Today I am so excited to welcome author Agnes Merikan, half of the K.A. Merikan writing duo, here to Joyfully Jay. Agnes is here to talk to us more about their latest book, Copper Horse: Fear. Agnes is chatting about the world building in the story and their larger Zombie Gentleman universe. She has also brought along a copy to give away. So please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Welcome to the New World (of Zombies)
We’re proud to present The Copper Horse: Fear. It’s set in a universe we created to indulge our two passions: the Victorian period and zombies. Alternative history is an extremely attractive topic for us as writers because it allows us to explore the past through the lens of the present while experimenting with theoretical events and predicting their impact on the world. In the Zombie Gentlemen universe, the world as people knew it changed forever in 1887, and so the development of the world took a different course than it did in our own universe. The Copper Horse is set in 1907, about twenty years after the zombies appeared, so the changes to people’s lives are quite substantial.
How did the zombie epidemic start?
Nobody really knows. Some say it was a new form of the Plague and in fact, many refer to the epidemic as “Plague”. Others believe that the source of the misfortune is one of the many laboratories where science is sometimes taken past acceptable limits. Some see it as a sign of the impending Apocalypse, a message from God. But the first confirmed cases suggest the illness came from central Africa.
Is there a cure?
No. Several scientists, mostly in Great Britain and Germany, are trying to discover the nature of the illness and devise a cure. Victims of zombies can be helped in certain circumstances. In case of scratches, burning the broken skin sometimes helps, while bitten limbs can be cut off. Those two methods only work if applied shortly after the attack and, even in 1907, are not common knowledge.
How did Britain change?
Most of the country is overrun by the undead. Large cities and some smaller towns are protected by walls, but contact is not easy as traveling by zeppelin or train is very expensive. Most of those townships have isolated themselves from the central government, and in some places, local landowners are referred to as ‘Kings’.
What about food?
It’s expensive and scarce. Some lands were reclaimed for agricultural use, and in the cities, every available space, including the walls and roofs, is used to grow food. Nevertheless, even with the population decimated, many are severely malnourished.
What is Bylondon?
The main city of London is heavily fortified, but with population already too dense, those who don’t have skills or are ‘undesirable’ in some other way, are not let inside. This led to the gradual formation of small parasite villages protected by the London walls from one side and a wooden palisade from the other. Those settlements gradually developed into whole districts where law is set by powerful gang leaders. It’s not that easy to pass the borders between the city and Bylondon, but there is a growing trade, especially involving food.
Who are the Dals?
The Dals are a crime family that rule one of the Bylondon districts with an iron fist, but they also have prominent connections in London. They are the owners of the slave farm where we set one of our earlier novels, Stung. Erik, Reuben’s master is a prominent member of this family.
What is a ‘zandy’? You didn’t expect this one, did you? ;D
“But once, he met a zandy, which was how ordinary people of London called zombies who were toffs before they—well—died. If it wasn’t for how much of a coward Reuben was, he would have been rich now. The zandy’s fingers were sprinkled with golden rings. All Reuben would have had to do was kill the thing and slide them off. Instead, he ran for the ladder.”
Is anyone venturing outside?
Yes! 🙂 The first book set in the Zombie Gentlemen universe we published, Scavengers: July, tells the story of two men who get together while searching for a treasure in an abandoned mansion in Kent. Because of the risk, those bold enough to leave the safety of the walls can earn vast amounts of money. Mercenaries usually seek their client’s lost relatives, works of art and other valuables. There are also those who choose to leave the existing strongholds of civilization to form alternative communities and groups that gain farmland for humans.
Can one see zombies in the cities?
Only in certain places, such as zoos, circuses, or universities. Other than that, some people, especially in Bylondon keep them as pets, or they are used in crude, illegal spectacles.
What I like about this universe is how many possibilities it offers. Most of the books are not focused on motifs from your typical zombie movies, they’re not survival stories. The undead are in the background, always remaining a threat but since most stories, including The Copper Horse, are set in human-owned territory, their influence on the plot tends to be indirect. It’s a world that’s still rebuilding itself after the catastrophic outbreak of the zombie Plague, so we’re not bound by the strict rules of a well-functioning world, where certain things would not happen without crossing the threshold between realism and sexual fantasy. If you’re interested, follow the clop of Copper’s hooves. 😉
Agnes has brought a copy of The Copper Horse to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Saturday, March 15th at 11:59 pm EST.
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- Void where prohibited by law.