WPI Instructor James Dempsey's Novel Takes Bite Out of Zombie Genre

Media Contact
July 26, 2010

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After 20 years in journalism and researching medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, James Dempsey, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) adjunct instructor of English, has penned a new book – on zombies.

Zakary's Zombies: A Fairy Tale is a novel about a developmentally damaged young man, who cultivates a relationship with a pair of zombies dwelling in his basement. The book taps into the current "undead" zeitgeist that has paranormal creatures such as vampires, werewolves, and zombies spilling from the pages of top-selling books and major TV shows and movies.  Dempsey also sees his role as an English teacher at a world-renown university focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as feeding the creation of this book.

"Zombies and engineering? Ever since Frankenstein’s monster there has been a scientific interest in just what it is that constitutes life, and whether something 'dead' can actually return to life," he explains. "Many religions and myths are based on this idea, as if we are hard-wired not to accept that we can ever really be 'nothing.'"

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Dempsey says that his zombies are "sort of friendly," so readers shouldn't expect the gore as can be found on the pages of other horror stories. Zakary’s Zombies is about the "search for one's 'real' parents and about the irreversible entropy of our bodies, and how we deal with that. It’s a book of great physicality," he says.

Literature has always been interested in the character that spans two worlds, according to Dempsey. "We impute wisdom and knowledge to those who have journeyed to places we fear. The zombie has been to the world of death and has come back, and death always has both a fascination and repugnance for the human being," he points out. "I think this makes the zombie a wonderful entity to use in a piece of fiction such as this."

Dempsey spent two decades in print journalism, during which time he worked as metro columnist for the (Worcester) Telegram & Gazette. There, he published thousands of columns on myriad topics, winning awards from the Associated Press and United Press International. He was also the writing coach at the newspaper, leading seminars for editors and reporters. Dempsey is fond of Chaucer and writers of the 18th century, including John Dryden, Alexander Pope, and Jonathan Swift.  He is also researching the life and writings of Scofield Thayer, who edited a famous literary and critical magazine in the 1920s called The Dial.

Zakary's Zombies: A Fairy Tale  was published by Aracne Editrice.  The book has already garnered some publicity in the Telegram & Gazette, Worcester Magazine, and on the blog Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse.