All the Zombies in Middletown

by Jay Wilburn

Originally published on Armand Rosamilia’s Dying Days site for Winter Of Zombie 2015.

middletown_coverFirst, it is important to understand that Jack Wallen may be insane. I think his writing is brilliant and he has the soul of an artist, but he’s packed full of crazy ideas. Middletown Apocalypse may not be his craziest idea, but it is on up there. Jack took a single story idea and gathered a number of authors together to retell it each in a different way. This then became the zombie outbreak in Middletown over and over again.

That anthology is available here:

The eleven authors that took on this challenge were Joe McKinney, Mark Tufo, Armand Rosamilia, Shawn Chesser, Brent Abell, Mike Evans, John O’Brien, Eric A. Shellman, Heath Stallcup, Jack Wallen, and Jay Wilburn. I am easily the tenth best author in this list – maybe even ninth when the others are drunk. Which means I am ninth on the list most of the time. This is all beside the point.

Jack Wallen is crazy. He set out the story parameters. Charlie Noble is a shared character that has the unfortunate distinction of being the recipient of a misdelivery of a deadly virus. As happens with most misdelivered viruses, zombies ensue. The stories share the character and the university where the virus arrives. They share the fictional town of Middletown, Indiana. One of the keys to this insanity is that the stories are not eleven stories that take place in the same universe during the same outbreak. No, they each take these same story details and retell eleven different versions of the story with these and a few other story details in common.

What we end up with then is eleven very different stories even though in theory they share the same premise. Some stories follow Charlie Noble. Others follow different characters fighting to survive in Charlie’s wake. Jack chose the authors for their diversity of story telling using the zombie trope and the dystopian landscape in their various works. Some took a military focus. Others were highly character driven explorations. Some characters make it while others don’t.

Each story, though essentially built from the same framework, demonstrates in a very real way how much potential is in the zombie story. Really every zombie story is building off a common framework. The rules and settings change, but all zombie authors are building with some recognized construction materials. Jack Wallen, who is insane, took this to a new level to show how truly great and diverse the potential of the zombie really is. By making more common within the story lines, he went a long way to make it even clearer how different each zombie story can be under those conditions.

Jack recognized something essential in the appeal and potential of the zombie story. There are limitless divergence points upon which this trope can explore themes, characters, society, and action. A zombie story can run the range from horror to literary. The creature has the power to transcend the genre and outgrow the story outline in the hands of the right author.

The Middletown Apocalypse anthology does a lot for the zombie sub genre and zombie authors seeking to make great stories with this trope. It delivers for readers and serves the fans that believe there is still something great to be discovered with zombies. Charlie Noble and Middletown, Indiana are going to have a real bad day and they are going to relive that day eleven times. Spoiler: Jack Wallen is out of his mind.

About Jay

meDead Song Legend Dodecology Book 1: January from Milwaukee to Muscle Shoals

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Dead Song Legend Dodecology Book 2: February from Vicksburg to Cherokee

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