Author Q&A: David Dunwoody
In "The Levees of the Styx", David Dunwoody gives us a look at the human side of the zombie apocalypse in a story that's brimming with conflict, both internal and external. We wanted to know what draws David to zombie fiction, and apocalyptic fiction in general, so we sat down with him to find out. Here's what he had to say...
You're currently working on a post-apocalyptic novel called The Harvest Cycle. Your story "The Levees of the Styx" also features a post-apocalyptic setting. What about the idea of a post-apocalypse world attracts you as a writer?
What attracts me to it is the idea of the rules and mores of society being razed (or, at the very least, handicapped) and individuals having to decide what’s right in a new world. It’s about people who may have otherwise come & gone unnoticed emerging as heroes and villains. For some this is sort of a romantic fantasy - the opportunity to reinvent oneself - but I think of it more as a challenge being foisted upon those lucky (or unlucky) enough to survive the advent of an apocalypse. I mean really, who would want to live in a world dominated by zombies or by killer robots & brain-devouring aliens, as in The Harvest Cycle? My characters aren’t enthusiastic about their circumstances – it’s usually either a primal stubbornness or extraordinary hope as the motivator.
What do you think it is about zombies that makes them so appealing as a subject for fiction?
They seem to have boundless potential as metaphors for the human condition, as vehicles for commentary. I also like the simple genius in their design and how this lends itself to any number of tweaks, upgrades and twists. The zombie has rapidly become an archetypal monster on the level of the vampire or werewolf because it has such a universal creep factor and, at the same time, is universally compelling. Our dead, former people, the remnants of us, rising and walking and turning against the living. What could be worse than looking into the face of an alien threat and seeing a mirror image?
Which kind of zombies do you prefer watching or reading about: slow Romero-style zombies, or fast 28 Days Later zombies?
I’m all for any type of undead, but I like the Romero zombie more because they seem to embody the grim inevitability of death itself. There’s no rush, no animal aggression or desperation. While those things can be very frightening – I’d hardly count myself lucky if a pack of runners smashed their way into my hidey-hole – the quiet, unstoppable progress of the Romero dead is perhaps more unnerving because it doesn’t resemble the behavior of a living thing. Even a virus hauls ass. A glacier just is what it is and there’s no changing it.
When the zombie apocalypse finally hits, what's your strategy for survival?
Honestly, I’m hosed. I’m legally blind, prone to acts of extraordinary stupidity and I would probably die trying to get to my loved ones. If they were already gone I don’t think I would feel much motivation to go it alone. Better for the gene pool, perhaps, that some of us know when to give up. For the survivors out there, the ones who might someday be able to rebuild, my advice is: become best friends with an aluminum bat and avoid action heroes.
What's your favorite horror movie?
Gotta be Re-Animator. May not have been HPL’s favorite story, but it made one hell of a movie. Jeff Combs is Herbert West.
What's next for you? Do you have any other projects you'd like to talk about?
Right now I’m working on a lot of short stories, and I have upcoming appearances in Ice Picks from Rainstorm Press, Read the End First from Wicked East and Undead & Unbound from Chaosium. Permuted Press just struck a deal with Audible.com to bring The Harvest Cycle to life as an audiobook; it’ll be my first so I’m very excited for that.