Why Has Night to Dawn Magazine Gone to the Zombies?

Night to Dawn features an unholy blend of zombie fiction, vampire tales, and dark poetry.When I first became editor of Night to Dawn Magazine, I read each submission carefully, trying to find unique twists to the vampire monster. After all, I had the credentials; I’d just published Twilight Healer and seen many of my short vampire tales in small press magazines. But then Mike had taken me to two consecutive mummy flicks (back in the days before he’d gotten sick). Author Jonathan Maberry introduced me to zombies, and Tom Johnson had me writing SF and mystery tales for his publications. Before long, I started seeking mummies, zombies, evil aliens, and psychotic killers for my magazine. What’s more, my novels have turned toward evil aliens and zombies for monsters, and in some cases, the helium found in balloons was used for a weapon.

After reading enough tales and watching enough flicks about monsters, I realized that for me, the zombie makes the truest monster. Why? It takes me back to my childhood, when I visited a 1000-year-old woman on display in Atlantic City. The picture on the billboard displayed a model, but when I entered a room surrounded by drapes, I happened upon a skeletal woman dressed in rags, lying in an oversized bathtub. She sat up and waved to everyone. Later on, I found out that she was a well-preserved mummy, and the bathtub was actually a sarcophagus. Of course, people used mechanics and thin wires to make the body move. But at age ten, I didn’t know about such things. I only know that a dead woman was sitting in a bathtub, and I fled from the pavilion screaming.

Every author has his or her own pet monster, even if they don’t write horror. Tom Johnson specializes in pulp crime and SF, but you’ll find plenty of monsters (dinosaurs) in his Jur novels. In Michael De Stefano’s Gunslinger’s Companion, the criminals and some plantation owners behave worse than supernatural monsters. As everyone knows, humans can make the worst fiends. Stephen King finds monsters everywhere he looks—cell phones, revenants, psychotic killers, and yes, even helium balloons. Every author has their own reasons for choosing a given monster.

For me, the zombie serves as stark reminder of that mummified woman, and so naturally the zombie has shambled into Night to Dawn. My expectation is that future issues will include more zombie tales. Dead walkers terrorize people in Steel Rose and will continue to do so in its sequel. So…I’d love to hear about the monster that appears most in your fiction and why you’ve chosen this monster. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

I’m offering a signed copy of Steel Rose (first prize) and copy of Night to Dawn 26 (second prize) to a random commenter. Overseas winners will receive Starbucks gift cards and PDF copies.

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Here There Be Monsters

Barbara Custer included lots of zombies in When Blood Reigns.The traditional zombie is a mindless creature that knows nothing except an insatiable craving for human flesh. Perhaps a virus or chemical destroyed key brain cells, the ones that control reason and decision-making abilities. Perhaps a robotic implant causes a dead body to get up and attack. Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series features a killer virus that turns the victim’s skin gray. He wakes up from the dead and goes after humans. I read all the books in the series and loved them. Now I’m contemplating books from other authors.

Stephen King knows how to turn the most ordinary things into monsters. If not a monster, it becomes a tool. The beloved balloons I can’t resist turn into a monster’s tool under the influence of King in his story It. Pennywise the clown uses balloons to entice children to the graveyard.

When I was younger, I thrived on the Hammer films, but now, vampires are portrayed as another race of people with good and bad in them. This is good because the old-time vampire meets human-vampire drinks his blood tales have gotten ancient. Woe betide the person who crosses a villain vampire. He’s got fangs, strength, and brains to go with his blood lust. Books featuring great vampire tales include Passion in the Blood and Bloodstorm.

Some people return from the dead to terrorize the living, as in City of Brotherly Death and Blue Plate Special. They might look like shambling zombies, but they know full well what they’re doing and why. They’ve got scores to settle with people who didn’t treat them right. These zombies—a better term would be revenants—are particularly dangerous because they crave flesh and blood, and they’re able to plot and scheme to get it.

The human monsters (Reapers) in Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series frightened me a lot more than the zombies did. Like the traditional beasts, they delight in the thrill of the kill. What’s more, they can scheme, use sophisticated weapons, and employ muscle power to wax people they consider liabilities. A love triangle might incite a psychotic human killer, as in JoAnna Senger’s Betrothal, Betrayal, and Blood. The Mob breeds and trains assassins who thrive on the kill, especially in Tom Johnson’s The Spider’s Web and Tales of Masks & Mayhem V4.

The vampire, revenant, and zombie are monsters to be reckoned with, but humans can be the most dangerous killers of all.

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One randomly drawn commenter will receive a signed copy of Steel Rose and a $10 GC for Starbucks.

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Also click on the red links on the bottom – these are the links to fellow members of the Coffinhop.  This Coffinhop will run October 24 to 31, including the release of Coffinhop: Death by Drive-in to benefit Litworld.org.

  

 

What Would You Do in a Zombie Invasion?

