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.

No comments: