Thursday, January 31, 2008

Self Publishing Is A Bad Idea

It's been shown many, many times on lots of authors' blogs, but here it is very briefly:

- Your work is not properly edited; therefore it reads like crap.
- It is not properly designed, especially as to cover art and layout; therefore it looks like crap, too.
- It will not be properly marketed, no matter how hard you try; therefore it sells like crap.
- You will pay for your writing to be printed, rather than getting paid for it.

A corollary: the fact that your work is rejected should tell you something, and that something is NOT that you've been unfairly excluded and discriminated against, but that you need to keep working on your writing and resubmit it over and over until you get accepted, fair and square, the old fashioned way.

And even though it's been shown many times, someone like
this again comes along and loudly and proudly proclaims his/her self-published credits and how the big shot, fat cats in NYC publishing are quaking in their alligator-skin boots at the publishing "revolution" s/he is going to unleash on them! Then someone like this makes a laughingstock out of the person. The person finds the thread (or, more likely, is directed there by someone trying to stir up trouble), jumps in, and more hijinks ensue, including threats and counter-threats of legal action.

Valentine's Day - Past and Future

First, the future: my fortune cookie today says, "You're transforming yourself into someone who is certain to succeed." Woo-hoo! That's me, baby!

Now, the past. While driving home last night, I got stuck on those power ballads of yesteryear that reminded me of all those ladies who've broken my heart. So for them, here's their lineup of songs. Four ladies - No! make that FIVE - with five songs.

Journey, "Separate Ways"
Queen, "Who Needs You"
GNR, "Sweet Child o' Mine"
Bon Jovi, "Blaze of Glory"
Styx, "Come Sail Away"

And unlike Carly Simon, I'm not just going to say "You're So Vain" if you think one of these is about you! If you do think that one refers to you, I'm betting you're right! Of course, which one? And do you care? I'm guessing "no." But, there you have it!

Racists Hate D2L!

I guess if you're going to have a group dislike your work, that'd be a good one to pick:

(Check some of his other reviews, esp of the non-fiction book about towns that have removed their black population, to which he quips "So what's the problem?")

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Two New Yorkers Down in Flames

And it couldn't happen to a nicer pair from the Empire State (not that she really is, I know).

From Maureen Dowd's column today about America's Mayor:

"Nearby, Norman Korowitz, 66, a snowbird, retired guidance counselor and Billary fan from Suffolk County, called Rudy “an optical illusion.” “He’s Bernie Kerik’s partner,” he said. “And family values? He makes Bill Clinton look like a young upstart.”

And an emailed joke making the rounds about the other New Yorker who should soon be out of the race:

"Dear Abby: My husband is a liar and a cheat. He has cheated on me from the beginning, and, when I confront him, he denies everything. What's worse, everyone knows that he cheats on me. It is so humiliating. Also, since he lost his job six years ago, he hasn't even looked for a new one. All he does all day is smoke cigars, cruise around and shoot the breeze with his buddies while I have to work to pay the bills. Since our daughter went away to college he doesn't even pretend to like me. What should I do? Signed: Clueless

"Dear Clueless: Grow up and dump him. Good grief, woman. You don't need him anymore! You're a United States Senator from New York running for President of the United States. Act like one!"

Whatever happens in this election, the two least likable people in it seem to be spiraling out of the picture. Days like this one *almost* has hope for the Democratic process.

Should I put a Barack sticker on my car? I'm always afraid those things will never come off.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mini Review on Flames Rising

Nice little mini review of History Is Dead here:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Orpheus and the Pearl - Proofread!

Yes, that first pass through it with the editor. It's looking good. And wow, some of the scenes make me all weepy. I'm such a softy.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Stoker - Preliminary Ballot

Both D2L and History Is Dead have made the preliminary ballot for the 2007 Bram Stoker Award, in the First Novel and Anthology categories, respectively. Another round of voting will choose 4 or 5 finalists in each category!

