Tonia Brown, author of Skin Trade joins us today to discuss – you guessed it – zombies and dares us to get down with our undead selves! See my review of Skin Trade here.
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Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! All zombies! All the time!
Sounds like one of those ads for a ‘60’s exploitation film, doesn’t it? One of those old movies that wrapped horror and sex up in one big doughnut of excitement? Zombie on zombie action, twenty-four-seven! (I actually mistyped that as ‘twenty-four-zeven’ but went back and changed it so I wouldn’t look like a total moron. And then I told you about it. Oops.) Believe it or not, a lot of folks enjoy all zombies, all the time. And I mean all the time. They love nothing more than to immerse themselves in total post apocalyptic fiction in which the world is overrun by the living dead and only a small pocket of humanity is left behind to fight.
For those that don’t normally read z-poc fiction, allow me to explain how it all works: human meets human, humans meets zombies, humans kill zombies, humans moves on to kill other zombies and/or other humans, the end. And folks like it. Hell, they love it! If they didn’t love it the whole genre would shrivel up and die, again. Someone out there is buying and reading these stories. A whole lot of someone’s. Don’t get me wrong, I am not downing the z-poc ideals or bashing the concept, I’m just bringing it all up to make a point.
And that point is this: What else can zombies do?
Okay, I can hear the unanimous groan from everyone. “Zombies eat and eat and eat! Why should they do anything else? Screw around with them enough and you will have sparkling zombies! And then we will revolt! Viva la undead!” (Again, I mistyped that as “zparkling zombies!” I think there is something wrong with me.) While I totally agree that zombies shouldn’t sparkle, ever, I will say that there are a few of us out there who love traditional zombie fiction but are also eager to see our favorite monsters used in new and exciting ways.
What ways, you ask?
Allow me to explain.
Let’s start with the most dreaded genre of all for most horror readers … romance. Go ahead and moan all you want, but there have been a number of successful novels featuring zombie romance. Breathers by SG Brown and Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion proved that zombie romance can not only work, but work really well. There are a few zombie romance anthologies floating around out there, and even a couple of erotic zee anthologies. Some stories focus on love stories between the surviving humans, and some feature the zees as the romantic interest. Love it or hate it, zombie romance is here to stay.
Then there’s the sentient zombie stories, a zombie that knows he’s a zombie and reacts as such. Whether he is busy grunting out his desires to other less clever zombies, or living his undead life to the fullest, I can’t get enough of this kind of story. Both of the previously mentioned novels feature sentient zombies, as does Derek J. Goodman’s super awesome novel The Apocalypse Shift. (Which I highly recommend!) I have read a number of shorts that work with the same concept and always interested to see how an author strives to make it work. Some treat the zee like an empty vessel, waiting to receive instructions from a controlling host, while others give the zee a mind of their own as well as their own agenda, and that is when the fun really begins!
Personally, I love humor in my horror, and I always have. Zombies blended with humor can make for a ton of laughs. There is just something about the undead that screams slapstick comedy. Take, for example, the most excellent of humorous tales The Zombie Wilson Diaries by Timothy Long. Imagine what it would be like to find yourself stuck on an island with nothing but a zombie for company, and you have the basis for Mr. Long’s book. Written in journal entry style, this is just about the funniest zombie novel I’ve come across, and—as the author is quick to point out—as much fun as you can have with a zombie and a coconut bra.
My last and perhaps favorite unusual treatment for z-poc stories are those set in a different time period. Why do all of the zombie tales have to be in the here and now? Why not put it one hundred years ago, or even one hundred years from now? My recent novel Skin Trade does just this very thing. The story is post z-poc, but is set in an alternate history of the US, in the late 1800’s. The tale features a young runaway girl who gets caught up in the art of trapping and skinning zombies in the wilds of the forbidden west. By setting it in this era, I was hoping to give the reader a chance to explore a genre—in this case the weird western—that they might otherwise normally ignore.
I hope you will pick up any or all of these fine novels and give them a try. Sure, they aren’t your usual z-poc tales, but they are well worth the read. Expand your undead muscles a bit and try something different.
I dare ya!
The Great Undead Uprising of 1870 devastated the western frontier and destroyed the Indian Nations. Though the Army was able to contain the menace before it could devour the entire country, the United States lost claim to her western territories as the survivors fled to the relative safety of the east coast.
Samantha Martin is among the rare folks traveling west, seeking asylum within the infected territories. Running from a past that threatens to consume her, the young Sam dons the mantle of a male and hides in an all boys’ workhouse that borders these Badlands. From there she is thrust into the service of the skin trade; the terrible deed of trapping and skinning zombies for profit. The work is grueling and perilous, but along the way she finds out what it takes to be a man, why she misses being a woman, but most of all she learns what it means to be human.
Can Sam keep her masquerade up long enough to flee the Badlands, or will the outlaws that rule the western frontier find out she’s female before she can escape?
Do you like zombies in your fiction? What are your fav zombie books? Or are you anti-zombie and if so, why? 😀