August 26, 2013

Seven Zombie Reading Lists

Here are seven worthwhile zombie fiction reading lists.

From the Barnes and Noble Book Blog
Published June, 2013

From Barnes and Noble
Published April, 2013


Published November, 2012

From The Monster Librarian
Updated August, 2013

From Survivor of the Dead
Publication date not available

From ZWeapons Zombie Defense

Published 2013

From Zombie Place

Published 2013

August 15, 2013

Four Thought-Pieces about Zombie Fiction

Here's a collection of four interesting articles about zombie fiction available on the web.  Some are analytical, some are historical. All shed some light on zombie fiction and the evolution of the genre

by Joe Fassler
Realistic stories once dominated American literature, but now writers are embracing the fantastical. What happened?
From The Atlantic, October 2011. Might spark a bit of debate because it includes Justin Cronin's The Passage. Interesting commentary on the initial reception of that novel. 

The State of Zombie Literature: An Autopsy
By Terrence Rafferty

The thing about these newly empowered 21st-century zombies is that they keep coming at you, relentlessly, wave upon wave of necrotic, mindlessly voracious semi-­beings.
This article was published August 5th, 2011 in the New York Times "Sunday Book Review" section. Too bad he was wrong. Zombie fiction seems to be alive and well.

Zombie Renaissance
By Mark McGurl 

Critics have been worrying about the death of the novel for decades, and the publication of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is unlikely to change that. 
This solid evaluation of three different books was published originally in N+1 magazine's issue 9. Republished on the web July 1, 2013. It begins as a book review, ends with a thorough history.

Zombie Love: Chewing on the Entrails of Genre
Mark Williams

I want to consider contemporary Horror through the seemingly vacant, unblinking eyes of one particular subspecies: Zombie narratives.
Published at The Werewolf  on June 11, 2013. A little heady, a little ramble-ish, but interesting nonetheless.

August 13, 2013

Zombie Iterations

The Great Zombie Divide

By now, almost everyone knows about the Romero/Boyle divide. That's not a chasm that's recently appeared in the deserts of Nevada. It's a distinction between two types of zombies.

Romero zombies (i.e. Night of the Living Dead zombies) are slow, mindless, and dulled. Boyle zombies (28 Days Later zombies) move quickly, can solve problems, and have heightened senses or skills. Over the years, zombies added speed.

But those are movies. What about books? Zombie fiction generally falls into one or the other of these categories. Lately, though, there has been an evolutionary leap.

Zombie Iterations: Roll the Dice

Zombie authors are constantly developing new iterations and variations on these themes. Zombie readers aren't limited to slow vs. fast or smart vs. dumb. We can have our zombies almost any way we want 'em.

Zombie Fiction offers

  • Disease-based zombies
  • Alien-intervention zombies
  • Chemically-induced zombies
  • Voodoo zombies

We can have our zombies

  • Stupid or Scary Smart
  • Distracted or Determined
  • Slow or Swift
  • Clumsy or Adept
  • Easy to Stop or Inexorable 

Our zombies can have any combination of qualities

  • Mindless hunger
  • Violence
  • Mob mentality
  • Ability to swarm
  • Animal instinct
  • Capacity to love
  • Pathos
  • Philosophy
  • Ironic humor
  • False humanity

It's like the old "choose your own casserole" recipes. Choose a starch, choose a protein, add a topping, apply heat, serve.

It's like a Chinese restaurant. Choose one from Column A and two from Column B, add an appetizer, and remember to tip your server.

Really, it's a kind of perfect formula.

Role-playing games have used this kind of system for decades.

Choose an inception, choose a motivation, add abilities, place in circumstances, add conflict, bash some brains.

Side Note: While we're chatting about brains, there's something that's been bothering me. Why do some people say that zombies want to EAT  our brains? Zombies want to eat our FLESH, don't they? I think we kill them by attacking their brains, not the other way around. Romero agrees.  That's another division, for another time. 

Make Mine Slow and Mindless, Please

I want room for all varieties of zombie fiction. Still, I do have preferences. Who doesn't?

I have a penchant for the ordinary zombie.

As the old Julie Brown song goes: "I like 'em big and stupid." I want my zombies to be slow, imbecilic, decaying entities with mindless hunger and terrifying inertia. I want them to mass accidentally, not swarm with purpose or communication. I want to kill them with a headshot to the brain. Preferably at close range.

In short, I want my zombies predictable. I want my zombie authors to create a story of survival. Sure I'll take a few minor variations here and there. Let it be a fungus instead of a virus, that's okay. Let the mass of rotting shamblers push over a wall or two; I'll take it. Let there be a flicker or two of brain activity, the dimmest glimpse of possibility.

But please stop there.

I want violence without consequence. I mean, they are already dead, AND they are attacking me... it's legitimate violence with minimal compassion required.

What I really want is to find out how ordinary people like me might manage. I want to imagine that I just might make it through.

Oh, and I want to be the most bad-ass female ever. I want to be Georgia Mason.

I want to keep on reading till I find a dozen other characters I want to be.

