Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Moving Day

For anyone who is 
  1. looking for new content from me,
  2. a geek, nerd, or dweeb looking for a nerd blog/author;
  3. a book lover looking for reviews; or
  4. my mom 

please head on over to my shiny new author's website at 

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Free eCopy of A World of Possibility? Sign Me the Hell Up!

A World of Possibility – A Free ebook of Short Stories

4327434This is a truly wonderful collection of short stories by a group of authors who have forged strong links with each other across the globe, to develop a network of writers who can share their ideas, their work, and their own brand of togetherness. The Authors Social Media Support Group (ASMSG) is a collective who engage with social media to bring their work to the attention of a global audience, and they do it with smiles on their digital faces.
Yes, this short story collection is COMPLETELY FREE! So, click to download, and then ‘The Jumper’ will leap off the page at you, and then ‘Leaving Sarah’ may be a good thing or a bad thing? Wait for ‘The Balance’ to make you wobble, and then point ‘The Gun’ at ‘Mooncussers’ for a short story double dose extra thrill. Take a trip to ‘Ghost Inn’, perhaps for a ‘Vacation Interrupted’.  And ‘The Painting’ is a story that hangs well.
‘One More Back’ suggests an elusive tale, while ‘Lala Salaama’ has a sing song title. ‘Cuffed’ and ‘Underground’ are short stories to blow you away, ‘The Family Tradition’ is here to stay.  ‘Flashback’ and ‘The Wayward Parcel’ are stories that may like to hold hands and float along together through cyberspace.
And what’s inside ‘The Box’?
‘The Legacy’ could quite easily be ’The Baby’, who will grow up to savour tales such as ‘Revenge’ and ‘The Sea Turtle’Today could be ‘A Date to Die For’, but then so could tomorrow: ‘A Step in Time’.
Feel the poetry of ‘A Cottage at Manitou Crossing’and blow a reader’s kiss at ‘Little Boy Blue’.
‘Ruth’ sounds a plain and simple tale, but that could be deceptive, and for a dose of intrigue we have ‘The Unedited Interview with Brenford Stevens’.
It’s a terrific collection and it’s FREE!
Check out these links:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Battle for Princess Madeline - Book Review

When I picked up the Battle for Princess Madeline by Kirstin Pulioff I wasn’t sure what to expect. To me, fairytales are best when they are either sweet little stories to tell my three year old or tongue-in-cheek NC17 satires. 

Scenario number 1: The Disney Love Story

Prince Whathisface needs a wife.  Sweet young SoandSo is the adolescent male's ideal: barely nubile at 16 years old, sweetly stupid, gorgeous, etc. and she just happens to be single. 


Before we know it, SoandSo meets Whatshisface and they inexplicably fall in love without mumbling so much as an awkward, “Uh, hi.”  Trouble ensues, SoandSo is separated from good old Whatshisface, and everything goes sideways until a deus ex machina materializes, solving everything tidily.  This frees Whathisface and SoandSo to begin their own Teen Mom reality TV franchise, Medieval style.  

Butterflies and rainbows abound.

Scenario Number 2: Cinderella Meets the Sopranos

Yo! Prince Whatshisface needs a wife, already.  He's happily single, a raging alcoholic with a gambling problem and an expensive goomah but then his loan shark tells him he’s in danger of losing his shiny new Italian carriage and his ability to walk unless he pays his debts, like yesterday.  


The D-bag trolls the kingdom looking to marry a rich yet stupid young virgin who doesn't know he's gavone.  Enter young SoandSo.  She is new to the kingdom and loaded so she becomes Whatshisface’s target-of-choice.  They meet at a rave but Prince Whatshisface comes off (surprise!) sounding less-than-charming.  SoandSo kicks him to the curb in front of his friends and, in a moment of cocaine-induced psychosis, Whatshisface decides, “She's not going to get the best of me!” He kidnaps her, hoping that Stockade Stockbroker uh...Stockholm Syndrome will kick in at some point and she’ll agree to marry him before his loan shark kicks in his kneecaps.  

