AN INTERVIEW WITH SEAN PAGE AUTHOR OF THE OFFICIAL ZOMBIE HANDBOOK
Today folks we have an interview with, the famous actor star of Arrested Development Jason Bateman. Sorry folks, and Sean, The interview is with Sean T Page, author of the two rather brilliant zombie survival guides The Official Zombie Handbook, and War Against the Walking Dead
GNOH – Hello Sean how are you doing?
I’m good. Keeping busy with a new book coming out &still doing the short stories that I love.
GNOH – Can you give the readers a bit ofbackground info on your good self?
Well, like most writers, I have a full-time job in thereal world, then retreat into the madness of horror writing in the evenings& at weekends. I’m originally from Kent but now live in London. Also, Ispend far too much time researching zombies.
GNOH – Who would you say are your biggestinfluences?
Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Eric S Brown and all ofthe Romero movies – yeah, even Land of the Dead, which I really enjoyed.
GNOH – SO why horror? And in particular why zombies?
My short stories are all about the dark side of humannature. Not sure why, there is probably some horrific incident buried in theresomewhere waiting to get out. Zombies are may favourite genre as I think theyreflect so more about us than other monsters. In zombie novels, it’s often moreabout the survivors than the ghouls. The undead normally aren’t evil, theydon’t have a grand plan, they just are & so it’s up to us humans to eithersurvive or make a mess of it.
GNOH – Do you have a favourite type ofzombie? Do you think zombies should runor shuffle?
I enjoyed 28 Days Later & the subsequent films, withtheir super-fast infected but for me, I adhere to the church of Romero & sothe cannon of shuffling zombies. I love the way it allows tension to build notreally by shock but by slow, never-ending pressure…yeah….
GNOH – Apart from zombies what are your otherfavourite creatures?
I’m not a big fan of vampires & I have since foundthat zombie & vampire fans don’t really mix. Most of my short stories are based aroundfloating, vaporous evil demigod entities so these guys are top of my Christmaslist. Evil masterminds off all sorts are also up there for me. You can beat anevil doer, with henchmen, underground secret lair etc
GNOH – TheOfficial Zombie Handbook is your guide to surviving a zombie out break in theUK. Truthfully though, if this were tohappen we’d be up that well known creek, wouldn’t we?
Well, some will certainly be up the creek butit is my belief that through education & preparation, people can survive amajor zombie crisis. In the UK, survival thinking is not particularly high onthe agenda so I investigated every area to determine whether we really had achance. All of the survival detail is real, I just over-laid the scenario ofthe zombies on top. If you don’t believe in them, it’s just as good for majorcivil disturbances, break down in society, major virus outbreak, whatever.
I am convinced that with a solid 90 daysurvival plan, you can make it through & live to fight back against thezombies.
GNOH – So should we stay mobile or fortify ourselves in?
In the UK, with the population density wehave, staying mobile for most of us will be impossible. Just look what it waslike during the petrol strikes a few years ago. The moment anything happenseverything grinds to a halt – roads, railways, mobile phone networks. So, ingeneral stay put. The exception is where you have a ‘bug out bag’ & arelooking to get back home say work. That will be a judgement call. Overall,staying put is the way to survive the initial outbreak.
GNOH – Howmuch research did you have to do for this book?
Endless hours and days of research. I quicklyrealised that readers take survival very seriously so I checked &doubled-checked all the details. I think for some this could make it too heavyon the detail, mine is not a joke book, but for others, I hope it will helpthem think about where their food, energy, everything comes from.
We also visited a lot of different locations,checking on zombie defence issues. Some, such as the various castles across theUK, sounded brilliant on paper but the reality was very different. We went tosee the Victorian sea-forts in the Solent but couldn’t land on one – they wereepic.
GNOH – Howmuch of the book would you say is a reasonable account for what wouldhappen. And how much would you say ispure flights of fancy?
The statistics & scenario building aroundthe police, armed forces etc are all accurate. Also, these have been validatedby an unofficial source within the Ministry of Defence. The experts were real& if you substitute ‘zombies’ for ‘viral outbreak’ then the plans &actions will all be the same.
