remembering George A. Romero

Jonathan Maberry, the co-editor of Nights of the Living Dead with the late George A. Romero, gathered a bunch of remembrances from those of us who contributed to the anthology. He posted them to Facebook, and I’m reprinting them here……….

David J. Schow

I’ve been living in George Romero’s world for decades, now. I wrote about him at great length in the fore-and-aft matter for Zombie Jam (2005), which proved to be so comprehensive that it was, in fact, used as the preface for a whole ‘nother book of zombie stories, not my own. But everything I laid down was according to George’s original zombie mythos … or, as George had it, the world of “ghouls” or “flesh eaters,” before the Z-word banished all pretenders. As we have seen, we’re nowhere near the final word on zombie fiction — a notion that George himself was originally sure would never take wing. George was a friend. I can still hear his voice. And will continue to.

 

Joe R. Lansdale

Seeing Night of the Living Dead was a life changing experience for me, and part of that had to do with the fact that the horror seemed as if it could happen in my own backyard. I had never seen anything like it. It almost felt like a documentary, and I was pleasantly surprised that it had a black hero, something unique for the time, and a marvelously downbeat ending. George Romero created a new way of looking at horror, and frankly, I don’t know if it’s been topped since, at least not in originality. It was a real treat that when my book Cold in July was filmed, one of the scenes they concocted takes place at a drive-in theater, and Night of the Living Dead is showing, and though it’s in public domain, they asked George’s permission. I didn’t know George, though we met once, but only in the sense that I got to say hello to him at a convention and mumble the usual stuff about how his work was important to me and how it led to me writing a few zombie stories myself. I’m honored to have recently written a story inspired by his universe for Nights of the Living Dead, an anthology edited by George Romero and Jonathan Maberry. George Romero’s influence continues as an inspiration for The Walking Dead, and many shows and films to come, I’m sure. George Romero was one of the great ones.

 

Carrie Ryan

George Romero changed my life. Because of his movies, I became obsessed with zombies and that obsession led me to write The Forest of Hands and Teeth, my debut novel. A few weeks before it came out, I stood in line at a local comic shop, clutching my only copy of the finished book. I was waiting to meet George Romero and I was shaking — probably on the verge of hyperventilating. I didn’t know how to tell him that everything — my first book, achieving my dream goal, quitting my job as a lawyer — was because of him. When it was my turn to meet him, he was incredibly gracious. We talked about zombies and he was excited about my book and asked me to sign it for him. He was down to earth and encouraging and thoughtful and also really funny. That moment remains one of the highlights of my life. Another has been the opportunity to write in his world for Nights of the Living Dead, an anthology he co-edited with Jonathan Maberry. I’m so grateful I got to thank George Romero in person for being such a huge influence in my life, and I’m incredibly sad that he is gone.

 

Craig Engler

Quite simply, George Romero invented and defined the modern zombie genre, and everything zombie that has come since — TV shows, movies, comics, games, books — owes a profound debt to him. Night of the Living Dead was decades ahead of its time, a smart indie horror film that broke almost every convention of the time and had a gut-punch ending that left you stunned and made you think. Pure genius. And then he did it again with Dawn of the Dead and the many other Dead films. It’s an incredibly legacy.

I can say unequivocally that without George’s shoulders to stand on, Z Nation wouldn’t exist. To get a chance to contribute a story for Nights of the Living Dead and become part of the Romero canon is an honor. I hope we did you proud, George.

 

Chuck Wendig

Gutted to see George Romero go. Romero created for us an entirely new mythology, which is not something most of us get to do — we can create our monsters and tell our stories, but few of us are afforded the chance to actually create modern mythology, and that is a testament to his talent and his vision. Romero understood that monsters were not merely monsters, but rather, that they were a commentary on us, or a reflection of us. Further, he was a paragon of kindness to both the horror community and the independent film community.

 

Mira Grant a.k.a. Seanan McGuire

I want to say something profound, and meaningful, and clever enough to encompass everything that George Romero has meant to my life. I want to be pithy and wise, and I can’t. All I can really be is the adult version of the seven-year-old girl who stared, rapt, as the dead walked, who fell in love with a monster and consequentially fell in awe of a man, who grew up as the revenants clawed their way out of their graves and into media dominance. I have never known a world without George Romero’s work. He had the unintentional shaping of me, and I am so very grateful, and I am so very privileged, and right now, I am so very sad.