Eventually, Whatshisname decides to force the issue and marry her: willing or not.  He slips her a couple of roofies, manhandles her in the trunk of his carriage and heads to the local drive-through wedding chapel.  When she wakes up to hear the guy say over the speaker if anyone has an objection let them speak now or forever hold their peace she lets her fists do the talking – she knocks out Whatshisname's teeth and escapes.  SoandSo capitalizes on the notoriety and respect she gets from standing up to Whatshisface to poach manpower from other gangs.  Then, she takes over the kingdom's cartels and is forever known as the Godmother.  

Cannolis and RICO violations abound.

The Real Story

At first glance, I thought THE BATTLE FOR PRINCESS MADELINE looked like it would kind of/sort of fit into the first category.  There certainly weren't any roofies, goomahs or cannolis mentioned in any of the book reviews I read so I thought it was a pretty safe bet that scenario 2 wasn't a go.  The thing was, even though Prince Paulsen needs a wife and Princess Madeline is sweet, gorgeous, and barely nubile at 16 years old,  that's where the resemblance to scenario 1 ends.  In other words, no one in this book busts out into song and there weren't any schmaltzy romantic montages.  (Insert fist pump!)  In case you haven’t already guessed, I was pretty damn happy when I realized this book wasn't going to cutesy me into submission.   

As someone with a daughter, I shudder to mention it but this book's 16 year old princess is engaged. Initially I was all like, “Ohmahgawd. What kind of a, like, example is that for my kid?”  I was tempted to go back to my normal Tuesday activities (drinking myself into a stupor while watching Toddlers and Tiaras) but then my left brain kicked in, reminding me that this was pastoral fantasy so a 24 year old would probably be considered an unmarriageable hag while a 16 year old would be prime marriage material.   

That dilemma resolved, I dove into the book.  I quickly discovered that I was (for the second time this summer) in the position of being pleasantly surprised by something I was reading.  In particular, I was excited by the quality of Pulioff's writing, not because I didn't think she would be a good writer, but because I (mistakenly) assumed mid grade fiction would require shorter, choppier writing to accommodate the limitations of younger readers.  (Whaaat? I talk about booze and Tramped up Toddlers and you don't blink but you get all huffy when I say I thought kids needed simpler writing?  Remember, I typically read adult fiction or my daughter's coma-inducing Pinkalicious books, people - I don't exactly have any recent MG experience to draw on.)  Instead, this book has a nice flow and there are more than a few moments in this story where young readers will be exposed not only to good writing at a comfortable MG level but good writing at any level. I'm a big believer that the best books have story and flow and this one has both.    

One thing that was a bit of a problem for me was that Madeline is presented as an independent and intelligent young woman but she occasionally made some very strange decisions that just don’t seem to jibe with those qualities.  For example, she assumed that her enemy’s scum-of-the-earth lackeys would feel bound by the rules and conventions of the knightly code of chivalry when she offered herself up to them as a hostage/distraction at a pivotal point in the story.  Given the riff raff Paulsen had in his army, she should have ended up on a milk carton or a front runner in next year’s Darwin Awards.  Luckily for her, in her world there is honour amongst irredeemable psychopaths so she survives - honour unbesmirched -  to (presumably) head up a third instalment in this quality series.  In the end, I guess it boils down to this: she's 16 years old.  Lucky?  Yes.  Street smart?  Eeeeh...not so much.

Aside from this one minor quibble, I really enjoyed this book.  It is definitely written with a mid-grade reader in mind but this particular adult enjoyed it as a nice, light read.  It is also one book in a series I guarantee I will be reading with my daughter when the time comes to introduce her to the mid grade reading level. 

I'm giving this book my enthusiastic recommendation and 4.75 stars out of 5.

Kirstin and her books can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Goodreads.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Hers To Command - A Book Review in Two Parts


I'm a diverse reader: my bookshelves are a hodgepodge of works ranging from literary fiction, biographies, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, horror, paranormal, humor, history, romance (mostly Jane Austin), and - of course - tonnes and tonnes of scifi, fantasy and my new love: steampunk. What I don't have on my shelves is erotica. Nope. Not a smidge. I'm not a prude but it just didn't seem to ever cross my path until about a year ago when a friend of mine and I were in our cups. When I confessed I hadn't ever read any she gave me a copy of a certain very popular book another friend of mine had once called "TwiPorn."  I blearily thought, "I like vampires," and took the book.

