Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods IV
Literature of the Zombie Apocalypse

Compiled by Anthony Servante.

Welcome to our fourth look at the literature of the Zombie Apocalypse. So far, we've established that the George Romero "zombie" was a combination of a "white zombie", a human placed under a spell to obey the voodoo master's commands, and a ghoul, a creature that fed on humans and traveled in packs. With the movie, Invisible Invaders, where space creatures attack the Earth by inhabiting the bodies of the dead in cemeteries, we reached the Romeroesque "zombie" in Night of the Living Dead (1968).


A Typical Ghoul Outing

Possessed by Space Invaders

Undead, Reasons Unknown

Death as Godly Immortal

But since 1968, we have seen the evolution of the zombie in film and literature, with every director and writer trying to reboot the lumbering undead from the classic Romero movie. With each new spin on the genre, themes have shifted from the cause of the zombie outbreak, to the survivors being worse than the undead, to new types of zombie that emulate the original. And questions arose: why do the undead eat? do they decay to nothingness or do they live forever in their state of death? Thus the idea arose: are zombies immortal like the gods of old? The variations on these themes are what keep the genre fresh and interesting, for it would be a sad state if the same set of characters from Night of the Living Dead was imitated again and again, as has been the case in the early literature of the undead. However, thanks to the new wave of authors today, the literature of the zombie has been revived, so to speak. 

Thus, we look to the writers of today to see what new direction they are taking the literature of the undead. With us today, we have five authors: Mark Onspaugh, Vincenzo Bilof, Lori R. Lopez, Franklin E. Wales, and Jonathan Maberry. We will also bid farewell to Philip Nutman. Mike Malloy has put together a blog piece and video that pay tribute to the acclaimed author. 

So, we begin with Mark Onspaugh. 

Mark Onspaugh


As a kid, I always gravitated to monsters and science fiction. I loved watching shows like Chiller, Strange Tales of Science Fiction (these recycled Universal monster movies and 50’s drive-in fare), The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. My taste in comics was strictly DC, and many of its titles had a science fiction influence: Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash and the Legion of Superheroes – even Batman was fighting aliens and using ultra-high tech gear. For a time, my choice in reading was strictly science fiction and that’s all I would write. I read the genre voraciously and occasionally strayed over to fantasy, eschewing even The Lord of the Rings until college. My early forays into horror came from reading these great Dell paperbacks supposedly edited by Alfred Hitchcock with titles like Stories My Mother Never Told Me, Witch’s Brew and A Hangman’s Dozen. It was there I read authors like Robert Bloch and saw the darker side of Richard Matheson. Reading Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot and Robert McCammon’s They Thirst sealed my fate, as it were. I began devouring horror with the same insatiable appetite as science fiction. In school, I hoped to become an astronaut and one day work on a starship like the U.S.S. Enterprise, but soon realized our space program would never be a match for what I saw on Star Trek. I switched to biology, then psychology, not thinking I could make a living as a writer. But I really didn’t want to make a living in psychology, so I tried other things. I majored in Exotic Animal Training & Management at Moorpark Community College in California, an intense two year program that offered hands-on work with exotics (everything from big cats to primates to marine mammals) and insights from famous trainers, vets and zoo administrators. I fancied myself graduating and going off to the bush to study gorillas.

One problem, I was very much a “people person” and realized I would not be happy with only a troop of apes to talk to. I worked mall security after graduating and wrote short stories, trying to get published in Twilight Zone Magazine. I studied improve comedy with The Groundlings and was lucky enough to have teachers the likes of Lisa Kudrow (Friends), Heather Morgan (Bark!) and Michael McDonald (MAD TV). I loved doing improv, and it helped with my writing, particularly creating characters and dialog. For a while I considered going into special effects makeup, and wrote to Rob Bottin, who was then working on Carpenter’s The Thing. I had seen Bottin’s amazing work on The Howling and thought that was the career for me. Rob and I became friends and I worked with him on an episode of Amazing Stories. I also studied under Thomas R. Burman (Cat People, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and learned from industry greats like Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, King Kong). But through it all, I wrote. Writing is what I love. When I told Bottin I was abandoning effects makeup for writing, he wanted to know why. “Because,” I said, “as a makeup artist I might create creature or the look of a character – as a writer, I create the entire world.” Rob laughed and told me I had a “God complex” – I guess I do. I only know that no other career choice makes me as happy, or challenges me as much, as writing.


The Thetis Plague published by Severed Press
The Faceless One published by Hydra/Random House
Tales from Tomorrow published by Dark Ride Dark
Valentines published by Dark Ride
Christmas Ghost Stories published by Dark Ride


The Questions:

Why have zombies become such a cultural phenomenon in TV, movies, and books?
Zombies are a travesty of what we are, and the very worst of humanity is in them – they are mindless, violent, voracious, gluttonous, dirty, smelly and inarticulate. They remind us that no matter how much we work out, eat well and rely on cosmetic surgery, the grave is waiting. We don’t like to think about our mortality – we rarely leave our dead on display, certainly not if they’ve begun to visibly decay – we arrest the process through chemicals and makeup, then bury or burn them. Zombies put death in our face, so to speak – and, to make matters worse, they want to eat us, preferably alive – some might come to terms with a rotting loved one, but only if they weren’t cannibalistic. They aren’t sophisticated or regal like vampires, or noble and cunning like werewolves. They are driven only to eat, and to keep on eating. There is no joy in their unlives, only the search for food and mindless rambling. They remind us that we have lost touch with the earth and with ourselves, as we stare at small screens and mindlessly consume, consume, consume.
And, they’re scary as hell.

What does your take on zombies add to the evolving definition of the undead?
Like most, I use Romeroesque zombies (cannibalistic shamblers), though in some stories I have zombies that also are as fast or faster than people (“Good Neighbor Sam” in Dead Set, Michelle McCrary & Joe McKinney, ed.) I often try to offer a quasi-scientific explanation for my zombies. In my story, “The Decay of Unknown Particles” (Dead Science, A.P. Fuchs, ed.), a test of the hadron super-collider results in dark energy creating the undead. In The Thetis Plague, a probe returning from Venus crashes, releasing spores that mutate into “brain worms” – these worms consume the brain and replace it and the nervous system, reanimating the body to spread the plague. Incidentally, my initial jumping off point was that Romero’s Night of the Living Dead mentions a Venus probe, which some took to be an explanation for the dead rising up.

Tell us about your “human” survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse.
My book is the first of a trilogy and begins at UCLA, my alma mater. It’s a campus I know well and has served as the setting for other works of mine (the film script “Kill Katie Malone”, for instance). My main characters are college students, including my protagonist Tom, who is unable to save the girl he loves from being devoured. He carries the guilt of this failure for much of the book, and his vow not to let something like that happen again will inform his character. His friends all have virtues and flaws, and one member of their fraternity is downright evil, something that will become more important in the next two books. Besides zombies (called verms or vermin), survivors, thieves and rapists, a segment of the populace begins to think the plague from Venus is a godsend – are not the dead rising? They form the Church of the Worm and begin recruiting members in the worst way possible.

What Zombie literature, films, or TV shows do you recommend for your fans?
The Walking Dead is a standout – it’s become the most popular cable show in history, and its audience is growing. The series of graphic novels it’s based on helped revolutionize the genre, helping to show that zombie could (and needed to be) more than just about chomping monsters. Romero’s first three zombie films are brilliant, and his later work, while not up to the standards of the “trilogy,” always have something to offer. There are a lot of giants in the field of zombie literature these days, but I would also recommend people read the novels of Stephen King or Robert McCammon to see how to create gripping characters and how they react in the face of the horrific and the inexplicable.

Which of your zombie books would make the best movie? 
The Thetis Plague, although I have a zombie screenplay that may be getting some traction – rotting fingers crossed!

Authors such as yourself determine whether or not the zombie craze is temporary or permanent (as with vampires); how do you plan to keep zombies around for a long, long time?
I love horror, and zombies scare me more than anything (except maybe black widow spiders) – the genre may recede for a time (as vampires did), but the creatures are part of our mythology, now. I’ll keep writing (and reading) – as long as publishers see an appetite for such fare, it will stay on the menu!


THE THETIS PLAGUE (Under Construction).

Vincenzo Bilof


From Detroit, Michigan, Vincenzo Bilof has been called "The Metallica of Poetry" and "The Shakespeare of Gore". He likes to think Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Charles Baudelaire would be proud of his work. It's possible the ghosts of Roberto Bolano and Syd Barrett are playing chess at his dining table. Vincenzo is the co-conspirator behind the "Anti-Poetry" poetry movement.
A member of the Horror Writers Association, Vincenzo is the author of the Zombie Ascension series and "Nightmare of the Dead". His latest book happens to include aliens; "Gravity Comics Massacre", available from Bizarro Pulp Press. A novel written as a collection of poems, "The Horror Show" is another one of his nonsensical works.
When he's not chasing his kids around the house or watching bad horror films, he reads and reviews horror fiction, though his tastes are more literary. Forthcoming projects include "Japanese Werewolf Apocalypse", and "Vampire Strippers from Saturn".
Gonzo is his favorite Muppet


Confessions of the Impaler (Dynatox Ministries)
The Horror Show (Bizarro Pulp Press)
Gravity Comics Massacre (Bizarro Pulp Press)

Necropolis Now (Zombie Ascension I)-Severed Press
Queen of the Dead (Zombie Ascension II)-Severed Press
Nightmare of the Dead-Severed Press


The Questions:

Why have zombies become such a cultural phenomenon in TV, movies, and books?

An apocalyptic scenario is similar to a natural-disaster; most of your zombie stories involve people trying to cope with a scenario that fundamentally changes the world around them and challenges their morality. A survivor is suddenly thrust into a world where all the rules have changed, only there might not be any “rules”. Humanity has been stripped bare and is forced to see the world for what it really is. It’s a frightening notion; to have all of your dreams and possessions, your loved ones—to witness its destruction and move on in a world that can’t acknowledge that which has been destroyed.

Of course, not all zombie stories are post-apocalyptic. The creature itself is a dark reflection of something primal, something deadly. Every human is capable of violence; Gandhi could be a zombie, his passive philosophy as dead as his rotting organs. It’s a horrifying notion, once we forget the video game love affair with zombies. Every human wants to eat you. All of them want you. This is beyond celebrity, beyond being a god. There isn’t a zombie that could refuse to eat you, and they will crowd through the alleys and climb atop each other—they will crawl and they will squirm—just to get you.

I think there are several reasons why zombie fiction is relevant, but I prefer to examine zombies as a phenomenon that is horrific, even if we’re dealing with a sort of “stranded on a deserted island” concept where survival tactics come into play. The scenario is still horrifying.

What does your take on zombies add to the evolving definition of the undead?

I don’t think I’ve tried to redefine or add anything to the definition of the undead. I think there is a lot of potential in the zombie genre; there is a lot of unexplored territory. I’m not going to say that my work is “different” from the rest of the zombie books out there, but I will say that I can’t write what someone else has written. I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t enjoy using the same tried and true plot formula, with the same type of prose that is reproduced so many times over. I think the method—the approach—to writing a zombie novel, as well as the themes, sets the book apart from the rest.

