INTERVIEW: Bob Fingerman, author of “The Summer Place”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

My story, “The Summer Place,” is about a guy who flees the city to take refuge from the zombies on Fire Island. It’s very intimate.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

My wife and I used to rent a summerhouse there and it struck me what a great setting for a horror story it would be during off-season. Come October it’s pretty desolate. And there are no cars. It’s a weird place, like a sand-strewn version of The Village, from the old series The Prisoner.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

Actually, it came pretty quick and easy. I think that’s because I’d thought about it for a while before actually writing it. But when I did, it flowed.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

Well, like I’ve already said, the location was one I knew pretty well. I never was a bike messenger, but the protagonist’s personality and mine dovetail pretty neatly.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

Spent three consecutive summers in the location. That’s about it.

What is the appeal of zombie fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers and film viewers love it so much?

As opposed to zombie non-fiction? Other writers, who knows? But it holds almost endless fascination for me. I like zombies. I feel for them. They didn’t ask to be what they are and even though they want to eat humans, there’s no malice. They’re the average schmuck of the monster world. I can relate.

What are some of your favorite examples of zombie fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

Skipping movies, in prose I haven’t read a ton, but I really enjoyed Brian Keene’s The Rising, City of the Dead and Dead Sea. Dave Wellington’s Monster trilogy was really cool. My favorite is probably Walter Greatshell’s Xombies (rereleased as Xombies: Apocalypse Blues). All of those are really fresh and fun reads. I also enjoyed Philip Nutman’s Wet Work.

REVIEW: Fangoria names THE LIVING DEAD 2 its Book of the Month

The Living Dead 2 is ‘unliving’ proof that it’s the tellers, not the tales, that count. … It’s not simply an excellent zombie anthology, or a testament to stellar horror writing. What it is, simply, is an excellent book. … Chockablock with fantastic yarns … breath[es] fresh life into the rotting dead. … Delightfully diverse. … The Living Dead 2 runs the gamut of undead storytelling: pathos and pain, blood and guts, humor and horror. It’s a sensational collection that reanimates and reinvigorates the decaying dead back to exhilarating and entertaining life.” —Allan Dart, Fangoria #296

INTERVIEW: John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow, authors of “The Price of a Slice”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

CG: Just a glimpse of daily life in a post-zombie apocalyptic city.

JS: Specifically, San Francisco: a city uniquely positioned to keep the lights on, and determined to survive at all costs. To not fall, when almost everywhere else has fallen.

CG: With so much of the genre fixated on the initial zombie outbreak, and the collapse of society…

JS: Like they can’t wait for it to happen…

CG: …we wanted to see how society would rebuild itself, and how the end of death would become just another change that soon becomes commonplace. Far more unsettling than whatever the universe throws at us is our ability to adjust to, then profit from it.

JS: So we focused in on a handful of characters: a young video game virtuoso-turned-virtual warrior, commanding a troop of specially-equipped assault zombies; a soldier-zombie, controlled by this guy; and a pizza delivery boy with a street-level view of how all that shit plays out in real time.

Then we had their worlds collide, in a variety of alarming ways that we hope you will enjoy.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

JS: You said you were doing The Living Dead 2. [laughs]

CG: We did the Borderlands book signing in San Francisco after the World Fantasy Convention, spent a couple of hours running around town, and fell in love with the city all over again. Gorgeous setting and a uniquely fried charm, but the City has a fetish for social engineering that makes the unthinkable almost mandatory. They really seem to believe they can compel enlightened behavior with extra crazy laws and taxes.

JS: So in the five-hour red eye overnight drive back to LA, we concocted this insanely elaborate science fictional post-zombie San Francisco. Turns out that Cody’d already put considerable thought into the military applications of zombies, if properly rewired, and of the technocracy that might make such a thing possible. And he had an incredible sense of what might happen, while I immediately sped toward the interpersonal implications, the new social structure for the survivors.

I’d also just come off editing Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, and was thinking a lot about how zombies originally started out as slaves. Why else would you want them around? To do the shit that nobody else wanted to do. But which still needed to be done.

So we pretty much never stopped talking. And by the end of that drive, we had a novel’s worth of material to play with.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

CG: Keeping it from metastasizing into a full-blown novel before it got off the table was a ferocious challenge. One value-neutral feature of the zombie apocalypse story is that the now-familiar setting sells itself, and the story can be as lean as the author’s ability to cut it.

With this one, we had to fight the gravity of a world that REALLY wanted to be built.

JS: For me, it was the fact that I’d never lived there. So I had to make a special trip back up, walk the streets, chart the routes our pizza delivery guy might take, get the feel, soak up the atmosphere, engorge the afore-mentioned love.

