A is for Apocalypse edited by Rhonda Parrish, cover design by Jonathan Parrish

A is for Apocalypse One Question Interview #2

A is for Apocalypse edited by Rhonda Parrish, cover design by Jonathan ParrishIt’s zombie month here on my blog (to celebrate the launch of Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories). One thing about zombies is that they are often paired with the apocalypse in fiction and movies and it just so happens I’ve edited a book full of apocalypses recently. You may have heard about it. It’s called A is for Apocalypse. There aren’t a whole lot of zombies in A is for Apocalypse, but there are some, so while this link is a bit tenuous, it is exist 🙂

During the process of our cover reveal for A is for Apocalypse some of the contributors participated in what I called “One question interviews”. We didn’t get a chance to share all of the answers to those interviews during the reveal, so instead I’m sharing them here on my blog. Along with a short excerpt from the book.

The excerpts I’ve chosen are one from U is for… by Damien Angelica Walters and X is for by Jonathan Parrish. I picked those two in particular because they are nearly completely opposite one another when it comes to theme, voice and writing-style. I figured that was a good way to show the immense degree of diversity in the stories in this book. Unfortunately for the spirit of the month, neither of them have zombies. Sorry. >_<

 

Excerpt from X is for… by Jonathan Parrish (contains profanity):

Cyrus is getting louder and his eyes more yellow. Little scabs around his eyes and his nose and always that dirty snot on his lip. I close my eyes because it makes them hurt to look at him, think about how I wish I was in the woods with bears, feeling flesh yield to my fangs and the blood and—holy shit am I hungry. And still I can feel his breath and I can’t open my eyes because then I’ll see him and fuck that. I want to get away, away from the next past and the fucked up now and the no future and find a hole and live in it with maybe an animal pal and we’d be a super awesome team at being awesome.

One Question Interview #2:

As a contributor to this anthology you are privileged to have been able to read a proof copy of it already. Aside from your own story, which one is your favourite? No spoilers, please 🙂

Michael Kellar – “U is for REDACTED” got to me early on, and ended up being a perfect little glimpse of what would be important when facing the end of the world.

Marge Simon – That’s really, really a hard question to answer. But I’m picking Damian Angelica Walters’ moving “U is for REDACTED”. It reminded me much of one of my top favorite dark sf stories, “Testament”.

Sara Cleto – I’ll admit that I haven’t read through the entire anthology yet (it will be my reward when I finish this semester’s grading!), but I adore Brittany Warman’s story- as always, her images are haunting, powerful, and full of wonderful folkloric resonances.

Beth Cato – I loved R. It’s one of the longer stories in the anthology, I think, and it’s a unique take on events leading up to the apocalypse. The whole vibe is creepy and gritty.

Brittany WarmanI sadly haven’t gotten a chance to read the whole proof yet but I know that all the stories in it I’ve read so far are amazing! I’m so honored to be a part of it :).

C.S. MacCath – I confess I have only skimmed the anthology as yet, but Beth Cato’s and Damien Angelica Walters’ stories fairly sang with emotion, and Gary B. Phillips has written a nicely-executed piece of humour.

You can add A is for Apocalypse to your Goodreads shelves by clicking here or sign up below to get notified when it is available 🙂



Also, bonus points if you vote for A is for Apocalypse on the Listopia list of books about Apocalypses and Dystopias If I’m super lucky and people have voted before you, we may even be on the first page! LoL (That link goes to page two)

A is for Apocalypse edited by Rhonda Parrish, cover design by Jonathan Parrish

A is for Apocalypse One Question Interview #1

A is for Apocalypse edited by Rhonda Parrish, cover design by Jonathan ParrishIt’s zombie month here on my blog (to celebrate the launch of Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories). One thing about zombies is that they are often paired with the apocalypse in fiction and movies and it just so happens I’ve edited a book full of apocalypses recently. You may have heard about it. It’s called A is for Apocalypse. There aren’t a whole lot of zombies in A is for Apocalypse, but there are some, so while this link is a bit tenuous, it is exist 🙂

During the process of our cover reveal for A is for Apocalypse some of the contributors participated in what I called “One question interviews”. We didn’t get a chance to share all of the answers to those interviews during the reveal, so instead today and Monday I’m going to share them here on my blog. Along with a short excerpt from the book.

The excerpts I’ve chosen are one from U is for… by Damien Angelica Walters and X is for by Jonathan Parrish. I picked those two in particular because they are nearly completely opposite one another when it comes to theme, voice and writing-style. I figured that was a good way to show the immense degree of diversity in the stories in this book. Unfortunately for the spirit of the month, neither of them have zombies. Sorry. >_<

Excerpt from U is for… by Damien Angelica Walters:

My father and I used to stargaze when I was only a few years older than Millie. He taught me the constellations, patiently pointing at each one until I could recognize the shapes without his help.

They were a link to something bigger, something more, but no longer. Now Orion’s Belt mocks me with its precision; Cassiopeia with her beauty, a beauty that will remain even when no one’s left to see.

Once a comfort, all of them, now my enemy.

One Question Interview #1:

In choosing a theme for this, the first of a series of anthologies, I considered and rejected a great many “A” words. Tell us about your favourite word that begins with the letter A.

Alexis A. Hunter– As an author — ‘acceptance’ has a beautiful ring to it. As a sci-fi writer — ‘apex’ is particularly engaging. In general — ‘angel’ is one of my favorite words, because they’re one of my favorite ‘creature types’ to play with in stories. Plus I have a thing for wings and feathers.

Michael Kellar – My “A” word would be arachnid. I’m a spider person. (You could consider this when you get to “S is for…”)

Damien Angelica Walters – My favourite word that begins with the letter A is anathema. It rolls off the tongue like a whisper, hiding its dark meaning in pretty syllables.

