With the novels Outpost and Juggernaut and a third instalment in the works, Adam Baker’s contribution to the world of zombiedom gives him a place amongst the greats. Managing a new take on the undead plague, Adam Baker deals effectively with mature themes and believable characters, has a unique writing style, and most importantly knows how to tell a good story.
Recently, Adam sat down with Starburst to chat about the ever-present zombie menace.
Starburst: Could you tell us a little something about your roots, previous jobs, and how you got started in the business?
AB: Gravedigger. Cinema projectionist. Slot machine mechanic in an Atlantic City casino. I didn’t set out to have a weird-ass CV. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. People think creative ambition is a wonderful thing, but actually it’s a curse. It messes up your life. It leaves you discontent, unable to commit to the nine-to-five, drifting from town-to-town, job-to-job, unable to find a home.
SB: How did the concept behind Juggernaut and Outpost come about?
AB: Modern life is so oppressively organised that the idea of finding oneself marooned in an isolated environment has become a pretty attractive daydream. It would be terrifying to stagger from a plane wreck and find oneself alone in a jungle or stranded in a desert. But, at the same time, it would be exhilarating to be the master of one’s own fate.
SB: Both books have strong female leads. What is it about dominant females that you find so compelling?
AB: My books tend to be set in masculine environments (oil rigs, war zones) so a female protagonist automatically has outsider status. They participate in these macho worlds, but at the same time provide a sardonic commentary.
SB: Do you have a Zombie Contingency Plan?
AB: I’ve thought about this at great length. I’ve drawn up checklists, studied maps, and still haven’t finalised my plan. My first instinct would be bolt to Scotland. Seek refuge somewhere remote like the Isle of Skye. But what if every other survivor on the British mainland had the same idea? The place would be awash with refugees, just as dangerous as central London.
And the wilds of Wales and Scotland might contain additional hidden dangers. Allan Wiseman, in his excellent book The World Without Us draws attention to a survival issue that eludes most writers of post-apocalyptic fiction: nuclear power stations. Globally, there are about 500 nuclear power stations, and a similar number of military reactors. Sooner or later each of them would, in a de-peopled world, go into meltdown. The wooded hillsides of Scotland or Wales might seem an inviting hide-out for the average prepper toting a shotgun and bug-out bag, but both regions would soon be heavily contaminated by fallout from nearby power-stations. Europeans would be well advised to flee south to North Africa to avoid radiation sickness and a lingering death.
SB: Thoughts on horror: What is horror and why do we like to be scared?
AB: The reason is pretty obvious. Fear of illness and death. The pulp conventions of the horror genre help create an arena in which we can safely contemplate our mortality. For example, most zombie stories include scenes in which a sympathetic character gets bitten and has to come to terms with their own terminal decline. We observe their stoicism in the face of on-coming death; a rehearsal for the moment we confront a cancer diagnosis and brace ourselves for surgery, chemotherapy, weakness and emaciation.
SB: Do the things that scared you as a child still scare you today?
AB: Big time. As a kid, I used to be reduced to snivelling terror by mannequins. Creepy, impassive, blank-eyed effigies. They still freak me out. But, by the same token, fear can evolve into fascination. My childhood terror of mannequins has evolved into a love of Victorian automata.
SB: What’s an average working day?
AB: Coffee. More coffee. Arse around on Twitter and Facebook until mid-morning guilt makes me write something.
SB: The internet informs us of your self-confessed geekery; who then is your favourite Doctor and why?
AB: Tom Baker. He was my childhood idol. But classic Who DVDs have enabled me to watch the early black and white adventures for the first time. The Patrick Troughton adventure Tomb of the Cybermen remains a masterpiece.
SB: Cylons vs. Daleks, who would win?
They have a lethal, insectoid simplicity. They lack the emotional and intellectual baggage of Cylons. They are single-minded; pursue their xenophobic mission with unwavering purpose. Cylons, on the other hand, are conflicted. They are burdened with existential angst. In short, they talk too much.
Daleks would kick their asses. Daleks would destroy Cylon base ships whatever the cost. They would chase the Cylons planet to planet until they had wiped out every last one. Daleks rock.
SB: Influences on your writing career. Any one author that made you stop and go ‘wow’.
AB: My favourite author is HP Lovecraft. I bought a collection of his stories as a kid and was transported to a strange and sinister realm. Each short tale hints at a larger narrative, a vast realm of cosmic horror. That’s my ultimate ambition. To construct a fictional universe that will absorb the reader and stay with them long after they have closed the book.
SB: What might we expect to see from you in the near future?
AB: My third novel features a rescue team battling their way through the ruins of post-apocalypse New York. The setting is familiar from a hundred movies and novels, but hopefully I can provide an original and entertaining spin.
SB: Thank you, Adam Baker.