• Tag Archives superheroes
  • Nightcat by J.L. MacDonald – Artwork Commission

    Superhero author and creator J.L. MacDonald recently commissioned me to draw her superheroine, Nightcat.

    Here she is in glorious black and white!

    Nightcat created by J.L. MacDonald with art by A.P. Fuchs

    The image was created with pencil and ink with Copic marker gray toning. She was a blast to draw.

    For more Nightcat by J.L. MacDonald, visit Nightcat directly on the Web by going here.

    To read Nightcat short stories with other fantastic superheroes, read Metahumans vs The Undead and Metahumans vs Werewolves.

    If you’d like to commission me to draw your hero (or anything else), please see my artwork page for rates and samples. If your type of project isn’t listed in the standard drawing/fee schedule, inquire anyway and I’m sure we can work something out.

    Thanks.


  • A.P. Fuchs 2019 Holiday Gift Guide

    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.

    Frozen Storm Website

    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.

    Axiom-man/Auroraman: Frozen Storm Lettered Edition Front Cover

    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.

    Axiom-man Tenth-Year Anniversary Special Edition

    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.

    Look, Up on the Screen! The Big Book of Superhero Movie Reviews by A.P. Fuchs

    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.

    A.P. Fuchs Patreon Button

    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.

    Undead World Trilogy by A.P. Fuchs

    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.

    Zombie Fight Night: Battles of the Dead Front Cover

    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.

    Metahumans vs

    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.


  • Various Bits from the Net – 121019

    The Various Bits from the Net segment was something I did as part of a daily blog schedule many years ago when each day of the week (Monday-Thursday, with Friday being a summary day; hope I remembered correctly) had a specific assigned topic. They were the same week-to-week except for, of course, the content itself. Various Bits from the Net was one of those days and it was a day I would post links and/or commentary on various items from the Net that caught my interest.

    I’m bringing that feature back but, as of this writing, not as a set day per week but rather something I’ll blog about here and there.

    So that said, welcome to Various Bits from the Net 2.0. Today’s date is 121019.

    Points of interest:

    The Black Widow Trailer

    Really curious about this one. Obviously, this takes place at some point before Avengers: Endgame, and then even at a point further back because we see Natasha training to become a spy. I’m also a David Harbour fan so I’m really curious as to what he’s going to do with Red Guardian. He’s seems somewhat Hopper-esque (from Stranger Things) which, to me, is a huge plus point.

    The Wonder Woman 1984 Trailer

    DC/WB have flubbed their movie outings since Day One with a few exceptions. And while I enjoy the WB/DC movies overall despite their flaws, Wonder Woman delivered well when it was first released about halfway through 2017. I personally think waiting three years for a sequel is one year too many, but I also understand the delay given what’s been happening at the WB offices and them not being sure what to do in terms of the DC Extended Universe. Anyway, Wonder Woman 1984 looks to be a promising sequel to Wonder Woman and I’m curious to see how certain things and characters are explained when the film comes out. This is also a teaser, and since we all know Cheetah is the other main bad guy and she’s not in this trailer, it’s safe to say the villainness will be the focus of a trailer closer to release date.

    The Ghostbusters: Afterlife Trailer

    I grew up with Ghostbusters. To me, they were superheroes because they wore a jumpsuit and had matching proton packs and stopped ghosts. I won’t mention the Ghostbusters reboot from a few years back. In the end, it looks like this is indeed Ghostbusters 3 (it’s about time), and also appears to be a transition movie to pass the torch on to a new group of Ghostbusters.

    UoN Interview: Alan Moore

    The last portion of this interview hit home hard. I’ve gone through what Alan Moore speaks about. It’s also very pleasant to see an interview with Mr. Moore that doesn’t rehash the same questions he’s been asked for the past twenty-plus years. He makes an excellent point about art in this clip and its impact on human history. It’s this point he makes that fuels me on a daily basis because I’m a firm believer that everything is art and that its value far exceeds anything else we put our value in (especially in the 21st century where our values seem awfully misplaced).

