Valley Of The Dead – Interview with Kim Paffenroth

7 Jun

zombieauthorphoto Valley Of The Dead   Interview with Kim PaffenrothKim Paffenroth is a professor of religious studies and author of several books on the Bible, theology and, most importantly, zombies.

His previous works have included an award winning study into how Romero uses his zombie movies to criticize American society in Gospel of the Living Dead and zombie fiction in his Dying to Live series.

His most recent work is Valley of the Dead, a (probably) fictional account of what happened to Dante in the 17 years he was missing and his encounter with a zombie outbreak which inspired the horrors written about in his Divine Comedy, specifically Inferno.

Zombie Command catches up with Paffenroth and finds out why a student of theology writes about zombies.

Zombie Command: Can you explain a little about Valley of the Dead and why you chose to put a zombie spin on Dante’s story?

Kim Paffenroth: The premise is that during his wandering across Europe, the medieval Italian poet stumbled on a zombie infestation in a remote valley. The horrors he saw while fighting the undead – people being burned alive, devoured, torn apart, decapitated, crucified, boiled in pitch, etc. – formed the basis of the terrors he’d later put in his poem Inferno, his depiction of the underworld.The “why” is that when I was looking at Romero’s zombie films a few years ago, it struck me how similar his zombies are to the damned in Dante’s hell – mindless slaves to appetite. That’s the real insight both men had into human nature, as well as the idea that worse behavior – especially deception and malice – are not just matters of unrestrained appetite, but of deliberate, rational choice. So the idea that Romero’s zombies are similar to Dante got me to thinking about reversing the image, and making Dante’s Inferno into a Romeroesque zombie ordeal.

ZC: Will readers get more from Valley of the Dead if they are familiar with Inferno or can people (and simpletons like ZC’s own Gary) read it with no fore-knowledge of Dante?

KP: Well, part of the beauty of Dante is how many levels he himself is working on. Look at the upcoming Inferno video game: I’m guessing not a lot of engagement with Dante’s philosophy or theology there, but lifting his horrifying, monstrous images to create eye-catching vistas for violence. And that’s part of his appeal – Inferno is a very visual, sensual experience, as poetry should be in general. If I’ve succeeded even a little, it’s to make something similar – a kind of “standard” zombie story of gut-munching mayhem that fans can interact with on that level, while a Dante scholar could read the same scene and say, “Oh, that was an interesting way to handle Circle Seven.” If anything, I’d like Dante scholars to read the story and come away thinking, “Who is this Romero fellow? I’d like to see one of his films,” and for zombie fans to say, “I don’t remember Dante being so interesting when they made me read him in school. Maybe I’ll go back and take another look.” That would be a really great accomplishment for me as an artist and a fan of both genres.

ZC: Your fiction work and latest books all focus on zombies. How did you get into writing zombies?

KP: In my work as a professor, I kept looking further from the Bible for literary expressions of theological ideas. I first looked at “great” literature (e.g. Shakespeare, Melville, Dostoevsky), but then I started looking at pop culture, and that led to my nonfiction examination of the Romero films, Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth (Baylor, 2006). While I was writing that, I had the hubris to think I might be able to create my own zombie fiction, populated with zombies of my own making, who would do and symbolize what I wanted them to. It’s been a lot of fun and a little success since then.

ZC: Inferno seems to lend itself well to a retelling and a game is currently in production with each game level representing one of the nine circles. How closely do the terrors that Dante witnesses in Valley of the Dead mirror the circles and order that they appear?

KP: Some of Dante’s scenes are so beautifully, touchingly done, that they could be followed quite closely, and everyone I think would know what you’re getting at (whether they knew Dante or not) and they’d be moved by the interaction. The circle of the lustful is like that, with the figure of Francesca; so I took a character like her, filled in her story so readers wouldn’t have to know it already (the way apparently readers or listeners to the original would’ve known her, as well as the story of Guinevere, in order to understand that episode), and I never needed to label her “lustful” – a reader can hear what she’s done, what were the extenuating circumstances, what are her rationalizations for her behavior, and make his or her own judgment. And, indeed, one of the fun things was since I gave Dante a slightly bigger entourage for this journey, I could show more people reacting to the sinner within the story itself: the man of action just wants just to condemn her; Dante and the Virgil character are more analytical, so they explain why they condemn her, but want to give her a chance to repent; and the Beatrice character simply loves her and refuses to judge her. (And I think all those reactions are fair to the analogs in Dante, they’re not just made up.)As for the actual, physical things going on around the people and zombies, that took some imagination, and a lot of the imagery is much more subdued than it was in the original. But I think anyone who knows Inferno will recognize each circle immediately, and anyone who doesn’t won’t notice the intrusions of Dante’s scenery. In other words, I tried to make sure each scene made sense on its own, as well as making an allusion (and often an interpretation) to the original.

