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Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Exile Editions bring zombies to Canada

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a B.C.”“based speculative-fiction writer and editor, and publisher of the micro-fiction Innsmouth Free Press. Her most recent project is editor of the anthology Dead North: The Exile Book of Canadian Zombie Fiction (Exile Editions), a collection of stories featuring 20 works by authors such as Richard Van Camp, Gemma Files, and Claude Lalumière.

Moreno-Garcia spoke to Q&Q about bringing the undead to North of the 49th parallel.

How did this idea come about? I pitched Exile publisher Michael Callaghan. Zombies are not my favourite creatures, but I thought they had commercial potential and that we could explore something beyond the usual George Romero zombies you see in the movies.

The book ranges from one side of the country to the other with a wide variety of geographic settings and voices. We map out the whole country so I don’t think it matters if you’re in the Yukon or in Quebec ““ we’ve zombified each location.

How do the zombies in Dead North differentiate themselves from those in pop culture? If you look at the Romero tradition, the stories have limited scopes. It’s a survivalist scenario ““ the dead rise and then you fight them off with guns and axes. The zombies themselves are just lumbering corpses without the potential for personality like other creatures such as werewolves or vampires.

I wanted to see if we could do some stuff inspired by magic and the voodoo zombies where they have more personality, or where folklore is more important than survival.

Can you define what makes this zombie fiction Canadian? We have different concerns from Americans ““ I hate to define us by what we’re not ““ but in this case, our zombies are not American, either. I think that comes through in the stories.

If this book had been published in the U.S., it would have come out with a lot of stories of people physically battling and killing zombies. Because we are who are, in Dead North there are not a lot of scenarios where characters grab shotguns or fight in a graphically violent way. The stories are more quiet, with more introspection, and the characters really come through. There’s still horror and violence, but it’s not gun-toting action story after story.

Where did you find contributors? Some were approached and there was also an open reading period. I give a lot of feedback during the submission process, so I don’t get 100 stories set in Toronto. When editing an anthology, I blog, tweet, and talk about it on Facebook, so I can give feedback as the submissions start coming in. So, after a month of looking at the selection, I can say, “It’s only men fighting zombies. Where are the women?” or “This flesh colour is looking really, really white.” This helps writers who haven’t written their story yet, or it might trigger ideas.

How many submissions did you receive? Close to 300. I read them as they came in.

Were there any new writers that stood out? One person in particular, an aboriginal writer named Jacques L. Condor (his given First Nations name is Maka tai Meh). He’s an 80-something gentleman who can only see out of one eye, so he has to type and read in very big fonts.

It was the first time he had written a zombie story. He didn’t know much about the genre, but it triggered something in him when I mentioned aboriginal myths on my blog. It’s the longest story in the book and it gave a completely unique perspective to the anthology.

Can you talk about Gemma Files’s story “Kissing Carrion?” I did know that I wanted one story with necrophilia in the collection. I thought it made sense because the zombie has not been eroticized very often ““ probably for a very good reason ““ but we have seen stories in the last couple years that deal with love and zombies, so I knew I could put it in there. That was the one story I worried Exile publisher Michael Callaghan would say, “Are you insane?”

This interview has been edited and condensed.