I thought I’d post some of the doodles I’ve done for my short story “The Skull-Faced Boy.” I used to (and may again someday) do “concept art” to help me think through a story. Back in the summer of 2000, I wanted to write a zombie story, but I didn’t have any ideas. So I started just sketching zombies, such as this:
I liked how that one came out — with the pieces of skull showing through his face — so the next zombie I drew had even more of just a skull for a face. For whatever reason, I imagined this next zombie as wearing a military uniform and leading an army:
That drawing inspired me to dream up a whole sequence of events to explain who this character was and why he had an army. A few days later, I knew what the story’s climax would be, and drew it. If you haven’t read the story, this next picture is a monumental spoiler, so I’m going to put it behind a link:
When “The Skull-Faced Boy” went up on Pseudopod, at least one listener complained that it wasn’t plausible for a skull-faced boy without lips to be able to enunciate clearly, and that this totally ruined the story. (Though apparently the part about everyone on earth simultaneously rising from the dead wasn’t a problem.) Since then, I’ve spent hours trying to see how well I can talk with my lips pulled back, and I seem to be able to manage pretty well, in fact. (I’m reluctant to actually carve off my face in order to do a really meaningful experiment on this, but if someone else wants to give it a go, let me know your results.) And anyway, I went back and checked the story, and it never actually says that the skull-faced boy is missing his lips. The only parts of his facial anatomy that are specifically identified as being missing are his nose and cheeks, so maybe he’s still got enough flesh around the mouth not to suffer any kind of embarrassing speech impediment, which I’d imagine could be really socially debilitating for a living corpse who’s missing most of his face. Anyway, if you’re one of those people who just couldn’t get over how a guy without lips could talk (do the creators of He-Man get these complaints?), I drew this last sketch of the skull-faced boy with lips, so you can picture this while you’re reading or listening to the story, and hopefully that’ll set your mind at ease.