by Jay Wilburn
Armand Rosamilia started the Summer and Winter of Zombie tours and he built them into something special. He was so successful with this that when his career swallowed the time he would normally use for hosting the events twice a year, he hated to let the tours go or dissolve into memory. After considerable discussion, we set up to pass hosting duties off to me. He was a huge help during that first tour by agreeing to stay on as a featured author and providing sage guidance as I ran with the tours in my own directions, always building off that solid foundation he had created, crafted, and perfected.
That was more than a year ago now. I had a kidney transplant between Winter of Zombie 2016 and Summer of Zombie 2017. I sent out the first invites for authors the day I returned home after two months of recovery living next to the transplant center in an apartment we rented in the Charlotte. Some of these authors’ work I had read days before going into surgery. Nothing was guaranteed, but I came out of the transplant operation successfully. I slowly recovered and hit the ground running in preparation for this tour.
Armand and I are good friends as are many of the authors on this tour and tours past. We love writing zombie stories and work hard to keep our stories fresh and interesting. Many of us have been playing with zombie stories for many years. We have cowritten work, done conventions together, and visited at each other’s houses. We are moving into the latter books in our series and are starting new adventures in and out of the genre.
Others on the tour are new to us and new to genre in some cases. Some are veteran writers, but exploring zombie fiction for the first or second time. These new explorations bring new voices and different perspectives to the genre. They are not exactly the stories we have told or are telling, but why would we want them to be? The zombie genre can turn stale really easily. There was a stretch where zombie stories were hard to sell because so many stories were written and crafted badly. Some would still say the genre is dying, but zombies have a way of coming back and shambling onward. New writers entering the genre have helped a lot with this rebirth.
I read a lot of zombie fiction as a result of curating for this tour. What that has revealed to me is how much great work is out there. Far more than I could ever include in a single tour. Some seasons I stress and fret over who I can’t take and try to pull them on to future tours when I can. I’m always ready to check out a first time zombie writer. What I have learned from all this is that even though there are a lot of bad examples of zombie stories out there, there are also great tales to be found. I like to think I’ve done my part with these tours to bring many of those works and authors forward to an audience seeking a good zombie story.
I search for authors far outside my circles and strive to make contact with them to pitch the tour. Some of them are doing very different things. Others are telling more familiar tales, but their storytelling sets them apart and I work to bring some of them onto tours when I can. I am always pleased with a good find of some storyteller the audience and return readers to the Summer of Zombie tours likely have not yet found on their own.
I believe I speak for other veterans of the genre and longstanding writer friends when I say we welcome these new artists into our genre. Whatever weird and twisted angles they find to tell their stories, challenge us as longtime writers and readers of the genre. We are inspired to dig deeper, create better, and to keep searching for the great new voices out there with another story to tell us.