It’s a funny old thing when you find something you really love. You want More, but more of the Same. The trouble is, if you get too much more of the Same it becomes a bit, well… samey. Pardon my vagueness but the crux of this post could be applied to pretty much any genre in any medium – from period drama on television to first-person shooters on a games console. However, as we’re building up to the Winter of Zombie let’s talk turkey. Rotten, shambling, Bernard Matthews’ Night of the Living turkey.
Turkey might be a little ugly to look at but get under the skin and there’s a lot of meat there. It’s cheap to rear, easy to prepare and goes down a treat with a little extra, um, grave-y. [Sorry.] Serve it up night after night though and it will start to get a little bland. For the longest time it seemed, to the untrained eye, that every zombie story was pretty much the same. The end of days began with the rising of the dead – often after some taboo had been broken – and all would suffer the consequences, whether innocent or guilty. Mass slaughter would happen quickly, leaving small groups of survivors to be whittled away in entertainingly nihilistic ways until they all died [sigh] or a miraculous cure was found [No. Just No.]
Of course, that’s brutally unfair, but then so are most preconceptions held by the masses – particularly when they spot a chance to act morally superior. Nevertheless, zombies were seen as a nasty little niche in pop culture for decades, then suddenly they seemed to be everywhere. I’m not going to try to pin down all of the wheres, whats and whos because you could probably write a whole damned book about them. Who knows, maybe you did. I’m sure you know plenty of the touchstones anyway or you probably wouldn’t be here reading this bit of fluff. What interests me here are the hows and the whys of this self-resurrected subgenre.
Part of it comes down to money because, let’s face it, it always does. Bottom line, zombies are easy and zombies are cheap. Put down the noose, pal and let me qualify that: from a creative standpoint it really doesn’t take much to make a zombie. Artists, writers, film-makers and programmers deal with people all the time. They just have to kind of kill them. Now, obviously the quality of work there will have a significant impact on the product, but the point is your base figure comes right off the shelf. You’ve a massive head start in any medium. Then there’s the audience’s perspective: Zombies slot easily into our imagination. They’re practically tailor-made. 1. We’re all terrified of death, 2. most of us are racked with guilt over those we’ve lost, and 3. we’d all secretly love to start blowing ‘people’ away with shotguns at the drop of a hat.[ No? That’s just me, then.]
ANYway, add a few bona fide hits like Shaun of the Dead to the zeitgeist and your industrial turkey starts laying golden eggs all over the place. After all, it’s not just your niche group anymore; everyone wants a taste. So how did we get to the hits? Why didn’t the turkey die when it was just a chick? I mean look at it. It’s kind of hideous. In part, I think it’s that we don’t let go of our toys any more. We hold them in our hearts, carry them with us into the working world. 1970’sand’80’s kids who creeped themselves out with late night Living Dead; who grossed each other out with Flesh Eaters and Cannibal Holocausts (hell, even those who thrilled to Thriller) wanted to keep the flame alive. Some of them became new zombie masters in theirvarious entertainment industries,while the rest of the hordes kept on consuming.
How could the rising stars maintain our interest? Like anything, zombies had to adapt to survive. Too slow? Make ’em run. Too tame? Up the gore. Too weak? Beef them up. As generations passed, the graveyard shamblers gave way to city-wide hordes, supernatural mysteries gave way to anvironmental and pathogenic horrors, but the biggest change was still yet to come. You see, it wasn’t just the zombies that had to evolve, it was the creators and the audiences. It doesn’t matter how well you roast a turkey, you’re gonna get royally sick of it if it’s served up night after night. But if you learn to do something different with it – if you put it in a creamy pie, or curry the living fuck out of it – well NOW we’re talking. Mash up the genres a bit! Go wild! You don’t have to drop your Walking Dead comics, but let’s have a laugh with Cockneys vs Zombies; let’s get our teeth into a mystery like Cursed Mountain; let’s get wrapped up in an emotional drama like Maggie or try any number of fresh takes on this magnificently foul fowl.
Some of the most interesting stuff I’ve seen of late has come from actually moving things on past the apocalyptic stuff to finding a new kind of normality. TV shows like In the Flesh and Humans (a recent SF analogue) posit a world in which we have started to come to terms with these Others. A place where humanity has begun to seek a new mode of existence whichincludes the monsters, rather than fighting to keep them back. If you can’t beat them, join them, right?
It’s a sweet spot for creators and audience alike now, where the whole world has opened up to us and the possibilities seem endless. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
There’s not enough time in the day to read, watch and play with all the fun things in this life – but Dion gives it a good shot. He balances his dedication to Geekdom with life as a family man, working a full-time day job, wrangling a nascent career as a freelance editor into existence, and writing reviews in his ‘spare’ time. He has been accused of being a sentimental old sod. Guilty as charged. He claims to be aging backwards, but we reckon he cooked that story up so he could get away with acting like a big kid.
He can be found on Twitter, Facebook and periodically reviewing stuff at Geek Syndicate. While you’re there you may like to browse through the back catalogue of his old podcastScrolls.
His latest project is a shared world anthology called This Twisted Earth – a pulpy bit of fun in a world where Time has gone very, very wrong. If you fancy helping the creative team out with building the world, or even trying your arm at a submission, then let him know. Make sure you mention #WinterOfZombie so he knows where you’ve come from.
* * * * *
The stench of frozen flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2015, with 40+ of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.
Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser…and pick up some great swag as well!
Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them!