Collective Lies and Pandering

Sorry, this election is already pissing me off, making me blog about non-zombie things, which will probably just get me in trouble. And it's only January!

But here's Paul Krugman's column (without his usual incomprehensible numbers-crunching):

This is perceptive, especially the last two paragraphs which address a question I've had for a while now: why do all Republicans want to pretend they're Ronnie and make him out to be some kind of saint (when he wasn't), while Democrats can't run away from Bill fast enough and never mention him directly or praise his accomplishments (which were many and lasting)?

Though Krugman's two paragraphs probably still don't go far enough. The 80s were a decade of greed and hypocrisy, and of course I can't blame the White House for that, but there is something about a President setting (or reflecting) the tone of his nation, so excuse me if I continue to think Ron was a selfish, stupid, simple-minded fool. But it was the last decade when we had identifiable enemies - the Soviets (militarily and politically), the Japanese (economically). Since the 90s, our military enemies are stateless terrorists we can't catch, and our economic enemies are unidentifiable forces of globalization. So maybe the sheer simplicity of the Reagan narrative will always draw us back to it, no matter how hypocritical and meaningless its promises may be in our more complex, fearful century.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


You type your URL into it and it turns it into a LOLCat page:

Pretty funny.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rusty Nail

The Rusty Nail is a blog usually specializing in documenting the antics of a group my friend Brian Keene has dubbed "The Legion of Nitwits" - several people who fancy themselves "writers," but who spend most of their time harassing other authors online with threats and taunts, most of them too obscene to publish on a family-friendly blog such as this. Occasionally, however, the Nail will mention what s/he is reading. (Other people seem to know who the Nail is, but I am not privy to this information.) Today s/he gave the nod to D2L:

Thanks, Nail!

Second Blurb!

Another one came in the mail today!

"Kim Paffenroth is a breath of fresh air in modern horror. Orpheus and the Pearl is truly chilling, and I thank him for reclaiming the great Gothic tradition. There are no cheap scares here, no blood and guts spilled for gore's sake. This is terror at its best. Like Jean Rhys' landmark novel Wide Sargasso Sea, Paffenroth's tale reaches into the dark places to show us just how high a price we have to pay to rescue the madwoman in the attic."

Joe McKinney, author of Dead City

Friday, January 18, 2008

Review for History Is Dead

From the Creature Feature Tomb of Horror (

HISTORY IS DEAD edited by Kim Paffenroth

Zombies are hot again, and Stoker winner Kim Paffenroth puts a brand new spin on zombie lore with this killer anthology. Historians have learned that the living dead have been walking the earth since history began, and these twenty scary stories illuminate just how important zombies have been to human evolution, art, technology and science! 2006 Stoker winner Jonathan Maberry tells a scathingly humorous tale, "Pegleg and Paddy Save the World", in which Great Chicago Fire of 1871 is not caused by Mrs. O'Leary's cow, but by a the zombie of Paddy O'Leary's nasty Aunt Sophie. Ed Turner's "Edison's Dead Men" is a wicked take on the famed inventor who makes mad science with some reanimated corpses. David Dunwood's "Reluctant Prometheus" is a truly scary story set in the prehistoric era, and James Roy Daley's "Summer of 1816" harkens back to the famous weekend when Mary Shelly wrote ther immortal novel, Frankenstein. John Peel's "The Loaned Ranger" is a dark parody of the story of the Lone Ranger, in which a slaughtered Texas Ranger is raised from the dead by a certain, ahem, Native American, and sent to wreak havoc on his murderers. HISTORY IS DEAD is a sleek, high-powered zombie anthology pulled together by a cool concept that hits on all cylinders. Great zombie stories all around--not a clunker in the bunch! With truly disturbing cover art by Christian Dovel, yikes!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Braunbeck's List

I made Gary Braunbeck's list of top books of 2007 (though it was really Orpheus and the Pearl on the "coming attractions" list):

Monday, January 14, 2008

Three Stories

I finished three short stories over break. Here are teaser/synopses for them, along with the first place I'm submitting them for publication:

"The Big Heat" (1700 words): Under the sweltering Texan sun, a cruel and carnivorous giant attacks a herd of cattle, but they're not the only ones suffering in this tale of eco horror. Submitted to Permuted Press for their Giant Creatures anthology.

