Over the month I’ll be looking at a bunch of Aussie authors who write zombie fiction. Why? Well I do run Aussie Author Month myself, and while there are few Aussie names out there for zombies, they are damned good ones! Aussie Author Month also supports the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, so please help out if you can, whether by posting about it or donating.
Delving into the dark is Martin Livings – and further below, a free short offered by the man himself called Ewwsday!
Why do zombies make good bad guys?
I think its their relentlessness, and their near silence, it’s just unnerving. I’m a firm believer in the old-fashioned zombie, in general; the shamblers of “Night of the Living Dead”, not the sprinters of “Resident Evil”. I love the fact that one zombie is barely a menace, even two or three aren’t so bad, but its when they come at you en masse, there’s simply no way to stop them. I remember watching the footage of the Japanese tsunami last year, and having that same awful sinking feeling, seeing that wave of black water and burning debris moving across the landscape with a deceptive slowness, swallowing everything in its wake. Zombies have their true power in numbers, overwhelming everything in their path. And, of course, the fact that they’re US, each one of us they kill becomes one of them. It’s genuinely the enemy within.
What are the limits of zombies?
I’m a bit of a traditionalist, as I said before, but that’s just a personal preference, and not a solid one either. I still dig things like “28 Days Later” (yes yes, they’re not actually zombies, I know!) and the “Resident Evil” movies, even though their zombies disobey all the old-fashioned “rules”. Personally I feel that zombies can vary quite wildly in their abilities, depending on how they died and how they were treated after death. For example, if you could keep oxygen getting to the brain, I think a zombie could retain its cognitive abilities. In fact, that’s something I’m counting on in a book I’m working on as we speak!
What is your favourite/most influential zombie text?
It’s weird that there is no real seminal zombie novel for us to work off, really. Zombies essentially have their roots in cinema, because it’s such a visual trope; it’s hard to evoke the same feeling of dread describing a zombie horde coming at you as you can by simply showing it. The movies that influenced me the most were the original Romero trilogy, “Night”, “Dawn” and “Day”, which I still go back to and watch on a regular basis. They hold up really well even today, and have influenced everyone creating in this field ever since. On the page, though, Felicity Dowker’s short story “Bread and Circuses” from Ticonderoga Books’ _Scary Kisses_ still sticks in my brain, an excellent and visceral examination of love and death and undead love.
Tell us about your horror stories.
My first collection, _Living With the Dead_, will be out later this year, a twenty year retrospective. Bloody hell, have I really been doing this for twenty years??? Sadly, despite the title and the cover, there are no zombie stories in it. I’ve really only written one zombie story, and that was just for fun, called “Eeeewsday!”. It appears in my free eBook, _Ten Minutes to Dumbsday_, available from Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/70526), and also at the end of this interview! Bonus!
I am working on a series of zombie novels at the moment, though, which was sparked by the very silly idea of a zombie James Bond. Immediately I pictured the cover and title of the book (Nys: Posted above!), but quickly realised that (a) just doing a straight pastiche would be lazy and dull, and (b) the estate of Ian Fleming and the Broccolis would sue the pants off me if I ever tried it, so it’s become very much its own creature now, retitled _Sleeper Awake_ (listen to the Sarah Blasko song of the same name if you want to hear the title music of the movie in my head!) but that basic core still remains. The same way Mira Grant’s novels _Feed_ and _Deadline_ are zombie political thrillers, my book and the ones that follow it will hopefully still be a big action spy thriller with glamourous international locations, beautiful and deadly women, and many, many explosions. And zombies. Many, many zombies.
What is your plan for the zombie apocalypse?
Develop a brain oxygenator, then kill myself with it attached. Might as well be on the winning side!
Check out his website here.
(c) Martin Livings
I knew I shouldn’t have dropped acid last night. It was all trippy and good, sure, but it hasn’t really left my system yet. The walls of the train aren’t quite melting, as it rocks and sways from station to station, but there’s a rainbow tinge to everything. My eyes hurt. And my back.
What did I get up to last night? I don’t remember much beyond putting the little square of brightly coloured paper on my tongue. Did I go clubbing? I don’t know. It must have been something, I’m so sore. I feel like death.
Jesus, what day is it? I have to think hard to recall. Yesterday was Monday, Funday, Annie get your Gunday, so today is… of course. I’m on a train.
Everyone’s staring at me. I must look a sight. I didn’t really pay much attention to getting dressed this morning, just threw on whatever I could find, the least rumpled business skirt and blouse on the floor, and ran a brush through my unruly hair. If my eyes are as red as they feel, I probably look like a vampire bat. A vampire bat who went out clubbing last night.
Some guy’s listening to a portable radio with an earpiece opposite me. I almost laugh, but i know that’d hurt too damn much. Who carries those anymore? Ipods, sure, but old transistor radios? That’s so twentieth century. He looks worried. Bad news? Or maybe it’s an Avril Lavigne song. Same effect, really.
What did I DO last night?
I guess I had some options. Clubbing would have been the most likely one. I’m not much into pubs at the best of times, and on acid they’re just beer-soaked dens of weirdness. I’d have to have made a choice.
Chooseday. Yeah, that sounds right.
I think I remember dancing. Stumbling out of the rear exit of some warehouse in the early hours of the morning. Then… what? Dancing some more? That sounds almost right, but not quite. No music to dance to.
My stomach rumbles. I skipped breakfast this morning, didn’t really feel like it, but here, on this packed train full of sweaty people ignoring one another, I’m finally finding my appetite. Weird. Must be the acid. Or maybe I smoked some dope last night as well, and having a delayed attack of the munchies. I don’t know.
The guy listening to his radio is looking more worried by the second. His eyes dart around the train, frantic. Then they land on me, and stay there. They widen.
I smile back at him, even though it hurts. It doesn’t seem to comfort him. Man, what have I done to my back? I reach over my shoulder and massage the aching spot. I wish I was somewhere else. Maybe on a ship, drifting from tropical island to tropical island, picking up cheap jewelry and cheap men as I go.
The guy shrinks against his seat, away from me. The earpiece comes out of his radio, allowing the inbuilt speaker to start buzzing in its tinny voice.
“…the brain. I repeat, this is not a hoax. The recently deceased are returning to life and attacking the living. The only way to stop them is to remove the head or destroy the brain. They are very dangerous, and should be avoided at all costs. If you encounter one of these creatures…”
I stop massaging my shoulder, bring my hand back in front of me. It’s covered in blood. Old blood, tacky and brown, and clear liquid as well. It smells bad, but somehow it doesn’t affect my growing appetite.
I remember now. I left the club through the rear exit, and was jumped by some homeless guy. He grabbed me like he was close dancing with me. We circled the alleyway a bit, kicked over some trash cans. And he bit my shoulder before I broke free and ran home.
Laughing all the way, off my face. Yahoosday.
I look at my hands, past the blood, at the pallid, greyish skin of my palms. Some of it is peeling away. Is that bone?
I look up, at the man opposite me, at the other commuters. They all look terrified. I don’t care. I’m hungry. I smile again.