    My friend and fellow author Nick Cato came out with a book recently. It’s called Suburban Grindhouse and it’s his first film book. Though part memoir, it looks at exploitation films and the effect they had on audiences in New York and New Jersey. Presently, it’s available exclusively from the publisher. Details and write-up can be found here. (If you sign up for their newsletter, Nick informs me you get 20% off.)

    Lastly, today a new essay went up on my Patreon page and it’s about getting back in the creative saddle after a lengthy hiatus. I relay my own experience about getting back to work after being ill and suggest to you the steps that helped me get the ball rolling again. You can read the essay here.

    And that wraps up this installment of Various Bits from the Net.


  • Why the Standard “Author Platform” Doesn’t Work

    Social MediaThis article was originally published June 5, 2017 on the Operation Awesome Blog.

    All right, let’s talk straight. Specifically, let’s talk author platforms. You’ve read the articles. You’ve been told how important they are. You’ve been given a list of what to include. Heck, you’ve even taken all that information to heart and acted upon it.

    And the book sales aren’t happening.

    So you keep at it, hoping one day it’ll all pay off. Day in and day out you bust your tail on social media and the Web only to keep missing your goal sales-wise. Or, perhaps, you hit it some months and others you wonder what it’s all for. Frustration sets in and you don’t know what’s going on. You did what Author A said. You got your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your blog, your Instagram and all the others—yet still you’re just another author voice shouting into the storm.

    Here’s the issue: you’re following someone else’s advice. Worse, you’re following it to the letter and in the game of publishing, following the author platform advice to a T is a death sentence.

    This is why:

    ▪ Publishing is a giant crapshoot. There is no sure-fire way to do anything. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or trying to sell you something. While true there are basics and groundwork you can lay, that’s all those things are. Yes, your standard author platform recipe should be part of your game plan. That’s no different than saying you want to sell your book but you know you can’t sell your manuscript as is. You need to make it pretty and put it between two covers before you can do so. That’s a given. The basics.

    ▪ The standard author platform isn’t working for you is because you aren’t making it yours. You’re making it like someone else’s or, simply, following the basic recipe without adding the personal tender loving touch that makes your cookies taste better than the other guy’s.

    This is how to fix the issue, written step-by-step, but don’t treat it like an instruction manual. Customization, you know?

    Step one:

    Lay down the standard recipe. All good baking has a fairly consistent base across the board. Have your Facebook page, your Twitter, blog, Instagram and all that. Customize each page and make it about you and your books then commit to a Web plan where you’re active on each on a regular basis.

    Step two:

    Start adding the TLC. Don’t make your Facebook page like Joe Famous’s. Make it like yours.

    I hate the word “brand” when it comes to this author stuff. It turns us into a product and, frankly, art is never about product. It can become a product, but should never be a product. See the difference? This world is sickly loaded with consumerism and people pushing products non-stop twenty-four hours a day. Most of us have tuned out the racket. But what draws us and captures our attention? Unique items and unique people. This so-called “brand” you’re supposed to become? How about voice? After all, your voice is what makes your art what it is to begin with. Why turn that off when sharing it with people?

    So . . .

    Format and design your pages to reflect you and your books. Don’t be all authorish. Don’t be all bookish. Don’t make people feel like they’re in a stuffy library when they visit you on the Web. In other words, don’t be so professional you come off as cold. Cold people suck.

    Into baking or crafts? Build that into your page designs and content.

    Into superheroes and comics? Put up some indie superhero character art as part of your banner and pictures.

    Into sci-fi and tech? Give your page(s) a mechanical flare and make the electro-junkies squee on the inside when they visit you.

    Into horror? Spook it up, man.

    Get the idea?

    Step three:

    With your on-line base of operations already established, leave it alone for a bit and start playing around with other marketing ideas.

    Some items . . .

    ▪ Set up book signings. Table at conventions. Hook up with some craft shows and flea markets. Arrange a book tour, say, local at first then, depending on success, look at traveling out-of-province/state, even country.