Marge Simon – Alliteration because it’s a beautiful word. Sorry if it doesn’t connote anything bad, like assassin. 😉

Simon Kewin My favourite A word is (possibly) Archaeopteryx. I love the shape of the word. It’s exotic and fantastical and ungainly all at the same time – a little like the creature itself. It derives from the Greek archaeo (ancient) and pterux (wing). So, “Ancient Wing”. Archaeopteryx is a lovely illustration of the forces of evolution in progress; it’s a snapshot of a species in the process of changing from dinosaur ancestor to modern avian descendent. Here was a creature with a bony tail and teeth and feathers. And claws on its wings. I’d love to have seen one…

Sara Cleto – My favorite A word is amethyst, a purple-violet quartz often used in jewelry (particularly at Renaissance Faires!) As a little girl, I was obsessed with the color purple, and my mom’s amethyst jewelry was the subject of much fascination- I was sure the stones had some sort of magical property, and I seem to recall trying to do spells with them… And now, in my old age, I’m deeply amused by their purported ability to prevent excessive intoxication.

Beth Cato – Tricky question since my absolute favorite word begins with B. For A words, I have to say I like “anaphylactic.” It’s morbid, I know, since the meaning is a severe allergic reaction, but I like the word because it has a cool poetic rhythm.

Suzanne van Rooyen – This is really tough to answer! There are so many great words starting with A like analogy, allegory and awesome! But I think my favourite is actually a name. Atreyu. Atreyu – the character from The Never Ending Story – was my first major crush as a kid and that film was such a huge part of my childhood. If I ever have a son one day, his name is going to be Atreyu.

Brittany Warman – The first of my favorite words that begin with A that I thought of was “aurora” – not only is it frequently the name of the princess (or her daughter) from “Sleeping Beauty,” a favorite fairy tale of mine, but it was also my very first online screen name! I just love the concept and the way the word flows off the tongue too. It seems to convey mystery, beauty, and strength to me.

C.S. MacCath – My favourite ‘A’ word is ‘atonement’, because unlike ‘forgiveness’, it places the onus for righting a wrong where it belongs; upon the head of the person who committed it. If we were socialized to atone as much as we are already socialized to forgive, we might learn to be more careful with one another.

 

You can add A is for Apocalypse to your Goodreads shelves by clicking here or sign up below to get notified when it is available 🙂

 



 

Flea Market Zombies

Moar Zombeez

Flea Market ZombiesThere has been so much zombie stuff going on of late, what with the #SummerZombie goodness and my own giving over my blog to the theme that I’m beginning to feel a bit zombie-ish myself. Which is not to say I’m getting tired of the shamblers, I’m not, I’m just running low on words for blog posts 🙂

Happily, though, I don’t have to be wordy all the time 🙂

Back on Father’s Day I had a guest blog at Sarah Lyons Flemming’s blog about why I still love zombies. You can read about it by clicking here. There’s even a short little poem there 🙂

Then, yesterday I was interviewed at Books, Beer and Blogshit about Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories). You can check it out by clicking here.

Also, John Anthony James wrote a blog post a while back about why zombies are awesome. He’s dusted that off and spruced it up a bit for us, and you can read it by clicking here.

And now, to finish up, I’m going to link to a few zombtastic poems and stories from Niteblade. Because :-p There are loads more zombies at Niteblade, but I’m just picking some of the more recent ones to link to here 🙂

The Summer I Fell In Love by Aaron Polson

You Kill Me by Milo James Fowler

Forbidden Island by J.A. Grier

The Traveling Dead by Keith Kennedy (I’m not actually sure if this is about zombies… but it *could* be…)

Compassion, During and After the Fally by Cory Cone

Enjoy 🙂

P.S. the image right there is the cover from Niteblade’s June 2010 issue, Flea Market Zombies 🙂

 

 

 

The Best Of Joe R. Lansdale

A Few Zombie Stories

Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories)I’m giving my blog over to the zombies this month to celebrate the release of my book, Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories). As part of that I’ve invited some friends to pop over and share their thoughts about zombies. One of the people who took me up on the offer was Cory Cone. Cory is the author of the fantastic zombie story Compassion, During and After the Fall which I had the pleasure of publishing in Niteblade. It was largely on the strength of that story that I invited him to contribute to A is for Apocalypse (which also, oddly enough, has zombies in it LoL)

Today, Cory is writing a bit of non-fiction for me to share with you here today. Specifically, he’s going to talk about the zombtastic works for Joe R. Lansdale. Confession time… I haven’t read any of Joe’s work, but after these glowing recommendations I intend to change that.

 

A Few Zombie Stories by Joe R. Lansdale

(a guest post by Cory Cone)

Edge of Dark WaterWhenever I’m asked to recommend a book, I suggest Edge of Dark Water by Champion Mojo Storyteller, Joe R. Lansdale. It is a depression era novel set in East Texas, the setting of most of Lansdale’s stories, and is among my favorite of his books. But honestly, making only one suggestion from his gargantuan bibliography of novels and short stories is near impossible. Lansdale is constantly inventive, funny, terrifying, and insightful in his fiction. His collections include Bleeding Shadows, Bumper Crop, High Cotton, among others. He is also the author of several novels, including the Hap and Leonard series, The Bottoms, A Thin Dark Line, The Thicket, and Cold in July, recently released as a film.

If you have never read anything by this author and are curious about some of his non-zombie short fiction, allow me to recommend the collection The Best of Joe R. Lansdale. It contains some of his best work, including one of my all-time favorite short stories, Night They Missed the Horror Show. But be warned: it’s a story that haunts long after the final sentence. Last year, Apex Magazine reprinted one of his most famous short stories, Tight Little Stitches In a Dead Man’s Back, and it’s available for free online. In addition, Lansdale frequently posts his stories for free on his website.

But it’s the month of zombie, so if you’re looking to kick back and read some outstanding zombie fiction, you can’t go wrong with the following three stories:

Christmas with the Dead

Calvin, surviving alone in a zombified world, isn’t going to let the walking dead stop him from decorating his house for Christmas. This story remains among my favorite from Lansdale. It’s silly, it’s funny, it’s full of the perfectly articulated imagery one comes to expect from a Lansdale story (“The way their teeth bit into her, how the skin stretched, it looked as if they were trying to pull old bubble gum loose from the sidewalk.”). In the mix you’ll find moments so moving you can’t quite believe a story like this is getting to you, especially the absolutely fantastic ending, which I’d be a fool to ruin here. You can find it in Bleeding Shadows. It was also made into a film by his son, Keith, which you can buy on DVD.

