Today’s film recommendation comes from Ryan Fleming (again), who watches (and makes) more post-apocalyptic movies than I do. AFTERMATH is something of an oddity. It has all the trappings of your typical low-budget, end of the world movie, yet there’s something about its approach, its nihilistic outlook, that sucks you in and drags you along. As usual, here’s a synopsis, a trailer, and some thoughts.
In a post-World War III nuclear apocalypse, nine strangers must band together to try to defend themselves against massive radiation, attacking refugees, and each other.
Here’s a film recommendation I’ve waited a long time to share. Before I tell you why you should see WELCOME TO ESSEX, let’s wind the clock back a few years…
I’ve mentioned Ryan J. Fleming on this site several times previously. As well as being a connoisseur of all things post-apocalyptic (a number of the film releases I’ve written about here have been direct recommendations from Ryan), he’s also a roving reporter, a long-time member of MOODY’S SURVIVORS, and he even had a starring role as a featured zombie in AUTUMN: AFTERMATH. We can now add film director to that list.
It feels like decades, but it can only have been a few years ago when Ryan told me he was making a film. In this business it’s often hard to have a conversation with anyone who isn’t desperate to tell you they’re writing a book, editing an anthology, working on a screenplay, or directing their first movie. Much of the time these comments are just pipe-dreams or wishful thinking. In Ryan’s case, however, it happened to be true.
Over the following years, he told me about assembling a crowd of more than a thousand zombie extras for a scene in Brentwood High Street, about naming a character (actually a character’s husband) after me (no doubt as payback for AFTERMATH), and about Russell Brand appearing in the film. In 2013 (I think), attendees at the HORROR IN THE EAST convention in Lowestoft actually saw some footage, and we realised he wasn’t just making it all up.
Fast-forward five years, and Ryan’s debut feature – WELCOME TO ESSEX – is finally out on DVD. I’ve had the pleasure of watching it, and I can tell you it was definitely worth the wait. I’m not going to review it here, I’m just going to ask you to support Ryan and his team and pick up a copy. Here’s the customary synopsis and trailer:
Overnight, the United Kingdom was consumed by an epidemic of terrifying proportions. The majority of the population were killed in a matter of hours as millions of recently-dead people returned to life and began to attack and kill the living. The disaster spread so rapidly that the government had no time to control the situation. The order to evacuate England was given. But it was too late. Now, the following day, a small group of mismatched survivors find themselves trapped in the famous town of Brentwood, hunted by large hordes of fast-moving corpses. They must learn to work together and reach the last-known point of rescue, Southend-on-Sea, or face certain death. Or worse.
What I love most about WELCOME TO ESSEX is the fact that it exists. The fact that a gent who passionately loves the post-apocalyptic genre can have the desire to make a movie, and the determination and conviction to make it happen. And on such a scale… this film looks the business and everything Ryan promised eventually appeared on screen, including a thousand zombie extras and Russell Brand. Okay, so it’s not the most original horror movie you’ll see this year, but it’s funny (often very, very funny), technically impressive, and filled with more passion and heart than a hundred Hollywood blockbusters combined. Congratulations to Ryan, the team at Smoking Monkey Productions, and anyone involved in the film in any way, shape or form.
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.
Happy New Year to you all. I thought I’d kick off 2015 with a quick look back at my 2014 releases (just in case you missed any), and a peek at my plans for 2015. Despite being a pig of a year for me on many levels, I was surprisingly productive, releasing two full-length novels (STRAIGHT TO YOU and STRANGERS), a zombie novella collection (LAST OF THE LIVING, which included ISOLATION and THE COST OF LIVING along with a number of other shorts), and the long-overdue limited edition hardcover of AUTUMN: AFTERMATH.
So what does 2015 hold? There’s a lot being planned behind the scenes, and I thought I’d pile the pressure on myself by announcing the major projects I’m working on this year. Notice there are no timescales quoted here (I never seem to keep to them anyway!) but this is the order I’m tackling these novels.
My first middle-grade novel. Think ET meets GODZILLA and you’re halfway there.
THE SPACES BETWEEN: ELYSIAN FIELDS
The first book in my long-teased horror/ science-fiction/ noir crime series. If you’ve not heard me talking about this one before, here’s a quick tease: Several years ago London was destroyed in a white-hot nuclear haze. Millions of people were displaced, and huge numbers ended up in rapidly constructed newcities like Elysian Fields. Designed to house around one hundred thousand, the population of Elysian Fields is several times that. It’s a dangerous, sprawling hell-hole of a place ruled by gangs, violence and fear. When a prominent business leader’s son disappears, social worker Greg Dawson becomes embroiled in the mission to snatch him back. But the more Dawson discovers about Elysian Fields, the more he comes to realise there’s a huge gulf between what we’re being told and reality. In the spaces between the two, absolutely everything changes.
