Welcome to the A.P. Fuchs 2019 Holiday Gift Guide.
Holiday Season is now in full swing so here’s a list of things that would make great gifts to the A.P. Fuchs fan in your life or anyone who has a thing for superheroes and monsters. While everything I have to offer is available in the Book and Comic Shop (with links to a retailer of your choice), the list below showcases the more unique items from my catalog. All my titles except the second one are available in paperback and eBook.
1. A copy of my latest release, Axiom-man/Auroraman: Frozen Storm, written by me but with the story by Auroraman creator Jeff Burton and I. Opposite heroes. Cold weather. Snow monsters. You know? The good stuff. Copies are available here.
2. The Axiom-man/Auroraman: Frozen Storm lettered edition. This is different from the paperback above. The lettered edition is a hardcover edition of Frozen Storm limited to just 26 copies and comes with a special piece of art within the opening pages and the book is signed by Jeff Burton and myself. These are nearly sold out and only 26 copies were produced and will ever be produced. They run $50CAD each with $20CAD for shipping. (We can do a currency conversion to US funds if this item is going to the States.) Please inquire by email.
3. Axiom-man: Tenth Anniversary Special Edition. This book is a celebration of ten years of Axiom-man and includes a revision of the original book, a short story, an essay, and introduction. No collection of The Axiom-man Saga is complete without this special version of the first book. (The short story within is also considered canon.) Copies are available here.
4. Look, Up on the Screen! The Big Book of Superhero Movie Reviews. This title is perfect for the superhero film buff in your life. So far as I’m aware, this is the only film review book out there exclusively dedicated to superhero movies. 100 films are covered. Copies are available here.
5. Book-of-the-Month Club Patreon subscription. On my Patreon page, patrons can elect this tier to join A.P. Fuchs’s Book-of-the-Month Club, in which each month I sign and mail out a book or comic from my catalog. This tier is $30 and includes shipping. It also grants you access to the other tiers, which feature things like an ongoing serial novel, essays on the creative life, behind-the-scenes stuff, and an official membership card. Subscribing someone to the Book-of-the-Month Club ensures they get a signed book from me every month as a surprise in their mailbox. Other tiers for subscription consideration begin at just $1 a month. Please go here to subscribe that special reader in your life.
6. The Undead World Trilogy (Blood of the Dead, Possession of the Dead, Redemption of the Dead). A zombie series unlike any other. The goal with this trilogy was to take what people love about zombie stories to a whole new level and deliver unique twists and turns that you can’t get anywhere else. I don’t want to give anything away, but this series features elements I’ve yet to see in other zombie fiction. But if your reader loves fast-paced, high-stakes stories, then this trilogy delivers both. Copies are available here.
7. Zombie Fight Night: Battles of the Dead. What would happen if you took Bloodsport and The Walking Dead and mixed them together? Zombie Fight Night is what you’d get! This book was an attempt to put everything that’s cool between two covers. A main storyline about a gambler who gets in way over his head anchors the whole thing while the reader is treated to action-packed fights with zombies, werewolves, ninjas, superheroes, robots, kickboxers, sumos, and more! Copies are available here.
8. Metahumans vs the Undead and Metahuman vs Werewolves. Does your Holiday someone like superheroes and monsters? What if you could put the two together? Don’t fear! I’ve already done that for you by editing these two anthologies (which both feature a superhero vs monster tale written by me and starring my superhero, Axiom-man). The stories are about what the titles imply and each book is loaded with creative takes on superheroes vs monsters. And if you’re an Axiom-man collector, these definitely need to be added to your library because the Axiom-man stories within are considered canon here at the Central. Copies are available here.
Thank you for tuning in to the A.P. Fuchs 2019 Holiday Gift Guide this Christmas and I hope that special reader in your life enjoys one or more of the things above. Again, please be sure to browse the Book and Comic Shop for what’s not covered here. I am able to make arrangements with you if you want to order direct in the interest of getting a signature and a personal message (no extra charge for this). Please email or PM to get in touch.
