Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Troubling Question of Zombies

by Clayton Smith, author of the upcoming novel Apocalypticon 


"If you want a good post-apocalyptic story, you're gonna want some zombies in there."

I don't know who said this quote...probably nobody, since I just pulled it out of thin air...but that doesn't make it any less true. What's a story about the apocalypse without a rabid zombie horde terrorizing the countryside?

Why, that's hardly a story about the apocalypse at all.

But there's a problem when it comes to writing zombies. Which brand of zombie do you use? Do you go for classic zombie, the mindless, shambling dead prototype? Or the 28 Days Later zombie, the fast, rabid, infected-with-rage type? Or maybe you give your zombies some humanity, a la Warm Bodies? Or do you try to stand out from the rest and give zombies your own little spin?

I opted for the latter in Apocalypticon, my extremely-soon-to-be-released post-apocalyptic novel. In my book, the "zombies" aren't really zombies at all, but something more akin to shockingly severe drug addicts. (It makes sense in the story, I promise.) But here's what I'm learning; I have no idea how to describe them.

Are they zombies? Well, no, not really. They're not dead, and besides, they're fast. And when most people think of zombies, they think the slow, ambling type. Also, they're terrifically hard to kill. Historically, zombies are pretty simple to destroy, what with their soft, decaying skin and all. My zombies have the exact opposite of soft, decaying skin. They ain't pushovers. So my zombies aren't really zombies. But they're not really not zombies, either. They're emaciated, hollow creatures with a taste for human flesh (or any flesh, really. They're equal opportunity monsters). They travel in hordes, and their bites are infectious. So when people ask me if there are zombies in my book, I don't really know what to say.

For a long time, that really bothered me. I'd tell people, "Yes and no, sort of, I don't know, it's hard to explain," and they'd get this confused, disinterested squint working across their eyes, and they'd just leave. They want zombies or no zombies. They don't want maybe-zombies.

But here's what I finally decided. It doesn't matter if they're zombies or not. Because whatever they are, they're mine. I created a brand new kind of monster that I think is horrifying in all the right, giddy kind of ways, and I think you'll like them too.

So now when people ask me if there are zombies in my book, I tell them, "Nope. There's something better." And I honestly think it's true.

I hope you'll read and decide for yourself! Apocalypticon will be available for paperback and Kindle on Amazon this week! Follow me on Twitter (@Claytonsaurus) for more details! And thanks for reading!

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