When I was asked to review “Exponential Apocalypse” by Eirik Gumeny, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was a thoroughly entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny book that hit on so many familiar pop culture references, I felt right at home. How funny was it, you ask? Check out my review here to see for yourself.
Eirik was kind enough to chat with me recently, and put forth one of my favorite interviews to date, here at The Word Zombie. It’s a veritable cornucopia of useful information on topics including the mission of Jersey Devil Press, the unlikely savior of Timmy the Super-Squirrel, gang-wars between Munchkins and Ewoks, and – of course – the impending zombie apocalypse. It a fun ride – buckle up and read on…
The Word Zombie: Can you tell me a little about Jersey Devil Press?
Eirik Gumeny: Jersey Devil Press is a fully registered, tax-paying, government-fearing independent publisher. We release a monthly fiction magazine on our website and the occasional paperback in whatever stores will have us. To date, we’ve published “Exponential Apocalypse” and the short story collections “Perhaps.“, by Stephen Schwegler, and “The 2010 Jersey Devil Press Anthology“, by a lot of people.
We try to occupy the middle ground between serious literature and genre fiction; stories that aren’t easily classifiable as any one kind of writing. Whatever we do, we want it to be entertaining. Despite what I was taught about “Literature” in college, JDP is not in the habit of making the reader contemplate the intricacies of life and death, of making him reevaluate his entire existence, because of what he just read. We’ve probably done that, sure, but not on purpose. We’d rather people were doubled over with laughter after reading our stories than having an existential meltdown.
The Word Zombie: I am always curious about how each individual author approaches the writing process. “Exponential Apocalypse” covers a wide range of topics – Norse Gods, the end of the world (again and again), Cyborgs, Zombies – the list goes on and on. How do you get from idea to finished manuscript?
Eirik Gumeny: In this case, dumb luck and a very basic outline. When I started “Exponential Apocalypse”, I didn’t know if it was going to be a book or a story or just another failed attempt to write something. Beyond the ideas of a diner running after the apocalypse and Thor working for a hotel, I didn’t really have any clear notions about what the narrative even was. So I came up with a few more characters, fleshed out the universe some more, and then figured out a way to put it all together. Even then, there were only a few plot points that had to be hit, not any kind of detailed structure. I let the characters and the world dictate how to get from one point to the next. After that, it was just a matter of fine-tuning the prose and making sure I didn’t leave any glaring plot holes.
The Word Zombie: Aside from Mighty Mouse, the rodent family has been woefully underrepresented in the super-hero genre over the years. Timmy the Super-Squirrel might be one of the best hopes to reverse that trend. Any chance we will see Timmy again in the future?
Eirik Gumeny: Yeah, I think so. I actually intended to kill him off permanently right after he first appeared but my girlfriend got mad at me. So he came back. (Hence the chapter title, “Deus ex Girlfriend.”) I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with him, but he was so much fun to write I didn’t worry about it. I figured I’d figure it out as I went along.
I’ve got some vague ideas for continuing the “Exponential Apocalypse” story and Timmy’s definitely in there. Beyond that, maybe I’ll come up with a short story or two detailing his exploits in between his escape from the lab and his meeting up with Thor and the gang. I don’t know. But he’ll definitely be back.
The Word Zombie: This book made me laugh out loud – the sarcasm and sense of humor really resonated with me. What are the things that make you laugh?
Eirik Gumeny: I watch “Futurama” every night. No lie. For the last ten years I’ve rarely gone more than two days without watching an episode. I own all the DVDs and I’ve got the Comedy Central schedule memorized. I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve seen the entire series at this point. I also read a lot of comics religiously. Specifically, “Pearls Before Swine“, “Octopus Pie“,”The Adventures of Dr. McNinja“, “Girls with Slingshots“, and “Shortpacked“. There are definitely more, but I think those are probably the most consistently funny.
The Word Zombie: As you know from my review, the death match “debates” between clones of historical figures was one of my favorite (although small) parts of the book. What are the three best death matches that DIDN’T make the final cut?
Eirik Gumeny: I think the hardest part of that chapter was not expanding on the debates. I had this whole vision of the Stalin snowball fight playing out like the Battle of Hoth. It took a lot of effort to rein it in.
The three that didn’t make it at all, though? I wanted to have the Gandhis in a pie-eating contest. But I couldn’t decide whether they’d all starve to death or whether the winner would be, like, 400 pounds. I thought about having somebody just talk the other versions of himself to death, but I couldn’t come up with somebody known just for talking. I also toyed with the idea of the Che Gueveras all staring at one another intensely and then breaking down into tears and refusing to fight. But I didn’t know enough about his life before he was a t-shirt to know if that was funny. Maybe if I had picked a French guy…
The Word Zombie: There are TONS of cultural references and inside jokes in the story. (Kudos, by the way, for working the “frayed knot” story in – it’s a personal favorite). The chapter titles are as entertaining as the story itself – Bananabilism, There Are a Lot of Dead Acrobats For Some Reason, Expletives Ahoy, At Least Its Not Raining Man-Eating Frogs – Right?, and Hollow Midget Arsonists, just to name a few. I have to know for sure, though – the title to chapter 44, The Same Thing We Do Every Night. “Pinky and the Brain” reference?
