“The Red Room” by Scott Lambridis
“Running” by David Wellington
“Black Days: Sandy” by Rebecca Brock
“The Oldest Profession” by Scott Lambridis
“Black Days: Paul” by Rebecca Brock
“SPQR” by David Senecal
“On the Western Front” by David Senecal and Scott Lambridis
“Finnegan’s Scoop” by Scott Lambridis
“Book of Matches” by Charles Hogle
The genre of horror has spawned a thousand grotesque monstrosities but its classic creation, the zombie, is easily the most popular and enduring. From Romero’s defining trilogy, to the Resident Evil video games, to countless works of literature, the zombie has featured hundreds of times. Despite being dead, zombies have proved quite versatile, evolving from the lumbering oafs in Romero’s series to the vicious, aggressive predators of the 21st century (28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead remake). Zombies have even been used in comedy, most notably in Shaun of the Dead (although many of the awful Night of the Living Dead rip-offs could count as comedy). My personal favourite undead comedy moment (apart from the “Buddhist monk” zombie in the original Dawn of the Dead) is easily a scene from a long-forgotten movie where a zombie claws its way out of its grave, screeching, “I want my cake” while a young woman screams hysterically. Classic.
This is what makes zombies so appealing – they can be horrific, amusing and disturbing all at once. As horror legend Clive Barker once remarked, “A zombie is the one thing you can’t deal with. It survives anything. You can’t argue with them. They just keep coming at you.” For the survivors of a zombie outbreak however, dealing with them is exactly what they have to do…as well as dealing with the horror and panic that suddenly becomes their world. This is exactly what is addressed in a new horror anthology from the innovative publishers Omnibucket, a publication by the name of Brainchild.
Brainchild is neither standard horror anthology nor straight-up art book. Instead, it is billed as a “collection of artefacts” left by the survivors of a zombie outbreak.
You would expect such a collection to be both disturbing and chaotic – a physical representation of the survivors’ hopes and fears. Brainchild satisfyingly delivers in this sense – the anthology is a frantic, off-kilter mishmash of flash fiction, short stories and artwork, depicting the survivors’ recollections and experiences.
The impact of Brainchild is largely visual, due in no small part to the abundance of artwork, which is easily the publication’s strongest point. The number of contributors is impressive to say the least and the fragmented, nightmarish mix of styles and influences creates a powerful aura of horror and revulsion. The notion that these are pictures drawn by survivors adds a personal aspect, as if each piece of art tells its own gruesome story. Daniel William’s photographic image is particularly disturbing and realistic – a snapshot taken by a survivor as a zombie staggers towards him. Likewise, the inclusion of 9-year-old Justin Mills’s drawing is a masterstroke, adding a child’s perspective to the horror.
The art creates a fantastic artistic backdrop of terror for the short fiction to build on. The flash fiction is most effective here, the various pieces adding a real sense of dread and horror to the work. The haphazard layout of the prose, as well as the highlighting of particular words and phrases intensifies the impact. The first piece – barely a hundred words long – captures the initial horror and panic of a zombie outbreak perfectly and acts as a wonderfully distressing introduction. You can almost hear the glass smash and the screams shattering the night air.
Sadly the short stories don’t quite live up to the impact of the flash fiction. All are competent, well written and enjoyable to read, yet they lack the apocalyptic impact of the artwork and the chilling undertones of their shorter counterparts. Perhaps some material written from a first-person perspective (such as diary entries) would have offered a more visceral, personal touch. It would have been interesting to really get into the head of a survivor, although this is partially achieved in Rebecca Brock’s chilling story “Black Days: Paul” which offers a surprising twist. The essay by Mia Epstein, however, on the female undead in film and literature – as scholarly as it is – seems bizarrely out of place in this collection of artefacts.
These minor flaws however do not detract from the overall brilliance of Brainchild, which is a fascinating glimpse into the terrifying world of zombie-outbreak survivors, represented by their ghoulish, chaotic art and disturbing fictional accounts.
Let’s just hope the dead stay buried
Reviewed by James L © 2006 www.theorderofmidnight.blogspot.com