Friday, November 25, 2011

Zombies: A Love Story

I love zombies.

Well, not literally. Figuratively. I don't have a zombie blow-up doll or anything.But zombie movies, games, t-shirts, songs about zombies? Yeah, I'm all over that. Again, NOT literally.

I currently have three shirts featuring zombies, play two games about them, own seven movies based around the zombie apocalypse (no, not the crappy Resident Evil ones, or the "Return of the Living Dead" ripoffs), watch The Walking Dead religiously, and so on.

Of course, this raises the question: Why? What is it about zombies that so fascinates me that I would immerse myself in the culture? And no, I'm not jumping on any bandwagon. At the risk of sounding hipster-ish, I was into zombies long before they became culturally relevant. When I first caught Night of the Living Dead on late-night TV I was 17, and I was hooked. I'm 41 now; do the math (I don't want to).

Again, why? I'm not normally into gruesome stuff. I don't have a weak stomach. I can watch a gory horror movie, or a medical procedure being performed. Hell, My Love watches those true crime stories like Forensic Files and fictional ones such as CSI, and I watch right along with her. But I'm not a gore fanatic. I avoid crap like the Saw movies and Hostel. I'm not into torture porn for a cheap thrill.

There's something else about the zombie genre that appeals to me. It took me years to realize what it is: I'm afraid of it.

Most people, I think, enjoy horror movies because they represent something they fear. Whether it be vampires, werewolves, zombies, alien invaders, ghosts, or what have you, people like to face up to those irrational terrors. I'm not sure exactly why this is; I'm no psychologist. It's a need of some sort. That's good enough for me. Other movie monsters don't give me that thrill/chill like zombies.

It's deeper than that, though (bear with me here). The nightmares I've had regarding the walking dead don't revolve around being chased by them. It's always a fear of becoming one of them. That, I feel, is what makes the zombie such a gruesome and formidable enemy in the horror genre. Sure, in most tales, a vampire or werewolf's bite can make you one of them, but not always. Besides, being a vampire means still being you, essentially, and a werewolf only need fear the moon three nights a month.

Zombies are forever.

To me, the fear of losing one's self, one's humanity, is what makes the idea so appalling. Zombies were once ordinary people, like you or me, who now shamble about, rotting, filthy, devouring their own kind, mindless. And there it is: mindless. The thought of losing who I am, my identity, individuality, personality, memories, hopes, dreams, loves, LIFE, frightens the hell out of me.

Some zombie purists (what the hell does that even mean?) complain that movies such as 28 Days Later (one of my favorites) are not really 'zombie' movies. "No," they sniff, "they are Infected, not zombies!" Well lah-de-freakin'-dah! To me, the Borg from Star Trek are a classic example of the zombie mythos. Infected, Borg, zombie... it all boils down to stripping one's humanity away. And that scares the hell out of me.

I'm about to go off on a tangent here. Just hang in there. It relates, trust me.

I don't use drugs, nor do I drink alcohol. No, I'm not going to start preaching here. To each his own. Now I've never smoked pot or taken anything stronger than a prescription painkiller, and that was only in extreme conditions. Normally, I'd rather bear up under the pain if I can. As for alcohol, I beat that particular demon years ago. I've been sober for over 20 years, and the world is a better place for it. What I learned from my drinking days was this: That's not me. I lose my temper when drunk, want to fight anyone and everyone (and everything, including walls, cabinet doors, mannequins, etc.).

I lose control when I'm drunk. Motor control, emotional control, mental control, all gone. And that loss of control scares the hell out of me. I can't imagine getting high, especially on a powerful amphetamine or hallucinogen, and not being me. Not that I'm any treat sober. But, I'm a control freak, at least when it comes to my own life. Relinquishing that control to something or someone else is unconscionable to me.

By the same token, I fear diseases of the mind. Alzheimer's, dementia, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), all of them steal your memories. I avoid stories about Alzheimer's because the concept frightens me. Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost sympathy for victims of these terrible diseases. I can read the stories of cancer victims and feel empathy and compassion. But I can't face the possibility of my mind being robbed from me. I know that makes me weak.

Hence, the fear of zombies. The fear of a simple scratch on the arm stealing away who I am and leaving a mindless beast in it's place. Compared to that, becoming a vampire or werewolf sounds almost pristine in comparison. Unless it's one of those sparkly vampires or shirtless man-child werewolves. In that case, I'm terrified of losing my masculinity, not humanity.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nanowrimo no mo'

So, I found out about Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month, last year near the end of November, far too late to participate. I'm not sure where I got my information, but was under the impression it was a contest of sorts, with reviews and prizes.

Guess I should have investigated further...

I'm over 2000 words into my novel, a new story idea that had been banging around in my head for a few years, when My Love asked about Nanowrimo. So, I started looking up what the contests and prizes were, and what publishing houses participated. The site is murder to navigate; we actually had to use Google to find the information page. And I was dumbstruck.

The only "prize" offered is a virtual badge if you hit 50,000 words. No publishers or other readers review your work, no offers are made for publication.

