Interview with Kim Paffenroth

Horror, Dread, and Transcendent Yearning

 

Kim Paffenroth

 

Conducted by Matt Cardin, June-July 2009

 

INTRODUCTION

Kim Paffenroth first came to my attention three years ago when I began to hear the buzz about his tantalizingly titled Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth. “Say what?” I said. “A book-length study of the religious and spiritual dimensions of The Master’s zombie movies, written by a professor of religious studies?” It seemed almost too good to be true, since I myself was a long-time student of the intermingling of religion and horror, and had earned an M.A. in religious studies only three years earlier, partly on the strength of a long paper I wrote about the possible uses of Romero’s zombie movies as objects of spiritual contemplation.

(Not incidentally, that paper, titled “Loathsome Objects: George Romero’s Living Dead Films as Contemplative Tools,” will be published later this year in my Dark Awakenings collection.)

So Kim’s book instantly became a Must Have, and the fact that planet earth was home to a religious studies professor who devoted himself to such subjects registered with me as a boon from heaven.

I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but he and I soon came into contact with each other, courtesy of the Internet. Maybe it was at the Shocklines message boards, where so very many writers and readers of horror and other speculative fiction mingle in a rowdy virtual pub. Maybe it was when Kim submitted a story to T.M. Wright’s and my Holy Horrors anthology (which will also be published later this year, by Ash-Tree Press, and will feature said Paffenroth story, an excellent zombies-and-religion outing titled “Purifying Vows”). In any event, we were soon talking together, and almost before I knew it a copy of Gospel of the Living Dead had found its way into my possession, courtesy of the author. I considered it a high courtesy indeed.

Last year Kim’s and my friendship advanced to the next level when we both appeared as guests of honor at MoCon III: The Intersection of Spirituality, Art, and Gender, where I ended up moderating the panel on horror and religion. Kim, naturally, was one of the panelists, and the experience proved to be more than a little interesting and rewarding, as did our late-night conversations about movies, religion, education, and more.

Gospel of the Living DeadThe interview that follows is essentially a continuation of that conversation. Over the past couple of years Kim has added “zombie novelist” to his all collection of authorial hats, and has also edited and contributed to several anthologies of zombie fiction, all while continuing his long-established day job of teaching and writing books and papers about Christian history and theology. In this newest role he pursues the same themes that fueled Gospel of the Living Dead — which, let it be noted, went on to win the Bram Stoker Award — and proves himself to be a fiction writer with chops galore. So when his latest novel, Valley of the Dead, began making news with its imminent release and its promise of a rich mashup that weds Dante and his famous Inferno to the idea of a zombie apocalypse, I was more than pleased to sit down with him in cyberspace and catch up on our conversation, which ended up exploring various aspects of his richly philosophical take on life, religion, horror fiction, and other subjects.

Be advised that you can find Kim online at his very active blog, Gospel of the Living Dead, and at his Twitter account, and also in various other places if you care to do just a little bit of digging.

And now, please meet Dr. Kim Paffenroth.

 

INTERVIEW

MATT CARDIN: Religion. Horror. Religion and horror. Kim Paffenroth and religion and horror. Explain.

KIM PAFFENROTH: Adolescence—Horror. Early adulthood—Religion. Middle age—some synthesis, hopefully a deeper engagement with the ideas raised by both.

I’m sure lots more went into it, but that was the timeline. As an adolescent, I was fascinated by horror movies, and with some written expressions of horror. Then my mother died a slow, lingering death from cancer, and I definitely got even more morose and sullen in my outlook. I put some of it in bad fiction writing and bad poetry at that age, but in college all I did was read. I didn’t write a thing other than assignments for class. And increasingly I saw I was more drawn to theological writing than other kinds, though the curriculum was heavy on philosophy and literature where I went to school (St John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland). And after years of just reading and thinking, I was ready to write again. At first it was academic essays and books, but eventually I felt the pull back toward writing fiction. I don’t claim any of it’s any good, but it’s informed by that background and that journey — an innate fascination with ugliness and evil and pain, a real life experience of some of it, and then a long, intellectual journey to learn how to unpack or describe or theorize about it. I’m guessing that’s not the most common background (and hence your question) for either a horror author or a student of theology, but it gives my fiction some flavor and slant that a few people find interesting.