With that being said, I don’t think I will ever get to that “place,” because I am always trying to find what that is. Just when I think I’ve gone “far enough”, I realize that I haven’t. I want to write the one book in the zombie genre that is “too far,” a book that crosses the line in terms of prose and imagery. I will say that the third book in the Zombie Ascension series will truly be a “hardcore-horror” type of zombie book, so the readers who’ve enjoyed the first two zombie books might find themselves turning away from this one, especially since it’s the end of the trilogy. There will still be plenty of explosions in the third book.

Tell us about your “human” survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse.

My characters are flawed and damaged. Thousands of people are thrown into this violent scenario, and I can’t envision “nice” people surviving. I believe the psychosis of a character helps inform their actions; readers should be familiar with a character’s actions and should be able to predict their next move because they know who these characters are.

I’m not interested in heroic characters. In my stories, Superman isn’t going to show up and save the world, and Moses isn’t going to part the Red Sea. I like to think some of my characters are a sort of reversal from Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead. Rick is slowly changed by the events, but many of my characters are already at his lowest point, so they go in the direction where he started by attempting to survive. I wanted to test these characters to see if they could become better people, not worse.

What Zombie literature, films, or TV shows do you recommend for your fans?

I think people who’ve read my books have already seen the classics. I think the zombie gore/imagery would be similar to something you would see in Burial Ground, Zombi, or Day of the Dead. I think readers who enjoy zombie fiction should check out the likes of Brian Keene, David Moody, Joe McKinney, Mark Tufo, Armand Rosamilia, Jonathan Maberry, and Patrick D’Orazio. Rosamilia and D’Orazio are very effective at describing zombies, which is something I always look for when I’m eating a zombie book. I mean reading a zombie book.

Which of your zombie books would make the best movie?

Well, since Zombie Ascension is a trilogy, we have to start with the first book! Explosions, sex, gore; Michael Bay would be proud, but I think Clive Barker would have to direct it. Maybe Stanley Kubrick, if he’s available. I would allow Roman Polanski to write the screenplay.

Authors such as yourself determine whether or not the zombie craze is temporary or permanent (as with vampires); how do you plan to keep zombies around for a long, long time?

As long as readers believe a katana used by a character who hasn’t been trained with it can cut through muscle, bone, flesh, and fat to sever heads and limbs, then the zombie genre will keep on rolling. The genre doesn’t need one author. Apparently, it needs video games, Brad Pitt, and the NRA.

The only way a genre can stay relevant is if something new and fresh is published. I’m talking about a book that is bold in its approach, because courageous writers resurrected this genre from the dead and made it a viable brand for Hallmark stores all over the world. I understand that readers want the same thing over and over again, and I understand that it makes money, but it will bleed a genre and stifle creativity.

Necropolis Now: Zombie Ascension
by Vincenzo Bilof

Click here to purchase


Detroit has become a war zone. Slow, shambling corpses feast upon the living while fire consumes the city. Amparo Vega, a haunted mercenary, fights through streets that are choked with the dead. Her mission: extract the legendary soldier, Jim Traverse, who holds the terrifying secret behind the zombie epidemic. While the bullets fly, Traverse befriends a group of survivors whose fates are forever linked to his: an infamous arms dealer, a young lawyer, and a former detective struggle against the zombies together. Can Vega's elite cadre of mercenaries find Traverse before the epidemic becomes global?


In the Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods series, we look for new twists and angles from the literature of the Zombie Apocalypse. How far have we come from the zombies of George A. Romero? This is the question I wanted to address when reading Vincenzo's take on the zombie tale. So, let's jump right in.

Necropolis Now is a slice of zombie apocalypse life. It is engrossing prose, with flurries of poetic writing, and a cast of heroes and anti-heroes who may or not be with us at any given turn of the page. As such, the deaths of the characters, and there are plenty, cannot be predicted; good guys and bad guys die alike without foreshadowing. Which is the whole point. Bilof paints a real portrait of the days that follow Ground Zero for the new apocalypse of the undead. 

Although his characters are larger than life, that's because he pulls them from extreme realities: a junkie rescued from a crack house by his brother, a female mercenary who teeters on the brink of madness when confronted with this new type of enemy to fight, an ex-cop who gave up his career and family to film pornography, and so on. They each face the living dead with emotions that range from the insanity of empathy to the selflessness of leadership to the animal instinct for survival. In many ZA books, there is one strong character leading the charge. Here Bilof supplies several.

I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't more poetic language from our narrator. There was plenty of room for it. For instance, Bilof writes, "...she looked for the stars that twinkled out of existence as dawn threatened to murder the night." The literature of the ZA is ripe for such language. We also see glimpses of his poetic mind in the dialogue. There's a breathtakingly surreal scene with our pornographer Griggs returning to his apartment to pick up a weapon and having a normal conversation with his neighbor Frank as zombies munch on victims all around them. Frank meanwhile hammers away at a struggling body on the floor and Griggs asks, "Zombie trouble?" To which he responds, "No, wife trouble". And their small talk continues seamlessly and concludes with Frank asking Griggs to pick him up something from Taco Bell on his way back. Griggs absentmindedly asks if he should pick up something for the wife as well. Frank says, "Nah", even as both men know he just finished smashing his wife's face in with a hammer. 
With these poetic flourishes and subtle character conversations verging on manic screaming, all held together by one zombie attack after another, Necropolis Now: Zombie Ascension by Vincenzo Bilof introduces that maddening sense of the surreal to the literature of the zombie apocalypse. 

I addressed my one criticism of the book to Vincenzo himself. Why the abrupt ending? He answered, "That's a fair question. In my mind the book was finished ... Thematically. Cliffhangers are cheap, and so I made sure the second book has a more definitive ending, so much that the series could have ended with it. I don't regret the ending to the first book, because as a writer.. It was finished. But again, I took that into account and made sure it wouldn't happen again..." 

