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Thursday, April 11, 2013

GAMELAND Challenge Pre-launch Quiz


In the next few weeks, I'll be putting together a fun event for GAMELAND fans, a series of contests testing your knowledge of the series. There will be prizes.

To kick things off informally here, I'll start with a fun and easy challenge.

Match the six main characters on the cover of Book 1: Deep Into the Game:

I'll give you a hint: their names are Micah, Reggie, Jake, Kelly, Ashley, and Jessica.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Zombie Apocalypse is Already Here

The Conclusion of


 a "newspaper article published in the Edgemont Daily Register"
(an excerpt from):

Killer Fun with a Serious Side of Braaaainz!!!

Team Daryl! Or "Aren't Zombies Supposed to Scare the Living hell out of Us?

Modern Magic and Science in our Popular Zombie Culture

Zombies: No Monster More Malleable

In Parts 1-4 of this article, we talked about the recent rise of the zombie in our popular culture and fictional horrorscape paralleling the rise of technology in the second half of the twentieth century and the first decades of the next, and why it is the ideal metaphor for our cultural pessimism. It is clear that our relationship with the monster reflects our own love-hate relationship with ourselves.

I asked, at the beginning, whether the zombie apocalypse was upon us and, tongue-in-cheek, suggested that it already was. But there's a seriousness to that claim which speaks directly to all this: While neither the technology nor the biology of Reanimation yet exists, while the dead haven't risen to walk among us, there is an apocalypse upon us. We just chosen to put the face of the zombie on it.

The Zombie Apocalypse:
Where do We go from Here?

When dawn rose over Romero’s stricken Pennsylvania farmhouse and the crisis was over, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. The world had been saved. We heard the radio announcer tell us, “Everything appears to be under control.” But if we were being honest with ourselves, we would have admitted that those handful of words did little to reassure us. We knew everything really wasn’t under control. Humanity wasn’t really safe. Of course it wasn’t. Romero proved it to us, over and over again, didn’t he? And, like toddlers picking at scabs, we kept going back for more.

It’s cathartic. Except the catharsis is so terribly short-lived.

Yes, we laugh and celebrate the undead, because it is all we can do. We subconsciously personify our fears, give them human form — the perfect representation for them — so that we can mock them and thus exorcise them. Or at least try to.

But though we laugh outwardly, deep inside, we know this is deadly serious. Everything only appears to be normal. The zombie apocalypse is here. It always has been, in one form or another.

Now, excuse me. I’ve got The Walking Dead cued up on TiVo.

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I hope you've enjoyed reading "KILLER FUN WITH A SERIOUS SIDE OF BRAAAAINZ!!!" If you'd like more commentary about the zombie apocalypse, please leave a comment. For more about Infected: Hacked Files from the GAMELAND Archives and the epic cyberpunk thriller horror series GAMELAND, to which it is a companion book, please visit my website.

If you'd like to receive updates about my books, including announcements about new releases, special (and exclusive) pricing events and giveaways, signings and appearances, then subscribe to my ~monthly newsletter Tanpepper Tidings.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Zombies: No Monster More Malleable

Welcome to Part Four of


 a "newspaper article published in the Edgemont Daily Register"
(an excerpt from):

Killer Fun with a Serious Side of Braaaainz!!!

Team Daryl! Or "Aren't Zombies Supposed to Scare the Living hell out of Us?

Modern Magic and Science in our Popular Zombie Culture

No Monster More Malleable

Without a strict lore to define and restrict the zombie monster (unlike so many other monsters familiar in our literature), the undead can be whatever we want them to be, rise however we envision them rising and at a time we see fit, behave in manners consistent with our current world view of ourselves. To gain insight into a society’s psyche, one need look no farther than its zombie literature. This was true when the first “zombie vampires” were envisioned in China, and it’s true now.

Even Seth Grahame-Smith’s modern pastiche of Jane Austen’s Gothic classic, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, tells us a lot about ourselves in the early twenty-first century and the depths to which our cultural anxieties, and our denials, have reached. Although the story is set in Regency-era England, his characters are as relevant to us as they would have been then, if they were real: they are, remarkably it seems at first, not as terrified by the idea of a zombie apocalypse as we would think they should be; rather, they deal with the undead scourge with a strange sense of detachment. This suddenly makes when we consider that Austen’s aristocracy was beset by privileged excesses. The rich and privileged strived to remain as unaffected by the broader issues of the day as possible — war, riots, poverty — and thus seemed wholly out of touch with reality. For Darcy and Elizabeth, zombies were little more than plebian nuisances to be held at arm’s length. They represented the peasantry.

Grahame-Smith shows us how similar these attitudes are with our own aristocracy.

We laugh because we must

But for us, the commoners who cannot deny our terrifying global crises — financial, environmental, geopolitical, religious, socioeconomic — because we are impacted by them so personally and yet cannot envision a solution and end to them, we don’t have the luxury of remaining unaffected. We feel the impact of these problems so vitally. Is it any wonder that we have become so pessimistic, that our outlook on the world and our part in it has darkened so?

