The Creature That Wouldn’t Die

“The Creature That Wouldn’t Die”

a blog by

Bryan Cassiday

 

Unlike the creature it portrays, the zombie genre isn’t dead, as so many so-called pundits have prematurely claimed.  Just look at the success of The Walking Dead on TV and that of World War Z at the movies.

The success of the zombie genre, more than any other genre, is in large part due to the popularity of the Internet.  You need go no further than Facebook to see the proliferation of zombie groups.  I would say zombies are becoming even more popular than ever due to their omnipresence on the Internet.

My favorite zombie book is Dead City by Joe McKinney.  It is one of the few zombie books that match the intensity of George Romero’s groundbreaking zombie flick Night of the Living Dead.  Romero’s movie breathed new life into the walking dead, or ghouls as they were called in the movie.  They were never actually called zombies.

Before Romero’s movie, zombies never ate people.  Mostly, they lumbered around in a trance like the ones in White Zombie, which starred Bela Lugosi.  Lugosi commanded his army of zombies to attack people, but they didn’t eat them.  The zombies’ taste for living human flesh was dreamed up by Romero.

Romero’s flesh-eating zombies are the zombies as we know them today.  But not quite.  Modern zombies have mutated over the years.  Some of the more recent zombies, such as the ones in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later move faster than Romero’s shambling hordes.  However, they still crave the taste of living human flesh.  These newer zombies tend to be products of disease.  Radiation from outer space caused the dead to walk in Night of the Living Dead. Today’s zombies are more likely to be caused by the spread of a plague.

Though it’s true that the popularity of Max Brooks’s horror novel World War Z hasn’t been duplicated recently in the publishing world, I don’t believe the zombie genre in fiction is, for that reason, dead.  It’s still out there, and the Internet is keeping it going.  There are plenty of zombie books being written.  You can’t write these dead guys off.  They may seem like they’re dead, but that’s the way it’s always been.  Zombies look like they’re dead, whereas in reality they’re not.  The same could be said of zombie books.

Another one of my favorite zombie books is Jonathan Maberry’s Dead of Night, which is a really creepy book about zombies created by a madman.  I also like David Moody’s Autumn series.  And don’t forget Stephen King’s Cell, in which the transmissions by cell phones are turning people into zombies.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Stephen King cooks up another zombie book in the near future.

The bottom line is the zombie genre is not dead.

Another factor that is keeping the genre alive is the explosion of self-publishing.  Many of the zombie books that are coming out these days are self-published.  Zombies are circumventing the Big 5 New York legacy publishers and continuing to thrive in self-publishing.  Nobody can stop zombies.  They have a life of their own.  They want their day on the printed page, whether it be on paper or on a Kindle-type reading device, and they will get it, one way or the other—if not in New York, than in the rest of the country.

Zombies rule!

In my most recent Chad Halverson zombie apocalypse thriller Poxland (http://www.amzn.com/1492739715) I explored the political aspect of a zombie apocalypse and how the politicians would respond to it, how the apocalypse favors the politicians because they have the resources to take refuge from it, whereas the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves as the world collapses around us.  The zombie plague in my book is spread by conspirators who have a hidden agenda when they precipitate the disease.

To see a list of all the zombie books I have written in my Chad Halverson zombie apocalypse series, see my Web site at http://www.BryanCassiday.com.  Also connect with me on Facebook.com/bryancassiday.author and on Twitter.com/BryanCassiday.

 

Amazon’s Review Policy: Sock Puppets not Wanted

According to the New York Times (12/23/2012), you do not have to read a book on their Web site in order to review that book.  A spokesman for Amazon said,  “We do not require people to have experienced the product in order to review.”

This means that anybody who wants to read my new zombie book Sanctuary in Steel, or has added it to their TBR list, can post a review like, “I’m looking forward to reading Sanctuary in Steel,” and Amazon will not delete the review.

However, sock puppets are discouraged.  A sock puppet is a false identity created by a person in order to deceive.  Apparently writers like Stephen Leather and John Locke created sock puppets in order to post positive reviews of their books under phony names.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with authors posting reviews of their own books.  After all, no less a writer than the French author of The Human Comedy Honore de Balzac used to do it all the time.

I have recently posted on Amazon a review of my new zombie apocalypse thriller Sanctuary in Steel. Amazon published it.  As of this moment, my review is still posted on Amazon.  Of course, there’s no chicanery involved.  I signed the review with my own name.  If I had used a sock puppet, maybe Amazon would have deleted the review.  The problem with using my own name on the review is that nobody will pay much attention to it, thinking it biased.  A sock puppet’s review would carry more weight with visitors to my book’s Amazon page.

But sock puppets aren’t allowed on Amazon anymore.

The Apocalypse Isn’t Going Away

If we survive Dec. 21, 2012 (the last day of earth’s existence, according to the ancient Mayan calendar), the apocalypse won’t disappear.  All you have to do is look at the popularity of post-apocalyptic TV shows like The Walking Dead and Revolution.  The apocalypse is here to stay.

Whether it’s a zombie apocalypse or a world without electricity run by a Gestapo-like militia (as in Revolution), people can’t get enough of the apocalypse.  They want to know what it’s like to try to survive in a world teetering on the brink of annihilation.

Back in the day, you needed a bunker mentality to even acknowledge the apocalypse.  The end of the world appealed only to kooky flakes holed up in caves cached with a plethora of canned beans, double-barreled shotguns, a couple thousand rounds of ammo, Sterno, and enough bottles of Johnny Walker to open your own gin mill.  Sadly, or maybe not, those days are gone.

