It gives me great pleasure to provide readers of Alt Hist with a guest post from Ty Schwamberger. Ty is an expert on zombies and their emergence on plantations in the American South during the nineteenth century. Over to Ty to tell us more about his novella The Fields, and the history of zombies.
Ah, there’s nothing like a nice radioactive chemical spill, a once-in-a-lifetime lunar movement or another strange phenomenon to reanimate the decaying dead, making them dig out of their own graves and come looking for the living. Hell, who doesn’t like to tote around a double-barrel shotgun, while scrambling away from the oncoming hordes? Right. No? Oh, come on, you’re sitting there and reading this article about the undead on your computer and you don’t like our brain-munching brethrens? Blasphemy! Zombies are cool, man! Well, at least when safely housed inside the TV or printed as words in a book. Not so sure I’d use the word “cool” if they were knocking on my front door, asking if they could borrow my brains for a nice, midnight snack. Nope. Not one bite, err, bit.
Since we’ve established we enjoy watching or reading about zombies, just not actually having to deal with them in “real life”, let’s talk a little about where zombies came from. Came from, you ask? Yes. The origins. The beginning. Way back in the day.
When people think of zombie movies in particular, who’s the first person you think about? Danny DeVito? Mel Gibson? Marlon Brando? Uh, no. We think of George A. Romero, of course. But, there are a couple notable zombie films prior to 1968. Films such as White Zombie (1932) and Revenge of the Zombies (1943). These two films centered around the idea of digging up bodies are removing them their graves right after burial. Voodoo was then used to turn the dead into living, mindless slaves, obeying the biddings of their human master. A few years later came a small budget, black and white film titled Night of the Living Dead, written and directed by George A. Romero. NLD hit theaters and drive-ins in 1968. The effects of Romero’s ground-breaking treatment of the theme are of course still seen today. The 1970s and 1980s brought films such as: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972), Garden of the Dead (1972), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Dead and Buried (1981),The Evil Dead (1982), Zombie Island Massacre (1984), Day of the Dead (1985), The Return of the Living Dead (1985), Night of the Creeps (1986), Evil Dead II (1987), The Dead Next Door (1988). Ah, the good ol’ days. Then the 1990s came and, well, the movies sucked. Then the 2000s – zombie subgenre has really taken off, with such films as: I Am Legend (2007), Dawn of the Dead (2004), Shaun of the Dead (2004), 28 Days Later (2007), Zombieland (2009) and who could forget Zombie Strippers! (2008)!
What about the history of zombie books, you ask? Well, fine. I guess I can spare a few more minutes and tell you about that too. Tales of undead fun more or less started back in 1921 with Herbert West: Re-animator by H.P. Lovecraft. There were some zombie books between Lovecraft in 1921 and the 2000s, but the subgenre really took off in 2003 with The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks and The Rising by Brian Keene. Other notable authors that have ventured into the graveyard after midnight, include: Stephen King, David Dunwoody, J.L. Bourne, Kim Paffenroth, Gary Braunbeck, Joe McKinney, Jonathan Maberry, along with several other great folks.
Now it’s time for me to enter into the fray… I’m pleased to announce that The Zombie Feed Press, an imprint of Apex Publications is releasing my zombie novella, The Fields. Below is a brief synopsis about the book.
Billy Fletcher learned to farm the family’s tobacco fields – and beat slaves – by the hands of his father. Now, his father is dead, the slaves have long since been freed, and the once-lush fields are dying. Salvation by the name of Abraham knocks on the farmhouse door, bringing wild ideas. He can help Billy save the plantation and return the fields to their former glory…by raising his father’s slaves from the dead.
Can the resurrected slaves breathe life back into the Fletcher farm? Having brought the slaves back from graves that his father sent them to, can Billy be the kind master his father wasn’t? Is keeping the farm worth denying the men the freedom they earned with death?
Billy’s conscience holds the key to those mysteries, but not the biggest one: what does Abraham really want from the former slave owner’s son?
Welcome to The Fields.
New York Times bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry, wrote the introduction for the book. “[The Fields]…ispart horror story in the classic sense – misdeeds from the past coming back to haunt the present. It’s part zombie story. It’s part adventure. And it’s part social satire in its darkest sense.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed the little history lesson given today. I’m also going to ask that you take a chance on The Fields. This is a very unique twist on the subgenre that we all love watching and reading. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with my entrance into “the field”. If so, you can give me a shout, and I’ll come running to assist the next time a crazed zombie comes knocking at your door, while looking to feast upon your nice, fresh hot brains.
Ty Schwamberger is growing force within the horror genre. He is the author of a novel, multiple novellas, collections and editor on several anthologies. In addition, he’s had many short stories published online and in print. Two stories, ‘Cake Batter’ (released in 2010) and ‘House Call’ (currently in pre-production in 2011), have been optioned for film adaptation. You can learn more at: http://tyschwamberger.com.
You can pick up a copy of Ty’s new zombie novella The Fields from Amazon.