"Miriam" (4400 words): A grieving mother creates a golem to replace her dead daughter, but who will look after the creature once she's gone? Submitted to Magus Press for their Winter anthology.

"Faithless and Blessed Generation" (3900 words): In the distant future, children hear the tale of how civilization destroyed itself in a mad attempt to force God to bring about the Apocalypse. Submitted to Mythos Books for their Cthulhu 2012 anthology.

First Blurb!

Always exciting, when the first blurb for a new book comes in!

"With Orpheus and the Pearl, Kim Paffenoth has stepped up to the plate left vacant by the late Ray Russell and hit one out of the park. Every element one expects to find in a traditional 'gothic' tale is present, but shown from a parallax view, keeping the reader guessing and anxious all the way to its surprisingly moving finale."

--Bram Stoker- and International Horror Guild-Award winner, Gary A. Braunbeck, author of Mr. Hands and Coffin County

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Great Time Saver!

Everyone's utilizing this great new time saver, both in the academic and horror worlds! It's called "Don't answer Kim's emails, no matter what! He won't mind!" I can't imagine all the valuable hours that are being freed up for writing scholarly tomes and horror novels, using this valuable tool!

Nonetheless, I forge ahead! Don't worry about me!

I'll Tell You What I Want (What I Really, Really Want)!

Thanks, Spice Girls!

And no, I don't think it's for you to get with my friends. That sounds rather icky, actually.

But I also don't think it's money or sex or power, which are usually the first three guesses (and understandably so). It's not even fame per se, though it's closer to that.

People want attention. They just want attention. It doesn't have to be fame, but just attention, from mom's hug to the internet flame war someone starts. From whom this attention comes and for what is a matter of great difference between people and can change in a person's life (perhaps many times) but I think it all comes down to that. That's why people become rock stars or college professors or PTA members or serial killers or adulterers - the attention. The sex or money is ancilliary. Even if they sneak around, there's attention in some way. For example, you wouldn't steal something if no one would notice it missing.

Just my thought. So I'm going to go get some attention now. Oh, wait, I just did!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Three - No, Make that FOUR - More Appearances Added!

Not all horror-related, but as I say, I need to keep my full list somewhere!

LunaCon (Rye, New York) - March 14-15
International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (Orlando, FL) - March 19-23
World Horror Convention (Salt Lake City, UT) - March 27-30
Religion and Literature Forum (Syracuse, NY) - April 4-5
EerieCon (Niagara Falls, NY) - April 18-20
Mo*Con (Indianapolis, IN) - June 13-15
Fangoria Weekend (Secaucus, NJ) - June 20-22
NeCon (Bristol, RI) - July 17-20
ZombieFest 2008 (Pittsburgh, PA) - September 12-14 (unconfirmed)
St. John's College Homecoming (Annpolis, MD) - September 26-28 (unconfirmed)
Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (Chicago, IL) - November 1-3

There Once Was a Man Named Mani

Whose ideas were really uncanny!

Sorry, can't finish a limerick, though feel free to do so yourself!

But one thing our favorite Gnostic could do was confound spelling. I am so glad that I am not the only one who can, in the space of one paragraph, label the religion founded by Mr. Mani as "Manicheism," "Manicheeism," "Manichaeism," and "Manicheanism."

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Presidential Debates

I try to stay aloof, since I am a Yellow Dog democrat and none of these debates could really change anything I'd believe, and also because I don't want to annoy any of you, my faithful readers, with my simplistic commentary. But tonight I got sucked into the NH debates, so here goes my very brief analysis.