A Visit with Friends

This story can also be found in Bleeding Shadows. A very different tale from Christmas with the Dead, A Visit with Friends is told in first person and is mostly a single scene of dialogue between the narrator and his wife. They’ve secured their houses, adapted, and feel fairly confident they will survive. Here, though, it’s more than just the main character(s) making due—it’s the entire city. In many of Lansdale’s zombie stories, he gives his characters a lot of credit and shows just how much ingenuity humans could potentially have in such situations. That said, this particular story, as well as the next one I’ll be mentioning, takes a much darker look at the world than Christmas with the Dead. It deals with nastier human impulses and asks the question: Who, in this zombie world, are the real monsters?The Best Of Joe R. Lansdale

The Hunt: Before, and the Aftermath

This is another first person story, which is always a treat. Joe R. Lansdale’s characters have such distinct, relatable, and enjoyable voices that it is always a pleasure to get inside their heads. This story was collected in an out of print book, Trapped in the Saturday Matinee, and in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 24, edited by Stephen Jones. Once more, Lansdale uses the zombie apocalypse as a backdrop for disturbing human experiences. This story is about love, the temptations one must battle when married, and ultimately, forgiveness. Oh, and zombies!

There you have it. Dig in and eat up some great zombie fiction.

​Thank you, Rhonda, for having me on your blog!​

 

POXLAND_Cover_FINAL_Small

Poxland Excerpt

SummerZombie Shirt FrontIn order to help promote the release of my book Waste Not (and other funny zombie stories) I joined in on the Summer of Zombies tour which is taking place all month long. Today, as part of that, I would like to offer you an excerpt from Poxland by Bryan Cassiday:

~*~

CHAPTER 1

Halverson felt like he was covered with hot leeches that were sucking the blood out of his flesh. To make matters worse, he felt like ticks were crawling under his skin across the entire length of his body. He scratched his left forearm trying to soothe the itching that was burning his skin. It did no good.

The ticks were embedded under his skin as they crawled all over his body. His scratching accomplished nothing, save to exacerbate the itching and smarting of his skin.

His eyes snapped open.

He realized he was lying naked on his back in the dingy bomb shelter. He surveyed his body. There were no leeches on it, and he could discern no traces of ticks burrowing underneath his skin, no ridges formed in his flesh by their burrowing. Nevertheless, his flesh was burning up.

The result of the nuclear blast. The scorching blast wind had striated his body as he had run for cover to the bomb shelter underneath the desert.

A single dim incandescent light bulb hung above him in a wire cage on the ceiling, as he lay in a daze on a bunk.

The explosion of the atomic blast and its accompanying overpressure had all but burst his eardrums.

His skin continued to itch like crazy. He had to get the radioactive dust off it. He needed to take another shower. But how many showers did he have to take and how often? He knew he had taken many since the atomic blast had flattened Las Vegas, a few miles away from where he now lay doggo underground.

He could not take that many more showers, though, he knew. There wasn’t an inexhaustible supply of fresh water in the shelter. What water remained needed to be conserved for drinking.

Iodine, he thought. He needed more iodine tablets to treat his radiation-contaminated body. Where was Victoria? he wondered. She and he were the lone survivors of the atomic bomb explosion, as far as he knew. He did not see her now.

He felt his forehead with the back of his hand. As he had thought, he was burning up with fever. Maybe he was delirious as well.

His mind raced, seeking answers.

Maybe the atomic blast had never really happened. Maybe the blast was a chimera of his overheated imagination brought on by the fever. Somehow he doubted it. In fact, it was all coming back to him.

The president had dropped nuclear bombs all across the country and all over the world in a last-ditch, desperate attempt to rid the nation of the plague-infected flesh eaters that were running amok around the world, wreaking havoc and spreading the pestilence wherever they roamed.

If only this was a nightmare! decided Halverson. Then he could wake up from it. The fact was, it was worse than a nightmare, because it was really happening. He would never wake up from it.

Above his face he saw a black spider rappelling down on a strand of silk from the ceiling. Then he wasn’t the only survivor, decided Halverson. This spider, too, had survived nuclear annihilation.

He did not like spiders. He did not like this ugly thing jerking its eight legs around like knitting needles darning an article of clothing as it descended ineluctably toward his face on its thread of silk that glittered like dew in the dim artificial light of the incandescent bulb.

His initial reflex was to kill the creature. He wanted to swat it off its silk strand and then stomp it on the cement floor.

But if he killed the spider, he would be alone in the blast shelter—unless Victoria was in another part of the structure. He had no desire to be the last man on earth, or even the last living creature on earth, for that matter.

Overcoming his reflexive urge to smash the spider, he decided to do nothing and let it continue its descent from the ceiling, to let the ugly arachnid live and keep him company in the cramped bomb shelter. To have any kind of life with the creature present was better than being left alone, he decided, even if it was a detestable spider.

He rolled out of the way of the spider as it descended onto the bunk.

POXLAND_Cover_FINAL_SmallHopefully, the thing would not bite him later as a way of thanking him for his moment of kindheartedness, or, was it more accurately a moment of weakness on his part for sparing the spider? Was it weak to desire a companion in his solitude?

The creature crabbed away from Halverson across the bunk’s sheet. Just watching the way the spider scuttled off creeped him out. The last thing he wanted was a hunchbacked spider crawling across his smarting flesh. The suffocating sensation of leeches and ticks swarming on and inside his body was enough for him to deal with at the moment. Too much for him to deal with, in fact.

He sprang off the bunk to his feet.

He must find Victoria. Was she in any better shape than he was? he wondered.

A hunger pang attacked him. If worse came to worst, maybe he could eat the spider. Or maybe it would be best to let it reproduce, so it would bear more spiders and then he could consume them. Christ! What a sickening thought! He wanted to wretch.

His logy mind was straying off in directions he preferred not to travel in.

He massaged his forehead. He needed to pull himself together. To face his predicament like a man. The last man on earth, maybe. His mind kept revolving back to that nagging whim, he realized, like water circling a drain before disappearing down the sink. The last man on earth.

