Tag Archives: Christine Morgan

Before They Were Zombies

When I agreed to participate in zOctober I announced that I’d like to have a few other zombie-themed posts on my blog for the month. Not so many as in the Month of Zombies, you understand, but a sprinkling. Christine Morgan, who I met through Fae, agreed to write a zombie-themed guest post for me. This one is all about zombies… before they were zombies. Enjoy!

Before They Were Zombies

Christine Morgan

Zombies, zombies, zombies. These days, everyone knows all about zombies. The zombie apocalypse has become to this generation what the nuclear aftermath was a generation or so earlier. We all have our contingency plans. Even the CDC got on board with some useful disaster tips in the guise of zombie outbreak preparedness.

Seriously. Ask anybody. Ask a little kid. Ask what’s a zombie, you’ll likely get the moaning slackmouthed shuffle with outstretched arms. Maybe with a “braaaaains” thrown in. Everyone knows if you get bitten, you’re doomed, unless you’re amazingly lucky in the timing of lopping off the bitten part. Everyone knows the only way to stop a zombie is with a head shot.

We have them in movies, in books, in video games, in graphic novels, on TV. We have zombie-themed marathons and flash mob events. Arguments about “fast zombies or slow zombies” fill many a convention panel, along with debates about the difference between infected crazies versus actual walking corpses.Night of the Living Dead

They are THE modern monster of this day and age. Allegorical in oh so many ways, hitting a perfect storm of hot-button phobias, something that resonates on both deeper and more widespread levels than any other monster.

Although there are plenty of “puttin’ the feel in necrophilia” pieces of zombie erotica, they’re basically just, let’s face it, not as sexy as their best-known counterparts. Vampires have style, werewolves have passion, zombies have jokes about “you can keep the tip.”

Our current understanding of the zombie can pretty much be credited to Romero. He created an entire genre within his own lifetime, sparked the zombie revolution, changed a whole worldwide perception. That has got to be pretty damn cool by anybody’s reckoning.

But, did he invent the zombie? Oh, heck no. Zombie lore can be found in almost every culture in various forms, going back to the dawn of time. The moment humanity reached a point of sentience where we could fear death, you better believe the fears of undeath were not far behind.

Our burial rituals may have their practical reasons – you don’t just want to leave a rotting corpse lying around; it’s stinky, it’s messy, it might lure scavengers, there’s disease, there’s the psychological effects of witnessing it, there’s all sorts of dangers and concerns for the surviving rest of the tribe.

As we developed culture and civilzation, however, we needed something more. We needed the spiritual and supernatural aspects of death and burial rituals. We needed to believe we were doing right by our deceased, respecting our ancestors, helping their souls move on to the afterlife.

And, because we’re a kind of punishment-based contrary breed, we needed to drive it home with some big scary threats of OR ELSE.

OR ELSE their ghosts might come back to haunt you. OR ELSE a wizard/spirit might take over the dead flesh and use it to do evil. OR ELSE the body might get up of its own accord and go looking for revenge against whoever gave it offense.

R.I.P. = Rest in Peace. A nice way of well-wishing, but also a plea … please don’t return and hurt us. God Grant He/She Lie Still = same thing.

The word ‘zombie’ comes, of course and as most of us know, from Haitian voudon practices. Which, ironically enough, were less about animating corpses and more about casting spells or doing rituals to ensnare the minds and enslave the bodies of the still-living.

Why that one became THE chosen universal name is harder to winnow out. Maybe it’s just because ‘zombie’ is both memorable and kinda fun to say.

Before that, we had ghouls, sure, but ghouls were more vaguely defined … a ghoul might be a risen corpse gnawing on the bones of its graveyard neighbors, it might be a living person with a taste for dead meat, it might be a different species of being altogether. Mostly, though, ghouls ate the DEAD. They were desecrators, tomb-robbers. They didn’t bother the still-breathing.

Then there’s the idea of the revenant, but the revenant is an animated corpse in more than just terms of mindless hunger and movement. Revenants are more often described as intelligent, as foreign or even demonic spirits inhabiting the corpses and using them as puppets. Decaying meat-puppets, but hey, sometimes a spirit can’t be choosy.

Various cultures have their own particular takes on the lore, as well. Since I write a lot of historical horror and dark fantasy, these old legends are something I find particularly fascinating.

There are Biblical zombies … it’s not unknown for sacriligous smartasses to refer to Easter as Zombie Jesus Day … but if you go that route, Jesus was hardly the first zombie … let’s not forget good old Lazarus, who fits the classic criteria pretty well. The sisters of Lazarus were worried about the stench, since he’d been in the tomb four days.

