This is the second part in a two-part afterword for All Right Now: A Short Story, which I'm calling a foreword because I'm writing it at the same time I write the story. It's filled with spoilers and you should probably read the novella before reading this, and you should start with part one.
It's now March 27th and I'm at 16,775 words. If I was going to write another zombie story, I of course wanted it to tie into the universe of my existing zombie novel (marketing 101), which meant I could revisit old friends and write my own fan fiction. This has proved a bit tricky. As All Right Now takes place during the same time as All Together Now, my current characters get entangled with past characters, some of whom I can't kill because I killed them in a specific way in the previous story, parts of which take place after the events of this story. The whole thing makes my head hurt and feels a bit like the third act of Back to the Future II.
It's also a lot of fun. If there was one character in All Together Now I wanted to know more about, it was the Reverend Brian Hopstead. What an interesting fellow he is and I've always been sorry we didn't get to spend more time with him. We're spending half the story with him this time around and if I ever write All Done Now (not likely as I'm pretty zombied out at this point) I might have to bring him back for another round. I always suspected there was more to his relationship with Sister Rachel than we had time for in ATN and in ARN we get to observe them before the zombies come. The reverend and Sister Rachel give me the creeps:)
I'm also thrilled I got to give the reverend a speech about UFOs as the UFO speech in ATN got cut. I promise the previous speech made sense to the previous story, it was just placed in an unnecessary scene. But ATN was primarily about conformity and I believe the vehemence with which "practically minded" people deny the likelihood of flying saucers appearing in our skies despite the unbelievable mountain of evidence they're up there to be a prime example of social conformity.
No one wants to appear stupid or to be a sucker and absolutely there is a lot of BS in ufology (the subject of another post I'll probably never get around to writing, but one should never believe everything one hears, particularly if it involves cattle mutilation for which there is a known, disgusting, natural explanation).
However, it is the fallacy of composition to say that because some UFO stories are BS, all UFO stories are BS. It's easier to deny until official disclosure occurs and you deniers are not being looked at the way I imagine some readers to be looking at me in this moment. It's okay. My friend, Ashfall author Mike Mullin rolls his eyes at me when I mention flying saucers and he's really, really smart. But with such a disturbing amount of smoke in the form of astronauts, presidents, and top military generals going on record about UFOs, I'm betting there's some fire.
Like the good reverend, for the purposes of this story I don't care if you're persuaded by UFO evidence or not. That's another type of book than the one I'm writing. Should I later appear as foolish for taking this subject seriously as Sir Author Conan Doyle appears for making inquiries into the existence of faeries, so be it (I'd love for someone to make any kind of comparison between us).
My world's more fun to live in as we're on the verge of a paradigm shift that could change everything, most importantly the way we view ourselves and each other. What difference do earthly heritage or race make when there are infinite galaxies of new folks to meet? Also, my feeling the need to qualify my views on this subject despite the clear evidence in my favor that something is going on demonstrates the forces of social conformity at work even now:)
This isn't a story about UFOs and they're not mentioned beyond the one chapter. Who cares about occasional visitations from aliens when very real zombies are beating down doors:)
It's now April 27th and my rough draft is nearly complete at 21,889 words. I should be writing the final two chapters of ARN, which means as you're reading this, provided the UFO stuff didn't sour you, you've already read the novella's ending and I haven't:) Every time I start to write actual fiction, Little Ninja fusses and whines and I have to stop to address his needs. Alas, I'm a father first and an author second. So I'll save those two chapters for nap time and work on this foreword instead:)
Granted, I took some time off in the middle of this story to revise, polish, and publish Pizza Delivery. Still, ARN has taken almost as long as ATN to write despite being less than half the length. I'm typing this one-handed so my left hand can feed the baby. ARN is not just a story of my becoming a father, it's also the story through which I proved to myself I can still swing this writing thing while being a dad.
I've talked at length about my inspiration for both ATN and ARN and my love of zombies. Still, I can't finish this foreword without discussing three authors whose brilliant work provided inspiration, all of them white and male, like me:) The first and most obvious inspiration is Robert Kirkman, whom I named the soda company for. The Walking Dead is awesome, yadda, yadda, yadda--I've said all that before and it's still true. The tone of both my zombie stories is a reflection of what I loved about Kirkman's graphic novels.
I can't ever discuss a horror story I've written without mentioning Stephen King. I talked of my love for his work in this post, so we'll get right to his short story, Home Delivery, which I discussed at length in this post. But I very consciously modeled parts of ARN after that story as its the finest zombie fiction I've ever read and I imitate nothing but the best art for my readers:)
In college after a break-up with a girl who broke my heart (there were a few), I read Ernest Hemingway's The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, which was the perfect time to read that misogynistic story. I don't remember the particulars of the relationship (all the girls who weren't Mrs. Ninja sort of blur together), but I remember that story and I reread it every so often.
I find myself thinking of it at odd times. And the moment I realized my protagonist couldn't survive the zombie apocalypse no matter what he did as he was already dead in ATN, it was Hemingway's story I found myself thinking of. And why not? Without spoiling (much), Hemingway's protagonist is also a marked man, but before he goes he overcomes his fear and gets to experience the triumph of being a fully realized man, which is why his life is happy in addition to being short.
At once, I realized my character's name must also be Macomber and I even found room for a Margot (though my Margot is kinder than Papa's version, which is why her last name is Wilson). Richard Macomber may not kill any lions or buffaloes, though there are gratuitous references to both as he kills zombies, making ARN my most pretentious story to date:) But Hemingway's proposition as interpreted by me is that all men die, not all men truly live. I say many men produce offspring, not all men become fathers. Fatherhood requires at least the same amount of courage as shooting an animal and more because you only have to shoot a thing once. Being a father is an every day and forever task.
As a father, I'm disgusted by the number of depictions of fathers in popular culture as clueless oafs who only just barely avoid killing their children. Somehow, America has gone from celebrating Father Knows Best to Homer Simpson. But I say it takes courage and strength to be a father and it's a worthy occupation, even if we're all eventually dead. I think that's a theme that's a tad more encouraging than the theme of All Together Now and a nice note to end my time in the zombie apocalypse on.
Never say never. I might just think up another zombie story some day. For now, I'm content to leave the walking dead behind me after just two tales in favor of more pleasant subject matters. But I had a lot of fun with these zombies and I hope you did as well, Esteemed Reader.
I can't end without mentioning my favorite zombie video of all time (aside from that Zombie shark fight). If you haven't seen it, I recommend checking out the trailer for the video game Dead Island. It was a swell game, but its trailer accomplishes so much with so little and is just an outstanding example of storytelling. It could be a coincidence that ATN is non-linear and ARN focuses on a father saving his child though the reader knows he can't, but I listened to the music from this trailer at times during the writing of both my zombie tales and I'm sure it made a difference: