What is a critical mass moment? It’s nothing official really. It’s just a term I came up with when I started writing. It’s that moment where shit isn’t just hitting the fan…it’s more like every turd that has been flushed down the toilets of every major population center is sucked up into every jet engine globally and scattered liberally across the planet.
I’ll give you a moment to imagine that. Nasty…right?
A few years ago, I read a blog post explaining why a true zombie apocalypse couldn’t happen. I’m sure if you are a zombie enthusiast, you may have read it. Although I could poke holes in a few of their arguments, there was one important fact that stood out that was hard to deny.
As human beings, we’re very good at killing things. I mean really, we’re like stupid good at it. We’ve caused creatures to go extinct…more than once! We even have the ability to kill every living thing on this Earth and reduce them microscopic radioactive dust.
When it comes to killing things…we f’n rock.
The traditional idea of the zombie plague…at least the Romero type zombies…dead bodies come back and start treating the living like an all-you-can-eat sampler platter. Eat a little bit, move on. The problem, for me anyway, is that eventually people would get wise to the fact that these weird looking bitey people are probably worth keeping away from.
Add to that the fact that these days you can’t sling a dead cat without hitting someone who knows how to kill a (again, Romero type) zombie. Take a bat…smack in head…rinse, repeat. Plus, most countries on this planet can lay down fields of whoop ass without breaking a sweat thanks to all our modern advancements in killing things. (Really, its mind boggling how good we are at that).
With all those things working against traditional zombies, the idea that Granny will sit up in her coffin and take a bite out of Harold the pall bearer and ushering the complete collapse of civilization becomes a bit less plausible. That’s before taking into account that most bodies in the civilized world are embalmed fairly early after death, so getting the infection started will be a bit of a chore.
When I sat down to start writing my first zombie novel, This Dying World: The End Begins, I grappled with how to spread the infection. At first, I wasn’t going to even bother explaining it. It would be a completely legitimate thing to do. During a real ZA, most people would be completely clueless about the origin of the zombies anyway. So my original idea was:
BOOM! Zombies are here. Why? F**k you, that’s why. So deal with it!
But then, as my story grew, I found myself in a position that I needed to explain where it came from. Or at least explain how mankind lost the battle so quickly. How could all of our advanced methods of destroying stuff be thwarted by creatures with the intelligence of an avocado and the speed of a sleepwalking sloth?
Really, the answer is simple. I bet every zombie lover who read that question knows the answer too. The real terror of the slow moving shambling zombies, besides their single minded relentless nature, is their numbers. They attack and overwhelm by sheer force of numbers. The more of them there are, the faster civilization takes a swan dive. But to get to those numbers can be a challenge, especially with the bite transmission.
Enter that critical mass moment. It’s the absolute game changer. The cataclysmic event where the numbers of the dead suddenly surge and overwhelm every possible organized response and bring civilization to its knees. It takes the long slow progression of a typical infection burning across the planet and turns it into an overnight extinction level event.
I was about halfway through my book before I came up with my critical mass moment. It did require a few rewrites, but by the time I was done I was very happy with it. Over the years I have seen several examples of that critical mass, and it’s always fun to see how another author pulls it off. It’s not easy…especially when there is always someone in the audience that will gladly point out where we mess up and how what we wrote couldn’t actually happen. You know who you are…stop trying to hide. Yeah you, hiding behind the door…I saw you!
Now, I’m not discounting the authors that prefer the slow burn infection, or the ones that just ignore the origins altogether and say “POOF Zombies…enjoy!” I’ve read a lot of zombie books, and I’ve seen a lot of different ideas on zombies. I love seeing where a writer can go to create, or recreate their versions of a zombie.
And quite honestly I think that’s the beauty of this genre. Zombies are malleable creatures. There are no written rules about what they can do or how far they can evolve. They are very open to interpretation for anyone who wants to take on the challenge. As long as writers have new ideas floating around their devious little minds, we will always have new and terrifying versions of the creatures we have all come to love and admire to face off with.
You can find This Dying World: The End Begins by at these links:
James Dean was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1975. He earned his Emergency Medical Technician license, serving for 3 years before returning to school to earn a AAS degree in electronics technology. He has worked in the technology field for 15 years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. He currently lives in a suburb of Chicago with his wife and kids.
James has always been interested in writing, penning his first very short story in 4th grade. He’s written several short stories over the years, from horror to sword and sorcery genres. But he gave up writing for several years until he discovered the world of indie authors, thanks to people like Mark Tufo and Eric Shelman. James was once again bitten by the writing bug, which has led to his first full length novel, This Dying World: The End Begins.
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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!