Tag Archives: horror

This Plague of Days: Did I mention one random commenter will win the ebook of Seasons 1, 2 AND 3?

UPDATE: Thank you for your feedback so far. Here’s another cover to consider. This is #6:

How's this? A little classier with an added tagline?

How’s this? A little classier with an added tagline?

It’s cover choosing time!

Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com has created the cover for Season 3 of This Plague of Days and it is wonderful. I have no doubt you’ll be impressed. I’ll leave that awesome reveal for later. It’s different from the other covers, but, given where Season 3 takes us, that’s appropriate. It gets weird. I’m aiming for Strangest Zombie Apocalypse Series Ever Award. It’s given out by the Nobel committee each year, but the competition is stiff and those nerdy Nobel chemists grab all the glory.

Season 3 is due out on Father’s Day.

You can pick up Seasons One and Two through the affiliate link at AllThatChazz.com if you’re so inclined (and if you like autistic heroes trying to save the world from several kinds of monsters, including humans.) There are a couple of sneak peeks below this post, too, if you’re looking for more of a taste.

About that prize for a random assist: the compendium of Seasons 1, 2 and the finale in 3 will launch on Father’s Day, too.

In addition, I’m taking care of the cover for the Plague of Days compendium myself. About that, I have many doubts. Which cover do you prefer?

Please let me know which one you like best in the comments, 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5? A combination of several elements? None?

Thanks for helping me out with these heavy decisions as the big day approaches! And by “big day” I’m referring, of course, to the release of the pandemic flu virus that will kill most of us, turn a bunch more into zombies and…well…it gets worse as the virus mutates. Have a great day!

1.TPOD COMPENDIUM

 

 

2.

 

 

 

 

TPOD COMPENDIUM2

3.

 

TPOD Compendium3

 

4.

TPOD COMPENDIUM 5

 

 

 

5.

TPOD 123 COVER

Advertisements

This Plague of Days Finale: Another Sneak Peek

Kelly Dickson had been a mother, wife and elementary school teacher at the Brooklyn School for the Blind. Before X, Z and A — three deadly strains of the Sutr virus — pulled the world down the path toward the new Dark Ages,  Kelly lived in New York all her life. She named her dog (a tall, affectionate boxer) Batman. She faced the darkness with a smile, confident she could find the way.

As the summer turned to autumn and Sutr’s first stirrings were still a vague, foreign problem mentioned at the bottom of newscasts, Kelly shook as she asked her husband to check the electronic test kit for her. Kelly was nervous about having a child. The sensor read: blue. 

Kelly didn’t know what blue meant. She didn’t know what the color blue looked like, either.

“It means we’re pregnant,” Brad said.

“One of us is more pregnant than you,” Kelly said. It was true the baby was an accident, but one of the happy kinds. 

“It’ll be okay. It’ll be better than okay. We’ll make it good. Maybe even great.”

“I’m scared, but I think we’ll just have to settle for perfect,” she said.

“We’re too ambitious not to try, right?”

“Yes, that’s true.” She kissed him.

Her husband, Bradley Dickson, was an engineer for Dell. Brad had been buried under high aspirations and heavy work long before the baby. As the baby grew within Kelly, the world changed behind the Dicksons. It was as if they stood with their backs to a movie screen, oblivious as the plagues built in strength. They fixated on a bright future instead. They talked of someday grandchildren. They could only see each other.

When the baby came, Kelly gave birth at home. The hospitals weren’t considered safe for childbirth by then. A neighbor woman helped Brad deliver the child, a little girl the Dicksons named Susan. After the baby was born, Brad took up any slack. He helped with the baby without a grumble, rising above Kelly’s expectations in every way.

Then the first wave of the Sutr-X virus hit New York deeper and harder. Quarantines and looting began. Brad’s abilities shone even brighter. He was strong. He knew guns. When the looters came to steal from the Dicksons, he drove the gang away with a bullet between the eyes of the first thief who made it through their barricaded door.

“Count the days,” Brad said. “On the other side of this thing, we’ll say we spent 100, or maybe 200 days, in hell. Then everything will get back to okay and someday we’ll bore our grandchildren with stories about the big, bad flu. Someday, all this will feel as remote as the trials and horrors of pioneer days. I swear.”

