Jesus Loves Monster Island
Jesus Christ Interviews David Wellinton, Author of Monster Island
I love zombies. Love them. Love. Zombies are just about the coolest monster ever created. I’m talking about the Romero zombies… undead, hungry, strong, and slow. And being a guy who came back from the dead, I can relate. Granted, in My situation I wasn’t quite as hungry and I could float. Still, zombies have a special in My heart.
Thanks in part to Boing Boing pointing Me to the way, I recently finished reading Monster Island, a zombie book written by David Wellington. If you are a fan of zombie movies, this book is a Must Read. This story is the best thing to happen to the zombie genre since the original Dawn Of The Dead and I could not praise it any higher.
The book is about a man leaving Africa after a Zombie epidemic has taken over most all the world, and he along with a band of African school girls turned soldiers must sail over to New York City to retrieve medicine. Of course, Manhattan is empty of all but zombies roaming the streets for food. Thus, a solid base for a good zombie story.
What separates this story above the rest of the zombie pack, is how Wellington took the standard “zombie plot” and raised it to a higher and uncharted level. How? He created a “thinking” zombie. Gary the zombie was a doctor who, after studying how people turned into zombies, realized that perhaps they were so seemingly brain dead because their brains didn’t get oxygen as they died. Gary thus dies while being hooked up to a machine that keeps air getting to his brain… and a new form of zombie was born. Gary is a zombie who can explain to the reader what it is like being a zombie, what a zombie feels, what a zombie thinks about. It’s genius and this twist doesn’t stop there, but if you want to know more, read the book.
I emailed the author, David Wellington, a few interview questions, and with a “word to your mother” shout out, he was kind enough to reply.
Jesus Christ: Hey David, if your book Monster Island were made into a movie,who would you cast as Gary the lead zombie?
Wellington: Steve Buscemi. I didn't set out writing with him in mind, but over the years it's become clearer and clearer to me that he'd be perfect for the role. He's got the twitchy energy and especially those eyes.
Jesus Christ: Hey David, think all the dead came back in their graves, or would the dead have to be directly in contact with other zombies, and did you have to make your own official guide rules regarding how zombies exist and recreate?
Wellington: I started by watching the George Romero movies, the classics, but I didn'twant to just copy his work. My zombies are a little different from everybody else's: for one thing, they don't eat just people, but anything organic. In the absence of fresh meat they'll chew the bark off of trees or even scratch up gum off the sidewalk. They're always hungry--always—and they'll take whatever they can get.The rule as I set them up is that anything (human or animal) with an intactnervous system will reanimate. As long as the brain and spinal cord are still there, the dead will come back. The source of the reanimation is the Life Force itself, a kind of biological field that suffuses the planet. A spine or a brain can act as an antenna to receive some of that energy and use it to keep the tissues going, though it's not enough for full, active life. The dead then need to consume the life energy of the living to heal and to be mobile.
Jesus Christ: Hey David, do you think it is possible to cheat death (I'm winking at you while asking this)?
Wellington: Well, barring special circumstances, no. Death is part of human existence. It's the biggest part, if you consider how long we'll all be dead compared to how long we get to be alive. The funny thing about zombies is that they actually seem to be hopeful creatures to some people. In some way, the idea that after death you can still be alive here, in this world, is optimistic. People really responded to the character of Gary because he seemed to have overcome death in every meaningful way, but the horror comes into play when you realize that to maintain his continued existence he has to do some pretty awful things. Like eating people, for instance. Even then a lot of readers still think of him as heroic--he's just doing what he does in order to survive. In an apocalyptic world that can be seen as heroic, it seems.
Christ: Hey David, the idea of more makes Me nervous like if Hollywood announced that Fight Club would spawn two more sequels (also known as "The Matrix Effect"). I LOVED how Monster Island ended, why not just end it there instead of making the story a trilogy? Or was that the plan all along… seriously?
