Saturday, October 24, 2015

Zombies. Zelmer Pulp has Zombies! - By C S Dewildt

Wait, hasn’t Zelmer done zombies?

Yeah, they did, and it was superb. And although you can’t duplicate the magic of C’Mon Do the Apocalypse, you can in fact sequel it. And guess what; I’m in the sequel, and the good folks at Zelmer Pulp invited me to come by and blog about Zombies. So here it is, my blog post about zombies.

I decided to do a listicle because people seem to prefer those these days to actually reading a coherent article. Read into that whatever kind of relevant social commentary you like. Disclaimer: These are in no significant order, I use the term “zombie” loosely, and if you asked me on a different day you’d get a different list. Let’s go.

CS DeWildt’s Numbered List of All Things Zombie:

10. Creepshow 

Is this rotten patriarch a zombie? A co-worker of mine says no because this one can think, or at least is driven by a purpose beyond insatiable hunger for human brains and flesh. He also seems to possess supernatural powers which he uses to crush Ed Harris’s head. He might not be a zombie, but he really wants his cake. And vengeance. 

9. Commander USA’s Groovy Movie: The Children 

If this was a list of all things “horror”, the Commander’s USA Network original series would be number one. I first saw The Children on the Commander’s St. Paddy’s Day double feature. Again, are they Zombies? After their exposed to a radioactive gas cloud, the children become black finger-nailed desperate for human contact in the form of a radioactive hug. The children of The Children are goth kids having a core meltdown.

8. I Love Sarah Jane 

2008 short film from Hesher director Spencer Susser in which not even the zombie apocalypse can wipe out the middle class adolescent experience. I stumbled on this one a few years ago and
I recommend it often. It’s just good if you’ve ever pined for someone seemingly out of your reach, and you know, you just want to see some excellent zombie gore.

7. “She’s Not There” by The Zombies 

Or any Zombie’s tune I suppose, but I Love Sarah Jane has put me in the mood for this one in particular.

6. Return of the Living Dead 

First zombie movie I ever saw. I was nine or ten years old. It’s dated and actually pretty bad, but it’s still one of my favorites.

5. “Thunderkiss ’65” by White Zombie 

This riff still rocks my face in half, figuratively of course, not literally like the guy in the second clip.

4. Rick Grimes Dad Jokes 

One of the best things to spin off into the memeoverse. These kind of jokes are the proof that part of the appeal of parenting is torturing children. I was on the couch the other day and my kid wanted to sit down. He said, “Dad, can you move your feet?” and what do you think happened?

Dads know.

3. Zombie Ants 

Brain parasites, man. Brain parasites!

2. The Bath Salts Zombie Cannibal of 2012 

Remember this guy? Another one who couldn’t “face up” to his problems?

1. C’mon Do the Apocalypse 2 

Yep, shameless plug time. Zombie stories by me, Chuck Regan, Ryan Sayles, CT McNeely, Gareth Spark, Chris Leek, and Benoit Lelievre. Available for preorder. Come get some!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Gareth Spark: Zombies and Culture

My story, "Which way I fly" (the title taken from Paradise Lost, obvs.) (I'm pretentious enough to tie the greatest poem in the English language to my Zombie story...what ya gonna do, sue me?) Is a thorough re-write of an earlier story of mine that I wrote originally for a competition run by SFX magazine. Darren Shan had put a call out for short Zombie stories to tie in with the release of one of his tomes and I thought what the hell? I'll see what I can do.

It's not a genre I've written in before because the conventions seem so hidebound. Dead bodies rise? Check. Take over the world and instigate the fall of man? Check. You are bitten you turn? Check. Headshot takes them out. Check and mate. You've seen it every way from Sunday. We have had Old West zombies, Nazi zombies, and Zombies versus Gladiators/Yetis/Aliens/Norman Reedus's hair; Elvis zombies and zombies on the moon. Even a zombie teen romance, in Warm Bodies, (a movie I love, by the way). It seemed every second book in the Horror section of your friendly neighbourhood...OK on Amazon...was a zombie novel...but still...the enormous and lasting popularity of our shambling friends must speak to something in contemporary western culture.

