Of Zombies, Dionysius, and eating the brains of Apollo.

I made a throwaway comment on social media the other day, how I believed that all zombie fiction is essentially the Apollonian and Dionysian dichotomy writ large. Having pondered on the idea for a day or two, I thought it worth expanding upon.

“The Apollonian is based on individuality, and the human form which is used to represent the individual and make one being distinct from all the others. It celebrates human creativity through reason and logical thinking. By contrast, the Dionysian is based on chaos and appeals to the emotions and instincts. Rather than being individual, the barriers on individuality are broken down and beings submerge themselves in one whole.”

(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollonian)

Now, if that doesn’t sum up the rugged individuals resisting the mindless zombie hordes, I don’t know what does. Broken down to its purest theme, the modern zombie narrative tells us about the struggle of the Apollonian holdouts, maintaining reason and logic against the overwhelming default state of chaos.

Throughout western literature, this idea has been used over and over, by everyone from Nietzsche to Stephen King. As far as the Greeks themselves are concerned, this dichotomy is probably a carry over from earlier Egyptian mythology (which is all about Order resisting Chaos) and seems to be a story as old as recorded history.

In George Romero’s excellent movie Land of the Dead, we see the complete destruction of one man’s Apollonian order, and as the dust settles, an uneasy accomodation between these two philosophies (the survivors of Fiddler’s Green and the evolving zombies). It should be noted that “the Greeks did not consider the two gods to be opposites or rivals, although often the two deities were interlacing by nature.”

In my favourite moment of this movie, the turncoat human Cholo DeMora (played by John Leguizamo) cops an infected bite. He is from that moment on doomed to turn into a zombie, and walk the earth in undeath. Even as his companion offers to end his life (and spare him from this fate) Cholo stops him.

Foxy: [Cholo is bitten by a zombie and Foxy hold a gun aimed at him] It’s your call man.

Cholo: [hesitates then shakes his head no] Nah, I always wanted to see how the other half lives.

And just like that, we realise that Cholo was a Dionysian figure all along. Rebuffed earlier by his employer, this character opens the floodgates to chaos, turning against his own kind, and dooming Fiddler’s Green. Stealing the ultimate weapon, he is ostensibly holding this gated community to ransom for what is effectively useless currency – there is nothing left to the United States but barter economies, walled enclaves in a new Dark Ages. This always bugged me about this movie, but I finally understand that it was never about the money for Cholo. This is the story of an Apollonian figure rejecting his Dionysian counterpart, who then behaves true to form.

 Finally, I’d like to really draw a long bow, and talk about the Maenads. These were the female followers of Dionysius, known for madness and chaos, for drunken revelries in the wilderness. In every story they are mindless, wild, individual creatures broken down and remade as agents of chaos – a mad group, never individuals from that point.

It’s almost incidental that they throw the equivalent of wild parties, with drinking, mad dancing and crazy music. Discount these facts, and everything else points to the ancient Greeks inventing the modern zombie some 2000 years before Romero thought of it.

“Rather than being individual, the barriers on individuality are broken down and beings submerge themselves in one whole.”

In the maenads, we have women who reject their role, murdering their own children, turning from civilisation. Anytime they encounter man or beast, they attack it in a frenzy, tearing it limb from limb. Whenever they eat flesh, it’s not for sustenance, but in an attempt to consume the divine, to rise above their earthly forms. Much like the zombies, they aren’t eating to survive. It’s a communion, a frenzy that exists beyond the normal actions of life.

Maenads2

“Ack. I should have aimed all my javelins for the head.”

“The goal was to achieve a state of enthusiasm in which the celebrants’ souls were temporarily freed from their earthly bodies and were able to commune with Bacchus/Dionysus and gain a glimpse of and a preparation for what they would someday experience in eternity. The rite climaxed in a performance of frenzied feats of strength and madness, such as uprooting trees, tearing a bull (the symbol of Dionysus) apart with their bare hands, an act called sparagmos, and eating its flesh raw, an act called omophagia. This latter rite was a sacrament akin to communion in which the participants assumed the strength and character of the god by symbolically eating the raw flesh and drinking the blood of his symbolic incarnation. Having symbolically eaten his body and drunk his blood, the celebrants became possessed by Dionysus.”