MC: Actually, what you describe isn’t all that far removed from the general thematic nature of my own evolution into a writer who is prodded by his muse and daimon to pursue issues of horror and religion with equal amounts of personal fervor, although my specific trajectory was a bit different than yours. One wonders how many of our ilk the universe has produced, and is now producing, and will produce.

KP: Yes, I know your background and your predilections enough to see the similarity. But as your question implies, most people, when they hear our interests, look at us like we just said we’re interested in articulating the spirituality of roadside miniature golf courses that are themed around dinosaurs. We’ve mashed together two things that might be of interest or entertainment, each on their own, but which make no sense together, at least to them.

MC: Speaking of things that make no sense together: Religion. Zombies. Religion and zombies. Kim Paffenroth and religion and zombies. Elaborate.

KP: Zombies. Favorite monster. Based on fear of death, but also fear of meaninglessness. It’s not just that I’m afraid of dying, I’m afraid of being bitten and wandering around as an empty automaton, unable to control myself or do much of anything other than feed and shuffle. Zombies are more objects of dread than terror. And as above, religion attempts, at its better moments, to give people’s lives meaning, and to give them an antidote to the inevitable dread of all life’s shortcomings. So while zombies aren’t inherently religious monsters, I think they’re monsters that invite theological thought, both of theodicy – “Why’s this happening, God?” — and of human nature – “Why would it be our fate to become mindless slaves to appetite?”

MC: Your orientation toward ultimate questions of meaning and purpose is shining through here, and I’m guessing this harks back at least in part to your classical education at St. John’s College. I suspect some of the people reading this interview will be familiar with that institution and what it does and represents, while others won’t be. So would you please fill all of us in? What did you do there and how did it affect your development as a thinker about these matters?

St. John's College, Annapolis, MD

KP: St. John’s College was founded with its present curriculum in 1937. The buildings themselves go back to 1696. It colonized a second campus in Santa Fe in 1964. What’s called the “New Program” of the college was the idea of a liberal arts education built around all required courses — no electives. The courses themselves would be based on fundamental readings in primary sources — no textbooks. And the goal would not be getting grades or a job, but trying to understand the ideas in the books, which would be mostly philosophy and literature, though with heavy doses of theology, mathematics, natural sciences, and some music theory. There would be language study — originally Greek, Latin, French, and German, later curtailed to just Greek and French — to facilitate studying at least some of the books in their original languages. So, all in all, it looks like the most radical education around, but also the most traditional. And on the one hand, people always fear it’s not practical at all and you’ll be homeless if you go to school there, but on the other hand, people who go there go on to do, hopefully, what they find fulfilling and interesting, rather than just what they think they can make money at.

MC: Do you think the place “worked” for you? What’s its legacy in your life? (I’ll shut up about St. John’s after this.)

KP: I think some interviewer is really asking if I think the place would’ve “worked” for him, eh? And the answer to that would probably be a more emphatic yes, than my own ambivalence.

MC: Maybe I am indeed prodding you so much about this subject because of my own personal interest. During my undergraduate days at the University of Missouri, and then especially in the decade after I graduated, I became fascinated with Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins and Scott Buchanan and the whole Great Books movement from the mid-20th century. Their arguments about the need to read the Great Books — the capital letters always seem necessary — fascinated me, and I loved reading about their efforts to reform the American higher education scene in that direction. Since St. John’s was one of their crowning achievements, I’ve always been more than a little interested whenever anybody mentions it. A part of me can’t help pining for an alternate life in which I would have attended there. Of course, I’m also in love with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which Robert Pirsig utterly demolishes the whole Great Books philosophy in heroic fashion. The bottom line is that ideas themselves just captivate me, and I do wonder about lost educational opportunities in my life, of whatever sort.

KP: I think everyone I’ve ever talked to has been very ambivalent later in life about their choice of college or grad school or seminary. It’s just such a momentous decision, such a commitment of time, and even if you study and work all the rest of your life and go to other schools and do other things, your alma mater somehow follows you around as an important label that affects you, and affects how people respond to you. So you just always end up thinking “What if . . .?”

But, to your question. St. John’s did something to me, though as usual, not at all the things I would’ve expected. I didn’t expect when I started there that it would answer as many religious questions for me as it did. And for many people it has the opposite effect, and either makes them doubt their faith or actively reaffirms their unbelief. It both prepared me for grad school and prepared me to be very disappointed with the kind of constipated, obscure questions we ask in grad school. It fired my curiosity and made me want to share what I’d learned with others, but also made me disgusted with people who lack curiosity and find intellectual investigation a big bore. And before you ask, “Zombies. St. John’s. Zombies and St. John’s. Discuss,” yes, it made me a better zombie writer, though not until years went by. Because I went to school there, I can work in all of the allusions and themes that I work into my stories, but it took years for them to percolate down into my writing mind, and even now they still tend to come out in too heavy-handed a manner, so I continue to work to sublimate and craft them better.

