Getting the flu during the apocalypse

A little while ago, I dropped off the face of the earth for a couple of weeks — not because I’ve been on holidays or anything (I wish I had been, though), but because I was off battling the flu. The actual, legit flu, and not just a really bad cold.
Yay me, I’m now part of this year’s flu statistics! Huzzah. The flu has been super bad this year, and the epicentre of it seems to be my city (well, the epicentre of the flu in my province, anyway). Which is fantastic and all that. I mean, having the flu sucked, but at least I managed to stay out of the hospital.
But! As I lay in bed for those two weeks, feeling like death, I thought to myself: this is all well and good now, when the worst thing I have to do is ferry my kids to and from and school (and to all of their extracurriculars because sadly, moms still don’t get sick days), but what if this happened during the apocalypse? Or during the post-apocalypse? (I’m assuming a sudden apocalypse here, like a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion or the robot apocalypse or something, not this slow descent into madness that we’re currently living.) How will you run away from zombies when you can barely lift your head off the pillow?
Let’s face it: as much as I’m constantly told that the flu is “no big deal” and it will “beef up my kids’ immune systems” (this is almost always told to me by a mom who thinks it’s no big deal to send her kids to school WITH THE FLU), the flu is no joke. The flu actually kills people, which is pretty evident during this year’s flu season. (And, in fact, a lab-confirmed case of the flu once sent my otherwise healthy oldest child to the ICU. The ICU, you guys. In an ambulance. When she deteriorated, she deteriorated fast.)
Unlike having a cold, the flu can — and does — take people right out of commission. You can’t eat, your entire body aches, you have a super high fever, you can barely sit up, let alone run away from zombies…in other words, it’s not an ideal condition to be in when you’re trying to stay alive. And on top of all that, flu season is in the middle of winter, so not only will you be trying to keep down food more substantial than a Premium Plus cracker, you’ll also likely be trying to stay warm when it’s -20° outside. While trying to outrun zombies.
Hopefully zombies get really sluggish in the cold. Because that would be handy.
In any case, it will not be a fun time.
So, what can you do to survive an apocalypse flu? (Unless, of course, the flu causes the apocalypse. That is one hardy virus, so who knows, maybe a mutated strain is the cause of the epidemic that ends up killing us all.) Aside from just not getting the flu (ha), I guess the best thing to do is to hunker down somewhere until the worst of it passes. So, travel with at least one other person, who can watch out for you while you thrash around in a feverish delirium to make sure you don’t become zombie lunch. (It goes without saying that you should actually trust this person.)
Hopefully, you’ll also have packed some of the following in your bug out bag:

  • Cold and flu meds: things like Tylenol Complete, Benylin All in One, Advil Cold and Sinus
  • Cough syrup if you get hit with a horrible cough
  • Cough drops/lozenges. I’m a big fan of Ricola myself, but my husband likes Fisherman’s Friend
  • Kleenex. Lots and lots of Kleenex
  • Extra layers of clothes or blankets, for when you get the chills
  • Water
  • Lipton Chicken Noodle soup, which is the best thing since sliced bread when you’re sick (no, really)
  • Tomato soup in a can, if you don’t like Lipton Chicken Noodle (you monster) (also, if you don’t have access to a stove, this is probably better)
  • A can opener, for your canned soup or beef broth or whatever
  • A thermometer, so you can keep track of how high your fever gets (you know, for funsies)
  • Antibiotics, like azithromycin or amoxicillin, in case you develop complications like bacterial pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Antivirals, like Tamiflu

Hopefully you won’t have to deal with this, but if you do, I hope you’ve got a trusted friend or family member travelling with you to keep you safe from zombies and winter weather and to help nurse you back to health.
Also, if it’s winter, hopefully you haven’t actually gone anywhere and you’re hunkering down at home, where there is a bed. And walls. There may not be any heat or running water, but at least you’ll have walls and a roof.
Um, I hope.

Stuffed Fables: an adventure book game

I’ve written about Stuffed Fables on my (not yet live) (new) personal blog, but I thought it was geeky enough to mention here at ICoS. About a month ago, my husband was at the mall by himself, picking up a tablet that had been repaired. I’m pretty sure he stayed for a bit and looked around so he could justify spending a ridiculous amount of time trying to find parking, because the particular mall he went to has an insanely busy parking lot, especially on weekends. (We avoid going there when we can.)
Anyway, I digress. The point is, as he wandered around looking at…whatever it is one looks at while at the mall, he went to Discovery Hut and discovered a new board game called Stuffed Fables. He described it to me as “D&D for kids.” Okay, sold.
So. What is Stuffed Fables? Basically, it’s a thematic cooperative game with several different stories to play through. The official website describes it as an “adventure book game,” where gameplay is contained to a book. It’s a large, spiral-bound book and the pages are basically glossy cardstock, but it is in fact a book. It’s actually a really neat idea, since the story, the rules, and the board itself are kept together in one spot. There are a lot of loose bits and pieces, though, like cards, dice, buttons, and character miniatures, so make sure to keep the box to keep it all contained. The game is for ages 7 and up; my four-year-old doesn’t play, but he’s in charge of handing out the buttons and hearts (we call him Button Man; he thinks it’s great because he still has a role to play). My older two kids think it’s the best game since Super Smash Bros.
You guys, this game is so much fun. My kids are actually asking to play. It takes hours to get through one story, so we’ve started splitting it up over two afternoons (we play one story over a weekend). There are seven stories in the book, but the company adds mini stories and whatnot to the website as well.
The stories are very well developed, and the characters are fun (the miniatures are also fun). I think it’s a great way to introduce this type of game to kids. And — bonus — it’s also a great way to spend time together as a family (assuming, of course, that spending time together as a family is a thing you want to do).
It is super, super fun, and I highly recommend it.

