A Plague on Both Your Houses

I normally don’t recommend that writers self-publish, as the results are very rarely taken seriously, but this is one case in which it worked out. Back in 1992, I had written a story in the form of a five-act Shakespearean play, sort of a cross between Romeo and Juliet and Night of the Living Dead. The play opens with a prologue in which a gravedigger, who now spends his days unburying newly born zombies rather than burying the dead, sets the scene:

Diseased New York, the setting for our play
Has lost its glitter, trading it for grue.
Cold dead come back, in graves they will not stay.
The living bear no young, and dwindle few.
I am an old man. I’ve seen many things:
A walked-on Moon, democracy again,
The death of tyrants, privilege, nations, kings.
Now hope is weak. I fear the end of men.
I plant them deep, yet somehow they thrust up,
As if Spring’s breath has touched their wint’ry souls,
Enticing them to once more grasp life’s cup,
and mount the stage, demanding their lost roles.
Is this a fate mankind deserved to earn?
Watch, and listen, and perhaps you’ll learn.

After four years of being unable to place this story (one editor even rejected the piece not because he didn’t like it, but because he said he didn’t care for Shakespeare!), and wanting it out in the world, I printed it up as a Halloween pamphlet that I circulated to friends and colleagues. Editor Stephen Jones liked it so much that it ended up being published in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, his 1997 collection of the best horror of 1996, and the piece was also nominated for a Stoker Award.

So it turns out that self-publication sometimes pays off after all …