At the last Salt Lake Comic Con in September I participated in a panel on zombies. We had a one hour discussion on all things undead, including the proliferation of the creature in pop culture, our personal zombie survival plans, and how a real life zombie apocalypse might happen. There I met a great many good natured people and talented authors including Professor Zombie himself, Sean Hoade.
Recently I spoke with Hoade on the phone about his journey to writing and where he’s at today. Let’s start where all good stories do, at the beginning. Hoade spent ten years as an English professor at the University of Alabama where, in 2007, he began teaching a class called “Zombies! The Living Dead in Literature, Film, and Culture,” those lectures were eventually turned into a podcast as well as a book titled “Zombie School Confidential.” Almost a decade on and Hoade has written an impressive arsenal of genre fiction featuring both zombies and Cthulhu.
Such titles as “Reviva Las Vegas” which features a professional poker player in the post-apocalypse, playing not for a jackpot, but for a space in the only remaining safe city in the country; or “Cthulhu Attacks” which takes a stark look at the reality of how humanity might react to the emergence of an undeniable alien deity (think “World War Z” – the great book, not the awful movie- or “Robopocalypse”) have garnered Hoade awards and invitations to conventions all around the country. If you have any doubts on his credentials check out the below video of the Salt Lake Comic Con panel or, of course, any of the aforementioned books.
Though Hoade has made a name for himself writing books that feature the rambling ghouls, I’m not here to talk to you about that, I’m not even here to talk to you about the other genre fiction books he’s written. Today I want to let you know about a new project he’s working on “The Tesla Trilogy: Steampunk Adventures through Time & Space.”
During the course of our conversation it became clear to me that while he certainly has a love for the macabre, Hoade also has a deep love and appreciation of science. While that love of the method that brought us modern medicine and other worldly robots certainly helps with and informs the genre fiction, where it really shines is in Hoade’s first book “Darwin’s Dream” which takes a semi-fictional look at the life of Charles Darwin. This book takes a look at one of the most famous scientists in history and speculates on what might have been going on in his secret heart, what might have been personal motivations, what might have literally permeated his dreams as he made and refined one of the greatest discoveries in human history.
Hoade’s current work returns him to the annals of scientific history, but this time he has his sights set on Tesla, a man who despite his immeasurable contributions to modern life has only recently begun to be truly appreciated. I asked Hoade if there was something about these scientific figures that draws him-
Hoade: Yes! There really is. Darwin of course was a monumental figure, Tesla is now being appreciated much more than when he was alive. These are known entities, people know their work but don’t really know much more about them and so if you take that interesting true story and mix it in with a fantastical story it grounds the fantastical story and makes the true story seem more exciting. Darwin, I worship him, but he was a very quiet person. He waited thirty years before publishing his theories. Darwin was interesting but he’s even more interesting when you look at his passions as a person and his family relationships.
The thing about Tesla that is so endearing and makes him irresistible for fiction is that the things he did, like alternating current, wireless technologies, radio- he also had these incredibly wacky ideas like with anti-gravity and the ether. He was a believer, as many people were back then, in the ether theory. When general relativity came around and said that space-time was curved he did not have any truck with this curvature of space-time. Which is interesting, we as modern people have a tendency to forget that was even a dialogue let alone an argument, of course it was space-time.
What a fiction writer can do is take some of these out there ideas that he had and just say that they worked. Most people, including myself, don’t really have the scientific or mathematical background to really investigate whether they would work or not so let’s just say that they worked. Let’s just say that Tesla discovered something about the ether and now he can time travel.
Because of who Tesla was, if you’re writing a fantastical story you can write about fantastical things and it’s not just ridiculous. It’s plausible. You don’t have to believe it, you just have to suspend your disbelief. I find historical subjects, especially scientists, to be just endlessly fascinating because of what they did.
“The Tesla Trilogy” is a planned three part series that pits the titular character against Edison (the battle of ages) in a time traveling battle of the existence of Megalodons. Edison, having invested in dirigibles plans to go back in time and ensure the survival of the massive sharks in order to sully the waters and the shipping industry, thus ensuring that he’ll make a fortune selling blimps to businesses. Tesla, as with the theory of general relativity, has no truck with Edison’s shenanigans and goes back in time to stop him.
What results is an admittedly wacky, but loving, look at the life of one of the greatest minds of the last few centuries, complete with time travel, steam punk, dino-sharks, and battles of both wits and fists.
Hoade is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to get the book series off the ground. At the time of this writing he is just over half funded with seven days remaining and needs your help. If a battle through time, historic feuds, airships, and an abundance of teeth sounds up your alley, consider sharing or throwing a few bucks at the campaign.
Perks for your support include eBooks, audiobooks, physical copies of both the paperback and faux leather bound varieties, and if you’re feeling really generous, you can help name characters in the story. Supporting this project either with your hard earned dough, or simply by sharing with your likeminded friends will not only help to get this project complete but will also contribute toward finally getting Tesla his due and giving him the opportunity to give Edison his comeuppance once and for all.