Tuesday, October 26, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 76

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as a fantasy author.

Book of the Dead
edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector

During most of the 1980s, I wanted to be a horror writer. Like many would-be authors of that time period, Stephen King was a huge influence upon me. But lots of other authors were an influence as well, authors such as Ramsey Campbell and Robert McCammon.

Some editors were an influence as well, such as John Skipp and Craig Spector who edited Book of the Dead, a collection of short stories about zombies.

But this wasn't just any collection of short stories. Within that paperback's pages were solid, well-known authors, such as the once I mentioned above, and Steven R. Boyett, one of my favorite fantasy novelists.

This was back in the day before zombie had become a rave thing. Sure, there were zombie movies, but they had a smaller, cultish following and hadn't yet been accepted by more mainstream audiences. Back then, in the 1980s, there just wasn't that much zombie fiction about.

So, Book of the Dead was an awesome find for horror readers and aspiring horror writers. But like the best zombie stories, these weren't just about zombies. There's was real, quality writing here, tales that were as much about the living as the living dead.

To this day, more than 20 years later, this is still my favorite collection of zombie short stories. I've read several others, some which were pretty good, but none have yet to hold a candle to Book of the Dead.

What this book showed me as a writer was that the best zombie tales are much more about us than about them. Any hack can sit down and type out a tale of flesh-eating monsters, but making it relevant to readers beyond mere escapism is a different matter.

Not that there's anything wrong with a little escapism from time to time.

Up next: Ariel


Charles Gramlich said...

This is one of my favorite horror anthos of all time. Some masterpieces in here.

Will Errickson said...

I like a lot of the stories by the lesser-knowns in this collection; overall I think I actually prefer its sequel, STILL DEAD. Still, an important anthology in late '80s horror.