I submitted a short story for critique as was required for all participants. My submission was called “DMZ” a short story I submitted to Homepage of the dead a few years ago. Its zombie survival horror, noting the battle between a zombie horde and not only the US Army and South Korean forces on the 38th parallel, but also with fragments of the North Korean army assisting the US/ROK forces as well. Not my best story, but not my worst either. There were issues with the story that had been brought up to me, but instead of correcting it I left them in so I could discuss them with the critique group.
Now, let me be clear; I don’t mind being critiqued. I’ve both given and received critiques on work throughout my academic career. Its part of the writing game, regardless of what you write. However, not only was I the only person to write about zombies (out of 19 participants) but the opinions I got from my critics were mostly negative. Which is fine, but they also told me that none of them actually liked or read zombie fiction, and I shouldn’t write about zombies either because “the market is flooded and nobody considers them good material.”
What. The. Hell? Getting a critique from non-zombie readers can be a good thing, but in this crowd I was treated to a near-unanimity of disdain and virtual eye-rolling for even submitting something so trite as zombie fiction. This group in its turn had long and enthusiastic critiques of urban fantasy, Native American fantasy fiction, dystopian sci-fi, children’s Christmas tales, and even a trans-gen horror-fantasy story.
Yet my zombie story (and apparently zombie fiction generally) barely rated a sneer. Everyone got some books mentioned to them as possible sources of inspiration and study, and I expected something along the lines of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh or even Max Brooks…which I’ve read already but are the better ends of the genre.
What did I get? A passing (no pun intended) recommendation of ‘The Passage’ and they then rushed off to critique the Young Adult Harry Potter ripoff. The Passage is good, don’t get me wrong. But its not even zombie fiction and seems to be used by non-ZA’s as a go to reference for most anything post-Apok.
Maybe I’m overreacting, but it’s a kick in the teeth to go to a scifi/fantasy writer’s con like FenCon and then to have your favorite genre belitteled and not worth the time for an extended critique on merits not personal preferences of the critics. One of the three critics wasn't too bad, I should note. However, even he admitted he didn't find the genre of interest. Oh, and none of them mentioned the problems I originally was critiqued about online. Of course, my session was cut short because time was poorly scheduled in this workshop, but that’s another story.
OK, I’m done now. Thanks for letting me vent!Zombie Chow
Proud writer and reader of Zombie fiction!