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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Recommended Reading: Dead World Resurrection

deadworldWind the clock back a decade, and you’d have found far fewer zombie novels on the shelves than today. There was just a handful of us telling tales of the undead back then… myself, Brian Keene, David Wellington, and Joe McKinney to name but a few. Back to today, and it’s great to see all of my old undead compatriots still producing plenty of top-quality horror fiction. Joe, in particular, has been consistently prolific.

I was honoured a while back to be asked to write an introduction for DEAD WORLD RESURRECTION: THE COLLECTED ZOMBIE SHORT STORIES OF JOE MCKINNEY and I of course jumped at the chance. In this collection (which was recently released by Journalstone), all of Joe’s zombie shorts are gathered together. I hardly need to do the hard sell, do I? This is definitely a book I’d recommend you pick up, and I’ll quote myself as proof (if that’s not too pretentious): “In this collection, by writing about the living dead, Joe has reminded us what’s so great about being one of the living. I hope you enjoy reading (or re-reading) these stories as much as I have.”

DEAD WORLD RESURRECTION is available now.

The Living Dead 2 – read my story for free!

Just a couple of weeks to go now before The Living Dead 2 hits the shelves. This (huge!) book is already getting some exceptional reviews around the net, and why wouldn’t it? 40+ new zombie stories from the likes of Max Brookes, Jonathan Maberry, David Wellington…

Editor John Joseph Adams has just launched the book’s official website which can be found by clicking here. Head on over to read about each of the individual stories and, starting today, interviews with each of the contributors.

As a bonus to whet your appetite even further, you can also read several full stories for free, direct from the website. And I’m really pleased to tell you that my story – Who We Used to Be – is one of them. Click here to read it and please spread the word on Twitter and Facebook etc.

The Living Dead 2

Did any of you get to read The Living Dead? If you haven’t read it, maybe you should. Edited by John Joseph Adams, it’s 100,000+ words of zombie fiction and includes stories by the likes of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker. I’m really excited to announce that The Living Dead 2 is set to be released in September, and I’m even more excited to announce that there’s a story of mine in it!

‘Who We Used To Be’ – a brand new, non-AUTUMN zombie tale, is amongst the 43 (43!!!) stories in the collection. And with authors including Max Brooks, David Wellington and Jonathan Maberry involved, this is something no serious zombie fan can afford to miss. Head over here to see the full table of contents.

The World is Dead

Permuted Press have just released The World Is Dead, an anthology of zombie stories looking at life after the dead have risen. There are no outbreak tales here, instead we’re presented with 18 vastly different visions of a world where we’re forced to live alongside the undead.

I’ve worked my way through more than my fair share of zombie anthologies recently. This book – edited by Kim Paffenroth of Dying to Live fame – stood head and shoulders above the rest. It’s bloody good. Recommended reading for any zombie fan.