After I sobered up, I cracked it open and read one random chapter. When I recovered from the shock of there not being a fang in sight, I was horrified by what my friend had recommended I read.  At best I could call it the worst example of sophmoronic drivel I had ever read.  Cliché-rich and repetitive writing, and an unbelievably ridiculous story premise made me want to use a fruit spoon to scrub the memory of E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Meh from my brain.  Sadly, I don't think even that would have worked.  What really cracked my brainpan was that I could be so put off by one short mid-book chapter (presumably easier to like because the typical back story info-dump is over) and yet she has made a ridiculous amount of money off her book...I mean books. Yes, sadly there is more than one book in that heinous series.

Colour me Fifty Shades of WTF!

So after this near miss with a surgical fruit spoon, I gave up on erotica.  I figured I had finally met my literary Kryptonite because if that was the best erotica had to offer, I was tapping out. There was simply no way I could read it.

It turns out I was wrong - very, very wrong.

And now, on to the part you've all come here for: The Review

A couple of weeks back, there was a call for readers to provide honest reviews of a book by Patricia A. Knight, HERS TO COMMAND and I was happy to throw my hat in the ring for the chance to read something new.  I will admit, before I began to read I was nervous but cautiously optimistic.  I follow Patricia  Knight on Twitter and, despite the 140 character per Tweet limit, she's obviously someone who knows her way around the English language so I thought it unlikely that her book was going to force me to make a run for the flatware.  On the other hand, her book bridged one of my favourite genres with one I had recently decided I hated with the flaming passion of a thousand suns (see above). Happily, after reading less than a chapter I was already thoroughly enjoying this steamy scifi and my initial reservations were long forgotten.

I don't want to ruin the fun of discovery for those who haven't yet read this book but I'll give a brief general overview: when the book begins there are three people living on the embattled planet Verdantia who don't yet know it but who are destined to be together for love, for lust and to save their entire (semi-sentient) world.  Hers to Command is about Fleur, Ari, and Doral - three complex and strong yet realistically flawed heroes with complicated pasts who weren't immune to anxiety or self-doubt as they tried to build a strong polyamorous relationship while knowing the survival of their people and their living planet depended on their ability to do so.  No pressure there, right?

I thought the planet Verdantia and its people were well developed and the creative story premise gave clear reasons behind the early sex between near strangers so it didn't feel gratuitous or contrived.  The author also managed to skilfully balance the various story elements while still presenting a very sexy scifi so there was never a cheesy boomchickawrowwrow vibe or a point where the reader would be left wondering what happened to the story's spice. I also really liked that as the story progressed, the relationships between the characters deepened and their sexual encounters reflected that change, adding a whole new layer to the experience for them and for me as the reader.

All in all, this was a white hot supernova of an erotic scifi. The story was a good one and Patricia Knight's writing didn't disappoint. Would I recommend this book to everyone? Well let's just say I'm not giving it my granny for Christmas this year (her loss) but if you're up for a scifi with a smart and sexy MFM twist, this is definitely for you.  I think it also says a lot that this book made me reconsider a pretty strong bias against a whole genre (quite a feat!).

HERS TO COMMAND gets an enthusiastic 5 stars out of 5 from me.

Cinnamon Toast and an Author Interview

Shiny Gold Boots! Oversized Sushi! Cheap Beer!

Take equal parts metallic leather, raw fish and beer, throw in a pair of cute actors and some free tequila and you've got the time honoured recipe for the Author's Interview.  Here's is my post-sushi, beer and actors chat with Canadian ex-pat novelist Janet E. Cameron about life, her debut novel Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World, the creative process, and the writer's holy grail: publication.

If you had to describe your book in a couple of sentences, how would you do it?

It's 1987, and in the small, rural town of Riverside, Nova Scotia, 17-year-old Stephen Shulevitz finds himself in major trouble when he falls in love with exactly the wrong person. It's funny, it's sad, and we've all been there.