Brad told Kelly that he’d thrown the looter’s corpse in the street as a warning to anyone else who would threaten his family. His voice was steady and calm and so matter-of-fact, he scared her a little. Later, she heard him crying in the night as he rocked the baby.

It was the first time she’d ever heard Brad cry. When he did that, she was filled with confidence that the plague hadn’t driven him mad. Despite throwing a corpse into Nostrand Avenue, her husband was still one of the good guys. Kelly was so sure then that they’d make it through the Sutr pandemic.

Then the baby began coughing. The Sutr Flu took tiny Susan Dickson on a Thursday night as a rainstorm poured and pounded.

Brad withdrew and stayed in the nursery with the baby. He wouldn’t come out and Kelly couldn’t force herself to come in. The smell of baby powder, the softness of Susan’s flannel sheets and the small, too-quiet room set off more crying jags. Kelly stayed in her bed.

Kelly knew she could stop counting the days now. The calendar would never matter again. There would be no first steps or first day at school or someday grandchildren. With the baby dead and gone (gone where?), no matter how soft and warm the weather, every day would feel like the rainy Thursday night Susan died.

Kelly slept and hoped it was all really nightmare born of maternal fears compounded by a failing world. Her baby’s cry did not wake her. A full day had passed. When she went to the door, she could hear the rocker’s creak on the old hardwood floor. Brad still held Susan, rocking gently and muttering to the child, but the baby would never awake. 

“There are flowers called baby’s breath,” Kelly told Brad from the nursery door. “Until now, I never thought how morbid that sounds. Something that dies right after you get it shouldn’t be called baby’s breath.”

“It’s time,” he said. “We can’t keep her here any longer.”

That was all Brad said. When Susan died, it was as if the baby had taken part of Brad with her, leaving Kelly and her guide dog alone with the ghost of what might have been.

* * * 

Kelly and Brad made their way to the nearest church to bury Susan.

Even as he dug their daughter’s tiny grave, between Kelly’s sobs and moans, Brad began a gravelly cough that would not ease. With the exertion of digging, his hacking coughs came thicker and faster. “Kell…I’m sorry. I think I’m gonna have to dig a bigger hole.”

“You are leaving me alone.”

“Just…” Brad broke into another coughing fit. “I thought I could fight it, Kell. I really did. I’ve had the fever for a few days. I didn’t want to tell you.”

“You’ve been hiding it from me.”

“I’m afraid…when I went out to find food…I’m afraid I brought it back with me. Sutr got me, but I killed Susan.” He wept, then spit something out. Then Kelly listened as Brad  threw up and wretched.

“Give me the shovel,” she said. “I can dig.”

“I’ll hold her,” Brad said. “When it’s bedtime, could you please tuck us in together? I’ll keep her safe. Susan and I will hide under the covers.”

Batman whined, snuffled and nuzzled Kelly’s hand, looking for reassurance. Maybe the guide dog somehow sensed the horrors still on the way. Kelly had no reassurance to offer. She wept as she dug.

Brad coughed a long time, each breath wheezing into the next, shorter and shallower as the day cooled to night.

Heedless of nightfall, Kelly knew darkness. She kept digging, making comfortable room for two.

Brad struggled to breathe and spat thick liquid obstructions into the growing pile of dirt beside him. His fever spiked into hallucinations and Brad began to talk to his dead baby about fields bathed in sunshine. 

“Do you see that, Susie?” Brad asked, his thoughts floating in at a languid pace. “Elysium fields…white circles in the sky…bullshit harps and wings of false promises…the end of trying. Susie, I don’t wanna try no more…I’m tired, baby. I’m really…really…bone tired.”

And Brad stopped trying. His arms went slack and he almost dropped the baby. He lay down and covered Susan in loose dirt until only her cherubic face was exposed to the world.

Later, Brad stopped breathing.

Kelly was angry when she’d found what he’d done with the baby. She wept and wailed as she pushed him into the open grave.

When she was ready to say goodbye to them both, she placed the baby carefully in her husband’s arms for the last time. She picked up the shovel and tucked Brad and Susan in for their longest night.

~ The finale to the Plague of Days trilogy launches on Father’s Day. On June 15, This Plague of Days, The Complete Three Seasons by Robert Chazz Chute will also be released. The future is sweet and terrible and thought-provoking and filled with the infected (of several varieties.)


