Note: This is the first of a series of posts talking about the emotions and psychology of the survivors in the As The World Dies series.
In the five years since As The World Dies first appeared online, I have learned that one thing that readers absolutely love or absolutely hate is the way the characters emotionally respond to the destruction of their families, friends, way of life and the world. The fact that Jenni and Katie cry and mourn struck a chord with a many readers, while a few others hated it. That all the characters are haunted (sometimes literally) by the ghosts of their past and the lives they once lived, again provoked strong emotions either for or against the notion.
When the first critical comment about the women crying and mourning came in, I read it to my husband and asked, "How else would we respond? If I saw you die, it would destroy me." He shrugged, "Maybe they're not close to anyone or something."
A few fans commended me for showing the grief and mourning of the survivors, something many of them had not seen in other movies or books at that time (2005). It felt odd to me because it only made sense. Death of loved ones is devastating in our regular life, I couldn't help but contemplate how death on a wide scale would affect survivors.
2004 and 2005 were extremely difficult years for my husband and me. We had multiple losses among our families and friends. At one point, neither one of us wanted to pick up the phone anymore. I hadn't attended my first funeral until this point in my life and it was as if the floodgates had opened. I remember attending the funeral of a family member and feeling terrified that someone else would soon die. Death had become so common I felt I couldn't take much more loss. Also, I could not imagine the grief of those even closer to the deceased. I saw wives, husbands, children and grandchildren struggle with the death of their loved ones. The words of comfort I tried to say felt insignificant in the face of their tremendous loss.
It was during this time that I was deep into writing As The World Dies. The amount of death that had surrounded us gave me a very different view on the zombie genre. The death of the world needed to be mourned in my story and grief needed to be felt by the characters so they could evolve as they survived. The enormous impact of the entire world dying needed to be reflected in the story or else the story would feel empty. So Katie and Jenni mourned their loved ones and the survivors grieved the end of the world.
Now, five years later, I still receive emails from people who read the stories and were deeply emotionally involved in the characters. The readers felt sympathetic to the characters and drawn into their world. The characters' responses to the loss of their family and friends struck a chord with the readers. It helped them form a bond with the fort inhabitants.
And, as before, I have received a handful of emails complaining about the characters mourning or crying. I have come to realize it is because to some people the zombocalypse is a wish fulfillment of adventure, fun, heroics and revenge. They like the idea of being lone survivors, outwitting other people, and killing their annoying zombified neighbors. They don't want to think about the deep emotional and psychological fallout of seeing the entire world destroyed. They want to just get some glorious headshots. I totally can understand this mentality. That is why I loved Zombieland and why I like playing videogames.
The tiny fingers under the door at the opening of the As The World Dies saga demanded that I go down into the scary depths of grief and emotional trauma.
But, as the Bible says, mourning will eventually turn to laughter...
Next Post: Laughing at Zombies