It's no secret that I've met a number of phenomenal authors through SFNovelists, an online support group for, um, speculative fiction novelists. One of those is Daryl Gregory. Daryl lives in State College, PA, where he writes programming code in the morning, fiction in the afternoon, and comics at night. His first novel, PANDEMONIUM, won the Crawford award for best first fantasy and was a finalist for the World Fantasy award. His second novel, THE DEVIL'S ALPHABET, was named one of the best books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly. His first collection of short fiction, UNPOSSIBLE AND OTHER STORIES, will be published by Fairwood Press in October, 2011. He writes the comics DRACULA: THE COMPANY OF MONSTERS (with Kurt Busiek), and PLANET OF THE APES for BOOM! Studios. With a resume like that, how can we not be excited by Daryl's latest novel? RAISING STONY MAYHALL launches *today*, June 28. And here are a few words from Daryl, on the Inside Track...
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I want to talk about the undead elephant in the room.
My new book, Raising Stony Mayhall, is the story of a very polite dead boy from Iowa. It’s his “life” story, from when he’s found as a stone-cold baby at the side of a wintry highway, to his second, and probably permanent death 43 years later. Along the way he inexplicably grows up, finds out he’s not the only undead person in the world, and realizes that he may be the zombie messiah.
Whenever I explain the premise of the book, I imagine people thinking, Really? Do we really need another zombie story?
Besides all Romero’s Living Dead movies, we have 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, I Am Legend, Shaun of the Dead, and who knows how many Resident Evil movies. There are well-done zombie anthologies like The Living Dead, cool novels like Mira Grant’s Feed, and mashups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. We are drowning in zombie comic books, zombie TV shows, and zombie video games.
So what’s left to say?
When I was trying to explain to my editor the idea behind this book, I told him I wanted to write the Unforgiven of zombie stories. What I loved about the Clint Eastwood movie was that it wasn’t a parody of westerns, and not a tribute, exactly, but a clear-headed reexamination of the genre. It has the beautiful landscape of a John Ford film, but with all the grit and mud in the foreground. It has gun fights, but they’re filmed in a way that makes you reconsider all other western gunfights.
But most importantly, it has Clint Eastwood, playing an aged, unglamorous version of the pale rider he made famous. It’s a critique of westerns, but a loving one, told from the inside.
In Raising Stony Mayhall, I begin with the source of all modern zombie stories, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Stony’s born in 1968, during a zombie outbreak much like that in the movie. But in my world, the undead’s insatiable hunger and mindless shambling wears off after about 48 hours, and the victims come to their senses. They’re still dead, but now they're hunted by society. Stony eventually has to decide whose side he’s on: that of his fellow dead, or the breathers? I wanted to write a kind of anti-horror novel, about a thinking man’s zombie.
The wonderful thing about the house of genre is that the furniture can be endlessly rearranged and repurposed. As soon as someone declares that vampires are passé, someone makes a movie like Let the Right One In. As soon as you say that Godzilla movies are trash culture, James Morrow writes Shambling Toward Hiroshima. It was only after space opera was assigned to the dustbin of subgenre history that it could be rejuvenated by writers like Iain M. Banks.
So no, we don’t need another zombie novel. But then again, we don’t need novels, period. When I talk to writing students, I tell them to write what they want. Take the furniture from any room they like and build a fort in the living room. The results may confound the marketers, but they’ll have a tremendous amount of fun.
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So, you know the drill... Comment on this post, and you have a chance of winning your very own copy of RAISING STONY MAYHALL!