INTERVIEW: Genevieve Valentine, author of “And the Next, and the Next”

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

“And the Next, and the Next” is a story about being smart enough to survive the zombie apocalypse, not realizing there’s nowhere left to go, and how people are given to patterns that pass for lives, even if your undead brain is sloshing around like tapioca pudding.

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

If you live in New York long enough, zombie stories begin to seem less like science fiction and more like your commute. Visiting Coney Island and seeing people milling around unenthusiastically participating in the Mandated Family Amusement-Park Experience was a lot more off-putting than I thought at the time, since this was the story that came out of it.

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

I think it’s common knowledge that the human body is pretty disgusting, so the research went quickly.

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?

Zombies are one of the best metaphors for hopeless conditions–even after they win and eat everyone’s brains, they’re still going to die. Brain-eating aside, they’re really tragic figures in the classic sense: their doom is sealed, and they don’t know it yet.

Plus, zombies are a pretty handy metaphor in general, since they’re a mindless yet overwhelming force that can be applied to mean just about anything you want. Want to talk about materialism? Put them in a mall! Want to talk about man’s essential helplessness? Stick him in a cabin and turn them loose! Class tensions, psychological drama, feel-good comedy: zombies always have a place at the table.

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

28 Days Later is a prime example, because it nearly subverts the zombie metaphor by making the zombies an obstacle and making other humans the real monsters. (Rare is the movie where the respite from zombies is more frightening than fighting them.) It also paints them as victims, which gives them a sympathetic undertone, especially when they’re set up alongside a manor house full of soldiers intent on forcibly repopulating the world. It’s a visceral movie with a pretty deft hand, and one of the best uses of zombies ever.