I have a great deal of affection for our life-impaired fellow citizens.
Really. Nothing but love.
And I’ve been in this for the long haul. My first exposure to zombies –and we’re not talking about the Haitian variety but the George A. Romero flesh-eating ghouls—was back in 1968. When I was ten years old my buddy and I snuck into the Midway Theater, an old and dilapidated art deco movie house in Philadelphia to see the world premier of Night of the Living Dead. It scared the bejeezus out of both of us. My friend chickened out and split right at the point where the young couple gets fried at the gas pump and become a hot buffet for the dead. He had issues with nightmares and bedwetting for years.
I stayed to see the movie twice. And I snuck in the next day. And the next.
Same planet, different worlds.
These creatures were not yet called zombies –that term would be hung on the genre later by foreign filmmakers—were the scariest monster I’d ever seen. And the most fascinating. Even walking home that night I was already trying to work out how I would survive in that kind of scenario. Even now, I tend to check any building I visit in terms of defensibility, ingress and egress. Like that. It’s a habit, and I’m reasonably sure I have my escape and survival plans worked out.
One thing that always bugged me about Night of the Living Dead, though, was the lack of reliable science. Radiation from a downed space probe doesn’t cut it. I write science thrillers for a living and I’ve talked to scientists about this. Turns out they’ve all thought about zombies, too, and in particular about the science of how such an outbreak could happen.
Pretty much it would have to be a plague or parasite, and there would have to be some serious and very deliberate genetic manipulation. Mother Nature, even in her crankiest and weirdest mods, couldn’t do it. Sadly, humans pretty much can. Or near enough, my scientist friends tell me. And that makes me lose sleep.
It also inspired me to write some zombie fiction in which the science is explained. A few years ago I wrote a duology, Dead of Night and Fall of Night for Griffin, a Macmillan imprint. Those books are largely based on the thoughts that have been running through my head my whole life.
What really caused the dead to rise?
Where did the outbreak happen?
Who was the first victim?
I wrote those novels to tell the story, quite literally, from the first bite. I also dedicated them to George Romero, because without him those books wouldn’t exist. Without Romero there would be no World War Z, no The Walking Dead, no Shaun of the Dead, Resident Evil, Marvel Zombies, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, Z Nation, or anything else zombie. Those novels were written for George, and for my ten year old self.
Which brings us to “Chokepoint”.
That story can be read as a standalone but it’s also a direct sequel to my duology. It takes place within a few days of the events described in chapter 127, which is near the end of Fall of Night. Things are going to hell in a hand-basket. It’s one of several stories that form a loose grouping of sequel tales. Others include “Jack and Jill”, “Fat Girl with a Knife”, “The Wind Through the Fence”, “Jingo and the Hammerman” and several others. Of those, “Chokepoint” is a particular favorite of mine. It’s a character-driven story and for me the best monster stories aren’t about monsters, they’re about the people who confront them.
I’d also like to note that the duology, and all of the short stories I’ve mentioned, are all –collectively—prequels to my Rot & Ruin series. These stories tell the backstory to my five-book young-adult post-apocalyptic series. They are part of that series’ pre-history and are lumped under the catch-all name of ‘First Night’, which is the term used in the Ruin novels to describe the time when the dead rose and we fell.
You won’t need to have read those other novels or short stories in order to read, and hopefully enjoy, “Chokepoint”.