Eirik Gumeny: Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the frayed knot chapter. I’ve always loved that joke. And, yes, it absolutely was a reference to “Pinky and the Brain.” It’s one of the greatest cartoons of all time.
The Word Zombie: In the book, the Munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz” reanimate a group of corpses and wreak havoc upon an apartment building. That brings up an interesting question. Who is the last one standing in a full-contact death match, on neutral ground, between Munchkins and Ewoks? (No projectile weapons allowed – sticks and lollipops only).
Eirik Gumeny: Ewoks, definitely. I think they’re a lot smarter, strategically anyway, and a lot more tenacious. I mean, the Munchkins lived in mortal fear of one crazy witch. They tried to intimidate Dorothy and she asked them for directions. The Ewoks, on the other hand, took down the entire Galactic Empire in an afternoon. They figured out how to destroy a squadron of man-made killing machines with a tree. And, honestly, they may have done it for fun. I’m not convinced the Ewoks even knew there was a rebellion going on.
On top of that, the Ewoks’ appearance is a lot more deceiving. The Munchkins were, let’s face it, kind of creepy. Nevermind their goofy hair and the ridiculous outfits, the dudes were walking around approaching teenage girls with giant lollipops. That just screams “pedophile.” You see a Munchkin and you immediately get tensed up, expecting something horrible and unsavory to happen. Your first instinct on seeing an Ewok, on the other hand, is to rub it behind its ear or give it a hug, maybe hand it a Snickers. You’re not expecting it to jump on your back and start whaling on your skull.
The Word Zombie: As both and author and an editor, reading has to be an important part of your life. What’s currently on your “to read” pile?
Eirik Gumeny: Right now, I’m working through Joshua Ferris’s “Then We Came to the End“. I’ve been told by multiple sources that I should really like it, but so far it’s not happening. I started “A Connecticut Yankee in King Aurthurs Court”" in March, got halfway through, and then forgot where I left the book. (It was in a laptop bag.) Below that, the ones I haven’t even opened yet, are “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World“, by Haruki Murakami, and “The Sirens of Titan“, by Vonnegut. And a three month old issue of Wired. Then, of course, there’s other online magazines, and the “to read eventually” pile…
The Word Zombie: What can we expect to see next from Eirik Gumeny?
Eirik Gumeny: I’m actually taking part in the Monkeybicycle Lightning Round reading in New York on October 22nd. Me and nineteen other writers, reading for less than three minutes apiece. Should be fun. Beyond that, though, I don’t know. There’s the editing of the ongoing monthly issues of Jersey Devil Press, and I’ll continue to work on short fiction, submitting it around the internet. And I do owe my girlfriend another play (she’s a stage director). And, as I said, I’ve got some ideas for a sequel to “Exponential Apocalypse”. But, aside from the reading, I don’t have any hard and fast dates or anything. So I guess, as far as expectations are concerned, it’s kind of everything and nothing all at once. I’m just going to keep writing and see what happens.
The Word Zombie: Last question – once the zombie apocalypse occurs (and I think we can all agree it’s a matter of when, not if), will you be going it alone, or looking to join up with a ragtag group of survivors? Also, do you prefer long-range weapons (guns, flamethrowers) or melee weapons (classic baseball bat) when dealing with a zombie uprising?
Eirik Gumeny: It’s definitely a “when” question, no doubt about it. As such, my friends and I have already agreed to go it as a team for as long as we can. We even know who’s going to get eaten first, should it come down to it. (Sorry, Jose.) Aside from the strength in numbers argument, I think being part of a group is absolutely vital to staving off insanity. I get bored enough sitting around my apartment when my girlfriend’s at work. And that’s without the stress of hordes of the living dead pounding at the door.
Weapons-wise, I think my preference would depend on where/if I’m holed up somewhere. Because as useful as long-range weapons would seem to be, you’re always left with the ammo problem. It’s heavy and it’s finite. If you’re in a shelter, surrounded by boxes and boxes of bullets, great. If — and this I think is more likely — you’re running from one place to the next, scavenging and hiding and never resting, you’re not going to want to deal with twenty extra pounds of shells on your back. An axe would be a lot more useful in that situation and, honestly, I’m guessing a lot more satisfying. Plus it’s a lot easier to aim. That said, given any opportunity to use a flamethrower, I will take it, convenience and common sense be damned.
Thanks to Eirik and everyone at Jersey Devil Press. You can check them out online at jerseydevilpress.com. You can also follow Eirik on Twitter – @rancoratemybaby. (BTW – one of the better Twitter names I have come across…) If you’re interested in picking up a copy of “Exponential Apocalypse”, you can click the conveniently place link to Amazon at the top right-hand corner of the page. A small portion of your purchase will help support The Word Zombie.
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