Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Guest Author – Paul Jessup

jessupMany of you know I enjoy a good zombie story from time to time, so when Paul Jessup announced he had a new zombie novella Dead Stay Dead written in a comedic vein, I asked if he could talk about the humorous side of zombies. 

BIO: Paul Jessup is a critically acclaimed writer of fantastical fiction. He’s been published in many magazines, both offline and on, with two books published in 2009 (short novel,Open Your Eyes and the short story collection Glass Coffin Girls) and a third in 2010 (the illustrated book, Werewolves). You can visit Paul’s website here.

Natasha is a ghost whisperer. Her roommate is a gypsy able to explode heads Scanners style with her mind. And campus has been overrun by zombies. What’s a girl to do?

In Jessup’s fast-paced, gore-packed novella you’ll follow Natasha as she attempts to save her school (and humanity, she supposes) from an impending apocalypse. Funny, bizarre, and even a bit sad, fans of hardcore zombie fiction will find plenty to enjoy in Dead Stay Dead.

Read an excerpt here.

What's so funny about the living dead?

So, someone once asked why I wrote a zombie comedy (of sorts, even though it's more than that, but isn't it always?), and why living dead comedies seem to the thing these days. What with zombie romance comedies, and movies like Shawn of the Dead, etc, etc. That whole thing. And I'm kind of confused because in my humble opinion- the comedy has always been there.

51N-7EAIi1L._SS500_Dark comedy is really all over Dawn of the Dead- right down to a motorcycle gang throwing pies in the faces of the zombies, or the end credits were zombies stumble about the mall to really funny muzac.  Then you have the Return of the Living Dead films, which are all spoofs, and it seems like since Romero first put a shambling flesh eating ghoul on screen, zombies have had ways to make us laugh.

Sure, some of the laughter is subversive, and dark, and hollow. Other times it's silly and goofy and funny, all the different ranges, because deep down inside as frightening as zombies can be, they are awfully silly as well. The way the shuffle and moan, one at a time zombies are pretty ridiculous.

Sure, when they are a large mass, they are frightening and overwhelming, but just limping along by their lonesome? Silly incarnate.So it seems natural to take this grand metaphor for existential angst and show it's absurdity as being, well, absurd.

oye_cmykOne reviewer once said that Dead Stay Dead was like an episode of Seinfeld, but with zombies. And even though I didn't plan on that from the outside, I can easily see what they're talking about. Both are influenced by the theater of the absurd, both are pretty much grand statements about the nature of absurdity in our universe, and our futile attempts at rationalizing it by over categorizing everything, and the categorization itself becomes so absurd that it becomes humorous.

One of the other things people seem to notice right away that this is more thriller than horror. You'll be turning the pages (and watching the gore ratchet up to extremely crazy Kill Bill levels of violence) faster and faster, laughing a little, but probably not scared. I'm not sure if its even possible to be frightened by zombies anymore, not really, not for me. To me zombies have become so drenched in symbolism that the weight of their terror is lost, that it's become a shadow of what it once was.

image2Not that it's a bad thing, mind you. Symbols can be powerful things, and just because they lack the punch to frighten us doesn't mean they don't have other tricks up their sleeves.  Symbols can show us the strange funhouse mirrors of our internal psyche, and in doing so, lay bare the complexities of our own thought processes. And in doing so, we can maybe find a way into a catharsis of sorts.

This goes back to my concept that complicated novels (or, a better way of putting it- porous novels, novels that don't explain everything, books that leave loose threads for readers to explore) are a joy to read and give the reader room to explore the world itself and claim it for the reader, no longer having writer as dictator, but as co-creator. Having the zombies stripped down bare to their symbolic bones, the novel becomes more porous, it has more room to breathe and expand in a reader's mind.

And I think that's a great thing.


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