Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Appreciation of a fanbase - David Moody is awesome

As a child growing up in the 1980s I was fascinated with horror movies, fitting really, given that in the UK at this time there was a well-established moral panic around 'video nasties'. That violent horror movies had the power to corrupt the innocent was always an idea I found ludicrous, and it perhaps informs some my teaching practices to this day. Regardless, I was a big fan of George Romero's zombie films (the Night, Dawn, Day trilogy), and this fondness has stayed with me. Especially when it comes to zombie-based video games...

Anyway, few years back I was discussing my interest in the living dead with a school-teacher friend of mine (hi Elliot!) whose personal knowledge of zombie media was far more refined than mine own. He recommended that I seek out the literary fiction of David Moody, a British writer who self-published an early novel of his back on the internet in 2001. The book in question was Autumn, which was recently republished. It's a book revolving around a mysterious illness which afflicts the majority of the human race, killing them only for some of the corpses to, you guessed it, come back to life. This is a zombie novel after all. What follows is a tale of survival, futility and hope as the last remaining survivors attempt to come to terms with the disaster in their own ways.

At the time I was first made aware of the series, I seldom gave it much thought, mainly because I was immersed at the time in the graphic novel, The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard. This is the 'continuing tale of survival horror' made famous by the recent television adaptation. If you enjoy the television series then you can do yourself a massive favour by seeking out the original source material - it goes where no television series can dare to go. Seriously.

More recently, a chance encounter with an ex-student of mine (hi Craig!) who also loves horror fiction put me onto the zombie novel by Max Brooks, World War Z. I was initially sceptical about the title, seeing it a cheap cash-in on the rise in popularity of the zombie, especially given the raft of HMV-friendly titles I'd browsed like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I was blown away by the quality of the story. It has since been made into a film to be released this year (trailer below):

Having, enjoyed this book I was in the mind to seek out David Moody's work, and I wasn't disappointed. The way Moody managed to capture the pointlessness that survivors of traumatic events feel was a pleasure to behold. Also, the attention to detail (eg the stillness of the post apocalyptic world; it's quietness) was refreshing and by the time I finished the first book I had already ordered the subsequent novel in the series, Autumn: The City. The ways in which the zombies herd together, chasing a lost and forgotten sound until distracted by something else was well-realised.

It's at this point that things started to go a little awry, and not because of the fault of Moody or his storytelling. Quite the contrary, the subsequent book was as good as the first, if not better. No, the problem was that after getting two-thirds of the way through the book, a printing error had meant that pages from earlier in the novel were replicated, thus curtailing the narrative. At this point I endeavoured to contact the publisher but, when struggling to find their contact details, I stumbled across David Moody's email address. I sent him a polite enquiry regarding the contact details of the publisher, not really expecting a response.

Within the hour David Moody himself returned my email explaining that there are a handful of copies of the book with this problem and that the publishers (Gollancz) were aware of this and were in the process of arranging a recall. His email was friendly, apologetic, measured and it took me completely by surprise. All I was expecting was to be given an email address of a customer services departement (and not straight away either!), but no, Moody actually took personal ownership of the issue and went out of his way to pursue the solution to the problem. A new book is on its way to me from the publisher.

You might imagine that this type of thing would really frustrate an author as it runs the risk of damaging their reputation and future sales. I've a new found respect the David Moody and I shall definitely be purchasing more of his work. When an author takes time to look after the fanbase the way he did, then that respect is deserved.

Thank you, David, you made my day.


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