July 21, 2016

Using Your Brain on Zombies: a guest post by Stephen Kozeniewski, author of "The Ghoul Archipelago"

After ravenous corpses topple society and consume most of the world’s population, freighter captain Henk Martigan is shocked to receive a distress call. Eighty survivors beg him to whisk them away to the relative safety of the South Pacific. Martigan wants to help, but to rescue anyone he must first pass through the nightmare backwater of the Curien island chain. 

A power struggle is brewing in the Curiens. On one side, a billionaire seeks to squeeze all the profit he can out of the apocalypse. Opposing him is the charismatic leader of a cargo cult. When a lunatic warlord berths an aircraft carrier off the coast and stakes his own claim on the islands, the stage is set for a bloody showdown. 

To save the remnants of humanity (and himself), Captain Martigan must defeat all three of his ruthless new foes and brave the gruesome horrors of...THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO. 


by Stephen Kozeniewski

Thought exercise time!
I know, I know, you didn’t come to Gef’s blog to do mental gymnastics.  But what you didn’t know was that sitting under your chair as we speak is a bomb, set to go off if you start reading this post at less than fifty-five words per minute.  So pop quiz, hotshot!
First, I want you to imagine the zombie apocalypse ravaging the world.  Whatever your particular vision of it is.  Fast zombies, slow zombies, fungus zombies, whatever.  It’s going down, and you, my friend, are the shit-hot hero of the piece.  You’re the lone wolf, the sole survivor, the man or woman with no name, the protagonist of the piece.  Maybe you have a posse.  Maybe you don’t.  Maybe you have a chainsaw.  You definitely have a shotgun, though.
You ready?  You got it?  You got a vision of it in your mind?  Okay, now here’s the question:
Where are you?
What’s the location?  What are your surroundings?  You can be as specific or as general as you want.  A particular place or a type of place, whatever floats your boat.
You got it?  Okay, I want you to label this “Zombie Location.”  You can write it down if you want.  At a minimum remember it.
Now I want to take it down a notch.  That was pretty harrowing, that last thought exercise, wasn’t it?  Not this next one.  This one is going to be easy.  Easy like Sunday morning.  You’re already relaxing just reading these words, aren’t you?  Okay, good.  Let your troubles melt away.  I want you to take a few deep breaths.  Stop worrying about whatever your workaday troubles are.  It’s time to imagine yourself on vacation.  You’re leaving the ratrace behind.  You can go anywhere you want.  You can go for as long you want.  Much like in the Nexus, time has no meaning in imaginary vacation land.  The important thing is you’re happy.  You’re calmer than calm.  All your troubles are melting away as you just enjoy being away from it all.
Okay, have you got that crystallized in your mind?  Okay, now here’s the question:
Where are you?
What does it look like?  What does it sound like?  What kind of place is it or what exact spot is it?  It can be generic or specific, as exact or vague as you like.
Now I want you to label this “Vacation Location.”  You can write that down, too, if you want, or you can just remember it.
Now, I’m not Kreskin.  I’m not even (shudder) Criss Angel, but I may be about to freak your mind.  Now, I may be completely wrong (and if I am, please let me have it in the comments below) but here are my guesses about our little game here. 
I’m guessing that your Zombie Location was an urban center in North America or maybe Europe.  Atlanta, New York, maybe London or Philadelphia.  A place with lots of glass and asphalt and buildings.
I’m also guessing that your Vacation Location was a beach or a shoreline in the Caribbean or Polynesia or maybe a coast near you.  Tahiti, Bermuda, maybe the Outer Banks or Cozumel.  Somewhere with beautiful blue water, chirping birds, and a crisp ocean breeze.
So how’d I do?  About right?  Completely off the mark?
I’d be willing to bet that I guessed correctly in both instances for about 75%-85% of you.  (As I said, if I’m wrong, sock it to me in the comments section.)  But the reason I think I’m right is because we’re conditioned to associate these places with these particular events.  Years of “The Walking Dead” and every zombie movie ever made or book ever written has made us associate zombies with an urban apocalypse.  And, similarly, since the days of Elvis (if not before) every movie and TV commercial about vacationing has used white sands and cool salty sprays as a shorthand for relaxation.
I, however, being a perverse sort of person, decided to flip the script in my sophomore novel THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO.  When the zombies take over the world, our heroes find themselves in the picturesque Curien island chain, a place of coconuts, ocean breezes, and sunny weather.  My goal was, of course, to ruin vacations for everyone forever.  And judging by the reactions of reviewers, I may have succeeded.  I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my very favorite reviewers (er…aside from Gef, of course) the very talented Sylvia Bagagalio:
“…it just happens to feature more undead creatures. Ones that aren’t friendly. Mostly on a series of islands in the tropics. Thanks for ruining THAT vacation idea, Kozeniewski!  Buy It. Then read it with the lights on or out in the sunshine. Just not on a tropical beach.”

Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced "causin' ooze key") lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor's degree is in German.

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