Was it really that bad? he wondered.

The president of the United States had ordered the nuclear bombing of the entire country in order to wipe out the plague-infected flesh eaters that were taking over the world. Yeah, it was that bad, Halverson decided.

Unbidden disturbing memories flashed back into his mind. He remembered confronting his brother Dan on the end of the Santa Monica Pier. Dan, who had contracted the so-called zombie virus and become one of the walking dead . . .

Mannering the cop wielding a smoking jackhammer and fending off the creatures as they converged on him on a Wilshire Boulevard sidewalk. Mannering jamming the clattering jackhammer into the chests and brains of the walking dead, pulverizing the necrotic tissue of the creatures with machine-gun piston thrusts of the tool, allowing Halverson and Victoria to escape as he covered their retreat. Then the gruesome sight of Mannering disappearing into the horde of flesh eaters, and his amputated, bloody arms flying out of the mob of creatures as they tore him apart and tossed away his bones that they had picked clean of marrow . . .

Reno the journalist staving off the flesh eaters with Molotov cocktails as they laid into Halverson and him at Alcatraz prison. Reno being ripped apart by the ghouls as Molotov cocktails exploded around him, taking out scores of the creatures jacked up into a feeding frenzy of bloodletting . . .

The memories were overpowering. Halverson could not deal with replaying them over and over again in his mind’s eye to the point of debilitation. He banished the images from his mind. The worst thing about it was that these memories were but the tip of the iceberg. He had plenty of other lurid recollections of flesh-eater attacks that were just as horrifying rattling around in the dark corners of his mind, waiting for their chance to surface to his consciousness and torment him with their graphic atrocities.

And then President Cole ordered the A-bomb dropped on Las Vegas, forcing Halverson and Victoria to take refuge in this blast shelter underneath the radiation-contaminated Nevada desert.

It was all too much to come to grips with, decided Halverson. He needed to forget about it and carry on, taking it one day at a time. The scope of the debacle was just too much for him, or for anyone else for that matter, to comprehend all at once. Trying to get his head around the enormity of it would trigger a mental breakdown, he was convinced.

He could not remember how long he and Victoria had been holed up in this dusky rat’s nest of a blast shelter. His mind was playing him false. It did not want to face the horrifying reality of his situation. Memories faded in and out. But were they memories or false impressions left from nightmares rummaging around through his calamity-besieged mind?

He was burning up. He needed water.

He strode to the water cooler, ran water out of the cooler’s tap into a plastic cup, and took a long pull of the tepid water. Cooler? he thought ironically, eying the container, grimacing with distaste at the water’s warmth as it enveloped his tongue. What he’d do for an ice-cold glass of water! Or better yet an ice-cold beer.

He realized he was dying of thirst. He drew another cup of water. The water remaining in the cooler bubbled and glub-glubbed as the water level lowered.   The cooler was fast approaching empty, he realized with a sigh. He downed the cup of water, ignoring its lukewarm insipidity this time.

How much water did they have left? he wondered. You could go without food for days, even weeks. But you could not go without water for days, especially in the stuffy closeness of this poky shelter. They had to have water.

His gaze lit on the orange plastic prescription bottle of pills on the sink. He also needed to take iodide pills.

BryanCassiday54He managed to snap open the white childproof cap on the pill bottle and downed two of the iodide pills. He needed them to protect him from radiation poisoning by iodine-131, which had been released into the air during the atomic blast. Radioactive iodine-131 was absorbed by the thyroid gland.

By taking the iodide tablets he kept his thyroid saturated with iodine, so it could not absorb the poisonous iodine-131. The thyroid could absorb only a finite amount of iodine. The trick was to keep the thyroid saturated with iodine for as long as the air might contain radioactive iodine-131.

He did not know if any of the nuclear blast’s iodine-131 had seeped into the bomb shelter when he and Victoria had first entered the shelter during the explosion. But he wasn’t taking any chances.

Also, he did not know how long the iodine-131 would linger in the air after the nuclear explosion. He would keep taking the iodide pills for the time being.

As of right now, the outside air could not seep into the airtight blast shelter.

At least he didn’t think it could. He had no way of knowing for sure.

Of course, the iodide pills were useless against the radioactive cesium-137 and strontium-90 that might still be in the air outside.

Halverson heard footfalls. He turned toward the source of the sounds.

Yawning, wearing a white terrycloth bathrobe, Victoria was entering the living quarters from a bedroom. Noticing that he was naked she averted her face from him. Her blonde hair hung down on her shoulders in glossy coils.

A twenty-eight-year-old dress designer in the prime of her life wearing a threadbare bathrobe in a fuggy, claustrophobic cement room under the desert. No doubt she neither dug her wardrobe nor her dwelling, Halverson decided. Then again there wasn’t much to dig during their ordeal.

“Why don’t you put on some clothes?” she said.

“I fell asleep after I took a shower, I think,” said Halverson.

“You think?”

“My mind’s playing tricks on me. It’s filled with nightmares and bad memories. I’m having trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy.”

She turned to look at him. She jerked her head away again at seeing him still undressed.

“Are you gonna get dressed or what?” she said, facing away from him, arms folded across her chest.

He strode over to a closet, opened its door, and removed from the cylindrical wooden hanger a wire coat hanger with a terrycloth robe draped on it. The robe looked like the one Victoria was wearing, right down to its shabbiness. He slipped it on.

She heard him close the closet door. She turned around and faced him.

“We got a problem,” he said.

CHAPTER 2

He was scoping out a large translucent plastic cistern full of water that stood next to the water cooler when he spoke.

“We’re running out of water.”

Victoria eyed the cistern and looked grim. “Then we’ll have to leave the shelter to find some.”

“You know what that means?”

“It means we’ll get contaminated with radiation if there’s any left in the air.”

Halverson nodded. “This shelter wasn’t built for long-term habitation.”

“Why wasn’t it? If it was built as a bomb shelter, they should have stocked it with more food and water.”

“It doesn’t do any good complaining about it. We just have to deal with it.”

Victoria filled her cheeks with air and blew it out. “It seems like it’s getting hotter in here, too.”

Halverson had noticed the same thing. “I wonder if the A/C is conking out on us.”

