Friday, 20 August 2010

A conversation with Alden Bell

The Reapers are the Angels is one of the best books I've read this year (review), and soon you'll be able to see why, as it's released in the UK next month. For those of you in the US, it's already out, so go go go! Wonderful book. I've seen one or two reviewers call it a generic zombie novel, but I have to completely disagree. But whatever, it's excellent. Check it out.

Anyway, author Alden Bell - pen name of Joshua Gaylord - is a newcomer to the genre, and by way of welcome fellow Tor author Mark Charan Newton has conducted a substantial online chat with him:

Mark: You get no sympathies from me living in Orange County, dude. But that’s an interesting disconnection between yourself and the American Dream. Whereas so many of the Great American Novels that I’ve read almost celebrate the iconic, Reapers almost came across as if you were writing the anti-American Novel – a literal and assiduous destruction of its landscape and humanity. Noting the psychology there, was that a conscious decision? Or does it come down to the simple fact that you just dig zombies?
Alden: Okay – I’m gonna to have to go all English teacher on you. There’s a great passage at the end of Gatsby where the narrator imagines the first settlers coming to the New World and finding themselves “face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to [their] capacity for wonder.” What he’s talking about, I think, is the dangerous diminishment of the American Dream. It used to be about building societies up from scratch, recreating your identity out of nothing, inventing whole new worlds. Now that those new worlds are built, the only things left to strive for are vacations to Aruba and memberships to the right country clubs. Fitzgerald knew it: we still have the instinct to dream but not much left to dream for – which creates a dangerous disconnect. So the apocalypse in Reapers does destroy America, but it also resets it to its original promise. It becomes, once again, a landscape where you can build things from scratch. So it’s anti- and pro-American Dream at the same time. And the zombies? To me, they’re like cilantro – if I can figure out a way to add them into the mix, I’ll do it.

It's a really interesting conversation, with a refreshingly natural feel, so do check it out.

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