An Interview with James Marshall
By Derek Newman-Stille
After reading Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos, I was fascinated with James Marshall’s different take on the figure of the zombie and his use of the zombie medium to question the zombie-like state of uncritical thought in our society. I appreciate that he was willing to have a conversation about his zombies and about his writing overall to provide some insights into the world he has observed and reflected in a dark, distorted mirror.
James Marshall is the author of Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies and Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos (both available from ChiZine publications), and known for his darkly satirical look at society.
Spec Can: To begin our interview, could you tell readers a little bit about yourself?
James Marshall: I was born and raised in Alberta. I moved to BC after high school. Writing is my passion. I play guitar for fun.
Spec Can: Two of your novels that are out from ChiZine currently feature zombies. What is the appeal of the zombie for you?
James Marshall: I like the zombie because I feel sorry for it at the same time that I fear it.
Spec Can: Why do you think zombies are so popular right now? What is their appeal to our society?
James Marshall: I think there are a number of reasons. People are terrified of dying so the idea of living on, even in a severely diminished capacity, is fascinating. In the age of air travel, the fear of a contagion spreading rapidly seems very real. And a lot of people want to bash out some brains.
Spec Can: In Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos, your zombie characters seem to offer a distorted window of our world. In what ways can literature about the zombie offer a critique of society?
James Marshall: The zombie does two things: it consumes and reproduces. It does those things unthinkingly and unfeelingly. That’s a pretty damning indictment of society. The zombie reproduces via infection rather than sex but it’s the same thing.
Spec Can: In Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies and Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos, the zombies have created an education system that essentially creates the preconditions for kids to become zombies – rote learning, behaviour control, suppression of creativity. What inspired you to look at the education system from this perspective and what would you like to see change?
James Marshall: I’d like to see everything change. I think the whole system needs to be fundamentally rethought. But I don’t think it will be because we’re dealing with such huge numbers.
Spec Can: How can Weird or Dark fiction challenge the status quo and get readers to think outside the box?
James Marshall: I think that by satirizing, we can expose the absurdity of certain ways of thinking.
Spec Can: What can Weird or Dark fiction offer readers that realist fiction can’t?
James Marshall: Zombies. 🙂
Spec Can: Your character Guy Boy Man (from Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos and Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies) advocates for a religion that focuses on ending human suffering. What inspired your exploration of religion?
James Marshall: Reason. I hope that reason will be popularized someday.
Spec Can: What impact do you hope your novels will have on readers?
James Marshall: I’d be really happy if they just make people laugh and think a little.
Spec Can: Is there anything further you would like to add to this interview?
James Marshall: To learn more about my books, please visit my website www.howtoendhumansuffering.com and to connect with me, please follow me on Twitter @james_marshall or friend me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/authorjamesmarshall
I want to thank Mr. Marshall for taking the time to answer questions and share his insights with readers. I know many readers are fascinated with Canadian dark fiction and the figure of the zombie in particular, so I am happy that Mr. Marshall was able to provide thought-provoking responses.