Technically, this blog was for my forthcoming novel, Up From the Depths.
As you can see, its morphed into more than just a place to talk about my writing. That is why I created a separate blog strictly for the novel. That blog is listed under the links sections if you care to venture over there.
To give you a brief overview of Up From the Depths, or another title I’ve been tossing around, Crossroads, the novel is set in the zombie/apocalyptic/horror genre and has a relatively heavy military thematic element to it. This has been attempted by other authors in the past within this same genre but not very many have pulled it off with success. Craig DiLouie with his Tooth and Nail is one of the authors who have succeeded in doing so. Where others have tried and failed, Craig succeeded with incredible accuracy and detail about a fictional infantry unit cut off in New York City during a zombie apocalypse.
Taking that concept and putting it into a larger perspective, Up From the Depths doesn’t just detail one unit during a violent pandemic. It details several units from different branches of service and does so in great detail not circumventing action for plot or character development nor does the storyline ‘bog’ down with boring narration of the surroundings, equipment or weapon details.
To bypass what some readers would consider boring details, any abbreviations, terms or nomenclature used within my novel has been placed in a section that defines and describes what those terms and abbreviations mean. What I’m trying to say is instead of explaining what something is in the paragraph its introduced in, the reader can avoid that, stay ‘in the zone’ and look it up at a later time just by paging to the reference section of the book.
As mentioned previously, Up From the Depths details the actions of several different military units such as an US Army Special Forces ODA (Operational Detachment Alpha or what some call an A-Team), Navy SEALs, the Coast Guard, National Guard and the Marines.
By now, a few of you are either excited about the novel or are thinking, no way can this guy combine all that into something that’s worth reading.
Both trains of thought are correct. No way could I combine all that into a standard length novel and make it work. Up From the Depths is not a standard length novel. Due to its size, it falls into the ‘epic’ category. That doesn’t mean epic like James A. Michener epic it just means epic based on the length of the book.
Most novels run about 100k in word length, sometimes shorter. Some written works that are shorter than 100k could fall into the novella category. Books exceeding 100k fall into the epic category, hence, Up From the Depths is epic in size only.
My novel culminates several years of work that started with the idea to just write a sort novella about a SEAL team deployed on a submarine that gets the news about a biological/viral zombie outbreak. That was the initial concept and storyline. Pretty straightforward and direct, no major frills or chills, just some gratuitous firepower slaughtering zombies wholesale.
Sounds like fun doesn’t it?
One little problem with all that. If we introduce a Special Operations unit then we need to have a formidable hostile opposing force. Sure, zombies have the numerical superiority but what if they could actually adapt to a change in their environment? That thinking brings up all kinds of issues that now move into the totally fiction portion of the zombie genre.
How could reanimated dead evolve?
Easy answer, they can’t.
So what if there were two kinds of zombies? The first stage would be the actual reanimated dead that have only one purpose, spread the infection to new hosts before your shelf life runs out. That would go a long way to explain the whole biting thing.
That’s what I like to classify as a stage 1 zombie.
Stage 2 would be the bitten victims of stage 1. These infected aren’t dead just animated by the infection/virus to seek out more hosts. This stage could be more hostile and adaptable to change while not being saddled with a shelf life ruled by decomposition. But due to the brain damage the virus causes, they wouldn’t be running with any kind of coordination, more a loping gait kind of like a gorilla.
This may sound a little too out there for the average reader but there is a virus that affects the brain and changes how the infected think.
The wonderful virus Toxoplasma Gondii or T gondii as its more commonly referred to. T. gondii infections have the ability to change the behavior of rats and mice, making them attracted to, rather than scared of cats. This effect is advantageous to the parasite, which will be able to sexually reproduce if its host is eaten by a cat. The infection is highly precise, as it does not affect a rat’s other fears such as the fear of open spaces or of unfamiliar-smelling food.
Keeping that in mind, what would if this behavior was amplified in the humans who have this infection?
How could humans get this you might ask?
60 million people in the United States already have it with estimates that 30% of the world’s population have it as well.
How could humans have this?
Humans get infected by:
- blood transfusion or organ transplantation (very rare)
- consuming undercooked, infected meat (especially lamb, pork and venison)
- ingesting water, soil (for example, putting dirty fingers in your mouth) or anything else that has been contaminated with cat feces
- mother-to-child transmission. A pregnant mother who has just been infected with Toxoplasma gondii can pass the infection to her unborn baby (congenital infection). She might not have any symptoms, but the unborn child might suffer and develop disease.
Healthy humans won’t show symptoms because their immune system keeps it from manifesting. However, people with weakened immune systems may develop central nervous system disease, brain lesions, pneumonitis or retinochoroiditis among other risks. For example, people with AIDS and renewed toxoplasmosis can have symptoms that include:
- poor coordination
There are some studies that show that people with mental illnesses may also show the above symptoms as their brain may actually attenuate the effect.
T. gondii plays just a small role in the overall plot but the role it does play is important so let’s give old T a big hand.
Enough with the medical jargon and explanations, suffice it to say that I spent an inordinate amount of time dedicated to research and study to get my novel as accurate as possible and create an actual real-world cause for a zombie apocalypse. (No thawed out 20,000 year old space aliens or returning space probes carrying alien microbes as a root cause.)
If you consider the amount of time spent to research this little portion of the plot, you can now imagine the detail within the overall novel.
Stay tuned to my author blog for more progress and updates on Up From the Depths, the novel.