The Republicans: I really couldn't care less what these six old, rich, white guys think. (See above on my political affiliation.) But let me suspend my disbelief for a second and pretend like I might actually care. Their only thought on the energy or environmental crisis was that we need more nuclear energy in this country. And on foreign policy they fell all over each other on who could be more bellicose. Brilliant. If those sound to you like the way to go, then go vote for one of them - I hardly think it matters which one.

The Democrats:

Edwards: Wow, I didn't think anyone could get away with such a rabidly populist message. He said everything but that he'd go after the corporate fat-cats who were killing babies and eating them with Grey Poupon. I have to say that ideologically I'd support him enthusiastically.

Obama: I hadn't heard more of him than sound bites, and his reputation for great speeches is deserved. The cadences and the substance are there. If Edwards projects passion and anger, Obama projects hope.

Richardson: He seems like a very nice man.

Hillary: I've said it before - she is utterly unelectable. She and Rudy are the two most unlikeable people on the planet. They have that uncanny ability to come across simultaneously as both a bully and a whiner. I can't believe either of them have gotten this far.

Minor points:

Was that gorgeous strawberry-blonde, young woman in the audience who I think it was? WOW! I'd been assuming she'd someday outgrow her ugly duckling status and it took a bit longer than I thought, but WOW!

Obama is left-handed. Except for me, left-handed people are noticeably more intelligent and creative than right-handers. Definite plus.

It was hilarious when the host said in reference to tax brackets, "A married couple of two professors here at St. Anselm's makes $200,000 a year," and the crowd let out such a groan and guffaw that he had to stop. That can't be too hard a number to look up, is it? So that your comment might actually relate to people on planet Earth?

Horror World Interview

Horror World doesn't archive its interviews, so now that a new one has gone up on their site for January, my interview has disappeared into cyberspace. So I thought I'd post the contents here, to be preserved forever.

Horror World: So, doc, most religious people I know try to steer people away from things like zombies. Here you are asking us to get up and dance with the undead. How does a professor of religious studies come to be so interested in zombies?

Kim Paffenroth: I know what you mean. I think many people, whether religious or not, try to ignore the dark, painful, evil parts of the world. And that’s come to be associated with religious people in particular, because I suppose any religion has to have an ultimately rosy picture of the universe: according to every religion, everything will finally work out, there can be no ultimate triumph of evil (Ragnarok is a partial exception, but there aren’t too many followers of that creed today). But, at the same time, if religion seeks to end or explain suffering and evil, the first thing it must do is acknowledge those realities – acknowledge them, examine them, explore all their nuances and details. It’s a loss to modern spirituality or piety that “Christian” or “inspirational” literature only means “feel good”: part of any religion is that in order to feel good, you first have to understand and appreciate how bad things are. There are plenty of places in the Bible that are worse than anything Romero or I could come up with, as there are scenes of hideous, painful revelation in Dante, Dostoevsky, or Flannery O’Connor.

HW: We’ve all heard the adage that university professors must publish or perish. Is that what got you to writing? If not, what did it? Why do you write?

KP: That’s been a strange learning curve for me. When I was in middle and high school, all I did was write weird, grotesque fiction. Talentless, of course, but it was how I needed to express myself then. Then when I got to college, I started reading more, and more varied types of books – not just modern fiction, but ancient and medieval history, philosophy, theology, drama, and poetry. I don’t fully understand why, but it seems to have been what made me stop writing. Maybe it was just seeing all those great and complex ideas stated so beautifully made my own work appear insignificant and pathetic, but I did stop writing and just read everything I could, all through college and for years after. Then, as you say, part of my job as a professor was to write about the things I read, and I eventually had some great successes publishing books and essays about the Bible and other theological and literary topics. But while I was working on the Gospel of the Living Dead, something told me I was ready again to try my own fiction writing: why just write about other people’s zombies, when you can write your own? I didn’t know what would come of it, maybe it’d just be a nice diversion, but I’ve been amazed and happy it’s been as successful as it has been. And all those books I’d been reading and ideas I’d been studying for so long have found their way into my writing in ways that just thrill me every time I sit down to write – and even, in a way that makes your heart skip a beat, when I go back and reread what I’ve written and realize that I didn’t consciously, deliberately put some image or idea in that passage, but there it is. For me it’s a better and more exciting tribute to my favorite authors and artists than it would be to write scholarly essays about them that only a handful of people will ever read.

