Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pandemic wipes out Humankind

It's more of a simulation than a game per se, but if you're looking at a zombie blog, you probably like simulations in which the population of the earth dies a horrible death:


Monday, January 29, 2007

Stoker - Final Preliminary

The votes have been examined now and the official version of the Preliminary voting has been posted. Nothing changed in the non-fiction category, so GOTLD is in the lead. But, there are two more rounds of voting and I've never been so nervous. Again, any active HWA member may request a copy and I'll send it right along. Thanks again - KP

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Super Squirrel

Saw him on someone else's blog and thought it was pretty good. Now I guess I'm gonna kill lots of time on YouTube. I bet there is all kinds of zombie stuff over there.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

On Writing Horror

Okay, sure, my opinions don't count for as much as many others who've published much more, but I've been kind of reading a lot of horror by new writers in the last couple months, and I've come across these problems that seem worth flagging, even if the flag is raised by me.

1) You may be smarter than your 9th grade English teacher, BUT... It would sure help if you learned (then or now) what s/he was teaching and used it in your writing. Never mind the difference between "to" and "too" or "its" and "it's" - I regularly see people who don't seem to know the difference (I assume they do know the difference, but they don't betray that knowledge) between "here" and "hear" or "your" and "you're." Never mind subtler points like split infinitives, I'm seeing constant subject/verb disagreement and shifts in tense. These are the kinds of things that automatically label you as "amateur," or perhaps more accurately, "too lazy or self-important for the rules that apply to the rest of us." And neither of those labels increase your chances of being published or read.

2) Bodily functions are GROSS, not SCARY: They also induce "shock" but necessarily in any sense that you want it in your story. I'm seeing way too much scat, I think because people are confusing the two categories of shock and fright. Sure, The Exorcist had lots of vomit, but it had done more than its share of establishing terror and despair in so many ways, that some shock laid on top was not only excusable, it added to the effect. And yes, most of us now know that during many kinds of death, the dying person's last act is to lose control of his/her bowels. That's no excuse, really, to describe it. And if you must mention it, why use bizarre verbs, like "marinated"? I think the authors don't quite understand cooking terminology: they're thinking of "basting" (though that sounds just silly, so they skipped to the next page in The Joy of Cooking) - marinating is fully immersing a piece of meat in an acidic liquid (usually a mixture of wine and vinegar and spices) overnight, so it could bear little resemblance to brief and sudden urination in a state of terror or dying paroxysm. Think of the scene in Ransom when the kid hears the kidnapper's voice and you see a puddle forming at his feet. That's about as much detail as you need about urine in your story.

3) Sexual violence is scary, but focus on the aftermath, not the actual act: If anything, describing the actual rape in clinical detail defuses and dissipates much of the terror and degradation and again reduces it to shock. Watch an SVU episode - they have described or implied every activity that I can think of besides maybe bestiality and scat (and I guess neither of those two are illegal, they're just gross - see above), and they never show anything. They focus on how traumatized the victims are afterwards, and how dehumanized and despairing are the detectives, none of whom has a normal romantic life. That's how this subject should be handled. An even more artful example would be Chinatown, where again all the focus is on the violence that has spiraled outward from the original act.

4) Sex is part of life, but needn't be described in detail: I see way too much of it on the page that has nothing to do with the story. And you can't claim verisimilitude, as though you have to describe everything, just because you're being accurate. You don't describe most of your characters' actions. You don't describe them going to the bathroom (see above), or brushing and flossing their teeth, or most of their actions during eating or getting dressed, or every lane change they make as they drive. Well, of course not, you say, because those are all boring. Ah-ha, then we've got the real reason you describe the sex - because you think it's interesting, or, more accurately, titillating. Two problems. The first is that if you describe something often enough and with enough detail, it usually becomes boring. Stale would be a better word. (For a joke, a friend sent me the URL of a pornstar's blog, and I read an entry, and I thought to myself, "My gosh, how could anyone make having a threesome in the morning and another in the afternoon sound so boring?!" But he had, because to him, it was. He'd made it routine and tedious, both in its execution and especially in his description.) And even if you've got your Penthouse Forum style down and can do titillating with a capital T, then you're really, well, writing a Penthouse Forum letter, and you should just go do that. No sense mixing genres in this case. Where sexuality can be used very effectively is when it is used like most other places where you describe action - to establish and elaborate on character. Your hero or heroine making love might help establish what a caring, emotional person s/he is, unafraid of vulnearability and trust; or it might show that s/he has trouble with intimacy, or has fears and anxieties about it, or perhaps is hiding some secret; and in negative ways, the same goes for your villains and monsters. (Though in the latter, even more care must be exercised: one bizarre implication I've found is that masturbation is thought of as the best way to show that someone is mentally unsound. If it is, then we're all in a lot of trouble.) Handled this way, sex is a highly appropriate, even necessary part of your characterization.