I know it's my fault for misunderstanding, but we're sorely disappointed. I don't need motivation to write. (I do, however, need motivation to finish a project before starting another. Seriously, I have 14 unfinished stories on one USB drive.) So, now my Word Count sits at around 2000. I'm done participating. My Love has a finished novel (and yes, I'm jealous) recently submitted to Penguin publishing. They rejected it, kindly, so we've self-published on Kindle.

Seriously, Nanowrimo, what's the motivation? I already love writing; it's my favorite hobby. Setting aside what I was already writing to contribute to Nanowrimo turned out to be a big waste of time.. time I could have spent on one of my half-finished stories. Plus, there's no real guarantee someone won't steal your idea, or even your work, once you submit your story.

Sorry, Nanowrimo fans, I'm sitting this one out. So will the story I started writing. Maybe if you offered an incentive beyond "motivating me", then I might continue.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Diana's Dreams

Time for a little self-promotion.

Sort of.


My Love, my wife, Brenda just published her book on Kindle: Diana's Dreams. It's a dark, very dark modern fantasy/horror novel. The protagonist, Diana (duh) is kidnapped by an obsessive stalker. Her husband and former lover join forces to try and find her. The catch? Her husband is infected with lycanthropy, a werewolf. Her kidnapper is a dark wizard using magic to hide their whereabouts.

I love this story. Of course, it's filled with magic, monsters, sex, gore and graphic violence, so... right up my alley.

Yours too. Give it a read. Only $2.99 in the Kindle Store. Read it. You know you want to. Doooo iiiiiiiiit...

The cat's Out of the Bag

So, we adopted another cat.

I'd like to say I was coerced into it by my pleading wife and wide-eyed children, but I'm a pushover when it comes to tha kitties. I grew up surrounded by cats, none of them fixed. Therefore, there were ALWAYS kittens around. Suffice it to say that, unlike a lot of men, I like cats. No, let's be honest: I love them.

Of course, I take a lot of grief about that. As if caring about an animal that isn't a slobbering bundle of destruction is unmanly. A lot of guys love cats, even famous men. Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein and H. G. Wells were all cat owners.

Don't get me wrong. Being a cat lover doesn't make me a dog hater. I've lived with dogs, but only so long as I lived with my parents. Dogs are too much work, and therefore I've never owned one since leaving their place. They're cute and lovable, and certainly prone to more affection than a cat; but, dogs are a hassle beyond what my busy life can accept. For example: say you have to go on a trip, be out of town for three days. Can you leave your dog alone all that time? No. With a cat, just leave a bog bowl of food and water and a clean litterbox, and you're golden.

Try doing that with a dog. Seriously: it will eat all the food and drink all the water in the first six hours, then suffer for over two days. Crapping everywhere. Yeah, I'll take the cat.

As of three weeks ago, we had only one cat: Magic. We found her six years ago when we still lived in Columbus, OH. Someone had abandoned her one wintry January outside of McDonald's, in the dumpster. My Love found her, scrawny, starving, shivering and miserable, but affectionate. She brought her home. I didn't want a pet; I'd buried too many over the years. Three begging faces won me over, and now we have a 22-pound lump of black-and-white fur that lays around all day doing nothing. That's my job, damnit!

A few months ago, three stray cats showed up on our porch. The little Kansas town where we moved is home to quite a few strays. It's mainly a dog town; the cat lovers are few and far between. The red-headed stepchildren of Jennings, KS. The three siblings were fairly young. We've never seen their parents. We and two of our close neighbors put out food for them. My son named them, to my dismay. The whitish-gray tabby and his dark calico sister became Yin and Yang; the orange tabby was Morris.

Not long after arriving, Yang became pregnant. Seven weeks or so after we noticed this, she suddenly showed up, no longer pregnant. I assumed she'd lost the litter, as she was quite sickly. Then one day she showed up with this little, pale gray fuzzball. I was relieved. The next day came a dark gray male kitten. How cute. For the next three days, she introduced her litter one by one. At this point I was actually begging her to stop.

Now we had five kittens and two adults on our porch (Morris took a disliking to the kittens and wandered off). We couldn't take them in, for Magic would eat them. We tried to find homes for them, but only two of the litter were adopted. Then, Yang disappeared and hasn't been seen in weeks. Their uncle Yin takes care of them, and does a wonderful job, even when the little morons try to nurse from him. His long-suffering looks are an amusement to me. "Sucks to be you!" I say to him, enjoying my rapier wit. Then he craps in my shoe, and I say "Touche".

As it started getting colder, the kittens found three homes with warm shelters on their porches, the only cat lovers in town living around us. Still, the biggest one wasn't coping well. It wanted our companionship more than its siblings. Finally, the pudgy little dimbulb, which My Love named Chumlee, got adopted into our home.

Chumlee is loving, enjoys cuddling, and is playful in a way the long-spayed and quite content Magic isn't. He also loves to crap in my bathroom if Magic blocks the path to the litterbox, loves to climb my back until it resembles hamburger, and constantly baits our other cat, even though she obviously hates him.

Yeah, pets are soooo relaxing.