HW: In Gospel of the Living Dead you compare Romero’s zombie films to the Bible and Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Why? Give us a quick summary on how they’re similar.

KP: I came to two basic insights in that book. First, in terms of his social criticism of materialism and racism, Romero often comes across like an Old Testament prophet – fed up with his society, disgusted by its excesses and misplaced values, and telling his audience that they’re all going to die and suffer for the mess they’ve made of their lives. His is a powerful, angry, embittered voice for reform, in other words. And in his depiction of the zombie state to which we’re all headed, I think he takes up Dante’s basic insight that the punishment for sin will not be God or the devil poking you with a pitchfork because you’ve been naughty. Sin itself is ultimately the punishment, as you’re doomed to repeat the sin over and over, doomed to continue the boring, empty, repetitive actions and attitudes to which you have addicted yourself. That sounds a lot like a zombie to me.

HW: Now, I’ve seen some reviews that take you to task for including the remake of Dawn of the Dead but not the remake of Night of the Living Dead, a project in which Romero was actually involved. Tell us what led you to that decision? Any regrets?

KP: No regrets for including the Dawn remake. I think the prejudice against the movie is a good example of some of the limits of fan culture, how they demand a kind of purity about the art and reify it so that it can’t be tampered with. That’s just as silly as any kind of fundamentalism or literalism that we see in religion. The Dawn remake was what revivified my interest in zombie movies, which I hadn’t really thought about for years, and I’m sure, together with Resident Evil, it did that for a lot of fans my age. As for the Night remake, I still don’t think it warrants a full chapter on its own, but for the sake of thoroughness, and for some of its differences about gender issues, I would include it, maybe as an addendum to the original Night chapter.

HW: You followed that up with the novel Dying to Live from Permuted Press. How did you go about deciding what zombie lore to use and what to create new?

KP: The basic setup I think almost has to be the same at this point. The zombie mythos as defined by Romero is pretty solidly a part of our culture. The only fiddling I did was around the edges, even if one of those minor points ends up providing a part of the resolution to the plot.

HW: That brings us to the new anthology, History is Dead, also from Permuted Press. What made you want to become an editor?

KP: I’ve edited a lot of academic books, and the motive is the same for both fiction and non-fiction: editing lets you explore a topic that you find interesting, but let’s you do it from many different perspectives. No matter how much you try to push yourself and get out of your own limitations and preconceived notions, you can’t do it as thoroughly as a fresh set of eyes and minds. Never mind fast versus slow zombies: what about zombies that don’t eat people? Zombies that fall in love? That fight crime? I think a lot about zombies, and I wouldn’t have thought of those, but now we have a collection of just such insights and twists.

HW: I’ve only had the chance to skim over the anthology, but it’s easy to tell this is not your standard zombies-and-people-under-siege collection of stories. You’ve also included work from newer authors. How did you go about choosing the 20 stories in the book?

KP: First, the sheer quantity: by the end, I must’ve had well over 300 submissions. (I didn’t start counting until a few days into it, because I had no idea of the deluge that was approaching, and I counted 250 from that point on.) And the vast majority of them were the standard fare. Some of those were well-written, and I had nothing against reading those and enjoyed them for what they were, but I could see early on that there would have to be something unique for a story to rise to the top. And in the final cut, there was some jockeying between similar stories: I put the Viking stories against the Viking stories, the Western ones in comparison to the other Westerns, etc., so as to have a good mix across the time periods.

HW: What has the response been so far? What is your hope for the book?