Once I’d done that, things on my end fell together pretty quick. All I had to do was try to catch up with Cody.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

CG: The personal weight was projected through a lot of lenses for both of us here. But Skipp was a foot messenger in New York, and I worked no end of service jobs, so we know intimately how the anonymous little people doing the shit work make a city into a home.

And with the ongoing wars, hardship and uncertainty of our time, we were personally driven to point out the deep and heavily fortified disconnect that insulates us from the real consequences of our actions.

JS: There are no surrogate Skipps or Goodfellows in “The Price of a Slice,” so it’s not introspectively personal on that level at all. No individual mouthpieces for our respective divergent philosophies of life, or any of that.

But there’s a guy named Eagle who delivers food in Los Feliz, and I like him a lot, so I personally invested my like of him into that fictional character. So that part’s a personal salute. ROCK ON, MY BRUTHAH!

Past that, what’s personal is that it deals with issues we care about, and tries to humanize them in ways that feel real. Just putting yourself in everybody’s place, seeing things through their eyes, is the honest core of the mission.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

CG: I lived in the Bay Area and wrote a book on San Francisco before, so we had a huge stockpile of history and maps to draw on. Skipp toured the setting extensively, and ate lots of pizza. Critical details and troubleshooting were handled by our man in the Tenderloin, Steve “Psycho Kitty” Cordova.

JS: One thing you gotta know about Cody is, he breathes research morning, noon, and night. What he hadn’t looked into already, before we got started, he dug into the second we got back to LA.

My research was primarily tactile: running around San Francisco on foot, experiencing the landscape, imagining what it would feel like if this happened there. Getting a sense of place, for our people to maneuver around in.

The rest of my research was just living, and knowing what it’s like to be alive. And also, some genocide. [laughs]

What is the appeal of zombie fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers and film viewers love it so much?

JS: Well, fuck. My love of modern zombie horror began with George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead: the film that single-handedly changed my life, and our perspective on the shambling dead, forever.

And I’m trying to figure out how to say this without sounding like an asshole, but honest to God, there was no body of post-Romero zombie fiction until 1987, when a conversation I had with Romero himself led me to this sudden lucky flash.

We were talking about something else, and I said, “George, hang on a second. We’ve been meeting all these amazing horror writers, many of whom love your movies almost as much as I do. What would you think if Craig and I edited a book full of stories set in your zombie universe, and got a bunch of great writers to expand upon what else happened when the dead got up to eat the living?”

His response was, “That’s just crazy.”

“Yeah. I know. But what if we did it? Cuz I bet you we could. I bet people would love to do it.”

“Well, you’d have to watch the legalities, but if you didn’t use any characters or scenes from the actual movies, Richard Rubenstein (his production partner) wouldn’t have any legal problems.”

“No, no, no,” I emphaticized. “All new completely batshit stories, just riffing off your mythos.”

“Well,” he said thoughtfully, “I don’t see it happening. But if you can pull it off, I will eat my hat.”

The result was Book of the Dead, in 1989, with original stories by King, Schow, Lansdale, McCammon, and a slew of awesome others. King was actually the first one out the gate, with “Home Delivery,” just two weeks after I sent out the invite. And then it began to pour.

Weird as it is to think about, that’s how it all began.

As for why I love zombies so much–or, more to the point, fear them–it comes down to human beings flensed of soul, heart, intelligence, and everything else that makes us worthwhile. Reduced to the basest level, driven only by the bottomless need to feed, for no good fucking reason.

So it’s the cannibalism, the fear of being eaten alive. The terrifying emptiness of a husked-out human. The rotting flesh. The vacant eyes. The fact that it’s happening everywhere, so that everybody’s world is being intimately invaded. The apocalyptic angle. The feeling of Hell’s doors opening up. Stuff like that makes it a ripe, astounding playground.

Seriously, I’ve written so many essays about this shit, I could talk all year. So I’ll shut up now. [laughs]

Incidentally, Romero claims he put spaghetti sauce on a Steelers cap before he ate it. But I remain skeptical.

CG: They’re the ultimate Other, disguised as us. They elegantly hotwire our unspoken social fears of the mob destroying our individuality to our most primal fears of being literally eaten. Add zombies, and any mundane daily situation becomes a harrowing adventure.

For me, the appeal itself is almost frightening, because it accepts the fall of society and condones or demands constant violence against humanity at large. Being the Last Man Alive becomes a sociopathic fantasy.

JS: A libertarian survivalist wet dream. Exactly.

What are some of your favorite examples of zombie fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

JS: Obviously, I love every story I ever purchased, and it’s a rainbow spectrum, more than sixty in all. Makes it real hard to pick twenty or thirty, much less two or three.

The most impressive zombie novel I’ve read to date is World War Z, by Max Brooks. Also a big fan of Brian Keene’s revisionist The Rising, although it seems more like demonic Lovecraftian corpse-possession than actual zombiedom to me.

