Interview with Tim Curran
by Colleen Wanglund
I have had the pleasure of reading
Resurrection: A Zombie Epic
as well as the short story “Monkey House” in the zombie animal anthology
and I can honestly say that I love Tim Curran’s writing. He is one author who
should have so much more recognition in the literary world. He just has a way
of scaring the crap out of me every time.
First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview with me. I have only read two of your novels but you have already made my list of favorite authors. What inspires your writing and your imagination?
TC: Just about everything. What I read. What I see. What I hear about. There’re very few things that don’t. Ideas tend to come to me, usually as I’m falling asleep at night for whatever reason.
CW: You delved headlong into the horrors, real and perceived, of nuclear war. Was that your inspiration for Biohazard?
TC: Biohazard started out as a short story called “The Shape” that was in Dark Animus magazine. But there was a lot of stuff there that I just touched upon, so I expanded it into a novel. I always loved those old B-movies like Panic in the Year Zero, World Without End, The Day the World Ended, etc. where survivors have to survive a global holocaust. I grew up with stuff like that on Saturday afternoon TV. Combine that with being traumatized by The Day After and this sort of a book was a natural for me. I always wanted to do one and Biohazard was it. My first, though not my last, post-apocalyptic novel.
CW: Well that’s great to hear.
How did you come up with The Shape and the nightmare Medusa?
TC: I liked the idea of nuclear war, ultimate nuclear proliferation, creating new life forms, living atomic fission. Things born from the womb of thermonuclear chaos. That was The Shape: a living, sentient nuclear furnace demanding sacrifice. The Medusa was the embodiment of plague and pestilence, a Lovecraftian sort of thing, a god of graveyards and plague pits. The inspiration for The Medusa was in the filovirus itself. Ebola and other hemorrhagic fever viruses are called “thread viruses”. They are very scary looking when magnified by electron microscopes—they look like masses of writhing worms or sometimes, an oblong face covered in stringy tendrils…hence, The Medusa. If there is a devil in this world, it is the filoviruses. They’re probably the one thing known that could conceivably exterminate our species.
CW: To me The Children were particularly destructive to any hope for humanity. Why turn the next generation into such a devastating force?
TC: Because I think as a race we will not survive a large-scale nuclear war. If we do, we probably shouldn’t. I can’t imagine the human race being still human after such an exchange. I fear that the next generation really would be monsters. If mutation didn’t make us so, our own predatory animalistic psychology would. Nuclear war—from the rocket age to the Stone Age in five minutes. Would you want to survive in such a world when humans become tribal again and civilization is just a memory? Not me.
CW: No, I don’t think I’d want to survive either.
I imagine it took quite a bit of research for this novel, between Ebola, radiation sickness, and mutation?
TC: Yes, I got into it very deeply. The resultant radiation fallout of nuclear war would just be the first of many horrors survivors would have to deal with. The breakdown of our community works would mean no electricity and water or proper sanitation. We would face plagues of biblical proportions with no medical infrastructure to battle them with. And from what I’ve read it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that new and deadlier germs would arise to sweep what was left of the race into the grave.
CW: Where do your characters come from? Are they based on people you actually know or have met? I especially liked the interaction between Carl and Texas Slim.
TC: I work in a factory, my real job. Factories are filled with interesting characters and most of mine come from people I’ve worked with at some point. I always have my ear open for interesting dialogue, character traits, and the like. And at a factory with so many disparate personalities stuck under the same roof that you get some very strange situations, lots of personality quirks rise to the surface and aberrant psychology becomes the norm. Rats in a box, that’s what it’s like.
CW: With Resurrection you took a different path on the creation of zombies. Where did the idea of alchemy come from?
TC: It came as the result of one of my favorite stories, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Lovecraft used alchemy in that and I liked how he did it so I researched it and found it was much more fascinating, weird, and involved than I ever imagined. When I went to do a zombie novel, I knew alchemy would play a part. Then I mixed it up with limb regeneration technology and cutting-edge molecular biology and I had the very perfect undercurrent for the book. Something that sounded reasonable from a pseudo-scientific viewpoint, but had lots of dark mystical delving involved in it. That marriage between science and sorcery that is so much fun to write about.
CW: I loved the idea of animated zombies. Mrs. Crowley and Grimshanks were particularly scary….that they could get into your head. You also still had the Romero-type of mindless zombie. Why the different types and how did that come about?
TC: I like zombies of every type, they’re all interesting in one way or another. But your average shambling Romero-type zombie doesn’t fire my imagination for long. They’re okay for a short story, but at novel length you need more meat on the bone. You need something truly evil that you can play with. Mrs. Crowley and Grimshanks were fun that way because I could do what I wanted with them, they weren’t trapped by the usual zombie conventions which would have rendered them and the story very pale and bloodless (and not in a good way).
CW: What was the significance of the red worms and the beetles? I got a sense that the beetles were a metaphor for man and their potential for destruction. Did I read too much into that?
TC: I wrote it really just as entertainment. I don’t doubt that oftentimes subtext and metaphor exist beneath the skin of a story but it’s purely a subconscious thing. If you try to play around with larger themes and metaphorical representations of reality it becomes very obvious that you’re doing it and it all comes off as a bit pretentious. Though, I DO like your take on it. And it may have been what my subconscious was feeding me, but it was never overt on my part.
CW: I loved the conversation between Russell and his mom about Japanese monster movies and Universal horror. Is it hard to keep your characters real and relatable?
TC: No, again, I draw from people I know or knew, their families, their relationships. At a factory people tend to talk in great detail about themselves and others and you pick up a lot of interesting character details, weird family secrets, and relationships that make really excellent fodder. The monster movies stuff was pure me, however.
CW: “Monkey House” was my favorite story in Zombie Zoology. What made you think of monkeys as zombies?
TC: Probably because I find baboons very frightening. They hunt in packs and are extremely voracious and aggressive. Human zombies have nothing on baboon zombies. When it occurred to me that they could have been released from a medical research facility, I saw great possibilities…
CW: Do you have a specific ritual when you write? For instance, do you listen to music or prefer it quiet?
TC: It has to be quiet. I’ve never been able to crank up the Black Sabbath or Motorhead while I work. My brain just doesn’t allow for interruption to the flow of any sort. I know some people do that, but I just can’t.
CW: I’ve always felt a correlation between Metal and horror. What kind of music do you listen to?
TC: I listen to a lot of metal, blues, alternative, and punk. I love 1960’s psychedelic music and I’m really into 1960’s proto-metal like the MC5, Blue Cheer, Lucifer’s Friend, and the rest. From a horror perspective, there’s nothing better than old Black Sabbath, but then it’s hard to beat Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl” or “I Walked with a Zombie” by Wednesday 13. And what’s creepier than Slayer’s “Dead Skin Mask”?
CW: Finally, what can the fans expect from Tim Curran in the future?
TC: I have two short story collections coming out this year: Bone Marrow Stew from Tasmaniac Publications and Zombie Pulp from Severed Press. There’ll be some novels, too. I have four or five of them in various states of completion. The first of which will be Graveworm. Expect another Hive book late summer/early fall. Those are a few things.
CW: That sounds fantastic and I look forward to reading more from you. Thanks again.
For more info on Tim Curran and his art you can check out his home on the web at http://corpseking.com/
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