“Maybe we’re losing our air supply.”

She eyed the vent in the wall opposite them. White cloth streamers tied to the vent’s grill were shivering in the outpouring air.

Halverson followed her gaze. The streamers didn’t seem to be blowing into the shelter horizontally as they had been the last time he looked at them. They seemed limper now and dangled down farther than they had earlier, signifying a decrease in airflow.

He sniffed the air. He fancied he could smell a trace of stagnation, which may have been generated by the increase in temperature. But he doubted it. Combined with the flaccid streamers at the mouth of the air duct, the stagnant odor more than likely indicated declining and inadequate airflow.

Not good, he decided. This must have been a jury-rigged bomb shelter cobbled together by the local Nevada militia. Probably one of those do-it-yourself prefab deals you could buy online.

Halverson decided he and Victoria would be lucky if they could last a week here without venturing outside.

“For all we know, this air recirculating in here may be unfit for breathing,” he said.

“What if it’s poisoning us?” said Victoria, growing alarmed at the idea.

“It’s probably not doing us a whole lot of good, in any case. But we’re still alive.”

“It’s looking more and more like we’re gonna have to leave here soon.”

“Yep.” Halverson eyed the bottle of iodide pills near the sink. “Have you been taking your iodide pills?”

“I think so.” Victoria screwed up her face in thought. “It’s hard to keep track of what day it is in this hole.”

Halverson nodded. “I can’t even tell if it’s day or night.”

“Now I know how a mole feels.”   She surveyed their dim-lit quarters with disgust.

“If it wasn’t for this hole in the ground, we’d be dead by now of radiation poisoning.”

“There’s that.” She paused. “Do you think anyone else survived the explosion?”

“I don’t know. Did the government just nuke Vegas or did it nuke other cities and states as well?”

“We know they blew up California and New York while we were in Vegas.”

Halverson nodded at the memory. “He said on TV he was gonna nuke the entire country to cleanse it of the plague.”

“And then nuke the world. The question is, did he carry out his promise?”

“I’m not very eager to find out what’s left up there,” he said, looking upward.

Perspiring, he felt thirsty and drew another glass of water from the cooler. He gulped down the beverage.

“If we go topside and we’re still alive, where do we go from there?” asked Victoria.

“We have to find out what’s left of the government.”

“But they’re the ones who dropped the A-bomb on us.”

“I know. But they’re the only ones who know what’s going on.”

“If they know what’s going on, why did they nuke us?”

Halverson caught himself gazing upward again. “It must be worse than we thought up there. Dropping nukes is a last resort.”

“I wonder if it did any good.”

“There’s only one way to find out.”

Victoria thought about it. “I don’t want to go outside.”

“We have to. We can’t stay locked up in here much longer.”

Victoria turned away from him. “I don’t care. I don’t want to go out there. At least those things can’t attack us here.”

“Maybe the A-bomb wiped all of them out.”

“I still don’t want to go up there.”

“I don’t think we have much of a choice.”

He took stock of the shelter. Floor-to-ceiling rows of shelves that bore serried canned goods lined one wall. They had plenty of food to last them for a while, he noted.

Then he looked at the water cooler. Beside it was the full, large plastic cistern that he had noticed earlier. Beside the cistern was a fifty-five gallon drum, which contained the remainder of their water supply.

“I’d rather take my chances here,” said Victoria.

“We’re gonna run out of water soon. No more showers. That’s for sure.”

“It already smells in here.” Victoria sniffed the air and grimaced. “It’s just gonna get worse if we don’t bathe.”

“We can live without bathing but not without drinking water.”

“What makes you think there’ll be any water we can drink up above?”

“You mean it’ll be contaminated with radiation?”

“Exactly. How will we know the water we find up there isn’t poisonous?”

“We can always find bottled water or drinks in supermarkets. We’ll be able to find something to drink once we’re out of here.”

“But that doesn’t rule out our being poisoned by the radioactive air,” she said irritably.

“I know that. The problem is, we’re not gonna be able to stay here much longer without anything to drink. And it’s gonna get worse.”

Victoria pricked up her ears. “What do you mean?”

“We’ll have to start going through the rest of the water at a faster rate than before.”

“Why?”

“The hotter it gets in here, the more we’re gonna have to drink to keep hydrated.”

An unnerving silence hung in the air.

 

Buy Poxland by Bryan Cassiday now at Amazon: http://www.amzn.com/1492739715.

 

*   *   *   *   *

 

The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 33 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of June.

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #SummerZombie

https://www.facebook.com/events/286215754875261/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular&source=1

AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in June, here’s the complete list, updated daily:

http://armandrosamilia.com/2014/06/01/summer-of-zombie-blog-tour-2014-post-links/

Bete Noire #15

Published: The Grotesque

Bete Noire #15My poem, The Grotesque, is in the most recent issue of Bete Noire. I freaking love this cover. I’ve been in a few issues of Bete Noire but this is my favourite cover of them all. It might be my favourite poem too, but that’s a close call. I’m proud of all the works of mine Bete Noire has seen fit to publish.

There’s another cool thing about this issue. I get to share a table of contents with a lot of talented folks, including Marge Simon. Marge and I work together regularly for Niteblade, but we don’t often get to share a table of contents, so that’s just a nice bonus 🙂

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Mythbusting Monsters: Zombies

Once upon a time I wrote a short-lived series of articles for Dark Moon Digest I called Monster Mythbusting. The first of those articles, Monster Mythbusting: Haitian Zombis appeared in Dark Moon Digest Issue #2 in 2011. I’m going to reprint it here today in honor of the fact I’m giving my blog over to zombies this month to celebrate my the release of my latest zombie title, Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories).

Monster Mythbusting: Haitian Zombis

When Stan invited me to do a column for Dark Moon Digest first I was flattered, and then in no time at all I was stumped. What could I possibly write about from issue to issue that people would want to read? After considering and rejecting a great number of ideas I settled on this one: Monster Mythbusting.

Ever wonder if a lizard really could grow big enough to tower over buildings, if a creature could spontaneously burst into flames (or sparkle) when exposed to sunlight, or if zombies could really exist? Then stick around. These are the sorts of questions I plan to tackle in this column.