(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maenad)

So, in summary, whenever we tell a zombie story, we’re reverting to a very old mythology. If we do it properly, we’re exploring the Apollonian-Dionysian dichotomy each and every time.

Author Appearances in December

Heya folks,

A quick update about some upcoming appearances:

14th December, 1pm - BOOK SIGNING

Come along to Collins Booksellers, Edwardstown. I’ll be there signing copies of my new book EVERYTHING IS A GRAVEYARD, and will most likely have some copies of the zombie-tastic QUIVER as well.

19th December, 9pm – RADIO

I’ll be making an appearance on The Show’s Christmas special, along with other guests they’ve had throughout the year. Tune into PBA-FM, 89.7fm, or stream the show via the following link:

http://www.users.on.net/~pbafm2/

Busy Fisch is Busy

Oh boy, we live in exciting times! While I’ve admittedly spent the last few days playing Silent Hill: Downpour, the rest of the time has been flat out. Between hanging out with my awesome family, studying clinical coding and working in an interesting and challenging job, I every now and then (with the firm and wise encouragement of the good Mrs Fisch) get into the study and Get Those Words Down.

I count myself blessed that I get to do this writing thing that I enjoy. It’s a wonderful feeling, sitting down and casting out one’s mind, playing make-believe for hours on end. Even better when you come out of it at the other end, a little bit dazed and in need of a cuppa, with a whole new slab of story to share with other people.

I’m at the part of my career where I’ve always got something on the go, and where I often have to be somewhat cryptic about what I’m working on. Nascent works are delicate things, and if they are commissioned pieces they usually have an embargo attached to them. Also, it’s kind of a jinx thing, as even self-propelled works can mutate and change mid-stream, and then I look back at these blog-posts and feel daft.

Anyway, here’s the current state of play at Fisch Industries: 

Currently working on:

  • Military Science Fiction novel (collab)
  • Cthulhu short story
  • Tie-in novella
  • Collaboration short story

And here’s the rest of my dance-card, which makes the next 12-18 months pretty flat out:

  • YA book (working title “Bossfight”)
  • YA book (working title “Ripley Quarterquick”)
  • Sequel to Quiver, working title “Hard Nock Life”
  • Various short stories (about 6 different ideas, just for me!)
  • The Severed Garden (crazy fix-up novel based around my existing Raoul the Minotaur stories, and some new material. Think lots of marginalia, weird plates, poetry, surreal interstitial and transmedia stuff. Dream project that will take as long as it takes)
  • Cabalista – self-pubbed flash-fiction antho I want to get off the ground. Will try my hand at illustration, though it will probably involve fummetti and Photoshop :-)

And everyday, this list of stuff fricken GROWS. I need to win lotto just to get on top of this to-do list :-)

Of launches and a pub full of rotters!

Wow, what a great weekend! Saturday started with the book launch for my new collection “EVERYTHING IS A GRAVEYARD”, which was great. Nice turn-out of locals at the SA Writers Centre, and the lovely Lisa Hannett did the honour of launching my book. She did an amazing job of analysing my stories and proved once more that she really REALLY knows her stuff. book_signingHere we see the author inserting the obligatory pun into his signature.

StackofBooks

 A fat stack of books with my name on the cover! Cool!

A few hours after the Adelaide launch, the Ticonderoga Publications road-show hit the airport, and we went straight over to Melbourne (via the Virgin Lounge – free food and everything!). We caught up with the lovely Angela Rega after her booklaunch (Her ”The Cobbler Mage” is an absolutely gorgeous book, BTW – marbling on the in-leaf pages and everything).

Sunday brought us to the the inaugural Melbourne Zombie Convention. The event was sold out, and 600 guests converged on the Royal Melbourne Hotel, decked out as zombies, zombie-hunters, and the occasional bemused “normal”.