Romero had it down in Day of the dead...all those wandering, mindless creatures at the mall reflecting the wandering mindless creatures the consumer was quickly becoming. Zombies are direct symbols of consumer societies in Romero's work. As Peter Dendle wrote in his essay, “The Zombie as Barometer of Cultural Anxiety,” the zombie has “…tapped into a deep-seated anxiety about society, government, individual protection, and our increasing disconnectedness from subsistence skills.” I guess that makes sense to me, tying into anxieties concerning the solidity of our civilisation, the fear that any sudden or abrupt jolt could tip it over into anarchy and we won't have the skills to put it back together.

So when I came to write my tale, I turned to the template of my earlier story and rewrote it completely, cognisant of the fact I was in the company of writers who are masters of their craft and know their Horror fiction inside and out, while also trying to comment on the current political climate. I would like to think I succeeded, at least a little, in coming up with something, if not radical, then novel.

I don't want to spoil it for you, so I'll let you as the reader be the judge of that.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ryan Sayles on The Zombie Apocalypse and Writer's Block

In 2013 I had terrible writer’s block and needed to write a zombie story to meet our impending deadline for the follow-up to Zelmer Pulp’s flagship issue. (Note: this story is being published two years after that deadline came and went.)

At the time I was attending trade school in the mornings learning how to be an electrician and in the evenings I was at my fulltime police job. My wife was pregnant with kid number four. Trying to find time for some creative output was killing me. When the writer’s block wall hit I knew what I’d have to do: wait it out. I got it a lot, more than herpes even, especially back then.

So, I cruised my usual haunts because if I can’t write, I can at least read. Shotgun Honey, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Near to the Knuckle. There, at that British gritty flash fiction site I found a balm for my ails. They had published a story by a fairly mysterious writer named Nova Osborne called “Southern Comfort.” I read it and said to myself, this is the kind of narrative voice and tone I want to use for a story.

The idea of writing another zombie story always excites me, because I think that with that kind of infectious, all-consuming, dangerous apocalypse as a backdrop, I can focus on the real meat (no pun intended) of any story: people.

And I figured a guy in the vein of Southern Comfort in the zombie apocalypse would be good to write about. Why? Because I think I could make him a quiet menace. Then I could make him worse than zombies.

So the guy is just at the grocery store trying to buy ingredients for a romantic candlelit dinner when the shit hits the fan. All he is trying to do is get home to Susie, his gal. That’s it. But maybe she doesn’t want him to come home.

If any of you know Susie Henry, a Florida-based poet and all-around sweetheart, you’ll know who I named the gal after. Why? She’s been so wonderful and supportive of me and all of Zelmer Pulp over the years that she deserved some kind of shout out. She’s got some poetry collections on Amazon. Check her out.

I wrote more to the story than what is published. I took it from where it ends now—a good spot, I think, and thanks be to Chuck Regan for suggesting it—and shoved it off a cliff into a shithole that I enjoyed writing. However, Chuck said it was too far and the original ending lacks the impact it has now. I agree with him. The content got pretty horrible by the end.

I hope you guys enjoy the collection and view it as a worthy successor to our first. If you don’t, just keep buying our books. At some point you’ll find something you like.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

So, Why Zombies?

Ever since Volume 1 of C'mon and Do The Apocalypse came out in 2012, we have been talking about putting out a follow-up. But then we got distracted by Trouble in the Heartland, and Why Don't I Just Shoot You in the Face. Those two books got Zelmer Pulp a good deal of attention, but we got off track. It was never supposed to be just about Noir. It was always about having fun.

And what could be more fun than a zombie apocalypse?

So, three years later, we've come full circle. Some fresh blood has joined us for this issue, and some old veterans have jumped into the fray to deliver their special brands of undead mayhem.

But why are we all so fascinated with zombies? I won't get into some sociological analysis about society at large, but for me, my love of zombies started back in 1987 when I saw Return of the Living Dead. That movie is the one that started the whole "Braiiiins" shtick. And running zombies. I love that flick. After that I sought out the source material, the Romero, Night-, Dawn-, and Day- of the Dead. Then, the Italian movies. Then, the comic Deadworld. (What can I say? I'm a completist in my research and entertainment.)

