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The Loving Dead
Amelia Beamer
Night Shade Books, 241 pages

The Loving Dead
Amelia Beamer
Amelia Beamer works as an editor, reviewer, and photographer for Locus: The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field. She has won several literary awards and has published fiction and poetry in Interfictions 2, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Red Cedar Review, and other venues, plus a zombie story in The Living Dead 2 (Night Shade Books, September 2010). She has a B.A. with high honors in English Literature from Michigan State University, and attended Clarion East in 2004. She lives in Oakland California.

Amelia Beamer Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

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I first met Amelia Beamer in 2002 during the Clarion Writer's Workshop in East Lansing, Michigan. Then she was a student at Michigan State and the workshop assistant. I asked her if she wrote. Yes, she did. I asked to see some: Powerful, gutsy, compact stories she churned out -- stylistically intriguing to boot. The strength of these shorts suggested she take the workshop. In 2004 she did. Later, after publishing in LCRW and becoming an editor at Locus, she put out her first novel, The Loving Dead, surfing the tidal wave of zombie fiction.

The Loving Dead, however, is quite a different animal, both in terms of her early work and of zombie fiction. The novel opens with a strange man attacking Jamie, who has just left an exercise dance class. When he bites her, Jamie knocks him to the sidewalk where his head smacks the cement. She assumes she just killed a mugger. Kate, our point-of-view character, thinks he's rapist. However, we readers know differently. When he gets back up, they take off in a van to go to a party.

The party is full of booze, prescription drugs, and kinky sex during which Jamie awakens as a zombie. Some of the party-goers enter and think it's all a game... and one gets bitten, despite being warned off (there's a great deal of sex although it doesn't reach pornographic standards). Despite the media's ignoring the country's growing internal crisis, characters wander, seeking ways to regain control of their world, as the world degenerates into sexually active and cannibalistic zombies.

If you're a horror reader, it's easy to misunderstand what the novel is up to. If your zombie narratives must build suspense and terror, then this is not the book for you. Beamer's mission seems three-fold: a campy send-up of classic zombie movies, a play on zombie story convention (whips and both sexual desire and transmission), and an examination of twenty-first century sexual relations. While it's not quite a comedy of manners in the nineteenth century sense, perhaps it's as close as the modern world gets, which may be part of the point.

The novel bogs down in the middle as characters meander through similar patterns, but it regains significance in the end as it develops its central metaphor. Part of the fun of a zombie story is to see how the author modified the central symbols of the zombies. Although it uses familiar effects of a viral disease spread through blood and intercourse, its application here feels fresh, given the way it treats the post-outbreak consequences.

This being her first novel, Amelia Beamer is still as gutsy as her early short stories proved. The Loving Dead takes a lot of chances, thwarting reader expectations in order to create something uniquely her own. Having read this, you should already know whether you're the type of reader at which Beamer is aiming.

Copyright © 2012 Trent Walters

Trent Walters teaches science; lives in Honduras; edited poetry at Abyss & Apex; blogs science, SF, education, and literature, etc. at APB; co-instigated Mundane SF (with Geoff Ryman and Julian Todd) culminating in an issue for Interzone; studied SF writing with dozens of major writers and and editors in the field; and has published works in Daily Cabal, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Hadley Rille anthologies, LCRW, among others.


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