Which brings us to The Queen of the Dead: ZOMBIE ASCENSION: Book Two by Vincenzo Bilof and Joe McKinney (Aug 26, 2013). So, keep that in mind: Book One and Two of Zombie Ascension are basically one complete story with an opening for a Book Three. So, if all your questions aren't answered in part one, rest assured they will be in part two. And I'll be sure to add my review of Book Two to the Zombie Spotlight On... series. 


Lori R. Lopez


Lori R. Lopez is the author of CHOCOLATE-COVERED EYES, AN ILL WIND BLOWS, THE MACABRE MIND OF LORI R. LOPEZ, DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS, OUT-OF-MIND EXPERIENCES, THE FAIRY FLY and more. She is a resident of Southern California who has been an avid horror fan since she was born or thereabouts. A writer of prose and poetry, she pens a semi-monthly column called "Poetic Reflections" that contains dark verse and humor. She is also an artist who does her own book covers and illustrations. Most of her work is appropriate for ages twelve through adult.


You can find her stories and verse online and through bookstores. They have appeared in anthologies such as MIRAGES: TALES FROM AUTHORS OF THE MACABRE, MASTERS OF HORROR: DAMNED IF YOU DON’T, SPLATTERPUNK SAINTS, DARLINGS OF DECAY, I BELIEVE IN WEREWOLVES, SOUP OF SOULS, THIRSTY ARE THE DAMNED, and SCARE PACKAGE: 14 TALES OF TERROR. Fifteen of Lori’s poems were published for an anthology titled IN DARKNESS WE PLAY. While she enjoys writing a variety of genres, Horror is her favorite. She takes great delight in chilling your blood as well as your bones. Better dress warm.


The Questions:

Why have zombies become such a cultural phenomenon in TV, movies, and books?
I would say that zombies are so popular because they are extremely lovable. The carefree decaying-lurching-growling routine is very appealing in contrast to the sophisticated, health-conscious, hyper-sensitive atmosphere of modern society. Apocalyptic scenarios can be kind of pleasant to imagine ― not having to worry about jobs and rent or mortgage payments, money for this, money for that. The only rules are the most basic and critical, how to stay alive. And ever since the dawn of George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, we’ve had these walking corpses who really look like corpses clawing out of graves, or waking up again after being killed. I think they appeal to our sense of the macabre, at least for horror fanatics. They’re monsters, and they’re everywhere! Add to that a steady diet of Romero films, not to mention humorous ones like SHAUN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIELAND, public Zombie Walks that anyone can participate in, horror and comic-book conventions, and then the WALKING DEAD of page and screen, which has exploded in popularity . . . zombies have taken off in recent years. Some people are actively awaiting the Z.A., Zombie Apocalypse; some writers are devoted to the genre. There are survival guides geared towards it. Let’s face it, zombies have become a way of life. They’re dead and they’re not going away! I wouldn’t be surprised to see a category for them under Race on official forms.

What does your take on zombies add to the evolving definition of the undead?
I currently have three zombie titles, all short fiction so far, though the first one HEARTBEAT will have a number of sequels and become book-length. I had fun with each of them.
In HEARTBEAT we have a civilization that learned to accept zombies as nuisances, and there is a youth movement aimed at protecting them from bounty hunters. There is a semblance of society, but many comforts and traditions are just memories from generations ago.
With THE FRUIT OF THY WOMB, I came up with an unconventional cause for the Z.A., involving pesticides being pumped into the air to fight growing populations of insects due to Global Warming. Fruit Flies mutate and become carnivorous; they also begin spreading a disease: the zombie virus. Victims eaten by them become zombies, and these will create more zombies. It spreads pretty fast. As in HEARTBEAT, there is a personal tale about a mother and son.
My third foray, 3-Z, is a trio of shorter pieces released on Halloween. The first (“Pound Of Flesh”) involves the Z.A. starting during a Zombie Walk on All Hallows’ Eve, which only adds to the confusion, and depicts the plight of a woman pinned on the street next to a famished dead guy. The emphasis, rather than action, is on emotion. The second (“A Big Problem”) takes a turn toward the bizarre, introducing a nutty world with a problem-fixer who makes a housecall and encounters a zombie. The third short (“Knock Knock”) presents an older lady who mistakes the zombie at her door for a Trick-Or-Treater.
The stories feature my unique style and quirky humor. THE FRUIT OF THY WOMB and 3-Z are available free.

Tell us about your “human” survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse.
The main characters in HEARTBEAT are zombie fans, a group of kids who each have their own issues to deal with and are still considered nerds even in a world turned upside down. They enjoy more freedom than kids in the real world, yet there are also plenty of restrictions and dangers. They are endeavoring to balance safety with defending the undead.
In FRUIT OF THY WOMB, there is a man suffering most of his life from losing his family after he wandered away from home when small. There is a woman who lost her son. They will meet in the midst of turmoil at a park where the woman took her child to play and now lingers as a homeless broken widow.
The characters of 3-Z are diverse. The woman trapped with a zombie is a mother desperately afraid for her daughter, who was left with a babysitter. The protagonist of “A Big Problem” is a logical yet peculiar man whose life is his work and who is devoted to smoothing out the wrinkles in society. He will come face to face with his worst nightmare, one very large and illogical zombie. The elderly cat lady in “Knock Knock” is sad and lonely, so she invites the young man at her door inside for a snack, believing he is there for candy on Halloween. She was napping during the news that people are acting weird . . .

