Who among us hasn’t had a nightmare about what a post-apocalyptic city — like Toronto or New York City — might look like.
If you’re acclaimed Brooklyn novelist Colson Whitehead (Sag Harbor, John Henry Days), that vision involves zombies — and lots of ‘em.
In Zone One, Whitehead’s sixth book, a civilian volunteer named Mark Spitz spends three intense days clearing out the zombies that are left hiding in the buildings south of Canal Street — and behind every door is a new surprise. Whitehead answered a few questions for us about inspiration, zombie films and his likelihood for survival when the zombies finally attack. (Oh, they’re coming all right.)
How constructed was the structure of this book from the beginning? Did you find your way to the ending by chance?
It started with a dream. I had houseguests and I heard them in the living room making breakfast one morning. I went back to sleep and dreamt that I wanted to go into the living room, but I wondered if they’d cleaned out all the zombies yet. Nice, right? I woke up and thought, yeah, that’s probably a logistical nightmare in cleaning up after the apocalypse: Who’s going to clean out all the plague-infected wretches?
Did you have some zombie novels or films that inspired you? Do you have any favourite post-apocalyptic New York novels or films?
The inspirations for Zone One are the horror and science-fiction movies I devoured as a kid, specifically the Romero trilogy, and assorted end-times films like Escape From New York, Omega Man, The Road Warrior, and Planet of the Apes. If humanity has made a big mistake, and everybody’s dead, it’s in this book somehow.
You’re a champion tweeter, with nearly 90,000 followers. Is Twitter a delight or distraction?
Delight. I always did my homework in front of the TV, grew up trying to sleep through police sirens and car alarms, so I know how to keep the noise out. During the day, I write, check Twitter, eat lunch, watch some news on the tube — there’s plenty of time for all the crap I want to do. If I had an office job, I’d hang out in the break room all day. Now I have Twitter.
When the zombies come, where are you going to hide?
Hide? I’m going to get bit first thing. Certainly mindlessness will take the edge off my neuroses.