    ▪ Set yourself up as a unique property at these events. Don’t just have a plain table. Add some posters and signage. Add some props. Display your books in a pyramid-like tower. Stand out. Fool around. Don’t be the lonely author who sits there with a handful of books laid out boring and flat in front of them, longingly gazing at the passersby, your eyes pleading, “Please come talk to me. Please come buy my book.” I mean, you took all this time to personalize your on-line presence, why wouldn’t you do the same for your off-line one?

    ▪ Casually bring up you’re an author into everyday conversations. You can subtly work your pitch into whatever you’re talking about with someone—choose appropriately, of course—and at a bare minimum leave them with a business card. But have books on-hand or in your car in case a sale is to be made. Trust me, it happens.

    ▪ Go to open mic nights and share story excerpts or poetry. This is your chance to pimp your work, network and perhaps get hired for new projects.

    ▪ Do workshops.

    And a thousand other things. These examples are to make this point: lay your groundwork—that author platform—then play around with other marketing avenues. You’ll be surprised what works. You’ll also be surprised at what doesn’t because what works for Author A doesn’t always work for Author B.

    Book marketing is all about customization. It’s about finding what works for you and putting energy into those things while discarding the things that don’t after you’ve given them a fair chance (i.e. six months to a year or something). And you know what? Even that thing you did that didn’t work for your first novel might be the goldmine that works for your second one. Each book is different. Even each book in a series is different.

    Authors want the easy way out. “I just want to write,” they say. Well, if that were really true, you wouldn’t be publishing as well, right?

    Or they want to be told what to do: that standard author platform recipe. Come on. How can you be so creative in fiction then totally useless outside of it? Don’t you know your life is a story and so is your book career? That creative flare that you put on the page can be used off of it, too. Stop thinking inside of your book and start thinking outside of it.

    After this article is drafted, my plan for the day is to revisit my platform, one that I’ve already customized to me over the years—self-publishing since 2004—and take inventory on what’s working and what isn’t. I’m going to make some changes and try new things. Going to add my own TLC instead of relying on the standard Author Platform recipe.

    I’m eager to see how these cookies turn out. I already know my zombie chocolate chip ones are dead ringers for a win and my Axiom-man cookies are super.

    Screw the standard author platform. It’s boring and useless. But your own? The one with your personal touch?

    That’s something special.

    Get to it.


  • The Axiom-man/Auroraman: Frozen Storm Kickstarter Has Been Launched!

    Axiom-man/Auroraman Kickstarter Page

    The Axiom-man/Auroraman: Frozen Storm Kickstarter has fired off the launch pad and is already off to a crazy phenomenal start. Thank you to everyone who’s pledged support to these two prairie heroes. You’re going to be in for one heck of a ride.

    This Kickstarter supports not only Frozen Storm, but also The Adventures of Auroraman No. 1!

    I co-wrote the mini comic at the back of Auroraman No. 1 that will lead into Frozen Storm, a superhero novel with action and suspense start to finish. Fans of The Axiom-man Saga won’t want to miss out on this adventure.

    It’s been a pleasure working with Jeff Burton on this project and I can’t wait to share with you the story we concocted for Frozen Storm.

    Two superheroes. One icy threat.

    To back the Kickstarter, please go here.

    Thank you so much from Jeff and I in advance for your support.


  • 5 Books that have Influenced me as a Writer

    Like all writers, I’ve read countless books over the years. Some were awesome, some so-so, and even the ones that weren’t that great I still appreciated for the story even if the writing needed some work. Out of all those books, some have impacted me in different ways both personally and professionally.

    Here is a list of 5 books in no particular order that have influenced my writing. I’ve stuck to fiction for this list instead of any writing how-to book.

    1. Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind – an ultra long read, but worth every page. The dude knows how to paint pictures in your head with his words and, aside from Stone of Tears being a killer story, it was this word-painting that stuck with me and set the bar for how I paint pictures for the reader in my own work. Not saying I’m anywhere near Terry Goodkind’s caliber, but his great description definitely stuck with me over the years.

