Remembering George A. Romero by 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.

Keene Romero

Photo by: Chad Savage

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.

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…

– Brian Keene

George A. Romero

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

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