People are always asking me about zombies:Have you always loved zombies?Do you think you’ll survive the zombie apocalypse?Is it necrophilia if you’re both dead?In case you’re curious, the answers are:Yes, no, and I don’t think so.I’m asked this because I wrote a dark zombie comedy titled Breathers that was published back in 2009 and I’ve since had several zombie short stories published in anthologies. So now everyone seems to think I know a lot about zombies.Truth is, I’m not an authority on zombie sex. However, I do know a lot about sloughage, frothy purge, and cadaver impact testing.For some reason, this troubles my parents.I've been a zombie fan ever since I saw Romero's original Night of the Living Dead back when I was in sixth grade and they instantly became my favorite monster. I even used to dream about them chasing me through the streets. Or surrounding my house. Or doing my taxes. And I’ll admit that I enjoy the fast moving zombies as well as the shuffling ones. They're both terrifying in their own way.I do realize, however, that there are zombie purists out there who only want their zombies to be of the post-apocalyptic variety. Slow and mindless and horrifying. They don’t like it when you do anything new or different when it comes to the living dead. They get very Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham about their zombies.They do not like them when they runThey do not like them if they’re funThey do not like them when they’re smartThey do not like them with a heartWhile I respect this point of view, I have a large umbrella when it comes to zombies and I welcome all types to stand under it. Fast and slow. Sentient and mindless. Comical and terrifying. After all, can’t we all just get along?Which relates to another question that often comes up:Why do you think zombies are so popular right now?I suppose you could make the argument that zombies are an allegory for the end of the world as we know it. That the current mainstream popularity of zombies is a direct reflection of global fears regarding the economy and terrorism. Horror as catharsis for the fears and anxiety of a society making commentary on itself. You could even argue that zombies are the proletarians of the monster hierarchy and in troubled economic times, they become the poster child for the financial ills of a nation.A lot of other zombie authors and film makers who are asked about the popularity of zombies agree with this hypothesis. Me? Not so much.I believe the recent surge in zombie popularity can instead be attributed to the fact that zombies have been taken out of their proverbial archetypal box. No longer are they just the shambling, mindless, flesh-eating ghouls we've known and loved for most of the past four decades.They’re faster. Funnier. Sentient.They’ve expanded their range. Become more versatile. More well-rounded. And who doesn't enjoy a well-rounded zombie? Plus they’re tragically comical, shuffling along, losing their hair and teeth and the occasional appendage. Add the fact that they used to be us, that we could all become them one day, and you can’t help but relate.Ultimately, that’s what prompted me to write Breathers in the first place. I thought: What if I was a zombie? But instead of your stereotypical mindless Hollywood zombie, shuffling along and craving human flesh, I was just a reanimated corpse who was gradually decomposing, I had no rights, and I needed some serious therapy?How would society treat me? What would my parents think? Could I join a bowling league?What I ended up with was a story about a group of zombies who attend Undead Anonymous meetings while trying to find their purpose in a society in which they have no purpose. It’s part dark comedy, part social satire, with a little blood and violence. Kind of like Fight Club meets Shaun of the Dead, only with the zombies as the good guys.The other question I’m often asked is:Do you think zombies are here to stay?Truth is, zombies have been starring in low-budget films and mass market paperbacks for most of the past forty years. They’re just finally being appreciated for their diverse talents and given the opportunity to show that they’re more than one-dimensional monsters. Instead of being cast in supporting roles, they’ve become the leads, the stars, the marquee attraction. And as long as writers and film makers continue to push the boundaries of the mythology, I think zombies will remains as popular tomorrow as they are today.
S. G. Browne is the author of my favorite zombie book, The Breathers: A Zombie Lament. It is interesting to see how different authors in the zombie-genre have chosen to tackle the issues of what it means to be a zombie or live in a world infested with the walking dead. Even though some books try to be sympathetic to the zombie, I feel that Browne's book is the best. Not only does the reader share in Andy's adventures of being a zombie, they also see that a zombie can be very much a central character.
If you're interested in checking out S.G. Brown, you can find him at the following:
S.G. Browne's website (follow his Twitter and blog from this website).
Thanks, Scott, for being willing to participate in Zombie Month!