Why I Wrote About Zombies (An Introduction to SEVERED)

(The estimated reading time for this is 5 minutes)

“Why I Wrote About Zombies” © 2014 by Gary Fry.  All rights reserved.

Anyone who knows my work will realize that graphic horror is not something I do very often. But in my forthcoming DarkFuse novel Severed (April 2014), I decided to take a notable detour. Why, you might ask? Well, let me explain.

For one thing, I wanted to do something commercial, and only a random search around online horror communities will reveal that zombies are hot…but also extremely tired. So yeah, although I wanted to write something flesh-munching and gory, I also wanted to bring something new to the table – an original zombie novel, if you don’t mind my conceit.

The other thing was that I was really keen to write a book that introduced to the world a character who might recur across many such novels. But hey, police guys and soldiers and psychics and spies had been done to death, so what could I do that was slightly different? Well, my background is in academia – psychology, to be specific – and I figured there was enough interesting material in this field to inform a range of books about weird human factors. So that was decided: let’s make the guy a social scientist.

Nothing sounds duller, huh? I know, I know. But when I conceived this chap – whose name needed to be punchy: how about Stephen Hobbs, an allusion to the great political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, whose view of humankind was decidedly jaded? – I wanted to make him hip and action-y rather than dry and inert. So here’s the tagline: “More Indiana Jones than Stephen Hawking.” In fact, I describe this fella as an “Indiana Jones who drops acid on the weekends.”  He does suicidal underground fieldwork with rock-hard criminals, learning all about them. He has a troubled past, as you’ll certainly discover in Severed, and his present isn’t so rosy either.

A fondness for hard drinking and nicotine to spark the old gray matter into constant inspiration; a tendency to womanize, much to the chagrin of the long-suffering women in his life – his ex-wife Helen and London-based mother; an irrepressible disdain for authority and all that it stands for. Oh, he’s a real case. But he’s also rather brilliant, and when a virus is unleashed in England’s capital which effectively splits people in half – the bodies remain in the streets to smash the place up; the spirits ascend heavenwards and form a great halo in the sky – it’s Stephen the authorities turn to as a way of making sense of the crisis…and also overcoming it.

When I wrote this book, I guess I had in mind graphic novels. I’d been impressed by what China Miéville had done in his excellent King Rat. I liked the sharper-than-normal reality, the slightly stylized world. And so in the Stephen Hobbs novels (and yes, there will be more than one; in fact, I’m currently writing the next: Fractured), things appear a lot like they do in our everyday world; but I’ve taken certain liberties, zeroing in on key issues.

For instance, in the unlikely event of such a terrible virus taking hold in London, the government wouldn’t get together like it does in the book. There’s something called the COBRA group, and the military wouldn’t be run by one man (as it is in the novel). But I didn’t want to bore the reader with all these quibbling bureaucratic details. I wanted drama and action, and by twisting and turning a few specific facts, that’s what – I trust – I’ve achieved. I wanted to keep the pages turning, the events lurching from one set-piece to another, one moral dilemma to the next. And I rather like how it’s all come out. It’s also a kind of love story.

But hey, I’m having a distance love affair myself. I’m having it with a city. And that city is called London. The place fascinates me, and I try to get there as often as I can (often bumming free travel via business trips in the day job, as an academic researcher). I love to explore the familiar attractions and venture to those less familiar. I like pacing quickly from site to site. It’s an amazing place, and as Dr. Johnson said, when you’re bored of London, you’re bored of life.

And so I always wanted to set some fiction here and get one of its unmistakeable landmarks on the cover. Zach McCain, the truly amazing in-house artist at DarkFuse, has done me proud in this regard. The book’s wrapping is everything I could have hoped for. The Houses of Parliament is involved in a central scene in the book, at the end of part one when…oh, but you’ll have to find that out for yourselves, won’t you?

So why not take a trip to England’s capital city and see what dark games are afoot? That guy over there – that’s right, the one dressed in a suit and holding his suitcase at such an odd angle – oh, don’t worry about him. He’s just a little stressed at the office and it simply shows in his body. But he’s heading for that woman, you say – the one sitting peacefully in Travalgar Square…and now he’s raising the suitcase in a provocative manner…Christ, he’s going to…

Hey, calm down. In any case, there are so many other sites to see today. Someone’s digging up the tenants of Westminster Abbey. Beheadings have been reintroduced over at the Tower of London. Somebody has screwed up the capital’s stock exchange, sending ripples the world over. And overlooking all this, like a single, disapproving eye, is a huge halo of souls, floating way above the city with aloof indifference. Why won’t all the spirits up there consent to a reunion with their physical counterparts? Surely that’s a positive choice they can make, but they just won’t budge.

Well, good old Professor Hobbs wonders that, too, and so does his government. So what to do? What to do?

Read Severed and find out. It might just tear you in two.


© 2014 – 2016, DarkFuse & individual contributors. All rights reserved.

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Gary Fry lives in Dracula’s Whitby, literally around the corner from where Bram Stoker was staying when he was thinking about that character. Gary has a PhD is psychology, but his first love is literature. He is the author of many short story collections, several novellas, including DarkFuse titles. He was the first author in PS Publishing’s Showcase series, and none other than Ramsey Campbell has described him as “a master.”


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