MC: So do you think there’s been a specific trajectory in your fiction-writing career that relates to all of this? Do your stories and novels express a developing philosophy and/or artistic-emotional apprehension of these matters?

KP: That’s really interesting, and the kind of question that one can’t ask oneself, because one is too close to what’s going on and can’t see the forest for the trees, as it were.

MC: Your words remind me of Fellini, who famously said of his creative process as a filmmaker, “Don’t tell me what I’m doing. I don’t want to know.” Ray Bradbury knew Fellini well and has said many times that he took Fellini’s words as a life motto for his own creative work. Just let the overall shape of what you’re doing emerge on its own, they say. Don’t try to see the big picture.

“While zombies aren’t inherently religious monsters, I think they’re monsters that invite theological thought.”

KP: And those guys had very long careers. I don’t think I’ve been writing fiction long enough for there even to be a “trajectory.” Right now, I see a constellation of ideas and concepts, and they rise or come to the surface and combine in different ways. I never would’ve thought consciously of putting so much about beauty, and the more or less Platonic analysis of it, into my writing, but I guess it was rolling around in there since freshman year and has now come out in the last couple things I’ve written. One thing I would say — and this isn’t a trajectory in my writing, but a trajectory I’m on in my life that affects my writing — is that I see my writing as terribly “middle aged.” Take away all the zombies, and what have you got in every story I write? Anxiety about whether one’s life has amounted to anything, or whether it’s just been a big waste of time. I even have the zombies wonder that, sometimes! I didn’t think about that when I was younger, and it’s funny to see such a cranky, middle aged question driving my stories.

And speaking of cranky, while I was answering your email about religion and horror and me, I was simultaneously answering another email from another writer who was berating me for not believing homosexuality is a sin, which, according to him, I have to do if I still want to say I take the Bible seriously. In fact I think I do take the Bible seriously, although not in a simplistic fundamentalist way.

MC: I’m searching right now for a suitable expression of distaste like “oof” or “ugh.” But none seems to convey the right impression, so I’ll just state in words that I will never stop finding it amazing and amusing, and slightly galling, that so very many people who are ostensibly literate and intelligent can really and truly adhere to the belief that there is such a thing as “believing the Bible,” as if that ancient library of books — whose number varies depending on which branch of the Christian family tree you’re looking at — confronts the reader with a univocal and monolithic meaning. I think Protestants have historically been the worst offenders in terms of the principle they invoke to support this reading, since sola scriptura flat-out ignores and suppresses the fact that it’s only the authority of the church itself that imparts to this collection of books a seemingly objective stamp of unity and absolute authority. At least the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches are forthright about the institutional authority they’re exercising in relation to their sacred text(s).

I’m not saying I don’t hold the Bible in high regard, by the way. In fact, I hold it in very high regard indeed, and view it as a treasure house of some of the world’s “winnowed wisdom,” as Huston Smith has called it. Those 66 books (that’s the number for me, since I was born to Protestantism) have been foundational and transformational for me. And of course it is correct, in a deeper sense than what the fundamentalists and literalists harp on, to say the Judeo-Christian scriptures are all “about” the same thing, in the same way that all authentic religious scriptures are “about” the same basic spiritual truth. But the “fundalits,” as Madeleine L’Engle used to refer to them, with their insistence on a forced, non-negotiable, literal reading of the books, don’t open them up for this necessary understanding. Instead, they kill the scriptures by straitjacketing and suffocating them.

KP: In a blog entry on March 9 I attempted to articulate why I still “believe” the Bible without all the baggage that some literal-minded people bring to it. In a blog entry on July 3 — inspired by this very conversation we’re having here — I attempted to articulate the problems I have with people who insist that their religion is “Biblically based” and therefore, supposedly, “correct.”

In the latter of those I wrote, “When I could see that I didn’t have to recover some apostolic faith and try to follow it in order to be a Christian, when I could acknowledge that beliefs are being negotiated and debated and evolving over time — that was not a stumbling block to me, but the removal of one. And on this point, I can’t really see how it wouldn’t help all Christians if they removed this strange, self-justifying belief from their thought world and tried to live more humbly in the light of uncertainty, but also with mutual respect and learning from others.”

Now, that being said, I again try to remind myself, humbly, of my very different background. As I indicate in that blog post, when I found out that I didn’t have to take the Bible literally in order to take it seriously, this was the scale that fell away from my eyes and let me accept Christ. But for someone raised in a different background, the idea that the Bible is not literally, factually correct in every way would have the opposite effect. It would throw their faith into disarray.

MC: Such issue and dilemmas make wonderful fodder for a fiction writer’s sensibility. Yes?

Dying to Live--Life SentenceKP: Yes. In my zombie novel Dying to Live: Life Sentence, for example, I struggled with how to have a character express “Christian” beliefs without the specific trappings or language of Christianity, and in one scene, as the main POV adolescent is fasting and preparing for her initiation rite — which was pretty harrowing, I thought — she comes up with something pretty close to how I was just saying it.

MC: I’ve had the same experience in writing my own fiction. There’s a really deep satisfaction in coming upon those creative moments when a story organically elicits some of my deepest-held thoughts, and helps to articulate and clarify them.

And that brings us back to a topic we broached a minute ago when we said, or at least hinted, that religion and horror “make sense” together. What kind of sense do you think they make?

KP: Well, in my mind, life is intrinsically horrifying. Never mind zombies or serial killers, just regular pain and disease and eventual death give most of us a few moments of anxiety, at a minimum, probably punctuated by a few heartbeats of real terror. And, I really believe, life is intrinsically . . . well, I’m not going to say “religious,” ‘cause I don’t think that’s quite true. Let’s say life is intrinsically, unavoidably meaningful, and it’s a meaning that’s not contained in physical existence per se but in our apprehension and interpretation of it. And one way to phrase that meaning is to direct it toward a God, to say that there is an ultimate source of that meaning, and of all meaning, for that matter. And if you seek out that God in the company of other people, which is usually more fun, then you call that “religion.” And, to tie it all together, the things that make life scary — pain and death — really wouldn’t be so if life weren’t meaningful, and if the suffering weren’t meaningful. Smashing a rock isn’t horrifying. It’s not even interesting. But smashing a person is an object of horror, and an object at which we wonder, “Why is this happening?” So really, the basis of being human is the acknowledgment that there’s more to life than mere physical existence. And on that basis are built the inevitable reactions of horror, and of a yearning for something “transcendent,” which some of us find in religion.

MC: Your latest novel, Valley of the Dead, explores these connections between religion and horror as explicitly as anything you’ve yet written, with its invocation of Dante to explore zombie themes and vice versa. I know you’ve answered this question several times before, but for the sake of those people who haven’t heard the answer yet, what’s Valley of the Dead about in a nutshell?

KP: For seventeen years of his life, Dante was off the map. We don’t know where he was in Europe, wandering as an exile from Florence. During that time he produced one of the most famous poems ever, and one of the most influential depictions of the afterlife: The Divine Comedy, a three-volume work whose first volume, the Inferno, offers a guided tour of hell and remains the most popular part of the poem. Valley of the Dead speculates on what must have been the inspiration for such a horrifying work. The Inferno includes scenes of people being eviscerated, decapitated, burned, boiled, frozen, and devoured. The book’s conceit is that Dante must have stumbled on a zombie infestation and seen all of those horrible things happening. How else could he have described them so vividly afterward?

MC: The premise is wonderful, and also — as it feels — kind of inevitable. But that may just be due to the fact that I was already primed for the possibility of your exploring zombies in a Dantean context, and Dante in a zombian context, since I had already seen you do the same thing in nonfiction form in your Gospel of the Living Dead. And of course you sent me short story a couple of years ago that explicitly invoked imagery from the Inferno in the context of a future zombie apocalypse.

So, for those to whom your Dante-zombie mashup doesn’t seem so inevitable, the question demands asking: What gives? Why Dante and zombies? What got you going on such a project?

KP: At the beginning of the Inferno when Dante and his guide, the Roman poet Virgil, first enter hell and see a bunch of souls, Dante asks who they are. Virgil replies that they are those who have lost the good of intellect, and have made reason slave to appetite. Reading this, I think: People who no longer have their minds, and who slavishly follow their appetites? Sounds like zombies! And then as I went over the Romero films, especially the original Dawn, while I was writing Gospel of the Living Dead, I saw that one of Romero’s insights into zombies was that they endlessly repeat what they did in life. And again, that’s exactly how Dante thinks of sin and punishment: not that the damned have the objects of their sinful desires withheld, but that they indulge in them endlessly. So I saw that Dante and Romero were thinking along a lot of the same lines.