What Zombie literature, films, or TV shows do you recommend for your fans?
I mentioned several of my favorite undead films and THE WALKING DEAD. I have also been seeing a number of great indie novels out there for zombie-hungry readers, short stories as well, and survival manuals. The other authors being interviewed have interesting projects. I would recommend them, and to keep your eyes open because there are many terrific books to choose from!

Which of your zombie books would make the best movie?
I think HEARTBEAT would make a very fun film. Also FRUIT and POUND OF FLESH, or all of 3-Z together. Okay, any of them. All of them. I write with vivid scenes in my head. It translates well to film.

Authors such as yourself determine whether or not the zombie craze is temporary or permanent (as with vampires); how do you plan to keep zombies around for a long, long time?
By continuing to write interesting, creative, exciting stories and books. As long as that happens, zombies will keep stumbling through our lives. In Horror as with any genre, it’s all about the story. That is the base. If you tell a fascinating tale, the interest will remain.
I am always challenging myself to be original and creative; to do better than I have already done. I have many ideas clamoring to be finished. Sometimes I fear my head will explode. They are not all about zombies, but there will be more between the HEARTBEAT series and new projects. There will definitely be more.

Review: The Fruit of Thy Womb (Under Construction)

Franklin E. Wales


"Wales can write, that's for sure." --Edgar and Bram Stoker Nominated Author, Billie Sue Mosiman

The author of six novels and numerous shorter works of fiction and nonfiction, Frank prefers the title of Storyteller to Novelist or Journalist. "It's a time honored tradition passed down through our parents and our grandparents," he says. "No matter what I am writing, it is my goal to entertain you with the story I'm telling."

Born and raised in Conway, NH, Frank now lives with his beautiful photographer wife, Jacki, in the South Florida home they share with their two dogs and a cat named Oz (as in Wizard of).


Scare Package by Franklin E. Wales, Jeffrey Kosh and Leigh M. Lane (Oct 11, 2012)

Purgatory Junction by Franklin E. Wales and Alex Zonn (Oct 11, 2013)

Deadheads: Evolution by Franklin E. Wales, Joseph "Jody" Adams and Jacki Wales (Jan 1, 2012) 


The Questions:

Why have zombies become such a cultural phenomenon in TV, movies, and books?
FEW: Because they are fun! It’s not really new; so much as it is their time to come back around in the circle. We’ve been reading about them in one form or another since 1929 when W. B. Seabrook wrote “The Magic Island.” According to TIME the book "introduced 'zombi' into U.S. speech".

What does your take on zombies add to the evolving definition of the undead?
FEW: I like this question since my book is called “Deadheads: Evolution.” In my take it’s been nearly three years since the world went to hell and in that time the Deadheads (zombies) have realized that WE are their food source. Rather than simply kill at random, many of the undead have begun to group and form societies of their own. They no longer leave a victim to turn, but behead it so that it can’t come back and threaten the food supply. They are also beginning to contain us for future meals. We have become livestock for them.

Tell us about your “human” survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse.
FEW: The lead in my novel is a man named Gage Owens (I didn’t realize at the time I had actually used the same name as the dead child in King’s Pet Sematary) Gage was suffering with terminal Cancer when infected. Instead of turning him, the Deadhead virus cured his Cancer and left him with one foot in each world. The remaining characters are a collection of everyday people who for one reason or another did not succumb to the original virus.

What Zombie literature, films, or TV shows do you recommend for your fans?
FEW: As for literature, you’ve got a virtual who’s who in contemporary undead fiction: Maberry, Onspaugh, Long, Bilof, Lopez and Martin. Fine authors all. Off the top of my head I’d add, Eric S Brown, David Dunwoody and Joseph M. Monks. If we were all at a convention and someone asked, “Who else should I read?” I’d just point them down the tables to these folks.
When it comes to TV, it’s rather moot at the moment. If you’re not watching The Walking Dead, you probably aren’t looking to read zombie tales.
As for movies, I go old school obscure. If you enjoy zombie tales, I always suggest you look into the golden age Eurotrash and see where some of today’s stuff came from. I like “Zombie Lake” and “Shock Waves” because there is something about Nazi Zombies that get’s the blood pumping. I also recommend  Andrea Bianchi's, “Burial Ground.” Despite its flaws, it is one kick ass flick. For something a bit more current there’s Michele Soavi's, “Cemetery Man.” Not only a great genre flick, but it’s funny as hell to see Rupert Everett fighting the undead three years before he costarred with Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding. (Geese look at me. Don’t get me started on old zombie flicks!)

Which of your zombie books would make the best movie?
FEW: Ironically I only have the one so far, but Deadheads: Evolution is currently under option with a Chicago based film company for production in 2014.

Authors such as yourself determine whether or not the zombie craze is temporary or permanent (as with vampires); how do you plan to keep zombies around for a long, long time?
FEW: The craze will dim, they always do, but zombies in entertainment will never die. (Not even a headshot will kill the genre.) From 1929’s ““The Magic Island” in literature and 1936’s “White Zombie” in film, zombies have stood the test of time. When the craze fades, when it’s not “cool” any more, folks like us will keep putting out the entertainment for those that still crave it and hopefully we will all still be telling our tales when zombies come back around in popularity.

Review: Deadheads: Evolution. (Under Construction)

Jonathan Maberry


JONATHAN MABERRY is a New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning horror and thriller author, editor, comic book writer, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator and writing teacher/lecturer. His books have been sold to more than two-dozen countries.

