One of the issues we horror writers often deal with is the readers willingness to suspend disbelief. What exactly is this magical turn of phrase? It was coined in 1817 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge who suggested if a writer could infuse a “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fictional (and fantastical) tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the believability of the circumstances in the story.
This is something every reader of zombie horror fully understands. The problem, however, lies in just how much the reader is willing to suspend. Consider this:
You’re reading a novel about the apocalypse, one where humans have died and come back to life as brain/flesh eating machines of love and grace (or hate and indecency, depending on your bent). That is the big suspension. Why? As of this moment, the human creature, once dead, stays dead. There is no coming back from the big nap. You’ve willingly ignored that one essential component of the human condition, because without doing so would drive you mad otherwise – you’d spend every page, paragraph, sentence, and word cursing the writer for penning such improbable fiction.
Once we get beyond the big bad of suspensions, things start to get a bit dicey. How? Because as we climb down the ladder of intellect, rung by rung, we start dealing with topics that are much more “binary” than the idea of human re-animation. Add to that, we run across topics that certain cross sections understand quite well.
Take, for instance, the topic of weapons. There are some readers out there who know very little about guns. So when a writer says “Weapon X does Y”, that reader just buys into it. Other readers aren’t so ready to toss this aside. Weapon aficionados probably know that Weapon X doesn’t actually do Y, it does Z. So those readers are apt to toss up their arms and shout “I quit!”
Another hot topic in the realm of apocalyptic fiction is that of power. When the virus takes hold, there are varying schools of thought on how long the power grid will hold up. Some countries would go down quite quickly, whereas others might hold fast for a longer period. Certain types of power generation will last longer than others. Hydro-electric power will last quite a bit longer than coal. Solar will last indefinitely, so long as there is a sun. Where the idea of electricity gets very tricky in the world of fiction is when you attempt to apply the laws (and loss) of power, you wind up losing out on a great number of constructs that are often necessary to move along a plot. One good example in my I Zombie series is that ofZombie Radio. The DJ has managed, on a number of occasions, to save the day (or the sanity) of various and sundry groups. Without him not only would Bethany not be as capable, but the Zombie Radio series wouldn’t exist.
Another big suspension is that of biological engineering. I am not a bio-chemist (though I have played one on the stage), so the depth of my knowledge for creating cures for the Mengele virus (or any virus for that matter) is kiddy pool shallow. Thanks to the fact I didn’t get my Phd in bio-chem, readers have to be willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to matters of the molecule.
You see where this is going, right?
Post apocalyptic fiction is one of my favorite genres to write and read. Collected in the Winter of Zombie 2015 are some of the best writers in the genre – each of which delivers a particular spin on the story. Some of the writers rely heavily on military, some on militia. Some writers lean more on the global/social aspect of the apocalypse, while others depend upon the human story. Regardless of what each writer uses as their tools of the trade, there will be some suspension of disbelief necessary in order to get through the stories. That is part and parcel to the drama. We use our imaginations to get characters in and out of situations and drive the story (and series) arc forward. Sometimes, we have to bend the concepts of reality and physics to meet our needs. Hopefully you, the reader, are willing to bend as well.
I want to take a moment to thank each and every reader here; not only for your continued support, but for your willingness to suspend disbelief as you navigate the words of our post apocalyptic fiction. Without your wonderful and willing minds, none of us would be here right now.