 

John Skipp

I haven’t cried this hard since Bowie. And will not be able to comment at length here tonight, because everything I have to say may take a couple of days. (Let’s just say I started drinking a little early.)

But in a life full of great art heroes, who taught me to TELL THE TRUTH AS HARD AS POSSIBLE, IN EVERY SINGLE THING YOU DO, WHETHER ANYBODY FUCKING LIKES IT OR NOT, nobody has ever inspired me harder than George A. Romero. Who we lost today. But have forever.

Just yesterday (Saturday July 15), Jonathan Maberry, David J. Schow, and I were at Dark Delicacies, signing Nights of the Living Dead, which George and Jonathan co-edited. and which was released just a couple of days ago.

And though I knew from reading the galleys that it was gonna happen, it was kind of surreal to see that the book had actually been dedicated to me.

I’m too sad and hammered to put the actual dedication up. But it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

[Blogger’s note–here’s the dedication: “This book is dedicated to John Skipp, who made “zombie literature” possible with his landmark anthology Book of the Dead (co-edited by Craig Spector). You’ll always be our pal, Skipp.”]

And one of the last things we did at that signing was to take this picture, below, holding up our book that we did together. HIS BOOK, which we were lucky enough to be a part of.

SkippMaberrySchow

He specifically requested this picture. Jonathan sent it straight away. So I’d like to think he got a chance to see it. See how happy and proud to be there we were.

It’s the closest thing we’ll ever get to saying goodbye.

I’m gonna go a little Tibetan Book of the Dead here, and just say, as if he could hear it, and it might help, on his way from here to there…

I LOVE YOU, GEORGE!!! You fought and fought to say things that mattered, in a genre that often only cared about the next kill scene. You got fucked and fucked and fucked again, while the visions you created got cashed in on by a gazillion people, almost none of them you.

You have always been one of those artists who never stopped pushing, because you never stopped caring. Not just about the art, but about the social conditions afflicting us. Decade after decade, ahead of the cultural conversation. Sometimes provoking it. Sometimes utterly ignored.

You have always cared. And I trust you will take that to wherever next you go, being a glorious thorn in the side of all those forces who seek to keep us asleep, and obedient, and unaware of how much we truly matter to each other.

I would neither be the artist nor the human being I have become without you. And can never, ever thank you enough.

Every single thing I ever did, tried to do, attempt now, and do from now until I’m dead bears the mark of your honor, and sincerity, and devotion. I could not be more proud of you, inspired by you, or more lovingly grateful for all you’ve done and been.

Now go rock the next slice of multiverse you land in. YOU ARE SOOOOOOO LOVED. My greatest sorrow is how much this world’s unlove hurt.

So please, as you go, feel the love so many many of us have. I’m really glad you’ve always known how much I fucking love you, and thank you. Cuz I was never shy about that.
And that will have to do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna cry some more.

Yer pal in foreverness,

Skipp

 

Jay Bonasinga

It was 1993, and I had just optioned my first novel to New Line Cinema. Then something even more unthinkable happened. New Line sent my little potboiler to my childhood hero — a man who also happened to be a legend in world cinema — and the man had said yes. Yes, he wanted to adapt my novel into a big budget movie. I glommed onto the project as quickly as possible as a co-screenwriter, and the studio sent me down to Florida to the man’s home for development meetings. One of my memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life is when this big, warm, rangy bear of a man appeared like an apparition in a deserted airport terminal on a lonely Sunday night. Despite the fact that we had never met, he was waving at me, calling my name like I was a long-lost nephew or godson. He carried my suitcase to his beat-up Mercedes, and drove me to his house to meet his wife Christine. Never mind that this gentle giant single-handedly invented a film genre. Set aside the fact that his slow-moving, lumbering creation had become so iconic that it had taken its place in the horror pantheon alongside Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman. Even if George Romero had been a mere mortal member of society — a grocer, a dentist, an accountant — people would have loved him. He was one of the sweetest people I have ever met, and always, always honest and genuine. All the accolades are true. He was a brilliant stylist, a true outlaw filmmaker, a badass visionary. But the thing I will always remember about George is that mischievous grin, and that kindness. We all lost a very special human being on July 16th, and I lost my one and only true mentor. God bless you, George, and rest easy.

 

Brian Keene

I first met George Romero in August or September of 2004. The Rising had been out in paperback for a few months (and in hardcover for a year at that point), and had started to generate quite a bit of buzz.

We were at a Horrorfind convention in Baltimore, and there was a private party for a bunch of horror professionals. Greg Nicotero (still a decade away from The Walking Dead at that point) asked me if I’d like to meet George. I think I responded with, “Gulp.”

I had a paperback copy of The Rising with me, and I decided I would give it to George. He had kind of positioned himself in the corner of the room, and Greg took me over to him. I’ve seen and been through a lot of bad shit in my life, but I don’t ever recall being as nervous as I was at that moment. Greg introduced the two of us and I was about to present him with my copy of The Rising, but before I could, he pulled out a copy he had purchased himself, and asked me to sign it for him. So, I did. I wrote this long-ass heartfelt thing, thanking him for Dawn of the Dead and telling him what it meant to me as a kid, and it’s impact on me and the book. Basically, I wrote a novel inside the margins of that novel. Definitely the longest inscription I’ve ever put in a book.

I handed it back to George, and then he playfully growled at me for about 10 minutes about fast zombies, and how slow zombies were better. Then he told me about the forthcoming Land of the Dead and explained that the plot was about the last survivors of humanity gathered together in a megalomaniac’s impregnable skyscraper while the slow zombie hordes muster outside. When he politely asked what was next for me, and I told him about the sequel to The Rising that I was working on (City of the Dead) which was about the last survivors of humanity gathered together in a megalomaniac’s impregnable skyscraper while the fast zombie hordes muster outside.

We had a good laugh about that.

Keene

This photo is from that meeting. The young bald guy in the very green shirt is me. George is of course George. That’s Greg between us, and (I think?) author Michael Arnzen over my shoulder. And that’s George’s copy of The Rising tucked under George’s arm.
The next time I saw him at a convention, he had a shirt that said ‘Fast Zombies Suck’ and we had a good laugh over that, as well. All weekend long, he sent people over to my signing table to tell me that fast zombies sucked, and I sent people over to his signing table to pantomime slow zombies. That was where I got the idea for the short story (later adapted into a short film) Fast Zombies Suck.

Earlier this year, I got a chance to play in George’s universe, with the Nights of the Living Dead anthology that he and Jonathan Maberry edited. I’ve done my share of media tie-in stuff over the years — Aliens, Hellboy, The X-Files, and Doctor Who. But I’ve never been prouder to participate in any of them as I was this. It was an honor.

George Romero was very kind to a then young and nervous Brian Keene, and I never forgot it, and I’ve tried very hard to pay that forward when young writers approach me now and tell me about the impact my books had on them. Fuck anyone who tells you, “Don’t meet your heroes.” I’ve met mine, and he was gracious and kind and gentle and sweet…even if I still disagree with him about fast zombies.

Rest in peace, George…

 

Ryan Brown

As the master of making us both fear and relish what lurks in the shadows, George Romero cast his own splendid shadow over all of us lucky enough to work in horror fiction and cinema…and what a gift he gave us. He was a poet, an artist, and one of the genre’s true visionaries. He will be deeply missed.

 

Max Brallier

I didn’t know Mr. Romero, personally — I only knew the legend, the guy who invented his own genre, the guy who changed indie film-making forever. As a writer, a creator, a film nut, a zombie nut, and the descendant of rural PA folks — George Romero loomed larger than anyone. Dawn of the Dead changed everything for me. My brain — the way I think, the things I create, the words I write — it’d all be very different without the art Mr. Romero created. I can only say thank you.