MC: This is just too fascinating. What have been the initial reactions to the book? I’m especially interested to hear how readers have reacted to the premise itself.

Kim Paffenroth: a sensitive, literate zombie

KP: No reactions yet from theologians or Dante scholars, I’m sorry! I think I’d like that validation as well, but it’ll have to wait.

I think from the zombie fan side — well, their idea of “cerebral” is a bit more . . . physical than most of us are used to. I gave you a “cerebral” answer, in the sense of comparing and connecting Dante’s and Romero’s ideas and analyses. Most zombie fans think of “cerebral” more as steaming brains spilling on the ground to be scooped up by bloody fingernails and forced into growling, gnawing mouths. And they’re right, of course. There’s plenty of such ghastly, gory imagery in Dante as well! So I think they were just thrilled to hear that a legitimate, canonical “classic” of world literature had a guy eating another guy’s brains as its most memorable image. It’s definitely part of the Inferno’s appeal: that it’s a visceral, visual, physical experience to get through this journey with the poet/visionary. It’s not just an essay about hell, after all, but claims to be a vision of it, a real experience of all its pain and torture.

MC: I’m flooded right now with memories of teaching classical mythology to high schoolers for six years, and of the sacred time of year — October, always the most fun month in my classroom — when we’d study comparative afterlives and underworlds, and I’d introduce them to the Inferno and teach them its inverted conical structure and then describe, with the help of PowerPoint slides full of famous art, the various punishments being meted out to various types of sinners on each level. The teens were fascinated by the horrific grimness and gore of it all. Of course, these are the same kids who as a generation dig The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (definitely the remake, occasionally the original) and the Saw movies and The Devil’s Rejects and so on. They’ve been weaned on torture porn. So I knew this was a big “in” as I was scoping out ways to involve them in classroom material. It’s also how I managed to interest many of them in Homer. When you hit them with a big chunk of the Iliad and they start to glaze over in about 10 seconds, but then you point out that the text depicts a battle scene and describes spears erupting from chests and swords hacking through heads in veritably loving detail, they suddenly perk up find it all very interesting.

What do you think? Is there a “theology of gore” that’s somehow involved in all of this? That’s a question I’ve revisited occasionally in some of my academic writings. Zombie fiction and film can be a prime example, since it combines — exactly as you have done in your own work, most explicitly in Valley of the Dead — extreme gore with apocalyptic themes that naturally invoke religious resonances. I tend to analyze this in terms of the horror reaction that’s evoked by vivid depictions of gore, which, as I see it, is a pretty fascinating reaction since it highlights the weirdness of our discomfort with our bodily nature, which foregrounds the question of just who and what we really are, bodies or minds or souls or whatever. Thoughts?

KP: There are enough religiously-based violent spectacles to make your observation plausible. Mel Gibson comes to mind, and he was drawing on late Medieval traditions of presenting the Passion in a very violent, gory form that people found . . . compelling? Persuasive? Mesmerizing? Uplifting? I don’t know exactly the right word to use, but it’s part of the tradition, and Dante stands squarely in that.

I like your inquiry into the meaning of it, too. There has to be something intrinsically uncomfortable about watching human bodies torn to pieces, since the audience inhabits, or is, exactly the same kind of body as the victims they’re watching. And being uncomfortable usually leads to an attempt to avoid the source of the discomfort. Or, if one keeps seeking it out, then one must be “getting something” from the discomfort. And I think, deep down, we like having our bodily-ness questioned, because we hope — and realize, I’d say — that we’re not just bodies, even if those are fundamentally part of us. Otherwise, for Christians, at least, the resurrection makes no sense. Would we want to be reunited with our bodies if they’re not part of us at all? Even Plato was dissatisfied with the metaphor that our body is like a ship we sail in, since that doesn’t capture our intimate ties to it.

Sexuality would work the same way, I think. We all crave it and seek it, but at some point pretty early on we know that we want more than it can offer. More intimacy, more trust, more identity with the beloved than even physical union can offer. And of course sexual imagery is pervasive in descriptions of mystical unions with God. Dante’s descriptions of his passion for Beatrice, while pretty tame and chaste by our standards, are still very moving, and come at least in part from physically seeing her and physically longing for her.

