Lost Sirens, a handful of previously unreleased tracks recorded just before New Order’s acrimonious split back in 2006, was released last month without much fanfare. Comprised of castoffs from sessions for Waiting for the Siren’s Call, the album has been criticized as an inconsistent offering, best left for completists (like me). Still, Lost Sirens displays hints at what once was and could have been. Tracks like I’ll Stay with You and Hellbent recapture some of the magic found on Movement, Low-Life, and Brotherhood. Peter Hook’s bass and Bernard Sumner’s riffs snake and slither, intertwining and charming like serpents on a staff.
Unfortunately, it will take more than the healing power of a caduceus to mend the rift between Hooky and what has become the “Newest” Order. The members, both ex- and current, continue to snipe, Sumner bemoaning Hook’s uneasy sobriety and Hook criticizing Barney, keyboardist Gillian Gilbert, and drummer Stephen Morris for daring to continue on without him.
What does any of this have to do with writing or my novel Dead Things? More than you might think.
There are several underlying motifs in the novel, threads beneath the broader themes. If themes are ships on the ocean conveying meaning, motifs are the symbolic ideas swimming below the waves.
For instance, Dead Things honors genre greats through direct reference (Charlton Heston, Stephen King, etc.) and loose anagram (Ira Ridge = Diego Rivera, the artist and confessed cannibal; Roger Gerome = the man who started it all, George Romero; etc.). There’s also deference paid to music (chapters named after songs, discussions about punk pioneers, lyrics wrapped into the narrative). More to the point, the reunion of a father and son—named after Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner—symbolized my hope for a New Order reunion. Heck, I even named the period between the apocalypse and the anticipated Rapture after the band.
That last bit was probably a bit prescient. Peter Hook being accepted back into the fold is about as likely as the Second Coming happening during my lifetime. Or to put it another way, Morrissey will rejoin the Smiths on stage before Hooky ever returns to New Order. But I also once dismissed the possibility of a Stone Roses reunion, so what do I know?
I know this: I am rejoicing in the news that the remaining members of New Order will record a new “synth” album.
Does it bother me that Barney and company have retained the New Order moniker sans Hooky? No, not really. His departure, much like Gillian Gilbert’s exit before him, does not warrant a phoenix from the flames rebirth. Hooky’s no Ian Curtis. And the group is, by all accounts, spectacularly happy now that Hook’s received, if you’ll allow, the hook.
I think I understand why. It seems the bassist has a penchant for winding people up. In recent weeks, Hook’s memoir has lead to public sparring with other bands, including the Cure and A Certain Ratio. I can’t help but think he’d be a cancer backstage, in the recording room, on the tour bus…
That said, if New Order is going to put out a new album, I hope they do it right. Here’s my list of some suggested dos and don’ts for the band…
EMBRACE NEW WAVE. Gillian Gilbert spent days manually programming every note for Blue Monday into a synthesizer. The entire sequence was laid out over the length of the recording studio with Post-Its. That’s a labor of love, and that type of love was certainly missing on Waiting for the Siren’s Call. Clearly, her keyboards are key to keeping the fans of the past and creating new fans in the future.
OBSCURE SONG TITLES ARE ENCOURAGED. Before the 90s, many of New Order’s song titles were devoid of references to their lyrics. Rather, they were informed by cinema, books, and even current events (Blue Monday was named after an illustration in Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions; Fine Time was so-named after Morris received a parking ticket). True Faith and Bizarre Love Triangle are amazing songs made even more so by the mystery of their titles.
KEEP THE HOOKY BASS BITS. I recently saw New Order live, and Tom Chapman assuaged any fears that the band would be hookless without Peter Hook. Chapman proved you don’t need to prowl the stage and look menacing to play bass. He has the chops, so go ahead and incorporate those high, melodic bass lines into the next album. Peter Hook may have created those bass lines (much by way of accident), but they will always constitute the New Order sound.
DON’T LOOK FOR INSPIRATION IN CLUBS, AND DON’T RECORD IN IBIZA. While hitting the clubs with Jellybean Benitez and Arthur Miller worked for songs like Confusion, club music did not work as well for later album offerings. Songs like Jetstream and Guilt is a Useless Emotion sound like teen pop theme park advertisements. Unlike Blue Monday, they have an audible expiration date. Please stay clear of the pervasive womp-womp-womp-pom-pom-pomp of Skrillex and his acolytes. If you need some modern influences, look no farther than The Chromatics, Future Islands, or Wild Nothing. Today’s bands are stealing from you. It’s okay to take back what’s yours.
