Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink

Personal blog of freelance writer MGMason

Tag Archives: zombies

The Scariest Fiction – Part 1 TV & Film


With Halloween coming up and this being the time of year I tend to start diving into horror (change of seasons, nights drawing in and Christmas is still far enough away that the jollity is yet to rear its head), I thought scares would be a good idea to write about. Plus, Daily Post had this interesting prompt just the other day. Read more of this post

Book Review: Z 2134 by Sean Platt & David W. Wright

It is rather obvious from the start from which other works this book got its inspiration: 1984, The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games. Unfortunately, it has the depth of none of those things merely taking a few sample ideas and pumping it into this book. Voila! I would consider this a work of reverse alchemy, taking three great things and turning it into a useless piece of slush that is neither satisfactory nor particularly clever.

It is written in a rather juvenile way with lots of random swear words, needless sexual references and childish prose “All she wanted to do was smash his fucking fat face to show what she really thought of the little prick”. Yeah, move over Shakespeare. If this is YA literature then this form of writing will only appeal to the sort of teenagers who buy albums with explicit lyrics for no other reason than that they have explicit lyrics. Read more of this post

Book Review: World War Z by Max Brooks

I was determined to read this before seeing the film and I have, looking forward to seeing the film now. So, is this worth a read or is it one of the most over-hyped zombie books ever released? Well, read on and find out.

Inevitably I am going to compare this to the Stephen Jones edited Zombie Apocalypse! series. That would be because the formats are similar. However, World War Z is purely a transcription of interviews talking to survivors, fighters, politicians, people whose lives changed and how they handled the situation around them. Read more of this post

Reflections on “The Walking Dead” Season 3

So here we are again!

Season 1 summary
Season 2 summary Read more of this post

Book Review: Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback by Stephen Jones (et al)

Here is book two of the now planned “Zombie Apocalypse!” trilogy. If you’ve read the first one, you’ll know what to expect from the tone and format of the first. If you haven’t read it, you’ll need to because firstly the format will come as a surprise to you and much of this book will not make sense anyway. Like the first, the story does not progress in a conventional narrative format but through collections of documents, emails, official reports, letters, tweets etc.

Only this time, the earlier part of the book focuses almost entirely on the man who was responsible for the zombie outbreak, the “Zombie King” Thomas Moreby who in the 18th century built the church and the crypt beneath that housed the fleas that carry the disease. Who was he? What was he like? How was he responsible for the zombie apocalypse hundreds of years after his life? More importantly, who is this man in the modern day now claiming to be him? Did he really come back from the dead? Read more of this post

Reflections on “The Walking Dead” Season 2

I did it for season 1 so I ought to cover season 2 as well.

I spent all of the week in the lead up to Easter watching season 2 of this superb series (having spent the previous week re-watching season 1). Here are my honest thoughts. There will be spoilers so if you have not seen all of the second series, be warned as the following discussion may ruin your pleasure or give away some of the season’s biggest plot developments. Read more of this post

Official Government Advice: “Run away screaming” – Zombies as Social Commentary


The headline comes from one of the most amusing sections from the book Zombie Apocalypse! that I read while on holiday recently. It was an interview where government contingencies for national disasters are discussed. Each (including assassination of the monarch, death of the PM in office, invasion of “Evilerons from the planet X”) are many hundreds of pages long. All except the contingency for a zombie apocalypse. It consisted of two pages. The first had a stick figure with a speech bubble exclaiming “aaarrrghhh brains!”; and the second page had the quote above. Read more of this post

Reflections on “The Walking Dead” Season 1

On Sunday night, the first season of The Walking Dead finished on Channel 5. Despite having very little that is original, the series is proving to be a global success.

Brit Andrew Lincoln (This Life, Love Actually, Afterlife) plays Rick Grimes, a small town American deputy Sheriff who is shot in the line of duty. The wound does not kill him but it does render him comatose. When he wakes up he finds the hospital has been subject to something violent, the staff have all gone and the hospital grounds are filled with dead bodies. He soon realises that the city is overrun with zombies. So begins the tale of a man desperate to find his family and somewhere safe and maybe get some answers.

Director Frank Darabont (The Mist, The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption) arguably took a bit of a gamble in converting the (still ongoing) graphic novel into a TV series rather than film but it seems to have paid off. The general slow pace of TV adaptations juxtaposes well with the tension of the zombie apocalypse. What results is a series where the viewer gets a strong sense of the day to day struggle of existence while experiencing the characters grow as people. Though zombies appear in every episode, they are rarely central to the story of the week and in the final episode of the first season they barely appear. Because of this focus, we stop seeing the group as cannon fodder to be gradually picked off, and see them as people.