 

Mike Carey

It’s not often that you can say, categorically, that one creator defined a genre. But for fifty years George Romero did exactly that. Night Of the Living Dead created a new template for movie horror, as well as a new monster that has haunted us ever since. As one of the thousands of creators who drew on his inspiration and borrowed from his palette with relish and respect, I’m truly saddened by his death. The world feels a little smaller today.

 

Keith R.A. DeCandido

It’s rare that any of us who create art are lucky enough to make something that changes lives. Rarer still that we can influence an entire subgenre. George Romero did both those things, pretty much creating zombie fiction as we define it today with one single movie — which, it should be pointed out loudly, is also a superlative piece of filmmaking, one of the tautest, tensest, best-acted thrillers you’re ever likely to see.

George Romero created one of the most important and most influential pieces of 20th-century art. It was an honor to contribute to that film’s legacy, and I’m glad he lived to see the publication of Nights of the Living Dead. I hope he got to see the nice reviews we’ve received, too…….

Rest in peace, good sir.

 

Neal Shusterman

So very saddened to hear of the loss of the great George Romero. It is truly an honor to be included in he and Jonathan’s anthology, along with such extraordinary writers. I never got the chance to meet Mr. Romero, but his film making has had such a huge impact on everything that I do, and it can be said that his work is beyond inspiration for me– it is impetus. Thank you for a lifetime of extraordinary films. It’s rare that an individual single-handedly creates a genre the way George did. It was an honor for Brendan and I to pay homage to his work in Nights of the Living Dead, and we mourn his passing. I hope that his remarkable legacy continues to live on and on and on — for what could be more appropriate for the grandmaster of zombies.

 

Brendan Shusterman

So very saddened to hear of the loss of the great George Romero. It is truly an honor to be included in he and Jonathan’s anthology, along with such extraordinary writers. I never got the chance to meet Mr. Romero, but his film making has had such a huge impact on everything that I do, and it can be said that his work is beyond inspiration for me– it is impetus. Thank you for a lifetime of extraordinary films.

 

Isaac Marion

Has anyone else in history created such a vastly popular genre out of almost nothing? It’s an incredible feat of vision and influence. George Romero’s key insight was that the people all around us—our friends and neighbors and even ourselves—could be scarier than any monster from outer space, but he wasn’t content to rest on that conceit. He dug deeper, moving beyond the viscerally gratifying fantasy of “us vs. the world” to explore the dead themselves. From the gentle, music-loving Bub to the poignant zombie messiah Big Daddy, he dared to suggest that the line between us and them is blurry, raising bold questions that most of his later imitators have avoided. I hope his legacy will extend beyond his originality to include this fearless curiosity, and that storytellers of the future will be equally inspired by both.

 

David Wellington

I’ve written elsewhere about the enormous impact George Romero had on me, personally. I’d like instead to take a moment here to celebrate his greatness. I can think of only three people who have created a new monster, an iconic horror that would shape our collective consciousness forever. Mary Shelley created Frankenstein’s Monster. H.P. Lovecraft invented Cthulhu. George Romero invented the zombie. The word might have existed before Night of the Living Dead, but the monster we all know and love today didn’t exist until Romero gave it form. Like Shelley, he never actually named his creation–in his seminal films, the walking dead are more a force of nature than an entity that can be named. Like Lovecraft, his work would inspire our creations–and our nightmares–for generations. Every fan of horror–every fan of movies–owes George Romero an enormous debt. His name deserves to be enshrined alongside Shelley’s and Lovecraft’s in the highest pantheon of creators of the weird and the macabre. He will be sorely missed.

 

John Russo (co-screenwriter of Night of the Living Dead)

George Romero and I became instant friends from the time I first met him, in 1957, when he came to Pittsburgh to become a fine arts major at Carnegie Tech, which is now Carnegie Mellon. Rudy Ricci honked the horn on his 1955 Plymouth convertible, and George came down to the sidewalk wearing a big sombrero, criss-crossed bandoleros, and two big holstered pistolas; also a huge drooping black mustachio. He was dressed up as one of the Mexican rebels in Viva Zapata, because that was one of his favorite movies at that time. He was intelligent, zany, creative, funny, entertaining, and everyone liked him. He was nuts about making movies and convinced me, Rudy and Russ Streiner that we could do it and succeed.

 

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