Night of the Living Dead Christian,
Day 1: Symbolism of the Undead

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour, March 2012

At one time, zombies, vampires, and werewolves used to be staples of the horror genre. In more recent years, they’ve begun to turn up in paranormal romance, often as desirable love interests. But Matt Mikalatos avoids both horror and romance in Night of the Living Dead Christian, his chronicle of the undead. The result is a humorous allegorical story, what you might call monster fiction with a purpose.

The idea that mythic creatures–living or undead–can be used in a symbolic way isn’t a new one. In a Publisher’s Weekly article, Sara Wendell stated that “Paranormal stories…reflect many of humanity’s continuing struggles. Vampires represent our struggle with mortality, and werewolves and shape-shifters our struggle with rage and insanity.”

Matt Mikalatos interprets these creatures in his own way, as a reflection of people in different stages of relationship (or lack thereof) with God. He not only explores the most common undead creatures in the context of the story, but he also includes an appendix entitled Are You A Monster: A Layman’s Self-Diagnosis Guide to Common Monstrosities, which explores human weaknesses by associating different personality types with monsters.

I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of the undead, so I might not have picked up the book if it weren’t for the blog tour. But I have to say, I’m impressed at how the author took common genre tropes and reframed them from a Christian perspective to reflect Biblical truths. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, and one that works for the most part. I’ll explore the implication of his approach more in my review on Wednesday.

I’m curious to learn the perspective of the readers of this blog and members of the blog tour. Are vampires, werewolves, and the like a turn off or an attraction to you in a book?

If you’re interested in learning more about this unique story, I encourage you to stop by the blogs of other tour members and see what they have to say:


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13 Responses to Night of the Living Dead Christian,
Day 1: Symbolism of the Undead

  1. Pingback: Spoof: CSFF Blog Tour – Night Of The Living Dead Christian, Day 1 « A Christian Worldview of Fiction

  2. Shane says:

    The title had me from the beginning. I have always had a fascination with monsters and horror and such things. Actually the post I have started for tomorrow addresses that and I pose the question if horror is appropriate for Christians. I’ve been told it’s not.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Shane, thanks for stopping by. The title is a catchy one, and I hope it serves to draw attention to the book. I’ll be sure to check out your blog and see what you have to say on the topic of horror and Christianity.

      A while back, author Mike Duran did a guest post examining the same topic which might be of interest to you. You can find it here. I’m not personally a horror reader, but I don’t think it’s incompatible with Christianity.

  3. Good question, Sarah. Matt has been involved with CSFF for a long time, so I’ve “known” him long enough that I would read his book regardless of the title. But if I didn’t know him? I’m not into all the horror creatures, even in their modified forms. I’ve read a couple stories for the tour with such, and it’s only confirmed that I’m out of my arena.

    The thing is, this story spoofs those horror tropes, so it’s a completely different kind of read. In fact, I wonder if people who enjoy the scary creatures might not be a teensy bit disappointed to find them now as a target of some jocularity. Shane evidently didn’t.

    I’m postulating because of my own reaction to fantasy parodies.

    For me, the title and subtitle worked. It certainly makes people do a double-take.

    Becky

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Becky, you’ve highlighted an important aspect of what draws people to a book. We’re more willing to follow along with authors we already know and love, even if they write something that normally wouldn’t interest us. We have faith enough in their storytelling abilities to go along for the ride.

      I agree that aside from the use of typical horror creatures, this book didn’t come close to the horror genre. It wasn’t intended to scare, but to amuse and provoke thought at the same time.

      The title and subtitle worked for me as well. It conveys a clear sense of the topic and tone of the book, which isn’t always the case with book titles. 🙂

  4. Julie says:

    I’m not a fan of the undead per se but I’m a fan of the speculative…in the Christian market there aren’t that many speculative books to begin with, let alone pitched toward an adult market. And I love to see a trope turned on its ear. Mikalatos manages it here by both making it a parody, and also just the fact that he has all these monsters in a Christian book set in his own neighborhood.

    Anyway, vampires/werewolves/zombies would make me hesitate to pick up a secular book…and would attract me to a Christian book. Odd as that is!

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Julie, you captured many of my sentiments about this book. I’m always excited to see the Christian speculative fiction market broadening, even if it’s not in one of my favorite subgenres. In the end, it’s good for both readers and writers of Christian speculative fiction.

      And it’s always fun to see the staples of the genre upended. 🙂

  5. I don’t mind vampires, werewolves or zombies in stories so long as the story is good. If the story is poor or poorly done, it just bugs me. I do think the underpinning symbolism of monsters (at least in the Western world) is pretty consistent, so I generally have a hard time with stories that mess with that too much… vampires as the loving good guys, or werewolves as the protectors of the environment or something. Unless, of course, they are amazingly well written. Having said that, I tried to keep the monsters at pretty much the “Universal Movie Monster” level in the book… keeping the lore and mythology pretty much where your average person would assume things would be (vampires hate garlic, suck blood, etc). That gave me less in-jokes for the crazy people among us who are deeply into this stuff, but also let me mess with the mythos in a way that might have the broadest impact for the readers (like the mirror thing with the vampire). Anyway, looking forward to your thoughts about the implications of my approach on Wednesday!

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Matt, I’m glad you dropped in. It makes the tour so much more interesting when the authors participate. When it comes to vampires/werewolves/zombies, I consider myself one of the “average people” (as I don’t normally seek out books focused on the undead), and it worked for me.

      I’m sure it’s not easy to make a decision on which audience to target, but I think the fact that you kept things on a universally accessible level will make it appeal to a broader audience, perhaps even to those who don’t normally read speculative fiction of any kind.

  6. Monster book with a purpose! Great idea! Good review.

  7. TheQuietPen says:

    I’m generally a fan of supernatural creatures DONE WELL in a well-told story. Ironically, that excludes a lot of novels on the market these days. I think in my case the interest is two-fold.

    I’m fascinated by other cultures, including their folklore, and monsters are a part of every folklore. In fact, a monster or two of some kind can be found in most fairy tales! There’s some part of the human psyche that understands and has a desire to put a name to the evil within and without in this crazy world of ours.

    I’m also an neurologically-different outcast who attracts other outcasts of similar physical or mental differences. And often, the view from outside the normal just proves that the outcasts aren’t the only “monsters”–they’re just labeled so because they don’t fit in and their faults aren’t socially acceptable.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      When it comes to monsters and mythic creatures in general, I agree there’s much to intrigue. The creatures invented by a culture say a great deal about the people, the fears, and the beliefs of that culture.

      Though I may not be a fan of the undead thanks to their typical association with the horror genre, I have read and enjoyed some other monster fiction…namely the Monster Blood Tattoo series. If you haven’t read the books, you should definitely check them out. The author did a tremendous job building his world (and all the monsters therein), and the storyline is intriguing.

      Incidentally, I think there’s something fascinating about writing from the perspective of an outcast of any kind. There’s immediately a certain tension in the story. 🙂

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