5) Gender is also a fact of life, but needs to be handled believably: How many gunslingers in the Old West were women? How many Medieval armies were led by female generals or warrior queens? How many courtesans were able to do as they pleased, even to the point of bossing around the emperor/king/pope and being the one who called the shots? I really don't know, but I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that it was less than 50%, which I would not at all guess from the stories I'm reading. I'm glad we're away from the Damsel in Distress as the only role for women in horror, but there has to be a believability factor. Think of the widly kick-ass action/horror film heroines - Fran in Dawn of the Dead, Ripley in Alien, Sarah in Terminator. None of them were soldiers by trade, all of them required some training before they could effectively deal with the menace, and all of them were fighting mostly to defend their child. That to me sounds much more believable than a 13th century woman who just likes to swing a sword and drink mead with the boys.

6) Historical accuracy in general is very important: I've read stories where people in the 18th century fire guns over and over w/o reloading. I've read several where men who live in the 10th or 11th centuries are said to have returned from the Crusades. This is basic fact checking. I'm not saying if you have your character get off the train in Philadelphia in 1843, that you have to find a train schedule for that year: I'm just saying make sure s/he gets off a train and not a bus.

Okay, that's all I got this morning. I can't guarantee you'll be published if you follow these, or even that you'll write well, but I can guarantee that you'll write better.

Friday, January 26, 2007

StarShip Troopers Soundtrack Came in the Mail Today

Threw it in the front seat of the PT Cruiser. I'm hoping I'm not too busy with other things that I can't reach the CD when the zombies rise, because I'd really like it playing as I run over walking corpses from hell. I mean, the situation is going to have so much going against it (never mind the structural damage to the car - how the heck are the windshield wipers going to be able to handle all that gore, and I sure as hell can't reach outside to clear it?), there might as well be some fun to it, and there's nothing like a good soundtrack. I guess I should burn a whole CD for the event, with the Flight of the Valkyrie from Apocalypse Now. The William Tell Overture. Maybe the Benny Hill theme, to lighten it up. Oh - and the Queen song that's playing as Flash Gordon flies into Ming's palace. Music from Terminator, definitely. The electronic gobbledy-gook from the end of Escape from New York, as they're running across the bridge. OH - wait - the music from The Magnificent Seven. Okay, I'm getting too worked up. I'm halfway to going to the Dodge dealership and buying something big that could really do some corpse-crushing damage. I better calm down and watch a Law & Order repeat before I get in trouble.

Another of those weird quizzes

I saw this on somebody's MySpace and took it:


I know, a little appalling to make a game out of it. But I can't help it, I love personality quizzes. And in the end, they always really do come out how you'd expect them to.

Cleared a spot

In our house we have these shelves built into the wall. They go around the edges of the entrance that separates the living room and dining room. They are more like cubby-holes than shelves, really. They get a bit cluttered with stuff, to say the least. So I took the one that's at about eye level on the left and tidied it up. It has a little lamp on it, that gives off a warm, red glow. Now next to the lamp there's a little empty spot. All dusted off, softly lit, just a little spot, maybe eight or ten inches on a side. I walked in and out of the room a few times, to see if that was a good spot, where one's glance would fall upon entering the room. It is. So, now I just wait for something to put in that spot. Just waiting.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Horror Fans and Academics (again)

Sorry, I know I've mentioned it on here before, but I just can't get over it. Here's the comparison that I find so funny. Several times in the last few months, I've been surfing the Net, looking for something, and I've come across some zombie-related bit of news or writing, a review, blog, interview, or essay. Often I'll email the author, and just say, "Hey, I saw your article/review/whatever, and I'm interested in zombies too." Now, without fail, if the person is "just" a fan, s/he will write back immediately, and we might even get a nice conversation going. BUT, if the person is an academic - then nothing comes back. Never. Too busy. I'm sorry, but is that hilarious or what? You will notice below that Brian Keene, who is not "only" a zombie fan, but "just" a best-selling author of zombie novels, even took the time to write back and give me a bang-up little endorsement. So, it's not just a matter of the people not writing back because they feel they're way more important than I: I'm sure Brian Keene feels more important than I - because he demonstrably is! Are they too busy? Puh-lease. Again, a best selling novelist works at least as many hours as any professor, and yet finds the time to write. No, the answer has to be in some fundamentally skewed attitude within the academics' self-importance that makes them feel better when they ignore people. (And yes, I totally assume that we do everything we do in order to feel better, at some level.) I'm having a lot of trouble figuring it out, even if I can immediately see the humor of it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Another great endorsement for D2L!