Author’s note: This essay originally aired on this blog prior to the file purge of 2014. It is now being rerun for your reading pleasure. Please note Zomtropolis is no longer available as a free on-line serial and will be released in paperback and eBook in the near future.
Zombies are monsters. At least, that’s the standard definition. Someone dies, rises, has a taste of human flesh and so hunts down the living and, once the prey is caught, chows down and eats their guts. Oh, and they’re ugly, too, slowly rotting away with each passing day.
That’s the standard version of the zombie and the one most are familiar with.
It’s the one I knew of when I first discovered them, but as for their main backstory, I didn’t know what that wasy.
See, I grew up in a household where horror and monsters where off limits. This was a good thing, in that I didn’t have to view creepy faces, see blood and guts, watch people get killed, or be subject to dark forests like other kids I knew. I was probably saved hundreds of hours of nightmares as a result. This absence of horror made for a happier childhood, in that regard. My dad always said, “If you want to watch horror, watch the news.” And he was right, and still is. We live in a sad world with villains in it that outmatch most of what we create in books or on screen.
At the same time, being so sheltered was a detriment to a well-rounded upbringing because later on, I was naïve about a lot of things, including the darker side of life, both in terms of what humans were capable of and scary images.
My first exposure to monsters was seeing a ripped-from-a-magazine picture of Freddy Krueger lying in the playground in elementary. The image of a disfigured man with bubbles on his skin was so foreign to me that I had occasional nightmares from that single image for years. I never saw an actual Freddy movie until I was eighteen and living on my own, but I got to tell you: going to the video store to rent one sent up all sorts of red flags and I was scared to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time.
But zombies, werewolves or vampires growing up?
At most I saw the Halloween episode of Highway to Heaven where Michael Landon was a werewolf for part of it. Scared me to death. Same with that other episode with the devil.
Highway to Heaven. Good show, from what I remember, and it was allowed in the Christian household I grew up in for its message. It was also this growing up in a Christian household and the zero tolerance policy for horror and monsters that shaped my life, not only in terms of what I couldn’t see, but how I reacted when faced with the horrors that pop up in life now and then.
In fact, I only got into horror because of something painful that happened to me. It was in this place of darkness that I found comfort in other dark things for a long time.
Later, when I incorporated writing about zombies into my writing career, my view of the undead and fandom of them wasn’t your typical horror fan’s. It wasn’t the blood and guts that excited me or their spooky nature, the whole things-that-go-bump-in-the-night thing.
Instead, it was rooted in my first love: superheroes.
And they still are.
I’ve never viewed zombies as “horror monsters” in terms of how I create and write them. To me, they’ve always been supervillains, and I think it’s this definition of them that is more accurate: they are “super” because they can’t die via conventional means—only by the removal of the head—and are certainly not part of our everyday lives, and they are “villains” because of the evil act of eating others they commit.
When I set out to write my first zombie book, Blood of the Dead (book one of the Undead World Trilogy,) I didn’t want to write a standard zombie novel about a virus, people dying, people coming back, people surviving. I’ve never been one for formulas in my fiction and have always tried to do something new with each tale. Once the story was done, it immediately birthed unusual plans for the sequel, Possession of the Dead: angels, demons, giant zombies some fifteen stories high, shamblers and sprinters, shape shifting zombies and the consequences of the time travel ending of the first book. The third, Redemption of the Dead, incorporated all these unusual elements, while neatly dealing with the time travel issue and ensuring it was paradox-free, which, as a major time travel fan, was something important to me. But all along, as these books were written, the zombies were supervillains to me, with my main cast—Joe, Billy, August, Des, Tracy—being superheroes in their own right, especially Joe and Tracy. While Joe was an excellent shot with the gun, tough as nails and grim, Tracy was a highly-skilled marksmen and fighter. Likewise, they had the tendency to rescue people versus just letting people die.