Yes, I know… I’ve finished this book twice already, but I’ve still not got it quite right. I had a rollercoaster year last year, and in the midst of all the ups and downs, I’ve realised where I was going wrong. Mark Thane is a downtrodden and overlooked nobody. When he discovers he only has 17 days left to live, he’s forced to question everything. The country is on the verge of revolution, and Mark unwittingly finds himself at the eye of the storm. This time last week no one knew who Mark Thane was. By the time his number’s up, the entire world will be watching his every move.
A sick and twisted love story. Adam’s wife died last summer. He’s not going to let her die again.
So there you go. Plenty of work ahead. Add to this more signing events and the continued expansion of the Infected empire (Infected Films and Infected Audio, anyone?) and that’s more than enough to keep me busy. I hope you’ll stick around, because 2015 is going to be a cracker!
The AUTUMN: AFTERMATH hardcover I’ve recently been talking about took a huge amount of time and effort to organise. All that work just so one hundred or so folks could complete their UK AUTUMN hardcover collections. You could say the effort involved was disproportional to the gains (losses, actually… I’m still in the red with this project), but I’d disagree. Whether ten people had wanted the book or ten thousand, I thought it was important to make it happen and I’m glad that I did.
I’ve loved all the positive feedback I’ve received since the books have started to arrive… people commenting on Facebook and Tweeting photographs of their name in the back. I have to say, though, Ren Gaming’s YouTube clip was the coolest thanks of all.
Welcome to my office, which became noticeably smaller yesterday following the delivery (at long last) of the limited hardcover edition of AUTUMN: AFTERMATH, published by Infected Books in collaboration with Gollancz.
Nine hours (yes, really) of signing and packing and the whole lot was delivered to a very understanding chap at the post office late last night. All orders have now been dispatched, and I wanted to take this opportunity to once again thank everyone who pre-ordered the book for their support and their patience.
Ebook versions will be available from the 14th (you can pre-order the Nook and iBook versions already). You can read the first chapter of the novel over at Wattpad. Also, there’s a Goodreads Giveaway running. Use the widget at the bottom of this post to enter.
In case you’ve pre-ordered but you missed the email I sent earlier in the week, the much-delayed limited edition hardcover of AUTUMN: AFTERMATH has been delayed again. Only slightly. The book is with the printers at the moment and should, fingers crossed, be heading out to readers a week today.
You’re probably sick of hearing me banging on about this by now, but I want to make sure everyone has chance to get hold of the (very) limited edition hardcover of AUTUMN: AFTERMATH which will be released at the end of January.
As I’ve said before, I’m releasing this book primarily for those folks who were collecting the UK hardcover editions from Gollancz and who were left in the lurch when Aftermath was released as paperback only. As such, numbers are going to be very, very limited. I expect to only have somewhere in the region of 150 copies printed.
I’m not planning to make any money from this. In fact, right now I’m looking at making a healthy loss! To try and mitigate my financial pain, I’ve cleared out my shelves and am selling a number of very rare advance uncorrected proofs. These are bare-bones paperback editions of my books which were produced by Thomas Dunne Books ahead of release. Find out more by visiting www.infectedbooks.co.uk or clicking the image immediately below.
And as a New Year treat for 2014, anyone who shops at www.infectedbooks.co.uk this week can help themselves to a 10% discount on their order (even on the rare proofs I just mentioned). Simply quote code ZOMBIE2014 at checkout (original, eh?!).
I feel like post after post recently has been me trying to sell you stuff (I guess that’s what this site’s all about, really). Anyway, if you’ve been following progress on Facebook you’ll have seen a number of Infected Books special offers come and go. This is the last week for posting before Christmas, so I thought I’d summarise things here.
Any UK orders placed via www.infectedbooks.co.uk before midnight Wednesday 18 December will be shipped first class at no extra charge (and don’t forget, UK postage is free until the end of 2013 as it is). And before you get fed up and tune out because I haven’t provided a proper update or told you about any new books recently, hold fire. There’s news coming shortly…
DOG BLOOD and THEM OR US bundles – two signed hardcovers for the price of one from the original US pressings (£10 – only five sets left)
THEM OR US UK hardcover (now out of print) reduced to £7.50
AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION limited edition hardcover reduced to £15
AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION paperback reduced to £7.50
These prices are good until close of play Wednesday 18 December.