Photos

To help you see what the game looks like, here are some photos, taken during one of our games. (I think we were working our way through Story 3 in these photos.)

stuffed fables 5
Group shot! Character miniatures of the “good guys.” From left to right: Flops the bunny, Theadora the teddy bear, Lumps the elephant, Lionel the lion. Missing: Stitch the ragdoll and Piggle the pig.

 
stuffed fables 4
Overhead shot of the board side of the book, with miniatures at their starting spots.

 
stuffed fables 3
En garde! Theadora battles a boss.

 
stuffed fables 2
The good guys surround a boss in battle. That cleaver, though.

 
stuffed fables 1
A darkheart (one of the bad guys), with Lionel (a good guy) in the background.

 
Doesn’t this game look fun? Have you played? What did you think?

7 Popular Zombie Survival Tactics That'll Get You Killed! [Infographic]

7 popular zombie survival tactics that'll get you killed!| Mike Johnson | Infographic
7 popular zombie survival tactics that’ll get you killed!| Mike Johnson | Infographic

 
Shared with us by Mike Johnson, who orriginally posted this on his site, Mike’s Gear Reviews: https://www.mikesgearreviews.com/zombie-survival-get-killed/

I'm Going to My Happy Place… The Far, Far Range from Slime Rancher.

According to XBox’s statistics, I’ve played more than 72 hours of Slime Rancher. That feels about right.
I’ve mentioned before that Winter in New England is one of the forgotten circles of Hell. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and create the reality you want to live in. The place I want to be my reality is The Far, Far Range from Slime Rancher. I want to live in a place inhabited by greedy slime and stupid chickens.
My husband would pick up Slime Rancher every so often and ask aloud, “How do you win this game?”
Winning isn’t the point. Not for me at least. Sure you could get all the achievements or, like me, aim to finish the Slimepedia. However, I find myself picking up Slime Rancher, not for the challenge of finishing it but for the feeling playing it. I just want to play. The dopey Slimes just want to play (and eat, they eat a lot).
Continue reading “I'm Going to My Happy Place… The Far, Far Range from Slime Rancher.”

The Apocalypse of the Mind

Surviving the Apocalypse will probably be the most stressful thing you ever do. Considering that many of us (your fair writer included) already have mental health issues when we live in a developed country with clean water, regular food access, and life-saving medicine, what on earth are we to do when everything is on fire and the zombies are at the gate?
Well, the standard advice for managing mental health issues is even more important when everyone you love has died in front of you.

Talk about it:

Reach out to whatever community you have around you, whether that be your fellow mutants, your pet radioactive cats, or actual people (lucky!). Talk about your feelings, good and bad, and work out ways to manage them – together. A therapist or counsellor would be excellent, but since they’re all dead consider drawing a face on a sack of live rats and talking to that instead.

Eat healthy:

Alright, so you’re probably pretty limited on your diet right now, but do your best. Don’t just eat the canned beans – add some freeze-dried fruit and some mysterious green stuff from the cave walls to your diet, too. Your brain needs a balanced diet!

Try journalling:

There’s nothing like twenty pages of ‘Kill them all’ to express your feelings of furious, broken rage. If you don’t have paper, write it on walls in the blood of your enemies. Bonus: It scares off FUTURE enemies!

Get some exercise: 

Death fights in the cage will increase your adrenaline and help your poor tormented mind pump out serotonin. Plus, the rush that comes with surviving another day might block out all those terrible memories for an hour or two.

Don’t be ashamed to try medication:

Ok, so you might not have access to a psychiatrist or even a GP any more, but that glowing stuff that grows by the wasted river has to have some kind of effect, right? Right?

Meditation works wonders:

Block out the noise of screaming and gunfire and take deep breaths, imagining yourself in a peaceful natural scene that no longer exists anywhere.

Learn to self-soothe:

Lying under a bed with your fingers in your ears chanting ‘everything’s fine, everything’s fine’ might not be the healthiest activity but whatever keeps you going.

Practice self-care:

Self care means taking the time to look after your body, mind, and spirit. Whether it’s organising all your weapons by most kills, going to regular machine-god sacrifices,  or decorating your trophy skulls, be sure to set aside some time and avoid burnout.
 
We hope this helps you with your deteriorating mental state and keeps you alive and with it enough to grimly and stubbornly claw your way through another day.
(please note, this is not actual advice for mental health conditions. Please see your doctor if you feel like you may be depressed, anxious or otherwise mentally unwell. If you are considering suicide, reach out to someone on this list of crisis aids. This article is a work of humor)