The story certainly would not have been what it was without my love of the superhero genre and my sheltered upbringing. Doing zombie stories this way also enabled me to tackle Zombie Fight Night: Battles of the Dead, with a kind of comic book sensibility, that is, classic characters—ninjas, samurai, robots, Vikings, and more—and pit them up against the undead in Bloodsport-like battles, each fight with a purpose that served the overall story being told between each bout.
The supervillain angle—I like it. I grew up with it, being a huge fan of Super Friends, the Christopher Reeve Superman flicks, the Tim Burton Batman movies, even the Spider-Man TV show. To be honest, I can’t imagine writing monsters any other way other than as supervillains because that’s what they are to me.
Any monster is, actually, and I explored this idea in the series of anthologies I edit called Metahumans vs. The first two are Metahumans vs the Undead and Metahumans vs Werewolves. For the uninitiated, metahumans are superheroes are the same thing. The idea with this series was not only to showcase independent superheroes, but also put them up against a new kind of supervillain that isn’t used that often in comics or cartoons: monsters.
Before you accuse me of this article being a giant commercial for my undead work—for free serial zombie fiction, see my on-line novel, Zomtropolis at www.canisterx.com, wink wink, nudge nudge—there’s a point to all these examples, and that is this: not to let stereotypes and archetypes be a guide for your fiction, in this, we’re talking about undead fiction.
Why do zombies have to monsters via the standard definition? Why can’t there be something more to them?
I fully realize we live in a very commercialistic society, where most of what’s produced is made because it’ll make the most money. For me, this is a shallow way of approaching storytelling. It’s selfish, it’s limiting, it’s, frankly, wrong. Art—which includes writing—should be about honest expression, about pushing boundaries and trying something new. Will this new thing always be popular? No, but the fact that it is new is important and shows the artist behind it has put thought into it and expressed something from within versus simply a formula of what would sell.
Let’s look at the typical zombie formula.
1) a virus sweeps the world, killing people
2) these people rise from the dead as flesh-eating machines
3) a group of people were somehow not infected—which may or may not be explained
4) this group must survive in a half-destroyed world with limited resources—are our armies really that incompetent that the surviving military couldn’t defeat creatures who are stupid and slow?—and battle amongst themselves and against shambling zombies
Did I miss anything?
While this is fine for the skeleton of a story, it doesn’t make much for the meat of it. There needs to be more. Reasons for things need to be given. A new spin on these four main ideas needs to be taken otherwise it’s just the same story being told over and over again, the only difference being the people’s names and locales.
“Well, that’s what the audience expects?” you say. They expect that because that’s what we’ve been giving them.
Ever read a book or see a movie and go, “Now that’s a new way to do it?” I have. It’s an amazing realization and elevates the work in question to a whole new level upon seeing it.
Some possible fixes to the aforementioned zombie formula, off the top of my head:
1) Why is it always a virus? Why not something supernatural? Or something from space? Something from Earth? Something mechanical that gives the illusion of people back from the dead? I edited an anthology called Dead Science, which challenged the authors to create unique science-gone-wrong-based origins for the undead. The stories they came up with were fun and original.
2) Shamblers and sprinters seem to be the order of the day. Some have ventured into smart zombie territory. What if they had super strength? What if to kill them it wasn’t cutting off their heads but it was their guts—source of hunger—that needed to be removed? What if they were giants? What if part of the cause of them dying also shrank them and you had zombies so small they were like bugs and could get all over you so quickly like ants that you had no hope of survival?
3) Seldom is it explained why the group of survivors were immune to the zombie virus. An explanation for their survival needs to be included? Was a vicinity thing? Did the cause of the undead only affect people indoors? Outdoors? Is the whole world taken out or just a part of it?
