I’m blogging today from a fortified bunker somewhere in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas. I’ve received intelligence that the zombie apocalypse is upon us…or maybe it’s just the release of Karina Fabian’s latest novel, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator. Either way, it never hurts to be prepared.
It seems like it was just a few days ago that I interviewed Karina about her science fiction anthology, Infinite Space, Infinite God II.
Oh, wait…it was just a few days ago. That being the case, we’ll skip the formalities and, ahem, cut right to the meat of the interview. You can stow your chainsaw in that empty corner over there, Karina, right next to the crate of Spam.
Fred: Zombies are a staple of modern pop culture. We’ve got books, movies, music videos, even literary mash-ups of classic literature with the zombie mythos. How did you manage to find a fresh perspective on the walking dead?
Karina: I like to think I applied some logic to the whole zombie contagion situation. Zombie-ism is traditionally passed on via the sharing of bodily fluid. (Let’s go with bites here, because the alternative is too gross to consider, thank you.) So it’s a disease, and even when we can’t find a cure for a disease, we generally can find a way to control its spread. Look at the swine flu scare of some years ago–we did not have a plague as some predicted because we know better how to prevent virus spread and we have superior science. Or consider the AIDS scare–some predicted that by this time, half the population would be dead or HIV-positive. Again, that hasn’t happened because we’re smart, we’re organized, and we have a great information dispersal system via broadcast and the Internet. (For those that might argue: I know not all nations are as fortunate as the US in avoiding AIDS, but that’s a fault of poverty, bad governments, etc., not because we humans cannot fight or contain it.)
So, it took awhile for my world to recognize zombie-ism for what it was. After all, who believes the teen calling 9-1-1 because a zombie pulled her boyfriend out of the back seat while they were parking? Once they did, however, they worked fast to research ways to fight it, to control the re-emergence of the dead, and to battle those that come back, anyway.
Of course, simple human nature makes it great fun to play with–there are conspiracy theorists, people in denial, political action groups who have found a new “edge” with the undead. Oh! Don’t forget governments’ needs to regulate everything to death and beyond–and, of course, Hollywood’s need for new exciting material. (Incidentally, they are called “undead” by government regulation. They can’t be called “dead” because there’s residual brain activity, but they aren’t alive, either. “Undead” makes it legal to re-kill them as well. Very important distinction there.)
Then I threw logic out the window and tossed in some elements of the ridiculous. Zombies are naturally repelled by common household cleaners. I don’t know why; it was just funny. And they react to culturally-ingrained stimulus. Most zombies are distracted by television, for example, and most can still read and react to what they’re reading. However, they can’t be taught, and people should not try to predict how they’ll react. You might get that zombie who grew up in a TV-less household, for example.
Fred: There’s been a lot of speculation lately on the nature of the coming zombie apocalypse. Give us a quick description of the world of Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.
Karina: In 2040, zombie-ism has become an international problem. While some look for the cause and others look for the cure–and still others try to use it for their political advantage–quickly enacted regulations have kept the contagion at bay. In fact, once it was made clear that zombies are not the miraculous resurrection of your loved one (unless said loved one really enjoyed ripping your limbs off and lunching on your gray matter), many people consider zombies just another dirty pest. A new specialty of exterminator has risen: the Zombie Exterminator.
So what you have is our world in 30 years, with all the usual political and cultural diversity and craziness, with a fun new foil–zombies. (And that’s a fun foil for me and the readers–not the characters.)
Fred: What inspired you to write this story? You’re certainly doing the world a service by publicizing the zombie threat, but did it spring from humanitarian motives, or perhaps something darker, like a childhood trauma or undead in your extended family?
Karina: Like with so many works of service, I was asked. When Damnation Books was putting out an anthology called The Zombie Cookbook, Kim, the publisher, asked a bunch of us to write stories for it, and my friend Becca Butcher, hounded me until I came up with a funny story about Neeta taking out an infestation in a Korean restaurant. “Wokking Dead” was a lot of fun. Then another writer and friend, Kim Baccellia, suggested a novel, and Kim got on me about that, too, until inspiration struck.
I realize I’m missing the opportunity to spin a tale of a tragic childhood, but truth will out!
Fred: I’m well-familiar with your love of wordplay from previous novels such as Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem, and the title of this book leads me to believe we’re in for another round of pun-ditry. True?
Karina: There’s plenty of humor, but more of the twist-on-cliché and satire variety than puns. Neeta isn’t into word play like Vern, my dragon in MM&M, is.
Fred: Your stories often feature characters from the religious life playing a prominent role. Nuns, monks, and priests aren’t known for their effectiveness versus zombies, though they are very useful if you’re up against a vampire or demon. Does Neeta seek out spiritual guidance in this story, or does she pretty much rely on chainsaws and shotguns?
Karina: Chainsaws and supersoakers full of toilet bowl cleaner, actually. There’s not a big religious element in this story. However, it is acknowledged that zombies are soulless shells. Also, a small thing: Roscoe says “oh, gawd” a lot, but when he’s really talking to God, he speaks and spells His name correctly.
Fred: Zombie stories often end on a note of despair, with the dead conquering Earth. Does Neeta Lyffe offer us some reason to hope for the future?
Karina: Oh, definitely! It’s not dystopic to begin with. The contagion is for the most part contained, laws (like spinal severing before burial) are stemming the emergence of new zombies, and there are a lot of government and private agencies that protect and educate citizens on zombie defense. On a character note, the Zombie Death Extreme cast emerge as heroes, and go on to re-kill the shambling undead for truth, justice, and $75.95 an hour.
Fred: As an author-under-construction, I’m always looking for new outlets for my writing…while there are still humans around to read my stories. Damnation Books sounds rather intimidating. What was it like working with them to publish Neeta Lyffe?
Karina: Kim Richards, the publisher, is ambitious, imaginative, and fun to work with. She asked me to write this novel and kept at me until I agreed. When I decided to play with formats, like having forum excerpts and documentary script notes, she was all for it. She even commissioned icons for the forum goers (done by my daughter, Amber Fabian, (http://amberfabianart.weebly.com/). Then she decided she wanted a forum for Zombie Death Extreme, and a website to go with it! (Did I mention Kim is ambitious?) Now she’s decided the next Neeta novel should take place in San Francisco–she already has ideas for me. (Depending on what happens in my life, I might start it next year, but 2011 has to be a slow one for me.) Kim has also purchased Eternal Press and Realms of Fantasy. So, despite the name–and, as one reader told me, the “creepy” website–they have been terrific to work with, and even though they are new, I think they’ll be around a long time.
Fred: What’s coming next from the braaaains of Karina Fabian?
Hey, I was kidding! Kidding! Put. The. Chainsaw. Down. Please.
Whew. Sorry about that. Your novel sounds like so much fun, I forgot for a moment that zombies are not a laughing matter. Where was I? Oh, yes, coming attractions…
Karina: Time to slow down and take care of some family issues at home. On the writing front, I have a story coming out from MuseItUp in May: “Perfect Ten.” If you like my DragonEye, PI, universe or you like stories about Coyote the Trickster, you don’t want to miss it. I also have a serious fantasy coming out from DragonMoon: Mind Over Mind. Deryl’s psychic powers drive him insane, as not only the unwanted thoughts of others invade his mind, but alien leaders from warring planets try to use his mind to their advantage. Can 19-year-old intern Joshua Lawson teach him to control his powers and save his sanity?
Fred: Exciting stuff! Well, the ol’ atomic clock on the wall says it’s time to check the security perimeter, but thanks for stopping by, Karina, and best wishes for the success of Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, and all your other projects.