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Rigor Amortis: even a zombie needs love

book review by Sandra Odell

What do you get when you mix a touch of Twitter whimsy, a sprinkling of flash fiction, and a smidge of rotting flesh?  No, not zombie cheesecake (well, maybe. . .), but a whole heaping helping of Rigor Amortis, edited by Jaym Gates and Erica Holt, from Absolute XPress.

The idea for a collection of zombie erotica (zom/rom) began as a throw-away joke on Twitter, and before anyone could say putrefied-hot-and-tasty it decomposed into a delightfully grizzly flash fiction collection offering morsels by established favorites such as Renée Bennett, Kay T. Holt, and Sarah Goslee, and new talents like Andrew Penn Romine, John Nakamura Remy, and Lucia Starkey.

The rotting schoolgirl/prostitute of Robert Nixon’s cover promises a bloody romp while the teacher isn’t looking, and the interior art of Galen Dara and Miranda Jean encourage any number of appetites.

Flash fiction by its very nature is succinct.  Not only must every word pull its own weight but the weight of its neighbors, each one a link in the chain of the story.  An unnecessary word, a weak link, and the story falls apart, if there is a story at all.  It takes a strong sense of pacing and plot to craft a viable piece of flash fiction and not merely words.

The same can be said for poetry where the economy of words is often paired with a deliberate form.

In both cases word count is a factor, but not the only one, and many would-be writers are prone to overlook the form of story or verse in favor of the satisfaction of a handful of supposedly clever imagery.

I feel that Rigor Amortis was well served by the flash fiction/poetry format.  I could put my feet up and read from cover to cover, or open the book to any random page, savor a piece, perhaps two, and then be on my way.  Longer tales might have overwhelmed that sense of impromptu satisfaction, or, worse, snuffed out the ultra-violet humor at the heart of the collection.

To their credit, not only did Gates and Holt make their selections with length and form in mind, they chose with an eye towards diversity of subject and style.  Even long-time fans of zombie fiction will admit that this comparatively recent incarnation of the genre risks falling into the trope of its own conceit:  brains, bullets, and body count.

Erotica faces much the same challenge, teetering between the literary sensibilities of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and the sweaty flamboyance of pornography.  Considering how Rigor Amortis came together, it would have been easy to select rot over rut, or vice versa, yet the editors made an effort to look beyond the tropes without overlooking them entirely.

Not only do the living fight the dead, some fight the urge to give themselves over to the dead.  The dead dance for their own pleasure, and for that of the living.  Love is as potent a reason to deny death as revenge, and so is lust for that matter.  Hot dead chicks, eager zombie butt-boys, zombie sex-toys, love that defies the edicts of “til death do us part”.  That is Rigor Amortis.

The current zombie craze is born out of the George Romero/Army of Darkness school of thought, but there is more to the afterlife than Western-centric sensibilities.  Every culture has its own opinions on the value and mystique of sex and death.  Even in our world, sans-zombies, there are southeast Asian and Pacific Island cultures where the honored dead remain with their families for up to a year or more, receiving offerings of food, flowers, and conversation.

Dead people.  Living in houses.  Sharing your room.  Think about it.

If I could be said to have a complaint with Rigor Amortis, it would be that we do not see a broader range of cultural quirkiness and diversity.  I don’t consider this a failing of the editors or writers, more of the genre itself, where zombies, if not strictly Caucasian, definitely hold to a Western sensibility.

That being said, while zombies aren’t a personal favorite, erotica is, and I admit to being quite taken by Rigor Amortis in that regard.  The stories abound with good sex (oops…out loud voice), internally consistent sex that doesn’t pull any punches and, while intrinsically important to the story, isn’t the whole of the telling.  And not only fleshy, squishy romps, but romantic, tender love of its own unique sort, with a variety and depth that speaks well of the care Gates and Holt took in making their selections.

So, in the mood for dark, sensual poetry?  Check out Lance Schonberg’s And Yet In Death.  Longing for a touch of romance and the depth of a wife’s love?  Take a turn with Jay Faulkner’s Always and Forever.  Or perhaps the sticky, sweaty freedom of Damon B.’s Liberation Den is more to your taste.  And remember, Rigor Amortis will love you until your dying day.  And beyond.

[Return to the November 2010 cover page]

2 Responses

  1. […] Rigor Amortis: even a zombie needs love […]

  2. […] 10 Flash Quarterly […]

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