November 25, 2013

Tony Baez Milan on Zombie Fiction in Spanish and English

Zombie Fiction: Spanish or English?

I have always written and published in both languages fairly simultaneously and I go back and forth between them, so I have not felt a transition. Moving between English and Spanish has become natural for me. It hasn’t been the same with my movies. Although I have written movies in both languages, the ones which have been produced have all been in English.

The stories choose the language in which they are to be told, and so the language doesn't change the work, but the specific language becomes the more natural form of its expression.

Spanish is my native language. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico.

A Puerto Rican Zombie Apocalypse

The zombie apocalypse would be very different in Puerto Rico.

At first, no one would believe it. People would marvel and wonder at the strange behavior of their neighbors or friends or acquaintances turned into zombies, talking about the bad habits some people may have developed, not being ashamed of anything, not even of biting someone in public. “Something to do with his upbringing,” a passing Puerto Rican might say about a misbehaving zombie, before realizing the severity of the situation.

I think there would be long-winded, one-sided arguments between zombies and Puerto Ricans before there is finally any violence. Plenty of machetes on the island, so when the violence finally starts, it would be extra bloody.

And loud. The zombie apocalypse would be a lot louder in Puerto Rico.

The arguments alone would be deafening. Also, a lot of people just jumping into the Caribbean Sea, hoping that zombies couldn’t swim.


I don’t think I became interested in zombies, but rather was scared of them as a child. They chased me in nightmares, the kind of dream where no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to be able to run; you try, but you don’t make much progress and the horrors catch up to you, and then you wake up all screwed up.

I used to go see zombie movies at the local theater, sometimes alone, which was a mistake, because I would have to walk back home and all the while I watched my back!

Later, as a writer, I became more interested in zombies when I discovered they can be metaphors, that you can explore things like identity and prejudice through zombies.

Dead, and Must Travel

I actually published my first zombie novel, DEAD, AND MUST TRAVEL, in English, in the United States. It came out earlier this year. Eventually, there might be a Spanish translation.

I wrote the first paragraph, and the entire novel, in an apartment in Los Angeles. In the living room, I had a small corner where I set up my work space, complete with a dog gate that kept my two small children at bay when I wrote.

I was surrounded by filing cabinets and by books on bookcases and on plastic stackable shelves, and on the wall there was a detail of a painting by Diego Rivera, of people working the land, mounted on a cheap frame. I liked that picture there because it reminded me that, if able, one needs to work. Also, there was an Ansel Adams print, all rocks and mountains and sky.

Language Makes a Difference

An interesting thing about DEAD, AND MUST TRAVEL is that I kept thinking about it in Spanish, trying to figure out the story, but it wasn’t until, in an instant, it occurred to me that it should be in English.

Once I figured out that the novel wanted to be told in English, in the next instant the whole story came rushing into my head, fully formed, like a bolt of lightning! I struggled with the story until the moment I figured out that I was looking at it from the wrong point of view, from the wrong language.

About Tony Baez Milan 

Writer and director TONY BÁEZ MILÁN was born and raised in Puerto Rico. His short stories, in English and Spanish, have been published internationally in numerous magazines.

He has written and directed the films A PIECE OF WOOD, RAY BRADBURY’S CHRYSALIS, EDGAR ALLAN POE’S REQUIEM FOR THE DAMNED (The Pit and the Pendulum segment), and MYTH PROLOGUE. 


More Spanish Zombie Fiction

Juan De Dios Garduno: Y Pese Al Todo

Manel Louriero: Apocalipsis Z

Gareth Wood: El Despertar De Los Muertos

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