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Done to Death

May 1, 2013
'Zombie just want to be loved. And to eat brains. Braaaaains.'

‘Zombie just want to be loved. And to eat brains. Braaaaains.’

This week I’ve posted a very short zombie-themed story titled Cliche of the Dead in the Short Fiction section.  You can find it in the fancy drop-down menu thing or by simply clicking here.  Have a read if you like – it’s only 1,500 words so it won’t take up too much of your day. And if you’re really stuck for something to do, you could read on to see how I ended up posting it here rather than doing what I’d originally planned with it.

Recently a friend of mine tipped me off that the long-running sci-fi magazine Starburst was going to be looking for short story submissions, and suggested I give it a go. The fellow in question was a writer for the magazine, so I had the advantage of advance warning and a bit of extra time to work on my story before the official announcement went out. I merrily set about having something ready to for when the call came.

The word count that the magazine was looking for was pretty tight, so it took me a little while to come up with an idea that I thought was workable. In the end I settled on writing a short, introspective piece  from the point of view of an average chap caught up in the zombie apocalypse. A sort of counter-point to the normal ass-kicking characters seen in zombie films and the like – no hard-bitten hero, just a terrified and probably doomed everyday Joe.  I wrote it, re-wrote it, got some feedback from helpful friends (a process chronicled in my previous post Taking it Like a Man) and then re-wrote it a few more times till I was just about happy.  Just as I’d finished Starburst made it official and announced they were looking for submissions – it was game on.

There I was, primed and ready to make my first ever short story submission, but then I read the submission guidelines and it all went all to pot. The following paragraph is the one that rather comprehensively scuttled my plans:

‘Stories must be 100% your own material, previously unpublished, between 800 – 1600 words in length (for print) and categorically NOT about the zombie apocalypse. (Seriously, we love a good zombie yarn as much as the next person, but the amount of these things out there right now is frightening. And not in the good way.)’

Well, that rather knackered my entry, as I’m sure you can imagine. But the more I thought about it, the more I found myself agreeing with them. The zombie thing has been done a fair old bit these days, hasn’t it? In fact that was rather the point of my short story – I was trying to poke fun at the over-used clichés of the genre with my own slightly irreverent and sarcastic take on it. Then I had to admit even that was pretty old hat as the classic British film Shaun of the Dead did it so much better than I could ever hope to.

From The Walking Dead to World War Z to Red Dead Redemption the undead hordes seem to have infested just about every media. It’s got to the point that just having zombies in something isn’t enough by itself. The Walking Dead isn’t enthralling TV just because of all the brain-splattering zombie kills, it also made the effort to build interesting characters with believable motivations and relationships.  It also makes sure that there are villains who aren’t mindless corpses for these characters to go up against such as the devious Governor. By the third season even most of the characters in the show seem unimpressed by the zombies that surround them, dispatching them casually or just plain ignoring them unless they get attacked by surprise or by a horde of the buggers. If the guys living through the zombie apocalypse are becoming jaded with the living dead is it  so hard to believe that the general public are too?

So I decided to stick the story on here as I can’t find anywhere else to try to submit it. If you do take the time to give it the once over I’d love to here what you think of it in the comments below. I’m not 100% happy with it – I still think the ending is rubbish for one thing – but hopefully I’ve found all the spelling errors this time round. Even if you don’t give it a read, feel free to chip in with your thoughts on the Zombie issue.  Is the genre over saturated at present? Or is there always room for more shambling, flesh-eating undead horrors in our films, books and TV Series?

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