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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

GUEST POST: It Took A Muse by Timothy Baker


Inspiration comes and inspiration goes. When Muse walks out the door without packing its bags, you know she's messing with your head. "You'll be back!" you cry. "Who's gonna take you in?" You harrumph and turn around to your keyboard and go to work, because that's the only way to get through the pain. You create, despite the loss of your fickle muse. And as you hammer away, a fluidity comes, the creative machine is up and spinning, and without warning, Muse is back, looking over your shoulder, whispering in your ear. Muse needs you more than you need her.

Knowing this, and of Muse's brief drive-by boosts, you latch on like a hungry tick to a juicy cow.

Writing is work, 99% of the time creating without inspiration, with only the drive and knowledge of the craft kicking it out. But sometimes, you just gots to have her; Muse and her intoxicating touch to keep you in love with the work. Without her (she knows what I like) I would never had written my debut novel, Hungry Ghosts: Path of the Dead, or even touched the zombie genre.

You see, I'm not a huge fan of the zombie genre. And when I do fall in love with a zombie work, it has to be damn good, with a thoughtfulness and care of character that is becoming rare in the genre. I have to hear the unique brain--or brains--behind it. That why I remain an avid fan of George Romero's work. Though the series of films are uneven (Day of the Dead is my favorite, and I don't wanna hear it, just keep your opinions to yourself), I can see Romero's one of a kind mind at work, and his genius is very evident. His zombie tales always interest me. So too, The Walking Dead TV series, keeping their characters in an ever evolving state, and shocking me with ever increasing, original, zombie horror. (Who can forget the zombie filled pit, or the attack of the smoking, fire consumed undead?)

Over the years though, the zombie films I've seen and the books I've picked up, have been disappointing. Well written, yes, but the plots are just retreads and adaptions on what's come before. In the past year, I've only braved two zombie novels: one was a boring, shallow, hideous retread (no names), the other, fun, chilling, and engaging (check out Those Poor, Poor Bastards). The latter gives me hope for the undead tale. And now we have zombie comedies. I seem to recall Mel Brooks talking about the western genre, so huge for thirty years, and saying that when we start seeing the parodies of a genre, it's a signal of the end of that genre. And Blazing Saddles certainly put the final nail on the western genre's coffin.

Saying all that, you can see I had little interest in writing a zombie novel. What could I bring to it that hadn't already been done? And don't the writing sages say that one shouldn't write to what is currently popular, because by the time you're done with it, and spend the time trying to sell it, or if you're a self-publisher, putting it together alone with your own confident hands, the bubble on the genre will have already burst.

But I did see writing a zombie story as sort of a writer's passage. All my writer friends were doing it or had done it, to widely varying successful degrees. I also saw it as a challenge, a writing line drawn into the sand. And I love a challenge. Still I needed Muse. I wasn't going anywhere with zombies if I couldn't create something at least partially original. It had to capture my interest and curiosity, so much, so that it wouldn't leave my head unless I wrote it down. And she came. Muse breathing here words of power to my pleasure center. "It's right there in front of you, idiot."

I've been a student of Buddhism for many years. Buddhism, particularly the brand that saturates Tibetan culture, takes a polar opposite approach to death than the predominantly Christian western mind. They actually talk about it, and lack the revulsion we have when viewing the dead. In the hard, rocky places of Tibet, they disarticulate the bodies of their loved ones and feed it to vultures. And they watch it. It's not an end of life, but a portal to the next life. They simply don't have the angst and fear we have towards death.

This begged my zombie question:
- How would a devout monk, intent on Nirvana, view the walking dead?
- What questions would he ask?
- How would this phenomenon shake his world-view?
- Would it send his beliefs crashing down, or would he become more intent in his spiritual goals?
- And why the hell have I not seen or read a zombie tale not located in urban/suburban areas outside the America's and Europe?

This is supposed to be a global disaster, right?!

And there it was. All I needed. Thus was born Hungry Ghosts: Path of the Dead. Muse came, said her magical words, and made me go, "Ah hah!"Then I sent her out the door. "Go get me some coffee and a carton of smokes." It was time to go to work.


Order the book HERE

GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: Timothy Baker is a retired firefighter and an aspiring, perspiring, horror writer. He is published in Fading Light: Anthology of the Monstrous by Angelic Knight Press, and the forthcoming Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker's Nightbreed from Tor. Tim has also received a commendation in the Australian Horror Writer’s Association 2009 Short Story Competition.

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