Sneak Peek: From the prelude to This Plague of Days, Season 3

In the last of the old days, while the virus still incubated small and soft, we went about our lives. We went to work. We bought and sold and ate and slept. Distracted by the little things, we somehow forgot big dreams.

We wished we lived where we vacationed, but we did not move. We acted like our time was not finite. We fell in and out of love, heedless of the larger dramas at the edges of vision.

Before the pandemic wound around the Earth and began to squeeze, we did not connect cause and consequence. We were actors on the stage of our imaginations, improvising our lines, unaware the theater was on fire.

Those who did not believe in higher powers? They still believed in the illusion of tomorrow. We all thought the future would somehow be better, or at least no worse. We were blind to Entropy’s rising storm.

Nature’s hammer blows were theoretical for most of us then. We did not believe in death until the hurricane made landfall. Until that nice receptionist from the doctor’s office called about a surprise, and very urgent, follow-up appointment, the threats were not personal. Danger was for other people.

We didn’t know complacency was slavery. We were fairly happy in our blindness, but we didn’t even appreciate that.

The Sutr plagues made us honest. We began to talk about suffering and loss and what we believed. Disease taught us compassion. Fear reminded us we were still animals, part of the food chain. We learned we are all, without exception, Time’s target.

These are the lessons of the pandemic. This is your plague of days.

~ This Plague of Days 3 launches on Father’s Day, as does This Plague of Days, The Complete Series.


This Plague of Days: Houston, start the countdown…

In case you’ve been wondering, no, I haven’t forgotten about you.

As I write this, Kid #1’s sleepover party is wrapping up. Kid #2 is sleeping off an all-night relay for a charity against cancer. (Isn’t it strange that when you ask what the charity is for, often people say they’re running “for cancer”? Call me crazy, but I support charities against cancer.) Oh yeah, and This Plague of Days 3 (the grand finale) and TPOD The Complete Series is coming out in about a week. I’ve spent years with these characters, so it’s something of a big deal. Everybody loves Jaimie, but my personal favorite is Desi Walsh. I hear his Irish lilt in my head when I write him.

I’m finishing up some tweaks to TPOD2. Some typos snuck in with a production problem so we’re reformatting the paperbacks and reloading everything. In the coming week I’m going through the last of the beta suggestions for final tweaks. The only thing that might be a snag is my graphic designer has been sick so we don’t have a finalized cover yet. I’ll talk to him tomorrow and let you know if there will be any delays. However, I’m optimistic we’ll go on time. Kit, of KitFosterDesign.com, is the best, but alas, he’s human and I wish my great friend a quick recovery (from illness, not from being human.)

It’s been a lot of long days and sleepless nights and I’m not complaining. I’ll be very interested to see how readers respond to the finale. The beta readers who got a sneak peek are happy.

The secret I’ve frequently alluded to will soon be revealed.

In your reviews, please no spoilers for those who don’t read as fast as you do. Thanks! The story started off a little slow in Season One but builds and builds to a fast pace through Season 2. And things get weird. Very weird.

What’s next for Ex Parte Press?

TPOD took years to write through its various stages. The next book is an odd thriller and it could release as early as the end of July or early August. Why? Because publishing each book is stressful and I suffer a touch of postpartum depression with each book. I wrote a fast-paced thriller in about four weeks, just to clear out the cobwebs. If you’re a fan of my crime novel Bigger Than Jesus, you’ll love the next one. More on that later this month. For now, all the focus is on This Plague of Days.

In TPOD3, sorry about what I did in Wilmington, Vermont. Apologies about killing off the characters you loved. And all the tricks and smoke and mirrors?

Nope. I don’t apologize for that at all. See you in a week with the grand announcement. Barring sickness and the unforeseen, we’re still aiming for the launch to proceed on Father’s Day, June 15, as I add to my list of children.

 

 

 


This Plague of Days: The No Spoilers Edition

Two beta readers, advanced scouts in the dark land of Editoria, are back with reports from the third book in the This Plague of Days serial. Well, now it’s a series and, perhaps someday, a television series or a movie. (More on that another time.)

Early returns on Season 3 are very good. “Cerebral, but with enough rip and chew to balance out all the existential questions about the universe.” All your questions are answered (and you’ll have a few more of your own to ponder after you close the book.)

Generally, what should I expect?

