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[GUEST POST + GIVEAWAY] Ethan Reid (THE UNDYING) on SFF Mashups and the Best of All Possible Worlds

ethanreidEthan Reid received his BA in English with Writing Emphasis from the University of Washington and his MFA from the University of Southern California’s MPW Program, where he studied under author S.L. Stebel, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Sy Gomberg, and Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Tarloff.

Ethan is a member of the Horror Writers Association, the International Thriller Writers and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. Ethan currently lives in Seattle.

The Undying, Ethan Reid’s first novel in The Undying trilogy debuted on Simon & Schuster’s new imprint, Simon451, last October. The apocalyptic thriller takes a young American woman from Seattle to Paris, where catastrophe strikes on New Year’s Eve. The second book in his series, The Undying: Shades will be released this May. We’ve asked Ethan for his view on why mash-ups, like The Undying, have such high appeal.

Why Mash-ups Offer the Best of All Possible Worlds.

by Ethan Reid

We all have our favorite genres. Other genres we dip into occasionally. Then there are those special but rare mash-ups. A melding of science fiction and fantasy, sci-fi and horror, or even sci-fi and westerns. When done right, these crossovers offer the best of all possible worlds for readers who love to immerse themselves in multiple genres at once. But why?

In my The Undying trilogy, I parlay off an old mixture of sci-fi/horror, crossing the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Bradbury, and a dash of Crichton. A thriller where apocalypse survivors face the undying (the recently dead paused at the brink, warped by a darkness spreading from a mysterious epicenter in Brazil) — struggling to survive while maintaining their morality: Paris, a young American woman, an orphaned baby, and a three-hour timetable. All of that in a mash-up? You bet. But I’ll get into The Undying in a bit.

Let’s start with a little pop culture. From the dawn of time (or the 1970s), I’ve been drawn to mash-ups. A Superman comic book is just okay, a Batman mag is a little better. But a Batman/Superman mash-up? (The film is slated for a 2016 release). Marvel has its share, too. Team-ups, pairing Spiderman with Black Panther, Dr. Strange, or the Scarlet Witch. Mixing superheroes together are part of why the Avengers are so popular. Soon, we might even see Guillermo del Toro try to pull off Justice League on the big screen.

Over the years, there have been some stellar sci-fi/horror novels: Andromeda Strain. At the Mountains of Madness. King’s It. On screen as well: Prometheus. The Thing. Pandorum. Even videogames: System Shock, Dead Space. We’re drawn to these mash-ups when done convincingly, and rightly so. I like to be scared. But scared on the starfreighter Nostromo with one of the nastiest aliens ever? Even better.

Then there is the argument that a good story is a good story and we are only defining genres because of where bookstores, online retailers, or publishers prefer to catalog them. I’m of the camp that a great horror novel is a great novel, sci-fi the same, so go ahead and remove the moniker and give the book a Pulitzer (The Road). Like literary fiction but don’t care for science fiction? Read Neal Stephenson. Love awesome writing but not necessarily horror? Try Richard Matheson. Think speculative fiction is beneath you? Pick up Cronin’s The Passage. There are so many superb mash-ups to chose from: I Am Legend. Boneshaker. Handmaids Tale. Dreamcatcher. Ship of Fools. Johnathon Strange & Mr. Norrell. A Wrinkle in Time. Kindred. His Dark Materials. The Time Machine. Infected.

So why are they so appealing? One quick take is that we like to pit Batman vs. Superman because it forces both out of their comfort zone: Batman must be introspective over his methods while the original Superman must question his goody-two-shoes attitude. I have a theory, at least on one level, why mash-ups are so attractive: a key element to appreciating any story, no matter the medium, is a willing suspension of disbelief in the reader. To truly appreciate science fiction, a reader agrees to suspend disbelief in unbelievable scenarios. Dune springs to mind. When the writer creates an exceptional story, like Asimov, Heinlein, or Bradbury, the reader momentarily accepts the book as truth. When we accept two genres at once, that’s like a Snickers bar dipped in batter and fried – for the brain. Not only do we accept the sci-fi elements are real, but that the horror element is real at the same time. Like a drug, we’re addicted to the way it makes the neurons fire. When a mash-up pulls it off, our brains feel good. H.P. Lovecraft did this outstandingly well. A more recent example of a sci-fi/horror mash-up: Cowboys vs. Aliens. When I first heard of the film, I thought, intriguing, but no way. Then I heard the writers were from Star Trek (2009), that Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg were producing, and Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig were on board. I had a hunch the film would successfully suspend my disbelief. It did. Greatest mash-up ever? No. I would have done some things differently. But my brain had fun on the ride.

In my second novel in The Undying Trilogy, Shades – it drops this May — I penned my crossover as a coming-of-age/post-apocalyptic story set in Spain, following the same character’s path years after the first book. A little bit of science fiction, horror, paced as a thriller, seen through the eyes of a YA character, but in a world that is anything but young adult. Mash-ups — the best of all possible worlds.

And candy for the cranium, along the way.

What’s your favorite mash-up? Comment below, or continue the conversation with Ethan on Twitter at @WriterEthanReid.

GIVEAWAY (US Only): Win a Copy of THE UNDYING by Ethan Reid!

Courtesy of the author, SF Signal has 3 copies of THE UNDYING by Ethan Reid to give away to 3 lucky SF Signal readers!

Here’s more information about the book and how you can win:

In this riveting apocalyptic thriller for fans of The Passage and The Walking Dead, a mysterious event plunges Paris into darkness and a young American must lead her friends to safety—and escape the ravenous “undying” who now roam the crumbling city.

And here’s how you can enter for a chance to win:

  1. Send an email to contest at sfsignal dot com. (That’s us).
  2. In the subject line, enter “The Undying
  3. In the body of the email, please provide a mailing address so the prize can be sent as soon as possible. (The winning address is used only to mail the prize. All other address info will be purged once the giveaway ends.)
  4. Geographic restrictions: This giveaway is open only to residents of the U.S.
  5. The giveaway will end Friday, April 17th (9:00 PM U.S. Central time). The 3 winners will be selected at random, notified, and announced shortly thereafter.

Good luck!

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).
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