That's the elevator pitch. I wish I had something less prepackaged for you, but now when someone says, 'Describe the book in a few sentences,' that's the one that comes spewing out.

In a number of interviews you've said that your book Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World began as a short story you wrote about two boys who fought on the edge of a river, fell in during the scuffle and drowned.  When you began the process of morphing that short story into your book, did you map out the entire plot or did you discover the story as you went along?

The book started as a very short story told from the point of view of the character who became Mark. When I switched to Stephen as the main character I started writing like mad – he was very inspiring –  and came up with enough for a very long short story or a novella, with the scene by the river as the high point I was working towards. Then a virus erased it from my computer. But when I started working on it again four years later, I remembered how the plot of the old, erased story went and the memory became a sort of outline for me. Some of the book I discovered as I went along. The chapter where Stephen first meets Lana came to me as I was cycling home after work.

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King talked about excavating stories, as though every story already exists out there just waiting to be uncovered by someone lucky enough to find it and skillful enough to extract it.  How would you describe your creative process?

I don't actually understand the creative process at all, or how to control it. (This makes me very superstitious.) I just know I was fixated on Stephen and he seemed to bring a rush of ideas with him. I found myself thinking, 'Wow, he's really funny,' as if it wasn't me who was writing. I don't have a mental image of excavating anything, just being open to ideas. I still have a little joke notepad which says, 'I do whatever the little voices tell me to do,' which I think is a good motto for writing.

Everyone out there who has read your book probably feels as though they know your characters pretty well by now.  I imagine you feel the same way to a far greater degree because they are, in many ways, your children. Did you picture them in your head as your wrote?  If I sat you down with a police sketch artist, would you be able to help them draw each of your main characters?  

I have a lousy visual imagination, which is one reason I ripped off my hometown for the setting, but over time I did get very clear mental pictures of these people. Stephen actually shifted around visually for a while because he's so important and because the ‘camera’ is in his head. I kept a print of a self-portrait of an artist called Egon Schiele close to my desk because Stephen often gets a very similar look on his face, though he doesn't resemble Schiele in any other way except maybe his build.

Do you think that visualization helped your writing? 

I 'saw' most of the book happening in my head like a movie, but the details were a bit blurry at times. Several of the scenes were written as dialogue, and then I had to force myself to consider what it all looked like, exactly – physical actions, details in the background, that kind of thing.

If your book is made into a movie (and it really should be) who do you imagine playing Stephen? (the actor could be anyone, living or dead!)

Aw, thanks. And I have no idea. Really. He's so much himself to me that I couldn't imagine an actor pretending to be him.


I don't really know many young actors, and the visual of Mark in my head is too strong for me to imagine anyone playing him. Sorry!

Stanley and Maryna?

That I can answer. Maryna might be played by either Laura Linney or Drew Barrymore. Drew could do the scatterbrained ex-hippy thing and Laura could handle the uptight single mother aspects of Maryna. For Stanley, no contest. Adrien Brody.


Um, a much younger, more vulnerable Janeane Garofalo?  But, again, I really can't think of anyone but Lana in this role.

Years ago, I read a January Magazine interview with Neil Gaiman where he said, "Writers may be solitary but they also tend to flock together: they like being solitary together."  What do you think of that?  

Well, since I started writing seriously I find I'll spend most of my time alone and I'll see friends in small, intense doses. And, yes, a lot these friends are writers and we spend most of our time moaning and complaining together. Is that what Neil means? I'm not sure.
Would you say you a solitary person by nature?

I spend a lot of time alone, but I do get pretty lonely and desperate for a reaction to whatever I'm working on. On the other hand, I don't have time for that much socializing if I'm going to get anything done, and when I do socialize, I often end up putting pressure on myself to have the best time possible to make up for missing work.
Would you call a room full of writers a flock or something else?

Tee-hee. Pass. I'm sure you could come up with something better yourself.

I'm pretty sure a grouping of writers would be called a neurosis. (insert Spockian eyebrow lift here)
So are most of your friends these days writers?

