INTERVIEW: Scott Edelman, author of “The Human Race”

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

After a young woman’s relatives are killed in a terrorist bombing, she must travel London to deal with the aftermath.  The carnage leaves her so distraught she considers suicide, but once the dead start to coming back to life, her plans change drastically.

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

I can’t remember when I first heard that a question a writer must ask himself or herself about a story is, “Who hurts?,” but that’s always a question I’ve asked when pulling a tale together and figuring out my viewpoint character.  And so as I approached writing this zombie story, I tried to think, not just of those whose lives would be adversely impacted in general by a zombie uprising, but someone whose life choices would immediately and very specifically change.  So I arrived at–what if someone wanted to commit suicide, but could no longer do so, because she knew she’d immediately return?  She no longer has the option of opting out of life.   What does she do now?  How does she feel about this?  Why did she want to die in the first place?  Everything else grew out of these questions.

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

The most challenging aspect of this story was the timing of its creation. Due to a deadline, the first and second drafts were written on my Sidekick II on the way to, at, and on the way back from a Worldcon.  There were times when I sat on a couch in the lounge surrounded by Hugos and fanzines tapping away with my thumbs, knowing I had only a week to pull this one off.  So the challenges of this one weren’t artistic–they were all about staying away from the parties so I had enough brain to complete it. And when completing a zombie story, brain is always important!

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

Even though I agree that all stories are personal, I can’t point at anything specific here, I’m afraid.  The way this story is personal in that Paula is me, as all of my characters are me.  The only way I can bring a character to life is by slipping into his or her skin, letting those parts of me that are the character come out. As the saying goes,  “I am a man, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.”

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

I lived.

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 is a universal conceit.  It is a trope capable of addressing every facet of human behavior.  There is no metaphor the zombie cannot inhabit, and believe me, I’m not done with them.

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

My favorite zombie story is Adam-Troy Castro’s “Dead Like Me,” which was published in The Living Dead. In it, a man must pass for one of the walking dead in order to keep living, which means he must sacrifice everything that makes life worth living. A heartbreaking, brilliantly executed story.