Dr. Kim Paffenroth
April 14, 2007
About Kim Paffenroth

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.