What I always found interesting to ponder about that was, well, what happened with Lazarus after? He emerges, they unwrap him from the grave clothes and let him go … and that’s that. Poor guy. Assuming the best and that he came back fully revived and intact, that’s still quite a reputation to be dragging around. And assuming less-than-best, those were the days when stoning lepers to death was no big deal.

The Norse have the draugr, a specific type of corpse because it usually refers to men who died at sea, who fell off their ships and drowned, and were thus unable to be given the proper burial rites. No body, no barrow-mound or fiery Viking-ship funeral. Insult to injury, since drowning also meant not dying in combat and hence no glorious mead-party in Valhalla.

Another term for the draugr, perhaps reserved for those who didn’t drown per se and thus didn’t qualify, was aptrgangr … literally, after-goer … a wonderful term but not much in common use, probably because of all those consonants. I love the Germanic languages but you’ve got to admit, aptrganger sounds like someone with a wad of half-chewed PB&J stuck mid-gullet.

Battle for Middle Earth wight iconRelated to and drawn from those stories, it’s a natural progression to the wight, or the barrow-wight, as seen in Tolkien’s work. The handy thing about wights is that they tend to stay localized; they don’t go roaming around and only attack whoever intrudes on their barrows.

Which brings us to the mummy, a very niche market of corpse. When it came to death rituals and funerary preparations, shut the front door because the Egyptians had it hands-down. The process of mummification even for your average slave or citizen, let alone the elaborate affairs of buring a pharaoh, blow everyone else out of the water.

Chinese folklore has the jiangshi, a name which refers to the peculiar stiff-limbed, rigor mortis ‘hopping’ quality of its gait. (somehow, I suspect “The Hopping Dead” might not have made for AS successful a show, even with Daryl Dixon). They don’t so much feast on living flesh but kill to obtain the released life force of their victims.

Similarly, the Tibetan ro-langs is so stiff that it cannot bend at all, so, it can be kept out simply by having low doorways. That may seem less than scary, the mental image of a literal stiff bonking sternum-height against the door jamb again and again, but they make up for it by being able to wag or flap their tongues at their prey. A ro-langs ( “ro” = “corpse” and “langs” = “to rise up”) differs from the jiangshi because the ro-langs is more RISEN up, as in, raised from the dead by magic or spirit possession.

The list, of course, goes on and on. And on and on and on, once you get into the lore of various roleplaying or video games, or more literature like Tolkien above. There are dozens of “types” of undead in your typical D&D game, each with their various powers and abilities. A lich is/does THIS, a skeleton THAT (animated skeletons are, of course, never cooler than when done a la Harryhausen, but I digress), a necromancer can create/control THESE, a cleric can turn/dispel THOSE, and so on.

Zombies, zombies, zombies. Usually human, too, you’ll find. Zombie animals are much more rare. Maybe people think they’re not as frightening or appalling somehow (read Pet Semetary), or maybe animals are already considered dangerous or weird enough while alive. Or maybe it’s just not the same degree of pathos.

Whatever your stance, though, I hope we can all agree that zombies are a big deal. The subject of “is the zombie genre played out” comes up even more often than the “fast vs. slow” debates, and I don’t see how it CAN be played out.

Some of the tropes may have been overdone, sure. I know I’ve read a few more standard outbreak/apocalypse novels and seen a few more movies along those lines. When they’ve become formulaic and aren’t bringing anything new to the party, that’s when they can seem overdone. It’s finding those new things to bring, those new ways to look at and play with the tropes, that’s where the fun is.

Played for laughs, for instance. Horror and comedy go well together; zombies can be funny in their bumbling, pieces-dropping way. In the midst of humor, though, there can also be poignancy. Movies like Fido, and Shaun of the Dead, hit all the right notes.

I’ve attempted it myself in stories like “Dawn of the Living-Impaired,” where political correctness rears its head … or “Seven Brains, Ten Minutes,” which was inspired by watching competitive eating shows. My story “Family Life” has a sit-com feel with a zombified fairy tale in the middle (Zombiella loses her foot at the ball!)

wwzStories done in other places or times than contemporary America, too … we need more of those. World War Z (the book) did a decent job looking at some of the ways it might happen or be handled in other countries.

Zombies in the past, why not? Zombies and pirates. Zombies in the Wild West. I have a story called “A Tower to the Sky” which sets the outbreak in ancient Mesopotamia, I have “The Barrow-Maid” with all the Viking blood and thunder. Given the range of my interests, I’ll probably go back further and attempt caveman zombies, or hey, how about as the real reason the dinosaurs went extinct?

Or the future. My story “Cured Meat” looks at what kind of societies might evolve among the undead once they’ve won and there are no more living people … not merely mimicking our current daily lives but pondering what would be important to them, what would be vital? I realized partway in that I’d stuck myself with a more daunting challenge than I’d anticipated; if sex and gender don’t matter to zombies, then no using those he/she pronouns. That was a toughie, but I enjoyed it.