In June, 2012, I posted a blog titled “Healthcare Workers and Zombies” in Charles Wellston’s Grits n Gravy page. My anthology, City of Brotherly Death, called for a reality check when I considered how modern-day people would respond to a zombie invasion. Eternal Press has slated Steel Rose for publication in February 2013. I anticipate more editing before the book goes to press. Another reality check.

The Kryszka aliens of Steel Rose, at least the bad guys, make zombies by injecting captured humans with a chemical to alter their brain function. The renegades starve their prisoners, gauge out their eyes, cut them, etc. When they’re through, the victim resembles one huge gaping sore. Afterwards, the soldiers will soak the prisoner with cadaverine and putrescine, chemicals found in decaying corpses. All the torture, brain damage and cell alteration strips away judgment and thinking, leaving behind an angry specimen starving for human flesh. At that point, people had better look out.

Unlike traditional zombies, the ones in Steel Rose breathe and have a pulse. They look and smell many days’ dead, but when they’re awake, they’re deadly. The chemical administered incites aggression, anger, and a craving that won’t quit. They only know hunger and will kill to satisfy it. Kryszka natives who ingest this chemical experience the craving, too.

Let’s revisit the hospital I mentioned in Grits n Gravy. Suppose our respiratory therapist is caring for someone who’s been “doctored” by the Kryszka renegades. Our doctors examine him, treat his wounds as best they can, and keep him sedated. The chemical coursing through his blood will never show in his lab reports. Our equipment, primitive by Kryszka standards, cannot isolate and identify the mysterious chemical. Keep in mind that hospital personnel are overworked and burned out as it is. When the patient wakes up and tries to bite people, most caregivers will label it “change of mental status” and restrain the patient. That’s the best case scenario.

Worst case? Our patient is sedated, breathing through a tracheotomy tube with mechanical ventilation. His respiratory therapist must suction his airway and mouth. This goes doubly so if his EEG fails to show brainwave activity and the doctors expect to harvest viable organs. No one will suspect aliens or zombies, even when he wakes, yanks out his tube, and bites the hapless therapist.

Let’s backtrack to possible events leading to the patient’s admission. Perhaps an innocent Joe gets into a fight with a Kryszka renegade, and manages to shoot and kill him. Alas, many aliens travel in pairs. At least the Kryszka do. The renegade’s backup injects our citizen with the chemical and carts him off to aliens’ underground compound for the zombie treatment. Later, someone finds his body in an alley and calls the police. The paramedics put him on a ventilator and rush him to a hospital. The doctors may appreciate the severity of his injuries, his emaciated state, and then blame a wild animal for the attack.

The hospital in Steel Rose has an advantage because a refugee Kryszka doctor works there. He trains the other doctors well, and they learn to detect foreign chemicals in the blood. Treating casualties by Kryszka renegades becomes a routine event. Still, traditional rules prevail; guns are banned. People dumb enough to obey the no-weapons rule become a Blue Plate Special for the invading zombies. Administration hates spending money for competent officers, and the security guards employed pick up their marbles and run home. They might be able to handle one Steel Rose zombie, and I repeat one. Not a whole slew of them.

Then I started wondering. What would I do if a horde of zombies broke into the hospital where I worked? In my fantasy world, I’d run to the gift shop and hide behind the Mylar balloons. That might not be so bad. The helium in those balloons is lethal to the Kryszka soldiers who lead these zombies. A few inhalations from a punctured balloon will kill them. As for the zombies? Different story. Reality check: adrenaline enables people to do surprising things – either speed run or fight like hell. No one can predict what they’d do until the zombies show.

Our staff therapist could run. He could try to fight back. As I mentioned in my other post, his tools, like scissors and a screwdriver, won’t get him far with zombies. If he’s lucky, he will get underground employment by a zombie squad. That’s probably the only way he’ll survive.

Steel Rose portrays a scene where our protagonist shoves an administrator into the path of the zombies. Uh, oh.

The helium in these balloons is lethal to the Kryszka alien.

The helium in these balloons is lethal to the Kryszka alien.

 

Dark Moon Presents Zombies – Review

  • Title: Dark Moon Presents Zombies
  • Edited by: Jason Shayer, Stan Swanson, Jennifer Word, and Frances A. Hogg
  • Available as: eBook ($3.95) and Paperback ($12.95)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983433538
  • Where available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.
  • Rating: 5 Balloons

A few weeks ago, Julia Jansen offered me the pleasure of reading Dark Moon Presents Zombies. I can’t resist zombie tales any more than I can balloons, and will always make time to read one no matter how many other projects I have cooking. All up, this one was a real treat for zombie aficionados like me. A short story collection, it provides quick reads you can enjoy at the doctor’s office or on a train. Each author offers a unique twist, and I feel compelled to comment on all the stories.

