A quick question for the masses:
What is your favorite zombie movie, book, TV series, game, play, puppet show, song, or other media? How you define “zombie” is up to you.
A quick question for the masses:
What is your favorite zombie movie, book, TV series, game, play, puppet show, song, or other media? How you define “zombie” is up to you.
I keep forgetting that I have this blog. Well, no, it’s not that I forget about it; it’s more like, in this world of Twitter and Facebook, it’s much easier to just post 140 characters and forget about it. Blogging seems like so much more work.
So here’s some updates.
First, before I get to the writing updates, here’s an important one: I’m changing domains. I’ve had mossroot.com for over ten years and I’ll feel sad to leave it behind, but underpope.com seems so much more appropriate since I’m “Underpope” everywhere else on the Intertubes. A domain that reflects that just seemed natural. It’s all about growing the brand, you know? So go and change your links, your bookmarks, your feedreaders, etc.
Plus, this clever old-time photograph of the monkey at the typewriter seemed very appropriate for me. After all, it’s a monkey! And it’s typing! How friggin’ cute is that! And since my very own personal slogan is “Code monkey by day, word monkey by night”, the image could not be more fitting.
And now for some writing updates:
Code Monkey! Originally I had planned for this novel to just be a throwaway project for National Novel Writing Month. I had fun writing it, and fun putting it on line, chapter by chapter, for my friends to read. But then enough people (that is, more than one) suggested I actually push forward with it because it apparently has some potential. So I’m in the process of heavily editing it for possible submission to somewhere in the future. And I’m talking some serious edits. I swear, on some pages there is more red ink than black. (This is the reason I took down the original novel online. I could no longer stand the thought of people reading the original crap version.)
|Also, My short story, “A Most Heinous Man”, which was published in Issue 33 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, will be published in their second “Best of Horror” anthology. I don’t have a publication date for it yet, but I will be sure to update here once I find out.|
|My short story “Night of the Frozen Elf” (available in a slightly typo-ridden version here) will be collected in a new anthology, The Undead that Saved Christmas. You can probably guess from the title that it’s a collection of Christmas-themed zombie stories. All proceeds from this anthology will go to support the Hugs Foster Family Agency. It’s a good cause, so when the book becomes available, please go and buy many, many copies.|
|And, finally, if you’re thinking about contributing to my speculative fiction webzine, Daikaijuzine, we’re now open for submissions again. It’s a great ‘zine, with great content, if I do say so myself. Check it out and spread the word.|
For now, that’s about it. In the future, I plan to actually post more actual content. But, then, I always say that, don’t I?
Today, of course, was the 70th birthday of filmmaker George Romero. Romero is responsible for a number of films, such as The Dark Half, the original version of The Crazies (a remake of which is soon to be released), Martin, and plenty of others. What the world really remembers him for, and probably always will, is his Living Dead series of films: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and the upcoming Survival of the Dead. (It’s worth noting that each of these films has been remade at least once, usually with inferior results, though Zach Snyder’s version of Dawn of the Dead is arguably a quality film on its own merits). Night of the Living Dead was the first film to feature the modern zombie: the shuffling, moaning, flesh eating corpse that in large numbers poses a significant threat to civilization; and even though the word “zombie” did not show up in any of Romero’s Living Dead films (the creatures are more technically ghouls than zombies), they’re the perennial classics of the genre.
What’s funny, though, is that even though Romero pioneered the genre, and just about everyone, when asked to name the most influential zombie film will name Night of the Living Dead, the version of the undead zombie which has permeated pop culture is very different from Romero’s undead. The modern pop culture zombie shuffles about just like Romero’s did, but also cracks open human skulls to munch on human brains. The brain-munching seems to have its origin in The Return of the Living Dead (directed by Dan O’Bannon) and its sequels. Note that Romero had nothing to do with these films. In these films, zombies walk, munch brains (“Because,” one zombie explains, “being dead hurts”, and eating brains soothes that pain), and can even talk (“Send more cops”, says one zombie at one point). But you can’t kill them just by decapitating them as you can with Romero-style zombies; if you cut the arm off of a O’Bannon zombie, and now the zombie still comes after you as does its separated arm. Cut off its head, and the head keeps biting and the body keeps shambling. The only way to kill an O’Bannon zombie is to incinerate it completely, although the ash still contains the chemical that set it into motion in the first place.
