The Genre Blend: Zombies and more


Let me state first that there are no zombies in Falling Sky.


In the blurbs I received, E. C. Myers references The Walking Dead and Tad Williams’ blurb mentions zombies outright.

See, the thing is that when I started writing the short story that inspired Falling Sky, the idea was that people were living in the air because something horrible was on the ground, something so dangerous that to even spend a short amount of time there could risk your life. Originally I had envisioned some kind of alien organism, but it was 2 AM that night at Clarion West and the story was due the next day and the mental acrobatics required to work all of that out was beyond me. So, in a moment of clarity I fell back on a tried and true genre trope – the zombie.

Originally, that was what made the ground so dangerous. Plain old ordinary zombies. It fit the bill – scary, easy to infect, reason for people to want to avoid their territory. But, as was communicated in the many crits I received, zombies were, well, unoriginal. Obviously there’s still life left in the common zombie (combie?) but it wasn’t serving my story very well. That’s when Mary Rosenblum, our instructor for that week, suggested that instead of zombies it was some other disease. Super-Alzheimers, she said.

It was a solution. I think that what she envisioned was somewhat further away from zombies than my Ferals, but it helped guide me to the right path. There’s certainly a lot of zombie in my Ferals, but I’d like to think that they’re different enough to stand alone (while still hitting some familiar notes).

Splash in a little noir, and a touch of Western (two of my favorite genres) and you generally have Falling Sky. Will it all work? Well, that’s up to the readers, but I hope that at least it presents an interesting mix. If you read it, you’ll have to let me know what you think.

The Genre Blend: Not-Steampunk

Anyone who knows me reasonably well knows that I have a thing for airships. I don’t know if I can explain it — it’s just one of those weird obsessions that lodges somewhere in the mind and never shakes loose. And so it shouldn’t be too surprising that there are airships in Falling Sky. In fact, when I was trying to think about how to describe it I came up with the term “post-airpocalyptic”. This has led many people to assume that the novel is steampunk and yet…it’s not.

The genesis was airships, yes, but when the idea for this world came together I was at Clarion West in 2008 and I was working on a short story with the vague idea of people living in the sky to avoid something on the ground. I mentioned this to Paul Park, one of my instructors, when we had our one-on-one meeting and he pushed me (gently and helpfully) in the direction of science fiction rather than fantasy and suddenly it became set in the future (though the near future) rather than an alternate reality or some other kind of world.

And while that might have seemed weird, the more I looked at actual articles from the time, the more I saw that it was actually possible, if not probable. With the price of fuel rising all the time, and the amount necessary for transporting both people and cargo by plane, it’s not surprising that several companies have looked into airships, modern airships mind you, as a way to cut costs. I could point you here or perhaps here or even here for some examples.  Once I was convinced it was at least plausible, I moved full speed ahead.

But I want to stress again, this isn’t steampunk. It’s post-apocalyptic, with airships. Maybe there’s no real difference to you, but there is to me.

Surely that’s got to be all of the genres, right? Well, not quite. Next post will be about what’s left.


The Genre Blend: Post-Apocalyptic


post-apocalytic museum

I was happy to see that Library Journal mentioned Falling Sky in an article about diverse subgenres in Science Fiction. It’s mentioned under the “zombie” section, despite the fact that there are no actual zombies in the book. Nevertheless, that was one of the influences that went into its conception. Falling Sky blends elements of several subgenres together in what I hope will be a refreshing take on some of the familiar tropes.

The post-apocalyptic genre has been on my mind lately, partly due to this article on io9 about post-apocalyptic art as well as the recent remastered release of The Last of Us game which I’m playing for the first time.  Falling Sky is, above all else, a post-apocalyptic story.  It takes place in the near-future, after an epidemic has shattered society. It allowed me to tap into my love of that genre and play with some of its elements.