American Carnage: An interview with contributing author Rick Shingler

Welcome to Day 3 of interviews with the American Carnage crew! My review of the anthology is here. This is our last day of interviews. This final interview is with Rick Shingler, writer of the story “The Day the Earth Turned Day-Glo.” Again, please note: discussion is welcomed, but keep it respectful. I know that the anthology’s theme has the potential for controversy, so comments will be monitored.
Note: answers are unedited/uncensored/unwhathaveyou. All answers, thoughts, and opinions are from the authors.
Also note: this interview is on the long side.
First, tell us a bit about yourself. Any fun and interesting factoids?
I’ve always sort of wondered what story Alex Trebek would ask me to tell during the boring meet and greet part if I was ever on Jeopardy. Maybe I would tell one of my weird celebrity encounter stories, like clothes shopping at a flea market with stand-up comic Emo Phillips or helping Geraldo Rivera’s mom pick out a Christmas present for her son or the time I had a phone conversation with BB King and didn’t know it until after hanging up the phone. Or maybe I’d tell something about my family, like the story of how my wife and I accidentally birthed our daughter without medical assistance in the bathroom at her folks’ house. But when I really think about it, I’d probably just say something boring about growing up in Ohio or living in New Jersey. (Editor’s note: wait, what? Tell me more about this accidentally natural home birth. Is your wife secretly a super hero? Because I’ve been in labor, and yeah, there’s no way I’d do that without nerve-numbing assistance.)
Tell us a bit about your writing. Are you usually a fiction writer, or did you make an exception for this anthology?
I’ve always considered myself to be a fiction writer. I’ve written plays, comic scripts, short stories and even a novel adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Pericles”, reworked as a comic space opera. I always have a few works in progress, because I have gadfly-sized attention span stands in direct opposition to my high level of commitment to any project I undertake. The good folks at Psycho Drive-In have been gracious enough to let me ramble and grumble about TV shows and movies from time to time, but my heart is in storytelling, even if my voice has been slow to be heard. I’ve gotten so good at shrugging off form rejection letters and emails that I’m almost able to pretend that it doesn’t chip another huge hunk out of my soul every. Single. Damn. Time. When I write, my goal is to entertain myself, because I’m likely to be one of the very few who ever actually reads it. If it’s made for me and I get to read it, it’s never going to be an TOTAL waste of time, right?
Speaking of the anthology, what drew you to it? Why did you decide to submit a story?
I may be mistaken, but it seems that the idea of an anthology of stories inspired by the titles of punk songs had been discussed amongst some of the PDI contributors before the 2016 election even happened. Once we crossed that milestone, the concept felt like a mandate for all of us. Over the past couple of years, our Western society has edged closer and closer to a place that would make George Orwell say, “You can’t make this shit up”. I wanted to be one of the voices of rage calling out in the darkness and maybe even a tiny beacon of hope in this burgeoning dystopia.
And that might be corny and is almost certainly self-delusional, but what else am I gonna do?
Tell us about your story. What inspired you to write it?
Honestly, this wasn’t even the story I set out to write. I was working from a different song title and everything. My original story pitch was called “Suspect Device” after the Stiff Little Fingers’ tune. I started working on it but was really struggling to pull it together. When I get truly stuck like that, one of the techniques that sometimes works is to back away from the story, look at it on a macro scale, and try to figure out where the obstruction popped up. It’s kind of like running a mental plumber’s snake through the clogged toilet of my brain. This time that process revealed to me that one of the main characters (arguably the central character of the entire plot) was a boring, dimensionless scoop of vanilla ice cream. “Suspect Device”, it turned out, was the story that takes place only after his story happens. This would have been fine if I was writing a novel, but it was too much of a digression for a short story. With that in mind, I realized that his background story was a story of its own, and that story is the one that you find in this anthology. I hope to revisit “Suspect Device” again someday to see if I can shake it loose.
Incidentally, the technology that serves as the centerpiece of “The Day the Earth Turned Day-Glo” represents a bit of creative self-cannibalization. Once upon a time, I convinced myself that it would be a great idea to write the book for a spy thriller rock opera based entirely on Electric Light Orchestra music. It was to be a story of two estranged lovers, each a world-class spy, who discover respectively that they are working separate angles of the same case. A villainous, reclusive businessman known to the world at large as Mr. Blue Sky develops a technology which allows him to control the sun and they can only stop him by burying past differences and working together. Act one would have ended with the villain
blotting out the sun while an adoring crowd sings his praises. Act two would have opened with “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” as the world descends into chaos. There would even have even been a pas-de- deux between the two agents to “Last Train to London”. Now that this story has been published, I’ll have to figure out another hook to pitch if I ever get stuck in an elevator with Jeff Lynne.
The anthology is about a Dystopian world (with or without aliens). Do you think that we’re closer to an apocalypse or a Dystopian society now than we have been in the past? Or are we already on our way there, without even realizing it?
I am typing this answer on the day after the collective members of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the famed Doomsday Clock to 11:58, the closest it’s been to midnight since the 50s. I don’t think anyone can conscionably deny the current instability of our world. We are teetering on a brink like a school bus hanging off of a bridge in a Superman cartoon. I sincerely hope we all have the sense to hold our breath and lean back in our seats before the bus goes over the side. Because, let’s face it, Superman isn’t coming and we have to figure this shit out for ourselves. The thing that keeps me up at night is how many people seem all too eager to make a run for the front of the bus just because tipping it over the edge would be different than what we’ve done in the past. I honestly don’t get it.
