John T. Cullen - home



= Doom Spore San Diego: Invasion of the Body Snatchers =

01    02    03    04    More Features Coming Soon.

Science Horror. The names by which we call things do matter. On one hand, the meanings (and often the words themselves) may be quite subjective. Then again, the purpose of language is communication, so there have to be some degrees of objectivity and common understanding in the words we choose. I am not the first to coin a phrase or trope I call Science Horror.

Most Amazing True Story. I had no idea when I wrote and titled my novel that there really are parasitic zombie fungi. So far, as best we know, they only exercise this function on insects. Fungus can kill humans if it gets into our lungs or blood. Who knows if the day of Doom Spore can be much farther away?

DarkSF Another term I use for SH is DarkSF (more info soon). Long story elsewhere, short take here: One of the really gripping movies that impacted me was the original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Kevin McCarthy. Some time soon, I will devote a full page to this subgenre name, as it deserves. For the moment, suffice it to say that the story is not fantasy, and it is not horror in any supernatural sense. In fact, it is a direct correlate to my own term DarkSF (to be elaborated on later as well). The nomenclature suggests that is is plausible from a scientific point of view, because it does not conjure any supernatural agents to drive the plot. Science Horror thus distinguishes itself from Supernatural Horror. Both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and my novel Doom Spore San Diego are firmly in the Science Horror category.

Jack Finney, Great Author. The late Jack Finney (1911-1995) is one of my favorite authors, in a camp with Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Charles Beaumont. Finney's 1955 novel Body Snatchers was made into the timeless movie classic. Again, in the crosshatching of tropes and themes, we can find correlations with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the like. Finney is far better known among aficionados for his remarkable novel Time and Again, which has been called both one of the best time travel stories and detective novels ever written. Its sequel is titled From Time to Time. I also read and enjoyed his other novels, including his 1977 Night People. The latter is a bit longer on concept than delivery, except as one critic pointed out, Finney's least is still far better than most writers' best.

And Now, Fungal Zombies. One day after the turn of the century, I was of a mind to reprise my joy in both the novel and the film Body Snatchers. Since I always opt for something new, fresh, and original, I decided to tackle our planet's Fifth Kingdom (as scientists call it), that of Fungi. Our mysterious, RNA-related cohabitants are everywhere including food sitting around too long, fingernails turning green, and (often fatally) lungs infected by dust in old houses. Plenty of food for Science Horror there. Accordingly, I wrote my DarkSF novel Doom Spore, and set it in the city of my choice, San Diego. "First San Diego, then the world!" was my slogan. What I did not know, until my son's young college age friend told me, was how closely based on reality my topic really is. In my novel, a fungal killer is brought to the U.S. by a desperate Big Pharma CEO to experiment in making a new drug to save his company. The bug gets loose and starts taking over. Fun novel—you should read it. But come to find out there really are fungal zombies.

Insect Parasitic Zombie Fungus. Read about it here: the Entomopathogenic Fungus. As it turns out, some wormish-looking species (nematodes can act as parasites on humans in the most grotesque ways. In turn, nematodes become prey of parasitic (zombie) fungi. Most graphically, we have the case of fungal zombie ants. Basically, the fungus in certain jungle habitats attaches itself to a soldier ant by the head, embedding a stalk-like structure called a stroma. The captive ant is then marched to its doom onto the forest floor, where ants never tread if they can help it. It carries the fungus to a place that is fungus-friendly, and feeds there, while the unfortunate ant victim dies (becomes a zombie). All of which may be food for a sequel if I can stomach it. Meanwhile, Doom Spore is a rousing, scary DarkSF novel set in San Diego, with an all-star cast of vivid and enjoyable characters including police officer Linsey Simon, her husband the hard-hitting reporter Jack Simon, some very endearing kids, and a hard-knitting, Afro-American lady Government agent who cannot lose (you just need to get her on your side).

More info on this book at Cafe Okay Bookshop