New York Comic Con 2011: Zombies, Monsters and Paranormal Fiction

We've been celebrating paranormal reads all month long, but we aren't the only ones who love creatures that go bump in the night. Today we spent time at New York Comic Con 2011 with thousands of fans that were ready for comic book, manga and graphic novel signings, author sightings, panels, workshops, advanced television and movie screenings and more. I had the pleasure to sit in on one of these workshops as several debut and established authors talked about some of the very real world problems that their supernatural characters face.

(Left to right - Thomas E. Sniegoski, Tahereh Mafi, Nancy Holzner, Drew Magary, Stefan Petrucha, Bob Fingerman and Veronica Rossi)

Moderated by science fiction author Drew Magary, the discussion began with Magary asking the panelists why they choose to write about paranormal and supernatural creatures. Bob Fingerman, a comic book artist and author of the recently released post-apocalyptic zombie novel, Pariah, not to be confused with Aaron Warner's Pariah graphic novel series — explained how he is drawn to it because in paranormal stories ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary situations. Fingerman said he approaches his writing by taking “average people and [putting] them in rough situations … I picture how I’d react.” The horror in Pariah doesn’t come from the zombies themselves, but rather from the people's behavior. 

Stefan Petrucha’s zombie tale Dead Mann Walking explained that the reason he writes about zombies is simple. "I've been in love with zombies since I was a kid.” He said he is a huge fan of the classic George A. Romero style zombies.

Also in attendance was Veronica Rossi who has a YA novel, Under the Never Sky, releasing in January 2012. Her novel takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting. The book focuses on two very distinct halves of a world that has crumbled, and the author claimed that what draws her to paranormal fiction if her “[interest] in opposites and exploring that.” And although there's not much more information than that available right now, I know that RT's Whitney — and any of her fellow paranormal YA fans — would get a kick out of this sneak peek behind the scenes of this upcoming release.

Author Nancy Holzner shared a different perspective. In addition to writing urban fantasy she is also a Medievalist and finds interest in paranormal fiction because of her studies on the Middle Ages, a time when “[paranormal elements] were real” and many people believed in aspects of the supernatural. Her Deadtown series features a non-traditional rendition of the living dead. They’re “not the kind of groaning, brain shambling” creatures we normally think of when we hear the z-word. Holzner puts a new twist on the classic monsters by equipping them with enhanced powers and super strength.

Tahereh Mafi is another new YA author whose debut dystopian novel, Shatter Me, releasing November 15th, features a heroine with an “evil touch” who becomes ostracized for her killer powers. For Mafi, paranormal is great because you “can take characters to extreme situations” and the genre speaks to the “struggle of youth” and “the human condition of being different.”

Ultimately, all of the authors agreed that the draw of paranormal fiction is that, in Holzner’s words, “emotions are universal,” and readers recognize and relate to the feelings and relationships supernatural characters have.

Bob Fingerman wrapped up the discussion by urging readers to demand more from their publishers, as there’s a misconception that “readers expect one thing when buying a book” (e.g. a “zombie book” or a “vampire book”), when in fact readers often enjoy more multidimensional, complex stories, and genre rules are made to be broken. 

Want more NYCC 2011 coverage? You can check back all weekend long. And don't miss today's special author interview with Marjorie M. Liu that took place at the convention.