Author: Ace Antonio Hall
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Publication Date: April 14, 2013
Publisher: Montag Press
A spring break trip on a cruise presents a new problem for Sylva. Passengers on the ship turn into flesh-eating zombies, unlike the harmless ones she's used to raising from the dead. She and her friends are trapped on the Pacific Ocean, and their only escape comes from a guy Sylva had a crush on she thought was dead, named Brandon. Sylva doesn't normally hold grudges, but when someone plays with her heart they have to pay. However, with the fate of the human race on the line, Brandon convinces Sylva to join him in a secret mission, yet she can't shake the feeling that he's hiding something.
It didn't take long for her suspicions to hold true when it's revealed that Brandon has been romantically involved with the very enemy he now wants her to destroy. This villainous female would rather kill Brandon than let Sylva have a chance to patch things up between them. Sylva is not the kind of girl to walk away from love without a fight, but with a strange virus threatening extinction of human life, she shoves her own feelings in her back pocket to face her greatest nightmare, and that nightmare starts with something that is eerily growing right inside of her own mind and body.
“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.” –Stephen KingAs I said in a Q&A with Madeline Sharples previously, zombie stories speak on different levels outside of horror: the state of the world, humanity's fear of the unknown regarding death and the future of our society. Many undead stories are commentaries on the way corporate and government machines literally have us shambling through our daily lives like mindless zombies (or survivors in a world of the obsequious brain-dead) while the avarice leaders of a political economy stumble our ability to speak out or resist quick enough to gain any true momentum in our own lives. Hence, I feel the stronger the commentary, the more ruthless the zombies.
Essential elements of horror contain literary devices such as fear, suspense, foreshadowing, and of course conflict. However, I think it is what the Master of Horror, Stephen King does that make a good story; using empathetic characters and dancing between their own flawed psychological state and building on fears that are relatable to the reader. Who can forget the girl ridiculed because she was different such as the protagonist in Carrie? Or the fears many children had/have for clowns; It.
Another key element in a good zombie story is probably best inspired by the philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft regarding having a thematic device of having civilization under threat. He once wrote, “It is my belief, and was so, long before Spengler put his seal of scholarly proof on it, that our mechanical and industrial age is one of frank decadence.” I can only imagine what he would say had he been living today.
Having civilization under threat, making access to receiving news impossible, putting survivors in an environment of limited supplies and food, and melding a cultural pot of indifferent people socially, politically, and ethically are all essential tropes of an apocalyptic, and/or zombie story. If any storyteller mastered the zombie recipe for telling stories, it would be Robert Kirkman.
George Romero's classic, Night of the Living Dead (1968) is arguably the film which popularized zombie fiction and was partly inspired by Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend, and did what Kirkman’s screen serialization of his comic book, The Walking Dead continues to do for the horror genre.
Both made the zombie story more about the survivors reacting to each other under the duress of their circumstances than how they reacted to the walkers. The fact that the survivors could be more dangerous than the walkers presents a terrifying reflection of our own society. What happens when people are pushed beyond the comfortable boundaries of their own psyche? Nothing good.
This leads me to an element that once presented a standard (sometimes satirical) trope in horror, wherein the monster slowly chases after the scared girl (guy), who runs, looks back, trips, gets up and stumbles again to eventually get caught.
It’s one of the most overused, but suspenseful tropes of horror storytelling.
However, many zombie stories, more visually apparent in films, are ditching slow zombies for fast ones. To be honest, I don’t really like to laugh out loud while watching zombie films, and I cringe with the utmost distaste when I see zombies running fast—I loathe a sprinting deadhead.
Aye, sir, but you then deem yourself a hypocrite, you say, and you would be right because I use both slow and fast zombies in my Sylva Slasher Universe.
In defense, there are many realities that I dislike, but will not sensor myself from writing about simply because it makes me uncomfortable.
Director Danny Boyle's British film 28 Day's Later (Nov 1, 2002 – Britain/June 27, 2003 - U.S.) is credited with reinvigorating the zombie sub-genre and popularized “fast” zombies. However, I never saw it used in a more terrifyingly fashion than when I sat at the edge of my movie seat watching Brad Pitt in the film adaptation of Max Brook’s World War Z. Damn good film making—despite the horrors in making the film.
Whether the zombies are running fast or the survivors are showing their true psychopathic colors, the bottom line to writing a good zombie story (undead comedies excluded) is creating fear. Fear is the one emotion that drives every living creature to act impulsively, which if written correctly, means dire consequences for your character or someone they love.
Fears are demons that exploit us when we’re most vulnerable.
The most essential element of a zombie story is creating fear. If a writer can tap into what makes the reader leave their lights on after putting down the book, then they’ve delivered an image from the conscious mind into the unconscious, and those images will eat at the reader’s fears for as long as they entertain them. And that’s a job well done.
He now lives in southern California, and was the Vice President of the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (2009-2011), and still holds an executive position in the organization which gives him a huge platform to market, sell, and promote his work through the many conferences, meetings and book fairs that GLAWS holds each month. He is also a member of LASFS and the International Thriller Writers.
His first novel, a coming-of-age YA zombie story, The Confessions of Sylva Slasher, was released April 2013 by Montag Press. It is part of a series with the next book Skateboard Xombies, expected for release early next year.
About the writing life, he says: “I harmlessly dream in Technicolor nightmares, watch a ton of horror flicks, eat more donuts than I should, and refuse to stop reading Spider-Man. All of those combined give me a sweet tooth to write about the suite life of zombies.” Ace's true labor of love is writing fast-paced fiction with character-driven plots featuring female protagonists. He continues to write short stories and build on the world of teen necromancer Sylva Slasher as she reigns as Princess of the Undead.
You can find out more about Ace, including his music and screen acting credits, and his involvement with the Hollywood Actors Academy as part-owner, Acting Coach and Creative Director, at the IMDb Biography web site.
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