A lot of them are, and it's a relief to talk to people who 'get it'.

Hmm…do you think that's good or bad?

It's good to have people who understand where you're coming from, but I have to be careful not to live in a writing bubble. A lot of people don’t care about fiction and that can be sobering to remember.

Inevitably, any writer who's been published is asked, "How did you do it?" I know how you navigated that road but for those who don't, "How did you do it?"

I won a contest! Well, first I spent almost two years writing and editing the book. Then I sent three chapters off to the Irish Writers' Centre's Novel Fair contest. If you win, you get to spend the day with agents and publishers from all over Ireland, and some from the UK, and that’s how I found my publisher, Hachette Ireland. Hachette are international, and they were very enthusiastic about making inroads into Canada. I was extremely lucky. 

How did social media play into your publishing journey?

Social media &$%ed me over big time in the beginning. Early on I had a major Canadian publisher interested in the book, but they didn't bite because they said I had no online presence. Later I got a website and started up on Twitter (this would be after I got the offer from Hachette), and the gang at Hachette Canada liked this and have tried to work with me online to promote Cinnamon Toast. We had a ‘name that 80s tune’ contest a few days before the book’s Canadian release.

That was one of the more fun uses of social media for book promotion that I've ever seen.  Certainly beat the hell out of the monotonous chorus of 'buy my book's' I'm subjected to in every time I sign onto the Twitter. Social media has changed things significantly for writers, hasn't it? Do you think it’s for better or for worse?

Hard to say. I feel less isolated, which is great. But I do find it takes up a lot of my time and screws with my attention span. And I feel incredibly cheesy whenever I tweet the same self-promoting links over and over. But I'll still do it.

Do you think it will continue to be a major consideration for publishers going forward or not?

This, again, is very hard to say. At times the whole thing feels a bit silly. And it's interesting to note that the more successful an author is, the less time she/he will spend on social media. It might turn out to be a fad, but then I thought that about compact disks back in the day.

How do you feel about social media and your writing?

I'm not sure how it’ll affect my writing, because I only got into social media after most of the work on Cinnamon Toast was done. I'm concerned that it’s turning me into someone who is (even more) desperate to be ‘liked’. I might have to write something soon which is not terribly likeable and I'm not sure if I’ll be able to do it.

You're aware that your book is being labelled by booksellers as gay literature, and more specifically as a "coming out" book. I've heard a lot of rumbling lately online from writers indicating that they are unhappy with booksellers' love of labels and their general discomfort with choosing a single set of labels for works that may span a number of genres.  Do you worry that as a result of this book's labels you may be pigeon-holed?

I hate labels and genres in general, but I can see why publishers and booksellers go for them. There is such a volume of books out there. People shopping want to make a quick decision and narrow down the choices. I'm actually more worried about being labelled as YA than gay. I've even been called a 'children's writer' – based on the title and cover of the book, not the contents. I don't think I'll be hit with a 'gay' label because I'm not gay myself. I think most people see it as a one-off thing. And classifying the book as ‘gay’ might actually be helpful in allowing it to reach an LGBT audience, as there's nothing in the summary or on the back cover that tells you that there are LGBT themes in the novel. I am concerned that because of the ‘gay’ label, straight people will decide they're not interested – not because they're homophobic, but because they might assume they're not the intended audience and switch off, again, because of the volume of work that’s out there and the need to narrow their choices.

What's the craziest thing a person has said to you about your book?

Nothing too crazy yet, but I remember at my reading in Toronto there was a guy in the audience who seemed personally offended by the fact that none of the characters had AIDS. He hadn't read it either.

What's the strangest situation you've been in as a result of writing this book?

I gave a reading for charity with another author, and ended up swearing in front of a room packed with children. I didn't realise there'd be so many kids there and had chosen Stephen's confrontation with Stanley, which has a few swears. I heard people gasping. But I was too nervous to mess with the text and change it.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Letting go of it. Every time I finished a draft I'd get this crushing depression afterwards. I still miss the characters like crazy.

You're currently writing your second novel.  Is it easier the second time around?