All Zombie Iterations Welcome Here

The point is that zombie authors can start with two basic categories, but there are infinite variations. I don't know exactly how to make sense of it, but I am going to try. Maybe I'll develop a rating system. You know, like the zombies get four stars for intelligence, two stars for mobility, and one star for determination.

For example, zombies with five stars for determination would be those that keep on going even without the bottom half of their bodies. You know that one, right? Even she has a backstory. One star for mobility, zero stars for intelligence, five stars for determination.

Extra credit for inspiring compassion? Yeah. I guess so. Even though I hate it.

August 7, 2013

The Disappointment of Surviving in Zombie Fiction

The Disappointment of Surviving in Zombie Fiction


Jule Romans

So, you're a character in zombie fiction. This means you are a survivor. That's great, right?  So many other characters have expired in horrible circumstances. You have not. You are surviving the zombie apocalypse.  

You should be grateful. 

Unfortunately, being a survivor in zombie fiction can be pretty disappointing.  Here are eight particular disappointments that are regularly suffered by zombie fiction characters- and all of them are created by zombie authors.


Disappointment Number One:

You're Still Alive.

Somehow, staying alive is a deeply disappointing imperative. Your zombie author is essentially required to subject you to this torment.

Most characters in zombie novels consider suicide at least once. They may drag themselves through each day, but at some point they simply want to give up. Zombie books are littered with the corpses of random individuals who just couldn't take the pressure. Most of the time your zombie author makes it only a minor character or two.

Sometimes the ones who have given up are simply discovered after they've done themselves in. Every day, your zombie author will send vicious and ambulatory corpses who want to eat you or make you one of them. Every day, the bodies of living victims will remind you what's in store.

The very fact that you are alive is a kind of burden to be borne, a burden you would almost prefer to put down forever. But you don't. Why? That's the whole deal--

You survive. Somehow you continue. Somehow you develop hope. Or the hope that there will someday be a hope. Running underneath, always, is the trickle of survivor guilt, fed by an inexhaustible supply of confrontations with death. Who wouldn't be disappointed? Only two kinds of people: the insane, and the villainous.

Which leads us to-

Disappointment Number Two:

The zombies aren't your greatest enemy.

The greatest threat to survivors is not zombies. It's other survivors. Slavers, desperadoes, idiots, zealots, cult leaders, cannibals, pirates, and just plain crazy people will be everywhere. You are more likely to meet a surviving polar bear in an abandoned Florida zoo than you are to meet a stranger who is immediately worthy of your trust.

Luckily, you'll either be a completely self-sufficient and independent type, or you will already have a small band of comrades. Of course, those comrades have one drawback.

Disappointment Number Three:

You're pretty much stuck with the same people for a long time- unless they die.

Once you hook up with other characters, they are likely to be yours for keeps. If they are really annoying or dangerous, you can count on the fact that they will probably die. Someone has to. You'll have a crew of three to seven others who are reasonably tolerable. You have them. They have you. That's it. You're going to need each other, since-

Disappointment Number Four:

It's not going to get better anytime soon.

Let's face it. It CAN'T get better. Your zombie author can't very well reverse the apocalypse just for you. Well, he can. But he won't. So you are just going to have to deal. This is disappointing, I know.
But think of the great service you are doing for those of us who read. Your continued suffering keeps us engaged. Be grateful for the little things, and get busy killing zombies.

Every once in a while you'll get a little rest. While you're resting, you can drink tea or coffee substitute, because-

Disappointment Number Five:

There will be no new manufactured anything.

Dark roasted coffee beans are not going to be replaced. There will be no more shampoo. Salted cocktail peanuts will never again be packed in vacuum sealed jars and shipped across the country in airplanes. If you do get coffee, shampoo, peanuts, shredded coconut, or Kool-Aid, you had better hang on tight. But don't hang on too long.

Once the items go stale or spoil, you can't eat them anyway. Whatever you have, that's about the last you'll ever see of it. Even if there is a reflourishing of society in your lifetime, there's NO WAY the same products are gong to be developed in the same way as all your old favorites were.  There just aren't enough people to create them. So-

Disappointment Number Six:

You have to repopulate the earth.

Wait a minute. Some characters would not find that disappointing at all. Let's try again.
You have to repopulate the earth with people who can no longer bathe regularly and are in a bad mood all the time. 
That just does not sound like fun. There is no Ryan Gosling in the Zombie Apocalypse. Even Ryan Gosling wouldn't look like Ryan Gosling after fighting zombies and sleeping in a ditch for three months. You can't look forward to endless romance. You can't look forward to much else, really, because-

Disappointment Number Seven:
The best you can hope for is a bittersweet but hopeful ending.

Zombie authors don't often have the luxury of giving you a Cinderella story. You aren't going to find Prince Charming at the debutante's ball. You can refer to Number Four for further clarification. You might as well enjoy your current story, though. It's more than likely that-

Disappointment Number Eight:

Your next adventure probably won't be as good as this one.

Enjoy it while you can. Sequels usually suck. Except when they're part of a series. Then they're cool.

Jule Romans is the author/editor of this blog.