Guest Post by Robert Holt – On The Nature Of Horror

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Today we have a special feature. I’ve never done a guest blog post before, but Robert Holt kindly offered to share his views on the horror genre and give us a tantalizing glimpse at one of the new books he has coming out soon. As anyone who’s read my books can attest, I use elements of horror, but Mr. Holt is a genuine horror author.

Without further ado, let’s hear from the man himself.

Hello, I’m Robert Holt. Eric was kind enough to invite me to discuss horror. I am a horror author with several novels under my belt and dozens of short stories published in anthologies and on the web.

What does horror mean?

Horror is more than a genre. Horror, like romance, is a state of being. A good horror story, whether it be ghosts, zombies, are carnivorous sea slugs, will leave the recipient in a feeling of discomfort and unease. Horror has received negative publicity ever since it was founded. It has been called immature, disgusting, and void of art, but that is simply politics. Horror can be immature, as that is what it truly is, a maturing experience. Like baby lions pouncing upon each other to prepare for hunting, children tell stories of the hook handed maniac and the glassy eyed ghost to prepare for a life where threats lie around every corner, and identifying them is crucial to survival. Horror teaches us when to be afraid. This differs from terror. Terror is a driven fear that haunts every aspect of life. Some books can bring a state of terror, but more often than not, they will be non-fiction books such as Mein Kampf.

Disgusting? Sure horror can be disgusting. It doesn’t have to be. Just as a romance novel can depict graphic sexual imagery or a simple peck on the cheek, horror can have intestines hanging from the ceiling fan or a little girl afraid of her breakfast grapefruit. In fact, both are in examples of my work. In a scene in a yet to be published novel of mine, a werewolf disembowels his victim and tosses the entrails around in glee. In my published collection of children stories, a girl is haunted throughout her day by the ghost of her breakfast grapefruit. It sounds silly, but the story was probably the scariest in the book and one that my daughter won’t let me tell her before bedtime.

Now the void of art claim is one that really fires me up. The same people that will say that horror is void of art will joyfully watch Jurassic Park, Sixth Sense, or Silence of the Lambs and claim they are good science fiction, drama, or suspense thriller, but they are all horror movies. All three films set out to unnerve you, scare you, and drag you through the fear to the other side where you emerge a little apprehensive of the future. The horror is the driving force of these films. Just as romance is always James Bond’s driving force and nobody calls 007 movies romance, many films with horror in the driver’s seat are never called horror. In fact, most movies that find mainstream commercial success through horror are often called something other than horror to differentiate itself from the schlock horror that smothers the genre. Terminator and Alien were both sold as science fiction despite them being classic style monster movies with very little science fiction tropes in them. Horror is an art form, and perhaps the greatest of all arts. Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, Melville’s Confidence Man, and Austen’s Northanger Abbey should be viewed as testimonials to the craft and art of horror.

What is scary to me?

Everything. That is not to say that I’m a panophobic. I get around alright, better than most, I dare say, but I see the underlying threat in all things. It’s my job. A piece of paper may look harmless, but imagine having your eyelid pried open and receiving a paper cut across your cornea. Yep, these are the things that cross through my mind every day. Sometimes I even fear the weak nucleic force within the atoms of my own body. If one atom were to spring a leak, I and everyone within a thirty mile radius of me would be vaporized in a wave of radiation. Don’t think about it too much or rationality will kill the horror.

What do you think is the state of the horror genre right now?

The genre is suffering from the bad press it gets, but with King still near the top selling authors, The Walking Dead still holding onto fans, and new generations being lured to the genre with great horror for the youth like Harry Potter and Serafina, I feel secure that what I do will keep finding an audience.

What trends do you see coming down the pipe and what’s completely played out?

I think we are is for a revival of bizarro style horror in a big way. Whenever the conservative party is in control, things get weird. We will see a revival of the unexplainable horrors that I grew up loving, like Hellraiser and Phantasm. These were stories that you tried to wrap your head around but couldn’t, and that made them all that much scarier. I think it will come back in a big way.

As for what is played out, I think vampires and zombies are about tapped, with that said, I have two books coming down the pipe and one is a vampire book and the other is a zombie book. And that’s the thing. I thought I would never write a book about either of those, but when a good story came into my head, I had to run with it. My zombie book should be out very soon, and the fun part is that there are no zombies in the story. The book is about Americans and how we would react in a scenario where Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia have all fallen to the zombie apocalypse. There are no zombies in America. Let me repeat that since it is the title of the book: There Are No Zombies in America. T.A.N.Z.I.A. Thank you for indulging in that self-promotion. But yeah, I think nothing has been fully explored and the worlds created by the monsters that have been played out can still offer fun avenues to explore.

Thank you for allowing me into your day to discuss my craft.
Robert Holt
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Book Review – Salby Evolution by Ian D. Moore

A sequel to the excellent Salby Damned, Salby Evolution does something a lot of zombie books are afraid to do: it takes on the story after the story and adds some new twists to it.

That’s a very good thing.

Zombies got really popular after Max Brooks released World War Z. Unfortunately most zombie books didn’t really add much to the genre. Salby Damned changed that dynamic a bit by focusing on the characters stuck in the middle of an insane situation and the clever ways they found to get out of it. It threw in a government angle and tossed us a curve ball by making chronic zombieism something that could be treated. Salby Evolution takes that concept and runs with it.

In the Salby books (and, arguably, a lot of zombie literature) the zombies are created by a virus. Where a lot of people go astray with that is not looking at all the weird things viruses can do. In my humble opinion, Max Brooks made a mistake by claiming the Solanum virus was 100% fatal. No virus is 100% fatal. Even the nastiest versions of Ebola have survivors. Of course, that wasn’t the point of Brooks’ book – he wanted to look at a world that had gone completely mad and how people coped with it.