We’re going to start with the zombie. Zombies have enjoyed an upsurge in popularity recently which makes me very happy. Ever since, as a kid, I first saw George Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead I have been hooked on zombies. Whether they are shambling undead hordes, hanging out in regency novels or rage-filled “zoombies”, it doesn’t matter; I love them all. That made them the perfect monster for my first Dark Moon Digest column, but I needed a specific myth to examine.

One of my favourite zombie types is the living zombie, specifically those purportedly created via voodoo. Wade Davis, an ethnobotanist (a scientist who studies culture, plants and the interaction between the two) has spent a lot of time studying this type of zombie and the process by which they are created in Haiti. His work and theories were popularized by his novel, The Serpent and the Rainbow, and the Wes Craven movie of the same name. His work inspired the question I’ve decided to investigate for this column: do zombies exist in Haiti today?

Belief in the existence of zombies is nearly universal in Haiti and I think it’s important to note that Haitian zombies are not Hollywood zombies. They are not ghouls set on spreading their affliction throughout the human race. In fact, in Haiti people aren’t afraid of zombies, they are afraid of becoming one. It’s not the zombie that is the monster, but its creator. A Haitian zombie (or zombi) is a person who has had their soul removed from their body, leaving them a mindless, empty shell. In direct conflict with the idea of cannibalistic zombies, in Haiti it is strongly believed that zombis who have been created to be a slave must not be fed salt or meat lest their spirit be returned to them.

The belief in zombification is so pervasive in Haiti that there are laws against it. Article 249 of the penal code in Haiti equates turning a person into a zombie with murder even though the zombie is still technically alive. The fear of grave robbery and being raised from the dead is so strong that Haitian crypts are often locked and barred. Guards are set on them, to watch until the bodies are decomposed enough to be beyond resurrection or usefulness to a voodoo priest or “bokor”.

Practioners of voodoo believe zombis can be created in two ways. The first is accidental and the second intentional. Accidental zombis are believed to happen in the course of some voodoo ceremonies. During these rituals it is not uncommon for a believer to become possessed by the spirit of a god. Since a god and a person cannot be in the same place at the same time, the person’s soul temporarily leaves their body. They believe if the god’s spirit vacates the body too abruptly it may take the person’s spirit with it, leaving them a zombi. Religious accidents do not lend themselves well to being studied. Thus, for the sake of this column I am going to focus on intentionally created zombies.

Voodoo curses and zombification (or the threat thereof) are used as a means of vengeance in Haiti. A person can hire a bokor to zombify their enemies, killing them and then raising them from the dead as soulless slaves. It’s the ultimate revenge.

Wade Davis studied the powder bokors use to create zombies and found that it contained a powerful neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin which comes, primarily, from the puffer fish. Exposure to this venom can result in a comatose state that strongly mimics death. Thus, he theorized, people could be mistakenly declared dead and buried.[1] Then the bokor could dig them up.

Oxygen deprivation from their time in the grave could cause brain damage. The typical progression of this sort of brain damage (cerebral hypoxia[2]) is to first destroy higher order abilities such as speech and independent thought before it affected motor function. This would, in theory, leave people mobile and able to perform simple tasks but unable to think for themselves.

Once disinterred, they would be forced to eat “zombie cucumber”, a pasty mix of cane sugar, sweet potatoes and a powerful psychoactive substance called datura stramonium. The datura stramonium could cause memory loss and keep the newly created zombies submissive and disoriented.

There are those who find fault with Mr. Davis’ theories. Two scientists in particular, who are experts about tetrodotoxin, C.Y. Kao and Takeshi Yasumoto, took issue with his findings. They argued that Mr. Davis had hurt his scientific credibility by keeping certain information which may have cast doubt on the potency of zombie powder out of his thesis and condemned him for participating in graverobbing as part of his research. They also believed that the concentration of tetrodotoxin in the zombie powder he studied was too low to have any affect on a human subject.[3] However, the potency of the powder is likely to be highly variable—bokors don’t tend to use precise measurements and the toxicity of the puffer fish varies from season to season and even across gender. Thus, it’s conceivable that some powders might be more potent than others.

On the other hand, there is a famous case study that lends credence to Mr. Davis’ theory. In 1962, Clairvius Narcisses, a Haitian man who complained of symptoms of exposure to tetrodotoxin, was declared dead by two American-trained doctors and subsequently buried. Eighteen years later, a man claiming to be Clairvius approached his sister, identified himself and shared information that wasn’t common knowledge to attempt to prove his identity. He claimed he’d been turned into a zombi and forced by a bokor to work on a sugar plantation until the bokor’s death released him from his power.

The man claiming to be Mr. Narcisse alleged that, after being declared dead, he remained completely conscious and aware of what was going on around him but was unable to move or communicate—the same symptoms have been described for individuals poisoned with tetrodotoxin. He also claimed to be aware of his funeral and burial and showed a scar on his cheek where a nail punctured him when the coffin lid was fastened. Upon being quizzed about obscure familial and local knowledge that only someone from his village around the time of his alleged death would know and he answered them all correctly. Intriguing, no?

In 1996 and 1997 Roland Littlewood and Chavannes Douyon went to Haiti and examined three people who were purported to be zombis. They determined their first subject was a catatonic schizophrenic, the second had brain damage which was likely the result of anoxia and the third had a severe learning disability that was quite likely fetal alcohol syndrome. Most interestingly, was the fact that two of their subjects were DNA tested and found to be unrelated to the people who claimed them as family[4].

