Interview: Susan Palwick

Tell us a bit about your story, "Beautiful Stuff." What’s it about?

A politician who tries to blackmail a zombie into delivering a campaign speech finds his plan backfiring.  The dead don’t have the same agendas as the living.

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

The story came from my rage at various political figures trying to use the victims of 9/11 as campaign fodder or as a fuel for war.  I found myself wondering, "If all those dead people could come back, what would they want us to do?"

Tell us about the protagonist of the story.

Rusty Kerfuffle wasn’t a very nice or ethical man when he was alive, which is why the politician thinks blackmail will work.  Granted another day of life, Rusty has the same priorities all the other dead do, and politics are last on the list.

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

This is easily my most political story, and may present my own views too baldly!

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?

On a recent plane trip, I sat next to someone who was absolutely passionate about zombie stories.  He said the point of them is to help us confront our fear of death — of being pursued and devoured by death — and to remind us to live vital, engaged lives while we still can, instead of becoming the Living Dead trapped in routine and boredom.  Makes sense to me!

Any new work of ours just out or forthcoming you’d like to mention, or anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve published three novels (FLYING IN PLACE, THE NECESSARY BEGGAR, and SHELTER, all from Tor) and a story collection (THE FATE OF MICE from Tachyon).