What Could Be Worse Than The Undead?

The TL/DR Synopsis Synopsis: A new short story anthology called Raus! Untoten! will feature stories combining zombies and Nazis, including my story Les Poupeés Gris.
Includes links to: (a) the publisher, Fringeworks, (b) the Raus! Untoten! Facebook page, (c) the Scardiff horror festival, (d) author interviews.
Embedded video: (a) trailer for movie Shock Waves, (b) trailer for movie Dead Snow, (c) entire movie Night of the Living Dead (public domain).

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The New Fallen World Book by Nas Hedron

The New Fallen World Book by Nas Hedron

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What Could Be Worse Than The Undead? The Nazi Undead, Of Course.

In March of this year I saw a call for submissions for a new short story anthology from Fringeworks, a UK small press. The anthology was to be a genre mash-up, cross-pollinating zombies and Nazis, called Raus! Untoten! (German for Out! Undead!).

That particular crossover isn’t new of course. From older movies like 1977’s Shock Waves to newer ones like 2009’s Dead Snow to games like Call of Duty: World at War – Zombies, zombies and Nazis have crossed paths before, with decidedly mixed results (you’ll find trailers for both movies at the bottom of the page)

Shock Waves (left), Call of Duty World at War Zombies (center), and Dead Snow (right).

Shock Waves (left), Call of Duty World at War Zombies (center), and Dead Snow (right).

It seemed to me that, if we were lucky, the Raus! Untoten! project might result in a fun pulp-fictional romp with interesting ideas under the surface and, if we weren’t lucky, a disaster that I’d wish I’d never heard of, much less participated in. But clues from the publisher gave me hope that it would be the former rather than the latter. The announcement put it this way:

Raus! Untoten! is specifically geared to attracting Science Fiction (SF) stories between 2,500 and 6,000 words in length.

Stories can be Steampunk, Diesel Punk or straight alternative-history science fiction. They should involve Nazis and Undead, this is not specifically limited to Nazis or the classic undead ‘race’ of Zombies.

We are looking for new and original twists on this theme with surprising elements. Be fun but most of all be unique. We expect this anthology will appeal to writers of Science Fiction, Steampunk, Dieselpunk, alternative history and horror.

The idea stuck in my head. I thought about it while doing things around the house. I dreamed about it, and in my dreams the kernel of a story formed, and I decided to try my hand at it. On April 23 I officially tossed my hat into the ring, signing up via the Raus! Untoten! Facebook page.

The Raus! Untoten! call for submissions on the Fringeworks site.

The Raus! Untoten! call for submissions on the Fringeworks site.

I wrote a story called Les Poupeés Gris, introducing zombies as a complicating factor in the invasion at Normandy that leads to an alternate history of World War II and everything that came afterward.

I finished writing the story on June 6, 2013, the 69th anniversary of the landings at Normandy. The story itself ends on June 6, 2014, the 70th anniversary of the invasion, but in the alternate history of course.

Normandy meets NOTLD

The Walking Deadly meet the Walking Dead: Canadian D-Day troops encounter zombies in Normandy. (Both images in the public domain. Image on the left by Ken Bell. Image on the right by George A. Romero).

Les Poupeés Gris was accepted and will appear in the second volume of Raus! Untoten!, which will be released January 31, 2014.

The first volume, though, is almost upon us, with a Hallowe’en 2013 release date (there’s a pre-release party on October 27, but it would be quite a trip given that it’s being held at Scardiff, the first Horror Expo in Cardiff, UK and I am enjoying a southern hemisphere spring in Brazil–I probably won’t make it).

Anthology editor Matthew Sylvester is conducting interviews with the authors in advance of publication. To judge by the interviews, I think my assessment of the project as promising rather than headed for disaster is being borne out.

For New York Times bestselling author Graham McNeill, inspiration began long ago within his family history. He tells Sylvester:

“My folks went to Auschwitz, and some of the things they told me about that place lodged like splinters, and immediately suggested story hooks. But I’d not found an outlet for them until now, and the notion of combining a ghost story set in a concentration camp was one that strongly appealed to me.”

On the other hand, for his story author James Downs actually re-purposed research he was doing for an entirely different project about German film studios during the Third Reich. His tale features an undead actor during the making of a propaganda film. In his interview he says:

“The undead in my story is perhaps more to be pitied than feared; he may be a horrible creation, but in the context of concentration camps, mass killings on the eastern front, and the living nightmare of a totalitarian regime, he is only one horror out of many. Given the reality of what went on at this time, there’s no need to overdo graphic descriptions – I wanted to write something more subdued and personal.”

Sylvester’s editorial notes on my story were also encouraging. They were mercifully few, but more to the point they were perceptive and well judged–it was a pleasure rather than a chore to work with them.  So it seems that the project is in good hands.

My own interview hasn’t appeared yet. When it does I’ll reproduce it here, but for the moment here’s my answer to the first question Sylvester asked, namely what attracted me to the project:

There were a few things—I’ll briefly mention three.

First, the assignment had a kind of pulp appeal. I’m a fan of pulp magazines, including horror titles like Weird Tales, as well as stuff that isn’t really pulp but that has a similar lineage and ambiance, like EC horror comics. So from that point of view the story elements had a natural appeal for me.

Second, the combination of zombies and Nazis stuck in my head. That happens sometimes with some element of a story—a plot point, or a bit of dialogue, or whatever. My brain will start working on that element without me consciously doing anything, which happened here. I dreamed about it. Eventually the core of the story emerged naturally. Once that happened I was hooked.

Third, even though I enjoy horror fiction and also have a fascination with World War II, I’ve never written about zombies or Nazis—they were both virgin territory. That made writing Les Poupeés Gris an adventure and, at the same time, it was a palate cleanser between some other projects I was working on.

So go to the Raus! Untoten! Facebook page and “like” it immediately, then buy the books when they come out.

Do it or I’ll eat your brains.

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Trailer for Show Waves:

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Trailer for Dead Snow (with intro and English subtitles):

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Night of the Living Dead (full public domain movie):

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