Looking back at the AUTUMN movie

So, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the AUTUMN series a lot recently. AUTUMN was the first of my books which really took off. As you may recall, I gave it away free online between 2001 and 2008 (when, strange as it now seems, eBooks were rare and very few people were giving them away), and it was downloaded many hundreds of thousands of times. I wrote a series of sequels which were well received, and the first book was even adapted as an online full cast audio drama which you can still listen to.

But then HATER came along and my focus shifted. I then moved onto other books and projects, and it’s now a sobering five years since the last book – AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION – was released. Yet even now people still get in touch regularly to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed the series.

When I wrote the very first draft of the very first book, way back in 1997, no one was writing about zombies. Very few people were watching zombie movies, either. In fact, no one was paying zombies any attention in any way, shape or form. But in the years which followed, a totally unexpected thing happened and, for the first time, the living dead became mainstream. In films, Danny Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER was a huge hit (which sparked endless pointless debate about whether zombies should run or not, and whether or not his infected were zombies at all), and Zack Synder’s remake of George Romero’s ground-breaking DAWN OF THE DEAD bucked the trend and proved that not all remakes were worthless cash-ins. THE WALKING DEAD comic was launched and a number of writers including myself, BRIAN KEENE and DAVID WELLINGTON precipitated the flood of zombie fiction.

And despite hearing rumours to the contrary every few months since then, the bubble hasn’t burst. People still love the living dead.

I’m going to write two more AUTUMN novels. There – I’ve said it out loud and in public now. I have an idea which I can’t stop thinking about and that, for me, is the acid test. If an idea for a book won’t go away, then that book needs writing. I have a couple of other projects to wrap up first, then I’ll dive straight into what I’m currently calling AUTUMN: DAWN. I don’t want to say too much at the moment, but I think the time’s right for these new books. As I’ve already said, the world has changed dramatically since I first wrote AUTUMN. To my mind, zombies have always been the ultimate story-telling device for allowing writers and film-makers to study the human condition. By turning people into something so similar yet inherently different, it enables us to look back and consider what makes us human in the first place. Socially we’re in a vastly different place now to where we were in 2001, and I think it’ll be fascinating to imagine how we’d react to the events of AUTUMN if they took place today. The new books won’t replace the original novels, nor will they undermine them. Same dead world, different people. Not a rehash or reboot. It’s funny… one of the rules of zombie fiction and movies when I first started writing was that the characters had to have an unspoken innocence and couldn’t know what a zombie was. Given the pop culture explosion I’ve just been talking about, there’s no way I could get away with that in the new AUTUMN books!

So what about the movie?

It was released in 2008 to a torrent of abuse and ill-feeling. It creaks and it groans. It was made on a shoestring budget and it shows. People either loved it or hated it (mostly they hated it). I stopped trying to defend it and used the backlash to try and promote the books, working on the dubious premise that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Tellingly, none of the publishers of the series around the world mentioned the film in their marketing, though an editor who worked on the books did once tell me that ‘it’s always better to have a bad film made of one of your books than no film at all’. And with hindsight, I think I agree. But how bad a film is it? Was all the negativity justified? This week I took a deep breath and watched AUTUMN from start to finish for the first time in a decade. And you know what? I really enjoyed it. I’m under no illusions, it’s not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t think it’s the absolute car crash that most people assume.

Here’s a trailer, and my thoughts follow. And yes, that is me on the DVD cover above.

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The Shape of Water

A fairly predictable film recommendation from me today. I make no secret of the fact that I owe GUILLERMO DEL TORO big time. I’ve never met the man, never even spoken to him directly, but it’s no exaggeration to say that he changed my life. His endorsement of HATER and the movie he almost produced helped propel my gruesome little book from its modest indie roots to a worldwide release which exceeded my wildest expectations. I was trawling through some old clippings the other day and I came across an old interview with him where he talked about it: “…what I love about the premise is that there is a righteousness. It’s not a viral situation, not a contagion, it’s a situation of a social disease. That we can road rage into murdering someone at any second. That it’s a social epidemic is what attracted me. It’s not a zombie movie. The people that kill the people can rationalise why they did it. That’s what is scary about it.

You can understand why this was such a big deal, but what made it an even bigger deal was the fact I was a huge Guillermo del Toro fan even before this happened. I happened upon a copy of his first movie, CRONOS, shortly after it was released in 1993, and I’d followed his career with interest since then. Or was that his careers? He seems to occupy a unique position whereby he alternates big budget crowd pleasing movies like HELLBOY and PACIFIC RIM with more personal films such as THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE and PAN’S LABYRINTH. His most recent movie, for which he picked up the best director and best picture Oscars at this year’s Academy awards, seems to have brought both of these strands of film-making together.

The premise is simple, the film is outstanding: At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

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I should be working (but instead I’m reading)

I really should be working, but it’s been a while since I got hold of a copy of SCREAM and, as usual, it’s packed with good stuff.

 

Having recently sat through the film again, I particularly enjoyed the comprehensive feature about FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE. Also noteworthy were the articles about PIRANHA, the career of JOE DANTE, and oft-overlooked sequel EXORCIST III. And that’s why I love SCREAM, and why I post about it whenever a new issue lands on the doormat – it’s a magazine for true horror fans who’ve lived and breathed the genre for years. It focuses on the classics as well as the contemporary. Long may it continue!

You can get hold of SCREAM from www.screamhorrormag.com/store. It’s also available from BARNES & NOBLE and BOOKS A MILLION stores in the USA, CHAPTERS/INDIGO stores in Canada, EASON stores across Ireland, and in the UK you can pick up copies from WH Smith, HMV, FOPP and FORBIDDEN PLANET.

MOON

How long’s it been since I recommended a film here? A quick glance back shows that it’s 4 months since I talked about the plusses of PADDINGTON 2 versus the negatives of ALIEN: COVENANT, so a new recommendation is well overdue. I watched Duncan Jones’ MUTE last night, and though I tried hard to love it, I could only like (bits of) it. MUTE hit Netflix earlier this month, and it piqued my interest because it takes place in the same movie universe as Jones’ first movie, MOON. To my mind, MOON is one of the best films of the last decade, and I realised I’d never recommended it on this site. So here goes.

Astronaut Sam Bell’s (Sam Rockwell) three-year shift at a lunar mine is finally coming to an end, and he’s looking forward to his reunion with his wife (Dominique McElligott) and young daughter. Suddenly, Sam’s health takes a drastic turn for the worse. He suffers painful headaches and hallucinations, and almost has a fatal accident. He meets what appears to be a younger version of himself. With time running out, Sam must solve the mystery before the company crew arrives.

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Write Through the Roof

I had a great time recently being interviewed by MADELEINE D’ESTE for her podcast WRITE THROUGH THE ROOF. It’s an excellent show designed for writers who want to improve their craft. Each episode, a different writer shares their tip for what took their writing to the next level. Previous guests have included Gareth L. Powell, Dave Hutchinson and Garth Nix. Please listen in!

Use the player below to listen, or download or subscribe.

Forthcoming events

A quick post to tell you about a couple of events which are coming up. On 24 and 25 February I’ll be heading back to Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham, for the BIRMINGHAM HORROR CON. It’s always a pleasure to take part in a hometown event, and this time I have the honour of signing alongside such horror luminaries as Simon Clarke and Tim Lebbon. I’m very much looking forward to it, and I hope some of you are able to make it to pick up a copy of ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING, YEAR OF THE ZOMBIE and more. Tickets are available here and you can find out more about the event on Facebook.

And on 30 June I’ll be heading to London for my first convention in the capital since, I think, 2009. The LONDON HORROR CON is another show from Vic Wright and the Horrorcon team, so you know it’ll be a blast. The event takes place on 30 June and 1 July at Printworks London, Surrey Quays Road. Tickets are here, and more details are here and here.

Year of the Zombie – out now

In 2016, Wayne Simmons and I curated YEAR OF THE ZOMBIE, which saw a host of zombie authors each contribute an original novella to a year long project. I’m pleased to announce that we’ve now collected the 12 stories together and made them available in a single volume. YEAR OF THE ZOMBIE is out NOW from Infected Books. The ebook – coming in at a massive 180,000 words – costs only $3.99. The paperback is a hefty 492 pages!

We recruited a star-studded line up of authors for the project.

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Saying Goodbye to the End of the World

Them or Us (Thomas Dunne Books, 2011)It’s been an odd few weeks (though, to be honest, I’ve forgotten what a normal few weeks is supposed to feel like). I’ve spent a lot of time travelling, culminating in my first trip to Iceland which was the single most surprising and invigorating place I’ve been in a long time. Seriously, if we get word that the end of the world is imminent, I’m booking myself another ticket over there. It’s a remarkably quiet, remote, welcoming, and self-contained country. More about that another time. I’m sure I’ll set a book there one day.

Right now, though, my mind is focused on the setting for one of my earlier versions of the apocalypse – the town of Lowestoft, as featured in THEM OR US, the final book in the first HATER trilogy. At the moment I’m outlining CHOKEHOLD – the final book in the second HATER trilogy (hope you’re keeping up with all these book numbers!) which bridges the gap between the end of DOG BLOOD/ALL ROADS END HERE and THEM OR US.

I wanted to brush up on my HATER history, so I’ve worked my way through the original books while I’ve been developing the new series. It’s a weird feeling when you go back and read your own work. I don’t know what it’s like for other writers, but it always catches me by surprise. I remember most of the plot twists and can finish many lines in my head long before my eyes have reached the full-stop at the end of the sentence, and yet there always seems to be plenty I’ve forgotten too. I’ve enjoyed reading HATER and DOG BLOOD for the first time in years, but THEM OR US has been a different experience altogether because reading it followed the recent passing of my mother-in-law.

Betty was the indirect inspiration for THEM OR US. I’ve written here before about how my in-laws’ decision to relocate to Lowestoft in 2004 resulted in me getting to know this most unusual of towns. I’ve a real personal affection for the place, but because of its geographic location (it’s the most easterly point in the UK), it’s often overlooked. Generally, you don’t go to Lowestoft unless you’re going to Lowestoft. It’s not on the way to anywhere, and in many ways it feels like the end of the line. It has a suitably apocalyptic edge which made it the perfect setting for Danny McCoyne’s last stand.

Do a search for Lowestoft on this site and you’ll find loads of entries: the launch event I held at the town’s library when THEM OR US was first released, the four subsequent HORROR IN THE EAST conventions we held there which were always sparsely attended but huge fun to be a part of, David Shires’ excellent apocalyptic artwork… Lowestoft is a place I’ve enjoyed going back to time and time again.

But no more.

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All Roads End Here – cover reveal and synopsis

The next book in the HATER series – ALL ROADS END HERE – is out 12 February 2019 from St Martin’s Press. Synopsis below (care – contains mild spoilers for ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING).

It’s taken Matthew Dunne almost three months to get home. Never more than a few metres from the Haters at any time, every single step has been fraught with danger. But he’s made it.

In his absence, his home city has become a sprawling, walled-off refugee camp. But the camp – and the entire world beyond its borders – is balanced on a knife-edge. During his time in the wilderness, Matt developed a skill which is in high demand: the ability to anticipate and predict Hater behaviour. It’s these skills that will thrust him into a web of subterfuge and danger. As the pressure mounts inside the camp, he finds himself under scrutiny from all sides.

He’s always done his best to avoid trouble, but sometimes it can’t be helped. The shit’s about to hit the fan, and this time Matt’s right at the epicentre.

Need to catch up on ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING first? More info is available here.