DECLARATIVE STATEMENTS ARE A MUST. Here comes a rant. My friend, Paul Snyder, and I recently discussed my frustration with the state of Barney’s lyrics, both in New Order and Bad Lieutenant. Newer songs come off like a note passed furtively by a 14-year old girl. You expect each question to be followed by a lyrical check box—yes, no, maybe so—and you cringe when the professor reads the thing out loud in class.
In all fairness, New Order has never shied away from lyrical queries. Witness:
- “How does it feel…?” Blue Monday
- “So why don’t you piss off?” Silent Face
- “What good’s a lie when you have nothing to hide?” This Time of Night
- “Won’t you show me, show me the way?” Everything’s Gone Green
I allowed for these inquiries, however, because of their gravitas and rhetorical effect (Sumner’s not really expecting an answer…he’s just really upset). More recent instances, though, lack both. Worse, Barney’s penchant for a particular exclamation is driving me crazy.
- “Hey, there, what you going to do?” Dynamo
- “Hey, Joe, what you doing?” Who’s Joe?
- “Hey, now, what you doing?” Hey Now What You Doing?
- “Hey, you, what is the matter?” I’ll Stay with You
Just who is Bernard Sumner nagging with this lyrical inquisition? And why is he yelling?
Look, writing lyrics is hard, especially when your catalog consists of hundreds of songs. But writing should be fun. I’m no songwriter, but I plan on taking aim at the like in my next novel, Freaks Anon. Freaks Anon is a horror/science fiction mash-up, and it features an aging and haunted musician who has lost his creative edge. His writer’s block is juxtaposed with the scrawled lyrics of his youth. Here’s a sample/preview:
Ugly American Girl
In Paris when we parted
You left me broke in heart and wallet
Kicking rocks along the Champs Elysee
No words left to say…
You took my love like a cheap souvenir
A bit reminder of your stay here
You took a photo to remember my face
Another memory for you to misplace
(Chorus) Ugly American
Ugly American Girl
You shop like Rue St. Honere will fold
Snatching up hearts like designer clothes
Wear them once, your haute couture
This year’s fashion’s on tomorrow’s floor
No one likes,
No one likes a tourist…no
So grab your bag and make your plane
And don’t show your pretty face here again…
Okay, you get the idea.
There is no shame in hitting a creative wall. There are solutions, like struggling through it, co-writing (Chapman is an accomplished lyricist), pretending you’re the lead singer of another band (I chose The Adverts and The Stranglers as influences), or hiring a ghost writer.
“Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.” That sage advice, offered by Mr. Sumner himself on Confusion. If asked, I’d probably say I’m cautiously optimistic about another New Order album. I’d probably say comebacks are tough, and I don’t expect much. I’d probably worry about the absence of Hooky.
In truth, I’m rooting for the third coming of New Order. I’ve got a feeling this next album is going to offer more than just a few gems to be cherished. Here’s hoping the band that changed the game does it once again.
Already going through Halloween withdrawal? Missing the gore and scares of the holiday? Got the blues because the ghosts, ghouls, and goblins have left for another year?
No worries! Windycon 39 is to the rescue!
Windycon runs from November 9th to 11th, focusing on zombies, horror, and science fiction. The fee for Saturday is $45. I’ll be there for a signing, reading, and panel discussion. If you’re in the Chicago area, why not stop by?
12 PM – 1 PM: Book signing. “Dead Things” will be available for $6 while supplies last;
1 PM – 2 PM: Reading from “Dead Things” in the Walnut Room;
2 PM – 3 PM: Panel discussion: “Zombies as a Social Metaphor”
About the panel discussion:
“Romero’s movies were biting social commentary on consumerism and apathy. Current movies, TV series, and survivalist reality programs echo a larger distrust of government, fear of a panic-filled populace, and a seething hidden desire to destroy the world and start over. Zombie culture serves as the perfect metaphor for the shaky and nervous weltgeist. S. Perkin, J. Martinez, M. Darst, M. Huston, J. Jones, Lilac A”
By the way, I had to look up “weltgeist.” This should be a fun and considered discussion on zombies, fear, and society. : )
Hope to see you there!
It’s official! We have a date and time for the book release party. The Globe Pub will be hosting the release party for Dead Things on October 26, 2012. Come by, have a pint, and listen to me read an excerpt from the novel. The reading is free for the public, and copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event ($6 while supplies last).
…quickly took on a life of its own. I guess that’s what happens when you write a book about zombies.