No! Now there's more pressure to make it better than the last one, or at least as good.

If you had to describe your second novel in a couple of sentences or less, what would you say?

It's a big mess right now. The story is based on a play I wrote in 1996 and is about a teenage suicide and how it affects the family left behind. (Wonder where I got the idea...)

Sounds like it's got the potential to be another great book already. Now onto another very serious question: what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

African or European?



Janet E. Cameron's Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World is currently available for sale in stores and online.  You you can follow her on Twitter @ASimpleJan or drop by her website: asimplejan.com

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Word of the Nerd

I often refer to myself as a Geek but according to this handy dandy visual aid, Nerd is probably the more accurate term. I'm an intelligent woman with any number of specialized interests who isn't a tekkie but who can navigate her way around a computer, loooooves shiny new gadgets and is addicted to video games.

In other words, I am a Nerd who lives on the border of Geekdom: I'm a Nerk.

Back in the day, I wasn't so happy about that.  I spent almost my entire school career trying to hide from bullies so when I moved to a new city at the end of grade 10, I saw it as an opportunity:

      new city + new school = shiny new me.

I buried my love of all things Scifi and Fantasy in a shallow grave, gave away my comic book collection, left my books in storage, quit drama and band, pretended to be scholastically challenged and immersed myself in "teen social life" i.e. clothes, boys, and parties. I hung out with the cheerleaders and athletes and, I cringe to admit it now, I actually chose to become the human equivalent of cotton candy: bright, pretty and absolutely substanceless.

  Initially it was great.  I was accepted.  I was popular.  I was...borrrrred?

Although I had everyone fooled, my personality/popularity reno quickly went off the rails, leaving me almost as miserable as being bullied had.  Eventually I couldn't hack it any more.   I unpacked my books.  I began writing again and I stopped hiding my marks.  Then, I sealed my social fate and began spending my time doing what I wanted with people who shared my real interests.  Needless to say, it wasn't long before I was asked to turn in my pom poms. Whatever. In the end I found some new better friends who maybe didn't share all of my interests but who were OK with who and what I was: a nerdistic wunderkind.

  ***Fast forward a few years...ok, ok...a LOT of years***

Now, I wear my Nerkiness proudly - it is a badge of honour.  
  1. I make Joss Whedon, LOTR, Red Dwarf and Star Trek references all the time.
  2. I can list all of the Dr. Who's and their respective companions in my sleep although I'm most likely to do so when bribed with a few drinks.
  3. I can identify any Star Trek episode from any series (Star Trek, Star Trek NextGen, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise) no later than 10 seconds into a random clip provided it isn't the intro or credits.   (I highly recommend cultivating this skill because it's a great Nerk party trick.)
  4. My calendar is filled with reminders to PVR new Scifi and Fantasy shows and my social calendar is usually pretty limited on Sundays because of that's Game of Thrones/True Blood/The Walking Dead/Lost Girl/Dr. Who night.
  5. If it has vampires, werewolves, elves or zombies in it, I'm reading or watching it - guaranteed. If it involves time and/or space travel? Ditto.
  6. Steampunk is my new catnip. I lurrrrve me some Steampunk.
  7. I have always, always, always got at least 2 Scifi or Fantasy books on the go and I'm now writing my own.
  8. I don't fantasize about asking Brad Pitt, Charles Dickens or Abraham Lincoln to pass the salt because my fantasy "who would you invite to dinner" list is populated with Scifi/Fantasy writers and people you would find mobbed by geeks at a Comic-Con convention. 
I know who and what I am and I'm comfortable in my own skin. Hell, I love being a Nerk and I think everyone should aspire to embrace their inner nerd, dork, dweeb or geek because it really is extremely liberating.

And that, my friends, is the word of the Nerd.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Zombies and Why I Love Them

Anyone who knows me knows it was only a matter of time until I blogged about zombies. 

I am, after all, obsessed with The Walking Dead. Ob. Sessed. 