It’s action, take a breath, action, take one quick breath, action, action, ooh, creepy!,  action, here’s the secret God kept from Himself, tears, action, action, tears, gnashing of teeth, action, mirrors, action…

So, let’s tackle some issues up front:

1. If you’re new to the story…

This Plague of Days is three books/seasons (because it’s written like a television serial, cliffhangers and all.) Seasons One and Two are already out there and it’s going groovy. People love Jaimie Spencer and his family.

Our hero is on the autistic spectrum. Jaimie’s mother Jack (short for Jacqueline), father Theo and sister Anna are all in grave danger as three plagues tear down the world. Wicked bio-terrorists scheme and cavort, the killer virus constantly mutates and a hardy band from Europe try to make it to America to fight the invasion. It’s a zombie apocalypse, but it’s also a lot more than that.

2. This Plague of Days was originally published as a serial with five episodes per season.

The idea was to give readers a very inexpensive story they could bail out of at any time, or opt in and buy the whole darn book for less than the cost of five episodes. Each ep is 15-20,000 words, so I wasn’t scrimping. (Usually episodes are sold in 10,000-word instalments.)

3. Season 3 will hit in June.

It will be sold as one book (ebook and print.)

Why no more episodes?

By now, people who were going to buy in aren’t purchasing episodes anymore. They may have dabbled their way through Season One and got it piecemeal. However, by now those readers are all the way in. You can see what’s happening with the episodes because Season One has 80 reviews, Season 2 has 37 and the later episodes have none. Rather than sell to readers who aren’t there, there will be another new aspect to the finale. And that is…

4. Seasons One, Two and Three of This Plague of Days, revamped and re-edited…

will be sold as one huge ebook.

Sorry, I looked into printing it as one big, dead tree book, but it would be so huge my regular printer couldn’t handle the order. Also, a book over 1,000 pages is quite pricey and is really only for collectors and the die-hard fans. I’ll continue to try to figure a way to do it as a printed book and keep the price reasonable. For now, that’s not apparent. I’m not out to gouge anybody, so that’s tabled for now. (In America, that means it’s not being considered. In the UK, “tabled” means it is being considered. Or is that the other way around? Hm. Weird.) 

5. How is Season 3 different from Seasons One and Two?

The three books travel quite an arc. There are things that are set up in the first book that pay off much later. A huge secret lurks just beneath the surface of This Plague of Days. I held a contest and a lot of people looked for that secret. Some searched really hard and called me names. They didn’t find it.

And now?

What I hear from the beta readers is, “OH!” And, “AH!” and “AGH!” The clues become apparent, but only in hindsight. I’m pretty happy about that.

The thing about everything I do is, I want to write something you haven’t seen before. I don’t want my zombie apocalypse to be like any other. That’s one of the reasons the virus keeps evolving. My zombies aren’t supernatural zombies, but the ordinary humans might be.

Things changed drastically in Season Two. The pace changed. In Season 3, the stakes are upped again. It’s a chance to explore some interesting ideas along the way. You’ll love it or you’ll hate it, but you won’t forget it. And no, the story does not end with, “And it was all a dream.” NO. It does NOT end that way! Just FYI.

Also, yes, those Europeans who survive the fall of civilization will finally get to meet whoever gets to survive America’s zombie apocalypse. Heh. You’ll see. YOU’LL ALL SEE! (Sorry. That was my villainous, And-they-laughed-at-me-in-the-Academy Moment.)

6. Any other hints at what’s to come?

Without spoiling anything? Someone who’s appeared to be a minor character in the past will step forward in a big way. There’s some gore, but it’s parcelled out judiciously. Not everyone you love will make it to the end, but for those who do, there’s a huge reward no one saw coming. Well, no human, anyway.

Season One was The Running Dead (with Autism.)

Season Two was The Stand (complicated by a very selective mute.)

Season Three is Stranger in a Strange Land. 

The stranger is You, Faithful Reader.

(Yes, that’s a clue. No, it won’t help a bit.)

 

 

 


This Plague of Days: Editorial team? Assemble!

This Plague of Days, Season 3 is off to the editorial team and I’m really excited!

I’m so pleased with the way the story developed over time. I thought about writing it faster, but it’s a delicate clock and I had to take the time to get the teeth of the gears meshing correctly. I’ve always said with all my fiction that you should expect something different. Genre fiction isn’t just a well of goofiness. I have something to say, dammit!

