In this post my friend and fellow author, Tony Simmons, visits to talk about his new zombie book.
Mark: What are the title and the topic of your new book?
Tony: “Tales of the Awakening Dead” is a collection of zombie short stories. Each one takes a different approach to the genre, and the “rules” of the zombies are different from tale to tale. I enjoyed trying different voices and approaches, and I hope readers find it a fresh take.
Mark: Where is it available and in what format?
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Mark: I think zombies have transitioned from being a cultural fad to a full sub-genre of science fiction. Why is that? What is our continuing fascination with them?
Tony: They’re a cultural shorthand now. We see them in commercials, where they’re used to comic effect. Mainstream movies are made on the “Romeo and Juliet” model about zombies. It’s important to note that these are Romero-style undead creatures, not traditional voodoo zombies; these things are more like the old concept of the ghoul, hungry for human flesh. And I think that’s important because, while the idea of losing our mental faculties to enslavement by a witch doctor is pretty awful, the prospect of losing our humanity — or losing our loved ones to such a terrible death — is what haunts us.
Also, I remember being a kid and seeing one of the Universal movies about the mummy, and realizing that no matter where the protagonists ran to hide, this slow-moving creature would never tire, and it would find them. There’s something of that in our fear of the zombies. They just don’t stop, and there’s always more of them.
Mark: In some ways, people seem to find zombies more accessible than vampires. Vampires are powerful, immortal and often glamorous. I don’t think most of us feel like that. However, we see zombies, and that zombie is still wearing her uniform from work, and the zombie over there is wearing a tool belt and hardhat, and we see these reflections of us–ordinary citizens. Somehow, that makes them easier to relate to. Is that what gives them their staying power in our culture?
Tony: I think that’s a good possibility. They are us, but broken. So many people feel isolated these days; we barely know our neighbors, and it would be no surprise to discover them massing to feed on our flesh, the mindless psychopaths that they probably are. I mean, have you seen the mess in their back yards? The way they dress their kids? They could be capable of just about anything. I’m watching.
Mark: We see a lot of apocalypse and dystopia in books and movies right now, and some people think that’s because of the long economic stagnation, and the endless wars, and terrorism. But the original Star Trek debuted in 1966, during the Viet Nam war, when the nation was probably as badly divided as it is now. Yet Star Trek is a very positive look at the future, where humans have overcome their differences and are now exploring the galaxy. It’s science and exploration, not gritty survival. Why do you think we’re reacting differently now to tough times?
Tony: I don’t know that zombies are so much a product of the times, as much as an idea whose time has come. Look at the Depression-era popular literature, and you find Doc Savage standing a head taller than all the others, a paragon of morality and individuality. Superman came out of that same cultural stew.
And your point about the original Star Trek is spot-on. Difficult times, at least in America, seem to bring us hopeful visions or heroes to emulate. Granted, we live in a more jaded world, a post-9/11 culture bombarded by images of violence in all its sordid forms. But I just don’t think it’s that easy to draw a straight line from economy and politics to zombies.
How do you explain the Ancient Astronauts and Big Foot mania of the mid- to late 1970s in those terms? The vampire chic of the 1990s? Hair bands? I think it may be that Romero-style zombies have had a generation to gestate in the collective unconscious and simply may have dug themselves into the light.
Mark: Last question. What’s the next project?
Tony: That’s also difficult to define. As you know, I just completed a Southern Gothic/urban fantasy/Lovecraftian Horror novel that is in the editing stage. I’m close to finishing the initial draft of ‘This Mortal Flesh,’ which is a novel of ‘The Awakening Dead’ teased in this collection, which includes the novel’s first chapter. My next full-on “new” project will be a sequel to the SG/UF/LH novel now being edited, which I hope to make a big dent in during NaNoWriMo; I’m thinking of it in terms of a Hammer horror film, as our young Native American hero finds himself in a modern Welsh village full of nice folks who secretly are Satan worshipers, mixed with an ancient vampire that was also a mummy, and a certain mage’s manservant with a slight case of lycanthropy. Also, there’s this girl…
Mark: Thanks to Tony for this interview.
Now hit those links and gobble up some zombie goodness!