What made you write a paranormal themed book? Where did the idea come from?
First of all Nicole, thanks for giving me some space on your blog today!
Okay, questions. As to the paranormal, I have a speculative fiction bent, so whatever I write, there’s a fairly good chance that there’s going to be SF, fantasy, horror, or other such deviance in there. In this case, the plot had to be a horror paranormal fantasy, because those genres—and a book and a movie—are exactly where the inspiration came from.
Back in 2010 when I was finishing up my undergrad degree in English, I asked a professor to work with me on a directed study course that focused on apocalyptic literature. After running through a large number of possible works, we settled on a number of apocalyptic novels, one of which was I Am Legend.
(And just because I want to share, the other apocalyptic novels were Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, Neville Shute’s On the Beach, Samuel Youd’s No Blade of Grass, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Revelation from the Bible. It’s surprising how few true end of the world novels are out there. Maybe because it’s not so much fun when we already know the end?)
Though Shelley’s work doesn’t have any zombies, it has plenty of plague, as does Revelation, so plagues were in the back of my mind throughout the course. While doing research on Matheson’s plague-focused work, I happened to come across an interview with George A. Romero on his Night of the Living Dead. The interview caught my attention because in it he noted that his film was inspired by I Am Legend, something I hadn’t known before. It took me some time to fully process what had been revealed to me, but soon after I graduated, I found myself going back to Romero’s comments, and then back to Matheson’s original story, with the first sparks of a story going off.
Matheson is credited for coming up with the modern concept of “viral vampires.” Until I Am Legend, vampires (e.g. Count Dracula and Varney) were perpetuated via a mysterious ebb and flow of life-energy via a vampire’s bite and the drawing out of blood (and life essence, as well as the soul), or of the victim drinking the vampire’s blood. Matheson’s explanation of a pandemic is incomplete in the sense that he never clarifies what causes the pandemic, but in attributing a biological agent to the mix, he influenced our view of vampires—in a sense bringing them closer to human.
Arguably, however, Matheson’s contribution to modern horror—in the form of viral zombies—has had an even greater reach. Romero’s premise of the dead becoming reanimated, and the bite from the undead carrier creating another zombie has permeated media for decades.
After I read Matheson’s novel (once again, and after a few guilty viewings of The Omega Man as well), I finally recognized the commonality of what I was being told by Matheson and Romero. The simple version: In essence, zombies are vampires.
I Am Legend explains that there are two types of vampire: those who contracted the disease, then died, then became reanimated, and those who were permeated by the biological agent after they were dead and who were reanimated. Romero dumped the intelligent undead, deciding to focus on the siege story element (as he did even more successfully with the sequel Dawn of the Living Dead), but regardless, the origin to those mindless undead lies with the vampire race, courtesy I Am Legend.
Once I recognized the common ground between the two creatures, I began to think about how I would approach the virus itself in my story. Because the story happens at the time the plague starts, I have created my own version of events to the patient zero scenario, linking them with vampires.
I also thought quite a bit about the dynamics between the three groups. In a zombie outbreak, what would the effects be on vampires? There are some interesting discussions on the subject (including this article from Southern Fried Science http://www.southernfriedscience.com/?p=2528), that I think sums up the problems facing vampires in such a scenario—the same thing that faces any predator when their food supply is about to disappear. Having the vampires decide to ally with the humans in order to save them is only the start of things.
So there you go. That is why I decided to write a novel in the Paranormal genre, and where the ideas are coming from. I’m hoping to be through with my second round of edits within the next few months, and launch Alliance within half a year. If the premise sounds intriguing, I hope you’ll keep the story in mind, and have a read when I publish it. In the meantime, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is in print, and if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you do so. It’s a bigger story than you might think.
J. Cameron McClain