ZC: Classic literature and zombies seem to be coming together recently with VotD and the recent release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. What is it about zombies, or what zombies represent, that allows them to fit into the context of these texts?

KP: I think we’ve gotten used to the idea of staggering around mindlessly and soullessly. It’s easier to imagine than, say, imagining that I’m going to turn into a super-sexy, super-strong, indestructible, eternal being like a vampire. I don’t resemble such a being very much, and neither does anyone I know, so they seem more incredible, more unbelievable, and in their own way, more irrelevant. But a zombie (or, to take it back to Dante’s world, a sinner) is something I’m fairly familiar with being all the time.

ZC: Would you agree that any story could be made better by adding zombies?

KP: Hmmm. I don’t know about “better.” I suppose any great story is always hovering right at the edge of something supernatural intruding into it: whether the author makes that supernatural element explicit with a “monster” of some kind, or whether s/he leaves it just at the edge of the picture, determines a lot of how we experience the tale. So if you went around putting zombies in everywhere, I think you might ruin a balance that the author had constructed very carefully and deliberately. On the other hand, you might create something new that made people think about the issues raised by the work in a new light. To take a different example, I always imagine that if I put it on stage, I’d have them fighting a dragon during the storm scene in the middle of King Lear – but we never quite see it, it could all be part of his imagination. That would be a pretty neat addition, and wouldn’t really change anything, since he’s obviously wrestling with his inner demons anyway, and a fire breathing monster would just make that concrete.

valley hm big 2 Valley Of The Dead   Interview with Kim PaffenrothZC: The cover is illustrated by artist Alex McVey. Was he somebody you were keen to have do the cover from the beginning? What aspect of the book does the cover represent?

KP: Alex expressed interest in the project, and I’m thrilled to have someone of his stature working on it. I think his art captures some of the sense of rebirth and baptism implicit in Dante’s journey, but of course, also the sense of violence and gore, so it’s a nice balance of things in the original. Alex will also be doing other interior illustrations.

ZC: If you were to create a sequel, what allegory for the steps in Purgatorio would you create, that would continue the world you’ve created for Dante’s missing years? Or would that be giving too much away?

KP: Right now I’m leaning more toward trying another zombified version of a different great book. But if I were to work on Purgatorio, the geography would probably be easier to handle: climbing a big mountain seems more plausible than going deeper into an ever-narrowing funnel, where the weather changes radically each step of the way, from searing heat all the way to subzero tundra. Now that you remind me of the mount, I also like how the people at the bottom are just kind of wandering around, and are still menaced by the serpent and evil: that would also be an easier scenario to work into a different version.

ZC: What can we look forward to you working on next?

KP: I’m shopping a contemporary ghost story, so hopefully soon I’ll be known for something other than my zombies. But if zombies are what you’re craving, I’m also working on the next installment of the Dying to Live saga, and I’ve edited another anthology of zombie tales for Permuted Press.

The book is available to buy between now and August 31st from Horror Mall.

For more information about Kim Paffenroth you can visit his blog.

You can also win a signed copy by pre-ordering through Horror World’s competition.


Federal Zombie Reserve

5 Jun

Brasswatchmen have created an Opening for a potential web series called “Zombie, OH,” detailing the lives of two interns working at the Federal Zombie Reserve ten years after the initial outbreak.

My views on zombies and comedies isn’t usually favourable but I think this looks like it could be hilarious.


Left 4 Dead 2 Boycott

5 Jun

no l4d2 Left 4 Dead 2 Boycott It seems not everybody is happy with Valve’s announcement that they are making Left 4 Dead 2, a small group of (currently) almost 10,000 gamers to be precise!

Valve have a history of supporting their games for years after release and statements were made that meant players were expecting the same for L4D.

Many people believe that Valve (possibly for the first time) have short changed gamers with Left 4 Dead. Here are a list of the complaints.

