Friday, September 19, 2008


My contributor's copy of The Living Dead (Night Shade Books; edited by John Joseph Adams) arrived in the mail yesterday, and it looks pretty good. Better than pretty good, actually. It's got Kelly Link's "Some Zombie Contingency Plans" and Andy Duncan's "Zora and the Zombie" and a collaboration I'd somehow managed to miss between Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg. Plus all the usual suspects. If you're interested in zombies, you want this book.

And, as it turns out, you should be interested in zombies. I was stuck on a zombie panel at the last Boskone and it turned out to be extremely informative. George Romero created not only a new monster but something perilously close to a new archetype. Which turns out to be an almost inexhaustable metaphor for pretty much anything you want. So . . . a surprisingly productive corner of the genres.

I found a clip of the panel at YouTube. Unfortunately, it was something like my fourth program item in a row so by that point I appeared to be channeling Woody Allen's stuttering, staccato delivery. Also, I'm eating my supper as we talk. I mean, really, dude. That's just plain bad manners.

And, as always . . .

. . . Poem du Jour has been updated. This time, it's the poem that killed Ossip Mandelstam. Poetry is not for sissies!



Unknown said...

Just a note. Night Shade Books is the publisher of The Living Dead, not Sub Press.

As for the Zombie archetype... I've been having an interesting "roving con" discussion with Ben Rosembuam, Liz Gorinsky, and several others, about this very topic. I also just did an interview with Rick Kleffel for his podcast that covered some of this ground.

I'll be sure to corner you at the next convention and pick your brains.

Any chance you care to write a Zombie novel?

Michael Swanwick said...

Yipes. Corrected.

I'm happy to talk about all matters intellectual. Though I'm weaker on horror than on fantasy or SF, because I don't read much of it. I remember talking with Ellen Datlow once and telling her that I didn't much like horror because it scared me. "That's why I love it!" she said.

Of taste and scent, no argument, as the late and sorely missed Avram Davidson used to say.

JJM said...

Re: your comment on the video that vampyres lost something when they put on Armani suits and started having tantric sex -- bravo!

Vampyres are the archetype (and a very useful, important one) of Death Gone Wrong. Now, they're being used as the archetype for The Misunderstood Other -- the Angst-driven creature who can't help being who and what he is, and might even revel in being a vampyre (with humans as cattle), which is all very appealing to teenagers but destroys the original archetype without offering any sort of replacement. Zombies don't cut it in that regard -- they are devoid of mentation, which is not necessarily a basic characteristic of the vampyre, and they are (or at least started out as) essentially slaves or at least under mind control.

Got into a bit of a flap on an e-mail discussion list on this topic when it turned out one of the participants, under a pen-name, was making a very good living writing novels with all sorts of good-guy vampyres. Her point of view was that she and other writers were giving vampyre mythology new twists to bring "new life to old legends", even if this offended "purists who relish vampires as villains." But, of course, I am not her target audience. The viewpoint character in the one book of this author's I ended up reading (high ratings on Amazon) kept going into great detail on the clothes she was buying (high heels and dresses, even though she must have been aware she'd be better off wearing comfortable clothing suitable for being on the run with) and trying to fight the irresistible attraction of the probably evil but definitely very sexy daemon. Just not my thing.

Me, I loved the scene in F. Paul Wilson's Midnight Mass where one of the (definitely evil) vampyres describes how hilarious the Anne Ricean vampyre is to them.

Liked your description of zombies as video game fodder ...


Michael Swanwick said...

Well, obviously, vampire novelists have the right to write anything they like, just as do the rest of us, and there are evidently a lot of readers out there who take pleasure in their creations. But bringing new life to old legends is precisely what they are NOT doing. We must all be careful, when defending our passions, not to overreach.

I'd also argue that a crucial aspect of the original vampire is that of Old Age feeding upon Youth. Which is why Elizabeth Bathory (who apparently never actually bathed in the blood of virgins, though she did worse) gets lumped in with them. And of course Nosferatu is everything that's scary about old age, right down to the liver spots.

Gotta say, though, that before the panel I wasn't much interested in zombies, and now I understand the appeal. So my fellow panelists really did their job well.

Simeon said...

My favorite vamp-bashing has to be from the second season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", where a very evil vampire says to a very-good-ex-evil-but-pretending-to-be-evil-again vampire: "You still pull that Ann Rice crap on them?"

Anyway, I sort of like the tragic part in the vampiric curse, but not as a way of presenting them as some sort of oppressed minority or something. The best represented vampires in my view are those in the "Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust" anime. They aren't even exactly dead there, it's more of a non-human, very vicious elf-like race.

Sorry, got a little carried away there...