“The Skull-Faced City” — David Barr Kirtley

David Barr Kirtley has been described as “one of the newest and freshest voices in sf.” His work frequently appears in Realms of Fantasy, and he has also sold fiction to the magazines Weird Tales and Intergalactic Medicine Show, the podcasts Escape Pod and Pseudopod, and the anthologies New Voices in Science Fiction, The Dragon Done It, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year. I’ve previously published him in the first The Living Dead anthology and in my online science fiction magazine Lightspeed. He also has a story forthcoming in my anthology The Way of the Wizard that’s due out in November. Kirtley is also the co-host (with me) of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

This story is a sequel to one that appeared in the first The Living Dead anthology. In “The Skull-Faced Boy,” Dustin and Jack, two recent college grads, die in a car accident and rise as intelligent zombies. Dustin—called “the skull-faced boy” due to his injuries—organizes hordes of mindless zombies into an army and declares war against the living, while Jack becomes his reluctant accomplice. Their rivalry over a girl named Ashley eventually leads Dustin to carve off her face as well.

When “The Skull-Faced Boy” appeared on the Pseudopod horror podcast, it was very well received, and several listeners requested more material set in the same universe. So it was in the back of Kirtley’s mind for a while to possibly expand the story into something longer. When I told him I was editing The Living Dead 2, I encouraged him to submit a sequel story.

“This is the first sequel I’ve written, and it’s hard,” Kirtley says. “For a long time I was stuck, since by the end of ‘The Skull-Faced Boy’ the conflicts and agendas of the characters are all pretty much on the table. My big break came when I considered creating a new main character, Park. And so as not to repeat myself, I made him completely different from my original protagonist, Jack. Jack is an ordinary young man, sensitive, kind of a doormat type, whereas Park is a very, very dangerous soldier.”