When I'm bored these days I often end up mentally planning my response to a zombie infestation. I'll be on the train and my mind will start wandering until suddenly I'm locating possible weapons, the most defensible location, an avenue of escape and the best way back to Banjoville so I can save my kid.  When I'm cleaning my house I'm not thinking about what I'm doing.  Pfft. No way.  When I'm at the grocery store, I'm not really reading that food label. Noooohohohoho.  I'm figuring out:
  1. how to fortify my house or whether I should relocate after Zombipocalypse;
  2. how to keep my fortified sanctuary warm in the winter without ringing the dinner bell for the friendly neighbourhood dead-heads;
  3. how much food I would have to stockpile; 
  4. who I would save;
  5. where to go to get some useful weapons; etc.

I know, I know, that sounds like I'm taking the fast train to crazy town but it fills the time while I commute or drive or, you know...whatever. 

I just realized today that all my zombie-prepping plans are fundamentally flawed - I've only ever accounted for slow zombies. In case you've been living in a pop-culture cave for the last 30 or so years, there are two kinds of zombies: slow ones (a la George Romero's Living Dead movies or the Walking Dead) and fast ones (a la 28 Days Later and 2004's Dawn of the Dead remake). 

Slow zombies are scary because they're tireless - oh and they're dead, they're ugly and they want to eat you for breakfast - but fast ones?  Let's just say I'll take a persistent shambling corpse exhibiting a slow Cerebellar Ataxia Gait over a crazy flesh eating Usain Bolt any day.


I haven't always been interested in zombies but over the years I've become fascinated with them.  I began by wondering whether these are just titillatingly horrifying tales or if there's some social commentary in there somewhere.  Surprisingly enough, there quite often is - a message I mean.  Peter Dendle, an associate professor teaching in the US wrote a book called The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia.  He said,  "Zombie movies tap into our apocalyptic fears and anxieties very effectively.  They de-romanticize the connections between human beings and reduce humanity to its lowest common denominator, focusing on power relations in their most brutal human form. It's 'I will exert my will over you.' It's very Nietzscheian." 

*cough* I'm sorry Peter, but I think half of my readers had an aneurysm when you said the word zombies in the same breath as Nietzsche.

Why do I love zombies and zombie stories? Well, because despite the fact that they are monster tales they tell a very human story every single time.  The Zombipocalypse's backdrop of brother eating brother provides an especially bleak backdrop against which to examine how people live, learn, cope, fight, love, die, and maybe even evolve when everything has gone to hell.  Depending on how the story is told, the audience may end up rooting for humanity's survival or despairing at our failings, sometimes at the top of our lungs.
My favourite zombie stories:
1. The Walking Dead:  As I said, I love this show but it is not for the faint of heart.  In one recent episode three of the main characters drive by a hiker who then spends the entire episode trying to catch up - coming close but never quite making it.  Later, they drive back to their home base and pass through a pretty gory scene showing the hiker has been attacked by zombies and killed.  They don't even blink!  Instead they stop, back up and casually open the door to pick up his pack just in case he was carrying anything useful before heading home.  Eep!
2. Warm Bodies: This book was a great, light read.  I could go on and on but I don't want to spoil it for any of you who haven't read it yet...so go and read it already.
3. 28 Days Later: OMGOMGOMG! This was the first "fast zombie" movie I ever saw although I'm not sure the monsters in this movie really qualify as zombies.  28 Days Later was scary as hell. I covered my eyes constantly and I loved every minute of it. Let's just say I took up running soon after watching it.
4. Zombieland: This movie was a really funny Zombipocalypse story. I still mourn the demise of the Twinkie, not because I ever liked them but because of the role they played in this story.

5. World War Z: I think I read through this entire book without stopping to sleep.  I liked the format because it is a bit unusual: it's a collection of eye-witness accounts talking about the rise of the zombies and the battles fought by the living to survive and I thought Max Brooks did a good job using different voices in his writing while telling a cohesive story. I am a bit worried about the movie that's coming out later this year but the book is well worth reading.
6. Dawn of the Dead (2004):  It was one of the few times in my life I've thought a remake got it right and improved on the original.

Despite my love of zombies, I don't write about them...or at least I haven't yet.  Stay tuned.