So, anyway, the modern pop culture zombie seems to be an amalgamation of the two breeds of zombie: they shuffle (Romero), moan (Romero + O’Bannon), eat brains (O’Bannon), and can be killed by decapitation (Romero). They’re not articulate, but they can moan after “Brraaaaiiiinnnnssss”.
I’ve already shared with you my theories about the zombie apocalypse (in “It’s All About the Zombies“); now you’ve been subjected to my theory about the origin of the modern pop culture zombie. I don’t claim to be the font of all zombe lore, but I may end up getting there at some point.
You write one zombie story (or two or a half dozen), express a fondness for zombie movies like Day of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead and read zombie-themed books like Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel, and suddenly you have a reputation as a zombie head.
I had a zombie themed Christmas and birthday this year. From the remote control zombie (pictured to the left and available at Think Geek if you’re interested) I received from Jennifer’s parents to the pile of zombie books that I received from Jennifer (wrapped in zombie wrapping paper that Jennifer found, also available at Think Geek) to the two zombie board games (one from Jennifer and one from my sister Caitlyn), I’d say the holidays for me were all about the zombies.
Of course, I am into the zombies. I’m not as into them as some folks I know who dedicate a weekly podcast to reviewing zombie films (and it’s a good podcast, I recommend it) but I’d say I’m more interested in zombies than the average person.
The question, though, is why? I’ve been trying to figure out the allure that zombies have not just for myself but for popular culture at large. One of the biggest feature films of 2009 was Zombieland, after all, and before that Shaun of the Dead and Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead both did respectably well at the box office. And, of course, there are hundreds of direct-to-DVD and made-for-TV zombie movies, with at least half a dozen more coming out each month. And there are plenty of books out there as well; the afore-mentioned Stupidest Angel as well as the more recent Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament (not to mention Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) are just among a growing number of zombie enhanced novels. And, of course, zombies are a mainstay of just about every video game out there.
Zombies are the new vampires, it was recently said (though even more recently it’s been said that “vampires are the new zombies”, which sort of implies that vampires had ever gone out of vogue).
So what is it about zombies, anyway? Why our society’s interest in them? Why our interest in a zombie apocalypse? Why is it okay to kill zombies and not other groups of people? And why my own interest in them?
Well, with regards to the zombie apocalypse, I suspect that a large part of that has to do with the fact that a zombie apocalypse, while horrifying to contemplate — all those flesh-eating ghouls running around (or shambling around, depending on which version of zombies you’re contemplating), eating the living and causing general havoc, as well as the knowledge that being bitten by one will turn you into a zombie like them — just isn’t going to happen. It’s a “safe” apocalypse, as it were. I remember when I was growing up in the 80s, when everyone was terrified of a nuclear apocalypse; these days, worrying about the nuclear apocalypse is passe, while contemplating a zombie apocalypse is cool. And yet, the nuclear apocalypse had such a sense of possibility; at any moment, we all thought, some Soviet madman or some American idiot was going to start to Final War, and everyone would die. We don’t feel similarly about the zombie apocalypse. In our imagination, the zombie apocalypse is an out of control situation, but really it’s a situation that completely under our control, simply because we do imagine it and because it just isn’t going to happen. This may simply be a reflection of the more ironic and sarcastic age that we live in these days; we’ve gotten bored of contemplating apocalypses that are too plausible (nuclear war, global famine, pandemic, etc.) and that are out of our control, so we’ve started contemplating apocalypses that are fundamentally absurd (more on this point in a bit). It’s flipping the bird to the real terrors of the world.
