Zombies have been ambling brokenly around a fair percentage of our TV screens, films, and books for quite some time lately, so is it fair to wonder if the time of the zombie is close to an end? Or have we only begun to scrape the surface of the undead life? Author M.R. Carey says we're not close to getting tired of zombie stories.
Carey joined us today to talk about his novel The Girl With All The Gifts (SPOILERS AHEAD), and explained to us why what we were seeing wasn't the wrap up of zombie stories — it was the wrap up of zombie origin stories:
I think we're just entering a new wave of zombie stories which will be more or less self-aware and will take the zombie apocalypse for granted while looking for other stories to tell against that backdrop. The Unliving and Zombie In a Penguin Suit are other examples, although they're both shorts. The Christopher Golden-edited anthology The New Dead also has lots of examples. I think we're still a long way from "peak zombie". :)
But, without that origin story of just how the world they knew crumbled, will authors still be able to build up a post-apocalyptic world that feels as real? Carey explains how it worked for him:
I think there's always a penumbra around any story - an area of facts that are taken for granted by the characters and so never get discussed. In GIRL it's relatively small - I think we fill in the broad shape of the backstory pretty explicitly. I *did* have a more detailed timeline, but only to keep the characters' backstories straight in my head. I never intended to reference it directly.
Have you read Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey? There's a novel where the penumbra is vast. He never even tells us what his apocalypse was! That's not a criticism, by the way - I absolutely love that book.
I did make a conscious decision to start in a very claustrophobic and contained setting and expand slowly. It seemed to be a good way to introduce readers to the world, and I felt like we needed a strong build to the moment when Melanie sees the world outside the base for the first time.