Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why Zombies, with Patrick Freivald

We interrupt these twelve days of Christmas for a wee Zombie Apocalypse.... teehee

So Patrick is a buddy of mine from the ABNA boards... Patrick and I began arguing with some regularity last spring... see... Patrick and I don't agree on much outside the writing world... Funny thing is, we both get some learning, growing and perspective out of it and we DO agree on a great many writerly things, and THAT makes for a fine friendship.

So without further ado, Patrick is going to explain to you... Why Zombies...

Patrick with zom Bees... er.... (we agree on bees)
Why Zombies?

A fellow author asked me this question recently, in the form of a backhanded compliment: "Why do you waste such talent on such drivel?" It's a good question. Zombies are disgusting, pestilent, cannibalistic monsters without a single inkling of that sparkly sexiness that made Edward such a hit. They've got no mojo, no verve, no flaws to exploit for dramatic tension. For those who don't "get it", a love of zombies can be hard to explain.

Gore is part of it, though for the aficionado it's quite secondary. As vivid as a pile of half-chewed intestines spilling out into the crosswalk can be, it's no more compelling when caused by a walking corpse than, say, frisky velociraptors getting their urban amok on, and it's much less interesting than the same scene caused by a knife-wielding ex-GI suffering post-traumatic stress. Blood and guts sells, but it doesn't explain the phenomenon.

The key to understanding your fellow zombie lover is to recognize that zombies aren't characters. Your head tells you they are, because they are human beings who walk and groan and occasionally talk (if only to lament for a lack of delicious braaaiiins), but your head is wrong.

Zombies are setting. The inevitable horde of mindless corpses constricts the world to a tiny place: a mall, an apartment tower, an army base, a town, somewhere that the rural audience suffocates with claustrophobia, the urban audience with crippling isolation. The collapse of order leaves the protagonists without resources, outside contact, or even hope. They are Ralph and Piggy's island, Dante's oubliette in the Chateau D'If, the very antithesis of the plugged-in modern society.

Zombies are conflict. From the thriller rush of a daring escape to the bitter arguments over dwindling resources, a good zombie apocalypse is a fight for survival that lends itself well to action as well as horror. Sacrifice is a well-loved trope in most fiction, and doubly so in a zombie yarn -- be it holding off the horde so that others might escape, or sneaking off to die of his secret bite, the hero rarely lives to see the last page.

See, Patrick knows bees AND birds.
Zombies are messy. Moral ambiguity pervades the zombie genre. To survive, zombies must be dehumanized and destroyed. The living-but-bitten must be dealt with, one way or another. So, too, must those too weak or too slow to escape with the group. The question of what tipping point makes the protagonists worse than the monsters they seek to defeat is relevant to many real-life struggles, from war to eugenic medicine to dealing with your high-school bully.

Zombies are character. A good zombie apocalypse forces disparate characters together, people who might not otherwise ever come into contact, and subjects them to the crippling stress of imminent danger and the loss of everything and everyone they had. Stripped of everything and faced with hopeless death, the survivors struggle to hold on to those things that make them human.

Zombies are monsters. In an age where Bram Stoker's vision of soulless, hideous, blood-sucking beasts have been supplanted by sparkly-skinned, chiseled-chested swoon factories, somebody's got to step up and do some good old fashioned inhuman slaughter.

So next time you see that half-rotten face peering at you from the cover of a book, don't shudder and walk away; shudder and pick it up. You might just like what you find.

Blurb for Love Bites
An unexpected pregnancy. A slightly less unexpected zombie apocalypse. Dr. Jennifer Picknett's research into the zombie virus leads her down a dark path of inhuman experiments and government conspiracy. As the truth crawls its way from the grave, she struggles to come to grips with the evil she must do to save mankind. Love Bites is the second novella offered by The Uninvited Presents... from Pterotype Digital.


Patrick Freivald is an author, teacher, beekeeper, and coach of an award-winning high school robotics team. He lives in rural Western New York with his lovely wife and far too many animals. His tongue-in-cheek flash fiction A Taste for Life led to an as-yet unpublished novel of zombies and high school, to which Love Bites is a prequel.

Recovery, a crime thriller written with his twin brother Phil, is forthcoming from the  Cogito Media Group in 2012.

You can find him on Facebook and Twitter. He won't bite. [blogger note: much *rubs ankles*]

And so... now we understand!  Good luck with Love Bites! What do Yibus think?  Zombie love out there? (I know there is some)


Old Kitty said...

There's something very complete about zombies. They just ARE - which makes them even more terrifying. Being vegetarian, I'd make for a most conflicted - and very NAKED - zombie! :-)

All the best with Love Bites!

Take care

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Nice post! I've never thought of it that way, but zombies are definitely not characters. Very interesting take. :) Best wishes for your book, Patrick!

Anonymous said...

Its great to meet Patrick. Good luck with the Zombies. Look out! That's a zombie bird on your shoulder!

Hart Johnson said...

*giggles* Oh, that vegan zombie image is funny. Very Naked...

Thanks for stopping by, Elizabeth!

Stephen-HA! My husband would say ALL birds are scary that way...

Caryn Caldwell said...

Hilarious! I've never been into zombies, but you've almost convinced me now. That said, it annoys me when people make holier-than-though judgments about what's worth writing and what's not. Who are they to decide? Good for you for sticking up for zombies! We all need a little more fun in our lives, and that includes reading for pleasure.

Johanna Garth said...

Good to meet you Patrick. So zombies are the literary equivelant to corporate greed, environmental waste, etc?? They're a noxious setting? Did I get that right?

Clarissa Draper said...

I've never thought of zombies in so many ways before. Of course, I don't use zombies in my books because I think it's been overdone.

searching said...

Spot on. Zombies are definitely a plot device. Um.. I hate to nit pick but The Shelley thing is driving me nuts. She wrote of the monster, Frankenstein's, it reads like she wrote about vampires. Stoker wrote Dracula not Shelley.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

He has many good points! Zombies create a situation, the characters react.

Hart Johnson said...

Caryn-me, too--I wish the snobbery on genre would go away. And I had the same response about Zombies--I'd never thought of them as my thing, but I love all the things Patrick brings up.

Johanna-I agree with you, though I'm not sure Patrick will (gets at all that arguing we do).

Searching-well and Frankenstein craved companionship if I'm remembering the story well.

Alex-I know, right?

Southpaw said...

Heck, they just plain old good-fashioned fun!

Patrick Freivald said...

Johanna, exactly right. Zombies are the equivalent of [insert overarching, seemingly insurmountable BAD THING(tm) here].

Searching, also exactly right. That's a brain-outran-fingers situation. I've asked Hart to amend the post to fix the reference.

Nancy said...

A very eloquent defense of the zombie genre. If anyone questions it in my presence, I won't waste words but will direct them here.

Trisha said...

I hadn't ever thought so much about what zombies mean to me - thanks for the thought-provoking words Patrick! hehe

Carol said...

Zombies? Could be worse -- THE BEES could be your horror element. :-) How cool that you're a beekeeper! The bees might tell you horror stories about that virus (?) that was killing off so many hives. Hondurans, too, might join you in defense of zombies. Or is it Cuba. WIRED magazine had an article about their belief in 'the living dead.' Me no wanna see 'em.

Patrick Freivald said...

Bees aren't horrific! They're a bit stingy when grumpy, sure -- but so are we. :)

Anonymous said...

Great insight Patrick. Zombies are definitely the environment - the earthquake/plane crash/tornado - that sends characters on their journey.