In addition to his other written works, Dr. Paffenroth has written Gospel of the Living Dead: George A. Romero's Visions of Hell on Earth (Baylor, 2006), and his zombie novel, Dying to Live (Permuted, 2007). He grew up in New York, Virginia, and New Mexico. He attended St. John's College, Annapolis, MD (BA, 1988), Harvard Divinity School (MTS, 1990), and the University of Notre Dame (PhD, 1995). Dr. Paffenroth lives in upstate New York with his wife and two wonderful kids and teaches religious studies at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY.
Gospel of the Living Dead: George A. Romero's Visions of Hell on Earth This volume connects American social and religious views with the classic American movie genre of the zombie horror film. This study proves that George Romero's films go beyond the surface experience of repulsion to probe deeper questions of human nature and purpose, often giving a chilling and darkly humorous critique of modern, secular America.
Dying to Live: A Novel of Life Among the Undead
Jonah Caine, a lone survivor in a zombie-infested world, struggles to understand the apocalypse in which he lives. Unable to find a moral or sane reason for the horror that surrounds him, he is overwhelmed by violence and insignificance. After wandering for months, Jonah's lonely existence dramatically changes when he discovers a group of survivors. Living in a museum-turned-compound, they are led jointly by Jack, an ever-practical and efficient military man, and Milton, a mysterious, quizzical prophet who holds a strange power over the dead. Both leaders share Jonah's anguish over the brutality of their world, as well as his hope for its beauty. Together with others, they build a community that reestablishes an island of order and humanity surrounded by relentless ghouls. But this newfound peace is short-lived, as Jonah and his band of refugees clash with another group of survivors who remind them that the undead are not the only-nor the most grotesque-horrors they must face.
Post Meeting Write-up
Face the Fiction welcomed guest speaker Dr. Kim Paffenroth for a fantastic discussion. Dr. Paffenroth presented to approximately 30 people in the Panera Community Room in Ramsey. One of those people was our past and future December guest speaker (and SFSNNJ member) S.E. Schlosser!
The night began at 7:00 with several people arriving early to set up - once again Jim and Steve had both calendars and the flyer on Dr. Paffenroth printed out and on each chair for those attending. This is a nice touch that we've come to look forward to. The room was set up nicely with a very professional display of our guests books (I'll guess Todd on that one). A pre-meeting topic took place with our guest in a meet & greet fashion for those there. (I wasn't, so Steve can fill-in the topic).
At 8:00 Steve began the meeting with some announcements - particulalry the one involving Todd and Craig's article "The Art of Roleplaying" being published in Rifter magazine, as Todd turned at least 4 different shades of red in the corner - humble - and gave a very nice intro for our guest. Dr. Paffenroth then took center stage.
Dr. Paffenroth has written several books, including Gospel of the Living Dead: George A. Romero's Visions of Hell on Earth, Dying to Live: A Novel of Life Among the Undead and The Truth is Out There ( a book focusing on the SF classics like Star Trek, X-Files, Twilight Zone). He also teaches at Iona College in Westchester (Gene is alumni!).
Dr. Paffenroth began his presentation by discussing the symbolism of the zombie in books and movies. He pointed out that even though "zombies" have existed in literature and lore for many, many years, it is the Romero films that our concept of Zombie mythology is based on/influenced by - it is even called Basic Romero Rules. This was likened to our concept of vampires being strongly influenced by Stoker's Dracula. He discussed how the zombie films were Romero's commentary on social, cultural and symbolic issues. There was a progression in each of the films and it's strongly indicated that humans are as parasitic as the zombies (i.e. the evil, cackling Dennis Hopper in Land of the Dead). Racism is also prevalent in the films.
Many comparisons were made. For example, Dr. Paffenroth told us his inspiration for Gospel of the Living Dead was a quote in Dante's Inferno ("these are the suffering race of souls" quote when Virgil answers Dante's question about who the people in Hell were). He likened the concept of Hell in the Inferno to the existence of zombies. He also compared the zombie movie to survival movies like Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno. Why? In the zombie movie, it's not so much about the zombie as it is about surviving the assault. It's about the group of "plucky survivors" fighting the odds - whatever that may be - fire, rising water, ravenous zombies - and what "plucky survivor" will make it in the end. The no dog rule was hilariously discussed. Also a very funny highlight was the "oxymoron" discussion - jumbo shrimp, girly man and living dead. The progression of the zombie was discussed - from mindless, shambling husk to "reasoning" entity. It was pointed out that the thinking zombie was way more of a threat and took away the "safety net" of the reader/viewer. We're supposed to be faster, smarter and better than the monsters - if they can keep pace - we're DOOMED! Dr. Paffenroth added other notables such as I Am Legend (strong recommendation to read the book before the Will Smith movie - no bridge, no bridge!), EC Comics (banned by parents), 28 Days Later and several other books including Monster Island. Two zombie comedies, Fido & Black Sheep were also recommended for some fun. Fido is about a boy with a pet zombie who gets out and wreaks havoc on the neighbors resulting in the zombie ASCPA wanting to euthanize him and Black Sheep is about, what else, a herd of zombie sheep. What struck Dr. Paffenroth's funny bone was that sheep don't have sharp teeth - "what are they going to do? gnaw people to death?"
The floor was opened up to questions and observations. Dr. Paffenroth was impressed by the well-thought out questions and knowledge of the audience. One example was Kate Landis knowing that Fiddlers Green (the condo hide-out in Land of the Dead for the human survivors) was from a pirate/sailor diddy. Steve H, Mike, Aubrey, Bill, Bob, Dean, Madeleine, Remi, Paul, Todd and I all had questions and/or observations that sparked much conversation. Ana had the line of the night when she stated "oh yeah, well Eve may have been a pushover, but Adam was a SNITCH!" when conversation about some biblical implications were made. Brian's response "wow, you're really not over that" was too funny. The presentation ended to rousing applause. We lined up to purchase books - this time pushing Todd out of the way. Dr. Paffenroth also had FREE t-shirts available in limited quantities (you guessed it - Todd beat most people out - he's fast that one). Dr. Paffenroth was so impressed and had such a good time that HE ASKED US if he could come back!!
The majority of us continued the night at Stateline Diner including Sandy Schlosser. They had to fit 20 of us at 4 different tables and a booth - we made it work. Poor Remi, Kate and Paul drew the short straw - we all had food and they hadn't even had their orders taken yet! They sat looking at us with envy. Conversation ranged from zombies to drive-by smitings (go Brian) to swimming across the ocean to London and Quaker oatmeal. I was dragged out by a tired Jo (my ride) at 1:00am - when the rest of the dirty stay-outs left I have no idea!! They weren't moving and were still immersed in blabbing. Much fun, great guest. Thanks to all who helped with the set-up, put back, copies, introductions and all that good stuff. We eagerly anticipate next month when we get stuck in a time-warp in the Bergen Museum in the Bergen Mall, fighting the museum beast while welcoming guest Ken Gale.