Zombie Sex Appeal and Why We Can’t Get Enough of Them

It always amuses me how when I’m working on a particular project – whether for myself or for others – it seems like all the news organizations and websites I like to read seem to pop out of the woodwork with related articles. I’ve already posted about Cracked’s “7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail Quickly” article (which you can read right here), but two other zombie-related articles have popped up that seemed rather interesting, so I thought I’d take a moment to share.

First up is Cinematical’s article Can Zombies Trump Vampires Even Without the Sex Appeal?. In all honesty, I was unaware there was even a competition between vampires and zombies. They’re so different and appeal to two completely different audiences in most cases that I can’t imagine why Cinematical is even comparing the two genres (and yes, I consider them two different genres). The only similarity between the two is that the creatures in question are undead.

Anyway, what I found interesting is the quote that the article uses about halfway through. I’ll reproduce here for those of you who don’t like following outside links:

The idea is that after years on the sidelines, flicks like Dawn of the Dead, Resident Evil, and Zombieland have come, earning big bucks and thrusting the ghoulish undead into the spotlight. And now that Twilight is winding down and new projects like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are on the way, there’s the idea that one undead menace can replace another.

The zombie playbook needs a rewrite, something that pushes zombie evolution forward to open up new possibilities. The obvious target is their intelligence. Aside from their typically lethargic pace, zombies have traditionally been mindless killing machines that could fairly easily be dispatched. … What zombies most often offer in a universal sense taps into humans’ baser desires: to rule the world and to kill without remorse or repercussion.

I thought this was particularly interesting in light of both The Becoming and in Mira Grant’s Feed, which I’ve been re-reading a little. The idea of making zombies more intelligent is one that I toyed with as far back as the very very first incarnation of The Becoming, when it didn’t even have a name and featured a character named Coty Peterson and her four-year-old daughter Ana. If you read that particular draft, the current version of The Becoming that’s being written would be completely unrecognizable to most of you. (And that’s thanks to CrackBerry.com‘s Kevin Michaluk asking me, “Can you write me into the book?” because apparently he’d always wanted to be written into one lol. Which basically means I have him to thank for being able to even finish the novel.) The intelligence levels of the zombie have been the one constant between both the earliest versions of my novel and the current one being worked on. In The Becoming, the zombies are much more intelligent than the ones typically portrayed in the genre – they’re able to strategize and recognize patterns. And though that’s shown a little in The Becoming, specifically when the safe house in Maplesville is attacked, the idea is going to come more into play in its sequel, which I’ve been loosely outlining on the side (and will possibly be called The Changing, but that’s a working title right now).

Mira Grant does something similar in Feed. In her novel, the zombies develop more of a hive mind than any sort of intelligence. On its own, a single zombie is almost no threat (almost, because it can still kill you and eat your face off). But, in her universe, when a group of zombies gets together, they become more cunning and begin to work like packs of wild dogs to corner their victims. It’s rather interesting how she portrays it, and I was glad to see another author doing the same.

Which leads me to the other article, which was posted on Unabashedly Bookish: The BN Community Blog. It was titled 2010: The Year of the Zombie, and unlike the Cinematical article, it more straightforwardly predicts that the majority of the best books of the year involved zombies or zombie-like creatures. The article is intended to promote zombie-related books, such as the aforementioned Feed by Mira Grant and the upcoming The Living Dead 2 anthology (which I hope and pray comes out in eBook because I really want to read it), but it offers some interesting food for thought:

So why can’t readers – and writers – get enough of zombies? [John Joseph] Adams shares some theories:

“Zombies are:
• an enemy that used to be us, that we can become at any time;
• a canvas writers can use to comment on almost anything;
• a morality-free way to fulfill a world-destruction fantasy;
• a monster that remains scary and cannot be easily romanticized.”

I agree with all of these points, especially the utilization of zombies as allegory. Zombies can be representative of humankind’s sheep-like tendencies or political and religious prejudice or just about any human defect…greed, rampant consumerism, apathy, etc.

(emphasis mine)

I think that the B&N blogger who wrote this article missed something with the bold part, especially considering they missed what I’m striving to show with The Becoming (and which is most evident in the final draft): that zombies can be used to show the inherent good in humanity, because the undead throw into sharp relief everything that makes us human, the bad AND the good: love, honor, friendship, compassion, and all those other good things that truly make us human, right alongside all the hatred and apathy and greed and the other negative emotions and actions humanity is capable of. It’s why when people ask me what my book is about, I don’t say, “It’s a zombie novel.” I say, “It’s a post-apocalyptic novel about a group of friends trying to help each other survive.”

Anyway, enough rambling. I really should be writing. Any thoughts on this? I do love a healthy debate and discussion. 😀

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