GD4: My Best Friends Are Dead will be released in about a week if everything goes smoothly. And when, in life, do things not go smoothly? Below is a brief note from the book on a few topics concerning the past, present, and future of Generation Dead.
Thank you for picking up My Best Friends Are Dead, the fourth book in the Generation Dead series. I’m happy to be repurposing the title, which I’d suggested early on as a marketing tagline for the first book (the “dead” was changed to “undead”, which I thought much less provocative). The “friends” refers both to the characters in the books, many of whom are dead yet still walking around, and also to the stories themselves. "How’s Life", "Doll Parts", and "Purpose Statement" first appeared as bonus stories, one each, in the electronic editions of the three novels, and they were collected with "My Dead Heart" and released as an eBook exclusive called Generation Dead: Stitches. "Still Small Voices", "Melon Heads", and "The Pain of Being Alive" are all original to this volume, as is "Passing Swiftly", a Break My Heart 1,000 Times story. Readers of that novel know that ghosts appear with the same frequency as do zombies in the Generation Dead books, perhaps proving conclusively that, in fact, all of my best friends are dead. I’m thrilled that I get to resurrect all of these friends here in this book.
Also included are the collected entries from My So-Called Undeath, a blog I started writing prior to the publication of the first Generation Dead novel. There wasn’t a lot of forethought put into the decision to do the blog; I loved the world I’d created and wanted to try out fictional material that didn’t fit well in the novels. Tommy blogged within the pages of the novel and I thought it would be interesting and fun if his blog was also available to readers in the “real” world.
Most of the blog entries that follow were originally written and published over a couple of hours. I’d have an idea, write it in Blogger, read it through a couple times, run the spellchecker, and press the button to publish. Contrast that with the “traditional” publishing process, which for me involves multiple handwritten and typed drafts, rounds of vetting and editing, and publication dates set months in the future, and you have two distant poles of the publication spectrum.
The immediacy of publishing fiction through a blog was both thrilling and terrifying, especially as my “professional” publications at that point were minimal. What mitigated the terror and enhanced the thrill was the reader interaction. Readers would comment, sometimes as zombie characters, within minutes of Tommy posting a new entry. Tommy would answer back, a dialogue would ensue and often a new idea for a blog would spark. This interactivity was something entirely new to me in the experience of creating fiction, and I wondered if the buzz I got from eliciting and responding to the comments was similar to that of performing improv comedy or playing in a jam band, where the audience often becomes a critical part of the work. I cut Tommy’s road trip from Passing Strange, so why not work some of it out in the blog, and get readers to suggest places for him to go? Colette and DeCayce have an intriguing relationship, but when was I going to get the chance to make them center stage in a book? Margi seemed to be a reader favorite but was never a primary POV character in the novels, doesn’t she deserve a turn in the blog? Using the blog to provide fresh material to an enthusiastic audience, I felt, justified whatever weaknesses therein—Tommy was trying desperately to connect to his readership and draw attention to his cause; I was trying desperately to connect to a readership and draw attention to my work. Sooooooo cathartic!
Fun as it is, interactive art and entertainment isn’t without its perils. Connectivity can become a drug which inhibits rather than enables an interior vision. As much as I enjoyed the collaborative nature of the blog, I was and remain fiercely resistant to the idea of the “main” storyline of Generation Dead being anything but my own. I’ve always known how the series will end. What I often said, truthfully, in interviews was that I wasn’t certain how many books (or blogs, or stories, or multi-media performances) it would take me to get there. I still don’t, but I feel like the horizon is drawing nearer.
I realized that whatever I wrote in the blogs needed to be complimentary to and not in conflict with the novels themselves—and so my hand needed to stay firmly on the narrative wheel if I wanted to reach that horizon. Mainly, that involved not disrupting the continuity of the novels, if I could avoid it—which I couldn’t, really. The events depicted in Generation Dead, Kiss of Life and Passing Strange all occur within a single year despite being published over the course of three years, and I wrote the blog entries before, during and after those publications, trying to fill in gaps and enhance the readers’ immersion and enjoyment of the world. Further complicating things (like Popeye in what might be my favorite single GD story, I can never seem to take the easier path), I was writing short stories that had very specific places in the continuity, some existing in the spaces between the published books and others occurring later and providing momentum for an additional novel. All of the material collected here from Purpose Statement onward occurs after the action of the first three novels. I’ve eliminated the posting dates and, sadly, the comments from the entries. I would have loved to include them here as part of the “story”, but I thought that another 200 pages of blog comments would tax the patience of even the most ardent GD readers (Erica & Yaz, I’m looking at you). Newlydeads are encouraged to seek them out at MySoCalledUndeath.com, which still inhabits a corner plot of the Internet cemetery.
Working in the Generation Dead world, no matter the medium, was nothing short of exhilarating for those years, even during the times I left the tenuous security of my high-wire and stepped out into open space. Every moment was fun, and when work and fun are one and the same, life is endlessly abundant.
Even creative work, though, can begin to feel like work, and the time comes to take a break. In my experience with writing it is best to do that before the fatigue begins to show up on the page. I’d been thinking about writing Karen’s post-Passing Strange adventures on MySoCalledUndeath.com, but she and I had been through too much together for me to write with only half my heart in her story. I took a break, not from writing, but from writing Generation Dead.
We always return to the things we love, don’t we? Sometimes we may wonder why we ever loved them in the first place, but usually our feelings return in a rush of passion and gratitude. My love for Generation Dead is so passionate and obsessive it borders on the pathological. I’ve begun work on a fifth book in the series, a novel. Provided that my (or Tommy’s) previous readership finds this book, and that the series continues to find a new readership, I’ll write and publish Generation Dead stories until I reach the horizon I’ve envisioned since writing that first scene of Karen walking across the Oakvale High cafeteria. Work and fun are once again united.
As always, I appreciate all that you do to support the differently biotic.