Several weeks ago, I decided to create a book trailer to promote Dead Things. It was an especially grand plan considering my budget ($0), film-making background (I worked as an usher in a movie theater once, does that count?), and graphic design skills (nil, unless you count the fact that I know who Peter Saville is). Still, I was not dissuaded. I figured I could promote the book using the alphabet, some simple imagery, and may be an erie soundtrack. An “A to Z Guide to the Apocalypse,” if you will. I also figured that I could somehow do this on the cheap.
I could not have known then that I had set myself on a strange path, a course that would see me learn a new presentation tool (Prezi), investigate screen capture software (I settled on Screencast-O-Matic), attempt to create art, and write what is, perhaps, one of the most disturbing treatments of the English language alphabet since Sue Grafton began writing mysteries.
I started by typing, “A is for Apocalypse.” With those few words, a simple project became something bigger. Each letter, rhyme, and rudimentary piece of artwork built on the last. My vision of a book trailer quickly evolved. This was no longer just about promoting Dead Things, this was about creating a stand alone, read-along alphabet book.
While I ultimately decided against adding a music track (so as not to interrupt the reader’s rhythm), I think the graphics, although simplistic, add a nice children’s book vibe. I harbor no illusion that this video will be used to teach letter knowledge, print awareness, or phonological skills. Still, I can say that this video was a lot of fun to make. Plus, all of the tools I used to make it were free.
There are some Easter Eggs as well. Can you spot the references to some of the genre greats, including authors David Moody, Joe McKinney, and Iain McKinnon? Watch for a nod to George Romero as well!
I hope you read, enjoy, and share. Thank you!
You can watch “A is for Apocalypse” now (viewed best in 720p) on youtube.
Chip Fehd over at BuyZombie.com recently “picked my brains” so to speak about my book, Dead Things. It was a lot of fun, and I want to thank Mr. Fehd for his insightful questions (and for laboring through my lengthy answers). Please note the “shout outs” to authors Joe McKinney, Iain McKinnon, David Moody, and Toby Barlow.
The full interview can be found here. Some excerpts:
BZ- Hi Matt. Let me start out with an easy question.What is it about the Zombie genre do you find most intriguing?
MD-Zombies are a very different type of monster. My dad introduced me to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead when I was a kid. That movie scared me in a way that, until then, “creature features” and Universal Monsters had not. Zombies represent a fate worse than death: the loss of individuality. That’s been a popular theme in literature, especially science fiction (think Fahrenheit 451, 1984, or The Stepford Wives), and it especially resonates today.
I worry—in the way that a lot of us worry as we get older—about our future as a society. Have we lost our creative drive, our sense of wonderment? More and more, we accept what we are told by pundits and politicians at face value. Less and less, we applaud our individual differences. Diversity of thought, creativity, I think, is as critical to our existence as biodiversity is to our environment. My goal was to explore this concept in Dead Things, taking our loss of freedom, including freedom of thought, to a logical extreme. Readers, I hope, are left wondering just who are the Dead Things, the zombies or the survivors? “Surviving,” after all, does not necessarily equate to “living.”
BZ-What writers, both genre and non-genre have inspired you?
MD-So many authors! Beowulf was a great read, and I really liked Seamus Heaney’s translation. The cadence is enthralling. So is the free verse in Toby Barlow’s book Sharp Teeth. It’s a lycanthropy tale that won’t leave you disappointed. Early influences include Richard Matheson’s I am Legend, Ray Bradbury, everything H.G. Wells, Washington Irving, J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and Dean Koontz. I also find inspiration in Chuck Palahniuk, Brett Easton Ellis, Bernard Cornwell, and John le Carre. There’s also a hint of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book in my book. The Jungle Book is a great read for young and old alike.
In truth, I’m coming late to the zombie genre. It’s my own darn fault. I made a decision to take a break from the genre when I was writing Dead Things. I was really worried something that I might read or watch would subconsciously creep into the text of my book. I didn’t want to be derivative. Because, let’s face it, zombies have been done to death.
To my surprise, though, I discovered a host of fantastic and original zpoc authors when I came out of my self-imposed exile. These writers have really added their unique voices and visions to the genre. Joe McKinney is prolific and versatile. He can write procedural crime, horror, and science fiction. Joe is someone in the profession who I really admire, someone who has built a Dead World that gets more and more exciting with each installment. I can’t wait for the release of his next book, The Zombie King. I recently started Domain of the Dead by Ian McKinnon, and I’m really enjoying it. There’s a bit of a deserved cult developing around his work among my friends. And then there’s David Moody who put his spin on the genre. His self-publishing roots are inspiring. Autumn is a fantastic read. I need to get cracking on his Hater books.
BZ-What is your favorite zombie movie?