And why is it okay to kill zombies, but not other groups of people? When I asked this question on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, someone suggested that it was okay to kill zombies because they’re already dead. I think, though, it goes a bit deeper than that; zombies, by their very nature, are the ultimate in dehumanized humans. It’s not just that they’re dead, therefore, it’s that they’re inhuman. More than that: they’re antihuman, the antithesis of everything that a human being is. They are unintelligent, inarticulate, and they consume living human flesh, the ultimate taboo. Because they’re so offensive in that regard, they’re okay to kill. We’ve moved past a point where it’s okay to dehumanize and therefore mass slaughter our human enemies (perhaps we’ve grown to appreciate that even terrorists can be human beings as well?), so we focus on our inhuman enemies. That’s the germ of my theory at least. I’d like to see what a sociologist or social psychologist has to say about this subject.
But there’s an element of zombies which is fundamentally absurd. Zombies are menacing, to be sure, but plenty of comedy has been built up around zombies as well. The original Return of the Living Dead is as much a comedy as it is a horror film; Shaun of the Dead is, at heart, a romantic comedy; and Zombieland, of course, is equal parts comedy and adventure. Even the venerable George Romero incorporated some comedic elements in the original Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder’s remake did not have much comedy in this regard). Many of the zombie representations that we see these days, including remote control zombies and zombie wrapping paper, are just goofy. What’s up with that? I suspect that by making the zombie an object of ridicule, by laughing at the shambling creature that wants to eat our flesh (or our brains, again depending on which subset of the zombie genre you’re looking at), we’re sort of whistling past the graveyard. It goes back to the notion of the zombie apocalypse as the controllable, imaginary apocalypse; here, it becomes a symbol of every apocalypse that can happen, and so we laugh it off in order to show that we’re not afraid.
Either that, or zombies, with their shambling and their moaning, are just plain funny.
Actually, it occurs to me, reading this over, that I really have no idea what I’m talking about. I find zombies interesting and I enjoy zombie movies and stories about the zombie apocalypse, but I know that if I ever saw a zombie in real life, I’d scream like a little girl and run as fast as I could in the other direction.
I invite your comments.
Jennifer and I just finished playing House of the Dead: Overkill, the latest in the House of the Dead franchise of zombie shoot-em-up games available for the Wii. The whole series of games has featured the finest in voice-over acting, character rendering, and realistic mayhem. Or, you know…. Not. Basically, we just enjoy shooting zombies and watching the green goo splatter everywhere.
House of the Dead: Overkill is sort of a Quentin Tarantino meets Rob Zombie thing, with allusions to plenty of old monster movies and some imagery that was, frankly, a tad on the disturbing side. The story came with some twists and bits of humor that, amazingly enough, surprised me and made me laugh out loud. The final scene, with the two agents discussing the meaning of the whole situation, just made the two of us guffaw with hilarity. There’s plenty of self-parody in this game,which was hilarious and… Well, it just made the game more fun.
Those of you who know me should know why I appreciate this story about some folks who hacked into the roadside information signs to display some important information. For example:
So, if you’re driving in Austin… Be careful. And remember to aim for the head.
(Sometimes I wonder if, at the age of 41, I’m too old to be into this sort of thing. Can you ever be too old for zombies or pirates? Or zombie pirates?)
I took a quick break from writing my zombie story to browse the web, and saw this picture of John McCain:
It seriously looks like McCain is about to chow down on a helpless baby.
We seriously need to vote for Barack Obama. I, for one, do not relish the idea of cannibalistic zombies in charge of the country.
Update: Well, apparently that’s not actually Jonathan Coulton himself in the video. Just a guy who’s very good at lip-syncing. That’s okay. I still approve.
One of the things I really missed about Dragon*Con this year was Dragon*Con TV, the in-house tv network that shows parody commercials and "bumps" reminiscent of those done by AdultSwim on the Cartoon Network.
Apparently, this year they added music videos to their repertoire. Among those videos was this one of "Re: Your Brains", one of my favorite songs (because it’s got zombies), by one of my favorite singers (Jonathan Coulton). Here it is:
No, I don’t know what it is about zombies that amuses me so much. As a horror trope, they’re overdone to the point of cliche, almost as bad as vampires, and almost every zombie movies has pretty much exactly the same plot: zombies rise up, people defend themselves, lots of people die and get eaten, and at some point a loved one gets turned into a zombie: a spouse, a child, a co-worker, whatever. And as my friend Beth pointed out, my fondness for zombies seems to be at odds with my dislike of the Bush Administration.
