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"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Braineater Jones

So, in honor of National Novel Writing Month, commonly shortened to the saccharine and incomprehensible "NaNo," I thought I'd talk a little bit about the history of my novel.

Braineater Jones has been with me as a name for a long time, but that's about it. A name. Not a character. Not a story. Not even an idea for a while. Just a name. I suspect, though I'm not 100% sure that it came to me in a dream one night after watching "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." (You may already see where I'm going with this.)

You'll probably recall a scene from this movie where the interchangeable Nazi warmonger is in his tank, chasing Indy through the desert, and suddenly, inexplicably, yells out "Wo ist Joooooones?" I'll use my four-year baccalaureate degree in German to translate this for you: "Where is Joooooones?" Anyway, forever after that night some guy yelling out, "Braineater Jooooones!" has stuck in my mind.

The name had only one logical character type, and after a while I knew he was a zombie. But why name a zombie? Why nickname a zombie for that matter? Well, he'd have to be intelligent to have a name, for one thing. And I wondered what an intelligent zombie might do for a living, and it occurred to me that unless he was a criminal he would probably be a P.I. I toyed with a subtitle of Zomb-I P.I. or something along those lines, but as of yet I haven't been able to make it work.

The only problem is I'm not a mystery reader, I don't watch film noir, I really have no idea how to construct a detective book. So for a long time Braineater Jones just sat on my hard drive with I think these exact words:

"An exercise in zombie noir."

"Also: humans spread through the galaxy, alien life is mostly parasitic resulting in vampires, zombies."

Not sure where that second part came from. I think a SciFi Channel movie of the week. (Ooh, sorry, I meant "SyFy" of course.)

Anyway, after a while poor Jonesy was relegated to my pile of neat but useless ideas. I thought it might make a neat video game, that is, until they released Stubbs the Zombie which had evidently the exact same plot. I despaired. Poor Braineater Jones was all but double dog dead. I made an obscure reference to him as being the star of a video game in another one of my books. It wouldn't make sense to anybody who wasn't me, but it was one of those Vonnegut-type throwaway ideas that I decided to just throw away and I decided that would be about the closest poor Jones ever got to the light of day.

Then a funny thing happened. I was sitting at work daydreaming about my work-in-progress at the time, a little story about the Second American Revolution. (No, not the secret one.) I was brainstorming, working on some worldbuilding, when all of a sudden Braineater Jones reared his ugly-ass head. A new list of zombie rules rolled past my eyes like the opening scroll of "Return of the Jedi."

He wasn't an alcoholic. He needed alcohol to preserve his brain. (The cigarettes were just to be cool.) But was this just a mini-Bender here? No, there was more. It wasn't as easy as all that to just get booze, because of Prohibition. Prohibition, in fact, was a cudgel the administration used to clamp down on zombie activity. In fact, that was the whole reason the zombie subculture needed someone like Jones. The cops wouldn't help them, but Braineater Jones would.

It was like it was all clicking into place. I guess that name and that abandoned idea had sat somewhere down in the reptilian depths of my subconscious simmering in a little stew of gestalts. All of a sudden it just came screaming to the surface. I didn't write any of the Braineater Jones story, just a little bit of the worldbuilding, and vowed that would be my next novel. Then I heard about NaNoWriMo, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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