{Guest} S W Tanpepper

The Undead Meet High-Tech in S.W. Tanpepper’s GAMELAND

Without a doubt, the cold undead are hot commodities right now. Zombie Walks are scheduled from coast to coast, often in conjunction with apocalyptic conventions. The Walking Dead series is hugely popular on television and zombie literature is enjoying a wave of immense popularity. A quick look at GoodReads and you’ll find a half dozen very active zombie groups, not to mention a couple dozen more where zombies and their fans have infiltrated.

What’s all the fuss about?

How many different ways could there be to tell a story where the main characters try to avoid being eaten by their once-living brethren? Apparently, quite a lot. The reason is because zombies aren’t simply antagonists. They aren’t Lex Luthers or Voldemorts or Magnetos. Most zombies do not have special powers or strengths or speed. They’re actually kinda dumb and slow. And stinky. They don’t glisten in the sunlight, so they don’t make for good romance stories. Usually.

Zombies are inherently metaphoric.

Even without special powers, the Undead still somehow find a way to represent any of the seven classic plot antagonists. They are symbols of man’s struggles against himself and nature; against science and the supernatural; against religion, man, and environment. Perhaps it is because of their lack of defining attributes that make them such a powerful and adaptable antagonist.

GAMELAND is about societal, economic, technological and governmental developments.

Science is not inherently evil. I know this because before writing fiction, I was a geneticist. I helped develop new viruses and new medicines to better the human condition. But the power scientists can wield is immense and could be easily abused. When I wrote the short horror story Gologtha (which ended up becoming the prequel to the world of GAMELAND), I set out to tell a simple tale of scientific research gone horribly awry, both intentionally and accidentally. Science, hand in hand with the military, created the Undead. Science, with the best intentions of Mankind in mind, only made the situation worse. Thankfully, we live in a world where these things are highly unlikely to come to pass.

Out of Golgotha came GAMELAND. It’s fifteen years later and Jessie, the daughter of the man who helped create zombies, finds herself in the dubious company of other young computer gamers and hackers. They reside on the fringes of society by virtue of their economic status (and, in Jessie’s case, the destruction of her family and its reputation), fringes that are, ironically, comprised of the majority of the country’s population. Can we say 99%? Oh, and the country itself has become fractured, broken apart because of disagreements between States on how to utilize the Undead to make life easier for the living.

Long Island has been long abandoned to the Undead after an outbreak there forced a rapid evacuation thirteen years earlier. The disease is tenuously managed and the Infected controlled by mandatory neural implants, which everyone receives while still alive. Life expectancy is regulated and capped, and taxes are minimized because zombies have been pressed into civil and military service.

Along comes Arc Properties, a megalithic corporation with their hands in everything from biotech to high tech and the government. They’ve built a gaming arcade on Long Island called Gameland, and the rich and privileged get to “buy” zombie Players to act out their primal violent fantasies, which the underprivileged get to witness second-hand. Entertainment is big money, and nothing raises ratings better than violence. Jessie and her gang decide to break in, and Arc doesn’t want them to leave.

What ensues is a dark drama that will eventually be played out on a world stage, but for the kids, surviving is all that matters. In the course of trying to escape, they struggle against each other, against their inner demons, against ideologies and societal complacencies. They battle the natural environment. And, of course, they battle the Undead. Yes, there is gore, but it’s not featured as it is in most zombie survival stories. Gore is not what this story is about. It’s about characters living in a world where values have all gone to whack and hope becomes the only currency left to spend.

Eight episodes

Given the epic scale of the story and the necessity for “room” to develop the many themes and characters occupying it, I chose to serialize the book. This current story arc (season?) begins with the group deciding to break into Long Island and will end with their final escape. Not all of them will survive, however; and not all of their motivations will be revealed. Along the way, they’ll learn a lot about themselves and the world, and, hopefully, so will GAMELAND’s readers. One new episode will be published on the first of each month from May thru December 2012.

Series description:

Six young tech-savvy gamers and hackers break into Long Island’s Gameland, a militarized wasteland abandoned for years to the Infected Undead. The island is in the process of being reclaimed by a government-backed company hoping to profit by creating a reality survival gaming arena using neurologically-controlled zombies. But while breaking into The Game turns out to be a lot easier than they could ever have imagined, breaking out is one hell of a killer.

[NB: a free sneak peek at the entire series is located here: http://www.tanpepperwrites.com/gameland-sneak-peek.html]

Deep Into The Game (Episode 1; ~50K words)

Jessie and her gang of game jackers discover a way to break into Gameland, but it requires the assistance of an outsider whose inclusion raises tensions within the group, particularly between Jessie and her boyfriend, Kelly. After a nearly-fatal accident during preparation, emotions run dangerously high, but they stubbornly push on. What they don’t know is that one of them has a secret reason for going, and it doesn’t involve any of them returning any time soon.

Buy on Amazon

Failsafe (Episode 2; ~50K words)

Jessie and Kelly clash after one of their group gets stranded among the Infected Undead, forcing Kelly to make a rash decision which will ultimately deliver them into the hands of those who would turn them all into mindless players in The Game.

Buy on Amazon

Buy on Smashwords

Deadman’s Switch (Episode 3; ~52K words)

Unable to escape from Long Island because of the failsafe device implanted inside their brains, the group digs in until they can devise a way to neutralize it. Jessie is anointed as their leader despite Jake’s claims that she is unfit. A final desperate attempt is made to leave, setting into motion a sequence of events that will result in one of them dead, another infected, and all of them running for their lives.

Buy on Amazon

Buy on Smashwords

Sunder the Hollow Ones (Episode 4; release 1 August 2012)

Four members of the group attempt to break into the Arc mainframe in Gameland following a mutiny that leaves them all physically and emotionally torn apart. Jessie becomes haunted by memories of her father’s death, and it’s only by the grace of a new friend and her own inner strength that she is able to lay some of her fears to rest.

Author Bio

Saul spent his formative years in a leaky hundred-year-old house overlooking the Erie Canal in Upstate New York. His bedroom was a refurbished attic, which he shared with all manner of creatures, not all, he is convinced, entirely flesh and blood.

After bouncing around the US and Europe for several years, he settled down to pursue a career in the sciences, opting to study the mysteries of human molecular genetics. But despite success in research, as a teacher, manager and biotech entrepreneur, he eventually returned to his true passion of writing speculative fiction.

He now writes full time from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. He continues to be haunted by a variety of creatures, including a wife, kids, four dogs, three cats, six chickens, a wayward rooster, and one very grumpy possum. They are all flesh and blood.

Except, maybe, for the possum, which he’s convinced is the reincarnated spirit of Jack Torrance.

Website: http://www.tanpepperwrites.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SaulTanpepper

Facebook: http://facebook.com/saul.tanpepper

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About Bek Harrington

Writer, author, vampire fan and historical enthusiast. You'll often find me crusing the internet under the guise of my alter ego, 3000 year old vampire "Bektamun"

Posted on 08/08/2012, in Guests and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I just want to thank Bek for being such a gracious host. She was very generous to share her time, space and followers with me. As a fellow indie author, I know how hard it is to reach new readers. Please support her by buying her fabulous vampire books so that she can continue to support us through her blog!
    –Saul

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