MD-Dawn of the Dead is fantastic. That’s got to be one of my favorites. But I also have to give credit to movies like Shawn of the Dead and Zombieland for reinvigorating the genre. I like zom-coms (zombie comedy); some purists hate them. Personally, I think the addition of comedy actually heightens our enjoyment of horror. If zombies are peanut butter, comedy is chocolate.
A nerdy digression: we have an evolutionary need for a good scare. If you think about it, human evolution was shaped by horror. Our ancestors lived in constant fear of predators, competing tribes, starvation, and disease. The emergence of civilization mitigated these horrors along time ago. But our bodies are still wired for fear, and we need to fill the void artificially from time to time.
Comedy provides context when we watch horror, telling us that the trigger for our fight or flight response is fake. And that’s important, because the killer in the closet, the creature that lurks just under the surface of the water, and the monster under the bed are only fun if we know in our hearts that they’re not really there.
BZ-What was the inspiration behind DEAD THINGS?
MD-After watching a zombie movie with my family one Christmas (that sounds odd, no?), I felt compelled to submit my own take on the genre. My goal was to tell a different kind of zombie story while staying true to the source material: George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. (An aside: the name of one of the characters, Roger Gerome, is, in fact, a loose anagram for George Romero.) There are potential problems, however, when you align yourself to the Romero zombie. Romero specifies two paths of transmission: you can return as the living dead after a natural death or you can be turned after being bitten. Most writers and directors skip over the former, focusing almost exclusively on the transmission of a virus or pathogen. I challenged myself to try to solve this incongruity.
I did a lot of research for Dead Things. Science, fortunately, holds the key to explaining the various methods of transmission. I hope that’s something my book adds to the genre.
The church-state was perfect foil for a journey of scientific discovery. We all know what happens immediately after a zombie outbreak, but what does civilization look like twenty years later? How is it governed? How do those who survived manage? This was a great opportunity for me to create a new world, one that winks mischievously at the world we live in now.
BZ-Do you have any plans to revisit that world with a sequel?
MD-Not immediately, but I do have a concept waiting in the wings. It could easily be a prequel.
BZ-What, if anything, scares you?
MD-Zombies, but not how one might think. Zombies are real; they occur everyday in the natural world. There are whole ecosystems based on parasitic relationships. Spiders, grasshoppers, caterpillars, fish, mice, and even humans are controlled at some level by pathogens. They’re not dead, but their minds are no longer their own.
Toxoplasmosis is a great example. About a third of the world is already infected with this parasite. Humans aren’t the natural host (cats are), so the protozoan takes up residence in our brain and protects itself from our immune system by forming a cyst. Still, there’s evidence that toxoplasmosis is chemically altering our behavior, changing our personalities. Infected men tend to be antisocial and suspicious and women more outgoing and promiscuous. Toxoplasmosis may even lead to schizophrenia and increase the likelihood of giving birth to a male over a female. This all raises an interesting question: how much of what we perceive as us is actually us? How much of our personality is shaped by parasites? How much control do we really have?
BZ-What are some of your upcoming projects you want to share with us?
MD-I have so many stories I want to tell, and not enough time. I have some pretty disparate books in the works: superheroes, ghosts, and espionage. The superhero tale I’m working on is called Freaks Anon, and I hope to have it done early next year. I’m really excited about that one.
BZ-Romero slow movers or 28 days later fast zombies…what’s your favorite and why?
MD-I am extremely opinionated when it comes to this debate, so hopefully I don’t offend! I am definitely Team Slow. I like my zombies dead. “Necroanthrophagism” is a term I coined for the book. It means, literally, the dead eating their own.
Sure the living dead are slower. But they’re unrelenting. Unlike us, they don’t need to rest or pause. One mistake, and you’re lunch.
May be the movie studios believe it’s easier for fans to suspend disbelief if they think zombies are just really sick—as opposed to dead—folks with a hankering for human flesh. And it is admittedly a pretty big leap of faith to accept that the dead have been reanimated.
Or is it?
Death is something more than a single temporal event, something beyond a sheer moment in time: the heart stops, and with it, blood flow; deprived of oxygen, brain cells die; the body cools, blood settles, then other cells, like muscles and skin cells, die, disintegrate, and decompose at varying rates.
But if something hijacks that process, not necessarily reversing it, but suspending it…
In a time when superheroes are more popular than ever, suspending disbelief shouldn’t be that hard, right? I, for one, am hoping for the rise of traditional Romero zombies again.
Buy Zombie was started in 2007 as a site for fans of the living dead. The team over there has put together one of the most exhaustive databases of everything zombie. So I am, of course, very excited about their review of Dead Things.
Reviewer Chip Fehd calls Dead Things a “fabulous debut novel.” He applauds the “unique vision of the aftermath of America,” as well as the “smooth and vivid writing.” He finds himself “emotionally invested in [the] characters,” noting “special care [was taken] with this book.” ”Zombie action,” Mr. Fehd continues, “is used with razor sharp efficiency,” and the plot is “absolutely realistic.” He “cannot recommend the book enough.” That is high praise from an expert in the genre, and it is truly appreciated.
Stop by Buy Zombie to find the full review here, but be sure to go back for zombie news, media, and great articles!
Adolescent girls across the U.S. are celebrating the release of the new “Twilight” movie today. And while that might draw a collective yawn from some, it means something else entirely to me…
The original working title of “Dead Things” was “Twilight of the Dead,” a reference to the movies of George Romero (Night, Dawn, and Day of the Living Dead). “Dead Things” is really an homage to the Romero zombies, explaining the science behind the rise of the dead and the transmission of the responsible pathogen.
I shortened the title to “Twilight” in 2004 based on a stanza from “Paradise Lost” by John Milton:
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
An aside: as far as apocalyptic references go, can you get any better than Milton?
Well, in 2005, Stephanie Meyer beat me to the “Twilight” punch. Her book and subsequent movie got all the tweens in a tizzy. Alas, “Twilight” would forever be connected to sparkly vampires, and my working title was no more.
That, though, proved a fortuitous coincidence. Because, in all honesty, I like “Dead Things” as a title much better. It contains multiple allusions to the book’s themes. “Dead Things” not only describes a world of zombies, it references the spirits of those forced to “live” in that world. Because, let’s face it, “surviving” after the apocalypse is not the same as “living.”
I also selected “Dead Things” because there is a quirkiness about it. There is an undercurrent of humor running through the novel (at least there’s meant to be!), and the title works well in that sense.
Stephanie Meyer takes a lot of flack for ruining vampires. But did she really do anything worse to the genre than Bram Stoker? Stoker’s “Dracula” reimagined vampires as blood-sucking monarchs. I’m sure the residents of Transylvania were less than amused. Imagine if someone did that to Princess Di today? And at least Meyer got kids off their phones and computers and into a book.
So, while I may not like “Twilight”, I do owe Meyer a debt of gratitude. Because of her, I found a more representative and meaningful title for my book.
I am a huge fan of Jay Delaney’s Create the Map project. What is Create the Map? Create the Map is designed to help people become proactive about their creative passions. It offers interviews and thoughts to help people define their personal paths for success. His work is incredibly inspirational.
I was recently interviewed by Jay and am extremely honored to add my own voice to the Map. Check out my interview with Jay Delaney here.
Jay’s also a director, producer, and editor. His movie, Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie, is a must see. Do yourself a favor and watch it this weekend.
With All Hallows’ Eve fast approaching, there is no better time to promote my zombie ebook, Dead Things. Although there are lots of promotions planned, marketing is a tricky business. In short, I could really use your help.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you to get a tattoo of “deadthingsthenovel.com” on you forehead. And I don’t expect you to walk around wearing a sandwich board that says, “The End of the World is Nigh…Read ‘Dead Things’” (but if you do, be sure to ring a bell too. Nothing says, “Crazy,” like a bell).
No, I have some ideas that are simple and effective and much less likely to ostracize you from your friends and family:
Leave a customer review. Did you know that 71% of online buyers rely on customer reviews and that 63% look for multiple reviews before making an online purchase? You can help me by posting a blurb at:
• Barnes & Noble (for Nook, PC, Mac)
• Amazon.com (for Kindle)
• iTunes (for iPad, iPhone)
Mention the ebook to a friend. ”Like” Dead Things on Facebook. Share a link to the Dead Things website via social media. Tell someone about the book in an email. Use the novel as an excuse to reconnect with a family member by phone.
Wear a Dead Things t-shirt. You can pick one of my designs or make your own t-shirt using the Dead Things logo. And just so you know, all proceeds from any shirt sales go to the manufacturer. Why? You’re helping me promote the book, so I want to help you by giving you the lowest price possible.
Wear a promotional button. My friends in the UK call them “badges.” Either way, they’re fun. There are lots of designs and colors. Shoot me a personal message via Facebook or an email at email@example.com with your address and the number of buttons you need, and I’ll find a way to get some to you!
Get creative. Want to use my logo or designs to promote Dead Things in your own unique way? No problem! Contact me and I’ll get you PDFs, PNGs, JPEGs…whatever you need.
Thank you so much for your help!