March 19, 2014

ZOMBIE AS ADDICT By Stephen Kozeniewski

Doctor Brainslove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Human Flesh

I think at this point even novices (or, to use the parlance of the interwebs, n00bz) are well aware that zombies are a metaphor. Except for the very hackiest of hacks, every modern writer uses the shambling dead as a critique of the mindlessness of X, Y, or Z aspect of modern society.

Some well-known examples? Night of the Living Dead: racism. Dead Alive: Oedipal impulses run amok. Land of the Dead: foreign aggression and neo-colonialism. The list goes on.

Recently, though, I’ve been re-thinking this tried-and-true bit of wisdom. While it’s true that zombies are used to critique various flotsam and jetsam of our culture, it occurred to me while writing my first novel, BRAINEATER JONES, that zombies as an entity could represent addiction.

In BRAINEATER the walking dead live in constant fear of giving in to their base impulses and becoming a mindless ghoul feasting on human flesh. The only way they can curb this desire is by consuming copious amounts of alcohol, thus trading one addiction for another. For me, this was mostly just an amusing way to make life difficult for my Prohibition-era characters, but in another way this was a subtle critique on trading addictions.

I worked as a clerk in a substance abuse clinic for several years, and while I’m in no way trained or an expert, I did learn a few things from daily experience with alcoholics and addicts. It’s fairly common for addicts to switch the object of their addiction through the course of their lives. For instance, marijuana is considered a “gateway drug” and a pot abuser can easily become addicted to something harder like crystal meth or crack cocaine. I’m not an expert in any way, shape, or form, but a social worker friend advised me that this is called cross-addiction.

An interesting side effect of this phenomenon is that some addicts while in recovery can become “addicted,” so to speak, to healthy things like religion or a twelve-step program. I’ve known people who became obsessed with AA and the counselors asked them to dial it back and think about the meaning of the twelve steps instead of just hurrying through them. Or, say, I’ve known recovering alcoholics who became hardcore Jesus freaks. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in a funny way it’s like trading one addiction for another.

“But,” at this point even the most patient of my readers is now protesting, “What does any of this have to do with ZOMBIES? This is a ZOMBIE blog! Talk about the ZOMBIES!”

Tut tut, gentle reader. I’m coming to that. Like I was saying, in writing BRAINEATER I was trying to use zombies as a metaphor for addicts, specifically those who cross addictions. (The irony that they were trading an unhealthy addiction for the dead – human flesh – for an unhealthy addiction for the living – alcohol – was intentional.) But it also occurred to me that zombies as a species could be a metaphor for addiction.

Vampires, for instance, are generally understood to be a folkloric manifestation of sexual taboos. Werewolves represent barbarism, the inner beast. Zombies, though, are usually considered a blank slate on which to project our fears about mindless consumerism, bigotry, conformism, or some other cause du jour.

However, when I scratch the surface of a zombie, see past the cool gory body that it’s okay to ruthlessly despatch with a chainsaw, I see a possible representation of addiction made manifest. The zombie has no ego or superego, no impulse control. It is pure id. It is “I want” made solid.

What it wants – human flesh – is dangerous to others around it. Crack addicts often sell everything they own and will even resort to stealing from their families all in pursuit of that next fix. Alcoholics are masterclass liars and over time will inevitably harm their loved ones when using.

With a few notable exceptions (such as the fat guy in a Speedo zombie from Dawn of the Dead) zombies are depicted as gaunt, even desiccated, perhaps with the flesh sloughing off of them. It’s not unlike the generic depiction of an addict, so far lost in his or her own addiction that he forgets to even eat.

The good news, of course, is that for real alcoholics and addicts help is available 24/7. Our poor zombie friends, however, will carry the monkey of craving warm flesh on their backs forever.


Steve Kozeniewski is the author of two zombie novels. 

He recommends either or both to scratch that gnawing itch you feel for horror literature. 

