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Zombie Week! Guest Blog and Giveaway: Xombies by Walter Greatshell

Submitted by on October 27, 2011 – 6:00 am8 Comments

I’ve gotten so bored with the whole zombie craze that sometimes I forget why I ever liked zombies in the first place. When did that notion click for me? Then I remember: Oh yeah—1978. The year I saw the original Dawn of the Dead.

In ’78 I was a high school student in Long Beach, California. For the previous year I had been completely immersed in Star Wars, but by now I had seen that movie dozens of times and the thrill was wearing off. Also, I had just started 10th grade, and Star Wars seemed so…9th grade. In junior high I might have been a big sci-fi geek, but in high school I was going to be a hotshot intellectual, an aspiring writer, artist, and frequenter of foreign films.

The first I heard of Dawn of the Dead was from a short TV ad. The teaser didn’t show much, just a quick shot of somebody wrestling with a wild-haired zombie woman by a couch in a seedy apartment, but there was something disturbingly ugly and naturalistic about the clip. It looked like a snuff film. The thing was obviously very low budget, which only added to its creepy, cinema-verite quality. The impression I had was that this movie was outside the bounds of civilized cinema—it was dangerous.

I had seen George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead as a little kid way back in 1969, and still had vivid memories of that flick’s gruesome images. But those were in black and white. This was color. I was no movie wimp; I had seen The Exorcist and The Omen and just about every other horror film ever made, but something about this made me think, No way. Fortunately, I was way too cool to bother with cheapie exploitation flicks anymore.

A few days later I saw a review in the newspaper, which said that Dawn of the Dead was not only good, but a satirical masterpiece. Wow. Accompanying the review was a publicity photo of the movie’s cast in a combat stance, all armed like Mexican banditos, on the concourse of a bright-lit shopping mall. So this was a tale of people surviving the undead apocalypse by taking over a shopping mall? I was intrigued; the movie looked a lot more interesting and ambitious than the teaser trailer had led me to expect.

Still…I couldn’t bring myself to go see Dawn of the Dead all alone, and my overachieving high school buddies were much too sophisticated to appreciate a gory horror film like this, however smart it was reputed to be. So I put it out of my mind for a few more weeks, until the film was relegated to Friday and Saturday midnight showings—the last stage before it disappeared from theaters altogether. If I was going to see it, it was now or never (wasn’t life exciting before Netflicks?).

Finally, I said Screw it, and decided to go. I called my best friend to ask if he wanted to join me, talking up the movie as well as I could, but his reply was exactly what I expected: sincere confusion that anyone would want to see something like that. At midnight yet. He wasn’t rude, but I could tell from his tone that he expected better of me.

After hanging up, I had a moment’s hesitation, wondering if my friend was right; if this redneck gorefest was really worth all the trouble of taking the last bus to the theater and then having to walk all the way home at two in the morning. But what else did I have to do? I had no life, no car, no girlfriend. Except for the occasional poker game, I wasn’t in the habit of staying out late. Why not try something a little different—it wouldn’t kill me to get my lazy ass off the couch.

So I went. I caught the 11 p.m. bus and rode it across town to the shopping plaza where the movie was playing. All the stores were closed and the parking lot empty. Everything was deserted except for the multiplex cinema at the far end, where I waited in a short line to buy my ticket. It looked like the line for a porno theater—the only people coming there at midnight to catch the final showing of Dawn of the Dead were a dozen or so scruffy-looking dudes like me. I was embarrassed for us.

I went inside and sat down, feeling a bit nervous. What had I gotten myself into? Why did I want to subject myself to what would no doubt be a disgusting experience? Hadn’t I been traumatized enough by the grotesque cannibal orgy in Night of the Living Dead? I’d had nightmares for years from that! And after this I was going to have to walk home for miles, all alone, in the dark. Was I nuts?

