Unlike many writers who develop a deep affection for fiction when they are still sounding out words, I didn’t find my love for writing until I was in my early twenties. The stilted, elitist idea that fiction had to be challenging, like Faulkner, Joyce, Tolstoy or Chaucer, deprived me of reading through much of my youth.
Then came the zombie hordes.
I’d been obsessed with horror films for as long as I could remember. I watched every zombie movie I could find. Then, when I was twenty-two or twenty-three, in an effort to have more brain-eaters in my life, I turned to the novels of Joe McKinny, Z.A. Recht, and J.L. Borne. These authors weren’t trying to create literary master pieces, in fact, far from it. They told fast paced gratuitously violent stories of heroes surviving against insurmountable odds. Their novels were terribly fun and surprisingly emotional.
With zombie novels like “Day by Day Armageddon” and “Dead City” I began to love reading. When I’d blasted through all the zombie novels I could find, I looked into other horror authors to scratch my newly acquired itch. Stephen King, Joe Lansdale, Richard Laymon, and Jack Ketchem all twisted their way into my heart. Then it was Richard Matheson, Peter Straub, Shirley Jackson, Edgar Alan Poe, M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, Joyce Carol Oats, and Robert McCammon.
I tried to read zombie novels again, but I could no longer stomach the prose. It was like getting a taste for cheeseburgers through McDonald’s and then having real Angus Beef topped with organic lettuce, tomato, and onions. I couldn’t go back.
Ray Bradbury transitioned me from horror to science fiction by giving me “Something Wicked this Way Comes” followed by “Fahrenheit 451”. And despite reading plenty of science fiction in old magazines as a kid, it was Bradbury that introduced me to my love of science fiction. Over the last few years I’ve worked my way through many of the classics and just recently have been diving into some exciting new voices.
My tastes still lean towards the macabre, but science fiction is what I mostly read these days. Sure, there is still horror, a little fantasy, and some “literary” fiction mixed in for good measure, but its writers like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon and Philip K. Dick that have made me who I am today.
The more I read, the more I appreciated quality prose and these days I will give anything you put in front of me a chance. I guess you could say I have become like the shambling dead, but instead of an insatiable appetite for human flesh, my hunger is for books.