Friday, 18 May 2012


APOCALYPSE COW!  Forget the cud. They want blood. An outrageous and anarchic comic take on the zombie apocalypse - and joint winner of the first Terry Pratchett ‘Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now’ prize.
It began with a cow that just wouldn’t die. It would become an epidemic that transformed Britain’s livestock into sneezing, slavering, flesh-craving four-legged zombies.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the fate of the nation seems to rest on the shoulders of three unlikely heroes: an abattoir worker whose love life is non-existent thanks to the stench of death that clings to him, a teenage vegan with eczema and a weird crush on his maths teacher, and an inept journalist who wouldn’t recognise a scoop if she tripped over one.
As the nation descends into chaos, can they pool their resources, unlock a cure, and save the world?
Three losers. Overwhelming odds. One outcome . . .
Yup, we’re screwed
Michael Logan is a writing colleague whose work I first read when I was judging the Fish One-Page Story comeptition back in the dark ages. We ended up working together online for a while, in The Fiction Workhouse - so when I knew he’d won this hugely prestigious competition judged by Terry P, I emailed to say congrats - and natters turned into this natter here. 

VG: So - tell me about this book with one of the best titles I've heard in ages - 'Apocalypse Cow'!  many congrats, and the book has already had some blazingly good reviews and is selling well... tell me, what was your inspiration? 
ML: As you know, literary short fiction was always my thing, but I was struggling to translate my sensibilities to a novel-length work. I was working two jobs as a journalist, and just didn’t have the headspace to work on something that was going to require a serious frame of mind. I needed a light-hearted project. I’ve always loved zombies, given they are this essential distillation of humanity down to basic desires, so I wanted to do something in that field. During a wine-fuelled discussion with some other writer friends in Budapest about what hadn’t been done in the genre, the idea of zombie animals popped up. Cows were the most obvious, since they are large, powerful and spread all over the countryside. From there, the title just seemed obvious, and the plot and characters developed as I sat down to write.

VG: Anything to do with the film? 
ML: Nothing whatsoever, unless you count the use of napalm-style substances to subdue a particularly irked herd of dairy cows.

VG: Will there be a Cow film?
ML: Discussions were started with a major production company late last year, but I’ve heard nothing since. These things take a very long time. A lot of people have talked about how visual the book is and how they can see it as a film, but I suspect real interest would only begin if the book takes off.

VG: Brilliant to know this novel co-won a competition judged by the terrific Terry Pratchett.  Congratulations! Tell me about that comp - how did you hear of it, and what thoughts went through your mind as you considered whether to send 'Cow' off?

The two winners of the Pratchett comp, Michael on the left.
ML: I stumbled across the competition while browsing through a writers’ forum. The book was finished, and I had sent it off to a good half-dozen agents. I was either roundly ignored or sent form rejection letters. That was what I expected, since the idea is a bit off-the-wall. I didn’t really see how I could sell it.
 When I saw the competition, I was unsure if my book fit. While it has fantasy elements, it is primarily a black comedy. Plus, I had absolutely no idea whether it was any good. When you get so close to a piece of work, it’s really hard to judge, and I tend to think everything I write is dreadful. It took my wife to pressgang me into sending off. I’m very glad she did.
VG: You are a journalist, I think... how does successfully writing non-fiction chime with successfully writing fiction?
ML: Ha! Every journalist you meet is also writing a novel, so that tells its own story. I think the two fit together very well. Journalism taught me that every word counts. You often have just 700 words to encapsulate a complex issue in an interesting and colourful manner, and this really creates the focus, on the characters, the issues and the actual prose, that is necessary to produce a novel. The downside is that journalism, particularly hard news, encourages keeping the prose simple, which doesn’t always work for fiction. I managed to get into the habit of switching between the two styles pretty early, though, so I think it works. 

VG: The first work of yours I read was when you won the Fish one-Page Story comp back in 2008. I remember reading it on your behalf at the prize-giving ceremony as you were unable to be there - and the audience fell utterly silent as what was actually happening dawned on them. It had a specific WWII theme - a really unique twist on a well-trodden path. Is that one of your strengths? Do you see the same skills at play in 'Cow'?
ML: I was very disappointed I couldn’t go to the reading, but when I heard the crowd’s reaction to your reading I was glad I didn’t. I’m not sure my nasal Glaswegian accent would have delivered quite the same punch (I’m still waiting for the recording, by the way).
I do like to surprise the reader – either through choosing a theme or angle that has been rarely done or by pulling something odd out of the bag at the end. The whole point of Apocalypse Cow was to do something that hadn’t really been done before, and I think I’ve managed to do that. 
What I find funny is that people think the premise is very far-fetched. Yet is a human zombie any more plausible than an animal zombie? Of course not, but people have had decades to get used to the idea of reanimated corpses shambling around with no apparent fuel source, rotten muscles and brains that have turned to mush. My cows (and sheep, pig, squirrels, etc) are not undead, and can be killed in conventional ways. So I would suggest they are a far more realistic prospect 

VG: So, what's next??!
ML: I have a list of 15 novels to work through, with more being added all the time. I won’t get round to them all, so I’m cherry picking. Right now I’m working on a piece called Wannabes. It’s a satire in the same vein as Apocalypse Cow, also with elements of fantasy as tool for the overarching theme rather than as a main feature. It’s about a lowly demon, a washed-up rock star and an unhinged failed talent show contest all using each other in an attempt to gain (or regain) fame and recognition. It gives a lot of scope to poke vicious fun at the generation of entitlement, in which almost everybody is chasing instant fame rather than artistic success.
After that, I’m considering a follow-up to Apocalypse Cow before working through the rest of my list. I’m going to be busy!
VG: well, congrats again, thanks for dropping by, loads of good luck - and here’s to future mega-stardom! 

Michael Logan is a Scottish author and journalist, whose writing career has taken him across the globe. Apart from his homeland, which he left in 2003 at the age of 32, Michael has lived in Bosnia, Hungary, Switzerland and Kenya, and reported from many other countries. His experience of riots, refugee camps and other turbulent situations helps fuel his writing. 

He wrote his first short story at the tender age of eight, but was distracted by his career as first an engineer, then a journalist for almost three decades before returning to fiction. Apocalypse Cow, which won Terry Pratchett’s Anwhere But Here, Anywhen But Now Prize, is his first novel. His short fiction has previously appeared in literary journals such as Chapman, and his piece We Will Go on Ahead and Wait for You won Fish Publishing’s 2008 international One-Page Fiction Prize.

He currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya, and is married with two young children. More information can be found on his website:

1 comment:

  1. That was just the ticket for my Monday evening. Congratulations to Michael on his win - the book sounds like a hoot, or rather a moo.