The movie began: that weird close-up of tacky orange carpeting that is revealed to be the wall of a soundproof room in a TV studio. As the opening credits roll, we learn that the studio is in crisis mode, its staff struggling to deal with the Big Story: that the dead have returned to life and are devouring the living. Amid the chaos, two of the
staff-members, Steven and Fran, decide to steal the station’s traffic copter and make a run for it.

Bang! I was hooked. And the movie only got better and better. SWAT teams battling slum-dwellers who are refusing to turn over their dead for cremation! Rednecks hunting zombies in the countryside! Outlaw bikers battling the undead in a crowded shopping mall! It was George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead concept brought to total fruition, exploring extremes of hilarity, violence, and social satire that no other movie had ever dared (and wouldn’t until Apocalypse Now). It was brilliant. And remember, Romero invented this whole thing, so there weren’t eighty-five
other flesh-eating zombie movies to compare it with; no TV shows, no videogames, no books or comics—Dawn of the Dead was It. And It was Good.

I walked out of the theater exhilarated to have discovered something that thrilled me as much as Star Wars. In fact, Dawn of the Dead was a lot like Star Wars, an epic treatment of a pulp concept, more action-adventure than horror. Replaying the movie in my head, the long walk home went quickly, and I arrived at my apartment building in high spirits.

As I unlocked the front door and stepped into the pitch-dark living room, I heard a hideous, warbling moan. My heart leaped in terror as a ghostly shape rose out of the darkness, shambling towards me. Frozen with sheer fright, I called, “M—mom?”

“Oh,” she cried with relief, “it’s you, Walter, thank God.”

I found the light switch, and there was my mother in her nightgown–not a zombie. “What the hell was that?” I asked, heart thudding like a jackhammer. “You scared the shit out of me.”

Hugging me, she said, “I’m so sorry, honey. I thought I’d wait up for you, but I must have fallen asleep on the couch. I guess I was having a bad dream, and when I heard someone opening the door, I forgot it was you.” She laughed, “Aw, I didn’t mean to scare you. How was the movie?”

“Good,” I said. “Really, really good.”

Walter Greatshell is the author of the Xombies trilogy: Xombies: Apocalypse Blues; Xombies: Apocalypticon; and Xombies: Apocalypso, as well as the novel Mad Skills, which Publishers Weekly calls “the literary equivalent of a syringe full of adrenaline.” He lives in Rhode Island with his wife and son.

Website – –


Xombies Series

The Agent X plague infected women first, turning mothers, daughters, and sisters into killers intent on spreading their contagion, turning most of the human race into Xombies.

Now, Lulu Pangloss and the Xombified crew of the USS No-Name are wandering the seas on a mission of “mercy”: converting the last mortal humans into immortal beings like themselves, believing it is mankind’s only hope of surviving a cataclysm that will wipe out all life on Earth.

But Lulu and her shipmates are about to learn that there are worse fates than death…



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  • says:

    Ooh! I’ve never heard of this series before, but it looks and sounds awesome! :D Thanks for sharing, and for the chance to win Xombies: Apocalypso! :D

    Reply to this comment »
  • says:

    Love the look of this series…never heard of it before but really want to red it. Thanks for the giveaway x

    Reply to this comment »
  • Anne says:

    Walter and this series are new to me as well. I’ll have to get Dawn of the Dead to watch next Mon. since I’ve never seen that either and he gave it such a good review.

    Reply to this comment »
  • Victoria Zumbrum says:

    Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this series. It sounds very good.

    Reply to this comment »
  • Julie Witt says:

    How have I missed this series? The books sound awesome! Thanks for the giveaway:)

    Reply to this comment »
  • debbie says:

    I love books about zombies. I am glad to find a series of them.

    Reply to this comment »
  • says:

    How can one ever get tired of zombies? They are awesome in all their brains-eating ways?

    Loved the post! thank you for the giveaway!

    Reply to this comment »
  • Denise Z says:

    Wow Walter we could have grown up together and been neighbors LOL Thank you for sharing with us today and for this wonderful giveaway opportunity. I am today getting a bit zombied out, but will take a breather and get started again :)

    Reply to this comment »