I wouldn’t say there are any flights of fancyin the book at all although some scientists still disagree with Dr Ahmed’smodel of zombification. I’m not a medical expert so to some extent I have leanton experts like him & Dr Raymond Carter from the States.
GNOH – Couldyou give a brief account of Dr Ahmeds model?
He’s an amazing guy really. From India buteducated in the US, he is now back working between India & the Middle East.He claims to have isolated what he thinks is the ‘zombie virus’. It’s an RNAvirus passed through liquid/fluid transfer – so blood/saliva etc. The conditionthat results is known as the zombic condition.
So, nothing supernatural or spooky about it.We are dealing with a virus, albeit a difficult one to isolate in labconditions.
What Dr Ahmed added in WAWD was how zombiesgo through three phases once they have developed the zombic condition. To behonest, most people who know their zombies will already have recognised thatsome are human-like, some more corpse-like etc. Ahmed’s model of zombificationsimply puts the science in around this process. It also helped to explain whysome zombies appear dried and desiccated whilst others are bloated and full ofliquid.
GNOH – Didyou tell the experts the reason about why you were contacting them, or did youjust stick to the viral outbreak idea?
Dr Ahmed yes. Dr Carter yes as his initialinput was mostly computer modelling & the eye-witness accounts. There werea few survival experts who I just ran random queries when I didn’t need tomention zombies as they were just plain survival questions such as waterconsumption figures or food storage statistics.
GNOH – Didanyone slam the door in your face so to speak?
My local MP was very pleasant but abrupt atcutting off any debate. My local council were useless. I sent the Archbishop ofCanterbury a letter with regards to the moral position on ‘killing’ zombies butI didn’t get a reply. No matter, I found some excellent experts in other partsof the world.
The hardest people to deal with were theRussian & Chinese authorities for WAWD – these guys were so slow &everything was in writing.
GNOH –Looking around at some of the towns in the UK are you not worried that thezombie plague has started?
Indeed I am. A trip down Oxford Street in theweeks up to Christmas is an excellent zombie training scenario as tired bodieslurch this way & that. I often change into my survival gear and play ‘dodgethe ghoul’ along our festive streets. It gets some weird looks but I alwaysthink I’ll be the one having the last laugh.
GNOH – Wasit always your intention to write a survival guide, when you first sat down towrite The Official Zombie Handbook?
Well, I did want to write something for ushere in the UK or that could be used in any country without easy access tofirearms. I loved Max Brook’s book but large sections of it weren’t applicableto use here. We just don’t have the firepower. Also, I was more interested inthe survival content so I made sure all of the research was in there as well.
GNOH – Thebook has a rather fine cover, how much input did you have in the cover design?
It was put together with the publisher. Webatted ideas around. OK here’s the honest version – I put all of my crap ideastogether & then they went to a superb artist called Dave Lange & he gotme back on the straight & narrow. So, I have to confess, my outlines werenaff & I needed help.
GNOH – Your latestbook is, is this a direct follow up to The Official Zombie Handbook?
It follows much of the same science, some ofthe same experts with many new ones as well but it is meant to be a stand alonebook.
I’ve always said, if you have a good survivalguide & you got that sorted then no need to get another – there are enough‘must have’ items out there in survival land anyway.
WAWD deals with a different challenge. Samelevel of detail although I have put more illustrations in this one, somethingloads of folks asked for.
GNOH – TOZH,was more about surviving a zombie outbreak, and I right in think that WAWD, ismore concerned with fighting back?
Yep, WAWD is all about our post zombie apocfight back. I had loads of comments from people who enjoyed the first book butthey did get me thinking – what happens next? Do we leave the country to thezombies? Survive in small isolated groups?
It wasn’t really much more than that until Igot some of the latest research from Dr Carter in the US. His theorymeta-hordes changed everything. I took some time off work & got my researchorganised. I needed a small army of new experts, from firearms to builders. Iwanted to concentrate on how humankind can fight back against the zombies.