The few people here who defend the decision to make L4D2 seem to not understand what everyone is upset about. I’ve tried to summarize the most common issues I’ve heard people having in hopes that it clears things up:
* Significant content for L4D1 was promised, and never delivered
* Valve put little faith in L4D1 since they almost certainly started working on L4D2 right after release
* The fact that L4D2 is nearly identical to L4D1 will decimate the community for both games
* The announced date is not nearly enough time to polish content or make significant gameplay changes
* The new character designs seem bland and unappealing so far
* L4D2 is too bright to fit in with L4D1’s visual aesthetic
* The fiddle-based horde music is extremely disliked, though the differently orchestrated music is otherwise welcome
* L4D2’s release will result in a drop in quality and frequency for L4D1 content, even compared to before
* The community has lost faith in Valve’s former reputation for commitment to their games post-release

What do you think? Do you feel betrayed or are you happy that you’ll be getting more L4D content sooner?

Boycott Left 4 Dead 2 can be joined here or contacted on


Running From Zombies

5 Jun

running from zombies Running From Zombies

In our first ever guest post, Sarah from Running With Zombies takes us through the starting point for zombie evasion on foot.

Are we all sitting comfortably?

Then I shall begin! Greetings avid readers – my name is Sai and I write the drivel found at

I recently came into Zombie Command’s line of sight with a free giveaway the very important issue of surviving the zombie apocalypse and they asked me to impart some of my wisdom in what we might consider my areas of expertise. Assuming all goes according to plan, this will be the first of two posts from me.

Run or Hide?
As the name of my blog might suggest, I’m a runner. While the purpose of the blog itself is to motivate myself to run and others to sponsor me to run in

road races of ever increasing distances, the name stands a reminder of why everyone should run on a regular basis: preparation for the Walking Dead. Fortunately, running is a pretty transferable skill and can also do you well in a number of situations such as, but not limited to, robot uprising, alien invasion, astronomic impact or severe pandemic…but let’s not get carried away here.

Shuffling Undead or Running Infected?
Some of you might be content in the knowledge that zombies are slow, uncoordinated and cognitively challenged. However, the undead approaching at walking speed can still present a problem if there are any great number of them, you are cornered or if one of a myriad of problems occurs. You might find yourself having to go towards the mass of mindless ghouls just to get away, and you’re going to have to go at some speed to prevent them grabbing at you!
While purists may argue the unlikelihood of a ’28 Days Later’ style infection in which the victims still have good motor control and coordination (aka, the Running Zombie), failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Who can forget Robert Carlyle’s Don running from the house 10 minutes into ’28 Weeks Later’ with dozens of infected sprinting behind him? The best escape plan can fail. Be prepared to up and run when you need to.

What should I do?
Staying in your best physical condition will mean that you’re ready for anything. You don’t know how much warning you might get when something does happen. If you’re already in training then try adding a running session once a week and alternate between long runs for stamina, sprint sessions for speed and hill sessions for…well, hills.
If you’re not training at the moment then I suggest you get started, you don’t want to end up being used by your housemates as a human shield (I’d like to point out that I have at no point ever considered using any of my housemates as a human shield, honest). If you think this might just make

some sort of sense to you then find some trainers and get going. Though, the biggest mistake you can make at the start is going to fast – try slow and steady, and stop for a 60 second walk whenever you need to (if you’ve been ‘saving your strength’ in front of the computer for a few years you might want to try 60 seconds running to 60 seconds walking).
Before you know it you’ll be strong, alert and able to outrun any undead predator. Handily, you’ll have also reduced your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes – because it would just be a shame if you survived the zombie apocalypse to have a heart attack a week later. If you have any questions about starting a strict zombie-avoidance training propecia generic from india routine (or just running in general) then drop me an e-mail on or visit

Thanks to everyone at Zombie Command for giving me the floor today and I hope to be back in the near future with my second post.

Keep running,


New Lifeless The Series Trailer

5 Jun

A global pandemic has decimated the population and left the cities deserted. When a handful of survivors find themselves stranded in the aftermath, with the dead returning to life, they must rely on each other to live in a world overrun by the walking dead.Lifeless is an episodic drama developed to be devoured by the world via television and the web.

This potential TV series seems to have stalled since it was looking for a channel to host it last September.

The first five minutes are available to watch online as well as several clips but 3 episodes were available to watch at the New York Television Festival so must be fairly far along so I’m not confident about the quality if it’s still not been picked up.

The production values don’t look great but the zombies are decent and the fact that it’d be able to develop characters and a world much more than a 2hr film could still make me want to see it.

Zombie Command has reached out to the producers for more info on what is currently happening with this zombie series. In the meantime check out the official site for updates.

[via Buy Zombie]