He writes in several genres. His young adult fiction includes ROT & RUIN (2011; now in development for film; named in Booklist’s Ten Best Horror Novels for Young Adults, a Bram Stoker and Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading winner; nominee for several state Teen Book Awards; winner of the Cybils Award, the Eva Perry Mock Printz medal, Dead Letter Best Novel Award, and four Melinda Awards); DUST & DECAY (winner of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award; FLESH & BONE (winner of the Bram Stoker Award; 2012; and FIRE & ASH (August 2013). His thrillers include The Joe Ledger Thrillers from St. Martin’s Griffin (PATIENT ZERO, 2009, winner of the Black Quill and a Bram Stoker Award finalist for Best Novel; THE DRAGON FACTORY, 2010; THE KING OF PLAGUES, 2011; ASSASSIN’S CODE, 2011; EXTINCTION MACHINE, 2013; CODE ZER0, 2014, and PREDATOR ONE, 2015.

His mystery novels include the upcoming Dylan Quinn mystery-thriller series for teens: WATCH OVER ME (Simon & Schuster, 2014) and COLD, COLD HEART (2015); and the NIGHTSIDERS series of middle-grade horror/sci-fi adventures, which debut in 2015.

His horror novels include The Pine Deep Trilogy from Pinnacle Books (GHOST ROAD BLUES, 2006, winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel and named one of the 25 Best Horror Novels of the New Millennium; DEAD MAN’S SONG, 2007; and BAD MOON RISING, 2008), as well as DEAD OF NIGHT, 2011 and its forthcoming sequel, FALL OF NIGHT, 2014. He also wrote the movie novelization, THE WOLFMAN, 2010, winner of the Scribe Award for Best Adaptation; and is scheduled to write DEADLANDS: GHOSTWALKERS, an original novel inspired by the million-copy-selling role-playing game.

He is also editor and co-author of V-WARS, a shared-world vampire anthology from IDW, and its forthcoming sequel, V-WARS: BLOOD AND FIRE; and he’ll be writing a new V-WARS ongoing comic book.

He is also the co-editor for the REDNECK ZOMBIES FROM OUTER SPACE (2013) and editor of the forthcoming dark fantasy anthology, OUT OF TUNE (JournalStone, 2014).
Jonathan was an expert on the History Channel documentary, ZOMBIES: A Living History. He will also be featured in That $#(!'ll Rot Your Brain: How the Monster Kids Transformed Popular Culture, a forthcoming documentary on horror movies directed by Robert Tinnell. And he was participated in the commentary tracks for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: REANIMATED.

His many nonfiction works include VAMPIRE UNIVERSE (Citadel Press, 2006); THE CRYPTOPEDIA (Citadel, 2007 –winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction; co-authored by David F. Kramer); ZOMBIE CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead (Winner of the Hinzman and Black Quill Awards and finalist for a Stoker Award; 2008); THEY BITE! (2009 co-authored by David F. Kramer); WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE (2010; Bram Stoker finalist; co-authored by Janice Gable Bashman); THE VAMPIRE SLAYERS FIELD GUIDE TO THE UNDEAD (2001, written under the pen name of Shane MacDougall); ULTIMATE JUJUTSU (Strider Nolan, 2001); ULTIMATE SPARRING (Strider Nolan, 2000); JUDO AND YOU (Kendall Hunt 1991); and many others.

He writes a variety of projects for Marvel Comics involving CAPTAIN AMERICA, BLACK PANTHER, DOOMWAR, WOLVERINE, DEADPOOL, THE X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR, the NY Times bestselling MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN, MARVEL UNIVERSE vs THE PUNISHER. MARVEL UNIVERSE vs WOLVERINE and MARVEL UNIVERSE vs THE AVENGERS. In 2014 he’ll launch two new comic book titles: BAD BLOOD (Dark Horse) and V-WARS (IDW), and will be writing a ROT & RUIN ongoing comic for IDW as well. All of Jonathan’s comic book collections are released as Graphic Novel collections within a month or two of individual comic publication.

Jonathan has published several dozen short stories in a variety of genres: mystery, horror, thriller, science fiction, military fiction, fantasy, western, urban fantasy, humor and others. His collections include JOE LEDGER: THE MISSING FILES, 2011 from Blackstone Audio; HUNGRY TALES (2012) and TALES FROM THE FIRE ZONE (2012) and the forthcoming JOE LEDGER: SPECIAL OPS (2014, JournalStone). His work also appears in the audio anthology LIAR LIAR from The Liars Club (released by Blackstone Audio in 2013).

Jonathan is the co-creator (with Laura Schrock) of ON THE SLAB, an entertainment news show in development by Stage 9 for ABC Disney / Stage 9. He was also a ‘blog correspondent’ on Sony’s zombie-themed web show ‘WOKE UP DEAD’; and was a recurring character on Laura Schrock’s ‘IT’S TODD’S SHOW’.

Jonathan’s Big Scary Blog ( focuses on the publishing industry. Jonathan’s interviews include Sandra Brown, Gayle Lynds, Alafair Burke, Charlaine Harris, James Rollins, Harlan Coben, Jeff Abbott, John Saul, Jonathan Kellerman, Barry Eisler, CJ Box, Laurell K. Hamilton, Jack Ketchum, Tom Piccarilli, Dale Brown, Kevin J. Anderson, Joe Lansdale, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Carrie Ryan, and many other best-selling authors. Jonathan also writes the SCARY OUT THERE blog, through which he and his guests explore teen horror fiction in its many aspects. Current and upcoming guests include R.L. Stine, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Nancy Holder, Kim Harrison, Ellen Hopkins and many others. That blog can be found on the website of the Horror Writers Association: In 2014 he’ll launch THRILL RIDE, a new blog discussing mysteries and thrillers for teens.

