Saturday, March 24, 2012

If all monster fiction were like zombie fiction

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

Unlike most fiction involving monsters well known in popular culture, zombie fiction always seems to be based in a world so very unlike our own that people have never heard of zombies.  Not just never heard of them by name, never even heard of the concept.  Or, as Anton Mates put it:
E.g., fictional people menaced by vampires immediately run off to find sunlight or a cross; people menaced by werewolves look for something silver and pointy. But when zombies show up everyone stands around going, "Wait wait wait...are they dead? But they're moving! Whoa, they're eating people now? Madness!" 
[My response:]

I'm suddenly imagining that done with everything.

"He's a man... but he turns into a wolf... what would you even call that? How is it possible that people have been living on earth with creatures like these so long without so much as a single legend about them appearing?"


"Wait, so you've got wings?"
"And they're wings with feathers even though as a mammal you'd expect them to be more bat-like."
"Well as a mammal you wouldn't expect me to have six limbs so..."
"And you say you're a messenger from god."
"I've never heard of one of those before. Why hasn't anyone told a story or drawn a picuture of one such as yourself?"


"It sucks blood and dislikes garlic and has a strange affinity for bats and came here from Transylvania and I have no idea what it is."


"Well it's was wrapped in cloth as part of what seems to have been a ritual embalming process, and we found it in a tomb in Egypt, and I've never seen anything like it."


With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound
He pulls the spitting high-tension wires down
Helpless people on subway trains
Scream, bug-eyed, as he looks in on them
He picks up a bus and he throws it back down
As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town
Oh no, they say he's got to go
Whatever the hell he is, I've never heard of anything like this before.


So someone dug up a bunch of corpses and put them together and then reanimated the amalgam into a living being? Wow, I'm totally amazed that no one has ever thought of using this as the premise for a story.


Ok, I'm being silly now. But if a flying biped with hooves in new Jersey were to start attacking people in a story and no one so much as considered "Jersey Devil" as a possibility it would be pretty damned absurd, and the never-heard-of-zombies fiction really just seems to take that to such an extreme level considering that you cannot exist in any of the places it is usually set without repeatedly being bombarded by the concept of zombies.

I'd make an allowance for something like Frankenstein's monster or Godzilla because they're specific individuals so if you're not making a sequel you have no choice but to pretend the previous story didn't exist (and if you are making a sequel you have to pass it off as a true story in-setting), but zombies... that's like never having heard of mermaids.


[Original Work Index]


  1. I like the implied story here: about a zombie outbreak where our viewpoint characters are - or think they are - prepared. There are at least a few people who take "zombie survival" seriously enough that they have more weapons and tools to hand than they otherwise might; let's throw a couple of them into the grinder, because their failure (it's a zombie movie, most of them are going to fail) will be more interesting than "eek eek eek [stumble] argh". It's going to be about the difference between theory and practice, between talk and walk; it's also going to be about the difference between working to someone else's scenario and responses, and working out your own.

    Hmm. I may even run this as a sequel to my militia-vs-zombies game.

  2. Mira Grant's novel Feed actually does the exact reverse. George Romero is considered a saviour of humanity, because thanks to him, when the outbreak came everyone knew exactly what to do.