America seems to be obsessed with zombies. If you Google the word, zombie, you will get 141 million hits. Googling zombie games will get you 16,800,000 hits. On the Barnes and Nobles site, BN.com, searching the word zombie will bring up 1905 matches. And all of that is just the very tip of the grave stone.
Everywhere you look there are zombies. They are on the television, at the movies, in video games and in books… lots and lots of books.
I had managed to miss this trend entirely until my well-meaning friend and total zombie geek, Kevin, introduced me to the movie Shawn of the Dead. If you have never seen this movie, you really should. It manages to be scary and hilarious all at the same time. It’s basically the story of an average guy living an average life until the world around him starts going all zombie, and some how that works out pretty well for him.
I was surprised by how much I liked that movie. I had expected to be either grossed out, bored or both bored and grossed out. I had not expected to be entertained, but, since I was, I decided to go out and explore life with the undead.
My next foray into the world of the living dead was the book, World War Z by Max Brooks, the son of actor/director/all around funny guy Mel Brooks. This is a history, ala Stud Terkelesque interviews, of the zombie wars that have, at the future time of this book, decimated the world, but not destroyed humanity. It starts from a patient zero and follows the wars through to their aftermaths in a frightening plausible way.
After reading this book, I was officially hooked. I had to find more.
I have now read at least ten anthologies of zombie short stories, watched several movies about zombies, am contemplating buying a zombie game, and am writing a novel in which one of the major characters is, in fact, a zombie. It all leaves me with one undying question. Why?
Why are we so obsessed with zombies. My guess is that the idea is just so primal. A zombie is an unthinking, uncaring and almost completely unstoppable force that we cannot hope, in the end, to control or defeat. It is, I think, much like our own basic urges. We all feel rage, love, hunger, lust and we all worry that we will not be able to control those most basic of human motivations; that, in the end they will defeat us.
Through portrayals of zombies we can live out our fears in a non-threatening way. We can control them, even stop them, or we can let them run amok and discover what happens, all in the confines of our favorite easy chair. The world is safe from us and we from it. We can live to die another day.
Or… maybe, these stories are just plain fun.