Given that the book market is flooded with zombie books and mashups (and zombie mashups), you might think a saturation point was near. Seemingly not. As Grand Central preps to drop its novel from Pride & Prejudice & Zombies author Seth Grahame-Smith, it looks like the zombies, and the mashups, show more than a few signs of life.
Some industry members flinched when Grahame-Smith landed a six-figure deal with Grand Central Press in April 2009, if only because his most notable efforts, aside from P&P&Z (which was the brainchild of Quirk editor Jason Rekulah), had been little-known pop culture books for Quirk like How to Survive a Horror Movie. But early numbers indicate that GCP may have the last laugh. The Hachette imprint, which is going to press for an announced 200,000 copies of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, just moved up the title's pub date from late April to March and is reporting strong interest in author signings and appearances.
That Grahame-Smith's new book isn't even a mashup may be part of the appeal. A tweak of Rekulak's formula, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter works off the premise of the mashup, taking something somewhat sacred and high-brow (here an iconic American historical figure) and pairing it with a low-brow pop culture fascination. Just as P&P&Z tapped into readers' (and the media's) fascination with melding pulp and literature, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter—in which Grahame-Smith works into Lincoln's actual history a side gig as a vampire slayer—is showing early indications that it's hitting a similar vein, and even attracting some history buffs. To that end, Grahame-Smith is already booked to do press at such unlikely spots as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, Ill., which is hosting a launch event for his book.
Quirk is also proving that there still may be quite a bit of steam left in the original mashup formula. According to the indie house, there are 1,050,000 copies of P&P&Z in print and, though the falloff is precipitous for the second title in the Quirk Classics series, Sense & Sensibilities & SeaMonsters, it's done quite well, with some 375,000 copies in print. The newest Quirk classic, Android Karenina (written by S&S&S author Ben H. Winters), is set to pub on June 8 and is going to press for an announced 200,000 copies. There are also already plans in the works for that book to piggyback off some austere literary goings-on, since 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Tolstoy's death.
While Quirk is sticking with the formula it popularized, but moving away from putting zombies per se in its line, other publishers may struggle to get their zombie books to stand out. The spoils may ultimately go to the stories, and the houses, that put the freshest twist on zombie mythology. Holt's forthcoming The Reapers Are the Angels has drawn some buzz since it was pitched as a literary take on the genre. Grand Central's The Zombie Autopsies (Nov. 2010) is also intriguing.The author. Dr. Steven Schlozman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has lectured on zombies for the National Academy of Science.
There are even houses celebrating the tradition of zombie publishing, as it were. This summer, Melville House will release a translation of Jules Verne's The Castle in Transylvania. The book, which originally came out in 1892 and has been out of print, was, according to the indie press, the first zombie book ever written.