I think Douglas Winter is the poet laureate of zombie fiction. Elizabeth Massie’s “Abed” is probably still the hardest-punching zombie short story I’ve ever read, and it broke my heart that I couldn’t include it in Zombies. But it just punched too hard, knocking out teeth in a way Black Dog and Leventhal couldn’t swallow.

But if I had to pick one short story that, to me, nails the quintessence, it would be “Dead Like Me” by Adam-Troy Castro. Lays it all out, and kills me every time.

CG: I grew up with zombies in comics, mostly, and my favorite zombie is still Swamp Thing. In my head, every zombie I write about still looks like it was drawn by Berni Wrightson (don’t add the E!).

Beyond the Romero and Raimi zombies we both so love so well, I like works that force zombies to evolve and show more initiative, and anything that questions our treatment of death itself. Dead And Buried is a great, though flawed, examination of our compulsion to insulate ourselves from the truth of death. And Return Of The Living Dead still stands apart, for its zombie Rapture being a call to all flesh, no matter how decayed, brainless, dissected or laminated.

Although I’ll still sit still for anything where people eat people, I’m really partial to Body-Snatcher movies (Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers, Invaders From Mars, Slither), where what takes us over is an arguable improvement on the original…

REVIEW: Booklist Review!

“After the popularity of The Living Dead (2008), and the continuing popularity of zombies across the media, John Adams has compiled a second zombie anthology. While the first anthology was all reprints, the majority of the 43 stories in this one were written for number two. There are original stories by some of the best known writers in zombie fiction (Max Brooks, David Wellington, Brian Keene) and others better known in science fiction and fantasy (Simon Green, Paul McAuley, Steven Barnes, and Tananarive Due). So the quality of the writing is very high, and there is a wide variety of treatments on the theme. This is an excellent addition for the fantasy/horror audience.” — Frieda Murray, Booklist

INTERVIEWS with the Contributors to The Living Dead 2!

To learn what the authors had to say about the creation of their stories, as well as their favorite examples of zombie fiction books, stories, and films, and their thoughts on the appeal of zombies, read the interviews editor John Joseph Adams conducted with the contributors to The Living Dead 2. These interviews have been scheduled daily, starting August 30. Check back regularly or subscribe to our RSS feed.

REVIEW: HorrorScope: The Living Dead 2 is even better than The Living Dead 1

HorrorScope reviews The Living Dead 2:

“I proclaimed [The Living Dead] the best zombie anthology I’d ever read. Well, there’s a new anthology due in September that actually surpasses The Living Dead–and it’s The Living Dead 2! I just want to take a moment to emphasize what an amazing achievement this is: where the original anthology comprised reprints of classic zombie tales, thereby guaranteeing a top-quality publication, The Living Dead 2 includes only original and recently-published work. Editor John Joseph Adams (who also compiled The Living Dead) demonstrates a brilliant understanding of exactly what makes a damn fine zombie tale, and deserves major kudos for the same. … There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that The Living Dead 2, and all who contributed to her, will be be well-represented across the various genre literature awards over the next year. In the meantime, zombie afficianados should place this publication at the very top of their Want List, above firearms, bottled water, and chainsaws.”

Read the whole review here.

REVIEW: Fatally Yours raves about THE LIVING DEAD 2

“Like its predecessor, The Living Dead 2 truly is one of the great zombie short story collections out there and you are definitely getting a lot of bang for your buck here! Kudos to editor John Joseph Adams for putting together another memorable anthology sure to delight zombie and horror fans everywhere!”

For the full review, click here.

REVIEW: From Publishers Weekly (a STARRED REVIEW!)

Publishers Weekly, publishing’s trade journal, gave The Living Dead 2 a STARRED REVIEW, which are awarded to books of extraordinary merit: “You don’t have to be a zombie-lover to enjoy this outstanding follow-up to 2008’s The Living Dead. Anthologist extraordinaire Adams has assembled 43 stories that showcase strong writing and imagination. … Readers will hope for many further additions to the series even after the zombie craze passes.”

REVIEW: Paul Goat Allen: Living Dead 2 is Even Better Than Living Dead, Vol. 1

Barnes & Noble.com’s resident sf/fantasy critic and expert, Paul Goat Allen, read an advance copy of The Living Dead 2, and had this to say: “I described The Living Dead as the best collection of zombie fiction stories ever collected—this follow-up anthology is even better.”

REVIEW: Simon Pegg Praises The Living Dead 2

Simon Pegg, star and co-writer of the hit zombie film Shaun of the Dead, read an advance copy of The Living Dead 2 and had this to say about it: “A must for any self respecting zombie completist.” —Simon Pegg, Shaun of the Dead

keep looking »