Things have gotten a little…heated in recent times, especially when it comes to politics. Have you gotten any pushback or criticism because of the anthology’s theme?
Not yet. Granted, it’s only been out a couple of weeks. I’ve posted links to it on my social media pages, but have (so far) only seen support from known members of the so-called resistance. It’s been crickets from those friends and family who somehow maintain their support of what passes for the GOP these days. I would welcome a little pushback, just so long as the person pushing can convince me that they have read the book. Any knee-jerk criticism without investing the time to read is just lazy and/or stupid, and I don’t have the time to bother responding to laziness and/or stupidity. There’s way too much of that, and it’s really at both ends of the political spectrum. Reducing complex policy and human rights issues to t-shirt
slogans and bumper stickers and protest signs (and Twitter posts) is dangerously reductive, but we’ve been doing it for most of my lifetime. All anyone seems to want is to “score points” on those who disagree with them using mean tweets, one-dimensional memes, and talking points. Sure, everyone wants to feel secure their beliefs, and that’s how the biased media outlets like Fox News and MSNBC thrive. It’s like being a cozy cocoon when everyone agrees with you, and we all need that sometimes. But we can all benefit from time outside of our comfort zones.
I keep thinking of how our current social media culture was presaged for me in an old comic book letters page. It was in an issue of one of Garth Ennis’ comics. I think it was Preacher, but I’m not going to go digging through back issues to find it. Some rando wrote to tell Ennis what a hack he was and how shitty his writing was and endless invective diatribe… Ennis responded to this guy in true Irishman fashion, inviting him to come to a con and say these things to his face. He pointed out how easy it is to sit in the safety of anonymity, stare at a blank sheet of paper or blank screen and pour out hatred, but when an opportunity to express these thoughts face to face came, he was confident that the letter writer would shuffle his feet and mutter unintelligibly. Sometimes I fear we have gone too far the rabbit hole of internet anonymity to ever be capable of meaningful discourse.
When you think about the future, is Future Earth a scary or an optimistic place? Or have we, perhaps, already wiped ourselves out and this is a moot point?
It’s always a little scary. The unknown always is. It would be a lie to say it hasn’t gotten a hell of a lot grimmer over the past twelve months. There’s always been a pendulum swinging back and forth. We go through a period of conservatism for a while, then it swings back to progressivism. When the progress reaches a critical point, our culture goes into a state of shock and swings back to the right until people begin to realize how utterly joyless and boring a conservative society is. The past couple of years, what with Brexit and now this nonsense here in the states, I fear that the pendulum has broken loose from its moorings and threatens to crush us all. All that said, I tend to be one that seeks the good in everyone and
every situation. I see more people finding their political and artistic voices. I see more people engaged in true political debate than ever before. I hope it can drive people to turn away from empty sloganeering and start seeking elusive philosophical truths again. There’s an old saw about the things that don’t kill us making us stronger. I think the jury is still out on whether this bullshit will kill our republic, but can you imagine how much stronger and united we will be if we can find some way to knit the fracture our childish, vainglorious, chaos-loving president is so hell-bent on widening?
Since ICoS is all about survival, do you think you’d be more likely to survive an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse?
I don’t think I’d do so great in a zombie apocalypse. I really don’t like canned food enough for survival to feel worthwhile. Probably the alien invasion. I’d try to hitch a ride off-planet. I love to travel. Explore new places, sip exotic cocktails… (Editor’s note: I like the way you think. Assuming the aliens don’t eat or enslave me or feed me to their pets, I’d probably hitch a ride, too.)
What’s your favorite apocalyptic scenario?
What if all of the Hemsworth brothers were really just the same Hemsworth from alternate timelines, and those timelines are folding over each other like a schoolgirl’s hair braid? We are all living on borrowed time, awaiting the Great Hair-Tie when all the Hemsworths merge into one giant Voltron-like Hemsworth Overlord. The survivors of this coalesced timeline will bend in service or die in existential obscurity, flaking away like spiritual dandruff to float forever across the cosmos. Whatever the case, if it all ends up with my wife, my kids, and me safely barricaded inside of an impressively well-stocked library/liquor store/cookie bakery, it should be cool. (Editor’s note: sweet baby Groot, somebody please turn this into a movie.)
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your writing?
The real secret of my writing is that I have the great good fortune of sharing a bed (and a life) with an English major who is lovingly unkind in her criticism of my work. Mary keeps me tremendously honest, and has, on untold occasions, provided the filter that spared the world at large from the more idiotic bits of rattletrap bouncing inside my skull. She’s always the sounding board for my brainstorming sessions and the first person to lay eyes on anything I produce. It’s the finest support system any writer could ever hope to have.
As I look ahead, it looks like this year might be sort of a big one. I’ll be writing a new superhero comic called Empire City for up-and- coming indy publisher Empire Comics Lab with my artist buddy (and fellow Psycho Drive-In contributor) Dave Hearn. I’m putting together a pitch for my contribution to the upcoming sequel to last year’s horror crime anthology “Noirlanthotep” from PDI Press. I am redoubling my efforts to find an ending for a coming-of-age-in-the-era-of-Pac-Man novel that’s been boiling on the back plate for several months, and I hope to finish a draft of it by the end of the year. I’m hoping to find time to continue work on a period crime saga centering around a character named Nick Domino. One Domino novella is complete, and I hope to follow it with a short story before digging into the next novella so that I can package all three stories together as the first volume of three, totaling nine stories in all. But that’s a long-term plan. And as if all that’s not enough, there’s a politically-charged stage play and a screenplay adaptation of a Trevanian novel vying for my creative attention. Back here in reality, my current
column at Psycho Drive-In is called “Everybody Dies”, and is a monthly look at films based on Shakespeare’s Tragedies.