Or crossovers. Steampunk zombies. Lovecraftian zombies. Just about anything you can dream up can be dreamt up with zombies (though let’s drop the whole just-add-zombies to existing works of literature, come on, it was a novelty the first time but like with the potato salad kickstarter, the glut of samey-same follow-ups aren’t as good; if we’re going to do it, let’s at least throw in some twists and be creative).

Right now, we are in the middle of a “When They Were Zombies” phase. But there was a “Before” and there will be an “After,” and I for one am eager to see where the lore will go next.

They’ve been with us for thousands of years, by various names and in various forms. They’ll be with us for thousands more. As long as we’ve feared and will fear death, we’ve feared and will still fear undeath.

Which means … MORE ZOMBIES!!!


Thank you for coming by Christine, and sharing this with my readers. Small confession? I’m totally one of those sacrilegious smartasses who has been known to call Easter zombie Jesus day. Try not to hate me for it 🙂

Christine can be found on:


Fae Contributor Interview: Christine Morgan

For this week’s Fae-tastic Friday I’m stoked to bring you an interview with another contributor to Fae, Christine Morgan!


Christine Morgan’s Interview

What was the inspiration for your Fae story?

It was one of those articles about toy marketing for girls vs. boys, the dreaded “pink aisle” and special girly LEGO and that kind of thing. It led me into thinking about the whole history of toys and “traditional” gender-based play, which then led to all that stuff about snips and snails and puppy dog tails, boys are active and rambunctious, sugar and spice and everything nice for little girls all clean and polite … and it annoys the heck out of me. Then I started thinking about Peter Pan, and how here’s this wonderful world of excitement and adventure for the boys, but Wendy’s expected to be the nice mommy, and wanted to write something where … what if it went kind of a different way around? Why should the boys get to have all the fun? Why not make them pay for it, in a kind of malicious way?

Was this your first foray into writing fairy stories?

Not at all. Always been very into them, going back to when I must’ve checked out a couple of those Andrew Lang color collections (the Green Fairy Book, the Red Fairy Book, etc.) every week. As I got older, I realized how much of a powerful female perspective they had … as they should. Sure, it was the Brothers Grimm who collected them and got the credit, but it was the mothers, the big sisters, the grandmothers, who were making up and telling these stories. For me, as a writer, the real fun is in taking the classics and giving them a new twist or fun quirk, to play with the old tropes. And, sometimes, to do weird mash-ups or re-imaginings just to see what happens. I’ve recently, for example, sold one called “The Arkham-Town Musicians” to an anthology of Lovecraftian fairy tales, and I’ve got a heist version of Cinderella, “Cinder’s Twelve,” in another upcoming book.

Can you tell us a bit about the specific type of fairy creature in your story? Is that your favourite type of fae?

I think of Rosie as being of the Fair Folk / Puck-ish variety, sprite-like, but a little mean. Puck’s depicted as a trickster, but generally benign, seeking to make amends and all that. Rosie’s more the kind who would grow up to steal babies and replace them with changelings, or do real harm. That kind, for me, is the most fun to write about because they might look human enough, but their attitude is completely inhuman, not bound by or even understanding human morality. I also like the little winged pixie-types; more Disney’s Fantasia with the nature magic and the flowers and the snowflakes … which mostly didn’t interact with humans but just flitted about and did their thing.

Outside of your own writing, who is your favourite fairy character? (ie: Tinkerbell, Puck, etc.) What is it about them that makes them special?

The court of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They exemplify that inhuman attitude I mentioned above, something so foreign and alien to us that it’s almost beyond comprehension. I mean, think about it, Oberon’s all “Ha-ha, made you *bleep* a donkey, ha-ha!” and Titania’s all “Oh, YOU! You sillybuns! Let’s make up!” Gotta love Tink, though … if only for the scene in the Disney animated classic where she’s on the mirror admiring herself and suddenly gets concerned about the size of her rump … and the whole jealous attempted-Wendy-murder.

Those are definitely my favourite Tink moments too! Do you believe in fairies?

I believe in … not really sure what, exactly … but, something more or other than what we can normally perceive. Mostly, I believe in not wanting to rule things out; like to keep my options open. Who am I to say for sure? Got to have a flexible mind and be able to go with the flow. Or maybe I’m too much of a horror writer and know it’s the ones who dig in their heels about there being “no such thing as” who usually meet a band end first.

Excerpt from Rosie Red Jacket by Christine Morgan (230 words):

“Boys are the horridest,” someone said. “Aren’t they just?”

Georgina, on the stone bench by the garden hedge, started so that she almost dropped her book. She caught it against her lap and looked around.