In an odd way, this can also be said of the zombies. In the pilot, the writers are keen to remind us of what should be obvious but is easy to forget: these were people once. Early on in the pilot, Rick meets a man and his son. It is soon revealed that the mother has become a zombie and the father cannot bring himself to kill her. She returns every day to the house, walks up to the door, sometimes knocking it, sometimes trying the handle. There is a flicker of recognition in her eyes that reminds us of her humanity and terrifies in equal measure. A little later on, Rick returns to the scene of an encounter with a zombie woman crawling in the park. She is crawling because she no longer has any legs. Rick expresses pity for what has happened to her and while she is reaching for him her expression seems to be one of desperation. Despite being of no threat to him, he puts her out of her misery.

Overall I think the success of The Walking Dead (so far) has been down to three things. Firstly, the desire to commit to an ongoing story. Lost and The X Files both found success with this formula but later on both collapsed under the weight of their own complexity. And that brings me to the second issue: simplicity. Complex stories often have limited appeal. Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica and its prequel Caprica never had broad appeal but were highly regarded. Thirdly, the fact that The Walking Dead is so gripping. Each episode has finished on a sort-of cliffhanger that makes you crave more.

The second season, I believe, is due to start shooting in June. I’m looking forward to it already.

End of the World scenarios in science fiction – Post a Day #105

What is it that fascinates us as people so much about the end of humanity? What is it about the end of humanity, or the end of the world, that entices science fiction writers so much? For an answer to the first question you are best off asking a psychologist, for an answer to the second I will answer from my own experiences.

For me, it is about speculation on two things: 1) how it happens and 2) what happens next. And as science fiction is speculative with a limitless ways of how the end might come about and an equally limitless number of “what happens next” scenarios. It can be quite a fascinating idea just thinking about the potential disasters we face and how we might react. Will we have a complete breakdown of all social norms fighting in a dog-eat-dog world for resources? Or would we seek to form communities founded on what went before or something entirely new? Would we be able to survive? There may be obstacles – giant man eating plants like Triffids in a world where most people are blind; the land might be poisoned where nothing can grow, as in The Road; a population reduced to less than 1% having to learn to do so much just to grow enough food in Survivors, or a population suffering the ravages of nuclear war in Threads.

I’m sure I don’t need a comprehensive list but in the last ten years we’ve had (in film and TV): The Day After Tomorrow; 2012; 28 Days/Weeks Later; I Am Legend; Dawn of the Dead; The Road; Aeon Flux; The Book of Eli; Daybreakers; Doomsday; Terminator: Salvation; Children of Men; The Road; Knowing; Survivors. Some of these were based on books but all had the theme of the end of civilisation and what happened next.

I have used the scenario in three of my short stories: A New Age Exodus; Crimson Sands; Forlorn and of course, my novel and each explores a different theme.

The best known recent example of post-apocalypse novel is Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” which was made into a film a couple of years ago. I know I’ve discussed it before and I still haven’t read it (though I have seen the film). It deals with a complete collapse of society as people struggle to survive. The ground is poisoned and the environment is locked in a permanent winter. Like the TV film Threads before it it is an utterly horrific existence, so what possesses people to write something so bleak let alone read it? Beats me, and though I’ve not written anything as bleak as The Road, I have every intention of reading it. I used to think that it was a secret desire on the part of all of us to wipe the slate clean and start again… and to get it right this time. If so, are we that deluded? Even in fiction things are never that simple. If any reader here would like to hazard another guess then please comment on this issue.

There is arguably no more prolific apocalypse scenario than a world over-run by zombies, and even more arguably it is possibly the worst possible outcome to be walled into a fortress unable to leave for the threat of the undead outside. From the first Night of the Living Dead in 1968 to last year’s The Walking Dead, walking rotten corpses have never been very far from popular imagination. And when you think about it, we never seem to grow bored with the same recycled storyline. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much as fascinated with them as I ever was and I’ve recently bought a booked called Zombie Apocalypse! by Stephen Jones. It isn’t really a novel in the traditional sense, it is put together more as a collection of personal e-mails, newspaper cuttings and telephone conversations. But anyway, when you think about it most zombie films are the same… a group; of desperate humans walled in somewhere suffer cabin fever and end up being swamped by zombies in their once safe fortress after somebody goes mad, gets desperate, spiteful or negligent. Yet we never grow tired of it and I guess the zombie genre is the one where we might forgive repetition.


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