The third act of Thorton Wilder’s “Our Town” has always made me cry. I guess I should have realized that meant it was only a matter of time before I’d create a short story out of that Pulitzer Prize-winning play’s life-affirming concept. And, of course, what life-affirming short story is complete without zombies?
Although eventually published in the anthology The Book of All Flesh, edited by James Lowder, it was anthologist and author Pete Crowther who should get credit for planting the seed for “Live People Don’t Understand.” Crowther invited me to write a story for an anthology he was working on devoted to Will Eisner’s noir comic book character The Spirit. I immediately realized that Wildwood Cemetery, where The Spirit has his secret headquarters, and the Grovers Corners cemetery, where the newly dead congregate in “Our Town,” had to be one and the same. When The Spirit anthology ended in limbo, I was too much in love with the concept to let the story die with it.
It sat fallow for awhile until I heard that James Lowder was putting together the zombie anthology The Book of All Flesh. I realized then how the plot could be restructured to build a story that could stand alone. As much as I regret not getting a chance to play with The Spirit, the story as published in October 2001 turned out to be a much cleaner realization of what I wanted to say than it would have been originally.
“Live People Don’t Understand” was reprinted in my zombie collection What Will Come After.