No Deluge this week, because I write new chapters on Monday and this past Monday I was flying to Portland. So instead, I thought I’d post the afterword to the recently released The Rising: Deliverance. It is edited for brevity (the complete version appears at the end of the book). You can read it without fear of spoilers. There are none (unless you haven’t read City of the Dead). I like this afterword. I think it sheds some light on where my head was most of last year, and how I began to turn things around. Deluge will return next week, as we rocket toward the end of Part Two and the beginning of Part Three (and the return of Sarah)!
For a guy who keeps swearing that he’s done with zombies, I sure do seem to still be writing about them a lot. In case you’ve been living under a rock or in a coma for the last decade, most critics and media-watchers agree that the current uber-zombie craze in pop culture (books, movies, comics, television, games, trading cards, clothing, food, philosophy, college courses, etc.) is at least partially my fault. The publication of my first novel, The Rising, coincided with the release of a movie called 28 Days Later. Both The Rising and 28 Days Later featured different kinds of zombies, which was okay with most people, since nobody else had done much with zombies for the decade leading up to the book and movie’s releases. Both were big hits. City of the Dead, my sequel to The Rising, followed soon after, and so did a lot of other books and movies and comics. And they haven’t gone away. Indeed, there seem to be more of them than ever. There are now publishing companies that publish nothing but zombie literature and authors who write about nothing but the living dead.
I had a chance to do the same. In truth, I could have probably made a very good living (i.e. a lot more money than what I make now) doing for zombies what Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton did for vampires, but doing so didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t want to become ‘The Zombie Guy’. I wanted to write about other monsters and other situations. So I did. And a lot of other people came along and wrote about zombies instead and made a lot of money doing so, while I wrote about things like ghouls and un-killable Russian mobsters and giant, carnivorous earthworms. In hindsight, those other authors might have been a lot smarter than me.
Occasionally, I did indeed return to writing about zombies. I tried my hand at the traditional “Romero-style” undead (with Dead Sea) and returned to the world of The Rising with a collection of thirty-two original short stories that all took place in that world, called The Rising: Selected Scenes From the End of the World. After that, I decided I was really burned out on them. Upon reflection, though, I wasn’t so much burned out as I was written-out. I didn’t want to just repeat the same story over and over again (which is the risk any author or filmmaker runs when dealing with the undead—or any other genre trope). So I proclaimed myself as ‘DONE WITH ZOMBIES’. And I fucking damn well meant it, too…
…except that people kept offering me money to write about zombies one more time. It’s hard to say no to money. I like money. I’m a big fan. With two ex-wives and two sons and a metric fuck-ton of debt, I have no choice but to be a big fan of money. So I’ve returned to zombies a few more times since then, but only when I thought I had an original idea (such as my comic series The Last Zombie, which deals with the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, after the dead are all dead again) and my novel Entombed (which takes place in the world of Dead Sea and deals with bunker mentality and the psychological ramifications of surviving a zombie apocalypse). But when I pause to consider those two works, it occurs to me that the zombies are nothing more than window dressing. They appear only briefly in Entombed, and don’t appear at all in The Last Zombie (except in flashbacks). So maybe I really am done with zombies, after all.
What I’m not done with, however, is characters. The Reverend Thomas Martin has always been a personal favorite character of mine (along with a handful of other character such as Adam Senft, Levi Stoltzfus, Timmy Graco, Teddy Garnett, Whitey Putin and Tony Genova). I’m quite fond of Reverend Martin, and nobody was more surprised than I was when he died in the first few chapters of City of the Dead. I did not see that coming. I’ve written a lot of novels since then, but occasionally, I’d find my thoughts returning to Martin. I knew his story wasn’t over yet, even though he was dead. I knew there was a lot more to him than what readers saw in The Rising and City of the Dead. I knew that some of the more interesting parts of his saga took place before the events in those books, and I’m glad I’ve finally gotten the chance to write about them.
This isn’t a story about zombies. It’s a story about people. And fate. And faith. And doubt. And all the other things that define us and make us human. It’s a story of the things that shaped Reverend Thomas Martin before readers met him in The Rising. It’s about the real reason he agreed to go with Jim in search of Danny. You might have enjoyed it. You might not have. But I can tell you that I enjoyed writing it. As I type this, it is mid-September 2010, and I have barely survived the Year From Hell. In the last nine months, I’ve gone through a second divorce, the slow death of a family member, a cancer scare, a nervous breakdown, absolute financial destitution at the hands of several publishers, the wholesale collapse (again) of the horror genre, and a host of other personal crises. On top of that, I’ve watched those closest to me suffer through their own personal tragedies, many of which dwarf my own, and all of which I’m powerless to prevent. As my faithful assistant Big Joe Maynard so astutely put it last week, “What did we do to piss off God this time?”
Truth time: I’ve been tempted to pack it all in, to quit writing and fuck off somewhere—Alaska or maybe Guam—reinvent myself under an assumed name in some remote location where nobody knows me and get a job tending bar or fishing or logging trees. There have been some days over the last nine months, when the going got especially tough, when that urge to quit was overwhelmingly strong, and you will never know how close I cam to acting on it. But instead of running away, I fled to the place where it all began—the world of The Rising—and returned to a character that has always been near in my head and my heart—the Reverend Thomas Martin. Writing about him restored my faith in what I do and gave me hope that it’s worthwhile. Seeing him again, if only for this brief novella, gave me my own form of deliverance. And I needed that.
I hope it did something for you, as well.
From a remote West Virginia cabin at the edge of the end of the world