DD: Thanks for plugging in, Steve! First, tell us about your DEAD TIDE zombie series.
SN: Dead Tide is an on-going, minute by minute story of a zombie apocalypse as experienced by diverse groups or individual survivors in the Tampa Bay area. There are multiple viewpoint characters and each chapter features a different person’s perspective. Unless a character dies the story works around to them again.
DD: What can fans expect in the fourth entry, DEAD TIDE RAGE?
SN: A lot of closure. There is still a story to tell, but it moves into a different phase after RAGE.
DD: Working on this series for as long as you have, what are the benefits and challenges you find as you return to the DEAD TIDE universe?
SN: The DT world is one that the survivors are now familiar with and they have a clear idea of what they are striving for. The problem is the challenges aren’t growing any easier, and if anything, more difficult. Distrust, greed, fear---all the same dividing factors are still in place and the world is far less civilized than it was…
DD: You also write sci-fi. Your most recent release in the genre is THE DRIFTER. Do I remember correctly that you read from an early version of this at our Horror Realm panel in 2009? What's it about?
SN: I did read an excerpt from that book at Horror Realm. It became a novella. There was so much more to explore in that world that when the book was re-released by Permuted Press last year it had doubled in size. What it is about is a bleak future where unemployment on Earth is rampant, but offworld the demand for ‘the human commodity’ has skyrocketed. Our ability to exploit the universe (and ourselves) has also increased exponentially. In this grim future the government not only sanctions press gangs to recruit ‘interstellar’ colonists, but does so to anyone caught out after curfew that doesn’t possess proper i.d. and proof of employment. Criminals face the prospect of memory erasure and ego-shaping to make them more productive and compliant. The main character in The Drifter can’t even be sure his memories are real.
DD: Is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in zombie lit?
SN: The genre’s popularity still hasn’t waned in my opinion. I’d like to see more stories. The approaches taken by authors such as Dr. Kim Paffenroth, David Dunwoody, J.L. Bourne, Travis Adkins, Timothy Long, Eric S. Brown, Eric Shelman, DL Snell, Sheri Gambino, Suzanne Robb, Rhiannon Frater, WJ Lundy, Armand Rosamilia, Sue Edge, Bowie Ibarra, Scott Baker, Peter Clines, Zach Recht, Brian Keene, Jonathan Maberry, Patrick D’Orazio, Joe McKinney, Craig Saunders, Tony Faville, Brian Parker, Jamie Mason, Craig DiLouie, Charles Phipps, Shane Gregory and Rob Fox have been so varied and entertaining that I have to ask for more.
Would also like to see the return of Dr. Pus.
Posted by Dave Dunwoody at 7:48 AM
DD: Thanks for plugging in, ZZ! First off, tell us all about your program AFTER ROT.
DD: As a poet, you've written a lot about the subjects of death and undeath - sometimes tongue-in-cheek, others not. What fascinates you about the undead?
ZZ: Well, mostly I’m interested in other people’s reactions to it. In the event of an outbreak, how do people handle themselves, both in the context of survival, and in the context of interpretation of reasons and meanings and all that metaphorical stuff. People are strange creatures that do strange things, both in groups and on their own. I am always fascinated by people’s choices, and the reasons that they achieve them. Death/un-death is merely another facet, another element to the exploratory meme that is Humanity’s insanity. It’s all, a mad, mad, mad world out there, and poetically, interpretation becomes both measured methodology and mounds of mayhem.
DD: Do dreams inspire you in your work?
ZZ: Absolutely. Dreams are both the undermind working things out without the filters of the conscious mind, and the play time that infiltrates our consciousness when we are not paying attention. Anything that occurs in that space, is beauty and definitely not out of place.
DD: You seem to devour all things zombie. Can you recommend any cool/weird films, books or comics out lately?
ZZ: Oh, but of course!
Movies: “Maggie” - it’s a tear jerker zombie movie! “Wyrmwood” - Australian zombie flick! “Scout’s Guide to the Apocalypse” - just, good clean fun!
Books: “The Strange Dead”, by The David Dunwoody; “Mists of the Dead”, by Travis Adkins
Comic Books: “Zombie Tramp”, “Deadworld”, “Afterlife with Archie”, “Call of Duty, Zombies”, “Jesus Hates Zombies”, “Rex, Zombie Killer”, “Shaolin Cowboy” and sooooo many more.
DD: Is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in zombiedom?
ZZ: Less “blatant” commercialism in advertising; more innovative usage of zombie meme/messages in advertising.
Less “zombie everything” in movie/TV/media products; more interesting explorations of society and civilization in regards to what happens in the event of a zombie breakout. Unfortunately, this is becoming harder and harder to achieve with the plethora of material already out, it falls into the category of, “well, what else can we do with them?”
