Saturday, May 3, 2014

Zombie Horror: Reflections on a Genre

I still envision zombie fiction as a horror sub-genre, but it has evolved into its own genre. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; less than a decade ago, it was a challenge to find any zombie fiction at all. People like myself who grew up with zombie movies were teased by the possibilities; Romero and the other zombie-film directors were never given huge budgets to work with, so it seemed as if they spent more of their budget on the things that mattered most: makeup, gore, and securing a vivid location. I know Romero’s original Day of the Dead script was hacked to pieces, but I still love the film. 

Brian Keene, Joe McKinney, David Moody, Jonathan Maberry, Mark Tufo; these authors helped pioneer the emergence of zombie fiction as its own genre, almost separate from horror. Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comic series bridged the gap between niche-horror and mainstream entertainment. There are so many possibilities now for people who have an imagination; there are now thematic variations of zombie fiction. Survivalist, Dystopian, military adventure; these seem to be the popular incarnations. 

A lot of zombie fiction seems to be fit more into an action/adventure mold than horror; the survivalist books can still be frightening, because we have the anxiety that comes with surviving a natural disaster, the psychological damage, the fear of other survivors in a post-apocalyptic setting, etc. Then we have the Call of Duty video game zombie novels, in which we have a bunch of soldiers at war with zombies. We still have books where swords can magically decapitate zombies (if you know me, you know this is a HUGE pet-peeve of mine), and that’s cool. That’s what people want to read. I think there is a lot of potential in this particular fiction market, but…

What happened to zombie horror?

Zombies just aren’t very scary in most books. 

I’m not attempting to deviate into what is scary about the books, but rather, I would like to find out where the zombie fiction books that portrayed the undead as terrifying WITHOUT the emphasis on post-apocalyptic-survivalist-military action. Yes; the living are often more terrible than the zombies. WE GET THAT. There is so much potential in the zombie idea, but we are seemingly stuck. There are some original stories out there, but they’re harder and harder to find. I’m bored with zombie fiction. Very, very bored. I don’t like most of it. In fact, I dislike the vast majority of it. About 99.9%. 

So I decided to write the zombie books that I would want to read. I could still incorporate plenty of action, but I wanted the zombies to become menacing again. I wanted to read beautiful prose, so I made an attempt. My zombie books have a lot of detail; according to reviewers and blog reviews. A lot of my characters aren’t good people (I wrote a blog post once about my belief that “good” people wouldn’t survive  very long in a zombie-apocalypse scenario), but they are still not as bad as the zombies… so there is still a contrast. The zombies are always more terrifying. 

The Zombie Acension trilogy is nearing its end. The final book in the trilogy involves a heavy look at PTSD and survivor’s guilt as it would relate to a post-apocalyptic scenario. The book, titled Saint Pain, is about the never-ending horror that has become a sort of disease; the horror of survival. Robert Kirkman briefly writes about the subject in the Walking Dead comic, but I wanted to take it a step further.

A zombie apocalypse should be brutal, terrifying, awful. We’re talking about a world that has become lawless…

I suppose I wrote this blog because now I'm being labeled as a poet, bizarro writer, editor... and I used to avoid being called a "zombie author." 

My work is zombie horror. Maybe a bit of survival horror (I hear that’s a sub-genre, too), with some explosions and bullets and sex sprinkled in. I take that back. A lot of bullets, a lot of sex, and a lot of blood. 
My civil war book, Nightmare of the Dead, is almost entirely a horror novel that features zombie-like creatures as monsters, but in the end, it’s horror. 

The horror, the horror…

I want zombie horror, so I wrote it. My vision of the apocalypse is a dark one… there is no cure for death, there isn’t a knight in shining armor coming to save the human race…