But rather than throwing our hands up in helpless frustration and quivering in our pajamas until we turn to mush, we deal with our fears, our monsters, by personifying them, rendering them into something a bit more manageable. Zombies are our metaphorical horde of fears: Famine, Frankencrops and Frankenviruses, Frankenweapons. Cancer-causing cell phone towers and mammograms. Vast identity-stealing computing networks boasting the latest, greatest near-artificial intelligence programming and the ability to monitor our every move, both on-line and in private.

It’s only appropriate that they should materialize in such a way, in our own image. We have seen the enemy, and — surprise, surprise — they are us. Zombies are, metaphorically, our horde of fears.

So we revel in slashing them into oblivion, as cheerfully as Darcy and Elizabeth do in the closing scenes of Grahame-Smith’s book, because it empowers us. As much as we can feel empowered, anyway.

And maybe this is why we seek each other out, our zombie fans and headhunters alike, so that we may commiserate in our helplessness together. Maybe this is why we laugh so heartily at that which terrifies us so. Why we bury ourselves in zombie books and movies. So that when we banish the monsters by turning the page, or shutting off the DVD player, or peeling off our faux-blood makeup, we can feel like we have some control.

Like we have banished the undead from our lives.

[[end of part 4]]

Part 5, coming tomorrow:  Where do we go from here?

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Infected: Hacked Files from the GAMELAND Archives is a companion book to the epic cyberpunk thriller horror series GAMELAND.

Available at all major ebook distributors

To read a sample and to find out where to get the first book for free,
visit Saul's website.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Role of Modern Magic and Science in our Popular Zombie Culture


(part 3 of a "newspaper article" from the Edgemont Daily Register, and an excerpt from):

Infected: Hacked Files from the GAMELAND Archives

The 1st part of the article was posted here.
The 2nd part was posted here.

Modern magic and science

While occasional references to “rising dead” appear in older historical records, including documents from mid-eighteen-hundred China to as far back as biblical writings of armies of the dead, the lumbering beings of our modern popular culture trace their origin primarily to the relatively more recent Afro-Caribbean spiritual lore and a belief system known as Voudou (or Vodou). A zombie (zonbi in Haitian Creole; nzumbe in the Kimbundu dialect of Bantu) is a ghost, person, or corpse controlled by a powerful sorcerer, known as a bokor. The bokor steals a person’s soul and stores it in a jar, either to grow his own power or to sell to others for their own nefarious purposes. The enslaved being carries out the will of its master and is freed only when its soul is released.

It wasn’t until the 1929 publication of William Seabrook’s The Magic Island, which invoked voodoo for raising the dead, that the term ‘zombi’ entered into the English lexicon. Three years later, the same voodoo themes were employed in the Halperin brothers’ full-length film White Zombie, which starred Béla Lugosi as the clichéd antagonist Murder Legendre. Despite its over-the-top plot and dubious acting, White Zombie is generally accepted as the first serious zombie film ever made.

But it wasn’t until the 1940s — coincident with the introduction of atomic weapons, digital electronic computers, microwaves and color televisions — that we began to see a major evolutionary shift in zombie lore away from its supernatural roots to one couched in rational, scientific ideas — disease, war and technology, to name but a few.

Richard Matheson led the charge when he ripped the horror genre from its Lovecraftian roots and planted it squarely in the modern urban mindscape with his 1954 novel, I Am Legend. The book, on which Romero partially based his film, is credited with popularizing the concept of the zombie apocalypse with a non-mystical origin — disease, in this case. But while natural phenomena (dust storms and mosquitoes) are to blame for the rapid spread of the pandemic in his book, Matheson places man himself at the very core of the outbreak, implying that we have nothing else to blame for our own demise. It is the ravaging effects of our warmongering on the planet which created the perfect setting for an infection of such magnitude and devastation to take hold.

Spurred blindly onward by the Cold War, by competing geopolitical and technological challenges, the next two decades bore witness to the horrific impact of our continued reckless activities on the planet, the rape of its resources, the corruption of pristine vistas. It’s therefore unsurprising that modern day zombie works — indeed, all science fiction — explore such bleak scenarios.

A sampling of the popular zombie culture illustrates how far we’ve progressed beyond the monster’s Afro-Caribbean mystic roots:

  • In 28 Days Later, a virus brings the dead back to life. A virus (T-virus) is also responsible for the zombies in the Japanese computer-animated film Biohazard 4D-Executer, based on the survival horror game Resident Evil.
  • In Resident Evil IV, brain parasites are to blame.
  • Neurotoxins are the culprit in the upcoming  Resident Evil 5 video game, The Serpent and the Rainbow, and the 1988 film on which it is based.
  • And in Michael Crichton’s Prey, we can thank nanobots — microscopic, self-replicating robots that can do everything from repair DNA mutations to spy on our enemies.

They are us; we are them

From these examples and many others not mentioned, a singular theme quickly emerges: zombies personify the prevailing cultural anxieties of the day — technology out of control, diseases evolving and spreading, environments destroyed and species wiped out. The popularity of monsters in general and zombies in particular is a direct reflection of our pessimism about the issues which confound and frighten us.

