Over a decade ago, while I was a film journalist, I got to interview producer Jeffrey Katzenberg as part of the the press junket for Shrek 2. At one point I asked him if he thought the Shrek franchise was subverting the fairytale/family entertainment genre, so beloved of Disney? Katzenberg rolled his eyes and shook his head at my question.
“Y’know,” he said. “I get about ten young writers coming into my office every week telling me they’ve got a script that reinvents some genre or other. But you know what – I wish they’d just learn to write the freaking genre, before trying to remake it!” I remember being a bit abashed at the time, not just because he’d brushed off my question, but I probably had some work tucked away in a drawer that aspired to reinvent a genre or two. With hindsight however, I can’t help thinking how spot on his comment was.
Every genre has to reinvent itself over time if it’s to remain relevant and fresh to successive generations. However, so many attempts end up falling flat, or missing the mark. So, what I’d like to look at in this guest post, is the ways in which writers, directors and other genre practitioners have successfully subverted the horror genre throughout its long history, to get an idea of what really works.
Three hundred years after the fall of society, the last fragments of civilization are clinging to life, living in the ruins of the ancient cities in nearly-medieval conditions. Technology has been reduced to legend, monsters roam the forests, and fear reigns supreme. But that is just the beginning…
The wind-borne spores are spreading, disfiguring men and twisting their minds, turning them into creatures that threaten to destroy the townships. Among the townsfolk, political and the religious, dissension is spreading. Through it all, a mother must protect her son…
The stench of frozen rotted meat is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 10 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.
Cast your minds back to the beginning of September when I talked about THE BLACK FANG BETRAYAL, a collaborative novel produced by James Thorn and written by Thorn, TW Brown, Michaelbrent Collings, Mainak Dhar, J.C. Eggleton, Glynn James, Stephen Knight, T.W. Piperbrook, J.R. Rain, and myself. Full details can be found at this link.
I hope you’ve enjoyed THE BLACK FANG BETRAYAL if you’ve read it. It seems to have really gone down well with a lot of people around the world. It was a unique concept which I really enjoyed being a part of. Thanks again to James and the other writers involved.
Today I’d like to introduce you to PETER MCKEIRNON – author of DEATH IN A NORTHERN TOWN and its recently released sequel. I got chatting to Peter a while back and was really interested in his take on the zombie apocalypse (which feels similarly low-fi to AUTUMN, but far funnier). In this guest post he talks about his influences.
I have never seriously thought about my influences. Usually I am asked who my favourite author is or what my favourite zombie movie is, but when Dave asked me to write a guest article about what inspires my writing I began to consider, for the first time, what my real influences are. The answers take me back to my childhood and the horror movies, comedy shows and ultimately the town in which I grew up.
I grew up on a council estate in Runcorn, Cheshire, UK. One of the great things about the area I lived was that once a week a man driving an old Ford Escort would pull up at the top of our road, open the boot and rent out the shittiest collection of pirated movies you had ever seen. But within this mishmash of badly copied 1980s straight to video movies were classic horrors such as Killer Clowns from Outer Space, Munchies (camp Critters rip off), The Evil Dead, The Fly… the list goes on. What was so brilliant was you could rent up to 15 movies a week for £5 and the nice illegal video rental man really didn’t care that a kid who should be at home watching The Never Ending Story was instead renting copies of The Stuff, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Troll, Garbage Pail Kids The Movie (not really for children, adults or anyone for that matter!) and Vamp.
Watching horror from a young age changed me greatly and where other kids on my estate played football and argued over who was going to be Kenny Dalgleish, Ian Rush or Peter Beardsley, I was busy scaring the shit out of family members by hiding behind doors and appearing at windows dressed up as a vampire or a werewolf! This was where my love affair with horror began.
This week I’m pleased to present a very timely guest post from another of Moody’s Survivors, Jonathan Wood, who talks about one of his (and my) favourite films – Ridley Scott’s seminal 1979 classic, ALIEN. I’m sure there are very few people who’ve yet to see the film, but if you’re one of them, please be warned: spoilers ahead.
