For local author Dean Clark childhood memories with his parents take an unusual twist.
“We did spend a lot of time looking at road kill and dissecting them,” said Clark.
Maybe not a perfect conversation starter on a first date, but exactly what you’d want from the author of the new zombie series LIFE to the DEAD (I am Seth Vol. 1).
Just to make it clear Clark’s family was not distant kin to the late Jeffrey Dahmer, the author explains that his mother was a marine biologist and his father a geologist.
“We spent a lot of time camping, searching, uh … for dead animals to dissect and learn how the body works,” Clark said.
Dean says his passion for biology and anatomy, along with anthropology and human history lead naturally to his creation of the “lost soul” character Seth.
“He meets some really interesting people when he goes to Europe. They’re very into the occult and into the darker history of Europe. And they kind of stumble on an ancient infection,” said Clark.
And of course, being into science, Clark has chosen a real parasitic fungus called Cordycep that exists in nature and has infected people during the Black Plague and earlier.
However, beyond just occurring in real life, Clark says there is real scientific debate about the ability of Cordycep to control behavior and consciousness.
“It’s actually even on the front page of scientific forums that these types of infections can potentially animate what would be considered dead animals, very much like the Hollywood zombie phenomenon but in a very real way,” said Clark.
“It’s a bit controversial but there is evidence to show that these powerful Cordycep parasites can actually perpetuate and preserve dead flesh and as a lot of people know, fungal organisms like yeast can survive almost indefinitely. Which can lead to very similar phenomenon like the Hollywood style zombies,” Clark said.
So yeast rises bread, Cordycep could rise the dead?
“That’s very well put,” said Clark.
In the novel, Cordycep infects Seth and his friends creating the “human hosts” they come in contact with, but Clark says his story is based upon evolutionary biology and real natural phenomenon.
“One particular animal will become infected and its behavior will change. It will find its nest, or its culture, its home and it will climb to the top of a plant or something high up in the air and it will explode with spores. And spread it airborne,” said Clark.
Clark says he loves zombie stories.
“It may be because of my background in biology, and maybe the macabre, I don’t know. But the idea of a dead animal of any kind, especially human, being reanimated somehow is kind of terrifying and kind of exciting at the same time. Yeah, big zombie fan,” Clark said.
Which begs an answer to the ultimate zombie debate, which is scarier the fast-moving infected (28 Days Later) or the slow-moving zombies (the original Night of the Living Dead)?
Of course, Clark takes a scientific approach to the question in his novel.
“Nature is a little more complex than a lot of times Hollywood will make it out to be. Different people react to infections in different ways. For instance some people died from the bird flu and others just got a really bad cold,” said Clark.
In the story, Clark explains, there are people that are carriers who don’t actually have the symptoms of the disease, but they carry it and spread it. There are characters whose soul purpose is to spread it a large way.
“So, it doesn’t quite fit in that normal zombie genre fast versus slow zombie box, but there are definitely some fast, very strong zombies in this story,” Clark said.
Although Clark doesn’t seem to fear dissecting road kill or creating zombies what does worry him is consumer reluctance to e-books technology. Except for an extremely small printing, LIFE to the DEAD (I am Seth Vol. 1) will only be available electronically.
“I don’t want people to be afraid that it’s an Amazon book and they’re not going to enjoy reading it on digital media. Because it can be very enjoyable, actually, to read it on a phone, on an iphone or a droid, or a PC or a Mac or whatever device you have,” said Clark.
People not buying the book? For Clark, that is scary.