaving dark hollows where the windows to her soul had once been, and all the flesh was missing from her face. Her cheekbones were still pinkish red from the blood that was trickling down over her small, exposed white teeth to drip into the dark soil beneath her jawbone, which hung at a drunken angle.
Slowly, he crawled over to her, envisioning her beautiful face and her bright smile. Held in his vision of the girl he loved so much, he lifted his hand to caress her hair, but when his hand came in contact with slick, rough skull, he knew the carnage was indeed reality. He cupped the head of his daughter in his hand and drew it close into the crook of his arm – his mind and body were numb with shock and grief.
Jack’s hand absently caressed the top of the bloody skull and his fingers became entangled in the few scraps of scalp and clinging hair that still remained on the bone. With disgust he shook them off, and as they landed in the blood and vomit mixture with a plop, he noticed for the first time that there was a hole in the back and the brains were missing. Around the hole were deep groves that looked like they’d been made with something long and sharp. The only thing his brain could come up with was tooth marks, but he couldn’t think of anything that large with teeth that big. Now curious, he looked over at the leg bone laying a few feet from him; he could clearly see similar grooves on it.
Suddenly, his brain cleared a bit and he remembered his wife. He’d been so shocked at finding the severed pieces of his daughter, he’d forgotten all about her.
“Maggie,” he whispered, and looked around frantically, but he didn’t see any of her laying in the entrance way of their home.”

(Also available on other Amazon sites. Look up your local one to get it there.)

Soundtrack for NECROPOLIS NOW

I have very distinct taste in music. I grew up on Heavy Metal and Rush, then Grunge music was a big part of my early teenage years. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Black Sabbath, Rush--these are my favorites. Deftones, Tool, Alice in Chains, Slayer, Metallica (pre-"Black" album), Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine... all beloved artists who have provoked my imagination. I'm also a huge Opeth fan, and Mars Volta happens to be the best live band I've seen. When I write, however, I find that different musical styles can help influence the mood for different scenes, or characters. Not all of my characters, especially in Necropolis Now, are fans of the music I like. I actually listened to an entire Mars Volta album repeatedly to help me write the Civil War zombie novel, Nightmare of the Dead. Here are some tunes that set the mood for some of the characters / scenes in the zombie / action novel, Necropolis Now. 

(I have included cover images, song titles, and artists, but to respect the artists, I won't post links to the songs, even though you can find entire albums for free on YouTube.)

The book opens in a bar during a rainstorm. I wrote most of the scene before I went back and looked for a song that would help set the tone, and of course, the title track for this iconic album by a legendary band, "Black Sabbath," sets everything up nicely. 

This one is probably a bit of a shocker, but I really felt like 2 Chainz captured the essence of the character, Vincent Hamilton. The song "Spend It" is really what he cares about the most; even with all the zombies running around, all Vincent can think about is getting his money and preserving his criminal empire. 

When I wrote the action scenes, I couldn't help but think about setting; Detroit has its share of skyscrapers and of course, there are plenty of abandoned buildings. After watching the "Tron" sequel, I felt like I really got into the soundtrack, and it made me think about all the burning steel while the city fell apart. Thus, I made a Tron: Legacy and a Deadmau5 station on my Pandora radio. While Vega and Bob are running through Detroit with zombies closing in, Deadmau5 helped set the tone.

This will sound obvious, but every October I listen to this album. October Rust always seems to capture how I feel about the fall season, and there are a couple of tracks that really helped shape the character Mina, who, as you know, is a former porn star who escapes from a mental institution during the zombie apocalypse; she was being kept there because she has a taste for human flesh, a taste that helps keep her nightmares at bay, in which zombies consume every inch of her. "Love You to Death" and "Red Water" are two standout tracks that remind me of Mina. I also think zombies and Type O Negative kind of fit together...

Okay... I know what you're thinking. I'm from Michigan, but to be honest, I'm not a big fan of Eminem, though I do enjoy some of his earlier work and I respect him as an artist. It's almost stereotypical for people who live around these parts to love him... well, this song, "Welcome to Detroit City," by a dude named Trick-Trick and his buddy, Eminem, is referenced in the book during a zombie/street scene with some bullets flying. I feel like if you're going to have a zombie apocalypse in Detroit, Eminem should figure into the party somehow, and this song could really serve as a "title" track for the entire novel. I also reference Ted Nugent in the book. I feel like if you're going to write about a specific place, you need to represent some of its cultural aspects... the "place" has to be real. 

I always listen to Sigur Ros when I'm writing. More so than their other work, I could really feel a sense of damnation when I wrote about the zombies while listening to this. Even dead, I feel like zombies still have their own sort of personality, something George Romero captured nicely in his films, and that's what I try to describe when zombies are around. I usually had Sigur Ros playing in the background during each of Detective Griggs's scenes, although he isn't a very nice guy...

There is a lot of variety here, but the song "The Dumbing Down of Love" is very beautiful, and it truly captured Vega, who is arguably the heroine of the entire novel. This is the song I listened to at the book's conclusion, and it was also present when Vega and Miles were alone together early on in the book. Vega is a very lonely woman, and this song seemed to emanate both isolation and desolation. 

The sequel is being developed, and this album in particular, along with some 2 Chainz, is really influencing the creative process right now. Of course, there is a new character in the second book who really digs heavy metal... replace the aliens in the album with zombies, and some of the themes are definitely prevalent... 

I work with a series of images rather than a plot outline, and while I know how my story ends, I don't always know what happens to all the characters, and I don't know everything about them right away. I've learned about some new music (to me) while getting to know the people who are faced with a crises on an apocalyptic scale. Zombies, heavy metal, gangster rap, techno, and Frou Frou...