This book has been years in the writing. One of the things I love, and will miss, about serials is the ongoing contact I’ve had with readers as I write and tweak the manuscript. Your feedback made a huge difference and the readers who connect with me on Facebook have been really helpful.

I wasn’t going to include an epilogue.

Editors and agents (famously) don’t like epilogues. A survey of my readers showed you guys do want an epilogue. You want things wrapped up so I did it in a big way.

In the end, the epilogue added a new dimension and more opportunities for twists and surprises. This sort of feedback simply isn’t possible with a book that’s a one-off. TPOD has a group of readers anxious to see the finale and I promise a big and surprising finish.

Whatever you expected, I’ll ask you to put that aside.

Whatever you’ve read before, this ain’t that. Yes, zombies. Yes, vampires. No, no easy answers and no solutions you’ve seen before. 

Yes, your questions will be answered, though there will be a few you’re going to have to answer yourself. Meet me halfway in the give and take of the experience. 

We’ve added three new beta readers and discovered the bug in production that allowed some typos to slip into Season 1. It wasn’t the editorial folks, but a file management issue. We’re working to fix that as quickly as possible so a corrected volume will go out previous to the release of Season 3 and This Plague of Days, The Complete Series. 

A few people have asked about getting This Plague of Days on other devices.

I’m sticking with Amazon for now. You can read it on any device using the free Amazon reading apps. (Google “free Amazon reading app” to get one for your device, whatever your device.)

I do have books available on other platforms, but it seems Amazon is still the platform that moves my books. Eventually all my books will be available in Nook and Kobo and Barnes and Noble, assuming those platforms are even around next year. (But that’s another topic for another blog.) Suffice to say, if I thought I could sell books on the other platforms, I wouldn’t hesitate, but so far, they haven’t proved themselves.

I had hoped to get This Plague of Days, The Complete Series together in one huge book.

Unfortunately, it’s too big a book for my regular printer to handle. I’m exploring other options but I’m concerned it might be prohibitively expensive unless it’s a limited edition just for collectors and superfans. My main thought was that it should be in one big book for promotional purposes. Fortunately, a friend in the film business has taken an interest in my books. It’s way too early to get excited over a bunch of variables outside my control, but there’s hope that TPOD will find a wider audience through film.

In the meantime, yes, Season 3 will be available in print, too.

When we have a solid publication date, I’ll let you all know. I’m doing all I can to make it all close to perfection. When you board my crazy train, all I want to do is blow you away and melt your brain.

Stay tuned.

~ Follow me on Twitter @rchazzchute and on Facebook here.


This Plague of Days: Contest Closed

I posted this on Facebook tonight: 

Proofing Season 3 of This Plague of Days tonight, I realized something new about the book. That secret I’ve teased? Yeah, about that:

Some people are really going to HATE me for it. Fans will give me credit for the magic trick, but…wow…as I was reading along tonight I kind of finally understood the scope of the lunatic gamble. But this business, and art, isn’t for sissies.

I should also say, we’re too far along in the editorial process to add names, so the contest to discover the secret of This Plague of Days is closed. Sorry nobody got it, but thanks for playing and, as a consolation prize to take home, some lucky readers will be receiving their names in the book, anyway.

And no, I’m not telling you the secret now and no, please don’t ask for inclusion in the book. All the characters are named and I can’t create more characters to kill. The book’s already plenty long and I’ve already killed so many!

I thank you in advance for your understanding. About all of it.

Want to keep up with the latest updates on Facebook? Connect with me here.

I’ve recruited several new volunteers to our beta reading team and the book is coming along nicely. Shooting the manuscript over to our editorial aces in a few days. I’ll announce a firm date soonish, but you can expect the finale to This Plague of Days in early June. (And by the way, yes, that’s still spring. I checked.)

Thank you for your patience a I work furiously to deliver you a really kick-ass book. More to come, soon! Really!


Spring is coming. This Plague of Days is coming, too. Just not…quite…yet.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 3.19.38 PM

CLICK THE PICTURE FOR MY LITTLE SLIDESHOW OF DOOM.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app


One Big Sneak Peek of the Prelude: This Plague of Days, Season 3

As I work on This Plague of Days, I’m very aware that many readers are waiting (mostly patiently) for me to hurry up and finish the third and final season.