Wellington: No! It was supposed to be a stand-alone book, really! I completely agree with you about trilogies. However at one point in the book it was revealed that there were two other people like Gary in the world, people who were dead and reanimated but who had managed to keep their consciousness intact. I meant it to be a way of isolating him--in all the world, there were only three people like that anywhere. But then the readers got hold of the idea. They wanted to know so badly what happened to the other two. The second book, Monster Nation (which is in bookstores starting September 28, and available now on Amazon), is about a completely separate set of characters in a whole other part of the world. It's not a sequel at all--it actually takes place before Monster Island.
Jesus Christ: Hey David, does Stephen King suck or is he pretty good?
Wellington: He's a genius. He reinvented a genre. Before King horror was still a pulp genre--you had Lovecraft, and about a million lesser imitators, but that was pretty much it. I couldn't have written my book without his blazing the path. I think he's kind of gotten tired of horror over the years, but his first four books were just brilliant.
Jesus Christ: Hey David, did you read other books that fit under the Zombie Fiction genre, and if so, did you enjoy any of them?
Wellington: I had never read a zombie book before I wrote Monster Island. I didn't even know there were any! At the time there were only a few—some brilliant short story anthologies, and Brian Keene's The Rising was just out. Walter Greatshell wrote a really interesting book called Xombies. Now there are a ton of them, mostly because of the success of Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide. I think they all have something to recommend them--everybody tries to do their own take. They vary widely in quality but then different readers like different kinds of books. That might sound like a cop out but honestly horror is so subjective. I don't personally care for horror novels that are just about blood and gore--splatterpunk stuff--but other people really get into that.
Jesus Christ: Hey David, zombie birds?!!! Do you realize the jar of wormsyou opened having zombie birds? Could there be zombie bears? Zombiesingle celled amebas?
Wellington: There is a zombie bear in Monster Nation. That's all I'm saying. No zombie amebas, or anything less evolved than a fish--you need a spinal cord toreanimate. So no zombie insects. Which is the saving grace of humanity, frankly. There just aren't that many birds in the world--there are 250,000 pigeons in New York City, compared to 11,000,000 people--but the insects outnumber us by a million to one. Zombie mosquitoes would mean a very quick, very ugly end to the human race.
Jesus Christ: Hey David, you offer your books for free online. You even made them iPod compatible. Where's the cash in that?
Wellington: There is none. We always accepted donations, but that was just to cover the cost of our bandwidth. The idea when we started was not to make money but to get my writing out where people could read it. I just wanted to know if people thought my stuff was any good. Honestly! The book deal was pretty unexpected, and it basically turned my whole life upside down--in a wonderful way. I've wanted to make a living at writing since I was six years old. Now it's actually happening. I feel like I won the lottery.We still give the books away for free, because it would be a pretty despicable thing to take that away now. The print version sells great anyway. Most people don't like to read that much text on a computer screen, while others just like the sensation of having a real book in their hand, the texture of the pages, the smell of the glue and the ink.
Jesus Christ: Hey David, do you think that the only way to Heaven is believing that I died for you and thus purifying you of your sins, or is that just something people say so little kids don't freak out about dying?
Wellington: I make no claim to any special knowledge about the afterlife. That's something everyone has to decide for themselves.
Jesus Christ: Hey David, who's coolest… Sam Raimi, George Romero, or Jesus Christ who died, went to Hell, then rose again, then went to Heaven, and then will come back with a tongue like a sword on fire cleansing the Earth of everything?
Wellington: When you put it that way... George Romero. I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, where he made his zombie films (part of Day of the Dead was filmed in Florida, but most of it was made in Pennsylvania). He's a local hero there and they would show his movies uncut in primetime on local television in the summer. I grew up watching Dawn of the Dead (the original) as if it were part of my heritage. Obviously it had a powerful effect on me!
Jesus Christ: Thanks for your time, David! I am really excited to read Monster Nation!
Wellington: I hope you'll like it. I think anyone who enjoyed Monster Island is really in for a treat with this one. And I'm not just saying that because I wrote it!
Buy his books! Or read them online for free! Either way, read and be amazed at what this guy is able to do with the zombie genre. I totally get the Zombie Bear thing now! LOVE IT!
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