"A grave new world…. a startlingly original vision of the direction of the whole human race…. This is as bloody, violent and intense as it gets. An intelligent novel that will make you think and make you squirm with disgust in equal measure." - David Moody, author of the Autumn series

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The healing nature of Art

You know, I was looking at the Amazon page for Streets of Fire, which is, quite simply, the movie I most like to watch, over and over. I didn't say it was the best movie ever made, just the one I most like to watch. And there's a review by someone for whom I have harsh feelings - and he loves the movie too! Awww. Okay, maybe he's not so bad. I mean it. He can call me whatever he likes - if he loves Streets of Fire, then he must have some scrap of humanity and good taste in him. It's like the cloud of a bilious grudge has been lifted from me. To paraphrase the Good Shepherd - "Love thy enemy, for he too may love Streets of Fire!"

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bring It On!

You know I don't front for people, but I saw a couple ads in Rue Morgue and I checked them out and they are for awesome tshirts. The first is a great zombie-related one:


I can't wait for mine to come in the mail. I will have to go to extra horror conventions just to justify the purchase. (Hmm, how many tshirts does that make for this excuse? Not too many.)

The second I won't buy, but it proves how strong is my geek-fu. (I confess - it took me a couple minutes, and I had to Google to confirm my guess.)


Let's see who else gets it. I'm especially interested who will be most geeked-out - the Los Alamos geeks, the academic geeks, the book salespeople geeks, or the horror geeks. (Wow, talk about a battle. I guess I can referee, since my allegiances are clearly split.)

(Saturday PM) OH - first blood already is drawn by the glowing team from Los Alamos! They do us proud!

(Sunday AM) OH - and a bright Sunday morning sees the Hilltoppers still in the lead! The other teams are faltering badly! This could be a geek annihilation!

(Sunday afternoon) BUT - the horror community brings in one correct, and we're all tied up:

(Sunday PM) BUT OUCH! Another academic logs in, and digs them FURTHER into the hole of defeat! That's gotta hurt!

(Monday AM) OH - the academics finally rouse from their wintry lethargy and take time out from their busy schedule of shaping young minds to get on the board!

Los Alamos - 1 out of 2 respondents answered correctly - 50% (and BONUS - FIRST CORRECT RESPONSE!!)
Academics - 1 out of 3 respondents answered correctly -33%
Book salespeople - 0 out of 1 answered correctly - 0%
Horror people - 1 out of 2 answered correctly - 50%

Well, two days of silence, so I have to assume others didn't find this question as interesting as I did, so I'm calling it for Los Alamos and posting the answer in comments.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Stokers! It's Official!

The recommendation phase of the competition has ended, and GOTLD now goes into the first round of voting with more recommendations than any other book in the non-fiction category!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A new service for book promotion

I'm new to this, but check this out. You might want to join LibraryThing. It's a site that lets you catalog your book collection and makes suggestions based on your collection. However, books need ten owners before they get suggested, so I would lilke GOTLD to reach the threshold: http://www.librarything.com/work/1837031

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Captain 20!

I used to watch him on WDCA, channel 20 in the late 70s. My parents were a little bit better at enforcing bedtime than I seem to be as a parent, so I didn't know his other job for the channel, Count Gore De Vol for their Creature Feature on Saturday Nights. (Though it was about the same time in the 70s that I'd sneak out of bed at night to watch Twilight Zone episodes, and I believe they too were on Channel 20.) And I certainly didn't know that the Count now maintains a web presence and even has a regular book review column, which this week featured GOTLD! Check it out at http://www.countgore.com/Tomb.htm

Why the 90s sucked, Why there's hope for the future

It has long been a mystery to me. We had a democratic president, the economy was chugging along, we weren't at war. But why, as I look back, was my life incomplete, unsuccessful, without meaning, during those years? Why, when I think of fond memories, do I think of the 80s, or the very early or very late 90s, say, 90-91, or 98-2000? What was the horrible black hole of the mid-90s? I finally got it this morning.


From 1993-2000, George A. Romero made no movies. No zombies. No eviscerations, no snarling jugular bites, no garish red brains splattering against white walls.

From 1991-97, JUDAS PRIEST did nothing. Not a peep. Then they came roaring back with new front man Tim "The Ripper" Owens in 97, then Halford was back at the helm in 2003.

It's all so clear now. So - Ronnie, W., Henry K., Newt, terrorists, global warming, smarmy little academic biter wannabes who try to drag me down - do your worst. I got my zombies and my metal. And you? You got another thing comin'.