You’ve been generous with your reviews and, gosh darn it, everybody’s so nice! If you’ve read Season One and Two, you know this trip has evolved from Kansas City, Missouri to big weirdness across continents and scary strangeness through the mindscape.

There’s plenty of violence and suspense in this war for the future, plus Latin proverbs. (I know! Crazy and crazed!) My zombie apocalypse continues to evolve. Yes, we’ve had forays into fearful dreams, but the battles to come happen in the our world. I promise plenty of surprises, twists and, best of all, more of Jaimie Spencer’s view of the world. 

How weird and scary is the Apocalypse on the Autistic Spectrum?

You can find out on Wattpad now. (Wattpad is a free fiction sharing platform where you can read all sorts of interesting stuff. Please do check it out.)

At this link, you can read the opening to

Season 3, Episode 1, The Prelude.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S EVEN MORE!

If you’re looking for more free me, I have even more good news. As I write this, you can grab a complimentary download of Murders Among Dead Trees. This creepy short story collection of psychological horror, reeking of “intense violence and bizarre themes” is free to download on March 6 and March 7, 2014 (today and tomorrow, guys!)

Please download Murders Among Dead Trees. If you like it, love it or maybe want to fondle it, don’t hold back on leaving a review. Enjoy! Thank you!


Is science fiction’s view of the future too dark?

I just listened to the C-Realm Podcast in which the question arose, is dystopian science fiction merely hip cynicism? (The “C” stands for consciousness.)

What happened to the utopian visions of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek? His future eliminated poverty while the remakes by JJ Abrams are about fighting terrorism. It’s a fascinating question well explored on the C-Realm Podcast, though my answer is, by necessity, going to sound a tad grumpy.

I think of myself as a suspense writer first, but zombies and vampires are generally thought of as horror and post-apocalyptic books are classified under science fiction on Amazon. Call it science fantasy if you want, but the story crawls into paranormal and supernatural, too, so it’s Genre-of-the-Moment Slugfest.

But is my vision (gasp) cynical?

Are zombies a hipster fad of which we should be ashamed? Can’t sci-fi lead the way as a predictor of glittering tech advances instead of dwelling on how we’re all going to die long before each person on Earth gets their very own sex robot? 

Every cynic thinks he or she is a realist, but first, I want to back up and say that Roddenberry’s visions weren’t always so rosy. I think the stories on Star Trek that succeeded for me were the war stories. Humans versus Klingons and The Wrath of Khan (the story itself the death of a utopian dream) held my attention. However, it’s probably true that the franchise got darker and grittier after Roddenberry’s death. Deep Space Nine had some of the Enterprise’s nifty IKEA furniture, but the quarters were more cramped and the lighting less cheery.

That said, I see what they’re saying on C-Realm. They credit Blade Runner as a leader in dystopian visions, at least in film. That’s a far cry from the gee whiz optimism of many sci-fi writers from decades past. We all need a little more Spider Robinson in our lives.

In the ’70s we had Omni magazine trumpeting the hope for the future of science and science fiction. For instance, they featured a graphic artist who created stunning spacescapes. It was truly beautiful art that only actual images from the Hubble telescope could replace. It was the artist’s policy never to paint any picture in which two spaceships engaged in battle. That’s admirable, yes, but it kind of sucks the dramatic potential out of a lot of fiction, kind of like taking the visual majesty and volleys of flaming arrows out of the battle scenes in Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, and asking, can’t we all just get along and make this a cozy comedy of manners? Is that beheading with all the blood spray on the wall really necessary?

Optimistic visions of the future in fiction make me think of Paul and Linda McCartney asking Weird Al Yankovic to refrain from a making a cover of Live and Let Die. Weird Al did not release Chicken Pot Pie out of respect for the former Beatle’s wishes. Longtime vegetarians, Paul and Linda worried a comedic song would worsen the commercial slaughter of chickens. It probably would have. Thinking about it makes me want a chicken pot pie right now. I also think Weird Al’s song would have been awesome.

But to the question, is science fiction’s tone too relentlessly dark?