Here was the yard, grassy lawns and flower-beds and tree-shaded paths sloping up toward Drewbury Hall, where her uncle’s family lived. Where she, too, now lived, because she had noplace else to go. The brick walls climbed green with ivy, the roof-slates were grey, and curtains stirred in open windows as the maids aired out the rooms.

The only person she saw was Partridge, the driver, out by the carriage-house. He crouched in front of the big brass-grilled snout of Uncle’s gleaming auto-motor, polishing the luminaries with a soft rag. It couldn’t have been him that she heard, because he was too far away, whistling as he worked.

And the voice had sounded much more like that of a child, a girl her own age.

Which would have been nice, but the only other girl for miles about was the coalman’s daughter in the village. Mrs. Curtis, the housekeeper, insisted it simply wouldn’t do for Miss Georgina to associate with the coal-scuttle girl. Such things weren’t proper, and therefore, weren’t done.

She was about to decide she’d imagined it when the someone spoke again.

“Don’t you wish that they’d all get the speckles and die?”



Fae Cover

Available direct from the publisher:

Paperback $14.95
Ebook $6.99

Or find it online:

Barnes & Noble (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Fae Cover Reveal Announcement

FAE cover mysteryWorld Weaver Press and I are going to host an official cover reveal for Fae on May 21st. In addition to showing off our fantastic cover, we’ll also be hosting a giveaway of several copies (through Goodreads).

About Fae:

Meet Robin Goodfellow as you’ve never seen him before, watch damsels in distress rescue themselves, get swept away with the selkies and enjoy tales of hobs, green men, pixies and phookas. One thing is for certain, these are not your grandmother’s fairy tales.

Fairies have been both mischievous and malignant creatures throughout history. They’ve dwelt in forests, collected teeth or crafted shoes. Fae is full of stories that honor that rich history while exploring new and interesting takes on the fair folk from castles to computer technologies and modern midwifing, the Old World to Indianapolis.

Fae covers a vast swath of the fairy story spectrum, making the old new and exploring lush settings with beautiful prose and complex characters. Enjoy the familiar feeling of a good old-fashioned fairy tale alongside urban fantasy and horror with a fae twist.

With an introduction by Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, and all new stories from Sidney Blaylock Jr., Amanda Block, Kari Castor, Beth Cato, Liz Colter, Rhonda Eikamp, Lor Graham, Alexis A. Hunter, L.S. Johnson, Jon Arthur Kitson, Adria Laycraft, Lauren Liebowitz, Christine Morgan, Shannon Phillips, Sara Puls, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Kristina Wojtaszek.

If you’d like to participate in the official reveal, please leave a comment to this blog post before May 17th (short notice, I know) and I’ll send you all the information you need by the 19th. Otherwise, just be sure and check back here on the 21st for the official unveiling of the cover and information about how you can enter to win a copy for yourself!

ETA: A friend asked me to explain a bit about what ‘hosting the reveal’ meant, for those people who aren’t familiar with the jargon. Basically, right before the day of the official reveal I will send out a copy of the cover image, a description of the book, links for the Goodreads giveaway, excerpts and all that sort of fun stuff to everyone who signs up to host the reveal. Then, on the day of the reveal all the hosts will post a blog entry with the cover image and whatever other bits of the book information they want to share.

People who don’t have a blog don’t need to sign up, but they can absolutely help still by spreading the word on social media, voting for the book in polls and entering to win the giveaway.

Fae Table of Contents

Silver Pixie CA OrnamentIt’s been quite a journey since World Weaver Press and I first announced that I’d be editing an anthology of fairy stories. Fae has grown from a vague idea to a solid manuscript over the past few months and become even more amazing than I’d hoped. We have seventeen fantastic stories that are going to blow you away.

Allow me to share the table of contents from my forthcoming anthology, Fae:

Rosie Red Jacket by Christine Morgan
The Queen of Lakes by L.S. Johnson
Ten Ways to Self-Sabotage, Only Some of Which Relate to Fairies by Sara Puls
Antlers by Amanda Block
Only Make-Believe by Lauren Liebowitz
F.C.U. by Jon Arthur Kitson
Water Sense by Adria Laycraft
The Cartography of Shattered Trees by Beth Cato
Possession by Rhonda Eikamp
And Only The Eyes of Children by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Seven Years Fleeting by Lor Graham
The Last King by Liz Colter
Faerie Knight by Sidney Blaylock, Jr.
Solomon’s Friend by Kristina Wojtaszek
A Fairfolk Promise by Alexis A. Hunter
The Fairy Midwife by Shannon Phillips
The Price by Kari Castor

These stories run the gamut from high-tech to old-fashioned and will sweep you away to settings as varied as modern day Indianapolis, the American civil war and mystical medieval kingdoms. They have, as I requested in my call for submissions, lush settings, beautiful prose and complex characters, and come this summer, if you’re a fan of fairies and folklore, you are going to fall in love with this book.