American Carnage: An interview with contributing author John E. Meredith

Welcome to Day 3 of interviews with the American Carnage crew! My review of the anthology is here. This is our last day of interviews (there will be another two interviews going up today). The first of the two is with author John E. Meredith, who wrote the story “What Kind of Monster Are You?” Again, please note: discussion is welcomed, but keep it respectful. I know that the anthology’s theme has the potential for controversy, so comments will be monitored.
Note: answers are unedited/uncensored/unwhathaveyou. All answers, thoughts, and opinions are from the authors.
Also note: this interview is on the long side.
First, tell us a bit about yourself. Any fun and interesting factoids?
I’m an aging neurotic, coming up on 50 . . . well, okay, not until 2019, but that’s still too close . . .close enough that at least half the time I’m convinced that I’m dying. Lung cancer, maybe. Possibly a brain tumor. I’m just waiting for that moment the doctor walks back in the room, her eyes a practiced kind of sad, and tells me what I already know. No joke, part of me completely believes this . . . so, obviously, the only doctor I really need to see is psychiatric.
But here’s the thing about thinking the end is near . . . it makes most of your smaller problems kinda fade into the background. Seriously. I mean, who cares about those looming student loan payments, or the fact that you can barely afford to live, when you might not live that much longer? You start to notice the beauty of little things, like . . . I dunno, leaves scampering across the road in the breeze, or that some movie you always wanted to see is somehow on the rabbit-ears antenna TV, the only thing you can afford these days. It's not exactly magic, and there’s no poignant music soaring behind me as I step out of bed to start the day, but you’ve gotta take your positive feelings wherever they come from, you know?
And it’s really pushed me to focus on my writing. I mean, it’s my only real marketable skill in life. I’m not a terrible-looking guy, but I’m not handsome or young enough to suddenly become a gigolo, so that just leaves this gig of putting words down on paper. Not that it really pays anything either, but it makes me feel better . . . and sometimes I can do it well enough to make someone laugh or cry or maybe even get pissed off.
Might as well keep following it to the end.
Oh yeah . . . I’m divorced, two kids (who live with their mother and stepfather in the Detroit area), currently ready to send my own stepdaughter off to college in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Though I went back to school in my late thirties, early forties – and have an almost-Bachelor’s Degree – I work overnight in a hardware store, opening boxes and putting shit on shelves. I’ve been there far too long, doing a basically brainless job, but at least I’ve escaped having to deal with retail shoppers . . . and I can blast my headphones all night while I work, getting lost in all the music I love . . . you know, while there’s still time.
Tell us a bit about your writing. Are you usually a fiction writer, or did you make an exception for this anthology?
If I had any money, they would call me an eccentric writer. But, since I have a shitty stocking job and I’m still always one step away from total financial ruin, everyone pretty much just considers me a weirdo. But sometimes I’m kinda funny . . . and those who have talked to me a bit eventually want to check out what I write. I suppose they think I'm interesting. Or they just wanna have a better idea when I might snap and take everyone out, it’s hard to say.
I’ve been writing since I was a child. It was cheaper than therapy, and I seemed to be okay at doing it, so my parents encouraged me. I read a lotta Stephen King – and the print versions of movies I’d seen . . . The Omen, Amityville Horror, Jaws – all of it probably at too young an age. Warped a mind that might have already been genetically predisposed toward going bonzo. Threw some Judy Blume and Peanuts in there, too . . . and, eventually, some “real” books . . .Frankenstein, Steinbeck, poetry by Pablo Neruda . . . just to make an even stranger mix. Honestly, it’s a good thing that I do write, or I’d be a helluva lot weirder than I am.
It’s an outlet, you know? A place to put all the crazy, both in journals and in the stories I write.
The first ones were, like, Lassie stories. Then I was doing comic strips . . . because every little boy loves superheroes and stuff, as do some little girls . . . and I could actually draw rather well when I was younger. I did a mean Ronald Reagan. Then I saw, like, CARRIE or something, wanted to read the book, and it kinda took off from there. My first real stories, when I was in the early teens, were probably all King rip-offs.
There was one where this old man runs a puppet shop – it was up the stairs on the second floor of his house, so it was called The Pedestal Puppet Shop – clever, huh? . . . because I had a lotta puppets as a kid, and figured there must be a shop somewhere that just sold puppets . . . and he was so devoted to his puppets, talking to them, spending most of the day with them. But his wife was a total evil bitch – cheating on him with his brother, constantly yelling at him. Well, she finally kills him . . . for the insurance money . . . but then, when she climbs those stairs to get some important papers or something . . . the puppets are waiting for her. They’re waiting, and they’re not very happy, and they’ve got sharp teeth and little shimmering button eyes . . .
I was, maybe, twelve when I wrote that.
I don’t always do horror . . . I mean, there are all kinds of things I’ve written, and even more I hope to write . . . but I really gotta credit Uncle Stevie with putting that urge in me. I’m not saying my dad had a brother named Steve, I mean Mr. King, of course. You get as huge as he is and your critics will grow as much as your fans, but he reached those heights for a reason, you know? I think it’s because he talks right to his audience. His books aren't hard to read, and they kinda address you directly, like you're sitting there beside a fire while he unspools a yarn. So it was kind of a given that I’d be drawn into that and think I could do it . . .
Now I think I can do anything that involves writing, and pretty much want to do it all. I’ve got so many irons in the fire at the moment. There’s my work with PSYCHO DRIVE-IN, and I just got word that they’re running a second piece on DEN OF GEEK UK . . . which is my first paying gig, by the way. I’ve got another story for PDI press in the early stages, plus a series of short stories I’m working on that I might string together as a novel of sorts . . . about people who are terminally ill. There’s a horror novel I’ve at least plotted out in my head – a kinda throwback to all those flicks I loved in my teens – and, further off, a novel about working retail that reads like a war story. Not to mention, only about three hundred other stories I wanna tell . . . and maybe some kinda trashy sex story, in hopes of making a million easy dollars.
I’m never going to live long enough to do it all.
Speaking of the anthology, what drew you to it? Why did you decide to submit a story?
I’ve been doing work with PSYCHO DRIVE-IN since the fall of, maybe, 2015. For whatever reason – probably having a Halloween birthday – I’d decided to post these little bits about horror movies on my Facebook page each day in the month of October. Naturally, they turned into something longer, and, by the third or fourth day in, I saw a post from the site on Instagram. They were basically doing the same thing I was, but they’d been doing it for a couple years . . .and actually had an audience, compared to my hundred or so Facebook followers. I left a comment on their Insta post and then Paul Brian McCoy got hold of me, asking if they could run my stuff on the site. Well, hell yeah. This led to my own column, Popcorn Cinema . . . which is basically the snooty film snob side of me arguing with the side that just likes to see blood and boobs and stuff blowing up. This led to another column, The Flesh Is Weak – spiritually relevant films for agnostics like myself – and all this PDI activity led to the work on the book.
Basically, Paul asked if anyone wanted to write a story in protest of our president. There was no way I could turn that down. I had participated in PDI’s first compilation, NOIRLATHOTEP: Tales of Lovecraftian Crime, and was pretty damn happy to know I was in something that sold almost 300 copies. I mean, that’s not J.K. Rowling numbers or anything, but that’s more exposure than I’d ever gotten for anything before. Not to mention, having a deadline actually ensures that I’ll finish something. Because, you know . . . writers are flighty.
Plus, this man who had somehow gotten elected . . .
