Interview: Jason Hough on the Zombie Apocalypse
Bec Stafford has a Masters of Philosophy from the University of Queensland. She blogs and interviews for the Escape Club and The Spotlight Report.
Your last release, is Zero World is about technologically enhanced superspy, Peter Caswell, who tracks colleagues through a tear in space. Your earlier work had been compared to John Scalzi and because of your previous novel The Darwin Elevator, you’ve been asked to speak at the NT Work and Safety Conference at Charles Darwin Uni about health and safety issues related to a zombie apocalypse, as well as various other disaster scenarios. How did you become involved in that topic and what lessons can we learn from such scenarios from speculative fiction?
I was invited to speak at the conference by its organizer, Martyn Hill. Though I have no professional experience in the health and safety field, Martyn felt (and I agree) that it might be interesting to hear the perspective of a fiction writer on these topics. I’m planning a lighthearted talk about the crazy, dangerous scenarios we sci-fi authors imagine, but more importantly how our characters react to those situations. I think perhaps some of the techniques we use to tell these stories can help safety officials envision real-world scenarios and solutions, particularly in the future.
Your new sci-fi spy thriller, Zero World, centres on a technologically enhanced superspy, Peter Caswell. Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing this story and how you first came up with Peter?
My process involves creating a brief outline (one sentence per chapter), along with a lot of thinking about the world the story will be set in. In this case, Peter finds himself on a world that appears to be Earth’s twin, at least geographically. His character came partly from necessity for the story I wanted to tell, and partly from a random conversation with another author about Korean action thrillers.
When you were a kid, were you into spy fiction and film and did you ever dream of being a spy, yourself?
As a kid in the 80’s, I discovered James Bond through the films, though I quickly read the books as well. As I grew up I moved on to the works of Le Carre and others. The kid-version of me, who knew only of James Bond and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., certainly wanted to join the CIA. But more serious Cold War fiction made me realize the real deal was not for me. I wanted to create those stories, not be in them.
What are some of your favourite zombie films, and which best reflect your ideas about surviving a zombie apocalypse? Do you often find yourself shouting, ‘Oh, you’d neverdo that!’ in frustration at the screen when the protagonists are hatching escape plans?
To be totally honest, I’m not a huge fan of zombie films. At least, not the typical cliche shambling, shuffling brainless brain-eating zombie films. If we get technical about it, my books feature subhumans — real living animals that have been infected with a brain altering virus. They’re not undead. It’s a common misconception. Still, I understand it, as they fall into the “formerly human” category.
So with that in mind, my favorite zombie films are probably “Shaun of the Dead” and “28 Days Later”. I also recently enjoyed the zombie novel “The Girl with all the Gifts”.
Jason, you were formerly an animator and game designer. Has that background informed your writing career and what are your top 5 games of all time?
It’s definitely helped! My animator background has helped me to envision the “props” and sets my stories use. As a game designer, my primary job was to build the world of the game. What populates it, and what rules govern it. This is the same sort of work I do when starting to plan out a novel. The big difference is that now I’m not constrained by the capabilities of the technology, or how many artists and programmers are available.
It’s hard for me to rank my favorite games because I like them for so many different reasons. There’s no quantifiable way to say “this one is better than that” on a list. So, I’ll throw out some favorites in no particular order: Thief: The Dark Project, Deus Ex, System Shock, Elite, Half-Life.
Jason M. Hough – author of The Dire Earth Cycle and, out now, ZERO WORLD.