It was sometime that next year when I had a dream the zombie apocalypse. I was still in college, and I remember going after some walkers with a baseball bat in a suburban neighborhood. That dream stuck with me, and I kept kicking around story ideas based on those images.

After college, I was working hard at trying to break into the comic book industry and got connected to Caliber Press, the publisher behind Deadworld. Caliber published my first attempt at a comic book series, Petit Mal, and the publisher offered me the chance to work on a Deadworld revamp. So, Chuck being Chuck, I took it and ran into my cave and plotted out something insane that had very little to do with the original comic. I recalled that dream I had in college of me bashing zombie skulls with a baseball bat and extrapolated.

I extrapolated a little too much. I used none of the established characters, save for the eyeless, four-armed creatures that had accompanied the zombie king on his hunt for surviving humans. In my story, someone who believes himself to be the sole survivor of the zombie plague (ala I Am Legend) finds a terrified girl who carries the secret to why the zombies appeared. I got all mystical and reinvented a new mythology for the Deadworld universe, but the departure from the original comic was too dramatic. The publisher said a polite never mind, and I put the project, and the mythology, on the back burner.

Zombies, man. You can't keep a good zombie story down. It stayed, seething in my mind for more than a decade. I reworked that story in 2006 to disconnect it from the original thin ties to Deadworld, and started turning it into a graphic novel. Halfway through production (86 pages inked and colored of a 120-page story) I realized that my storytelling skills needed a kick in the balls. The ending wasn't satisfying. There were plot flaws and I had written distracting developments that went nowhere.

That's when I picked up my first book on plot development. And that's when I started taking writing more seriously.

Zombies are to blame for where I am today.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

New Fish

While working on the Springsteen-inspired noir collection with Gutter Books, we figured we'd be idiots not to capitalize on that tidal wave and release a ZP noir collection all our own. The result is Maybe I Should Just Shoot You In... The Face, a gritty kick to the junk filled with no holds barred crime fiction. New Jersey-based photographer Mark Krajnak is contributing photos to both the Springsteen collection and MISJSYITF for added art and depth. Look for it soon.

On top of that, we've added brothers to the fold. Yes. ZP just got more robust. That means more distinct narrative voicing, two additional stories to each volume and two more cuddly, precious guys to love as much your heart can allow.

Gareth Spark, one of England's leading noir voices and all-around hard-hitting presence, initially came on as a guest for MISJSYITF and we loved him so much we asked him to stick around permanently.

Benoit Lelievre, eloquent but brutal mastermind behind the website Dead End Follies and several hardcore fiction pieces, had the hunger we need to keep us pushing forward towards new heights.

There really wasn't even any discussion about these two dudes. Something just clicked. It was right. It was an easy, natural fit. And we are stronger because of it.

Join us in welcoming these two fellas to the band. Get ready for the quiet to go away. We're back.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Tuning In To Radio Nowhere

When I was invited to contribute a story to TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND, I had a terrible secret I had to admit to everyone. I was not a fan of Bruce Springsteen. I didn't know his songs well enough to have a favorite I wanted to use as inspiration. Sure I could sing 'I'm On Fire' like every good kid from the 80s could (listen to Top 40 stations long enough, you could memorize almost anything), but I never bothered to search out more of his music. Springsteen was dropped into a category along with Dire Straits and U2 as bands I respect, but subjectively didn't like.

My wife had always told me 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town' is a great album, full of bleak urban textures and noir themes, but at every mention of Bruce Springsteen's music, all I hear playing in my head is his cover of 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'. It was nothing I'd want to listen to. Bruce Springsteen? Yeah, yeah. I smile and nod and go back to listening to the overproduced dark techno droning test patterns I call music.

So when the guys here at Zelmer Pulp got serious about this Springsteen anthology, they had to spoon feed some titles to me. Whatever. I'll try to make it work. Once I started reading his lyrics, I started to understand why they were fans.

The desperate longing to become someone better in a world designed to crush your soul, or struggling through a shit job just to keep your family together—these are just a couple of the themes I found in his lyrics, themes that I had already been exploring in other writing projects.

