‘Zombie Airman’ is vet’s latest work of military science fiction
By LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 26, 2018
Servicemembers’ love of zombie apocalypse planning has inspired a work of fiction about an infected airman struggling through the first three days of the plague.
“Zombie Airman” is science fiction author David Guenther’s take on zombies and the military. He follows in the footsteps of sci-fi luminaries David Heinlein and Kurt Vonnegut — both veterans-turned-writers whose work was influenced by their military service — and zombie fiction authors such as J.L. Bourne and Max Brooks.
A former master sergeant who retired in 2003 after 21 years managing life-support equipment on almost every plane in the Air Force, Guenther says he has spun yarns for his own amusement for years.
“When I was in the service, I liked to tell stories,” he said in a telephone interview. “I would keep making them more and more unbelievable. It just seemed to be a transition for me in the civilian world to put it on paper.”
His self-published “Gray Panthers” series, in which elderly soldiers fight aliens after having their youth restored with advanced technology, draws on Guenther’s Air Force experience.
“Instead of airplanes, I just make them spaceships,” he said.
“Zombie Airman” took six months to write and came out earlier this month. The action takes place in the year 2029, when an airborne disease infects more than 85 percent of the world’s population, turning people into shuffling hordes of flesh-crazed zombies overnight.
Present-day procedures drive the plot — a luxury afforded by the book’s near-present setting.
For the book, Guenther researched Air Force security protocol, a subject he knew little about from his time in uniform.
“I asked so many questions about how base security works I was worried [the Office of Special Investigations] would start asking me a few questions of their own,” he said jokingly.
The novel focuses on a dorm-rat airman who seizes the chance for excitement in the opening hours of the outbreak. Many of the characters are based on people Guenther served with, he said.
The action unfolds in real-world locations such as Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.; Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.; and Douglas, Wyo. The book is so accurately referenced readers can pull up Google Maps and see exactly where scenes take place.
Guenther’s novels are available on Amazon, and some are offered in audio versions on Audible.
A sequel — “Zombie Lieutenant” — is in the works, along with another installment of his “Gray Panthers” series.