Friday, January 12, 2007

HUGE compliment for GOTLD!!

"An amazing, in-depth look into the dynamics of Romero's vision. A must read for any zombie fan." - Brian Keene

Another endorsement for D2L!

"Kim Paffenroth writes with passion, bringing a human element to a world of the inhuman. His love of the zombie genre is matched only by his insight in posing philosophical questions of those surviving the apocalypse. Intelligent and never boring, Dying to Live is as good as the zombie genre gets."
- Scott A. Johnson, Author of Deadlands

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Stoker update!!

I guess it'll be the last one before the recommendation stage ends on Monday. And wow, GOTLD is still in the lead. I can't believe it. I can't express my thanks enough to the HWA members who recommended it for this award.

Above is what it looks like (I haven't seen anything online that would indicate the scale, I can only assume it's small enough to pick up and hold over your head, Oscar-like).

Stepping out of the theater on a bright sunny day, after seeing Dawn of the Dead for the first time - I can remember it so vividly, being so emotionally exhausted, but so full of ideas and fears. And now some people who know and love the same genre as I do are recognizing the work I've done on my little private obsession. I am so lucky and grateful.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Features on My Humble Blog

Guest book, world map where you can put your pin, and a button to send recommendations to your friends. Scroll down to take advantage of these nifty new features. I found all of them at Bravenet.com, a great resource for website building. Special thanks go out to the person on whose website I found the Bravenet link. What a big help to promoting my book!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New zombie anthology

Anthology; 1-time print, Permuted Press.

While working on other projects, both zombie related and non-zombie, I am pleased to announce that I am seeking submissions for a zombie anthology, tentatively entitled History Is Dead. The premise for this collection: We love seeing or reading about zombies taking headshots from the absolute latest in police and military weaponry. We love seeing people fight and survive in familiar settings – the mall, the high school, Pittsburgh, Yonkers, downtown Manhattan. But, it’s kind of been overdone. Most all zombie fiction and movies are set in the modern world, and most of those in the U.S.A. So what I’m proposing is a collection of zombie short stories, set in some other historical period, especially if they’re also set in another geographical locale.

What I’m looking for: zombie stories set sometime pre-20th century. Use your imagination. Biblical, Roman, Medieval, or the Old West all come to mind, as well as non-Western settings like samurai fighting zombies, or hordes of zombies crashing into the Great Wall. Crossovers with other monsters usually don’t thrill me, though I’ll try to keep an open mind. Though I am partial to “Romero” zombies (i.e. slow and caused by plague), I am open to other speeds and other causes of the monstrosity.

What else: Character-driven stories. I can’t say this enough. If the seed of your idea is how cool it would be to kill zombies with halberds or catapults, or pour boiling oil on them and then set it alight – well, that’s a fine place to begin. But, if that’s all you got, I think I’ll pass. I have to care about the people in the story; mega bonus points if I even care about the zombies as well.

Word count: Approximately 3-8k. No flash, nothing over 10k.

Reprints considered: Yes

RT: As quick as I can, for rejections. If I like it and keep it in the running, you’ll probably have to wait all the way till the deadline to know for sure.

Payment: $25 + contributor's copy.

Submissions: By email attachment to
kimpaffenroth@msn.com. Please make sure your manuscript is in MSW (.doc), 12 pt. Times Roman, double spaced, 1” margins all around. Put “zombie submission” in your subject line.

Deadline: May 25, 2007

Email: kimpaffenroth@msn.com

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Video of Saddam's Execution

I was thinking about the video of Saddam's execution. I have to say I surprised myself, in that I tried to watch the fairly cleaned up version on the internet, thinking (fearing? or hoping?) that there might be some ghoulish delight in it. (Let's remember, as the Zombie Scholar, I have something of a reputation to uphold now.) But I turned it off after a few seconds. I don't think there was anything particularly "disturbing" or "shocking" about it, at least not in the sense that we use those words to mean something evil or rotten. It was all fairly pedestrian as I watched. I suppose that's what made it different than movie or literary horror: it was just so darned ordinary. And that made it much harder to watch, I think. For what it was above all, I think, is private (or should've been) and it wasn't that I felt bad for Saddam as I watched, but I felt sullied and degraded as a voyeur for watching. Even if he "deserved" to die, I most certainly did not "deserve" to be watching. Maybe his victims or their families or his own family would deserve to see that (though I could understand their desire not to), but certainly not me, sitting here in my safe and private home, sipping wine in complete comfort.

D2L Cover

The back text blurb will be tweaked, but I doubt you can read that at this size.