KP: No one has a hard copy yet, so I haven’t heard anything. My hope is first for the new authors – there are some really eloquent, vibrant voices in here, and I hope this gives them their first step to some success in writing, as they clearly have the skills for it. My second hope is for my undead friends, that this is another boost to people understanding that zombies are here to stay and they have more to offer than just spectacular kills on screen.

HW: Gospel of the Living Dead is from Baylor University Press. How does the university press differ from the small press?

KP: They’re similar in some ways. Each university press, like a small press, has a certain, quite small niche they fill, and they have to be very conscious of continuing to satisfy their “base,” although they almost always talk about how they want to expand into new subject areas. The main difference is the process of judging a work. With a university press it’s much more set and formal. Even if the editor likes what you’ve shown him, it still has to go to at least two independent scholars who have to recommend it for publication. This is not only more drawn out, but means you have to be very careful to not offend anyone, to do the proper obeisance to existing scholarship, even as you claim to be offering something new. That’s a tough balance that takes a lot of concentration to do just right.

HW: Rumor has it there’s a sequel to Dying to Live. What can you tell us about that?

KP: It’s done, and it’s in the (longish) queue at Permuted. It is very different, either from the first novel, or from zombie fiction in general. With the first novel, I just had to see if I could even do this, if I could actually carry out the process of writing correctly and clearly, since I hadn’t done this kind of writing for so long, and had never done it on the scale of a novel. With the second, I felt like from the start I had a vision of what I wanted to say, the feelings and ideas I wanted my audience to come away with, so I could work in a lot more parallelism and echoes and foreshadowing throughout the book. The first book has some good thrills and frights – it’s visceral; the second gives me chills and aches that are much more in the heart and mind than in the guts.

HW: Some people credit that Brian Keene guy for bringing zombies back to the hot list. What’s your scholarly opinion on that? Are there trends in society that make us ready for the zombies?

KP: I don’t know if I have a scholarly opinion about Brian Keene. It’s not like I’m his shrink or biographer or something. But on a personal level, he’s an incredible guy, very welcoming to new people, and a great writer in his own right, who is still humble and working on his craft. When you asked me about the difference between academic and fiction writing, that’s one of the first things I’d point to as a big difference: fiction writers like Brian have so far been extremely helpful, friendly, and generous, whereas we’re locked into a much more competitive, uncooperative model in academic publishing that I find disheartening, counterproductive, and unnecessary.

But as for Brian and zombies, it’s like saying Napoleon caused all that trouble in Europe. Of course he did, because of his unique personality and skills, and any other man would never have gotten out of Corsica or rural Pennsylvania. But he was only able to do so because the society was ripe for that kind of change. And one also has to factor in multiple influences: the zombie renaissance was spawned just as much by the popular video games that feature them. (And again, it’s a feedback loop: those games are popular because there’s something in the culture that craves that particular monster at this particular time.)

HW: Obviously Romero’s work ranks up there, but what are some of your other favorite zombie movies?

KP: As I said, the Dawn remake is an amazingly effective, entertaining film. And even though it’s such a different film, it pulls off the same ironic twist as the original – to be both nihilistic and uplifting at the same time. I think the Resident Evil franchise is fine for what it is – eye candy, though the last installment does make some nods towards a little more drama and deeper meaning, which I appreciated. And everyone asks me about Shaun of the Dead: great British, dark humor, and an excellent way to introduce people to the genre. I think most people would be too shocked and scared off by a full on zombie apocalypse with guts being flung across the screen and heads exploding. But some of them have now seen Shaun and come away entertained, thinking maybe all that zombie stuff isn’t so bad, and maybe they even went on to pick up the paperback of World War Z and thought it was pretty cool, and pretty soon you’ve got another fan. That’s good for all of us.

HW: Romero pretty much redefined what a zombie is by giving us flesh-eating ghouls instead of the Haitian-style labor force undead. How was that significant, and why did it work?