I’ve written about the genre before, both at and for, but I never seem to grow tired of it. Those two articles will show you some of my favorites in the genre, but it’s one that is constantly being reinvented. When I was a kid, it was all about the post-nuclear wasteland, from Mad Max to Gamma World to Fallout. But the genre has shifted as our fears have. Disease is more often seen as the the precipitating factor in the apocalypse these days and the bleak landscapes of those past landscapes have been replaced by images of verdant overgrowth. It’s something I tried desperately to keep in mind as I was writing the book (and will continue to do so as I work on its sequel) — Nature flourishes when Man falters.

As I mentioned in some of those previous articles, what has always attracted me to the genre as both a reader and a writer is that I find post-apocalyptic stories to be stories of hope. The apocalypse has already happened. Many of these stories are about people trying to reclaim something out of the ruins of civilization, trying to rebuild. In that respect, Falling Sky is no different, though, without spoiling anything, I’ll warn that attempts to rebuild don’t always go well in the world of the novel.

What about the other genre influences? Well, they’ll have to wait for the next post…

Support This Film!


So as I approach two months until book release, I’m going to be ramping up the promotion and that means, well, something I’m uncomfortable with — talking about myself and my projects all of the time. And since I don’t want to make this the Me Show I’ve decided to actively post about other things, other projects and works and creative endeavors, other cool shit that you should be looking at and reading and watching and supporting because there’s plenty of it out there.

First up is a short film that currently has a Kickstarter called Falling to Pieces. Yes, this film stars my girlfriend, but I’ve read the script and it’s great and this is going to be an amazing project. It will be making the film festival rounds when it’s ready and you have a chance to get it on it right now. It’s about grief, and losing a loved one, but it’s funny and endearing and real. I think it’s going to be an absolute triumph and I’m definitely supporting it. I hope you will, too. Even if you can’t fund the Kickstarter (and they take amounts as small as $1), please help spread the word. The script by Chris Connolly was a Finalist in Showtime’s Tony Cox Screenplay Competition at the 2013 Nantucket Film Festival. And if you’re still not convinced, here’s a short teaser taken directly from the Kickstarter page: 

Cassandra woke up with his kidneys sleeping beside her.

When her husband Eddie died a few months ago, Cassandra didn’t have any idea that he had checked that box on his driver’s license to donate all his organs. His kidneys now belong to Sam, a surfer from Long Island who she met up with the night before. Some vodka, a little Kahlua, several rounds… It’s not very clear to either of them how this happened.

Thankfully she had an appointment with her shrink that day:

Doesn’t that look great? Trust me, it’s awesome. Support this film!


I figured I should mention that I’ll be attending Readercon in Burlington, MA starting tomorrow afternoon. Looking forward to seeing anyone else who’s going and hopefully meeting a lot of new people.

I’m not doing any readings or participating in any panels this year but I’m hoping to do plenty of catching up in the bar.

Hope to see lots of you there.

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Raining Fire – Out now!

Raining Fire, the third and final book in the Ben Gold series, was released on July 18, 2017. This book concludes the story begun in Falling Sky and Rising Tide. Publisher’s Weekly said, “Khanna wraps up his postapocalyptic adventure series with a capable page-turner…the airships, slavers, cannibalistic Ferals, and visceral action scenes make this a worthy culmination to the series.”

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble now.

Rising Tide -Out now!

Rising Tide, the sequel to Falling Sky, was released on October 6, 2015. Publisher's Weekly said, "Khanna crafts a terrifyingly dismal picture of the future, raising the stakes by gradually stripping Ben of friends and support while throwing him into increasingly dire situations. His worldbuilding remains solid and unsettling, and he never loses sight of the human element. The cliffhanger ending is sure to leave readers on the edges of their seats, panting for resolution."

Falling Sky – Out now!

Falling Sky, my first novel, came out October 7, 2014 from Pyr. It's an adventure story set in a post-apocalyptic future with airships. Publisher's Weekly called it a "solid and memorable debut" while Library Journal gave it a starred review and named it Debut of the Month. For more information, please click here.

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