Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Timothy Baker.
Timothy Baker is a retired firefighter and an aspiring, perspiring, horror writer. He is published in Fading Light: Anthology of the Monstrous by Angelic Knight Press, and the forthcoming Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker's Nightbreed from Tor. Tim has also received a commendation in the Australian Horror Writers Association 2009 Short Story Competition.
GUEST POST: Me and My Zombies by Timothy Baker
So you want to know some things about my debut novel, Hungry Ghosts: Path of the Dead, you say. You are too kind. I can become quite the jabber-mouth when talking about it. Of course you do, you say, all writers think they're a cosmic gift to the literary world and can't shut their mouths. And that's partially true. I have to watch for the tell-tale signs of boredom when I'm on a roll about a story: listeners ordering doubles instead of beers to kill the pain; the glassy eyed looked; the tapping of a foot and the constant looking at watches; the acute attempts at suicide. I shut up then, not wanting to overplay my un-infectious enthusiasm. Believe me, I sympathize. I know a writer that when he/she (gotta keep people wondering) starts on a thirty-minute ramble on every damn detail of his/her current project, I begin visualizing he/she choking on an soda can, and I start eyeing the room for a heroin dealer.
But hey, you asked.
First off, it's a zombie novel. Now, now, don't go clicking away. I can see your eyes rolling. Give me a chance here. My zombie novel is like no other. I know, all of us writing in a specific genre say that. But stick with me; I think I can back it up.
Path of the Dead takes place in a country and culture most of us are unfamiliar with: in the country wilds of Tibet. Much of the world's technological modernity has not infringed, no smartphones or internet, no constant badgering of worldwide media. Some cars, radio, televisions, yes, but we could say that about America in the 1950's. For the most part, the villages and the people are much like they were a century ago. The countryside and peoples are steeped in Buddhism mixed with the animistic, indigenous, Bon religion. They have a very different worldview of nature, and its causes and effects. When we see a zombie (in know we haven't, but just go with it) we see a scientific monster, born of virus or radiation or fungi, something from our world (or alien planet) that sets the dead to animation and this very annoying hunger. But a people that live near living mountains, where beasts and plants have souls living out one of their many incarnations; where predators and stars are embodiments of gods and devils, how would they view a zombie? Well, that's the question, ain't it?
The novel is not only an adventure of action and danger, it's also a spiritual journey. No self-respecting zombie writer would cheat a reader out of some good zombie fighting action with all the attending gore and suspense. Path of the Dead has that in heaping amounts. It's part of the recipe. But for my main protagonist, a devout Buddhist monk that has spent years as a hermit on a mountain seeking his nirvanic release, the zombie phenomenon becomes not just a battle of survival for himself and his friends, but a spiritual turning point that threatens to either tear his beliefs down, or lift them up to new heights. His inner journey is central to the tale.
And have you ever seen or read a final zombie-horde battle take place near the misty peak of a high mountain in a 300-year-old abandoned monastery stuck precariously to the side of a sheer cliff? No, didn't think so.
I'll stop there before the eye glazing and the ordering of doubles begin. My only hope is that I've whet your appetite for Paths of the Dead, so to speak. It's a zombie tale, sure, but it will take you where no zombie tale has taken you before.
Now bartender, give me what they're having and make it a double.