The theory of meta-hordes suggests thatovertime, the millions of ghouls will begin to cluster & then gather intovast hordes. No fortified survivor settlement could defend against these. It istherefore crucial that we hit back in the first few years. I had to throw awayany notes on a gradual rebuild of society!
GNOH – Whatwould be the first thing you would do in a war against the zombie?
There is whole chapter on the basic businessof building your survivor community. Be it just you & your neighbours, yourvillage or town, you have to build a community capable of supporting a waragainst the zombies.
This means all the things folks need,security, food supply, weapons, water, medical care, even before you startthinking about developing a real anti-zombie militia.
GNOH – It ispublished through Severed Press, who seem to specialise in zombie fiction. Was
this always your intention to go with amore specialised small press outfit?
I had read Severed Press books before,notably Tim Curran so they seemed like the natural home. They may not be thebiggest but they have a genuine love of the genre so it all worked out for thebest.
GNOH – How has it been working with them?
Really good. I gotta say, it’s been anenjoyable learning process for me. I didn’t know much about publishing so theyhave guided me through the murky world.
GNOH – Soare we going to ever see a proper novel from you?
I can answer this one with a ‘yes’. Icurrently have a novel called Meta-Horde with an editor. This is written with afellow author so stay tuned for more details.
It’s a novel set 5 years or so after thezombie apoc & deals with how survivors in Europe face a full-blownmeta-horde. Some of the characters from the books so far pop up in there too.
GNOH – Itake it the zombies in Meta-Horde, will be the zombies discussed in WAWD?
Yes, meta-hording itself is related to mathsand science around complexity theory & the movement of self-organisedsystems. Dr Carter’s model’s suggest that once millions of ghouls start tocluster together, they will start to take on an organised appearance. It’s notany intelligence on their behalf, it’s just something that occurs once numbersreach a critical mass. Here is one of his diagrams :-
GNOH – Ikeep vowing to myself, that I won’t read another zombie novel, I’ve read fartoo many truly awful zombie books, that would have Bud turning in hisgrave. Yet Meta-Horde sounds reallygood, it’s a pleasant change to have a novel so well thought out. Do you think the readers would get more outof it if they read your guides first?
I hope so. I have made sure that you couldread any one in isolation & it would make sense, so you don’t need to haveread them. However, it’s useful if you are familiar with the Ministry ofZombies universe. I just didn’t want itto become like one of those Franklin Mint Plate offers, where you sign up once thenget a crappy plate every month for the rest of your life. You can pick any ofthe books up & hopefully be entertained.
GNOH – Doyou think it is harder getting your name out there, coming from the UK?
Yes, being a very small fish in a massivepond is tough. I do my best but I mostly rely on fans & people who like thebooks.
Some authors there have massive support fromtheir publishers so you are just blown out of the water. More recently, anotherchallenge has been the avalanche of self-published ebooks, some great, some notso great. It all generates so much background noise that sometimes it’s hard toget heard.
Let me give you an example, John McCauig’snovel The Church, a brilliant zombie action story set in the UK doesn’t halfthe coverage of some other zombie stuff which in my opinion is no where near asgood.
GNOH – Howmuch success have you had in the US?
Some. In general it’s tough but I have hadpockets of success with hardcore survivalists, the Mormon Church & a fewother groups – I think they like the detail.
GNOH – Soapart from plotting our deliverance from the zombie apocalypse, what else doyou like to do?
I gotta admit – zombie planning does take upa lot of my time but I also enjoy trekking so I’ve done quite a bit of thatacross the world. I mentioned above that I love short stories, reading &writing.
GNOH – Canyou tell us about any future projects?
Right, in the works & slated for releasein 2012, I have A Zombie History of Europe which is a carefully researchedanalysis of the walking dead in the history of this Europe. That’s mental.
There’s the novel Meta-horde which is beingedited.
The big secret is that I am working on acollection of short stories which I want to bring together in one accursedvolume titled the Cult of the Dead. Some of these stories have already beenpublished in various anthologies but when seen together, you can see theconnection & it aint a nice one. Think gothic horror, a pinch of Lovecraft,Clark Ashton Smith & too many ghost stories. It’s old-fashioned horror.
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