Sex and death. One makes us very happy with our bodies, the other makes us really sad about our bodies, but both point to the conclusion that we are more than just bodies.

“The basis of being human is the acknowledgment that there’s more to life than mere physical existence. And on that basis are built the inevitable reactions of horror, and of a yearning for something ‘transcendent,’ which some of us find in religion.”

MC: I think you and I may have just talked our way to a kind of zombie-oriented second cousin to William Peter Blatty’s tactic in The Exorcist of proving the existence of God by proving the existence of literal demonic evil.

KP: We’ve suggested a plausible scenario for why people would have such thoughts, surely. I never kid myself that I could prove the existence of God, but I do think that positing the existence of God — or, let’s say, something transcendent, to use a less loaded term — does answer certain nagging questions of human existence. That’s why my concept of God gets me in trouble with fundies and atheists alike. I find the idea of God a much better explanatory tool than my atheists friends do, but “explanatory tool” just isn’t going far enough for fundies. And, to be frank, there are lots of moments when I feel that my God is something more personal and intimate than just an “explanatory tool.” This was another attraction I felt for Dante the character, as opposed to Dante the author. Given his bitterness over much of his life, I could easily imagine him thinking of God as a kind of distant being who was useful as a philosophical “given” but on whom he’d put little personal trust; but at the same time, given his deep faith and even mysticism, I also imagined he’d feel more passionate and drawn to God. I went back and forth with him on that in the course of the novel, and it felt good, and true to him as well.

MC: I can’t help wondering what your students at Iona College — an explicitly Christian institution — make of all this. Do you find that many of them are aware of your status as an increasingly prominent author of zombie fiction? If so, does this ever lead to interesting conversations? Do you have readers among your students? For that matter, what do your colleagues and administrators make of your moonlighting career? I’ve noticed that at your faculty page your horror-oriented writing don’t appear on your list of publications.

Iona College, New Rochelle, NY

KP: I’m not “out and proud” about my second career yet. I guess part of me still regards it as kind of a hobby. I wouldn’t necessarily tell my students if I went to fire off model rockets on the weekend, or went to stamp collecting conventions, so why advertise this? On the other hand, if I were in the English Department, then my publishing credits in writing fiction would “count,” so why not for a theologian, if this is my preferred — and way more popular — way to make my theology known to the public? I think I’ll get more comfortable with it as time goes on, and will kind of let it be known more openly.

Some students do Google me and find my zombie stuff, and they usually think it makes me more cool and approachable. Oh, and they really like the posters in my office. I get a lot of “Oohs” and “Ahhs” for those. As for colleagues, it’s come up in conversation, and I’d characterize most of my fellow academics as bemused in their reaction. They know I’ve done lots of academic nonfiction over the years, so they know I’m not doing this because I can’t do the “regular” professorial writing, and so I think they respect this as another outlet, a different way to express myself.

And anyway, think, really think, about conversations like the one we’re having now. If I write a scholarly essay, I might end up having an enlightening conversation like this about it with, oh, six people. But if my fiction helps me to have a pretty meaningful conversation about God and sex and death and Plato that can be usefully enjoyed and pondered by hundreds or thousands of people — well, that’s a part of what academics should be doing, too, and not just having very private, inaccessible conversations among ourselves.

MC: Hear, hear and world without end, amen. Well said.

This strikes me as a perfect stopping point. The only thing that’s left to ask is the obvious question: What projects are you working on now? Everything is fair game here: stuff for your day job as a religious studies professor, your night job as a horror writer, novels, stories, studies, essays — you name it.

KP: I’m shopping a non-zombie novel, a contemporary ghost story that’s once again filled with cranky middle-agedness. I just finished another zombie anthology for Permuted Press: The World Is Dead, which is due out in September. My main academic project is editing a series of essay collections on St Augustine. These are published by Lexington Books and have been quite popular by academic standards. The essays are interdisciplinary and relate Augustine’s thought to non-theological subjects, making some interesting connections and, I hope, spurring some interesting conversations.

MC: You’ve certainly proved yourself an interesting conversationalist here. Thanks for your time, Kim.

  1. A follow-up to MattC’s interview, courtesy of my subconscious!

    http://gotld.blogspot.com/2009/08/philoctetes.html

  2. Great interview. Answered all the questions that come up whenenver I read one of Paffenroth’s books.

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