Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Zombies Ate My Brains
After a break of nearly 18 years I’ve recently drifted back into the world of short story writing and this week my first short story ever to appear in an anthology has hit the stands in HISTORY IS DEAD, edited by Kim Paffenroth for Permuted Press (ISBN-10: 0978970799).
The anthology is made up of zombie stories that take place prior to the 20th century, and my contribution is “Pegleg and Paddy Save the World”, which deals with bootleggers, gangsters, zombies, a cow, and the Chicago Fire.
The whole anthology is a hoot, with wildly weird stories by authors ranging from established horror writers to talented newbies.
I mention all of this (aside from plugging the book for the nice folks at Permuted Press) because it speaks to a side of the writing mentality that a lot of folks don’t know about. We writers are, by nature, schizophrenic. We have multiple personalities speaking in our heads all the time. For Joe Ordinary this would be a cry for help and a reason to keep a loaded syringe of Thorazine handy; but for writers it’s just another day on the job.
Not only do we hear voices (and no, it isn’t God speaking through a dog telling us to shoot people), those voices carry on conversations. They don’t so much speak to us as to each other. Scenes suddenly start playing in our heads and we listen in and then write them down. It’s like a DVD player suddenly starting on its own. I get some of my best stuff when I’m in the shower. Apparently shampooing my hair does something to stimulate my inner cast of characters to start talking.
Ray Bradbury once told me: “Writing is 99% thinking and the rest is typing.” It took me a while but I get that now. The voices in my head have always understood this.
This relates to zombies as follows: The fiction I’ve been writing has been moody, threatening, and very serious. Some humor, sure, but it’s end of the world stuff because that’s what the interior voices are saying to me. When I sit down to write short stories, however, it’s an entirely different set of interior voices talking to me. And those voices are, apparently, a bunch of smart-asses. “Pegleg and Paddy Save the World” is a smartass comedy story. Not at all doom and gloom; and it came from some part of my head that I hadn’t know existed.
I can’t wait to hear what the voices have to tell me next. I think I’ll go take a shower and listen.