Maybe it’s just me being trendy. I don’t know.
Whatever. Check out the video. Be amused by it.
People are still blogging like it’s the end of the world, and that’s perfectly appropriate, though I personally got zombified a couple of hours ago and my narrative self is presumably wandering the fields of Dixon, looking for fresh flesh to munch on. This kind of participatory narrative is fun to be a part of, and I’m glad I got in early. I wonder if there’s any way of knowing how many people actually took part in the whole affair? I pity Steve, over at My Elves are Different, who came up with the whole idea, but who also tasked himself with tracking everything and posting updates.
This post from Art Black was probably my favorite in its elegant simplicity.
I’m glad that a couple of people took up the idea that the zombie outbreak was due to infected produce originating from my home town. That was cool; if only we could blame all the world’s problems on mutant corn smut. A quick observation, though: in the storyline I’d started, there was actually no corn smut, it was just me in denial and pretending that the spatters of blood and bits of flesh I was seeing on the cornfields after the zombie migrant workers had gone on a rampage were a new type of fungus (I was originally going to go with ergot, then discovered that ergot doesn’t infect corn and doesn’t look as ugly anyway, though it has some really interesting hallucinagenic properties). I mean, seriously: zombiegeddon or mutant corn smut? Which would you want to believe? I was going to reveal this self deception later on, but people had already run with it so I didn’t. That was fun.
I also noticed that several people blamed the zombie apocalypse on "unknown necrotizing fasciitis". Heck, that one made it onto the Something Awful forums, and from there to Digg (though it never made it on to the Digg front page). I’m going to go out on a limb and say I can legitimately take responsibility for that with this, my first post on the theme. I did a little digging and found a post that mentions "unknown necrotizing fasciitis" and linked to my post (though I’ve lost it now). Therefore I take full responsibility for linking the zombie outbreak with "unknown necrotizing fasciitis", or UNF, or "Crawford’s Disease". Because I’m an egocentric schmuck that way, and will ignore any evidence that might contradict my thesis. I just hope that Steve remembers this when he gathers up the best outbreak reporting in a couple of days. Hint. (Note: I kid. Seriously, I do.)
I also note that my site had over 500 unique visitors today, and almost 1,100 pageviews. I think that’s more traffic than I’ve gotten over the past two months!
I asked over at My Elves are Different whether I can participate next year, and was told that apparently I’ve gone into complete remission, which I guess means yes. Huzzah!
I had lots of thoughts about how the whole thing reflects certain cultural trends not just in the US but throughout the world, and how this participatory narrative (I love that phrase and will use it repeatedly from now on) captures and defines certainly elements of the "zombie (or ghoul) canon", but I’ll spare you those thoughts for now.
For those still taking part, keep going! I’m watching and learning and getting ready for the next zombiegeddon…
ETA: I’ve compiled all my entries from today into one spot. Arranged in chronological order, even! It’s all right here!
Coffee. Lots and lots and lots of coffee. The caffeine and the albuterol (lots and lots of that, too) seem to be shoving the neurons back to life for a bit. But anyway it’s time to stop kidding myslf.
Jennifer’s on her way home now. I hope to god she makees it. Bt I wont be here because I’m leaving the house so she cna be safe when she gets herr. In case she doesnt Ive done the follwing:
1. Cleaned out the cats littr boxxswe.
2. Put waterr into several large bowls so they have drinking watr. I also left the taps on but who knows how long they’l last..
3. poured the bag of dry cat food on the flor in the librry so the cats have access to the food
4. put out lots of goohsy food.
If Jenffrer doesnt come home, somone pleas come and see to the catss. Theyyy shoul,d be fine and mbyye Jan’s right and they are are salvation
Okay I’m going outside now and ging to get as fr as I can frm the house befor the worttst happens.
I love you Jennifer