He is a frequent keynote speaker, guest of honor and workshop leader at genre cons, libraries, writers conferences and publishing industry events, including the American Library Association, KeyCon, American Library Association, ThrillerFest, Zombie Fest, Heather Graham’s The Writers for New Orleans, Central Coast Writers Conference, NeCon, NY Comic Con, Texas Library Association Annual Conference, Sisters in Crime, BackSpace, PennWriters, Dragon*Con, PhilCon, Horror-Realm, Boucher Con, HorrorFind, Monster Mania, Philadelphia Writers Conference, Balticon, Romance Writers of America, American Library Association, ZenKaiKon,The Write Stuff, Hypericon, AnthoCon, KillerCon, NAIBA, LunaCon, and many others.

Jonathan has sold more than 1,200 feature articles and 3,000 columns; as well as greeting cards, song lyrics, poetry, technical manuals, call-floor scripts, and two plays, including Tales from the Fire Zone. He is developing a psychological thriller novel based on that play.

Jonathan is a Contributing Editor for The Big Thrill (the newsletter of the International Thriller Writers), and is a member of SFWA, IAMTW, MWA, SCBWI, SFWA and HWA, as well as a jurist for the Edgar, Stoker, and Scribe Awards.

Jonathan was the Executive Director of the Writers Room of Bucks County (2005-06) and co-owner of the Writers Corner USA (2006-2009). Jonathan regularly visits local middle schools, high schools and colleges to talk about books, reading, publishing and the writing life. He is a board member of the River Union Stage, a professional equity theater based in Stockton, New Jersey. In 2006 he helped found the Wild River Review, an notable online literary journal.

Jonathan is a founding member of The Liars Club, a group of networking publishing professionals that includes celebrated authors Merry Jones, Gregory Frost, Jon McGoran, Ed Pettit, Dennis Tafoya, Keith Strunk, Don Lafferty, Kelly Simmons, Marie Lamba, Solomon Jones, Stephen Susco, Chuck Wendig, Janice Gable Bashman, Cordelia Biddle, Eric Red, Amber Benson, Kathryn Craft, Jeff Marriott, Nancy Holder and Michael Boatman. The Liars Club works to support booksellers, raise awareness and support for public libraries, and cultivate a joy of reading and books. The late NY Times bestseller L. A. Banks was a founding member of the Liars Club.

Jonathan created the Writers Coffeehouse, a free three-hour open-agenda networking and discussion session for writers of all genres and levels of skill in multiple locations each month.

Jonathan has been a popular writing teacher and career counselor for writers for the last two decades. He teaches a highly regard series of classes and workshops including Write Your Novel in Nine Months, Act Like a Writer, Revise & Sell, Experimental Writing for Teens, and others. Many of his students have gone on to obtain representation and/or publish in short and novel-length fiction, magazine feature writing, nonfiction books, TV, film, and comics.

In 2004 Jonathan was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame largely because of his extensive writings in that field.

Jonathan and his wife, Sara Jo, to whom he dedicates all of his published works, and their dog, Rosie, live in Del Mar, California.


Visit his website/blog and sign up for his free newsletter at:

The Questions:

QUESTION: Why have zombies become such a cultural phenomenon in TV, movies, and books?
JONATHAN MABERRY: Zombies are the perfect storytelling blank canvas. They invited and even encourage metaphor. They are the stand-ins for any societal, existential or philosophical issue we care to explore. At the same time they represent an immediate shared threat that engulfs and impact every character in exactly the same way. Once introduced, we can shift our focus very quickly away from the monsters and pay attention to the experience of the human characters. In a sense, this allows us to tell virtually any kind of story, from a tale of unrelenting horror to a tender love story to a slapstick comedy.

QUESTION: What does your take on zombies add to the evolving definition of the undead?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I’m a very nuts and bolts person, so a lot of my story offers a common-sense view of how to survive in a zombie-rich environment. How people protect themselves, how they manage their fear, how they carry on with ordinary lives.
At the same time I explore the nature of the zombies themselves. As one of the teens in ROT & RUIN discovers, the zombies are simply monsters to fear and to destroy. They were once people. It’s a simple fact that’s often glossed over in fiction. Each and every zombie was a person who expected to have a life, a future, goals, happiness. All of that was stolen from them by whatever caused the plague. Each of them died in pain and fear. To dismiss that experience is to not only dehumanize the zombie and disrespect it’s former humanity; it dehumanizes us.

QUESTION: Tell us about your “human” survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse.
JONATHAN MABERRY: My four teen novels in the ROT & RUIN series focus on the experiences of a group of teenagers who were born around the time of the zombie apocalypse. They’ve grown up in a world where the apocalypse is past-tense, which means they aren’t linked to what was lost –society, technology, and so on. This is their world. Their challenge is to find a way to build a meaningful future is a world dominated by the living dead. The story, then, doesn’t focus on the death and destruction –although these are elements—but rather on the value of human life, the nature of hope, and the question of what makes us human.

QUESTION: What Zombie literature, films, or TV shows do you recommend for your fans?
JONATHAN MABERRY: A few years ago it would have been relatively easy to recommend a few good books and movies in the zombie genre. Now we’re flooded with them, and there are a lot of good ones despite the volume. Among the many outstanding anthologies, I recommend John Skipp’s ZOMBIES, which includes many of the stories originally published in his landmark antho, BOOKS OF THE DEAD, co-edited by Craig Spector; and also Christopher Golden’s THE NEW DEAD.
For novels, some of my favorites include Joe McKinney’s action-packed DEAD CITY; S.G. Browne’s acerbic BREATHERS; Carrie Ryan’s excellent THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH; and Charlie Higson’s twist on the genre, THE ENEMY.
For movies, my all-time facvorite is the Zack Snyder unrated director’s cut of DAWN OF THE DEAD; though I love SHAUN OF THE DEAD, FIDO, THE DEAD, BERLIN UNDEAD, LA HORDE, and the first three Romero classics.
On TV, for me it’s a split decision between THE WALKING DEAD and the BBC grossly overlooked DEAD SET.

