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If you survived the apocalypse, what would you miss most?

The Walking Dead is about to come on, but I had to dash this off quick.

I was just listening to a TED talk about medical breakthroughs with gene sequencing, growing artificial bones and organs and individually tailored drug therapy. Despite how bad our schools often are and how nasty society can be, a lot of great things are coming our way, if the human race survives long enough to see the dawn of these discoveries.

In This Plague of Days, the Sutr flu killed sixty percent of the world’s population. That leaves a lot of screaming eating for the Sutr-Zs and the Sutr-As, but what does it leave for the surviving humans? Would you really want to survive such a harsh, uncertain future?

In World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler, the protagonist is a former businessman who, after the fall of the world as we know it, becomes a fiddler and carpenter. He has useful skills, is well-liked within his little community and things are fairly peachy for him. One thing that stands out for me about his new life is he doesn’t really seem to miss his old one. There’s no processed food to eat so most everyone’s healthier and, it seems, just about as happy.

I liked World Made By Hand plenty, five out of five stars, but that one detail didn’t ring true, for me at least. If and when the world collapses and there’s no steady power to depend upon, it shall sucketh.

In This Plague of Days, Jack and Anna lament the loss of Facebook. I would, too. Maybe that makes me pathetic, but getting together with people on social media and keeping in touch with friends is a worthy thing I don’t want to do without. I’d adjust given no alternative, of course, but I sure wouldn’t embrace being Amish.

Most of us went without the Internet for many years. We didn’t know what we were missing, but now that we do… There’s an old song about WWI that asks, “How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?” That about sums it up. Nobody wants to go backward in time.

Here are things I’d miss, post-apocalypse:

Clean, running water and a hot shower each morning, as easy as turning on the tap. Working toilets also rock. Outhouses stink.

Hot coffee (Starbucks and Williams and even Tim Hortons.)

Access to medical care. Like I said in TPOD about the ever-so-cool Walking Dead, what are these people fighting so hard for? I don’t want to die of appendicitis or pray for death, enduring an abscessed tooth, waiting for the septicemia to shut down my brain.

Facebook, Twitter, news, politics, and easy access to the world’s knowledge with a Google search? I love being plugged into the hive mind.

While looting is easy and cheap, everything I would want runs on electricity!

My secluded fortress/log cabin in the woods is awesome. Love the fireplace and the stock of wood out back…but when you don’t want to cook, it’s great to be able to pick up the phone and order in Chinese food, isn’t it?

Gosh. I hope we make it. I’d rather live in a world with working hospitals and medical miracles on the way.

What about you? What would you miss most?

 

 

 

 

 


You’ve read it. It’s right before your eyes. Guess it and you’re in my next book.

It’s time for The Spoilers/No Spoilers Contest. 

There is a secret in This Plague of Days. It’s not buried that deep.

No one has guessed it, but it’s right before your eyes.

If you suspect you know, DM me on Facebook or DM on Twitter (and keep the secret).

Wild speculation will be entertained, but can neither be confirmed nor denied. No spoilers to the rest of the guessers.

Prizes? Sure.

First prize: A nice, fat, juicy paperback of Season One of This Plague of Days. (Signed with a personal note of praise and adulation. Probably signed by me.)

For the first three winners, I’ll use your names for characters in my next book. The secret will be revealed in Season 3.

Praise and adulation will be heaped upon all those who guess correctly on the All That Chazz podcast. 

Have at it!

Also, even if you’re way off, I still may incorporate your wild speculation into Season 3. I got an idea from a reader recently that I shall mold into…well, that would be be telling.

This’ll be fun, but it’s also serious. A chance at immortality hangs in the balance.

 


Why Zombies? For the brains.

TPOD season 1 ecoverA couple of people have contacted me to say, “What’s with the zombies? I don’t get the attraction!” That looks like a delicious can of worms. Let’s eat that.