March 12, 2014

Diana Rowland Discusses Dealing

Diana Rowland is the author of the White Trash Zombie series, including My Life as a White Trash Zombie, Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, and White Trash Zombie Apocalypse.

Where, when, and for how long did you work as a blackjack dealer?
I worked at the Copa Casino in Gulfport, MS for about five years. I started out dealing blackjack and roulette, and later learned craps (though I never dealt that game enough to get very good at it.) After about a year and a half I was promoted to what was called a “dual rate” which meant I could be scheduled as either dealer or a pit manager (pit boss), and after another year or so, I moved up to full time pit boss. About a year before I left the casino industry I switched from graveyard shift (2am to 10am) to swing shift (6pm to 2am) and had to go back to being dual rate, but by that time I was already looking for a way out of the casino industry.
Were you specifically trained in how to interact (or not interact) with customers?
Generally speaking, yes. Most dealers go to a gaming school to learn how to deal the games, and part of that process includes some of how to deal with customers, what to do with belligerent or unruly players, and hints and tricks for how to get good tips (since the majority of a dealer’s income comes from tips.) Also, whenever a new dealer is hired on at a casino, the more experienced dealers will give advice of that nature as well, since in most casinos the tips are pooled. In other words, it made sense for *everyone* to earn as many tips as possible!
What did you enjoy most about the job?
I enjoyed seeing a wide cross section of humanity. Most people tend to be fairly sheltered, and seldom have to interact with people outside of their own social strata or culture. I was certainly quite sheltered in that respect, and the entire experience in the casino was very eye opening in many ways. I also enjoyed the whole subculture of being a night shift worker, living a parallel but separate life from most of humanity. But most of all I really liked being >good< at what I was doing—fast and accurate. Oh, and the money and benefits rocked as well. ;-)
What was your most irritating experience on the job?
My most irritating experience was the superstitions. It blew me away when my bosses would throw salt under tables where someone was winning big, or drop pennies, or change out dealers because so-and-so was “running hot.”

Why did you stop dealing?
I stopped because I grew oh so very tired of watching people destroy their lives. There are many people who can go and enjoy an evening at a casino and control themselves and their spending, but there are FAR more who truly cannot stop, even when they’re winning. It’s an addiction, and I lost count of the number of people who would come and cash their paychecks and then lose >every penny<. The bleak expression of someone who’s staring at the table as they realize they’ve lost the money to pay the rent, buy food, care for their children, is one that I’ll never forget. After a few hundred of those I decided that I needed to get into a business that I could be proud of, one where I wasn’t a legal drug dealer, and one where I could look at myself in the mirror in the morning. Basically, I decided to salvage what little soul I had left.

And that is why I took a 60% pay cut and became a cop. :-)

March 5, 2014

Start Publishing Seeks Zombie Fiction

START Publishing 

is now accepting submissions

Start Publishing has already released several zombie titles:  
The Living Dead by John Joseph Adams
 The Living Dead 2 by John Joseph Adams
 The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer
 The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten by Harrison Gealler
 The Panama Laugh by Thomas Roche

About Start Publishing

Start Publishing is seeking to grow- and that includes adding new titles. According to Start Publishing President Jarred Weisfeld,
"Our overall mission it to have a mini major where we will be in all genres.  For example Salvo is a thriller imprint while Night Shade is a Science Fiction and Fantasy Imprint.  We recently started Start Science Fiction which has acquired over 50 titles in its first three months,  We are actively looking to acquire and to grow.  Both through company acquisitions and title acquisitions."
Start Publishing is located in Manhattan.  

President Jarred Weisfeld oversees the imprints and marketing while also focusing on new company acquisitions.  In this role, he has acquired the entire eBook catalog of  Nightshade Press titles and over 1200 additional titles for Start Publishing. Mr. Weisfeld is also the CEO of Objective Entertainment, a literary agency  handles over 250 authors.

Weisfeld is interested in receiving submissions from authors of zombie fiction.

Prospective authors should send submissions to