4) How come the world is always destroyed within a few weeks of the outbreak? Have you noticed this or is it just me? While I realize people act like animals under panic—we’ve all seen riots on the news—all these cities with broken everything, over-turned cars, bodies everywhere, graffiti, everyone suddenly in torn clothes, etc.—I just don’t get it. What about our military? Wouldn’t the countries’ forces combine to eradicate a common threat like a zombie outbreak? How could even a horde of zombies take out a guy with a machine gun unless they’re oh-so-slow moving bodies somehow got in a sneak attack? What about planes and bombs?
I won’t admit to having read every zombie book or seen every zombie movie, but it seems to me the element of realism has been taken out. It’s always been my view that a book or comic or movie—whatever—needs to be grounded in reality somehow, the whole “what if this happened tomorrow for real” thing. To add such an element to a book—regardless of how out-of-this-world the circumstance is—suddenly brings that fantastic circumstance into our world and puts the reader right in the middle of the tale because he/she can completely understand why things happen a certain way. Life isn’t full of conveniences, tidy plotlines and clichéd ideas. It’s a mess with tons of twists and turns.
Shouldn’t our stories reflect life?
The argument is people want to escape. For me, that’s just an excuse to get out of a life that isn’t the one you wanted. How about turning that on its head and reading stories about lives like yours, that aren’t the way the characters wanted, and you draw strength and encouragement from that? There’s lots to be said about relatability and seeing people in the same boat as you, whether they’re real or not, whether the world they inhabit is yours or not.
But I realize that trying new things and going against the grain is countercultural, especially in the West. I realize that to propose writing zombie fiction as something other than zombie fiction flies in the face of decades of tradition.
It just seems, though, that these standard ideas have become so ingrained in us that we’re afraid to move or operate outside them. Afraid to grow. Afraid to step off the beaten path and blaze a new trail.
Ninja Assassin (2009) Written by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski Directed by James McTeigue Runtime 99 min. 5 out of 5
Raizo (played by Rain), an orphan, was taken to a secret ninja training camp run by the Ozunu Clan when he was just a boy. After years of harsh, even deadly, training, Raizo was brought up to be the greatest ninja of the clan, even one who would one day take it over as leader.
While a child and through his growing-up years, he befriends Kiriko (Anna Sawai) and she is just as strong-willed as he is except where he lacks feeling, she has a heart and doesn’t agree with all the clan teaches. When Kiriko tries to escape, Raizo sees what it truly means to be a member of the Ozunu Clan and from then on follows his own path to take the clan down.
Enlisting the help of a Europol agent, Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris), together they try and bring the clan to justice. However, not is all what it seems and the Ozunu Clan has plans of their own. Led by Raizo’s brother, Takeshi (Rick Yune), the two are hunted, and only after the swords stop slicing and the blood cools will a victor be decided.
This movie is hardcore, man. There’s really no other word for it. Total and utter blood-soaked craziness that reminded me of Mortal Kombat (the game). I was just waiting for a low, ominous voice to say “Fatality.” Awesome.
The kung fu in this flick is intense, especially the swordplay. Those bladed fights were among some of the best I’ve seen, right up there with the stuff in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Rain looked brilliant, his body and demeanor as hard as steel. More than once was I reminded of Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon with the way he moved. The flashback sequences also worked well and really added to Raizo’s back story and firmly cemented us in his psyche so we know why he fights the way he does, why he’s on the path he’s on, and what motivates him as a ninja. Well done.
What I especially liked in this movie was the ninjas’ mystique and their power, namely the part about them being one with the shadows and the paranoia those being hunted had with the dark. The idea of always keeping the lights on and bright was a great way to play this up. The ninja-morphing with the shadows was also cool, giving the impression that these guys, after all that training, have become something more than human.
This is just one crazy bloodbath of a movie. Non-stop action. Amazing sword battles. Cool enough story to string one fight scene to the next.
Ninja Assassin is the definition of a martial arts flick.