I replied with something diplomatic like, “Well, you know, not everything’s for everybody and that’s cool but by the way, I make it fresh!”

But really, first off, how weird is that?

Is there any other profession where someone who doesn’t use your product or service goes out of their way to say, “I hate that”? I don’t like the smell of the acrylic nail salon at the mall, but I don’t rush in there to tell them “I don’t get it. Why would you do that?” Likewise, hard core military fiction? Not for me. Unicorns? Not for me. However, I don’t contact the authors looking for…well, I’m not sure what they were looking for exactly. Justification? An apology?

Second, my zombie apocalypse isn’t about zombies. 

Good science fiction doesn’t teach you how to build a warp engine. I’ve tried to read some amateurish stuff that goes deep in the weeds of world-building and it has all the allure of a technical manual. (Which is a snarky way of saying it’s not for me, I guess, but at least I’m not chasing down those writers on Twitter and Facebook to say, “I don’t get it. Why would you do that?”) 

My rule is Follow the Art. I wrote a story with zombies because that’s where Art took me.

Horror isn’t about the monsters.

Horror is about how we react to the monsters. In This Plague of Days, I take a family from the heartland of America and put them in peril. First it’s a plague (no zombies) because I wanted to show what a lot of dystopian books don’t show. I wanted to show how things fall apart instead of starting the story after the fall. As the conflicts escalate (especially in Season Two) faithful readers will come to understand why things happened the way they did in Season One. This is a big story with long arcs, secrets  and big payoffs down the road. If I wanted to write a short story, the action would come in a smaller box. This is a big gift box.

Much of the horror doesn’t come from the infected.

Throughout This Plague of Days, everyone’s scared. Scared people, even heroes, make bad choices. As the zombie action evolves in Britain (and hits American shores in Season Two), that midwestern family in suburbia faces danger not just from the world flu pandemic, but from other survivors. In short, people are shitty to each other. They’re selfish. And sometimes they surprise us by being decent. There is room for nuance and, by the way, no villain thinks he’s a villain. Even when I daydream of drowning haters in an acid bath, I think I’m righteous, for instance.

People are more interesting than monsters.

Monsters don’t have choices. They’re following their needs, instincts and natures. But when people do bad things? They’re choosing evil. Family dynamics under pressure in the Centrifuge of Death and Global Disaster is much more interesting than drooling, shuffling dead lunkheads. 

My zombies aren’t “true” rise-from-the-grave zombies.

My zombies are really people infected with a virus of the 28 Days Later variety. They’re fast and they’re getting smarter and more organized. I even make jokes about  zombie movies where the tropes don’t bear examination. I’m telling a tale of Good versus Evil where most people are conflicted about the battle. Don’t assume it’s dumb because the z-word is attached.

Some people make rise-from-the-grave stuff work great, too. I’ve read plenty of smart horror. If you haven’t, maybe you need to read more, not less.

It didn’t even have to be zombies.

To me, the place of zombies in This Plague of Days, is as a force of nature. A world flu pandemic is a force of nature and the family deals with that first. The Brits in Season One run from the infected cannibals in the same way we’d run from packs of rabid dogs. If you’ve ever seen the movie The Ghost and the Darkness (two real life rogue lions who got a taste for humans and went on a killing spree) that’s my take on zombies. 

Ultimately, Zombies R US.

When the story is done, themes and larger metaphors emerge. Amid rising action, hard choices and people you care about in trouble, This Plague of Days raises questions about the natures of God, Mankind, sacrifice and whether we’re worth sacrifice. Everyone reads a book through their own lens and will take away what they will. I think this is fiction that is very rich soil to till. It’s no coincidence that Jaimie Spencer’s on the autistic spectrum and his special interest is words and their meanings. This Plague of Days is about our meaning.

So, if you have any doubts about the value of zombies in particular or horror writing in general, there’s my justification.

The defence rests. No damn apologies.

Now, let’s eat another can of worms and follow the links to a discussion about the place of religion in horror.

 


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