Swedish Zombie: What was it that made you start writing about the apocalypse and zombies? What were your first influences?
David Dunwoody: I’ve been fascinated by the idea of apocalypse and an ultimate end to existence (as far as Earth is concerned, anyway) since I was a kid. I didn’t grow up in a religious home, but I did read some Bible storybooks and Revelations interested me more than anything: a world-shaking event unleashing the supernatural and changing the way that we as a species view things. While I’ve always liked zombies, I didn’t fall in love with them until I wrote a story called “Grinning Samuel” for Permuted Press’s The Undead. It was a weird take on zombies based on a nightmare I’d had, and was related to a serial I was writing for The Hacker’s Source magazine. It got me thinking about all the different ways the dead might return to life – and in what forms – and my imagination took off from there.
Swedish Zombie: How do you look upon the zombies? What do they mean to you? Are they metaphors, or simply cool monsters?
David Dunwoody: A little bit of both, depending on the story. I’m attracted to the malleable nature and creative potential of the monster as much as I am their place as metaphors for the human condition. Because “they’re us” as Romero says, it’s hard not to look at them as representing something in ourselves, even if that isn’t always the artist’s (or the zombie’s) intention. To see humans transformed en masse into a new type of being – one that both defies and amplifies our fear of mortality - begs a closer look in a philosophical sense. In a purely monstrous sense, the Romero formula is so brilliantly simple and so fun to play with that I really enjoy coming up with new kinds of undead.
Swedish Zombie: Zombie enthusiasts are often conservative. How much do you think that one should experiment with the
David Dunwoody: As much as one wishes, and I am a strong believer in that. Romero’s zombie is a new archetype in the monster world. I believe it will have the same lasting popularity and influence as vampires and werewolves. The zombie belongs to all of us in that sense, and over time it will be used to reflect many different aspects of many different cultures. As such I think a storyteller has every right to build upon the basic blueprint. And a writer who believes in adhering strictly to the “Romero rules” has that right too!
Swedish Zombie: It is often hard to pick favorites, perhaps it is simply foolish to try. But are there two or three books in modern zombie fiction that you think has meant something extra for the genre?
David Dunwoody: Kim Paffenroth’s Dying to Live is my favorite zombie novel and a great book in general, one that still makes me think all these years later. Skipp and Spector’s Book of the Dead is the seminal zombie anthology – I don’t know where I’d be without it! The diversity in its pages and the incredible authors in its table of contents make it legendary. With Brian Keene’s The Rising books, I have tremendous respect for the man and the fact that he’s had major success using a nontraditional zombie formula.
Swedish Zombie: How do you consider the genre's future? Zombies seem to be viable. Can this peek last and if so what is then required by the authors?
David Dunwoody: I think modern zombies will endure in both the worlds of entertainment and academia until the real apocalypse comes. Their place in the classic monster pantheon is already secured, and it’s really cool that we live in the same time as their creator. While their popularity in mainstream culture may fluctuate, I believe they will always be a household name. I think the responsibility of any zombie author is to write what they want and make the zombie their own. Whether or not this means altering the zombie itself, keeping things fresh (so to speak) is essential.
Swedish Zombie: A good book is always right. Some writers want to renew, others strive to convey an already well-known story with his oh hers unique twist. How do you look upon your own writings?
David Dunwoody: I definitely love a twist. Whether reading or writing zombies, I enjoy it when the formula is subject to experimentation. Some disagree but I think it’s possible to reinvent the zombie without disrespect to the original. It goes back to my view of the zombie as an archetypal monster and my desire to surprise the zombie fans who have read everything and are looking for something new.
Swedish Zombie: Through the ages, writers and directors stuck to various explanations for the end of the world: infections from space, environmental degradation, military experiments, terrorism etc. Which scenario behind the zombie apocalypse do you think is most interesting / believable at the moment?
David Dunwoody: Experimentation is the most realistic, I think; our fear of death and our desire to control it – whether as a medical tool or a weapon against others. It isn’t my political viewpoint that leads me to this, just human nature, something zombie fiction is great at highlighting. It would be interesting, however, if Mother Nature turned against us in order to protect the rest of Earth’s life, programming us to zombify and devour each other. Then once all the living were gone, the undead could turn on one another. Finally the remaining immobile 900-pound zombies could be left to the elements. Okay, that scenario might be less believable.
Swedish Zombie: What will you write in the future? What stories remain in you, do you think? Is there anything in particular you feel like writing?
David Dunwoody: My next novel, like the Empire books, is post-apocalyptic, but it deals with robots and alien beings. It’s called The Harvest Cycle and Permuted will be releasing that as well. I’m at work on a non-apocalyptic horror novel and I think I will be writing a lot more like that in the future. My first love, though, is short stories, and I am at work on a lot of those. No matter what I write, I love blending genres and bending the rules, so expect that!
Swedish Zombie: Thank you for taking the time for swedishzombie.com. We in Sweden wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in advance!
David Dunwoody: Thanks very much Jonny, and the same to you and your readers!
|Some of the great stories from David Dunwoody|
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