The answer is “Moot”

The Exile Book of New Canadian NoirIn an unabashed bout of shameless self-promotion, let this missive serve to hereby draw your attention to this momentous announcement; The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir is now available for purchase from your most favoured local merchant of finely aged literature.

“And why, do pray tell, should I care?” you ask aloud. You’ve got some nerve, buddy. You should care because

A) contained within its myriad pages is the enthralling (and surely future award-winning!) short story “Moot”, penned by yours truly; and

B) I thought you loved me. Jerk.

Anyhoo, the first short story I’ve ever written as an adult (which is going on, what, four years now? Damn, I’m lookin’ old!) has been released upon an unsuspected public who, if movies have taught me anything, will flee screaming a la Godzilla. Except this time, they run towards a bookstore.

So it’s a good time to delve into the complicated history of “Moot”. Well, not so much complicated as boring. I’ll be brief. *hoots of derisive laughter from everyone who knows me*

“Moot” is the urtext of Husk, a novel you should have read by now oh why do I waste my time literature is dead! The original plan called for Husk to be a mash-up of private eyes and monsters. Sheldon Funk, rather than being the mopey actor he evolved into, was instead an embittered, world-weary detective in the vein of classic hardboiled detectives such as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. He’d also be a zombie.

THE LONG GOODBYEIf you’ve at least perused Husk‘s synopsis, you may detect discrepancies between the plan and the finished product. Early on, it became clear I could not keep the voice steady. I wanted Husk to be told in a prose style akin to that of Raymond Chandler’s (whose Marlowe novel The Long Goodbye is, in my opinion, the finest detective novel ever written (and a damnably fine film to boot)). If I couldn’t do the voice justice, I couldn’t deliver the novel I wanted. So I scrapped the plan entirely and just went nuts. And Husk was the result.

And I ain’t complaining. I love the beast, and I’ve ridden its coattails to some amazing opportunities: travels across the great land of Canada; readings with Robert J. Sawyer and Cory Doctorow and Carsten Stroud; panel discussions with Margaret Atwood and Madeline Ashby, Andrew Pyper and Jo Nesbø. A complaint for having all this fun would prove me a poor example of humanity indeed. We’re talking lowest of the low. Limbaughian low.

But the original plan stuck with me. So when editors Claude Lalumière and David Nickle (two of the finest fabulists this country now offers) asked if I’d consider submitting a story for their upcoming anthology, I decided to dust off the concept.

zombie noir

Dudley Pasko, Moot P.I.

“Moot” is the result, a dark foray into a classic film noir 1950s universe where the dead wander about the streets, class structure has been hastily reorganized, and the lonely moot detective Dudley Pasko strives to straddle both worlds. The term moot is my replacement for zombie, as I wanted a new designation for the poor undead. Moot is defined at thusly:

Adjective: 1) open to discussion or debate; debatable; doubtful: a moot point. 2) of little or no practical value or meaning.

Something about that idea — of being a person of little value or meaning — struck me as a near-perfect description of a zombie’s worth, particularly within the context of the world I ended up creating. So to be a moot is to have risen from the dead into an entirely new class of people; a class that, in the eyes of many, has “little or no practical value or meaning.”

FracturedI don’t wish to give too much away here; as with all stories, the pleasure is in the reading. Even if you don’t care for “Moot”, there’s bound to be a story or two that tweak your fancy. Exile Editions has released a number of terrific anthologies (Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction and Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse being the two most recent), and with authors such as Simon Strantzas, Kelly Robson, Joel Thomas Hynes, and many more besides, you’re practically guaranteed to have a good time with this one. I’m proud to be among such good company. Incidentally, I’ll be participating in a Winnipeg reading alongside fellow contributors Chadwick Ginther and Keith Cadieux at McNally Robinson Booksellers in late May (details here).

But there’s a (terribly small) elephant in the room — quick note: who amongst us wouldn’t love a tiny elephant of their very own? Science, get on this! — and I’d like to discuss it. I’ve done some quick perusing, and the concept of a “zombie detective” is not quite as unique as I believed. Great minds think alike? Sure, let’s go with that.

Dan ShamblesAlongside the works that now exist on the same theme (published both professionally and self-), there does now also exist the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. series of books written by best-selling author Kevin J. Anderson (a man who, judging from the 100+ novels he’s published, has mastered the talent of writing in his sleep). Concerning themselves with the misadventures of a zombie detective, Anderson’s offbeat novels bear more than a passing resemblance to “Moot” (although his universe is far more comedic in nature). I have had some electronic correspondence with Anderson — an author who, incidentally, gave Husk a lovely tweet shout-out — and I find him a lovely man indeed. He began publishing the series a few months after Husk, and while we have similar-seeming main characters with our Dan Shambles and Dudley Pasko, each came about with no prior knowledge of the other. Nor was I, or have I even read, any of the other works a search of “zombie detective” has turned up. I heartily enjoy and recommend Anderson’s series, a true monster mash of Hammett, Lovecraft, Poe, the Brothers Grimm, and fantastical beings by the truckload. But my driven, melancholy, decidedly bleak Dudley Pasko has no place in that world.

So, “Moot” exists as a thing, is the main point of this post. Now you know.

And knowing’s half the battle.