Posted by Dave Dunwoody at 4:45 AM
DD: Thanks for plugging in, Jon! Earlier this year you released Children of God: Poems, Dreams, and Nightmares from The Family of God Cult, written with Craig DiLouie. Tell us about it.
JM: Craig and I have been friends for a few years, and fans of each other’s writing as well. (Seriously check out his Suffer the Children- one of this decade’s best horror novels.) A year ago Craig got a hold of me at Crypticon Seattle and he laid out this incredible idea he had about telling a story through poems. He explained to poetry therapy to, and how it has been used with patients suffering from PTSD. His idea was to cover the rise and fall of a Christian doomsday cult through a variety of poetry. Since I have an interest in both cults and poetry he was kind enough to invite me to play along.
We each created a handful of diverse characters, each with their own personality, history, and style. We created a shared timeline, divided the story into sections, and had each character tell their unique version of the story through poems. Through conversations we had Craig and I decided we wanted something grounded, where the horror is emotional, real, and possible. I honestly feel we pulled that off and created something special for fans of dark fiction. I am very proud of Children of God, and honored to work with such a talented writer and awesome person as Craig.
DD: You also penned a great collection called Mr. Moon's Nightmares. So I have to ask: how much do dreams inspire you, and do you track your dreams?
JM: Oh, shit, going old school! Hahaha. Yeah, ole’ Mr. Moon’s Nightmares was my first collection of stories. It was published by our old friend Doc Pus from his Library of Horror Press. It has been out of print for a few years now, but I have been re-releasing stories little by little through my Hoo-Doo County Horrors series. A few stories from MMN even made it into Stories To Poke Your Eyes Out To, which I built in much the same fashion (mixing traditional horror with surreal, flash/short/novella length variations).
But, back to the real question here. I have always had a hyper-active imagination, and I think that has attributed to the vivid dreams I have always had. When I was younger I would have reoccurring nightmares, and as I grew my dreams and nightmares took on a far more surreal tilt. Hehehe, yup, my dreams and daydreams are like acid trips, kids. Some stories come from dreams, though I have never written about the reoccurring nightmare from my youth, but I would say even more come from daydreams. I fade in and out of reality all day, some times when I snap back with it I bring a story with me. Something to rattle around in my head until I give it some kind of terrible life.
I never really track my dreams but I try to remember them every day. Years ago, I had a roommate named Sharika. We worked graveyards and woke up at the same time every day. As we would get ready for our shift she would tell me all about her dreams. I loved those dream stories, and not just because she was a hilarious woman, but because they were so unpredictable and random. My dreams and nightmares have seldom seemed to be composed of random elements, but rather everything weird or odd has a symbolic feel. Damn, maybe my dreams influence my style as much as my stories.
DD: On the zombie front, you've brought a unique spin to the genre with books like Hollow Mountain Dead. What about the undead appeals to you?
JM: I dig zombies because they freak me out. Can you imagine a dead person attacking you? No way to reason with a dead person, even someone who loved you once. How long you could out run them, begging and pleading for mercy- further wasting your breath? Dead lungs do not need oxygen. That is what I dig, the rainbow of unrelenting horror the undead can represent. From stories about family members dealing with each other to entire metropolises collapsing the dead rising is fantastic story fodder for gore and heartbreak junkies like myself. I prefer the micro, but even then knowing it is a single event or location in a worldwide event always adds a sense of dread to things.
I think the undead are such a great way to represent so many aspects of our humanity, casting reflections through shattered mirrors. I find them easy metaphors for social issues as well as great excuses for writing graphic scenes with disembowelment and cannibalism, all of which I also dig. I know pop culture has grabbed hold of zombies, and unleashed a flood of zombie fiction upon the world, but they have always been a favorite of horror fans like me because they are the oldest, most terrible monsters of all…us.
DD: What does a horror writer do to make Halloween stand out from every other day of the year?
JM: Eat glazed donuts and chili.
(I wear masks all the time. I am wearing one right now…so are you…)
DD: Is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in zombiedom?
JM: I would say my one big gripe about zombie fiction is it needs more zombies. More gore! More violence! More horror! MORE ZOMBIES!
I feel like most stories focus far too much on the living. And, man, the living are dramatic. So much talking, pontificating, arguing, double-crossing, remembering, plotting, you get it. I like zombie action, how people react when faced with dead humans attacking you, and not how people act when zombies are eating everyone else. Perhaps this is a certain level of cynicism on my behalf, I have no doubt sociopaths will excel in apocalyptic realities and the world would be a fucked up place all around. (Heh, we haven’t officially hit apocalypse yet and look how we’re doing.) Most zombie stories which start months or years after the first zombie outbreak lose my attention fast, because to me they feel like dramas with zombie scenery. That’s the main reason Hollow Mountain Dead follows the zombie outbreak from the source out.
Posted by Dave Dunwoody at 9:34 AM