I really enjoyed Matthew Johnson’s story in this anthology. “The Afflicted” follows Kate as she wanders the quarantined national park where those carrying the virus have been relocated. The afflicted are the older generation, those primarily in nursing homes but also living on their own, and the disease has an unpredictable development pattern that can switch some into the vicious end-stage overnight and leave others lingering in anticipation of its onset. Kate’s background as a nursing home nurse has confined her to the quarantine park, where she continues to administer help and first aid to the individuals stuck there. But when a young girl shows up in the park unexpectedly, Kate may find she’s responsible for more than just the ailing.
This is a very sweet story of love and familial loyalty, and I highly recommend it. There’s a definite reason Johnson’s story was chosen to kick off the collection.
Prepare yourself for the coming apocalypse and save yourself a copy of Zombies: More Recent Dead before it’s released in September! You can pre-order a copy from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, or Amazon.
1. The Writing Question: What is the best or worst piece of writing advice you’ve received?
The very best piece of writing advice I’ve ever encountered was from John M. Ford’s essay “Rules of Engagement,” about leaving things for readers to imagine for themselves: “If I told you, you would know less than you know now.”
The worst piece of advice is probably “write what you know,” because it’s so vague that it’s always going to make you worry that you’re doing something wrong.
2. The Zombie Question: What enticed you to writing this zombie story?
“The Afflicted” was actually inspired in part by my annoyance at the second season of The Walking Dead, in particular the stacked “debate” over whether the characters should kill the zombies or corral them in hopes of curing them later. The way the show had defined things, having compassion for them was not only wrong but dangerously foolish — and I’m always suspicious of anything that tells us not to feel compassion for anyone.
3. The Random Question: What are you reading currently?
My reading right now is dominated by the books nominated for the Endeavour Award for which I’m one of this year’s judges.
Matthew Johnson lives with his wife and two sons in Ottawa, where he works as Director of Education for MediaSmarts, Canada’s center for digital and media literacy resources. Irregular Verbs and Other Stories, a collection of his short fiction, was published in 2014 by ChiZine Publications. You can follow his work at irregularverbs.ca or on Twitter at @irregularverbal.