The death of H R Giger earlier this month saddened me. A true genius and visionary, his name became synonymous with biomechanics – fusion of the human body and machinery. A futuristic surrealist, it wasn’t until around 1979 that Giger came to the world’s attention for his work on ALIEN. Director Ridley Scott took the theme of a haunted house in space and created a masterpiece of modern horror/sci-fi, thanks in no small part to Giger’s unforgettable biomechanoid xenomorph.
ALIEN was a movie that terrified me as a teenager. And when I say terrified, I really do mean it. After watching the film I think I slept with the light on for about three or four days after, such was the profound effect it had on me. ALIEN has also influenced my own work with it’s principal themes of claustrophobia, surprise, and the steady build up of terror in a story which is all the more terrifying for what we don’t see.
Do away with The Stand: we’ve all read it (hopefully) and seen the TV movie. I am Legend as well – you’re not welcome here. Anything with zombies spelling the end of mankind? Please leave the building in an orderly fashion, kindly taking any severed limbs with you.
It’s all the Mayan’s fault. They ran out of days on their calendar and created a concern that touched almost every man, woman and child on the planet in the process. The big day came and went with about so much as a plane falling from the sky: an incorrect belief that circled the globe because an ancient mathematician was too lazy to count any further than he had too. Every soothsayer and psychic since we’ve been able to put quill to papyrus has had the fantasy of getting it right and guessing humanity’s ultimate demise, as if correctly guessing our extinction would earn them bonus points in the afterlife or perhaps to be smug for that last second before we’re all wiped out would make it all worthwhile.
Death is our last fetish and is as inevitable as taxes, as the adage goes. It greets us on the news, in soap operas and in our own little lives with our own sequence of tragedies that pepper our existence. There are many books that speculate on our end. Nostradamus had a good go. The Bible dwells on fire, brimstone and punishing sinners with the arrival of the Four Horsemen and the ultimate torture room, Hades. The recent surge in post-apocalyptic fiction, with the rise of The Walking Dead series for example has further cemented the end of days into popular culture. The end sells.
Many writers have explored this, some more popular than others. So I’d like to introduce you to five powerful novels which treat the end of us just as brutally as Stephen King preaches in The Stand, Richard Matheson explores in I am Legend and John Wyndham shows the dangers of meddling with nature in The Day of the Triffids.
I hope you all know MOODY’S SURVIVORS by now? They’re a great group of like-minded (I think!) Facebook folk who met online (and increasingly offline) through talking about my books. I love these guys. Seriously. They’re endlessly supportive, and there’s a huge amount of talent within their ranks. You can become a Survivor yourself – just click here. Over the coming weeks and months, I’m going to be hosting a series of guest posts written by members of the Survivors about all manner of subjects. First up today we have John Milton (follow him on Twitter @JohnMiltonAE) and, as you can see, his chosen subject is Scottish serial killers. Over to John…
Scotland. A country believed to be first populated by man approximately 13,000 years ago, with prehistoric settlements dating back around 10,000 years still in existence. A country that has fought the Romans, causing them to build Hadrian’s Wall. A country that warred with the invading Vikings. A country whose clans clashed with each other for centuries. A country that has produced the inventor of the television and telephone. The Tourist Board in Scotland would be happy to perpetuate the stereotype of Scotland full of wild mountains, bagpipes playing, ruined castles and hospitable ginger natives wearing kilts who are fiercely proud of their heritage. Although much of that description is factual, there is a far darker side to the country that you won’t see advertised…
Various shocking monikers have been given to the country and its cities, such as “The most violent nation in the developed world” and Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, has been called “The Murder Capital of Western Europe”. These are not simply headlines for the tabloids; the titles are based on figures provided by the European Commission and United Nations; and I would suggest that this is not a new phenomenon.