The C-Realm host and guest offered the movie Her as an antidote to our dour visions of the future. There is something very alluring about a story that cranks up Iron Man‘s personal digital companion, J.A.R.V.I.S., to Level Scarlett Johansson Sexy. (J.A.R.V.I.S. stands for Just a Rather Very Intelligent System, by the way. Siri would have been cooler if Apple had called it J.A.R.V.I.S., though Siri has yet to live up to the J.A.R.V.I.S standard of service, reporting on my armour’s structural integrity and whatnot.) Actually, Iron Man’s inventions (as long as they don’t fall into the wrong hands) might be the most optimistic vision of the future you’ll see on screen this year, besides Her.

The darkness in our fiction lies not in our stars but in ourselves.

We write from the heart, or at least I do. A future where we’re overrun by a world flu pandemic is actually considered long overdue by virologists. (Could happen next week. Pack a linch and wear a sweater.) My zombies aren’t real zombies and my vampires aren’t real vampires. They are humans infected with a virus that changes their physiology. There are supernatural elements in This Plague of Days, but once you’re dead, you don’t get up again in the world I’ve built. It looks a lot like our world.

But is it too dark? Well, it is dark.

Some of the events go from creepy to downright grisly. There are also jokes. I even include a few optimistic touches toward the end. However, I am allergic to Happily Ever After. I promise a satisfying ending and resolutions you don’t expect, but Happily Ever After often seems too pat and easy to me.

And that’s the crux of it.

My vision for the future springs from what I see now, not what could be if we really believe and clap our hands. If George Orwell hadn’t already written 1984, I’d attempt to write that. Drones, surveillance and the NSA cracking everyone’s porn privacy? That’s a dream straight out of an adolescent Big Brother’s wet bed. Because I’ve mentioned them and they’re always googling vainly, say hello! Hi, NSA! (Waves.) Just a writer spouting on the state of science fiction and the future. Nothing to see here. Move along to checking up on the sex lives of your former girlfriends and boyfriends from high school! Thank you! Also, please go catch a real terrorist with a suitcase dirty bomb. Aces.

Back on topic

I was promised jet packs when I was as kid (a fixation that’s shared widely, I think, since it’s also mentioned on C-Realm.) I’m still disappointed about that. No…bitter is the word. And yes, all the endless toil minus robots is a downer.

When we see the space shuttle in the promo reel before the movie trailers? I always think, We don’t even make those anymore! There is no Omni magazine heralding gee-whiz hope and they plan to shut Hubble down! And a trip to Mars? Sounds like a stupid suicide mission to me, especially when we could solve a lot of world problems with the money we’d waste on going to the red planet. (Think of Mars as the worst parts of Arizona, but without oxygen. To be fair, at least Mars doesn’t go out of its way to try to suppress gay rights, so there’s that.)

If my fiction appears cynical, all I can say is it comes from an honest place. Dark visions are the logical extensions of my worldview. Ideas about a cheery, brighter future would be a nice diversion and uplifting to be sure. However, I’m more interested in drama rising from conflicts I observe in the present. There’s something about those cheery futures which reek of white privilege to me. I’m not going hungry and I’ve got a cell phone (made by slaves) so why can’t we envision a future that amps up all that gee-whiz hope?

Because it doesn’t feel real, that’s why. Because we’re still stuck in stupid wars. Because the logical extension of now is more darkness. My fiction is dark because, as a person of conscience who listens to Democracy Now a lot, my worldview really is that dark.

Yes, I do give glimmers of hope here and there in This Plague of Days.

But the price at which that hope is bought — in both human lives and sacrifice — is very high indeed. I guess it sounds silly to talk about verisimilitude in a story about an autistic boy versus zombies versus vampires. But every emotion and conflict within the Spencer family at the end of the world feels very real to me. Joy, redemption, love, hope and loss is all there. I think of it as To Kill a Mockingbird, but with more zombies and even more child endangerment. For a zombie apocalypse, there’s a startling lack of gunfire in This Plague of Days. I think there are plenty of apocalyptic books that read like Rambo married an army manual and I attempt to do something different with all my fiction.

This Plague of Days is silly, escapist fiction (for the thinking reader with a conscience, I hope)…but I write it real.

I write what I see. And I concede, I do wish I could be more hopeful.

 

~ Season Three, and the conclusion of This Plague of Days by Robert Chazz Chute hits Spring 2014. Catch up on Season One and Two here.


%d bloggers like this: