"I know your sins,” the Minster preached. “The Lord knows your sins. They know your sins.”
Something crashed upstairs, thumping the ceiling. Several more thumps followed. Leon heard something dragging across the floor in the living room.
“I say to you now, there is still time to repent. Toss away your earthly burdens and give yourself to the Lord. Hiding in the dark, in the earth, running from his light. Surrender yourself. Give yourself over to the dead. To God’s army.”
—God’s Army by T. Fox Dunham
Published in Tales of the Zombie War
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Writing about zombies is a hazardous business. So, for my entry, I thought I’d write up some tips about handling the walking, hungry dead. Over the last year, I’ve had several zombie stories published. I write them for fun, to relax. Gods. What does that say about me? I’m stressed out . . . think I’ll write about hordes of shambling corpses seeking to devour the flesh of the living. And that’s an important point to make:
We crave zombie fiction because a zombie apocalypse would relieve the burden of functioning in this artificial human society.
Zombie fiction returns us to a world where we are once again a hunter-gatherer society, living by our wits in a land without walls, without income taxes, without resumes and college loans. We are burdened by society. Zombies are freedom and return us to more a natural state. This is true of all apocalypse fiction, but zombies especially resonate with us because the burden of society comes from the masses of people, just as zombies mass as they shamble to devour us. I try to reflect themes in society as part of writing a satire in my zombie work, which is one of the reasons my zombie stories always sell.
Recently, my story God’s War, was published on Tales of the Zombie War, the best online site for zombie fiction. In my story, I use the zombie setting to show a parallel between the ravenous undead and raging human. My character suffers post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Afghanistan, where he became a living version of a zombie. You’ll have to read to find out more:
I also have two short stories coming out in the zombie new anthology from Hazardous Press: A Quick Bites of Flesh Anthology edited by Robert Helmbrecht. I’m especially pleased about being in this anthology as many close friends will be joining me: Alyn Day, Rose Blackthorn, Deborah Drake, Tara Fox Hall, Rebecca Brown, Scott M. Goriscak, and many others. Robert Helmbrecht has also asked me to contribute a zombie novella to be published in a series with the anthology, so I am finishing my novella, Death’s Dominion, named after my favorite poem by Dylan Thomas: Death Shall have no Dominion. It was my mantra during chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The anthology will be out in October. Robert has done an amazing job, and working with him has been one of my best writing experiences.
WRITING ZOMBIE FICTION:
First: Make sure you have a secure lock on the cellar door.
Too many times I’ll be writing away, and I’ll look up mid-paragraph to find the door open and a mob of zombies surrounding the couch. Then, it’s swordplay and a lot of dry cleaning. Rancid liver stains never come out.
Second: Zombie stories are about the living.
Zombies are usually a background menace, the element of danger and conflict. The story is really about your characters surviving and learning to adapt to the radical change in their environment. Of course, this may change when your characters are zombies, though the dynamic about surviving in a different world will often be your plot.
Third: At times, the zombies you keep may look serene and may even exhibit behavior that resembles their humanity.
Do Not Pet Your Zombies!
They will bite your hand and feast on your fingers. It’s not much fun typing with only six fingers.
Fourth: Zombies expose your character’s humanity in all its light and darkness.
Who are the monsters really? A zombie is mindless, a hungry animal without malevolence. You can’t blame a zombie for wanting to eat you, but you can blame the living for looting your house and eating your kitten, Mittens. Poor Mittens! (That’s a shout out to my friend Steph. Miss you baby!)
Fifth: Grief will kill you.
A common element in zombie fiction is the inability for the living to adapt to the loss of their loved ones, and in their grief, they often allow themselves to be consumed instead of accepting their new reality. Mothers deny and guard their children from a shotgun blast to destroy the brain only to be eaten by their offspring. I wrote about this in my story, Quality of Life , published in So Long and Thanks for All the Brains edited by Matt Nord:
This extinction is not arriving as a flying space rock or a fusion bomb laughing in plasma fire. Devious nature turned our beloved into puppets, exploited the bond of family, the need to protect. She did it to immobilize our defenses, our intelligence. Our love is the evolutionary weakness that serves our annihilation. Death comes wearing the face of our loved ones.
--Quality of Life by T. Fox Dunham,
Published in So Long and Thanks for All the Brains
Final: Zombies are the threat but not always the plot.
Usually, there’s a primary plot that is not central to the walking dead. For example, your characters are running out of food. They’re being hunted by raiders. One of them is pregnant and needs a hospital. You need to focus on such problems of survival, of the body and the heart. Zombies just provide the danger.
My Zombie Friend:
Before I close my entry for this fortnight, I wanted to write a personal note about a friend who has suffered because of his true undead identity. Many of you know him, and he has done a lot for horror authors in the creation of The Horror Society. He has carried a secret burden, out of fear of not being accepted, so for his sake, I’m going to out him. Yes. Scott M. Goriscak is a closet zombie. It happened during his time in the military, during secret experimentation with a new kind of talcum powder of evil-makeup-death. The photos you see of him were taken from before he decomposed. It’s been hard on Scott, not being accepted into the mainstream of living society, of dealing with his cravings for warm human flesh, and there just aren’t enough stray dogs around to satiate it. So, when you see Scott, please leave him a note of support. Tell him it’s okay he’s a zombie and we accept and love him. He’s an amazing author, organizer, and one of the rising stars of the horror community. Scott . . . hold on a second. I’ll get you some fresh cat. Wait Scott. I need that arm. Don’t make me get the shotgun!
SUMMER OF ZOMBIE BLOG TOUR:
In addition, let me mention the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour from May December Press. They’ve produced some of the best zombie fiction available. A free eBook copy of the Summer of Zombie Anthology is currently available at the link below. Six amazing authors wrote this anthology: