One of the things I’ve seen happen over the last few years is a huge expansion of what most would consider an expansion of supernatural literature. Not horror, per say, but literature that has played with the supernatural genre. Actually, it’s not literature, but writers, who’ve done this–and, if you’re guessing where I’m going with this, not for the better.
It seems that the supernatural has become . . . well, vampires are people you want your kids dating, werewolves are still violent, but they tend to walk around with their shirts off when they aren’t wolves (does this apply to female werewolves as well, cause damn . . .), and a succubus is just one more hot woman in a leather jacket.
I don’t mind any of this, because I’m not reading Twilight, or watching The Vampire Diaries, nor would I let my daughter date a werewolf, because they have fleas. I’m not like Joe Hill, who says he’s writing a vampire novel where “they go back to being fucking killers,” because it doesn’t mean that much to me–and I’m guilty of writing a sexy vampire character as well.
But there is one thing that just peeves the hell out of me. One creature that, were I in control of the universe–and in my stories, I am–I would strike from the memories of people for all time . . .
I can’t stand the damn things. Not because they are horrifying, but because they are about as dumb as one can get, and still have something horrifying. Zombies are the Deliverance hillbillies of the supernatural world; they’re only dangerous if you walk into their world like idiots and let them rape you. Otherwise, they’re about as scary as a hangnail.
Doesn’t mean they aren’t popular: I knew of Night of the Living Dead, I know of The Walking Dead, I watching 28 Days Later–though the later doesn’t say The Zed Word. I just don’t understand the mindset of people who think living though this version of the End of the World would be super cool–pretty much the same way I couldn’t understand why living though a nuclear apocalypse would be the bee’s knees for some people.
But the whole “Zombie Apocalypse will take out the World!” meme just doesn’t make sense. Hell, nothing about the Zedlings makes sense. When you have Cracked.com pointing out how stupid the whole thing is, you’re on the downhill slide, folks.
Oh, sure: people aren’t watching The Walking Dead because of the zombies. They’re watching it because Rick kills shit while not using his British accent; Michonne is totally badass; and they’re waiting for Lori to bite the big one in a way that will make them stand up and cheer. (As River Song would say, “Spoilers!” Click that at your own risk!) Zombies are just sorta there to make life interesting.
But in, say, the town where I live, why worry about zombies? I mean, how many are going to come back? What are “the freshly dead”? Maybe twenty people over three, four days? That many cops show up to give two teenagers a speeding ticket in this town. I’m assuming that if someone crawls out of the ground after three days and begins wandering about the town square, the dead aren’t getting The Zombie Jesus treatment; they’ll likely get a beat down and a half. And even in a city like Chicago, maybe a few hundred people are coming out of the ground? Hell, street gangs would have a field day playing bullet tag with these shambling fools. Or they’d get hit by CTA buses. Either way, not a good day for the dead.
Why shoot them in the head? They’re dead; there’s no cognitive functionality, so the brain controls nothing. In fact, the brain should have leaked out of their ears after a week, so there’ll be little more than gray goop sloshing around in the cranium. Take a shotgun and blow off a leg, then set them on fire. Or better, let them rot in the sun. Rinse, repeat. Sure, it’s gonna stink, but it’s not like they don’t smell already.
Why do zombies want to eat you? Because from what I see, they don’t need to eat to survive. Oh, sure, they ate people in Night of the Living Dead, but why? And after everyone is dead, then what? Go to Dennys’ for brunch? At least 28 Days Later–”Don’t say the Zed Word!”–had everyone in England, Wales, and Scotland starving to dead after a few weeks. So zombies want to eat my brains, and then what? Invent a cure for cancer?
There is a reason why people love zombie stories: because it gives the reader or viewer the chance to look at the characters are marvel at their massive dumbassery. ”Hey, look: a dead guy walking around! I think I’ll stand here and laugh at him until he’s within arm’s reach, then–AHHHHHH!” Or you get my favorite part of 28 Weeks Later, where someone is found alive, seemingly unaffected by the virus that’s killed millions of people, and people are puzzled as to how this is possible. At the moment people are living in a very small, isolated, military-controlled section of London, so what do the people in charge do with this survivor? ”Lets put her in this unlocked room right in the middle of where everyone is living, and anyone can gain access to her! I mean, what could go wrong, mate?” The more one sees of Wile E. Coyote shit like this, the more one becomes convinced that were they to find themselves in the middle of the ZA, they’d be wrackin’ up the dead body count.
Zombies are dumb, literally and figuratively. But people love them, and it seems all you need to do this day is put the Zed Word on the cover of a book, and you’ve got a best seller a-brewin’. Brave New World with Zombies! 2001 a Space Zombie! A Clockwork Zombie! I mean, if people are going to go ga-ga over some ninety year old dead guy who’s zoomin’ high school girls with self-esteem issues, imagine what they’re gonna do when you’re characters are blowing the heads off dead guys–or unable to keep their kids in the house? But I digress . . .
What do I know, though? I mean, I’ve been writing for a while, and I’ve dipped into what I could call the “soft supernatural”–sort of it’s own form of “cosy catastrophe“. Though you won’t see any zombies in my stories. Vampires, demons, ghosts, wizards, oh yeah. But zombies?
I think I could write my first short story using them. A real short story . . .