KP: The cannibalism is a big part of making the zombies into social criticism: Romero sees American society as preying on itself. It’s a shocking and effective metaphor for our own self-destructive behaviors, and for the ways our affluent society is held up by hordes of workers who are being pushed down into a sub-human existence. Making zombieism a disease rather than some voodoun curse also secularizes the tale, which I think helped make it more “believable,” and which now plays into our fears of epidemics and bioterrorism.

HW: What advice would you give an author looking to take on a well-known horror trope?

KP: I think the first thing is to read outside the genre. If you’re trying to distinguish yourself as an author, you need to learn from great authors, and most of those write outside the horror genre. It’s where you’ll see good models for all the techniques of the craft of writing, and also where you’ll get ideas that are universal and not confined to one genre – how to treat themes of memory or grief or betrayal, for example, which are crucial to many horror stories, but which are themes found throughout world literature. And as you turn to apply these ideas to the given trope, try to focus on why you’re writing that particular kind of story – what does a zombie or vampire tale offer you that’s particular to that subgenre? And love your characters: they’re not just targets or victims or monsters. I can think of many characters who are as real and alive to me as most flesh and blood people. One of the most endearing comments I read about Romero was how he rewrote the ending of Dawn so that Fran and Peter would live, just because he liked them too much to kill them off, even though that’s how it originally ended. And his sense turned out to be narratively correct, too: again, that irony of uplifting nihilism is so powerful and beautiful at the end of that film and gives it its unique appeal.

HW: Do you have any literary aspirations that don’t involve zombies? If so, what are they? If not, why not?

KP: I’ll be writing about my zombie brethren for a while yet. But ultimately, I think every author wants first to get beyond the trope that launched him, and then outside of the genre in which he began, to talk about the things that really matter to him, whatever creatures may populate his fictional world – zombies, time travelers, suburban housewives, or Buddhist monks. We all want to write about what it means to be human. For me right now, zombies are a useful metaphor for that, but I’d hope to have others in the future.

HW: If I’m not mistaken, you came of age in the 1980s. I know you’ve mentioned being a fan of Judas Priest and other top metal acts of that glorious decade. What influence did the ‘80s have on you that readers will see in your writing?

KP: That’s a funny question. I like irony, so almost all my academic books about theology begin with a quotation of Judas Priest lyrics. (One of my thrills early on in my academic writing career was to get an email from their agent, granting me permission to quote them!) But so far my zombie novels start with quotations from the Bible and Shakespeare. So the specific references I put in are reflecting the 80s less than they used to!

It’s also funny, but when you put the question that way, this is what occurs to me, even though I’ve never connected the dots this particular way before. One reviewer took me to task for using the stock phrase that “the Reagan-Thatcher years” were “reactionary,” as though I needed to parse that out and defend it more thoroughly. Well, I guess having been a teen during those years, you really don’t have to spell that out more, do you, because it’s intuitively, instinctually obvious to everyone your age? Puberty and adolescence have been a strange and tumultuous time in every person’s life, but there was some extra little rub added by growing up in a decade so conflicted and split between a pervasive cynicism, selfishness, and greed, on the one hand, which was somehow combined with a supposed return to “the good old days,” when men were men and the good guys didn’t negotiate with terrorists, they wore white hats, and they defeated the evil empire. (And now the terrorists we armed back then against the evil empire are flying airplanes into tall buildings in New York.) I think being an adolescent in such a context meant that one’s youthful idealism, suspicion of authority, and eagerness for novelty and expression were even more out of place and discordant than they have been in other time periods. So my visions of society are always going to be pretty dystopian, as were many of the films and other art of the 80s – for example, the Mad Max and Alien franchises, Escape from New York, anything by Alan Moore, anything by Paul Verhoeven, and of course Romero’s works.

HW: What should I have asked that I didn’t? Anything at all you want to add?