Moore did take the time to use a bit about viruses and their unfortunate habit of mutating. A mutated virus may have drastically different effects from the original strain and that’s the jumping off point for Salby Evolution. He’s also the first zombie author I’ve come across that gets exactly what people and governments would do when faced with a zombie outbreak: namely, try to weaponize it. Think about it: a zombie outbreak would be the ultimate area denial weapon and controllable zombies would make excellent soldiers.

Take zombies as a virus, the idea of governments trying to weaponize the virus, tie a bow on it, and drop the whole thing into Russia, and you’ve got a heck of a good mixture for a story.

One interesting note: Evolution sees Moore expanding his writing skills by interjecting a 1st-person point of view into an otherwise 3rd-person narrative. This concept of P.O.V. switching is something that was verboten not that long ago, but is becoming more acceptable. It’s not an easy task to pull off, keeping the story flowing as you bounce from the whole story to an individual’s take on the whole thing, but Moore handles it well. I’ve read books where there were ham-fisted attempts at switching from 1st to 3rd person and they can be baffling reads, but Moore takes the time to make sure the reader can digest the change in direction. Each swap takes place at a clear break and, I found, it added a personal dimension to the larger story.

Remember – and this is for you writers out there – the cardinal rule is never confuse the reader.

In the end, Ian Moore has given us a truly unique twist on the zombie story. It’s part horror story, part love story, part military action, and part political intrigue, all seamlessly fused together into a very enjoyable story that sets us up the thrilling third book.

Hear that, Ian? We want the third book now.

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Get your copy of Salby Evolution

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Book Review – Darlene Bobich: Zombie Killer by Armand Rosamilia

It’s real easy to completely screw up a zombie story.  You wouldn’t think it would be, but it is.  Look back at the movie World War Z; it was a real stinker even though the book was phenomenal.  A few years ago I came across another zombie story that featured an Egyptian mummy that had also been reincarnated in the great zombie uprising of the early 2000s.  That book wasn’t my favorite.

I like my zombie stories straightforward: World War Z (the book), The Walking Dead, that kind of thing.  In a zombie outbreak there’s no time to get fancy, there’s no time to ponder the philosophical aspects of the undead, there’s just run and hope for the best as civilization collapses around you.

Some zombie stories make effective use of the zombies as a form of social criticism.  As I understand it the hordes of zombies in Night of the Living Dead were meant to spear runaway consumerism and the brainless masses that descend on every new Apple product. Er, every store on Christmas.  Other zombie stories take a different route and get down to the nitty gritty of a world gone mad.  Imagine taking a shower as a luxury or dreaming of eating luxurious foods like Vienna Sausages.  All too often we get ourselves wrapped up in the magical elements of society: clean running water, plentiful food, no one trying to eat us while we go about our business.  Those things could easily go away in the wake of a disaster.

That’s the world Darlene Bobich inhabits.  Darlene Bobich: Zombie Killer opens with the titular character killing her own father after he turns and tries to eat her face.  The rest of the book is about Darlene trying to come to grips with her new world.  In the end it’s just her, her wits, and her gun against hordes of zombies and the extremely bad people that crop up when society collapses.

This is the literary equivalent of a bottle of good tequila, a pack of smokes, and rough and tumble bar. In other words, great fun. Traditionally zombie stories revolve around a male protagonist trying desperately to be the good guy so it was nice to see a twist where we follow around a woman who’s not trying to save the world, just save herself.

The story jumps around a bit, something noted by another reviewer on Amazon.  I found that only added to general feel of confusion and seat-of-your-pants living that the characters in Darlene Bobitch occupied.  The only real problem I had with the book was now I need to read more of Armand’s work to find what happens to Darlene and her trusty Desert Eagle.

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Get a copy here (for free last time I checked)

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Book Review – Salby Damned by Ian D. Moore

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The traditional zombie genre has been done to death yet there are still authors who shamble along, moaning plaintively and struggling to eat the brains of their readers.  This is an unfortunate situation because those authors, the ones that focus on the terror and the hordes of undead, completely miss out on the possibilities of the genre.

Ian D. Moore is not on of those lazy hacks who just follows the horde around hoping to pick up on the scraps left by Max Brooks.  Ian made the genre his own and, in so doing, managed to treat the genre as it should be treated: as a story about humans doing human things in an inhuman environment.  Far too many zombie stories focus on the carnage instead of the people living through what is essentially a walking – or shambling – disease.  Zombies can, and arguably should, be used as a type of social commentary; an indictment on our hubris as a species.  Conveniently enough, Ian manages to do just that without getting all preachy at the same time.  I hate it when stories get all preachy; I get it, I’m a bad person, can we move on with the story?

Salby Damned follows a group of survivors struggling to find a resolution to a problem that they ultimately created.  The true showcase of the story isn’t the infected (as they’re called in the story), but rather how regular people can overcome extraordinary odds and grow in the process.  It’s also a tale of how regular people can let their greed overrun their senses and how a dastardly act can have far-reaching consequences.

I’m not going to do a full outline of the plot here so you can read the story and let it unfold with me giving up any spoilers.  It’s a wild ride, so hold on tight.  Suffice it to say the story lives up to its premise.

“A small rural town in a ruthless fight between The Shale Gas Fracking Corporation and The Residents Association sees the multi billion pound energy company drilling beneath the town with catastrophic results. A freelance reporter teams up with a mysterious council leader in a fight to save humanity against one of science’s most fearsome and deadly creations. They must race to find a cure whilst battling against hordes of flesh eating zombies intent on one thing and one thing only………..KILLING!”

Buy it on Amazon

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