Littlewood and Douyon’s study implies that people who are brain damaged or mentally ill may be confused for zombis. However, we can’t use this case as evidence against the existence of zombis because Littlewood and Douyon would not dismiss the possibility that these people—especially the one who was brain damaged from a lack of oxygen—had been poisoned by a bokor with zombie powder. In fact, they said, “Given that death is locally recognised without access to medical certification, and that burial usually occurs within a day of death, it is not implausible for a retrieved person to be alive. The use of Datura stramonium to revive them, and its possible repeated administration during the period of zombi slavery could produce a state of extreme psychological passivity.”[5]

So, are Hatian zombis real? While I believe that some cases of zombification are actually misunderstood mentally ill or damaged people, I find that I’m unable to dismiss all cases this way. Perhaps the zombie powder doesn’t work very often, but it doesn’t have to. If it works even once in a million times that is enough. In addition, as Mr. Davis pointed out, we have to take the Haitian culture into account when considering zombis; they believe in them and in the power of voodoo, and belief is a powerful force. In the end I’m not willing to call this myth confirmed, but I definitely think it’s plausible. Perhaps we’ll never know the answer for sure but that only adds to the mystique around Haitian zombis and tightens the grip they and voodoo have upon our imagination.

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[1]E. Davis, Wade (1985). The Serpent and the Rainbow. New York: Simon & Schuster.

[2] “Cerebral Hypoxia Information Page: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke,” accessed November 4, 2010. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/anoxia/anoxia.htm

[3] Takeshi Yasumoto and C.Y. Kao, “Tetrodotoxin and the Haitian zombie,” Toxicon, No. 24, (1986).

[4] Roland Littlewood and Chavannes Douyon, “Clinical findings in three cases of zombification,” Lancet, No. 350, (1997).

[5] Littlewood and Douyon, “Clinical findings in three cases of zombification.”

 

(I added the tree picture because if you squint at it in just the right way it’s almost “spooky”, I haven’t taken any zombie photographs [yet] and I really felt like there needed to be a break between the body of the article and the references. So. Yeah.)

ExHeroes

Book Review: Ex-Heroes

This is a book review by Beth Cato. It’s meant to be a companion for her guest blog from yesterday: A Confession Regarding Zombies. Go ahead and read it first if you haven’t already.

Read it?

Good 🙂

ExHeroesBook Review by Beth Cato: EX-HEROES by Peter Clines

Superheroes, post-apocalypse and zombies. It’s either bound to be a horrid mash-up worthy of midnight cable, or something seriously awesome. I was especially critical because I’m a reluctant reader of zombie fiction. Zombies squick me, big time. But I was gifted with an Advanced Reader Copy of Ex-Heroes from LibraryThing Early Reviewers, and I was willing to give it a try.

I was very pleasantly surprised.

Here’s the book’s summary:
The first in a spectacularly genre-mashing adventure series that pits a small group of courageous, flawed, terrified superheroes against hordes of undead.

Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place.

Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Now, a year later, the heroes struggle to overcome their differences and recover from their own scars as they protect the thousands of survivors huddled in their film-studio-turned-fortress, the Mount.

But the hungry ex-humans are not the only threat the survivors face. Across the city, another group has grown and gained power.

I love a good superhero story. Sometimes, however, it doesn’t translate well to novels. Post apocalypse stories? I love’em to bits because I’m morbid like that. The zombies were my big concern as I approached the book. I told myself, “If it’s bad, I don’t have to finish it.”

I finished it, no problem.

Clines has created a devastated, incredible world here. His cast of superheroes varies widely as far as powers and personalities, and while they do follow the tropes of the genre, they are all vivid and absolutely believable. Even more impressive, he skips from perspective to perspective and between the past and the current apocalyptic environment, and manages to do so in a way that’s not confusing at all. The heroes all speak in voices that are that distinct.

The setting itself is another wow factor. I’m a native Californian but only have a very basic understanding of where things are located around LA. Gauging from this book, Clines KNOWS this place. He uses the movie studios, the streets, and shows how it’s all become a battleground. It feels firmly grounded in reality. My only wish is that the front of the book included a map.

Then there are the zombies. They are as nasty and sad as one would expect. The shambling undead have taken over the world. It’s really chilling, though, when Clines breaks down the statistic to show how many zombies are staggering around LA, even after all the efforts the heroes have taken to combat them. Of course, the heroes aren’t up against the zombies alone. Their big rivals in town are the Seventeen gang, and the thugs are no longer content with peddling drugs and spraying graffiti–no, they want supplies, and they want the superhero Gorgon dead.

Again, as a Californian, this really resonated with me–I could see a gang taking over in a vacuum of power like this. It’s really weird to say, “This superhero zombie apocalypse novel won me over with its realism,” but it’s the truth. I went in with low expectations and now I really want to read onward in the series.

[I received an ARC of the book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Modifed version of this review previously published on 50bookchallenge on LiveJournal, LibraryThing, and Goodreads.]

 

Beth Cato’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.

The Clockwork Dagger

A Confession Regarding Zombies

The Clockwork DaggerBeth is one of my favourite people as well as being one of my favourite authors. Her steampunk novel, The Clockwork Dagger, is scheduled for release in September (Not to brag but I’ve had a sneak peek — you’re going to love it!). Just check out that cover, then click on it to add it to your ‘To-read’ shelf on Goodreads. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Doot doot.

Done?

Good. Now go ahead and read Beth’s confession regarding zombies…

A Confession Regarding Zombies
by Beth Cato

I recently spoke to middle graders about writing. I opened my talk by summarizing my writing in a way to get their interest–“I write about a hundred different ways to end the world, and a few ways to save it.”

This caused a boy to raise his hand with the desperate need to speak about, as he termed it, “his favorite apocalypses.” He asked for my top ten and then had to talk about his all time top five. At the top of his list: zombies. “There’s just something about the walking undead,” he said, his eyes shining with delight.

Meanwhile, I was trying to hide my shudder.

I have a confession to make: I’m a speculative fiction writer who is completely squicked by zombies.

I will not watch The Walking Dead. I try to avoid most zombie movies. I rarely read zombie-themed books–and when I like it, that means it’s a pretty big endorsement on my part. (Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines is one from the past year that I definitely recommend: it’s post-apocalyptic Los Angles with superheroes AND zombies. Great stuff.)

That said, I haven’t ignored the trend entirely. I’ve made a few contributions to zombie lit–“Brains for Breakfast,” which is in Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Presents Flush Fiction and a poem, “What Remains,” in a zombie-themed issue of Penumbra. But that’s it.

I’m not bothered by the undead in general. Liches? Awesome. I love the idea of undead wizards. Mummies are nifty, especially if they are intelligent. Really, I don’t mind animated bodies that retain some cognitive function.

