Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jonathan Maberry: Man in Progress (A Three Part Perspective)

(Author Jonathan Maberry)

by Anthony Servante

Thank you, dear readers, for joining us for the first of a three-part series on Jonathan Maberry. This month we will review the writings of the man to date. In part two, next month, we will have an interview with the writer and a review of his current work, Dead of Night. In part three, we will have a "guest blog" from Mr. Maberry himself, which should delight all his fans.

Part One: Origins and Transitions

Jonathan Maberry was born on May 18, 1958. A Pennsylvania native, Maberry has had a career in progress from martial arts to story-teller. Maberry is a 7th degree black belt in Shinowara-Ryu Jujutsu and a 5th degree black belt in Yu Sool Hapkido. He has written instructional books in the principles and practice of self-defense and fighting technique in various disciplines. Not only did he attain the physical prowess to achieve ranking but has also maintained the mental balance required to keep his body attuned to a philosophy of self-discipline. He followed up his martial arts training with a study in folklore. As a folklorist, he has written nonfiction books exploring the folklore of vampires, werewolves and supernatural creatures, in addition to the folklore of cryptids, as in cryptic beasts as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the Chupacabra, etc. In an epithetic moment, Maberry combined his studies to create the horrific work he has become known for today. We shall discuss each of these phases of the career of Jonathan Maberry, man in progress.

To appreciate the man behind the martial arts, we should understand the nature of the disciplines Maberry has mastered. Jujutsu is a Japanese form of self-defense, or more accurately, an offensive style of self-protection. Ironically, the word ‘ju’ means gentle or yield in English and jutsu means technique or discipline; thus together, it might be restated in English as a defensive offense. Passive force can cause an opponent’s or attacker’s aggression into a weapon that is turned against him. A mugger lunges at me, I move aside, and the mugger’s momentum carries him past me; I can direct the momentum with a push so that the aggressor loses balance, falls, or slams into a wall, depending on the severity of the danger. Maberry says, “Fighting is about attack and defense.” In Hapkido, “like other forms of jujutsu, it emphasizes throwing techniques and joint manipulations to effectively control, subdue, or injure an attacker. Of particular importance is the timing of a defensive technique to either blend or neutralize an incoming attack's effectiveness and use the force of the attacker's movement against them” (Wiki). In 2004 Jonathan Maberry was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame. He wrote: Self-Defense for Every Woman (1985), Introduction to Asian Martial Arts (1986), The Self-Defense Instructor’s Handbook (1990), Judo and You (1991), Ultimate Jujutsu Principles and Practices (2002), The Martial Arts Student Logbook (2002), and Ultimate Sparring Principles and Practices (Strider Nolan, 2003).

These techniques have become important for Maberry as a student of the form but also as a writer who would later in his career ‘choreograph’ fights in his stories. But he needed one more ingredient to complete the mix to begin writing horror novels: in addition to staging realistic fights in realistic places, he also needed an imaginary foe or antagonist on which to wield this defensive attack, and it is from his study of folklore that he found the terrible and horrific opponents for his fictional heroes.

Maberry’s study began with the vampire. But he was concerned that the traditional definition of the night-creature was limited to Bram Stoker’s description of the blood-sucker. Maberry thus turned to science to bring the vampire and zombie closer to a nonfictional creature to create a monster worthy of the readers’ suspension of disbelief. In his research for folklore studies he found the tweak in tradition that he needed for what F. Paul Wilson calls a “dreaded epiphany”, that is, a realization that combines parallel ideas to create a new form, a hybrid idea. With the other creatures of folklore and science to help flesh out his new monstrosities, Maberry began writing his books and creating various series in horror. “Horror stories are about creating a scenario in which something horrific is presented in such a way that readers are willing to suspend their disbelief. We want them to accept the possibility of a werewolf or a demon or vampire. We want readers to buy into the reality of humans pitted against something supernatural–or unnatural” (Maberry, 2010).

His research gave us such nonfiction books as Vampire Universe: The Dark World of
Supernatural Beings That Hunt Us, Haunt Us and Hunger For Us (2006), The Cryptopedia: A Dictionary of the Weird, Strange and Downright Bizarre (2007), Bram Stoker Award winner for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction, and ZOMBIE CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead (2008), while his imagination gave us the fictional series: Benny Imura (Rot & Ruin [2010] and Dust & Decay [2011]), Joe Ledger (Patient Zero [2009], The Dragon Factory [2010], and The King of Plagues [2011]), and Pine Deep Trilogy (Ghost Road Blues [2006], Dead Man’s Song [2007], and Bad Moon Rising [2008]). In addition to his novels, The Wolfman (2010) and his latest, Dead of Night (to be reviewed by yours truly in Part Two of the Maberry Perspective in The Black Glove, February issue), Maberry has written for Marvel Comics, and writes Jonathan’s Big Scary Blog on

So, from martial arts to folklore to horror, Jonathan Maberry has progressed from a nonfiction writer to a writer of fiction, but it was a combination of influences: the duality of Jujutsu, the supernatural monsters of folklore incorporated into normal natural situations, and a desire to put his brand of horror on these same monsters that brought him to this point. He has succeeded in that respect as the words, “…the next Stephen King”, are commonly used in most articles about him, and rightly so.

That concludes Part One of the Maberry Perspective: Man in Progress. In Part Two we will have an interview with Jonathan Maberry and the "Servante of Darkness" analysis of "Dead of Night". And in Part Three we will have a surprise from Jonathan, so be sure to join us next month, dear readers.

--Anthony Servante