“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The best part about I&I posts? Writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want: their new book, series or career as a whole.
Today’s guest is Stant Litore, author of the Zombie Bible novels Strangers in the Land, What Our Eyes Have Witnessed, and Death Has Come Up into Our Windows. These books are thought-provoking reimaginings of the zombie mythos; stories that retell biblical tales framed in the context of incessant hunger and the hungry dead. Today, we are thrilled to have Stant over for a guest post to talk about his take on zombie fiction, its power, and its relevance.
Please give a warm welcome to Stant Litore!
When I wrote Strangers in the Land (The Zombie Bible), I turned to a diverse set of influences, ranging from the final episode of Season 2 of AMC’s The Walking Dead – when the lurching, moaning corpses overrun the farm – to Holocaust (Shoah) literature. Memories of Shoah informed Strangers in the Land because the novel wrestles with the questions that people ask after Shoah – questions about the politics of genocide, the necessity of witness, and what to do when God is silent and the air is filled with the ashes of your dead.
The arrival of the dead means the disappearance of entire towns and the blighting of the harvest as the dead walk through the wheat and barley. And your loved ones die and then rise to devour you. Think of that. How do you deal with that? How do you even start to deal with that?
This is the darkest of my novels, and the most hopeful. I wanted to take zombie fiction to a place where what is being devoured is not only your lives, your civilization, the world as your know it, but also your most cherished beliefs, those that you fall back on when the world around you falls apart. The crisis that overwhelms the land of promise in 1160 BC also forces Devora—the novels’ heroine—to question everything she believes about herself, about God and her People and about the other peoples that inhabit her world, everything she thinks she knows about her responsibilities to the living and the dead. One by one, Devora has to either confront the inadequacy of her beliefs or reaffirm them in the face of despair.
This is a unique time for zombie fiction. The past five or six years has taken this fledgling genre from splatterfest horror to novels of passion and beauty and existential angst, novels and films and television that ask us how we deal with grief and lay bare for us how we treat others – whether sometimes we look more like the dead than we think. I think Max Brooks started this, bringing the seriousness of George A. Romero into his fiction, and since then we’ve seen amazing stories. Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry; I. Zombie by Hugh Howey; The Valley of the Dead by Kim Paffenroth. These are stories that ask really tough, intelligent questions about how we choose to live and how we choose to die.
Now zombie fiction needs to take the next step. The zombie story is one of global holocaust, one where Shoah overtakes the entire world. That means zombie stories can invite us to feel the world’s pain and the suffering of others who live outside our tidy little houses and our Lexus cars and our own petty, everyday concerns. To feel the pain and grief of our world in a way that we rarely allow ourselves to. We run into a herd of shuffling zombies and see their gray, lifeless eyes and realize with a shock that they look at us and they don’t see us; staring at us, they don’t see anything but food. That should force us to ask, how do we look at others? What do we allow ourselves to see and witness, right here, in the real world, the world outside that story we’re reading?
It’s almost Halloween, and we’re getting ready to celebrate a traditional festival that was once meant to keep our dead at bay, to keep them from devouring us in the night. It’s going to be a lot of fun. But how easily we can let ourselves forget that the whole world right now is preparing for a day of the dead. We’ve seen a genocide every decade for over a century. We’re facing down a global food crisis. Human trafficking is now the third largest black market industry on the planet, meaning more slavery than at any other time in human history. I don’t want to bring down the mood, but man, it is a dark, grim world out there. I think the zombie genre, in the next couple of years, could offer us some ways to start talking about that, start feeling that, not be numb to it anymore. And I think that’s a really good thing. A really important thing.
So let’s imagine the end of the world. Let’s bring on the zombies. Let’s figure out how you have hope and how you fight and how you love when the night is falling. In a strange way, that’s what Halloween is all about.
Stant Litore, author of Strangers in the Land (47North), a new entry in The Zombie Bible.
We have one copy of Strangers in the Land up for grabs. The giveaway is open to ALL and to enter, use the form below. The contest will run until Saturday November 3 at 12:01AM (EST). Good luck!