     

     

     

    2. Batman: Knightfall by Dennis O’Neil – The first superhero fiction book I ever read and my favorite book of all time. (Yeah, I have a soft spot for superheroes, as you well know.) This book got me in Batman’s head in a way the comics didn’t, and humanized him in a way I could relate to on different levels. It also showed me superheroes didn’t have to be confined to four-color comics or to movies. Clearly, this influenced me later on when it came time to write The Axiom-man Saga.

     

     

     

    3. The Summer I Died by Ryan C. Thomas – Easily the most brutal book I’ve ever read, and I don’t mean brutal as in bad. Not only is it an intense story–people kidnapped by a madman–but the violence level in this thing is through the roof. I loved reading it, and I hated reading it. Ryan made you live each terrifying and painful moment his characters went through. Like live-live. Crazy. But it showed me how to get nasty with violence when needed and how to draw the reader in when it came to someone getting hurt, and it reemphasized for me the importance of ensuring the reader is indeed in your characters’ shoes and not outside of them no matter what is happening.

     

    4. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks – Such a bittersweet love story, and it was this book that demonstrated the difference between a romance book and a love story book. It was the love story between the characters that impacted me the most, not their romance, and nowadays when I write two characters in love, I play up the love story angle versus the romantic one. I did this in my book, April, written under the name Peter Fox. To me, love stories have so much more heart than romances.

     

     

    5. Left Behind by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye – Aside from the entire series being an interesting story of the Earth’s last days before Christ’s return, the writing takeaway from this book–and the rest of the series–were the constant cliffhanger endings to each chapter. It was just non-stop, and since I’ve read them I’ve done my best to cliffhang each scene and each chapter in my own books. Even cliffhang the ending of book one of a series to get the reader pumped for book two. Cliffhangers keep those pages turning.

     

     

    So there you have it. A quick list of 5 books that impacted me as a writer. There are more, but I’ll save those for another post.

    What books have influenced you, whether personally or professionally? Sound off in the comments below.


  • Axiom-man: Tenth Anniversary Special Edition


    One night, Gabriel Garrison was visited by a nameless messenger who bestowed upon him great power, a power intended for good. Once discovering what this power was and what it enabled him to do, Gabriel became Axiom-man, a symbol of hope in a city that had none.

    One night, after a routine patrol, a mysterious black cloud appears over the city. Flying over to investigate it, Axiom-man is stopped short when the cloud’s presence shakes him to the core. An electrifying fear emanates from the cloud, and he can barely get near it. Quickly, the cloud takes flight and leads him on a wild goose chase throughout the city, only to flee from him in the end. Almost immediately after the cloud’s appearance, a new hero arises, Redsaw, clad in a black cape and cowl. The people, now enamored with this new super-powered marvel, seem to have forgotten about Axiom-man and all he’s done for them.

    Except something’s wrong. That same fear that emanated from the cloud drips off Redsaw like a foul smell and Axiom-man can barely get close to him without feeling ill.

    What is Redsaw’s agenda and who is he? And why is it every time Axiom-man gets close to him, it feels as if his powers are being sucked away?

    As if that wasn’t enough, Gabriel’s day job hasn’t gotten any easier. His co-worker and the woman he adores, Valerie Vaughan, has little interest in him, and his boss has made it clear that one more day late to work will be the day he cleans out his desk. Then there’s the new trainee, Gene Nemek. What is his fascination with Redsaw, and why is he never around when Redsaw appears?

    From flying over city streets and soaring at dizzying heights, to balancing a secret identity with destiny, Axiom-man must discover what Redsaw’s presence means and how it ties into the messenger’s life-altering visit before the city—and the world—are enamored with an evil that has haunted the cosmos since the dawn of time.

    This newly-revised special edition includes an introduction by the author, a bonus short story that takes place right after the novel, and the essay, “The Axiom-man Origin and Why I Write Superhero Fiction.”

    Available as a paperback at:

    Amazon.com
    Amazon.ca
    Amazon.co.uk
    Barnes and Noble

    Available as an eBook at:

    Amazon Kindle
    Drivethru Fiction
    Smashwords


  • Reinventing the Horde: Problems in Zombie Fiction

    zombiefightnightdrivethruAuthor’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.

    Seems we all just go with the flow.

    Just like a pack of zombies.