Zombies, Night of the Living Dead, and other things that go “bump”

Lisa Vasquez - EXAMPLE.In 1968, an American Independent Horror Film directed by George A. Romero forever scarred audiences with visions of zombies shambling across the silver screen. Who would’ve known then the “undying” love of these creatures would continue to breathe until present day?

One of the best memories of Halloween for me was recreating monsters portrayed on screen and stalking through our neighborhoods, door to door. Long hours of care were put into makeup, sewing, and crafting. If your mother or grandmother had a gift for such things, you might have a leg up on the others. For those kids who didn’t have this advantage, Halloween was a time for them to challenge their artistic and creative side. (Those aren’t wood boxes, those are Frankenstein’s shoes!)

Years later, there were a few movie studios who challenged the right to purchase costumes and began a war by copyrighting/licensing them. I think for many of us, it killed a little piece of Halloween in our hearts. Halloween, for those who ran to the stores as soon as they were stocked for the holiday, began to see an increase in prices reflecting the added costs. On the bright side, it further encouraged families to be more creative.

Since then, copyright laws have grown deep, hidden roots.

In the mid-to late 2000’s, comic conventions and Cosplayers faced backlash when corporations attempted to make their move in this arena. NOTE: I’m not a lawyer, and I will never claim to have an expert grasp of the fine print of the law. But I would like to make a note to the creators of these characters who we love so much: Without this craze for dressing up to embody the spirit of our inspirations, would you have the free publicity and continued success you have now?

Let’s use our original example: Zombies.

 It would be impossible to count the number of movies, books, poems, and costumes that personify the zombie culture. Does any one person actually “own” it though? Can you put a copyright on a type of zombie and claim it as your own? The background story, of course. If there’s a unique quality which can be proven without a doubt to be uniquely yours, I suppose you could.

I, for one, am all for the Right of Creativity and Expression. I want to see my beloved characters explored in new ways when it does not harm the integrity or reputation of the original. Call it my inner Geek-dom, or call it my rebel nature. Whatever  you call it, I know I’m not the only person who has sat down and analyzed a movie and the creature’s plausibility. (Can a zombie really run after being dead for 30 days? Can a werewolf really rip out of its skin and no one find the remains, then just shift back?)

We are grateful for George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) because it gave us a reason to fear the dark, but because it also made us ask, “What if?”

What if we could rise after we died? Would we be hungry for brains? Why brains? Would we attack other humans? Why not animals? Would our bodies have muscle memory of how to open doors? Would there be any brain function, and if there was, would it be enough to shamble…let alone run?

There are Voodoo Zombies, there are Fungus Zombies, there are Virus Zombies, there are medically induced zombies … while you can argue that some characters are recognizable (Jason, Ash, Freddie) … are zombies?

I mean they shouldn’t be. They’re dead! And if you want to get really nit-picky, once you’re dead, you relinquish rights to everything. Right??

Ok, Ok, not the same thing. I know this post is half-silly, half-serious, but I’m curious. As the CEO of a small, independent publishing company, I see this everyday. People never grow tired of zombies (or vampires, or werewolves, or demons, or … ). I have to admit, neither do I.

Mark Deloy came to me with an idea last year. I wanted to do a fun anthology so he asked, “How about Monsters Vs Zombies?” and my heart swelled with love. Man, this was a great idea! I couldn’t wait! When we put out the “open call” for our anthology, Monsters Vs Zombies I ended up with more than I bargained for. I wasn’t the only one who loved the idea.

We had hundreds of submissions. That’s not so unusual you might say. I normally would agree, except I must remind you…we are a small, independent publishing company and we had been “alive” for less than a year! There were so many good stories I could not refuse all of them. I decided I would have to do two volumes. That’s when the idea came to us. We would make it an annual anthology! So many monsters, so many zombies. This could go on, and on, and still remain fun!

None of this would be possible if the word, or concept of “zombie” fell under protection of Copyright Laws.

Now, I’m an author, and I’m a creator. I do understand the importance of such laws. But I also understand-as humans-we are storytellers. We write what we know. There are no ‘new’ stories to be told, my friends. Only new angles and plots. It’s a dangerous road, for sure. I, for one, try as hard as I can to be original but I cannot help but pay homage to my heroes and inspirations.

When I wrote The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride I knew that it was similar to the story of Bride of Frankenstein but it was my own version. I changed enough of it to – hopefully – never be accused of “stealing” or “offending” its creator … The creator who made the movie as a follow up to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Universal may own the rights to the green, box-head-and-bolts appearance of the Frankenstein Monster, but Mary Shelley is the only person who owns the words who inspired the look.

Chime in! What are your thoughts?

Women in Horror – I’m Not Bitter, I’m Sexy

twistedtrocki
Artwork by Tiff Trocki

Last week we delved into the many reasons why I felt women were a minority in the Horror genre. This week I’d like to continue with Part 2.

Why am I starting with this now, when Women in Horror month isn’t until February? Oh, it’s simple. February, is the shortest month of the year, for one. Also, I don’t need anyone to tell me when to celebrate being a woman. I do it everyday. Secondly, women get a period every month, why not have something wonderful to talk about to negate the dreadful week-long menses we must endure to give you life so you can complain about us celebrating our own gender.

I’m not an angry female. I’m comfortable in my skin. No, stop. I love my skin. In fact, I love everything about being a female from the softness of my skin, to the strength of my spirit. I love the complexity of my emotions. I love the nurturing warmth of which only a mother’s arms can give, and the ease of which I can stop hearts with chill of my gaze.

To me, being a woman is fascinating, beautiful, maddening, and sexy. I embrace it every aspect of it. The more it drives men mad, the more I love it. The more a man understands his own power and uses it, the more fun the games between man and women become.

So, now that I have expressed that I’m not angry or salty, nor am I whining because I think women need some special treatment. (A throne, daily worship, and adoration, perhaps? Anything less, is disappointing, of course.)

Women are getting crafty. For example, many women are deciding to branch out into smaller niches like “Crime” because they understand that the Horror genre is a male saturate genre and their books aren’t getting enough attention.

Patricia Cromwell is a great example. She uses her time and experience working for the Chief Medical Examiner to establish her area of expertise and give us not only a realistic version of murder and crime scene, but from woman’s point of view. And, let’s face it, women see things differently. Don’t believe me? Try to argue with a woman. She’s built up an argument for months before it’s ever come to the table.

Is this a bad thing? No, not at all. I give them credit for finding their way in the writing industry that works for them. I only wish they could step into whatever genre they *wanted* to, and have the same level of success. That, my dear reader, is my whole point.

Jack the Ripper, is Jack the Ripper. A gruesome, sadistic serial killer whether the genre is “Crime” or “Horror”.

Weigh in! Comment and let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear what your opinions are.