Sold a bunch of books (both “Everything is a Graveyard” and my zombie novel “Quiver”), chatted to heaps of folks, caught up with many excellent writers and publishers, and even sat on a panel with other writers to talk all things undead in literature. Had an absolute ball, and even got quoted in The Age:

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/a-lively-day-for-the-undead-20131006-2v2ga.html

Many thanks to Russell B Farr and Liz Grzyb of Ticonderoga Publications for taking a leap of faith on my book, and for making this brilliant weekend happen. One very happy author, signing off.

michonne Michonne (excellent  Walking Dead cosplay) buys my books!

ticonderogacrew

 The bad-ass Ticonderoga crew. Most excellent publishers Russell Farr and Liz Grzyb, and yours truly.

zombiephoto

Some rotten bugger I bumped into.

Melbourne Zombie Convention – Panel Appearance

Hi folks! Not only will I be in attendance at the Melbourne Zombie Convention, but it will be my pleasure to appear on the following panel. I will be there alongside these bright sorts, talking all things zombie and literature related.

3:30pm – 4:00pm Zombie Literature Discussion Panel hosted by Australian Horror Writer’s Association Geoff Brown featuring Sue Edge, Chuck McKenzie, Rob Hood, Paul Mannering and Jason Fischer.

When not holding forth, I’ll be found in the dealer’s room or in the nearby vicinity. I’ll be there with Russell B Farr signing copies of my zombietastic collection “Everything is a Graveyard”. Also, the survival-oriented Chuck McKenzie will be selling copies of my novel “Quiver” over at the Notions Unlimited table.

EVERYTHING IS A GRAVEYARD – Available for Pre-Order!

everything-is-a-graveyard

“They can take my Torana but they’ll never take my freedom.”

Picture if you will, a warped tome of tales. A bogan love-child of the Necronomicon and Wolf Creek. A book possessing the strength of ten undead camels, the pouncing speed of a thousand drop-bears, and the lurching hop of a pack of zombiefied kangaroos. This is my short-story collection EVERYTHING IS A GRAVEYARD, and it is imminent.

If you can’t make the official book launch in Adelaide on October 5th, or the Melbourne Zombie Convention the day after, be of good cheer. For there is another option at your disposal. Pre-orders are now being taken for this book via the following link, and it will be in stock as of the 11th of November:

http://www.indiebooksonline.com/catalog/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=everything+is+a+graveyard

 

New Review of Quiver

Aussie horror review site Thirteen O’Clock has reviewed my novel Quiver. Reviewer Alan Baxter pulls no punches, and offers a thorough critique of the book, warts and all.

“Jason Fischer has embraced the pulp novella, embraced everything about zombie stories and combined them into something equal parts familiar and refreshingly original. If you’re a fan of zombie action, bow-wielding badass heroines and good pulpy fun you should really check out Quiver.”

To read the rest of the review (and other delicious offerings from Thirteen O’Clock) click on the following link:

http://www.thirteenoclock.com.au/quiver-by-jason-fischer/

Melbourne Zombie Convention

The Melbourne Zombie Convention is imminent! I shall be in attendance, signing copies of “Everything is a Graveyard” and no doubt chatting to many awesome folks. If you are shambling along to this event, make sure to stop by and say hello!

More information on the Melbourne Zombie Convention can be found here, it looks like a truly excellent event:

http://www.zombiehire.com/mzc/index.php?pageid=6

 

Upcoming Appearances

Hey folks,

Some fun times ahead! Tomorrow I shall be at the Salisbury Writers Festival, appearing on a panel to talk about “Speculative Fiction Unleashed” with fellow ink-scribblers Sean Williams and Tony Shillitoe. Panel is at 12:50pm at the John Harvey Gallery (more details here: http://www.salisbury.sa.gov.au/Our_City/Arts_and_Culture/Salisbury_Writers_Festival/Writers_Forum)

Next Thursday night (29th August) from 9 pm, I shall be appearing on community radio station PBA-FM 89.7. Presenters Alexis and Pete have invited me as a guest of The Show. They’ll be running a zombie/literature themed program, and it will be my great pleasure to come along and talk all things zombie and writing related. More information on PBA-FM can be found via this link:

http://www.users.on.net/~pbafm2/

And The Show has its own Facebook and Twitter pages:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/THE-SHOW-897-PBA-FM/115071388537800

https://twitter.com/TheShowPBAFM