QUESTION: Which of your zombie books would make the best movie?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I believe all of them would. Two are already in development for film –ROT & RUIN and DEAD OF NIGHT are being prepped for the movies. The former is aimed at teens; the latter is definitely for adults. My first zombie novel, PATIENT ZERO, is also being discussed as a possible movie or TV show.

QUESTION: Authors such as yourself determine whether or not the zombie craze is temporary or permanent (as with vampires); how do you plan to keep zombies around for a long, long time?
JONATHAN MABERRY: The popularity of the zombie genre will wax and wane according to whatever drives it. Right now it’s being driven by the success of The Walking Dead, World War Z, Warm Bodies, some excellent prose and comics, and a bunch of hot video games. Once The Walking Dead goes off the air, or if the show should lose momentum, the genre will slow down. But, then something else will take its place. It is an endlessly elastic trope, which means that it only requires clever storytellers to breathe new life into our undead fellow citizens.

ROT AND RUIN by Jonathan Maberry

Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Click here to purchase.

Book Summary: 

"In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn't want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human." (Amazon).

The Review:

It has been my custom to peruse the Horror section at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena for over thirty years. On my last visit, I saw a sign for Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry. But when I looked for a copy of the zombie book, there was none to be found. I asked the store clerk, who just happened to be the person in charge of stocking the Horror section, if I could order the Maberry book. He responded, "That's in our Young Adult [YA] section upstairs."  He saw the dubious look on my face and asked if I wanted him to fetch me a copy. I nodded yes.

When he returned with the book, I asked him why the book was advertised in the Horror section but sold in the YA section. He told me that the publisher decides those things.

This is as good a time as any to mention my book giveaway program: Read THIS! Scaring Up Readers. Authors from my Facebook circle of friends donate books in the genres of Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Crime Noir (but I'm open to other genres as well), and I, in turn, give these books to students in my SAT and ACT classes, young college-bound teens, as encouragement for them to read the genres that we write and love (as F. Paul Wilson says, "New recruits."). That's a good way to put it. You can see pictures in the photos section of my Facebook page of many of these students posing with their gifted book in hand.

Which brings me to Rot and Ruin [R&R]. What is it about the novel/series that makes it YA? Because that is what the Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods articles are about--watching for new angles and trends to the Zombie Apocalypse [ZA] genre.

Firstly, R&R reads like Tom and Huck on the Zombie Frontier. In this case, it's Benny and Tom Imura. Benny has just turned fifteen years of age and must contribute to the community for his food. He must face responsibility and turns to his half-brother only after failing to secure employment. His resentment for Tom surfaces as they face the rot and ruin of the zombie wastelands. In other words, R&R is a coming of age story. But that alone does not make it YA.

Secondly, Maberry does not minimize the blood and gore for younger readers. R&R is still a ZA novel with all the accouterments one has come to expect from a living dead story. The zombies are interchangeably pathetic and terrifying (George Romero perfected this switch in Dawn of the Dead [1978]). The human characters also play both villains and heroes, thus making the bad guys at times more dangerous than the undead. But Benny learns that there is a grey area between good and bad, so R&R does not follow traditional YA by having the good guys wear white and the bad guys wear black, so to speak.

Thirdly, the community of Mountainside houses dark secrets that the zombie hunters are aware of; Benny must face the truth about life outside his home in order to finally accept his place in it. So, as he grows emotionally and physically, so, too, does the fate of Mountainside hinge on these secrets coming to light. As Benny grows, so does the community, but at a cost (of course, this cost aims the reader's expectations toward book two of the series). Still, I don't quite see the words "Young Adult" written in the plot or storyline. It's still good ol' Jonathan Maberry pounding out great zombie narratives.

So, we get back to what the clerk at Vroman's told me: "The publisher decides those things." Rot and Ruin is basic Maberry 101 marketed to YA readers. And here I must mention my book giveaway program again. I am all for introducing young readers to the genres we as Horror writers love to write and read. I agree with Paul's assessment: It's recruitment. For a good cause. My only complaint is with the marketing. Why not put the Rot and Ruin series in both the YA and Horror sections? I have no complaint with putting Maberry's whole catalog in the YA and Horror sections.

YA Horror strives to do the same thing as my program: to reach a new and younger audience. As a matter of fact, Jonathan Maberry has donated books to the program. With the advent of programs like The Walking Dead on TV for families to watch together and discuss afterward with The Talking Dead host and guests, Jonathan Maberry has written a Zombie Apocalypse novel that enters the grey area of marketing: a YA novel for adults and an adult novel for older teens. And that's quite a contribution to the new trends in the literature of the living dead.


Philip Nutman Tribute by Mike Malloy.

Philip Nutman R.I.P.

I was reading WET WORK by Philip Nutman when I heard he was in hospital. I was planning to do another chapter in the Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods series and his zombie novel was recommended to me. I wanted to include his anthem to the Zombie Apocalypse genre. Sadly, he passed away. But he left us a magnificent contribution to the evolution of the genre, and I wanted to include it in this chapter of my zombie series. But I was not qualified to talk about the man, so I turned to the community that knew him for help. I'd like to thank those who guided me to Mike Malloy, who has written a piece on his friend, Philip, and has produced a video on the author. Here are the links to Mike's tribute to Philip Nutman.

Tough and Gritty Blog Tribute to Philip Nutman by Mike Malloy (click link below)

And the video tribute:

Review: Wet Work (Under Construction)


Thank you, readers, for joining us on another look at the literature of the Zombie Apocalypse. Please join us again when we present Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods V. 


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