Within the horror genre, fictional mass murderers are popular: Norman Bates, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Hannibal Lecter, Michael Myers, and TV’s very own Dexter. However, many of these characters have at least some of their backstory rooted in fact: Ed Gein, H.H.Holmes, John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy are all truly terrifying examples of real-life horror. However, all of the names I have mentioned originate from the United States, a country with a population currently more than 311 million. Scotland, with a population of approximately 5 million, which is roughly 2.5 million less than the city of London, seems to produce a disproportionate amount of notorious serial killers…
Many of you will already know Wayne. And you’ll know that I know Wayne too. He’s a good friend of mine and I’ve written before about his books FLU and DROP DEAD GORGEOUS. With DDG currently getting a long-overdue re-release through Snowbooks, Wayne’s in the middle of a blog-swap tour and today it’s his turn to visit here. You can find a post from me over at www.waynesimmons.org, but for now, here’s Wayne…
I’m a lifelong fan of horror, sci-fi and fantasy (or what we affectionately refer to as The Genre). For me, writing is just an extension of that fandom. Ever since my dad handed me a bunch of comics to read – mostly DC and Marvel titles, alongside Brit reads such as 2000AD and The Eagle – I’ve been hooked, a dedicated genre fan devouring books, movies, action figures, the lot.
As a fan, I try to write a story that I and other fans want to read. So, when planning my zombie horror novel, FLU, I thought first about what I myself enjoy within a good Romeroesque zombie story, whether it be a film, comic or book. I then tried to inject a little of those qualities into my own story. Of course, these are things that perhaps you too enjoy – the desolated cityscape, the zombie hordes, the gore and horror, the suspense. But I also really enjoy how Romero would use the zombie threat to examine human nature ie. the plight of our survivors; trust breaking down as the tension mounts; people backstabbing others to save their own skins etc.
With my latest release, DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, the survivors are the man focal point of the story. As the world suddenly ends, it’s their plight I focus on, their hopes and fears, the complexity of their relationships with each other. This is a story about people, about the living and how death (on such a mass scale) will affect them. How the masses of bodies decaying on the streets, in the bars and restaurants, offices and hotels, freak out those left behind. And how when some bodies refuse to decay, the survivors become even more unnerved…
I was reading a lot of Japanese horror writer, Koji Suzuki, while writing DDG. I was also reading mountains of zombie horror, such as my host today, David Moody, as well as other genre favs like Brian Keene and Bowie Ibarra. I was watching zombie horror movies by the dozen, flicks such as Zach Snyder’s 2004 remake of Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD, and I was also devouring much of the Asian Horror cinema around at the time – THE RING films, TALE OF TWO SISTERS, THE GRUDGE, DARK WATER etc. In a sense, then, DROP DEAD GORGEOUS is a blend of all the things I enjoy most within horror – the gore of zombie stories as well as the suspense and sheer creepiness prevalent within Asian horror cinema.
As a fan of The Genre, DDG was a dream project. To put my own unique spin on what I like best within contemporary horror is a wonderful thing. My only hope is that you too, fellow horror fan, will get a chance to pick up a copy of DROP DEAD GORGEOUS – that you’ll enjoy reading this spooky, brutal and emotionally charged story of mine even a fraction as much as I have enjoyed creating it.
Belfast born, Wayne Simmons, has been loitering with intent around the horror genre for some years. Having scribbled reviews and interviews for various zines, Wayne released his debut horror novel, DROP DEAD GORGEOUS in 2008. The book was received well by both fans of the genre and reviewers alike.
An extended version of DDG has just been released through Snowbooks.
Wayne released his bestselling zombie apocalyptic horror novel, FLU, through Snowbooks in April 2010. In what little spare time he has left, Wayne enjoys running, getting tattooed and listening to all manner of unseemly screeches on his BOOM-BOOM Box… Meet Wayne online at www.waynesimmons.org.
Don’t forget: Wayne and I will both be at the SFX WEEKENDER tomorrow and Saturday. We also have a joint signing at WATERSTONE’S LEICESTER HIGHCROSS on Sunday 3pm – 5pm. Hope to see some of you there!