Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Re-Casting the Mold.

I make no secret of the fact that I think most zombie novels are a manifestation of xenophobia, and are a reactionary political impulse. Further, I find that they are largely a kind of racist gun-porn. This realization came upon me slowly but I finally was able to recognize the current phenomena of the zombie novel as those philosophical sicknesses made whole. As I was a fan of the stuff and a writer of such novels I was doubly surprised by my conclusions.
As you can imagine, this is not a popular opinion and I did not create any fans by speaking up about it. In fact, I made a lot of enemies that way and created at least one stalker who is a professional writer who dogs my heels over this matter, making a fool of himself with his sick obsession.
However, at the urging of my publisher (Severed Press) I was convinced to write one more zombie novel. Initially I didn't want to do it, but I decided to take out the notes I'd made for a novel based on my comic book script (and short story) "The New Ecology of Death".
I wanted to do something different. What I wished to do was paint a tale that was not filled with gunfire and with warring factions and thinly-veiled racism and Fascist ideology. I was tired of the same old ultra-violent zombie novel.
So, this is what I did:
Why not tell a novel of a world in which the zombie conflict is over? The humans won. The last zombies are largely harmless and hunted. All is largely well and the Dystopian society that has assembled in the wake of the troubles is mainly safe, if not quite what it was.
But one day, one of the zombies wakes up--he comes out of his zombie fugue and is gripped by the desire to see his child. What then? He has to run a gauntlet of suspicious, destructive humans who want only the end of his existence. Can he fulfill his quest? Can he make his way to his child? And if he does...what then?
THE NEW ECOLOGY OF DEATH: The strangest zombie novel you will ever read.

THE NEW ECOLOGY OF DEATH by James Robert Smith. From Severed Press.


Rick Grimes said...

Sounds intriguing. I want to get caught up on some of your other books first.

I've often suspected (while watching) the same things. Well, particularly the xenophobia. And how it all also appears to be a way for any of us participating to vent our urge to play spree killer against all those around us we consider duller than ourselves. Be they friend, family, or coworker.

It's interesting, too, as a 'side dish' that the zombies are given just enough fight to bite, and convert one to utter and rancid dullness.(Really just a game of 'tag, you're it'. With the ostracism other kids fervently and instantly apply to whatever awful and on the cuff 'it' the loser has become magnified into lethal consequences).

Whereas in any real such scenario, anyone fighting them to the degree we see every week, or so on, would soon be dying of disease from all the rot and blood flying into their mouths, and drenching them to their skins. If anything, the zombies would hastily be bulldozed into a sink hole as soon as possible, and burned en masse. (Tho, on film, that would evoke other cultural perturbations).

Romero and others did and do get round some of the racism, by casting choices. But the gun porn aspect is still way true. And, in practice, if a racist viewer wants to watch long enough, he can eventually see his least favorite fellow earthling buy it in a grisly or explosive manner. And, meantime, it tempts the rest of us 'nice, unbiased' folk to likewise submit to such impolitic thrills, not that we can't catch ourselves the last split second.

James Robert Smith said...

The thing about the zombie trope is that it is so damned formulaic. There is no real way to alter the plot so that it's different from the next zombie novel. That's why almost all of them are pure crap. In addition, the sub-genre has developed a solid fan base who expect the formula and who are, apparently, small-minded enough to enjoy the brainless repetition of it all.

Since it was my swan-song in the form, I made sure that it was as little like your regular zombie novel as I could possibly make it.

The xenophobia of the zombie-as-villain is obvious to anyone who bothers to think about it or to consider it. And the gun-porn part of it is truly disgusting to witness when the chat groups form up to discuss what THEY would use to take out zombies if they had their chance with the little arsenals they keep in their closets and under their beds at home. It's all rather disgusting.