How to write a book that sucks 90% of the time…

How do you write a book that sucks 90% of the time?  Write books about zombie survival scenarios.  I shit you not. Those books suck 90% of the time (or maybe more — I’m being conservative here).  And there are A LOT of them.  A fucking shitload.  And they multiply faster than the walking dead.  It seems that anyone who ever took a creative writing class is cranking out an ‘apocalypse scenario’ book involving zombies or ‘infected’ and the like. Most of them include cute lingo that survivors employ or more detail about firearms than NRA gun porn.

Let me back up a bit.  I have a Y chromosome, therefore it can be safely assummed that I am 90% likely to enjoy movies where people are running around shooting the undead in the head while trying not to get bitten or eaten or swarmed or whatever. Annie hates those kinds of movies; she finds them that awful combination of “gross and boring and scary,” which is kind of how I feel about TV shows like “Sex in the City.” Shoe obcessed narcissists prattling on about their man problems make me want to become a knuckle-dragging pig purely as a defensive mechanism.  But it’s OK.  I don’t make her watch “a really good headshot!” and she doesn’t make me watch shows about relationships. You don’t have to share everything.  In fact, it’s probably good if you don’t. But I’m off topic here — back to zombies.

Keyless entry becomes a selling point.

For decades now there have been zombie apocalypse* movies and some of them are good and some of them are bad and most of them are somewhere inbetween… but they all shared one thing in common: they feed my deep rooted desire to see the whole world of corporate culture and work and school and parking tickets and putting up with douchebags all go to hell in an afternoon by introducing a scenario in which you can murder your fellow humans and it’s OK because they are not humans anymore — they are zombies.  So, not only are you free from guilt about shooting your zombified co-worker in the head, you are also freed from having to go to jail because of it — as everyone knows, in zombie scenarios, the cops are the first to go because they get calls telling them to go to infection central before anyone else knows it’s infection central.  Imaginary mayhem without moral or social consequences.  Who can resist?

Unfortunately, no one.  Which is why all things ‘zombie’ are being rushed to the production stage whether they are ready or not and whether they are worthy or not.

A notable exception is Colson Whitehead’s “Zone One.” Whitehead is apparently a ‘real author’ who has made waves by dipping his toe into ‘zombie genre fiction.’  I don’t know what other fans of all things undead think of it, but I think “Zone One” is great. I enjoyed Max Brook’s “Zombie Survival Guide” but thought his other Zombie book, “World War Z,” was weak.  But, almost without exception, every other book I’ve tried to read about zombies has been shit.

A funny things happens when you finish reading a book on an Amazon Kindle.  After you hit the last page, your Kindle tells you, “People who enjoyed ‘Zone One’ also read…” and then it gives you a list.  And you can just click on them and it will let you read the first chapter or two for free.  I know they say that ‘you can’t judge a book by it’s cover,’ but I would suggest that one could make an educated guess by the first chapter… and I read a lot of these first chapters the other night while I waiting for some software to download (another sad story)… and, without exception, they SUCKED (except for “After the Apocalypse” by Maureen F. McHugh, which is great but doesn’t really count because even though it was in Amazon’s auto-generated list, I read it before I read Zone One… and McHugh’s is a collection of short stories, only one of which deals with zombie matters anyway).

*For purposes of this rant, “Zombie Apocalypse” movies can include movies where people are getting infected with some sort of virus and becoming ravenous cannibals or whatever that are not ‘undead.’  Let’s just say that ‘infected’ movies are a sub-category within the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ genre and leave it at that.

6 Comments on “How to write a book that sucks 90% of the time…”

  1. “…they feed my deep rooted desire to see the whole world of corporate culture and work and school and parking tickets and putting up with douchebags all go to hell”


  2. BlUsKrEEm says:

    My mother was a huge zombie fan when I was a kid, so I grew up loving the genera. Heck, for my first date with my wife we rented the DVD of “Day of the Dead,” (as a memento of that day we have the phrase “Hello Aunt Alicia” inscribed in our wedding bands.) When the genera exploded and there was a new zombie flick nearly everyday on netflix my wife went hipster on me, and decided that the undead were overplayed. That's not stopping me from getting my fix streaming on my phone every morning on bus to work. Viva the Undead!

    That said I'm with you on Zombie lit. There isn't much worth your time.

  3. JDJarvis says:

    Zombie movies are able to be stupid and still enjoyable, zombie ficiton can't be as stupid. I enjoyed world war Z but…. it wasn't any high point in literature.

  4. jbeltman says:

    With the advent of electronic publishing it may have lowered the bar to entry to having a book published. Whereas before the book would have to be accepted by an editor, edited by a professional and they have to think the book is good enough that it is worth the risk to publish, now there is basically no risk for a publisher to release a book so they can release anything they want. There are also a lot more self-published books out there now.

    I don't know what a solution for you is. Read print books? Probably not an option. You could maybe pay attention to the publishers more and see which ones have better quality control.

  5. Stephan Poag says:

    jbeltman: I know I'm kvetching in my post here, but if I were to be 100% honest, I would have to confess I enjoy complaining… some of the 'samples' I have read have been entertaining in an MST3K kind of way… but just like I can no longer sit through an episode of MST3K, I'm glad I don't have to read the whole book.
    I suspect there are and will alsways be shitty books, but, as you say, the electronic publishing gets those books out of desk drawers (where they might have languished until being tossed by the writers landlor/widow) and onto my kindle.
    Truth is, I probably have nothing to criticize (especially given that I have written some really bad literature myself… most of which has been (thankfully) consigned to the can. More books mean more choices… which is what consumer culture ia all about.
    Sometimes, though, I just enjoy a good bitch session.

  6. jbeltman says:

    I guess the reviews are one good thing to come out of bad literature, for me at least!

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