Hope and Crosby. Simon and Garfunkel. Ham and Pineapple. Combinations you never thought would work well together, but when they do get together, you wonder why no one had thought of them before. Or you don’t. It’s late in the evening when I’m writing this, so it sounds profound to me.
To that list maybe should be added Lesbians and Zombies. Or rather, Lesbians Vs Zombies. I must confess to a prurient fascination with both these things, and books and movies of them have occupied my shelves and my hard drive – but always separately. I wouldn’t have thought to have combined the two.
Luckily someone else did, and the good folks at Noble Romance thought the same. Thanks to author and tweeting friend of mine Ren Thompson, I became alerted to a line of novels and novellas marketed by Noble Romance under this banner.
Now, to save you unnecessary blushes later, you need to know that when you read these works, there will be erotic scenes in them; if you feel you can’t handle this, don’t read them (though I should also point out that the levels of explicitness will vary with the author, some leaning more towards sensuality than out-and-out porn, and that the mixes of horror and sex will also vary).
In case you didn’t know any better, the paranormal romance/erotica crossover has been a hot potato for the last few years, and has expanded beyond the tired vampire tropes into spirits, werewolves and shapeshifters. Two of note that I know of, THE PRIDE and SOUTHERN SPIRITS, both by Edie Bingham, were among the most popular released by Virgin/Black Lace in the UK. Now zombies have joined the fold.
I contacted with the originator of this idea, Amber Green, who explained to me the genesis of this new brand:
“I’d kept a couple of lesbian stories simmering in the back of my mind for a while, but wasn’t sure where I’d market one… I set the stories aside to wait for the market to ripen. While I was waiting, someone recited the truism (new to me) that “lesbians don’t read.” Knocked dizzy by the sheer idiocy of that statement, I decided that I, my own modest self, could turn that truism on its head. Sometimes a gal just gets a Don Quixote moment, okay? Vampires dominate the paranormal market, with shapeshifters jostling them. Recently, the “everybody” who claims to know decided that zombies were the new up-and-coming paranormal protagonist. Two truisms. Why not rub their noses together and watch them fight? Lesbians vs Zombies.”
The idea was eventually pitched to fellow writers in an online critique group as a fun, short-term project, called “Lesbians Vs Zombies: The Musical Revue”, and the idea was carried forward with much enthusiasm. The imagination and versatility of writers never ceases to amaze me, and when they get an idea, they can really run with it! Amber eventually brought this to the attention of Jill Noble, whose company Noble Romance often published F/F stories. Jill proved equally enthusiastic about the idea, though suggested making the stories a series of novels or novellas for greater fluid marketing opportunities.
In putting together this feature, many of the authors under this banner were generous enough to let me have a read of their works. They vary in style, tone, setting and rules about the dead, and I daresay there’s something here that could please any self-respecting zombie or lesbian fan (though given that this is being written for Anythinghorror, I want to focus on the horror/fantasy side).
Amber Green’s DEAD KITTIES DON’T PURR concerns shy college student Camie Wall, who has a major crush on fellow student Risa Ruiz, eventually managing to gain some quality time with her, though remaining mindful of the growing threats on campus. The Z-Bug had ravaged nearby Miami in the recent past, and signs of the infection spreading there increase in number. As Camie and Risa’s relationship grows, danger rises from both the rabid infected and the National Guard’s shoot-to-kill policies, and when the girls are unexpectedly separated, Camie must grow stronger if she’s to be reunited with her love. This is a fast-paced story with a realistic, vulnerable protagonist, and her plain, honest narration adds potency to both the erotic and the horrific scenes.
J.S. Wayne’s DEAD MEANS DEAD features student/actress Louise, wound up by an a*****e director and a pair of shoes several sizes too small for her. But her life seems to make a turn for the better with the arrival of new stagehand Angie, a girl who seems to reciprocate the same hot and heavy attraction that she has for her. But just as they manage to get away for a little backstage f**k, the a*****e director bursts in on them, attacking them. Then dies. Then comes back to attack them again. And Louise, Angie, and other survivors find their campus quarantined from the outside world by the authorities, and end up fending for themselves… this is another fast-paced story, with Louise and Angie a team with great chemistry together. There is some cracking dialogue with morbid humour, and Wayne doesn’t skimp on the violence and gore.
Ellie Heller’s GINNY’S CAPTURE takes a different path from the first two novellas, presenting a world where supernatural creatures such as werewolves and faeries secretly mix with the modern world, and zombies are already all over the place, but in fact get used by crime families as undead muscle. Deirdra Montague is a magic-using zombie-killing agent from the Fae Council who finds herself unwillingly reunited with mortal student and former lover Guinevere (who never knew of Deirdra’s magical heritage), when Guinevere’s college gets infected with the zombie virus. I found Ellie Heller’s world more difficult to get into than the others, possibly because I felt it needed more of an explanation of what was happening and how her world worked, but I can’t fault some of the novel touches she put in the story, such as the government orders to broadcast easy-listening music with zombie-repelling subliminals on loudspeakers, the dead preferring the hard rock beat!
Jadette Paige’s NETHER REGIONS will certainly please fans of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, and on some of the several same levels as that show. Set in Ye Ancient Times, the Amazon warrior Threseo and her young apprentice Kreousa are away from their city for a little, shall we say, hand-to-hand training. They return to find the residents frozen like statues, the work of spiteful Gods who want a rematch between the greatest of the Amazons and their old foes the Spartans, whose asses got handed to them by the Amazons. That the Spartans are dead is hardly a problem for the Gods, though… NETHER REGIONS is another novel novella, and little time is wasted in getting the reader into the story. Jadette’s description of Hades and the dead are also quite creepy, due to their supernatural nature rather than the usual viral origins.
KevaD’s THE ZOMBIE WITH FLOWERS IN HER HAIR was among the most striking and original of the stories sent to me. Set in 1969, our heroine is newly-dead Isis, coping with an existence of rotting flesh and maggots, while trying to find the zombie girl who brought her to this state, the zombie girl she has fallen madly in lust with, before her own body decays away. Here in this world, the zombies are not like the square uptight revenants; they’re intelligent, talkative, into peace and love, man, and won’t just attack “Lifers” for a quick bite. Isis is an engaging character, at times selfish and rough, but then selfless and even self-sacrificing, and as we meet a host of other characters during her journey, we’re treated to many amusing bits of 60s pop culture references and dialogue.
And D.Dye’s ZAPOCALYPSE-THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is a sultry American Gothic nightmare where girlfriends Ginger and Gina find themselves stuck in a one-horse Southern town serving beer-swilling inbred rednecks in the local diner while rocking to Credence Clearwater Revival and teasing their neighbours. But when something at the local plant kills the locals and starts bringing them back, hungry for flesh, the diner becomes a fortress. It’s filled with lots of sharp dialogue and references to horror movies both good and bad – how many stories will reference POULTRYGEIST?
Of the stories I’ve read, I’ve only had two complaints: one, that most skimped out on scenes of gore and mayhem, and two, that more than a couple deserved to be expanded into novel length.
So, if you like your women who love women and zombies who love brains, you can see and purchase all the works under the Lesbians Vs Zombies banner at the Noble Romance site here.
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars (averaged)
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls (averaged)
Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 brains (averaged)
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien