Monthly Archives: May 2014

ZOMBIES – A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP.

I’ve never been a big fan of the zombie genre. In my mind, if you’ve seen one zombie film, you’ve seen them all. Zombies shamble, or run these days, chasing humans for brains and other juicy body parts while the humans try to escape, hide or fight back. Now that’s a generalized statement, I know, but the whole “eating brains” and “zombie virus thing” kind of bores me.

At least it did. I’ve found, lately, my position is softening somewhat on that front. However, I still have some gripes.

Some of my main complaints are why do zombies have to eat? They’re dead! And if they eat, do they defecate and urinate also? Zombie poop–now there’s a subject for a scientific paper (which could have already been written. After all, the Department of Defense has a plan in case of a Zombie Apocalypse. It’s true – look it up. It even has categories for zombie chickens, magic zombies and vegetarian zombies. I kid you not although, to be fair, the whole thing was set up for testing purposes with “zombie” used as a  placeholder for who or whatever really might attack us. Still–zombie chickens? Uh huh.)

Also, why can’t we have zombies that can hold a conversation? Who can reason for a change? In fact, I have heard of some recent movies, TV shows and books which have these kinds of zombies, which I think is great. Some people complain about there being way too many vampires and werewolves in popular culture but at least there’s more depth to those types of characters because they can react in human ways while fighting against their animal natures and so on. Internal conflict, you know.

In the movie remake of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine, they created an “uber-Morlock” played by none other than the great British actor Jeremy Irons, who was the brains behind the otherwise hive-like, brutish Morlocks. He could think rationally, converse, make evil plans. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Truthfully, I have watched a handful of zombie movies (have never seen the TV show, The Walking Dead ,though) and I’ve enjoyed them. I did see Night of the Living Dead back in the day and liked it but never thought of the effect and influence it would have on later writers and moviemakers. In my experience, the first virus-infected zombies (as opposed to the old Voodoo-raised zombies of old – think White Zombie starring Bela Lugosi in 1938) I ever saw were in the movie Twenty Eight Days Later, which was a terrific horror flick.

However, I argued with people, saying Twenty Eight Days Later and its’ sequel Twenty Eight Weeks Later weren’t zombie movies at all but movies about a virus which turned people into monstrous, mindless killers. Well, guess what? That’s what the definition of zombies had become by that time. One thing that was different about those movies, though, was it didn’t take a zombie bite to turn a human into a zombie. Just exposure to zombie saliva (yuck!) was enough as actor Robert Carlyle’s character found out in Twenty Eight Weeks Later when he kissed his wife who, though she was immune to the virus, was a carrier. The honeymoon was definitely over for them after that!

I guess what I’m saying is I’m not completely resistant to the zombie phenomenon anymore but hope it can evolve in more interesting and unusual ways. Some Steampunk novels like Dreadnought by Cherie Priest and The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers contain zombie elements and both are characterized somewhat differently than the norm.

I’ve even started writing what I originally thought of as a series of “anti-zombie” short stories featuring a talking, reasoning zombi (with no “e”) of the old school type of Voodoo-reanimated undead controlled by a bokor, his sorcerer/master. To my complete surprise, it’s turned into an exceptionally enjoyable writing experience with the anti-zombie part of it becoming less and less of a concern for me. It’s just really fun to write!

I guess I’ll have to start binge-watching The Walking Dead next. But only for research purposes you understand, to prepare myself for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Yeah, that’s it.

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A PERSONAL STEAMPUNK ADVENTURE

I attended my first Steampunk convention two weekends ago in Parkersburg, WV. It was the debut VANDALIA CON organized and put on in the historic Blennerhasset Hotel in downtown Parkersburg. All proceeds went to a the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program & Bonnie’s Bus, state-wide programs that provide patient services for uninsured and underinsured West Virginia women. Good causes all around.

And the setting couldn’t have been better. The Blennerhasset Hotel was built in 1889 during the Gaslight Era during which money from coal and natural gas was flowing freely throughout West Virginia. Owned and operated back then by Harman and Margaret Blennerhasset, the hotel still sports an old-style elegance.

I’ve had a budding interest in Steampunk for a while, having read several short stories in the sub-genre over the years as well as a handful of novels including The Difference Engine from 1990 by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and, more recently, Dreadnought by Cherie Priest and The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers. The 1960s television series, The Wild Wild West, is considered nascent Steampunk.

Though often simplistically described as “Victorian Science Fiction,” there is a distinction as Victorian science fiction, like the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, describes what could happen in the present world with a look toward the future. Steampunk offers more of alternate history scenarios which deal more with the past.

One of the things I find most interesting about Steampunk is the “Maker” aspect of it. Maker is the term given to those of the Steampunk persuasion who design and create clothes, gadgets, gizmos and art of all kinds with a Steampunk aspect. As a former art student (and holder of a BFA in Fine Art from West Virginia University), this really appeals to me. The Dealers’ Room at Vandalia Con was small but the artists and craftspeople exhibiting and selling there were first-rate.

From clothes, paintings, books, sculpture, jewelry, to film, music, and ‘mechanical’ arms, the wealth of talent and imagination was fantastic. Met a lot of interesting and fun people as well including well-known Steampunk writer, artist and Maker Thomas Willeford plus the director and cast of a remake of the 1932 film White Zombie which was reimagined with a Steampunk flair.

A few of my friends and fellow PARSEC members (the Pittsburgh Science Fiction and Fantasy Group) have long been aficionados of Steampunk. I’m still a beginner in this interesting sub-genre but my interest has been piqued enough to become more involved. At the con (which, unfortunately, I could only attend on Saturday), I wore a long-sleeve linen shirt, vest, jeans and work boots. Under duress, I did try on a bowler-style hat but it was too small for my big Alien-shaped head! So, that’s a start. J

My upcoming novel, Blood of the Daxas, contains some Steampunk elements like airships but is not true Steampunk, but more fantasy adventure. I just had a vision of a dragon battling an airship and went from there!

http://vandaliacon.org/

http://inkfish1.wix.com/larryivkovichauthor

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