KP: You didn’t ask what it was like to win the Stoker Award! It was incredible, but I had the added twist that when they opened the envelope, they read the name of one of the other nominees, and I was crushed down into the floor in utter defeat. It was only after 10 seconds or so of thunderous applause for the other guy that one of the judges said, “Oh, wait, there’s another slip here in the envelope! It looks like we have a tie!” I perked up, but didn’t want to let myself inflate completely, lest it happen again. Only then did they read my name and I could finally feel the relief and elation.

But, other than that, you covered a lot of territory! I can only thank you for taking the time and hope we can talk again!

2008 Appearances

I've already posted the springtime ones, but somebody was asking me about the summer already, and I thought I should make a master list.

LunaCon (Rye, New York) - March 14-15
International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (Orlando, FL) - March 19-23
World Horror Convention (Salt Lake City, UT) - March 27-30
Religion and Literature Forum (Syracuse, NY) - April 4-5
EerieCon (Niagara Falls, NY) - April 18-20
Mo*Con (Indianapolis, IN) - June 13-15
NeCon (Bristol, RI) - July 17-20

(To be honest, I often consult my own blog for such info, so I like to keep it up-to-date. It seems more reliable than any other places where I scribble something down.)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Vote Early! Vote Often!

History Is Dead is one of the nominees for the Preditors and Editors Reader's Choice Award. (I know, not such a big deal, but one takes whatever accolades one can.) Please stop by their site and vote for it (or for whichever book you believe deserves the award):

Good luck to everyone!

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Oddly, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought about how horror writing has a lot to do with how one describes bodily fluids and fits them into one's prose. Good fit goes a long way to making a tale touching, moving, scary, or even profound. Bad fit and you've just got - well, just bodily fluids. So here's my take during the daylight hours.

Some fluids should be more or less off limits: I'd say urine, vomit (yes, I know the Exorcist scene, but that's a movie [for most of us] and it's really never been duplicated to similar effect), and semen should be off limits. High on the gross out factor, high on gratuitousness, low on how they could fit into the plot (except to sicken and disgust, which I don't think are ends in themselves). Saliva should be described sparingly, though I do like describing what characters taste in their mouths (but enough with how they taste copper - is that in every horror novel from 2007?!).

Blood: got to have lots of it, of course, but in the middle of the night, it struck me how seldom I really see a lot of blood in real life. I've only been injured twice that I can recall where I really saw anything resembling a horror-story amount of blood. There's lot of blood in child birth, but that's all mixed in with other stuff and isn't really the arterial explosions that we write about in our stories. Then I wondered if maybe medical personnel would have an easier time of it, since they see it so much, but then I thought no, they're probably so used to it that they couldn't convey the horror and fear it inspires in "regular" people.

Sweat: Nice fluid, dirty but not gross. Good for setting mood or intensity. One that we're all familiar with from real life. On the other hand, can be taken to magic realism levels, as when Jesus is described as sweating drops of blood. That gets the point across.

Tears: To be honest, my favorite, maybe because it's not so common as sweat, but not so rare as blood in our regular lives, so we remember it vividly and make strong connections back to the times we've wept, and to the characters' experiences of weeping. I think I can get into desrciptions of tears and crying more than any of the other fluids.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Zombie Nation

(Scroll down past the appeal for money - )

I don't think he follows through on the metaphor that much, as his rant really makes it sound more like we're rats (conditioned) or lemmings (suicidal) than zombies (unreasoning and appetitive), but it's ALWAYS good to see the Z word in public discourse.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's LULZ

Pay no attention to the thread's title:

By the end of p. 1 it's already veered off into why censorship is good. I jump in on p. 3, when the originator of the thread is about one step away from name-calling and OOPS! Wouldn't you know it? My presence pushes him over the line, so that he's deep into name calling on p. 4, which is also when people start Googling him and realizing he's been all over the net peddling his special brand of conspiracy-theory, stalking, and name-calling.

EDIT: Oops! Locked and the final go round of insults deleted this afternoon!!


Triumph of The Walking Dead