Brian Panowich recommended 'Radio Nowhere' for me—a trucker rolling down the backroads of America trying to keep awake by listening to the crap on the radio, his only constant thought is of the good woman waiting for him at home. The song had a kind of bleakness to it. Driving alone on a dark highway with only thin threads of communication connecting you to the world around you was a theme that spoke to me. If you haven't already figured it out from my other contributions, I write a lot of science fiction. The next step seemed completely natural—I'll write a story about a space trucker.

So few people listen to the radio anymore. It's just the way technology is evolving the way people listen to music. Technology is also changing the way people interact. My niece has noticed that all the kids in her school are socially inept because their faces are permanently planted in phones or other devices. She held out her hand to introduce herself to a new classmate, and they looked at her like she was an alien. Technology is changing people, and the most common denominator means change not for the better.

Yes, I write science fiction, but it took me five years to upgrade my phone. It took me another two years to install an app into it. Technology is a tool I use as a means to express myself, not as the means to express myself. People have learned how to hide within their technology, behind virtual identities every day, and I wanted to explore what that world might be like if taken to extremes.

My contribution to TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND takes the original premise of Springsteen's song—a long-haul trucker—but instead of racing home to meet his baby, my character is racing toward oblivion. He uses technology to hide from the world.

After a few drafts, the other contributions started pouring in, and I started to get nervous. I didn't want to be the only freak at the picnic. Everyone was writing straight-up noir. And when Joe Clifford announced that Dennis Lehane submitted a story, I experienced a moment of profound existential angst. I re-read my story twelve or thirteen more times, changing a few words here and there and milking assurances from Joe and the Zelmer crew that they weren't just being nice to me, keeping my gothy space story in this crime noir collection just because I know how to move stuff around in photoshop.

Surrounded by so much talent is intimidating. I've read more than half of the contributions so far, and I am still shaking my head, wondering how I got embedded with this spectacular crew. I can't speculate how well the book will do, but I do know that it feels like a strong foothold into that rock cliff called 'legitimacy'.

Huh. The desperate longing to become someone better in a world designed to crush your soul. That's one of Bruce's themes. That's also what it's like being a writer. It can seem like an exercise in futility, but sometimes, you finish that long drive and get home to your baby. Sometimes, the deal goes right. Sometimes, you get to be in the same book as your heroes.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lights Out Tonight...

Zelmer Pulp and Gutter Books Set to Release
A collection of stories inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen
Zelmer Pulp, a group of fearless, genre-bending writers, and Gutter Books, renowned publisher in the noir/crime field, has taken an all-star roster of twenty-two established and up-and-coming authors and entrusted them with one simple mission: use a Springsteen song title to craft a piece of kick-ass pulp fiction. And the results are staggering, running the gamut from gritty, shoot ’em out hardboiled capers, to the perils of isolation in the cold vacuum of space. Each story is a touching portrait on the plight of the downtrodden, in the rich tradition of the Boss himself.

Bruce Springsteen’s music has always spoken to the heart, conveying the trials of marginalized, the put-upon, the losers who need just that one lucky break to turn it all around. Which so rarely comes. Ask anyone to name a favorite Springsteen song, and your answer will be as varied as his storied career. Bruce Springsteen is a storyteller, first and foremost, his lyrical acumen a cut above the rest. His empathy and understanding toward the wide-eye dreamers and ne’er-do-wells has garnered him a legion of devoted fans from around the world. And the pairing with crime fiction is a natural one. In each case, the writer understands the crushing weight of wanting more, and the burden of insufficient tools to make those dreams come true. We were amazed at the overwhelming desire to participate in this project.
Anchoring the collection is New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane. Also featured are Steve Weddle, Hilary Davidson, Chris F. Holm, Todd Robinson, and Peter Farris. Their work, along with sixteen other authors will be available this summer in both print and eBook format.
Zelmer Pulp was formed in 2012 by authors Brian Panowich and Ryan Sayles. Their vision of a fearless, pulp-style rehash book series has led to several collections of genre-based fiction. Gutter Books is the publishing wing of Out of the Gutter, a pillar in the noir fiction community. Chris Leek, a member of Zelmer Pulp and Gutter Books editor Joe Clifford—both dedicated fans of Springsteen—conceived the collection as the ultimate way to thank the Boss for what his music has meant to their lives, both personally and professionally.

A portion of the net proceeds will be donated to The Bob Woodruff Foundation, which benefits wounded veterans.