Often when authors discuss their writing process, they refer to bringing two seemingly disparate ideas together to create a story. Jason Fischer clearly followed this idea in writing the incredibly titled “Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh.”
The first story involves an undead man making his way through the Australian outback. As the story opens, the zombie finds itself hungry and surrounded by a herd of feral camels. He makes a snack out of one of the camels, allowing the wounded creature to continue on its way and infecting the rest of its herd.
The other story concerns Trevor Flannigan and Kevin “Swanny” Swanwick, two small time crooks who kill Buchanan, a local farm owner. Their story tells of their flight from the murder scene ahead of the police, as well as a look at Chief Inspector Wallis, who happens to be Buchanan’s brother-in-law and is trying to track them down and bring them to justice.
Behind both of these stories is the background of an Australia settled by the English, but invaded by the forces of Danish king Christian. Although the Danes don’t appear in Fischer’s story, their influence is felt throughout. After killing Buchanan and finding a safe full of krone with King Christian’s face on it, Trev realizes Buchanan was a spy. Trev and Swanny also discover that no matter how much money they got from their heist, they are unable to spend it as the flee, first to Pimba, and then on to Alice Springs, trying to get away from anyone chasing them.
Wallis is Fischer’s answer to Inspecter Javert, following the trail no matter where it leads, even as his realizes that the beaten-up car he is driving may not be able to return him and his quarry to civilization and justice. Even as Willis begins his chase after Trev and Swanny, he realizes that Buchanan was into something unsavory after finding a Danish krone amidst the crime scene. Nevertheless, his task is to bring Buchanan’s murderers to justice. There will be enough time to look into Buchanan’s crimes later.
There is a slight cinematic quality to Fischer’s story as the action switches back and forth between Trev and Swanny’s flight and Willis’s chase, occasionally interspersing the zombie camel herd as a reminder that they exist and are wreaking havoc in the Australian outback.
Swanny provides a semi-comic sidekick to Trev’s panicked mastermind. Their passage through Pimba is anything but successful as Trev’s motorcycle dies and he finds himself unable to pay for repairs with the krone or even intimidate the local mechanic into making the fixes. Upon reaching Alice Springs, Swanny becomes the duo’s breadwinner, taking on “women’s work” while Trev refuses to lower himself to take a job he feels is beneath him.
Eventually, Fischer ties all of his strands together, allowing Willis to catch up to Trev and Swanny in Alice Springs just as the undead camel horde is making its way through the city. The three men are separated when the attack begins and Fischer’s focus is on Swanny attempting to reunite with Trev, who he still views as his path to salvation, if not redemption. The ultimate meeting of the three does not go the way any of them would have expected, but provides a satisfying, if inconclusive, ending to the story.
Fischer’s provides a lot of hints about the background of his divided Australia without giving very many details. Buchanan’s espionage and how it might impact Willis or his family is left unexplored and, while the fate of the undead herd is discussed, he leaves the fate of at least some of the humans up in the air.
Steven H Silver is a nineteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW, NESFA Press, and ZNB. His most recent anthology is Alternate Peace and his novel After Hastings was published in 2020. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7.