That’s really the key. The thing that perturbs me about zombies is their mindlessness–no memory, no awareness, no sense of self. To me, that’s the worst fate possible, to become an empty vessel.

It’s a very real concern for me. My paternal grandfather died because of Alzheimer’s. We’ve been told, “This might run in your family. You just have to wait and see.”

I wasn’t close to that grandfather. I lived in California; he lived in Alabama. I only saw him a few times in my life, and only once after his diagnosis. It was a very sad meeting, especially for my dad who wasn’t recognized at all. My grandfather stared into space, his eyes vacant. He drooled. I never had the chance to know him, and I never would, and now he didn’t even know who I was.

And I’m left to wonder… will my own brain betray me in this way? Will I see my dad’s consciousness slowly fade from his eyes?

Zombies are the horror genre to me. The real deal. But maybe that’s exactly why people are attracted to zombies, and why they are indeed at the top of so many people’s favorite apocalypse lists. People want to understand their deepest fear. Maybe that’s why I can’t help but write about zombies sometimes, too.

***

This guest blog is part of a series of posts this month featuring zombies. I’m focusing on zombies for the month of June to celebrate the release of my book, Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories)

Clark

Happy Father’s Day

I wrote this a long-ass time ago. I’m not even sure when anymore. It was first published like 8 years ago though… so yeah, it’s been a while. Originally it was a drabble but when I opened the file up to copy it into this entry I couldn’t stop myself from cutting a few especially purple descriptions out 😉

 

FATHERHOOD

Katya hung her blonde head while tears coursed down her sunken cheeks. “I know I’ve given you a hard time – I’ve been an ungrateful brat and always made things difficult.”

A solitary tear trickled out of her eye and captured a sunbeam which made it sparkle like a liquid diamond. “I’m sorry. It doesn’t take DNA to make a father, it takes love. You gave me that.” She sniffed, and looked down at the freshly dug earth. “I love you too, I just wish I’d told you before it was too late.”

 

***

Cheerful, no? LOL Sorry, but it’s still the most father-themed piece I have…

Happy father’s day to all the dads out there. I’ve been lucky enough to have two fathers, one I shared DNA with and one I shared a life with. I love them both.

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The-Final-Formula-1600-Barnes-and-Noble

Something Nasty This Way Stumbles

The-Final-Formula-1600-Barnes-and-NobleI’m dedicating this month on my blog to zombies to celebrate the release of my book Waste Not. Thus, I was super pleased when Becca Andre offered to do a guest blog here today. I “met” Becca on Twitter through Beth Cato (who will have a guest post or two here next week :)) and have always found her to be friendly, professional and well-spoken. So I won’t hold it against her that she’s blogging about why she doesn’t like zombies 😉

Also, the fabulous book covers you see scattered throughout this post are Becca’s but I’m the one who decided to use them to decorate the text here, because I think they are gorgeous 🙂

Something Nasty This Way Stumbles
by Becca Andre

Zombies. It seems they’re everywhere. I run across them in the books I read, the movies I watch, and the games I play. But I don’t understand this obsession with the undead. I find nothing appealing about these rotting husks of humanity. I put them in my own stories because they disturb me. That’s what authors are supposed to do, right? Dig deep, mine your fear. Well, dead things creep me out. Dead things that can get up and move around? Now that’s shudder-worthy!

I’ve always been drawn to creepy things. There’s just something about being afraid that makes me feel alive. I love haunted houses, nighttime walks in the forest, and cemeteries. While on vacation, I seek out hotels that are reported to be haunted, and once my family and I accidentally got locked in a cemetery after dark. (The family freaked on that one, but we were in a rental car, 800 miles from home. Even so, I thought it was cool.)

But back to the reason I’m here. Zombies. To me, the true power of the zombie is the infection story. Losing a loved one is hard. Having said loved one get up and need to be killed all over again, that’s the stuff of nightmares. The horror compounds when everyone you know becomes witless, brain-slurping monsters that chase down anyone who still has a few firing brain cells. (Zombies never seem interested in chomping on each other or the wildlife.) The zombie infection story is rife with conflict and emotion, but to me, the zombie in and of itself is just, well, gross.

I guess gross is the point when it comes to zombies. You are literally staring death in the face, witnessing the decay and the loss of humanity. The outward human resemblance is just a sad reminder of the person it once was. A twisted memory.

The-Element-of-Death-1600-Barnes-and-NobleI think death fascinates and horrifies us in equal measure. I suspect that’s where my interest in ghost stories and cemeteries comes from. Which might explain why death and immortality are major themes in my current series. And you can’t explore death in a work of fantasy without zombies. (I’m pretty sure that’s a rule.)

In my fictional world, necromancers rather than infection animate the dead. Zombies make decent minions if you have the power to control them. They have superhuman strength, they run in packs, and they’re expendable. The problem is, that like a group of hyperactive preschoolers, zombies require constant supervision. You won’t be sending them off to complete missions on their own. Bank robbery? Nope. They’d eat the teller long before she could sack up the cash. But if you’re looking to strike terror in your victim, a pack of mindless flesh-eaters are sure to do the trick.

Zombies aren’t the only undead in my world. You’ll also stumble across the zombie’s twisted cousin, the lich. An animated corpse with his intellect attached makes a far more formidable opponent. If the lich is an undead necromancer who can in turn make the protagonist into a lich, that’s even better. Spending eternity bound to your rotting corpse would not be a pleasant way to go—or stay.

So no, I’m not a zombie enthusiast per se, but I do enjoy exploring the themes they represent. They also work great in black comedy (Zombieland, anyone?) and video games (I’m strangely obsessed with zombie-themed video games). But the zombie’s true horror is the mortality they force us to face.

***

Becca Andre is author of The Final Formula Series. It’s a story about a smart-mouthed alchemist who may or may not have found a potion that grants eternal life. In a modern world where magic has only recently returned, she must rely on her wits and a talent with explosives to discover the truth about a past she doesn’t remember. (The occasional zombie that stumbles into her path just makes things more interesting.)

You can find Becca at www.beccaandre.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AddledAlchemist
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBeccaAndre

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