INTERVIEW: Rory Harper, author of “Therapeutic Intervention”

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

It’s a pretty straight-forward transcription of a counseling session that takes place a few years after the next zombie infestation. The client is dealing with some of the after-effects.

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

Ideas unexpectedly cross-pollinate in your head sometimes. And I do blog at, which is a zombie-themed site that seven published SF writers work on sporadically, so zombies are on my mind pretty often.

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

I usually have to struggle to excrete a story, but this one slid out easily in the space of an hour or so, from conception to final draft. Except that part where you wanted me to tweak the ending a bit. That caused me a couple of weeks of agony. Admittedly, the original version just kind of dribbled to a stop.

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

Well, I was an addictions counselor for about 17 years. A lot of my sessions bore some similarity to what takes place in this story, more so than you might think.

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

Absolutely none. There are a fair number of counselor in-jokes in it, though. One commenter suggested that it be made into a short film for counselors in training, because of the way it illustrates proper responses to common issues, and illustrates how good counselors offer empathy and unconditional positive regard to their clients.

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?

The zombie apocalypse gives us a way to cut through all of the accumulated b.s. in our lives. As a bonus, we also get an excuse to go on a killing spree without guilt. I fell hopelessly in love with the zombie genre when Night of the Living Dead first came out. Besides all of the social and cultural issues it lets you examine, I’ve always been attracted to the idea of resetting civilization. Unless you’re pessimistic enough to believe that it’ll simply be the end of us all, a good zombie apocalypse offers us the hope of starting over and building something better than the toxic behemoth that we seem to be trapped inside now. Naturally, I and everyone I care about will survive and prosper.

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

I like Brian Keene’s The Rising and City of the Dead, because the zombies are intelligent, even though they’re a departure from the Romero concept. I’ve read a fair number of the Permuted Press books, and enjoyed them–they’re workmanlike and entertaining, and sometimes
better than that. World War Z, of course, because it paints on a broader canvas, and I’d love to see more of that. Stephen King’s Cell started off good, before it got into that other storyline that I’m not going to mention, because it would be a spoiler. I also enjoyed Xombies: Apocalypse Blues, at least partly because, having a daughter that I totally adore,  I’m a sucker for smart young girls as protagonists.

I have the nagging feeling that there’s something a lot deeper than we’ve already seen, that can be done with the idea of a zombie apocalypse. I’m not sure what it is. I haven’t yet read anything that rises to the level of the classics of other types of apocalypses. I’m in the middle of  The Walking Dead, Compendium One right now, and am deeply impressed by it. It’s practically literature. I still think that the best zombie fiction is yet to be written.