Much has been said as of late about zombies and werewolves. Stores brim with shelf after shelf of vampires too, a thousand years old and yearning with fervent blood lust for platonic love with a teenage human. Literature, or what is considered the same, has been hijacked by these undead things; these not quite living, not quite dead beings, resurrected from their graves by the youthful whimsy of a generation no longer content with simple tales of love and life and death and the doldrums of a slightly more human experience.
Cloak that same human experience beneath a thin veil of the fantastical, and the literary establishment devours it not so unlike a horde of brain slurping zombies. Leave it be, undisguised and unashamed, and it is doomed to cast its lot with the thousands of other unpublished works and unread words beneath the beds of a thousand would-be authors. The Hemingways and Steinbecks and Fitzgeralds of today remain unheard, unread obscurities, left unappreciated, themselves like the walking dead who are even now lurking among you.
You can find them, if you’d fancy it, these living dead authors of the modern era. They lurk, or skulk rather, all around you, hiding in plain sight. At the public library, they’re mixed in with the homeless (and only slightly better dressed), seeking shelter from the weather, and the comfort a writer discovers only in the company books. They wander through the museums and beneath the golden twinkle of capitol Domes, in any public place where people assemble, but where little threat of direct interaction exists.
At the mall, they walk and sit and wander…and watch. They are always there, among you, and yet just outside of the fray of the crowd, involved enough to watch you, but aloof enough to emanate the appearance of disinterest. You’ll feel them, staring at you and your friends. You’ll catch a glimpse of them every now again, as they quickly look away when you catch them looking. They’ll pretend not to have been gawking at you, but gawking they were.
It is a creepy gawking. It is not the more lighthearted gawking of a sexual predator who only undresses you with his eyes. Nay, it is the stare of an author, imagining in a few moments time, your conversation from across a crowded mall, and what your entire life has been like, and recreating everything about you within their mind’s eye, until they’ve envisioned you undressed down to your very soul itself!
Unwittingly, you have been violated. Like a thief in the darkness of night, this living dead thing, this student of persons and strangers and imaginary lives, has taken you in and drank through your lips and tasted the world around you, and all of it in a minute, and when you notice their stare, they walk briskly away, leaving you unaware of what all they have just taken from you.
Consider it, the next time you fear some contemporary imagined ghoul, that you have yourself, encountered far more ghastly creatures and never even known it. Aspiring novelists are all around you. A trip to a bar with friends one night could just as easily end with thoughts of you as an uncomplimentary main character, as waking in some stranger’s bed, and dare think to venture which will leave you the worse for wear.
No staked hearts or silver bullets can stop this scourge of interloping skulks. They can only be thwarted by reading. Read the works of a hundred dead authors, and read then the works of a hundred living. Do not take lightly your choice and drink whatever flavor of the month is served up to you on the top shelf of the local superstore. Seek out and search and learn about the authors and writers all around you.
Read the magz and rags and zines and blogs, and the skulkers will relent into their dark abodes to write once more, leaving the unsuspecting innocent masses all the less molested, and your story safely untold and unimagined, and yours.
Don’t be undressed by an author. Read. Support independent authors.
Thank you for reading!