Another great review

From The Midwest Book Review:

Kim Paffenroth (Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Iona College) presents Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero's Visions of Hell on Earth, a literary exploration of director George A. Romero's hellish zombie horror films such as "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) "Dawn of the Dead" (1978), and "Day of the Dead" (1985), as well as the more recent "Land of the Dead" (2005). Written with scholarly rigor, Gospel of the Living Dead inspects how Romero uses Christian imagery from the Bible and Dante in the macabre examination of the dark sides of human nature - both living and unliving. Romero's zombie films comment upon man's cruelty and inhumanity to man, as well as the degeneration of the social contract into the strong devouring the weak into ruthless individual anarchy. A thoughtful scrutiny of the underlying artistic expressions driving Romero's pop culture horror films.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Stoker update

Just posted today. I check about 10x/day. I can't help it. It's nerve wracking but so exciting. GOTLD is still in the running. And all of this, right as I go through the final editing of my novel. Sometimes it's amazing how far a drunken boor can go in life; much farther, perhaps, than those who try to put other people down by calling them names. I was always taught that you reap what you sow.

Something called Reason magazine (http://www.reason.com) came in the mail again today. I'm not sure how they got my name, but it's been arriving, though I didn't subscribe. Tim Cavanaugh has a great article on zombie movies in it, pointing out some of the same social/political themes that I did in GOTLD. Always nice to see people who "get" it, vis-a-vis zombies. The magazine is libertarian, so Cavanaugh seemed to have to apologize for the films' politics a little, but that didn't obscure his (or Romero's) points as to the cultural importance of the undead.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Non-zombie movie viewing

No, I didn't go see Black Christmas. No desire to. I keep telling people that I really don't like most horror movies. If it's on AMC or the Sci-Fi channel, I'll sit through some ridiculous thing, but $9 at the theater - no way.

But I had to get out of the house. Too much time editing "serious" writings (ha, what could be more "serious" than zombie apocalypse?) and the kids were acting up. Unfortunately, even though I've been subjected to the ads and great reviews, Children of Men is still nowhere in the vicinity of our quiet village. So, okay, I broke down and saw Rocky, as the reviews had been at least so-so. And it's embarrassing, but the formula still works. Pretty maudlin throughout, though thankfully they kept the full-on barrage of flashbacks to Talia Shire and Burgess Meredith till the final moments of the big fight. So, anyway, you'd think watching Rocky dig deep and come from behind couldn't possibly, ever, in anyway, ever work again. You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things - you'd be wrong.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Fog

There's some John Carpenteresqe fog rolling into our quiet village right now. It's unseasonably warm. Feels and looks now like Halloween. I guess I have to hope the 19th century inhabitants of Cornwall didn't do anything worthy of punishment from beyond the grave, as that's how it's looking out there. Still, could be a good sign for '07 - that it'll be full of creeps and chills.

My new tag line

For some reason, I've been going around saying "Thunderbirds are GO!!!" all day today. Odd. Perhaps it means something. (Mind you, I have very fond memories of the series, but I don't know why today in particular.)

First Post '07 - Old Music

Excuse the non-zombie nature of this post. I will try to keep them to a minimum.

After the ball dropped, I stayed up and listened to some old CDs and got all maudlin, and I realized that I needed to call some people out. Here are some people who need to know I think of them when the disks are spinning, late at night, whether it's for a good reason or not so good.

Boston's "More Than a Feeling": Greg, I was struck by this one more than usual, and I usually take this one hard. I know as sure as I know anything that you're somewhere better, but I hope it's not inappropriate to say that I would trade places with you any day, as it's just not fair that I'm here and you're not. I think of you most every day.

Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer": Liz, I never gave you any reason not to answer emails. I wouldn't listen to this CD or watch Young Guns if it weren't for you, and I do both incessantly. I'd like to flatter myself that I had some similarly positive influence on you, so an email would be nice.

Judas Priest "Electric Eye": I went to the Electric Factory on a frosty morning in 1998 to live a childhood dream and see the Bashers from Birmingham rock so hard my teeth hurt. I went with two people I thought were my friends. One has continued to go to concerts with me up and down the East Coast. He's my friend. The other ignores emails and phone calls. Oh, except one, that he answered, because I made the phone call from work, which is in the 914 area code, so he thought it might be from someone "important" in NYC. News flash: friends are "important." But, you know what? Make the call or send the email, and I won't make anything of it. I'd just like to hear from you. I mean it - not word one, no demand for an apology, just pick up where we left off. Try it.

Journey "Open Arms": Kerry, either your work email filters out everything I send, or you're ignoring me. If the latter, then see the above entry. If the former, then you got to fix something, as it's annoying.


Triumph of The Walking Dead