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a party thing, or even some kind of support or protest decision. I’m not overly political, though my beliefs tend toward liberal and democratic. That being said, I voted for Kasich in the primaries . . . out of all those folks up on that stage, he seemed to have the best temperament for a job like this. It really didn’t matter that his core beliefs as a Republican weren’t the same as mine. What did matter was that he seemed like a decent human being who might actually consider what he was doing.
Whereas now . . . we have a reality TV president, essentially elected by a studio audience who bought into his shit. The truth is that it’s highly unlikely he gives a damn about anyone, and he could just as easily have run as a Democrat (though there’s even more money with the elephants than the asses). There’s that quote we’ve seen all over, from maybe the 1990s, when he said that if he ever ran for president he would go as a Republican because they had “the dumbest voters ever.” Yet here are all of these working class Americans, sitting on their porches with their broken-down pickups in the yard, and they really believe that this guy gives a shit about them. I understand having that hope – and wanting the kind of change that Obama couldn’t give them (because studies have shown that many folks who voted Trump actually voted Obama, if only for his first term) – but how could people not see through this guy?
He might have built this “great financial empire,” sure . . . folks who start out rich have the tendency to build on that, after all . . . but he still seems barely competent to me. Even before he ran for office. He says what he thinks, which can be a good quality, but sometimes you need to have enough intelligence to keep some of that to yourself. Because when there’s someone like the Donald, whose thoughts change constantly as he sniffs out the best deal for himself, there’s not much you can depend on. I feel like he’s only in this for himself, and eventually that’s going to hurt everyone, regardless of party affiliation.
Plus, I honestly feel like he’s on the edge of senility. For real, check the signs. When my grandpa got like that, we wouldn’t let him have the TV remote, much less access to nuclear weapons.
So, yeah, I had no choice but to write something.
Tell us about your story. What inspired you to write it?
My story is basically about a poor family who lives in the same kinda small town that I currently do. They are a Trump family all the way, outside of the fourteen year old son (who cares more about old-school punk rock than politics) and the one sister who managed to get away to college. Well, the world is in turmoil, there’s all kinds of rioting and Nazis in the street, and suddenly these strange lights start showing up all over the cities of the world. Meanwhile, the kid has found something really . . . strange in the barn. It seems that all these crazy events of the world are culminating in what happens right there in a place called Pea Patch.
When Paul originally asked for our pitches, I had maybe three different ideas. Two of them were pretty solid, and might still end up being written, but none of them were really what he was looking for. So he put the influences he wanted to see out there: John Waters, REPO MAN, Troma movies, and punk rock. He said it would also be nice if there was a severed Trump head somewhere in the story, Kathy Griffith having just stirred up a bunch of controversy with her own
Trump-head trick.
I went back to work on my piece then, with all of this in mind. It was a much different approach to the way I normally write, which is kinda organic, just letting everything flow where it wants to. This was more like patching elements together and hoping like hell that it all worked. I’m not actually sure it did for me, to be honest, but I got a few really good scenes out of it. The scene with the Sleater-Kinney song “Modern Girl” worked really well for me, and the part where Iggy jumps up at the dinner table and finally says what he thinks . . . yeah, those were totally the author’s political views.
Basically, Big Mama is the drag queen Divine. Some of her lines are actually lifted directly from John Waters movies. There are lines from REPO MAN as well. There’s a bunch of b-movie horror stuff in there, with (one of my favorites) THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE even making a prominent appearance. Not to mention, how that movie influenced the talking head that’s in my story. And the punk rock references . . . well, they’re just too many to even mention, so have fun trying to pick them all out.
Oh, and every word spoken by the President in the story . . . though he’s never given a name, every damn ignorant word comes right out of the mouth or Twitter feed of our own president. (Editor’s note: that was freaking brilliant. In my head, every line of dialogue was said in Trump’s voice.)
The anthology is about a Dystopian world (with or without aliens). Do you think that we’re closer to an apocalypse or a Dystopian society now than we have been in the past? Or are we already on our way there, without even realizing it?
There have been folks in damn-near every point in history telling us that the end is near. It’s hard to say, isn’t it? I mean, the facts aren’t really on our side . . . all evidence says we’ve reached the tipping point, that there’s no way back to a safe place. The icecaps are melting, the population is too high to sustain life. But maybe our science is just good enough now to detect the evidence that’s been here for hundreds of years. You know, something is eventually going to collide with the planet, or the sun is going to call it quits and leave a bunch of popsicles floating on a dead rock in space. Might as well choke to death on our own pollution or go up in a hundred mushroom clouds instead.
See, here’s the thing . . . major catastrophes are the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have, or who you know. If there’s a fireball headed toward your house, you’re toast, plain and simple. Granted, the worst of humanity might come crawling out from under the rocks, but the greatest disasters have also brought out the best in us. Most people tend to demonstrate unforeseen sympathy toward others when some really bad shit goes down. Just look at how we react to the endless string of shootings and terrorist attacks over the past few years. Maybe we need something huge to remind us of what petty assholes we’ve been . . . and of how great we can be.
But if the end is soon, then I’d better be here to see it. I’m gonna be pissed off if I miss it by just a couple years. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want it to end . . . but if the meteor is on its way, or the alien invasion . . . even the zombie apocalypse . . . can you imagine how batshit crazy tha’s going to be? I mean, what a thing to see in your final moments. Kinda makes lung cancer and brain tumors seem a little less scary.
Things have gotten a little…heated in recent times, especially when it comes to politics. Have you gotten any pushback or criticism because of the anthology’s theme?
I’m not going to criticize other people’s decisions about who they voted for. I can honestly understand what anyone might have seen in either candidate who made that final race, and why they might not have wanted to vote for the other one. Sadly, I think too much of this election came down to “I can’t stand him” or “I don’t trust her,” rather than choosing someone who might actually do some good for this country. That’s apparently the age we’re living in now, where a few soundbites substitute for any real consideration.
But most of my family voted for Trump.
With the first book we did, NOIRLATHOTEP, I was talking it up to everyone. You couldn’t go to a family get-together without me giving some kind of update, or at least mentioning that it was out. Only a few of them got it anyway, but I was nonetheless very grateful.
But this one . . .
I’ve not even mentioned it to them. If they still look at my posts on social media, they know it’s out there and what it’s about.
As far as real pushback, I’ve not really gotten any. There was a adverse comment or two on PSYCHO DRIVE-IN’s Instagram announcement . . . to which Paul graciously responded, “Hope you enjoy the book.” I had actually hoped there would be more of a ruckus, like someone protesting the artwork or the content . . . because controversy breeds interest, of course. So, please, someone ban this shit and help us sell a million copies. But so far, there’s not been that much noise.
Maybe it’s time to stir the pot.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your writing?
Follow your passion at all costs, even if you’re not sure you’re any good. With enough practice you will be, and who cares if you’re not, as long as it makes you happy? Life is far too pointless (and over far too soon) to do anything but what sets the heart on fire.
And play music, lots and lots of music.

