Zombies. The living dead. What makes the specter of the zombie apocalypse so compelling that even the CDC has begun using it as a way to get visibility for their disaster preparedness web page?
I suspect a couple of reasons.
- We all have last human standing fantasies. . . unless that's just me and I need to see my MD about meds. . . but you *do*, right? You know - the last person on earth thing? You're alone and finally, FINALLY, you rule the world!
- We're already living the zombie apocalypse in some sense - there's a theory out there (written up on the back of the original Walking Dead graphic novels, in fact) that the entire zombie trope is social commentary. This interpretation appeals to me. How many of us feel like we're living in a world where most people don't question their choices, or examine their motives? We all know people who do what's expected - get married, have the 2.5 children, get up, go to work day in and day out until the day they die. This isn't a bad thing IF it's what these people consciously chose because it gave them joy to choose it. Yeah. I see you shaking your head. Questioning, much less acting counter to, societal expectation is HARD. Thus: The living dead. The great thing about zombies is that every single individual on earth is entirely able to feel like he or she is the only person really alive and that everyone *else* are the zombies. Brilliant marketing, undead. Brilliant marketing.
As far as writing any of the undead in a cool, new way? I'm not sure I'd worry about it. No. I take that back. I'm sure I wouldn't worry about it. Remember how incensed people got over vampires that sparkle as if they were fairies? Most of our monsters come complete with a preset canon of 'rules'. If you follow zombie lore at all, there's something akin to a religious debate over whether zombies are slow, shambling things or insanely fast and agile. The arguments get heated. My take is: Why limit yourself? If I can up my body count by having zombies of all kinds, I'm there. The point it took me forever to get to is that if you want originality in your monster story, invent a new monster or save the quest for 'orginal' for the rest of the story.
Check out World War Z by Max Brooks. The audiobook is fabulously good. Cast of hundreds - some actors you'll recognize. The great thing about this story is that it touches on just about every aspect mentioned this week. Social commentary, political commentary, man against nature, and man's inhumanity to man - but it doesn't leave it there. Max Brooks does exactly what James encouraged us to do - he dug deeper and wrote about what that inhumanity costs the person who exhibits it.
This is why zombies are interesting to me, even if I haven't watched much more than Army of Darkness and Resident Evil. There's so much rich material there. So many human foibles to exploit among the survivors. That's far more interesting than the soulless, emotionless, relentless drive the zombies have for your delectable brain. Mmm. Pudding!