Here’s a story to warm my heart: The odious members of the equally odious Westboro Baptist Church went to the University of Chicago (my alma mater), apparently to protest the existence of Barack Obama, and found themselves pwned by 100+ students, who among other things created signs that both mocked WBC’s own hateful screedings, and were naturally far more clever. Good on ya, Maroons. Good on ya.
Sometimes just talking with a friend on the phone is the best thing in the world.
You know, it’s not very often that the mere title of a book scares the crap out of me, but I have to tell you, The Forest of Hands and Teeth gives me the willies just looking at it. And as for the book itself, well, it comes with the coveted Kristine Scalzi Seal of Approval (which is to say, she read the book, came back when she was done, and said “hey, that was a good book”), so that’s always a positive. Everyone’s happy!
With a title like that, it should not be surprising that there are zombies involved. What may surprise you is that a certain amount of romance — and law — is also involved in the book’s creation. Here’s Carrie Ryan to explain how.
I wish I could remember what JP, then my boyfriend and now my fiancé, said to convince me to go to opening night of the Dawn of the Dead remake. I’m not a scary movie person and haven’t been since my babysitter turned out all the lights and made me watch Poltergeist with her when I was five (during which time she never failed to point out the similarities between me and the girl being chased by ghosts – same name, same hair, same closet full of stuffed animals). And yet, the theater filled to capacity, the lights dimmed, the movie began and I spent the next two hours alternately gripping his arm (finally understanding why boyfriends everywhere like to take girlfriends to scary movies) and checking the time on my cell phone mentally trying to calculate how much of the movie I had left to endure. It terrified me.
And thrilled me. Walking out of the theater that night I couldn’t stop talking about it, wondering what I would do faced with the same situation. Because at one point, while watching the worst of the worst parts of the movie I wondered if I could do it, if I could really survive. Or if I would give up.
This is how my love of apocalyptic fiction (especially the zombie apocalypse) began. JP brought home Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide and read aloud from it during slow law school evenings (of which there were many). He promised to warn me of the scary parts when we watched 28 Days Later. We devoured the original Romero movies, the remakes, the spinoffs. We bought the books, the graphic novels, the television shows, more movies.
But I was still writing chick lit YA books. It just never occurred to me to write about a post-apocalyptic world even though that was what I was reading, watching, and dreaming about.
Until one day when JP and I were at lunch and we started to talk about a town surrounded by a forest full of zombies. He wanted to write a short story set in that world and I was mesmerized by the idea of it. Except that our visions were totally different. His world still had cars and roads and the people in the town knew about the outside world.
My version was set much much later in a tiny village where the people had forgotten everything beyond the forest: history, the ocean, even the cause of the Return. And though time had continued forward, it was as if the village had fallen back, regressing to an almost Puritanistic lifestyle and belief system.
JP wrote his story and I loved it. But, still my vision of the world kept tugging at me. I was obsessed; yet it never occurred to me to write anything set in that world. Until I was lamenting to JP one day that I didn’t know what project to work on for National Novel Writing Month and he told me to write what I love.
“You mean the zombie apocalypse?” I joked with him and he smiled. He was right. Two days later, on my way home from work a first line popped into my head. I emailed it to myself and when I got home I started writing. When JP came home a few hours later I’d drafted the first chapter. I read it to him and he loved it. That drove me to keep writing – the desire to keep unfolding for him the story of Mary and her village.
My book became a sort of love letter to JP, sparked by the movies we’d watched together, all the books we’d read, all the walks we’d taken imagining worlds and characters. I wanted to give back to him a fraction of what he’d given to me.
When I finished the first draft and JP read it, I said jokingly that he’d have to tell me if I needed to change anything since it was his world I’d used. I wish I could describe the look on his face, the way his voice sounded when he told me that this was my world – that it had always been my world.
I sometimes joke that I’m a full time writer still paying off my law school loans. People ask me if I regret having gone to law school since I only practiced for three years. But how can I? If I hadn’t gone to law school I wouldn’t have met JP. He wouldn’t have taken me to opening night of Dawn of the Dead and I would have held fast to my scary movie phobia. I never would have written The Forest of Hands and Teeth. JP truly did give me the world.
Here you go. I woke her up just so you could see something sweet and fluffy.
She very much has the groggy “Do I hafta go to school?” look down here. I’ll pay for it later, but for now, enjoy.
Yes, I Know: Lots of people on the Internets hate me today. You don’t have keep sending me concerned e-mails about it; my ego-surfing matrix keeps me informed, thanks.
For those of you going “huh?” to this, this current round of The Internets Hate Scalzi is very much like previous rounds of The Internets Hate Scalzi, in which some people who feel they are having A Very Important Discussion of a Very Important Topic are upset that I believe this particular discussion has been really awful overall (and worse, have said so publicly), and thus therefore I stand in moral opposition to all they believe in, which makes me A Bad Man, etc. The Very Important Topic changes from Hate to Hate; the dynamic of the response is pretty much the same. Mind you, this is not the only reason why The Internets Hate Scalzi; there are so many. But it’s a frequent one.
The irony in this particular case is that the folks currently flinging spittle in my direction and I are largely in accord: A Very Important Discussion of this particular Very Important Topic in fact needs to be had, and once that discussion is had, I would not be at all surprised to find myself and these spittle flingers almost entirely on the same side of the discussion (this does not always happen). However, to my mind this late discussion has not been that discussion — indeed emphatically not — which is a) why I stayed out of it until I was dragged into it by people pulling discussion-related shenanigans on my site and b) why at the moment I am in need of a virtual umbrella.
What am I going to do about this latest edition of The Internets Hate Scalzi? At the moment, not a damn thing. The sort of person who believes that if one doesn’t like their particular discussion of [x], one must therefore be an [x]ist, is the sort of person who is has just eaten a heaping plate of Dolley Madison Fail Cakes with Bad Logic Creme Filling™ and is looking to chomp down on a second platter. I’m not in the least obliged to participate in a discussion on those terms, and I’m even less obliged to care what a person holding such an opinion thinks. This may additionally annoy some folks and precipitate yet another round of why I am A Bad Man. Please circle back to the top of this paragraph as necessary.
In the long run, I think it’s useful for everyone to remember certain things about discussions of Very Important Topics, whatever that topic might be:
1. Not every discussion of a topic is going to be definitive or even useful, even if you are participating in it;
2. People can hold a wildly differing opinion on the value of the discussion at hand than you do, which does not a priori make them the enemy;
3. Someone’s opinion of the value of the discussion often has little bearing on their opinion of the value of the topic being discussed (and whether their views on the topic are congruent to yours);
4. Someone not participating in the discussion when you think they should does not make them guilty by their silence;
5. Making lists of enemies based on who you feel has not adequately jumped through the hoop of your discussion goals is no way to go through life.
I figure by this time blood is fountaining out of the necks of some of the more enraged folks, so I’ll go ahead and stop here.
None of this, incidentally, should be construed as an attempt to change the mind of anyone participating in the current round of The Internets Hate Scalzi, or any other that might/will arise in the future. They’re free to keep at it; it’s all the same to me. What matters isn’t what people think of me on the Internets, but whether I follow through on the things I believe in. Internet Scalzi Hates come and go, but I’m stuck with me for the rest of my life. I’m working on it.
Edited to Add: Follow-up here.