American Carnage: An interview with contributing author Dan Lee

Welcome back to Day 2 of interviews with the American Carnage crew! My review is here. My next interview is with author Dan Lee, who wrote the story “None but the Brave.” Again, please note: discussion is welcomed, but keep it respectful. I know that the anthology’s theme has the potential for controversy, so comments will be monitored.
Note: answers are unedited/uncensored/unwhathaveyou. All answers, thoughts, and opinions are from the authors.
First, tell us a bit about yourself. Any fun and interesting factoids?
I’m a freelance writer specializing in horror entertainment and horror culture. I’m also one of the organizers of the Nashville Zombie Walk.
Tell us a bit about your writing. Are you usually a fiction writer, or did you make an exception for this anthology?
I’ve always considered myself more of a fiction writer but I’m happy to go wherever I can get a byline. I love telling bizarre, unusual stories. Being a part of an anthology is always a lot of fun.
Speaking of the anthology, what drew you to it? Why did you decide to submit a story?
The premise behind it is amazing. Well, I’m a bit biased but blending punk rock (and heavy metal) music with dystopian stories set in a not too far off version of America is a chance to entertain and deliver a message.
Tell us about your story. What inspired you to write it?
My story, None but the Brave, is pretty much classic dystopian sci-fi with a psychedelic interlude in the middle. I was reading a lot of Phillip K. Dick and listening to a lot of GWAR at the time and the two influences sort of blended together to tell a story about a government owned sociopath who rapes the subconscious thoughts of the dead to hunt down threats to an equally invasive government. It’s the only story in the collection titled and themed from heavy metal.
The anthology is about a Dystopian world (with or without aliens). Do you think that we’re closer to an apocalypse or a Dystopian society now than we have been in the past? Or are we already on our way there, without even realizing it?
We’re close, no doubt, but I think we’ve been teetering on the edge of Armageddon for decades. As for a dystopia, we’re steadily integrating into one. We give up a little more freedom and a little more privacy with every smart device and social media post we put our names to.
Things have gotten a little…heated in recent times, especially when it comes to politics. Have you gotten any pushback or criticism because of the anthology’s theme?
Personally? No, I haven’t taken any criticism or complaints. I know within a day of PDI advertising on social media, however, we had someone get mighty butt hurt over the cover art alone.
When you think about the future, is Future Earth a scary or an optimistic place? Or have we, perhaps, already wiped ourselves out and this is a moot point?
It’s terrifying and wonderful all at the same time. We’re always risking disaster and extinction but we keep exploring and growing even faster than we can threaten our own existence.
Since ICoS is all about survival, do you think you’d be more likely to survive an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse?
I’m going with zombie apocalypse. I just have to find the right place to hole up and wait it out. From the moment of reanimation the dead are a finite resource. Every step they take breaks down rotting muscles and flesh. Add weather and time and it’s all about playing the waiting game.
What’s your favorite apocalyptic scenario?
Really the opening stages of any apocalyptic scenario. I love the suspense; the thrill of the escape as civilization comes crashing down at the hands of the elements, disease, or any other earth shattering disaster. That’s the exciting part of any apocalypse, really; the exodus. Everything after that is just camping and Mad Max cosplay.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your writing?
I’m always looking for new challenges and new work. I’d love to write some graphic novels about monsters and strange, transdimensional creatures invading reality. Something with a paycheck would be nice too, you know, if anyone’s hiring.

