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San Diego 2014:  The Last Stand of the California Browncoats

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San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats

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Author: Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit, 2012
Series: Newsflesh

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Book Type: Novella
Genre: Horror
Sub-Genre Tags: Zombies
Post-Apocalyptic Horror
Avg Member Rating:
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Hugo-nominated Novella

It was the summer of 2014, and the true horrors of the Rising were only just beginning to reveal themselves. Fans from all over the world gathered in San Diego, California for the annual comic book and media convention, planning to forget about the troubling rumors of new diseases and walking dead by immersing themselves in a familiar environment. Over the course of five grueling days and nights, it became clear that the news was very close to home... and that most of the people who picked up their badges would never make it out alive.


If you are reading this, it is dedicated to you.
This world, and this war, has always been yours.

Prologue: Chasing the Story

The Rising is not a single narrative; there is no one true story that unifies that entire bloody summer, no one event which exemplifies the human experience. It is a piece of history like any other, a tapestry of lives which, viewed in total, may someday give us that rarest of commodities: We may, by looking at them all, someday discover the truth.
-- Mahir Gowda

When I was a kid, people used to talk about living in the future. Well, I live in the future. I want to go back to living in the past.
-- Lorelei Tutt
Captain, United States Coast Guard

The San Diego International Comic Convention was an annual event which drew hundreds of thousands of comic book, science fiction, fantasy, and horror enthusiasts from around the world. For a week every year, San Diego's Gaslight District would be transformed into a strange new country, one with its own traditions, rules, and hazards. It was a golden age for what those enthusiasts called "fandom," and as with all golden ages, it was not properly recognized until it was over. It's easy to look back on July of 2014 from our modern perspective, with our full knowledge of what was already happening to the world, and condemn the people who chose to attend that year's comic book convention, or "Comic-Con." We tell ourselves that they should have known better. But why should they have known better? It was a different time. It was a more innocent era. And the fans of the world were descending, as they always did, on San Diego, California. The following narrative has been assembled from eyewitness accounts, security footage, social media updates, and various other sources that I am not currently at liberty to disclose. Some of the events described may not have happened in this exact fashion, but for once, I have put aside the goal of absolute truth in favor of a greater goal: understanding. To truly understand what it was like for those brave souls who died in the first major San Diego outbreak, we must first understand what it meant to be them...
-- From San Diego 2014 by Mahir Gowda, June 11, 2044.


Lorelei Tutt is a harshly attractive woman in her forties, tall and lean, with scars from her combat gear on her hands and elbows. Her naturally brown hair is streaked with natural gray and sterilization blonde, and she wears it in a short-cropped, almost military style that does nothing to soften the lines of her face. She walks with a subtle limp, the result of learning to walk on a prosthetic right leg at the age of twenty-five. Her left eye is shaped normally but filmed with cataract white from an old war injury. She moves with studied precision, and it is clear from her expression that she is not happy to see me.

The front room of her London flat is at odds with her appearance: The time she spent in the United States Coast Guard has left her seeming businesslike and cool, but her decor is that of a teenage member of the science fiction and fantasy subculture that thrived before the Rising. Books and assorted forms of recorded media pack her shelves, and the walls are covered in posters advertising long-canceled television shows, long-forgotten movies.

She indicates that I should sit. She does not do the same. Her accent is American: She may have left the country of her birth after she left the Coast Guard, but some things are not so easily forgotten.

LORELEI: You know, I don't know why you people keep coming looking for me, sniffing around the graves like this. San Diego was thirty years ago. There's no reason to keep dredging up what happened.

MAHIR: Actually, ma'am, that's precisely why people are becoming interested again. Thirty years...that's long enough for terror to fade and nostalgia to start taking over. Did you hear that there's been talk of doing another convention? The city of San Diego has expressed a willingness to host it. They think it might help restore the tourist trade.

Lorelei freezes. I have never seen this happen so literally before: One moment I am speaking to a living, if cold, woman, and the next, I am sharing a room with a statue made of flesh. When she speaks again, what little human warmth her voice contained is gone.

LORELEI: This interview is over. Get out.

MAHIR: You never intended to speak with me today, did you? [silence from Lorelei] That's your right, of course, but I have to ask you... why? Why did you let me come here if you weren't intending to actually have a conversation about what happened?

Copyright © 2012 by Mira Grant


San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the Califo...

- Nymeria


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