Detroit’s Own Vincenzo Bilof, Author of The ‘Zombie Ascension’ Series

I’ve been writing fiction ever since I knew how to play with action figures.

I imagined vast, sprawling epics involving Spider Man, Wolverine, and Xenomorphs. I’m a child of the eighties, and I inherited all the classic horror films that define the genre today. I used to scribble fantasy worlds into composite notebooks when I was supposed to be solving X and Y.  While my classmates multiplied and drew parentheses around numbers I drew maps and created mythologies.

Vincenzo Bilof Author Of The Zombie Ascension Series

At home, one of our favorite family movies was Dawn of the Dead. George Romeo’s movies always left me wanting more; the crises were never averted and the mystery behind the menace was never solved. The conflicts were between people and the dissolution of their micro-societies, fantastical paradises that were always doomed to fail. We’re familiar with this concept today in zombie fiction, especially everyone’s favorite show, The Walking Dead. But I devoured books; I could find the xenomorphs, the X-Men, and Ghost Rider on bookshelves and on comic store racks. Neil Gaiman would release another issue of The Sandman; Nancy A. Collins and Poppy Z. Brite continued the tradition of vampire horror.

But where were the zombies?

As a student of classical literature, I believed I could write a zombie story that could be ‘literary horror.’ Nobody was reading zombie fiction; in 2004, there wasn’t much to choose from on Amazon. The zombie mythos left so much unexplored; themes were untapped. While I read Dostoevsky and Brett Easton Ellis, I couldn’t help but imagine possibilities.

I never wanted to write horror; I wanted to do something ‘relevant.’ Of course, I set my sights high and knew zero about being a writer; I was naïve and though I was going to write the next great American novel and include zombies. I began writing a novel called The City Wore a Sullen Face.

How would people know there were zombies in it?

The book was more philosophical than anything, but the years I spent working on that novel helped develop the writer I am today. The City Wore a Sullen Face still has an entire folder dedicated to three versions of the manuscript; each over 100,000  words.

While I was hammering away, brave writers began to pave the way for new fiction; Brian Keene, David Moody, Joe McKinney; Jonathan Maberry and Kim Paffenroth. Permuted Press and Severed Press.

The ebook explosion. Kindle. Nook. Zombies were multiplying.

How would I ever publish The City Wore a Sullen Face if I didn’t settle on a genre, first? My book was almost an anti-zombie novel, and if I ever wanted it to see daylight, I would have to pay my dues. I began writing and submitting stories to SNM Magazine, and I realized the potential; horror could unmask many literary elements; Poe, Lovecraft, Shelly, and so many others made horror relevant for its exploration of the human condition.

After writing stories for eight consecutive months, I was awarded the SNM Magazine Literary Achievement Award for 2011.

Zombies were everywhere, and I decided I would try something a bit different, explore the possibilities the horror genre presented; I published a novella, Nightmare of the Dead, through Severed Press in the summer of 2012. I discovered that people expect zombies to be a certain type of creature, and zombies belonged in an apocalyptic setting. I didn’t know there were rules or guidelines. My story took place during the Civil War and was a horror story. I hope to continue the story.

I decided to write something larger in scope. I wondered: if Michael Bay made a zombie movie with Clive Barker penning the script, what would it look like? Necropolis Now was released in January, 2013 by Severed Press, the first book in the Zombie Ascension series. The second book, Queen of the Dead, should be available late July or early August. Of course, I used Bay and Barker as the foundational concepts; both of those men are legends who’ve raised the bar for action/entertainment and horror prose, respectively.

I’ve branched out with the Japanese Werewolf Apocalypse series and a bizarro novella called Gravity Comics Massacre, but my curiosity with Romero’s unanswered questions and the nightmarish images from Day of the Dead ensured my lucid dreams would translate to horror fiction. Zombie fiction will always be a part of me, and I have the pioneers to thank for pouring the concrete into the road.

  • Vincenzo Bilof

    Zombie Pop is an awesome website!