American Carnage: An interview with contributing author Mike Burr

Welcome to Day 2 of interviews with the American Carnage crew! My review is here. The first interview, with contributor, editor, and anthology mastermind Paul Brian McCoy, is here. Our first interview today is with Mike Burr, author of the story “Where Eagles Dare.” Again, please note: discussion is welcomed, but keep it respectful. I know that the anthology’s theme has the potential for controversy, so comments will be monitored.
Note: This interview, like the others, is fairly long.
Also note: answers are unedited/uncensored/unwhathaveyou. All answers, thoughts, and opinions are from the authors.
First, tell us a bit about yourself. Any fun and interesting factoids?
I seem to have the incredible knack for being in the right place at the right time. This has helped me meet my lovely and intelligent wife, attain both of my dream jobs (teaching high school and working at a comic book store), and seize the opportunity to do everything from hunt alligators and walk the Appalachian trail. On two separate occasions in two separate states, Mariachi bands I have encountered on runs played the Rocky theme for me. I also recently saw a raccoon crawl into a sewer grate and then stare at me like the clown from It. I was a little shaken up.
Tell us a bit about your writing. Are you usually a fiction writer, or did you make an exception for this anthology?
I started out writing fiction, but I got really tired of being rejected. I answered an ad on Craig’s List for music writing and ended up doing nearly a hundred interviews over the span of a few years. I scaled that back when my first child was born, but I always have the itch to write. Thankfully, venues like Psycho Drive-In and Tropics of Meta have given me the opportunity to put together some pieces.
Speaking of the anthology, what drew you to it? Why did you decide to submit a story?
I am always drawn to McCoy’s projects. We went to college together, and he was the older, cooler guy in the program. I have always admired his taste in literature and his work, so I want to try an knock his socks off.
Tell us about your story. What inspired you to write it?
I have oscillated between angry and depressed since the election. Trump’s election revolted me on every level, from the votes of my own family to the racism and religious hypocrisy that was has been activated and enabled by the his administration. On another level, I have been disappointed by the quality of discourse from liberals. It seems that hating Trump is enough right now; there seems to be little mention of actually doing something productive on a community level or coming up with a political agenda that actually offers help to those people who need it most. This country used to talk about ending poverty; now men like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are empowered to enforce poverty on future generations.
The anthology is about a Dystopian world (with or without aliens). Do you think that we’re closer to an apocalypse or a Dystopian society now than we have been in the past? Or are we already on our way there, without even realizing it?
There is always a chance of slipping into an apocalypse type situation; think about what happened in Puerto Rico this year. Even more insidious, however, is the slow creep of technology in our society. We are constantly connected to a screen. I think this leads to a lack of empathy and cooperation that is needed to maintain a society. On the other hand, a little box that plays movies, games and music while also revealing your pinpoint location at all times is a pretty genius way to keep people in line.
Things have gotten a little…heated in recent times, especially when it comes to politics. Have you gotten any pushback or criticism because of the anthology’s theme?
I started out writing my story in hopes of making people on both sides of the aisle angry, so I will gladly accept any criticism. The goal is to be hated enough to incite a mass book burning.
When you think about the future, is Future Earth a scary or an optimistic place? Or have we, perhaps, already wiped ourselves out and this is a moot point?
I am an eternal optimist. For all the awful things we have done to the Earth, there are still beautiful places. No matter how corrupt and petty our leaders can be, there is a basic human impulse to help other people. I thought we were headed in the right direction when we elected Obama. Hopefully we’ll get back to that place again.
Since ICoS is all about survival, do you think you’d be more likely to survive an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse?
Always go with the zombies. There is a limited range of what they are going to be able to do, given their status as formerly living organisms. The technology required for interstellar travel is generations more advanced than we can even comprehend at this point. Imagine the weaponry.
What’s your favorite apocalyptic scenario?
Charlton Heston in Omega Man.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your writing?
The most important thing about writing is to write and then put it out there. I am always terrified to send in a piece, but in it’s better than leaving it in a desk drawer.