This morning was so foggy and cold that I wanted to stay in bed all day and read. But now it's noon fifteen in mid-July and the sky has cleared in a pale blue wash of beyond the crooked cypress tree that shelters a murder of crows in its emerald green shadows. Beyond is the ocean textured with chop from the breeze and even farther out is the layer of fog heavy and patiently waiting for darkness to descend once more.
I'm reading zombie novels.
There is something about Santa Cruz and zombies. I have just discovered author Seanan McGuire's zombie thrillers, written under the pen name Mira Grant. The storyline involves an accident of good intent; various parties seed the sky with viruses to cure the common cold and cancer but, bummer, mutating in the undesired outcome of nobody actually dying when they're dead. Oh. And when they bite you it's catching.
Hey wait a minute... isn't it vampires who bite?
Speaking of vampires, the cult-classic movie The Lost Boys (Amazon Prime Video) was filmed here in 1987 where you've got Kiefer Sutherland in a mullet skulking around biting people. Pick up a map of the movie's locations at the Santa Cruz’s visitors bureau and catch it for free on the giant screen on the beach boardwalk every summer. Santa Cruz in the movie was renamed Santa Carla. Go figure.
To go off on a tangent, did you catch Kiefer Sutherland in Designated Survivor? (Loved binge watching this in 2020/21 on Netflix even though Sutherland can yeah, okay, only play one character... but I liked 24, too.) There's a season 1 & 2 recap of Designated Survior on YouTube which will pretty much tell you if you're going to like it, though there are spoiler alerts aplenty.
Vampires and Naked Motorcyclists
The motorcycle club in Santa Cruz that was formed in 1954 is called the Vampires—read about its legacy in the Santa Cruz Sentinel (registration required)—which, according to the article, they hold fun events like “The Rain or Shine Ride” where bikers ride at the specified date and time even if it is raining, “The Day of the Dead Ride” which is always the Sunday after Halloween and serves as a memorial for fallen riders, “The Naked Ride” which is the equivalent of a “polar plunge” where riders boldly ride naked except for helmets, gloves, and motorcycle shoes. According to the ‘California Indecent Exposure Law,’ it is technically legal in Santa Cruz to be naked if you are not being ‘lewd’ or causing a public disturbance. [Video here courtesy of the Re-cycle Garage, ghosts of the Motorcycles &Misfits podcast.]
and more zombies...
Our weekly local Good Times reports that a book titled “Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament”—think Shaun of the Dead meets Fight Club—released in 2009, which tells the story of a recently deceased Santa Cruzian named Andy, who is having some trouble adjusting to his new existence as a zombie. Asked why Browne chose Santa Cruz of all places for his zombies to reside, he said, “It partly had to do with the fact that I lived there, but also because even though zombies are not tolerated by humans typically, Santa Cruz is very accepting of different lifestyles. So I could see zombies being more tolerated there.”
I have become a Seanan McGuire aka Mira Grant fangirl.
Author Seanan McGuire aka Mira Grant brings zombies to life in The Rising: The Newsflesh trilogy where journalists need licenses and, go figure, are on the front lines when it comes to zombie elimination. I highly recommend this entire set of three novels, with cliffhangers in every chapter, characters you can love and hate and change your mind about, a tour of post-Zombie USA, and a plot driven structure that keeps you reading until your vision goes fuzzy. If you don't want to invest in the trilogy, start with Feed and see if you can resist the other two.
I never thought of myself as a horror novel fan so I guess it just proves that in the hands of a skilled writer any genre can be compelling. (Note to self: Don't be such an effing literary snob, Carla!)
This woman also writes for young adults. (How prolific can one author be? I'm shamed!)
I found McGuire while perusing the featured tables at the Santa Cruz Library (god I love that libraries are open again), and picked up her YA novel Across the Green Grass Fields, the 6th book in her Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Wayward Children series. (Hugo and Nebula kinda says it all, right? In it, a young girl discovers a portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns. I was riveted. Here's a link to the set of all six.
Monterey and the Marianna Trench
I found McGuire/Grant's novel Into the Drowning Deep her most compelling yet. This author is not afraid of doing a little research. (Understatement.) The protagonists—marine biologists and other scientists, filmmakers, armed guards, and celebrities—set off to find out what really happened to the Atargatis, a ship that disappeared in the Mariana Trench. For the young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost. The plot moves right along, the characters are flawed and likable, and the situation is horrifying though not enough to lose sleep over. Are killer mermaids real? Or is it all a hoax?
I'm going back to bed.
Tell me about your favorite books. Movies. Binge-worthy tv series. Got inside knowledge of zombies or vampires in Santa Cruz? I'd love to hear about it. That's what's the comments section below is for—let's start a discussion.
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