Monday, June 21, 2010
Brief History of the Dead Part 2
Even though TOR wasn't interested in publishing any non-cat stuff, I was kind of well known, thanks to the cat, about 1984-85...Paul Edwin Zimmer told me I could drop his name with Ginjer Buchanan over at Ace, and she took a look at my heroic fantasy novel Zorachus (if you want to see what a genuinely nasty Mark Rogers book is like, pick that one up), and bought it. She was also looking for horror novels right then, so I sent her The Dead, and she bought that too. Zorachus was a minor success, and Ace wound up publishing four more books in the series.
As for The Dead, it came out in 1989, I believe, and tanked completely. It didn't help that Ace refused to use my cover, the one that's on the recent editions; they'd just published the Books of Blood with Halloween masks on the covers, and decided that was the way to go with The Dead---awful idea, in my opinion. Looked like shit, very stupid, yakk. There was one really negative review in Locus, and as far as I know, there weren't any others anywhere. I think the book sold maybe 2500 copies, and it sank without a ripple. Or so it seemed. I had plans to write a bunch of other horror novels, including a sequel to The Dead, but the book had done so badly that I decided that I decided to scrub my whole horror line. After all, I had the Samurai Cat series going, and those Zorachus books. Of course, they wound up in the crapper too, although they were published, with ever-diminishing results. I did have some friends such as Tom Miller and Dave Murphy, who remained very enthusiastic about The Dead, but I put it behind me, and didn't think about it too much.
The nineties slipped by, most of them, at any rate. Then, in June 1998, I got a letter from my agent. He'd gotten a letter from his Hollywood contact two months before, and was only then passing it on to me. Greg Nicotero from the KNB-EFX company was trying to buy the movie rights to the book. In case you don't know, KNB-EFX is a prosthetic makeup company, and you've probably seen a bunch of their work. The severed ear stuff in Reservoir Dogs was theirs, and so was the guy getting his eye popped out of its socket in Casino; they did a bunch of the practical creature effects in the Narnia movies, and just lately, the gore FX in The Pacific. That's just to name a few...they've got a very long resume. Anyway, they'd just come off From Dusk Till Dawn, which they'd produced, and Greg had run across The Dead while he was working on Vampires for John Carpenter...Greg thought the book would make the best zombie movie ever. He wasn't offering very much money, and so my agent's Hollywood guy hadn't bothered to forward the matter for a couple of months; same deal with my agent when he was informed. Anyway, I decided there wasn't much point in retaining the services of these guys, and went ahead with the deal. The money was negligible by Hollywood standards, it's true, but it was quite a bit for me; moreover, Nicotero and co. were perfectly happy to have me write the screenplay, and I made some more money on that. Not that the money was the primary lookout for me; I wanted to be involved in the process, and frankly, I'd have written the script for nothing if I thought they were going to make a movie that actually reflected my vision...didn't tell them that though.
They shopped it around for a while...there was some interest. But Sixth Sense had just come out, and everyone wanted to remake that...zombies just weren't very Shyamalan-esque. Once again, I was way ahead of the curve. The KNB folks got farthest with some guys who really liked the horror scenes, but wanted to ditch the religious stuff...they wanted the zombies to be the result of occult activities by Max's father, who'd have a sorcerous book or some such shit. Anyway, Nicotero et al couldn't stomach this foolishness, and the project died.
Even still, I didn't do too badly on the thing, and for all I know, someone might use my screenplay in the future. The book would make a hellacious movie, as just about everyone agrees. But it was all rather a letdown in the final analysis. Luckily, a new edition of the book was just around the corner...