Hi everyone. I wanted to give you a quick update on my progress with the new AUTUMN novels. They’re coming along nicely, but I’ve had a couple of major interruptions since I announced them earlier this year (namely the onset of a global pandemic swiftly followed by a heart attack), and it’s become clear that I’m not going to make the October release I’d originally scheduled for AUTUMN: DAWN. Apologies.
I’m hoping that AUTUMN: DAWN will now be released in April 2021, with the other books in the new trilogy – INFERNO and EXODUS – following in quick succession. It’s been an absolute blast returning to the world of AUTUMN after nearly a decade away, and though the new books will be very different on a number of levels, the same bleak tone and the overwhelming scale of the apocalypse feels just as it did when I started writing the first book back in 1997. If you’ve not read the original books, you can find a huge amount of information and stacks of free AUTUMN short stories at www.lastoftheliving.net.
Watching the news today it feels kind of inappropriate to be talking about my forthcoming return to AUTUMN – stories about a virus which wipes out 99% of the population might be a little too close to home for some folks. Anyway, because this site has been devoid of news for far too long, I thought it would be interesting to tell you a bit more about the new books I’m working on.
Why write more AUTUMN books?
Because I had a great idea for a new zombie series, and the idea seemed to fit perfectly within the world of AUTUMN. Plus, if I’m honest, I’d like to put the series back on people’s radar again. There’s an ever-increasing number of WALKING DEAD spin-offs and other zombie shows on TV right now. AUTUMN was one of the first serious zombie sagas, and I’d love for someone to see the potential of a big-budget TV adaptation. 20 years since the first book was released online, I believe the series remains unique in the zombie sub-genre.
Are the new books connected to the old ones?
Nope. They exist in the same universe, that’s all. No crossovers. No recurring characters.
Where will they be set?
Initially in London. Why? Because it’s an incredibly densely populated city. More people will mean more survivors, more action, more threats, and many, many, many, many more zombies.
Does the world need another zombie series?
Probably not, but I do. I’ve a genuine desire to write these new books, not least because the world has changed so much since the early 2000s when the bulk of the original series was written. Back then I could get away with survivors acting dumb and not knowing what zombies are… not anymore! Thanks again to THE WALKING DEAD and others, we’re all far too savvy to be so ignorant. Also, so much else has changed. The high-speed, interconnected, polarised, technology reliant world of 2020 will present many new challenges for my unlucky survivors to have to deal with!
How many books, and when?
It’s a new trilogy. I hope the first book, AUTUMN: DAWN, will hit the shelves before the end of the year (I’m aiming for late October – the 10th anniversary of the release of AUTUMN by St Martin’s Press and Gollancz). My plan is for books two and three to follow soon after. I’d like them all to be available by the end of 2021.
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.