I’ll be over at Matt Moore’s blog today – http://mattmoorewrites.wordpress.com/ – and he’s here on mine… crazy world we live in, right? Anyway, pull up a chair and learn more about, well, Moore…
Zombies don’t get their fair share of attention. Vampires, werewolves and Frankenstein’s monster have had the Hollywood treatment. And while we zombie fans have The Walking Dead, vampires have had Buffy, Angel, Dark Shadows, Forever Knight, Vampire Diaries, Tru Blood and more on TV. Aside from World War Z, what’s the last zombie bestseller you can name?
Why the short end?
Vampires can be brutal or sparkly; monstrous or brooding, tragic figures. They can be whatever your need them to be. And werewolves have self-loathing built in—from The Howling to Michael’s Jackson’s “Thriller” video.
Zombies don’t have that complexity. They’re just ruthlessly violent. The only variation is fast or slow, and Romero Rules (all corpses come back to life) or Snyder Rules (you have to be bit or otherwise infected to turn). Compare that to all the various rules for vampires—the effect of sunlight, garlic or silver; do they mentally control their victoms; are they soulless monsters or keep their identity; can they fly or change shape?
So zombie fiction and film are viewed with distain—violent, crass, seen-one-you’ve-seen-’em-all.
While fans of the zombie sub-genre hungers for a good ‘ole tale of blood and guts, the larger horror and speculative fiction community tells us to do something original if we want to be taken seriously. Allegory, metaphor, theme. And maybe they have a point.
A mindless hoard of zombies presents opportunities for storytelling that tragic, brooding or even bloodthirsty individual figures never could. Consider how Romero used the same “ghoul” to explore racism (Night of the Living Dead), consumerism (Dawn of the Dead), militarism (Day of the Dead) and classism (Land of the Dead). World War Z was much more about man’s inhumanity to man where the Great Panic doomed us, not the undead. “Pageant Girls” by Caroline Yoachim gives new meaning to dying to be thin. [“Pageant Girls”: http://pseudopod.org/2011/05/06/pseudopod-228-flash-on-the-borderlands-vii-tableaux-displays/] Heck, even the Borg are a form of zombie. (Hat tip to Adam Shaftoe for pointing that out to me.) [Adam Shaftoe: http://www.pageofreviews.com/]
In my own story telling, I’ve tried to turn zombies on their head in my upcoming story in Undead Tales 2, which will be out soon by Rymfire Undead Books. “But It’s Not The End” uses intelligent zombies—the undead who retain their pre-death personalities. Here, I try to tell a good zombie tale but also ask the questions: What makes someone a “person”. And with more to lose, the zombies are more invested in their own humanity than their human handlers.
Another story is “Ascension”, which you can read on AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review at http://aescifi.ca/index.php/fiction/35-short-stories/714-ascension] In a very short (750 words) story, I present the zombie apocalypse in full, bloody glory while telling the story from the zombie’s point of view. Rather than mindless horror as the hunger overtakes the main character, something wonderful is happening. As the body goes one way, the mind goes another. Not to give it away, but the title “Ascension” is deliberate.
How else can zombie horror tell new stories and still be horrific? Can zombies breed sexually? What about uber-zombies that only feed on zombies (think the Reapers from Blade II)? Do zombies have the ultimately efficient metabolism and can function for days or weeks on a minimum of caloric intake? Let’s hear your ideas on how we can breathe new life into zombie stories.
SHAMELESS PLUG: If you liked “Ascension” or just want to give zombies their fair shake, consider nominating it for the Prix Aurora Award. If you are a Canadian citizen, permanent resident and long-time resident, you can nominate. It costs $10, but registration is easy. Voting closes midnight on March 31. Visit http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/Membership/ for more information. Please help zombie horror win!!!