by Jack Wallen
“You’re listening to … WZMB … Zombie Radio. Your personal…”
You get the idea. No seriously, you GET IT! Which means, by proxy, you get me.
Or what? What exactly am I trying to say here? Oh yeah, I remember.
I started Zombie Radio in 2011, as a means to promote the release of the second book in my I Zombie series, My Zombie My. The Zombie Radio DJ was a character in the book that served as a sort of release for Bethany Nitshimi. During the beta reading process, one of my readers said I should make Zombie Radio a real thing.
Ah ha! Something unique that could serve as PR for the series. Score!
At first it was going to be nothing more than a continuous loop of songs I thought were apropos for the genre. Fairly quickly I realized that would have been a logistical and legal nightmare, so I scrapped the idea. Then it dawned on me … a podcast. This was back when the world of podcasting was just starting to gain serious ground, so it was a perfect time to hop on board.
Thus Zombie Radio came into being.
Today, the podcast is quite different than it once was. Originally it was intrinsically tied to the series. Without knowing the I Zombie universe, there were times when the Zombie Radio podcast wouldn’t make sense. Listeners who hadn’t read the books would say, “What the hell?”. Of course, the driving mechanism of Zombie Radio was to get them to read the books.
But then, something magical happened—Zombie Radio took on a life (and a universe) all of its own. The weekly episodes no longer required the listener to be familiar with the book series (although reading the Zombie Radio novella series does help). What I had on my hands was something special, something that was no longer tied to the timeline of the book series (which, if I’m being honest, was a serious limiting factor).
Out of the dust of what was rose something real, immediate. Because Zombie Radio had shattered the shackles of the I Zombie series, it could become more relevant to the unfolding events of reality. For me, that was an incredibly freeing moment. I could use the vehicle as a means of commentary on current events or issues that were pertinent to me, my friends, and the world at large. Seeing as how I am the Zombie Radio DJ, it made sense.
This release was a perfect storm for the character and the fictional radio station. Because Zombie Radio was a weekly podcast, clinging solely to the I Zombie series had tied me to a single narrative. In the long run, that would not do. With the freedom to venture beyond that world, the DJ (aka me) was then free to talk about whatever the hell he wanted. The podcast doesn’t often veer away from the subject of survival (as that is at the heart of the genre), but when it does … the sky is, in fact, the limit.
This is not goodbye
That is not to say, Zombie Radio is kissing the I Zombie series goodbye. No way in hell that’ll happen. The DJ and his world are deeply tied to Bethany and her world. Besides, there is still story to tell within that universe and the DJ will always be a part of it. Mr. DJ will also continue to be a part of his own novella world (the Zombie Radio series) as well as the Last Casket series. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the man (and his voice) wove its way into the fabric of my other universes (think “metaverse” here). There have been brief moments (already) in which I have given a nod to the DJ in the likes of the Nameless Saga and the Reapers series.
Although the I Zombie series has slowed down a bit, the oeuvre will always be a part of my work … and the Zombie Radio DJ will remain involved. Giving the DJ and the station a life of their own was a necessary evil; a move the writer (and voice of the DJ) required to open up the world of Zombie Radio, such that it could continue mining the depths of humanity.
The big metaphor
One of the primary aspects of the Zombie genre that keeps me going is how well it serves as a metaphor and mouthpiece for humanity. With this particular genre, it becomes quite easy to hold the universal mirror up to humankind and say, “See who the real monster is!”. What Zombie Radio has done for me is give that a literal (and metaphorical) voice and allowed me to speak up and out about our foibles and flaws. Now, instead of only commenting within the boundaries of the I Zombie universe, the gloves have been removed and the DJ can take on anything and everything he wants. There’s a lot of metaphor out there just waiting to be tackled. Keep listening.
A big thank you
I wanted to take a quick moment to thank all of the listeners of Zombie Radio. It’s been going on for six years now and I could not have done it without you. Your support and friendship mean the world to me.
Find out more about Jack Wallen and his work at www.jackwallen.com.
And pick up a copy of Middletown 3: Metal Apocalypse.