And why shouldn’t it be so? The popularity of science fiction has always been in the fear of possibilities which we don’t yet know or of realities we do not understand. What better way is there to manifest those fears than with zombies? They are the perfect patsy for our own shortcomings. They represent everything we find loathsome about ourselves. Is it a coincidence that the undead are, literally, nothing more than the darkest parts of our own selves, completely devoid of social or moral restraints, mindless, hungering and feasting without satiation?

By killing the undead, perhaps we are merely enacting our moral obligation to slice away the rotten parts of ourselves, an obligation which we are loath — or incapable — to do in reality.

[[end of part 3]]

Part 4, coming tomorrow:  No monster more malleable

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Infected: Hacked Files from the GAMELAND Archives is a companion book to the epic cyberpunk thriller horror series GAMELAND.

Available at all major ebook distributors

To read a sample and to find out where to get the first book for free, visit Saul's website.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Team Daryl! Or "Aren't Zombies Supposed to Scare the Living Hell out of Us?"

To celebrate the April 1st release of

Infected: Hacked Files from the GAMELAND Archives

I'm publishing an excerpt from one of the "hacked files" in the book, a "newspaper article" from the Edgemont Daily Register titled:


(the 1st part of the article was posted yesterday here.)

Part 2:

Team Daryl!

Zombies are supposed to scare the living hell out of us. They’re supposed to gross us out and give us nightmares. Five years ago, kicking zombie booty would never have made it onto on David Letterman’s Top Ten List of Uses for a Crossbow. But times, you know, they are a-changing. Zombies have gone mainstream. Thanks in part to cartoon caricatures of zombies on The Simpsons and South Park, we can’t seem to get enough of the undead, of reveling in their glorious gore, their rotting, ruinous decay. We happily surround ourselves with the very creatures we so terribly fear and despise. And we’re having the times of their lives! What’s wrong with us?

Why do we take pleasure in eliciting shivers of frightened glee from our friends and family, in gloating at the bemused discomfort of neighbors who shudder with mock horror at the all-too-real-looking bite wounds plastered over our bodies? (They may laugh, but deep down inside we know they’re really grossed out and maybe even a little scared.) Why do we feast on jiggly lime-flavored gray matter and peeled-grape eyeballs? What’s the attraction of reenacting the distinctive lumbering gait of the newly risen, arms outstretched, stiffened hands snapping smartphone pics to share on Twitter and Facebook? So we can spread horror-porn ZA memes as quickly as swine flu breeds in an abattoir? Or could it be so we can ponder the deep philosophical questions of the day: “Daryl Dixon or Elin Nordegren with a nine iron?” “Machete or shotgun?” And, most importantly, “What is the CDC really up to these days, anyway?”

Speaking of the CDC, they’re even trying to get in on the act, jumping on the meat — er, bandwagon and spreading undead love by issuing warnings and instructions on how to prepare and survive in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Do vampires or werewolves warrant such a contingency plan? Nope. Outside of the glittery Hollywood neon glow of Twilight, blood suckers and shape shifters are about as frightening as mosquitoes and slime mold. Get yourself some crushed garlic and antibiotics, folks. Stock up on holy water and a squirt gun to shoot it with.

Team Edward, my butt.

The Real Zombie Survival Guide has only one practical instruction: Bend over and kiss your . . . .

You get the picture.

On a scale of athlete’s foot fungus to methicillin-resistant staph aureus, zombies are the equivalent of Ebola and swine flu combined — deadly dangerous, highly contagious. Totally viral.

And maybe, just maybe, our affection for them is too.

Back when zombies truly scared us

What is the cause of our deadly love-hate obsession with the undead?

Our relationship with zombies wasn’t always so . . . entertaining. There was a time when they were truly frightening. They used to instill the kind of heart-arresting terror in us that would require emergency medical intervention (artistically depicted in a recent ZA-inspired CPR public service announcement from Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation).

The zombie has had its grip firmly on the pop culture mind since George A. Romero’s seminal movie of 1968, The Night of the Living Dead. But while his monsters seem both familiar and timeless to us now, the undead have undergone a significant evolution over their relatively short-lived history. The monsters we know now only superficially resemble their origins in myth. When did they change? And why — and how exactly — did rotting corpses ever become as appealing to us as they are appalling?
[[end of part 2]]
Part 3, coming tomorrow:  Modernmagic and science

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Infected: Hacked Files from the GAMELAND Archives is a companion book to the epic cyberpunk thriller horror series GAMELAND.

Available at all major ebook distributors

For more information, visit Saul's website.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Killer Fun with a Side of BRAAAAAINZ!!!

To celebrate the April 1st release of


Hacked Files from the

I'll be publishing an excerpt from one of the "hacked files" in the book. 

KILLER FUN WITH A SERIOUS SIDE OF BRAAAAINZ!!! is an "article" published in the April 1, 2013, edition of The Edgemont Daily Register.

For those of you who read my short stories, you probably already know that many of my speculative tales take place within Edgemont and its environs.

KILLER FUN is both a celebration of the zombie genre (that's the fun part) and a study of the undead's recent meteoric rise in our popular culture (that's the serious, brainy part). It's fairly long for a blog post, so I'll be breaking it up and posting it in parts throughout the week.