Tell us how the story came to be.
This will sound crueler than it is. It’s in part based on someone I met at my first and only SF convention about ten years ago, this vendor of arcane action figures and trading cards—a very dumpy man, very boring, spent half an hour telling me about the origin of his last name. He was clearly lonely and just wanted to talk to someone, and I should be kinder in invoking him now. For some reason he crept back into my thoughts recently, and I quite morbidly wondered if anybody would miss him or even be saddened if he were to suddenly die. In that morbid moment I decided nobody really would, which seemed a far greater tragedy, so in my head I brought him back to try again and hopefully get it right.
So, zombies. What’s the appeal?
Truthfully, I’m not such a big fan of zombie stories except for those that go beyond the usual “eat-brains” premise, which is rather sad, because zombie-ism is a fantastic, versatile metaphor that can be applied to so many aspects of the human condition (disconnectedness, loss of self, etc.). Never had I seen a story where a zombified person’s life was actually better for it, and therein the story began.
Do you have favorite zombie books or movies? Do you watch The Walking Dead?
I always thought the film Fido (starring Dennis Hopper as a zombie made into a pet) was remarkably original. I’ve seen The Walking Dead and always felt they were missing out on some great thematic opportunities—I wish the writers and producers would aspire to more.
Tell us something most people wouldn’t know about Iowa. What, if anything, draws you to it?
What drew me to it originally was a job offer with a regular paycheck. But having grown up just across the river in Northwest Illinois I’m from a very similar culture. Iowans are, by and large, friendly and willing to help one another out, which is something everyone expects, but they’re also intelligent and curious, and open to art and culture, and they understand the value of a good education. Also, Iowa is home to a couple of really good wineries, which I never would have expected, and some quite stunning pizza.
What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
Far and away, my favorite Bradbury story is “The Kilimanjaro Device.” It’s a beautiful intersection between fantasy and reality. Novel-wise, I’d have to say Fahrenheit 451, for the same reason.
What’s next for you?
At the moment I’m slowly piecing together another story collection, trying to maximize the pool of stories I have to choose from so I can include only the very best. On the whole, they seem to be about transformative experiences gone terribly awry.