INTERVIEW: Adam-Troy Castro, author of “The Anteroom”

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

It’s about what happens to the zombie after you put the bullet in its brain. Is it truly out of its misery now? Or is it going on to something worse?

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

The most bone-chilling horror of the zombie sub-genre has always been that the plague turns us into things we don’t want to be, things capable of committing depraved acts that would have appalled the people we used to be. We laugh when the hero of a zombie story blows away the shambling rotter in his path…but we tend to forget that the rotter used to be a person, and might have even been a human paragon. Stephen King wrote about his rabid St. Bernard Cujo, from the novel of the same name. You can’t hate the dog. The dog always tried to be a good dog. But something got into him, something that eliminated free will from the equation. How would Cujo feel, if somebody returned to him the capacity to understand what he’d done? How would a human being?

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

Before I began writing it, I thought of it as a zombie story without zombies…and it pretty much is, ‘The Long Night of the Dead, Living With It.’ Keeping the zombie issue foremost, in a tale where nobody’s a zombie anymore, required keeping the soles of the character’s feet to the fires of his own immortal conscience.

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

At its best, horror tests its protagonists in ways other genres rarely manage. The zombie subgenre tests them even more, by even denying them trust in their loved ones, faith in being rescued, and even the traditional sweet release of death. It can be nothing more than an exercise in reducing human beings to ground chuck. But if it’s about who the characters are and what their struggle to survive means for the rest of us, it has a hell of an impact.

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

Movies: a french film called They Came Back (in which zombies don’t want to eat you, but may need to occupy your spare bedroom), the spoof films Shaun of the Dead, Cemetery Man, The Mad, and Dead Alive.

Books: the novels The Orpheus Process by Daniel H. Gower; World War Z by Max Brooks; The Rising, City of the Dead and Dead Sea by Brian Keene.

Short Stories: “Eat Me” by Robert R. McCammon and “Pillar of Fire” by Ray Bradbury, and the playlet “A Plague on Both Your Houses” by Scott Edelman.