Shannon Farrell tells “Bouvier des Mort” from a dog’s point of view. The dog stands by his ailing mistress and never leaves her, even when she dies and starts to decay. After she reanimates as a zombie, her dog follows her everywhere she goes. When she feeds on people, the dog feeds too. This one sent chills up my spine.

AE Stueve’s “I, Zombie” portrays a meeting between “reformed” zombies,” people who have taken an injection to eradicate the virus from their bodies. This makes an interesting premise, and as I read, I kept wondering if someone would attack Dr. Yvonne, the pompous speaker who talks down to the “cured” zombies.

“Thicker Than Law” kept me turning the pages. Author John McMullen brings us into the horrific action from the first page with the threat of the “billies.” Protag Elizabeth discovers her brother is one of them. Worse, her parents have turned their home into a slaughterhouse, with her as an intended meal. Brrrrrr!

Dennis McDonald’s “Black Friday,” gives shopping after Thanksgiving a horrific meaning after multiple people die in a train wreck. Protags Cameron and Scott start the evening dreading a write-up from their boss. Their boss wants everyone ready for the hordes of customers, but the unspeakable greets the salespeople when the store finally opens. Definitely a page-turner.

GK Hayes tells “Papa Doc’s Zombie” in the first person by an elderly grandmother who assures her grandchild that her voodoo will protect them from zombies. It left me with a nostalgic feeling as I read about the grandmother’s youth and how she stood up to a voodoo priest. A worthy read.

Kate Putnam’s “The Five Rules” is the diary of Vodoun living in a world overrun by zombies. He talks about the everyday hardships of getting supplies, and that made me care about him as a character. Aside the horrors of becoming a Blue Plate Special for the zombie, I got a sense of Voduon’s depression and loneliness.

CW LaSart’s “All The Rage” is another tale that takes us into the everyday hardships of a group trying to survive a post-zombie apocalypse. Food is scarce, malnutrition has set in, and as for medical care, well there isn’t any, unless you can get your hands on antibiotics. LaSart turns up the heat by introducing a pregnant character, raising a new problem: how can someone survive with a newborn in tow? Another member of the group, Zak, bullies the other members. His insanity and strength makes him more dangerous than the zombies.

“Gingerbread Man” is a nickname for an ex-football player whose would-be career was cut short by an accident that severed his spinal cord. Now a quadriplegic, Andre “Gingerbread” is trying to escape in his motorized wheelchair, with a zombie in pursuit. Will he make it? Author Barrett Shumaker teases the reader with the zombie at first touching, then grabbing, and the suspense builds.

“Legio Mortuus” features zombies of the early Roman times. Severus, the prefect, makes an effective fighter with his sword, except the enemies he fights are all walking dead. These men are hungry as they show when they fall on a lone person. Beggar and noble alike become fodder for these monsters. Jason Shayer demonstrates great characterization skills, making me hope that Severus escapes. Does he? That’s for you, gentle reader, to find out.

The protag in “Death on the Newsfeed” is addicted to Facebook and his laptop. So engrossed in reading the “shares” that he ignores the destruction going on around him. CD Carter paints him as a cyber-stalker who cares only about his Facebook characters. I found Kevin somewhat pathetic. He doesn’t lift a finger to get himself out of danger. When the zombies outside break into his home, he ignores them too!

“Sound Set Off” is one of my favorites. David AET takes me into the action from the first sentence. His protag has the same first name, and he is up against it, locked in his house, little food, no water, and a hoard of zombies breaking through his windows. I followed him as he thought of ways to distract them so he could escape, even get away. He makes a great hero, and I kept rooting for him to escape.

“I am a Candle” is told from a zombie’s point a view. This was the first time I read a zombie tale like this, and Roberta Kowald crafted hers well. The narrator portrays herself as lonely, not one of the popular girls, and is dismayed that she can walk the earth. Her so-called friends hold a rite to bring her back to life, but other not-so-friendly zombies come back too. This zombie can think, and I found myself almost hoping she can “bite back” the people laughing at her.

Kendra Lisum’s “Broken Down Lives” portrays two young children who are seriously hurt, appearing dead, but they come around. As they get older, they start feeding on dead animals and remain four and six forever. Kathryn the mother is newly widowed and struggling to make ends meet, and she deals with the behavior by pretending this would go away. Denial only anesthetizes so long, and Kathryn deals with the budding horror in her own way.

Rebecca Snow’s “Step Right Up” features two monsters: the flesh-eating zombies and the greedy salesman who uses high pressure tactics to get people to buy his “zombie repellent.” As I read through the story, the salesman chilled me to the bones more than the zombies did. By far.

Stan Swanson’s “Hail to the Chief,” the last tale in the collection, makes a great political satire. Zombies invade the White House, and I can imagine having a zombie in the Presidential chair. Not too much blood and guts here, and drugs keep the zombies peaceful, but the satire makes this tale a delightful read. As an aside, I think we already have zombies in the White House.

Zombies presents oodles of horror fiction.

 

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