Posts Tagged ‘Nazi zombies’

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Recently on Twitter, another author I’m acquainted with tweeted that she didn’t think she would ever reach the levels of the authors she admired. She then went on to say that while she aspired to “champagne quality” writing, her stories usually ended up being “boxed wine” quality.

First off, what’s wrong with boxed wine? The first sips of wine I liked came from boxes. And price, prestige, method of preparation, or recommendation of experts is no guarantee of quality or tastefulness. Just check out this hilarious video on the subject.

And second, just because you think your work isn’t as good as your heroes or as prestigious as other stories doesn’t mean it’s bad. For starters, you think the writers you aspire to be don’t have their bad days? Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert probably bemoaned that they would never come up with stories as influential as those of Mary Shelley, HG Wells and Jules Verne. Every professional manga artist, including those who have made the most famous series like Eiichiro Oda, Rumiko Takahashi, and Naoko Takeuchi, have lamented they’ll never be as good as their favorite artists despite all proof to the contrary. And God knows HP Lovecraft, one of the most influential and controversial writers in horror, worried that he would never measure up to the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Chambers and Arthur Manchen.

(And if I’m being honest, between his prejudices and his hyper-Victorian style of writing, he never did.)

Another thing to keep in mind is that just because another work is considered “prestigious” doesn’t mean it’s good. In fact, the word prestige comes from the Latin word for “illusion.” And that’s what prestige is: an illusion. A bunch of critics or purveyors or publishers came together and agreed that because a work of art has certain qualities or is being sold in a certain place (like a fancy, pretentious art gallery), it’s considered “good” and worthy of being worshipped. But beyond making sure that it’s been edited well, that’s no guarantee of quality.

An example of a bestseller whose quality is questionable.

Neither is being a bestseller, honestly. The way a bestseller is defined is often based on how much a publisher thinks a story will do and how much marketing is done for the book. Most bestseller lists can be gamed for profit, such as happened with Lani Sarem’s YA novel a few years ago. And many bestsellers fade into obscurity after a few years, rather than having staying power. It has nothing to do with quality of the story itself (just look at my review of Nothing But Blackened Teeth, which has attained bestseller status, if you don’t believe me).

You know what is an indicator of quality (beyond editing and not having anything offensive in the content)? An audience’s reaction. Fiction is often an escape and helps audiences heal from our awful reality, or at the very least bring joy and give readers a feeling that their interests are shared by others. So if your work brings people joy, then that’s a great sign of its quality. Doesn’t matter if it involves college professors and literati types scheming and having sex with one another; fighting aliens in another solar system; or having a love affair with a powerful man in a universe where humanity is divided into castes based on supposed wolf pack heirarchy.* Just as long as your audience gets joy from reading it, then it’s quality.

You especially see this in the horror genre. You have your Gothic and ghost stories with flowery language; serial killer thrillers that gush blood and gore; Nazi zombies that bite your face off as they propagate a toxic and deadly ideology; and even stories around killer cows or living poop monsters or other ridiculous ideas. All those are stories in the horror genre, and very few within the genre will judge you for it.

Plenty outside the genre will, though. Horror as a whole is still looked down upon as a genre, even as it proves more profitable and popular every year. But that’s another thing: tastes and what is considered prestigious changes all the time. Shakespeare, opera and even lobster used to be considered low-class. Now they’re fancy and high-falutin. Perhaps in a hundred years, your “boxed wine” fiction will be taught in high school and college classes, working on horror and superhero movies is a highly sought-after privilege, and a restaurant is considered luxury if it serves real bacon. You never know.

All that being said, this might not make you feel any better about your stories. These feelings might come from stress, anxiety, depression, or dating a demon fairy who scares people with a twitch of the face rather than trying to write stories. But if learning all this helps you feel like your work is champagne quality, then mission accomplished. Because no matter what your story is about, how flowery the writing is, or who’s hyping it up or buying it, if your work is enjoyed by someone, that’s what matters most.

Better have an editor check it over first. They catch stuff you’ll never see in a million years before you get to the publishing phase.

You may think your story is a boxed wine, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or low-class. The exact opposite, in fact.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back Monday for something special (you probably know what already). Until next time, good night, Happy Thanksgiving, and pleasant nightmares!

*This is an actual subgenre of romance, and it is apparently very popular. I won’t judge anyone who likes it, but I will say that wolf packs aren’t actually based around alphas, betas and omegas. Research has shown that wolf packs are really alliances of small, nuclear families and lone wolves adopted into the pack. The more you know.

“It’s a movie about Nazi zombies.” From that description alone, you’d think you’d know Overlord inside and out. After all, this subject’s been done before, and it’s usually pretty silly, overly gory, and focuses on some buff action-hero types who cut through the zombies with guns and on as many cheesy deaths as possible. But then you hear JJ Abrams is involved. And that it’s gotten a 81% score on Rotten Tomatoes. And His Royal Scariness Stephen King praises it on Twitter, comparing it to the early work of Stephen Spielberg.

I went to go see it with my cousin today, expecting it to be just as predictable as the movies that came before. What we got instead, to our surprise and delight, was an above average and atmospheric horror film.

OverlordĀ follows Ed Boyce, an African American soldier who is part of a special mission to facilitate the D-Day landings in France in WWII. His unit has to destroy a Nazi radio tower in a converted church in Normandy so the Germans can’t radio for support during the D-Day invasions. However, when they get to the town, they find something weird is happening there. Civilians are being dragged into the church, and those that do come out seem to be changed, and not for the better. Boyce and his unit soon realize they’ve discovered a dark plot that could change the course of the war. Unless they stop it.

As I said, this isn’t what you’d expect with a movie involving Nazi zombies. In fact, the zombies don’t feature as heavily as they might’ve in another film. Rather, director Julius Avery decided to focus more on the horrors of war and the creepy atmosphere, rather than sensationalized gore and violence. And it is effective. Everything, from the war-torn town to the blood and gore, look incredibly realistic. Very little CGI is used, which only makes things more authentic and visceral. I especially liked the Nazi base of operations underneath the church. It’s use of shadow, space and overabundance of creepy and bloody medical equipment reminded me of some of the scariest parts of the video game Outlast.* And as I said, there is an attention to the horrors and privations of war and atmosphere that you really do feel without the zombies being present.

And when the zombies do show up, God are they scary! They’re slimy and bloody, they move spasmodically and growl like animals. The fact that they aren’t overused especially helps.

I also found the cast very believable. True, I couldn’t help but think “It’s Fitz from Agents of SHIELD” every time Iain De Caestrecker’s character was on screen, flawless American accent or not. But other than that, you really do believe these actors are these characters. Jovan Adepo is especially good as Private Boyce, who is affected every time he sees someone die or has to kill someone. You believe this guy is going to be haunted for years to come.

One critique I do have for Overlord is that it does get a bit predictable at the end. I mean that’s fine, it’s a great finale, but you could still see where the film was going to go at that point.

All in all though, Overlord is a good horror film and a much better film than you’d expect. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.4. Unnerving and powerful, it’ll stay with you for a while after you’ve left the theater. Take a look and see for yourself.

*BTW, if you haven’t played or watch someone play Outlast, I highly recommend you try it. Just be careful though, because that game is enough to leave me shaking.