Nowadays, more or less everybody is watching The Walking Dead, reading zombie books like Max Brooks’s World War Z or Stephen King’s Cell, or watching movies like 28 Weeks Later.  The nearer the end gets, the more we want to experience it, it seems.

In fact, zombie apocalypse books are so popular they have become a separate genre, instead of being lumped under the rubric of horror or science fiction.  And yet, bookstores don’t get it.  Behind the curve, they still stack zombie books in their Horror or Science Fiction shelves, as does the public library (at least the one in my vicinity).

The world’s changing.  Not long ago, zombie books didn’t even exist, but now zombie books, due to their proliferation, especially among small publishers, demand their own separate section in bookstores.  After all, the apocalypse is just beginning!

 

Zombie Books–the New Pulp Fiction

Zombie books have become today’s pulp fiction.  Like their close relative film noir, they depict a bleak, dystopian world where the heroes or antiheroes must fight, kill, and do anything else it takes to survive in a hostile environment, frequently at the expense of their moral sense–if they have any to begin with.

In yesteryear’s pulp fiction, the antiheroes are often criminals on the lam who become entangled in ever more harrowing situations.  In zombie books, the heroes tend to be ordinary people enmeshed in the cataclysm of a zombie apocalypse in which they must do everything they can simply to survive one more day.

Pulp fiction writers like Jim Thompson wrote about criminals, like the casually homicidal cop Lou Ford in The Killer Inside Me, who exist in a hopeless amoral world and become as amoral as the world around them in order to survive.

Current zombie writers such as Joe McKinney write about characters like Michael Barnes in Apocalypse of the Dead, a Houston cop who becomes a sociopath as he slaughters zombies in his desperate bid to stay alive.

Bleak and violent (like their predecessor pulp fiction), zombie books reflect an undercurrent of malaise and a feeling of hopelessness in our time as the economy collapses and the world seems to be spinning out of control toward annihilation.

 

Zombies vs. Vampires

Which are scarier—zombies or vampires?

It used to be that vampires were scarier than zombies—back when Dracula and Nosferatu ruled the roost of vampires.  But vampires have become so romanticized what with such movies as Interview with the Vampire and Twilight that the creatures have been leeched of their fiendishness and nowadays are avatars of eroticism rather than of evil.

Gone are the days of Nosferatu, the ugliest and creepiest vampire of them all as Max Schreck portrayed him in F. W. Murnau’s eponymous 1922 German film, and of Dracula, the vampire with the evil eye as Bela Lugosi realized him in Hollywood.

Whereas Hollywood once envisioned the vampire as the maleficent, bug-eyed Bela Lugosi (in Dracula) with an eldritch Balkan accent, it kept reinventing the creature of the night.  Along came Tom Cruise as the ashen-faced romantic fop of a vampire in Interview with a Vampire and then Robert Pattinson as the frail, anemic vampire in the Twilight series.  These modern vampires aren’t scary by half.  In fact, their victims actually lust for these creatures to bite them!

Justin Cronin tried to juice up the vampire’s fear factor when he penned his horror novel The Passage.  Eschewing the term vampire because of its modern evocation of the words erotic and romantic, he called his vampires virals and made them hideous to behold and bloodcurdling in their assaults on humanity.

The fact is, though, that Cronin’s creatures aren’t really vampires.  Cronin himself cringes when the term vampire is used to describe his evil man-made creatures.  These days, no horror writer worth his salt wants to write about vampires if his goal is to stoke fear in his readers.  On the other hand, it is romance writers who employ vampires, and it is not to generate fear but to generate eros.

Enter the zombie.

The zombie is the walking dead.  It is an ugly, reeking, decomposing slab of dead flesh that walks the land day and night feeding on living human beings.  There is nothing romantic about this ghoul.  It is a filthy, disease-riddled creature that fills people with equal parts fear and disgust.  These creatures resemble the original film image of the vampire as Nosferatu more than they do Ann Rice’s Lestat.

Could anyone actually be turned on by the flesh-eating, lurching walking corpses in George Romero’s zombie classic Night of the Living Dead?  Unlike modern vampires, zombies instill only one feeling in people—that of horror.  Young women may lust to have their throats bitten by vampires in the guise of Robert Pattinson, but no young women alive (unless she’s suicidal) is dying to get bitten by zombies played by unrecognizable Hollywood extras with putrescent faces and ragged clothes and bites that will rip their bodies to shreds.

Who’s scarier in this day and age?  It’s not even close.  Hands down, it’s zombies over vampires.

 

Special Halloween Treat!

Order Bryan Cassiday’s upcoming zombie apocalypse thriller Sanctuary in Steel directly from the printer Create Space. Sanctuary in Steel is due to be released on November 13, 2012.

The Rise of Zombie Noir

September 9, 2012

The term noir used to refer to crime fiction and movies with cynical characters, bleak settings, and a pervading atmosphere of gloom and entrapment.

There aren’t any crime thrillers these days that convey such desolation and hopelessness. Instead it is the zombie apocalypse genre of books and film that can best be described by the term noir.

In the zombie apocalypse genre, society has collapsed or is in the midst of collapsing. Characters are so cynical that they turn against each other at the drop of a hat in order to survive.  And the outlook of society is an oppressive hopelessness.

George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is a textbook example of zombie noir. Zombies are overruning the world and devouring humans.  A band of surviving humans make their last stand against the zombies in a deserted house.

While battling the zombies, the characters fight against themselves as well, and, in the end, the characters are all wiped out.  Ironically, the last survivor in the house is shot and killed by vigilante humans who blow him away thinking him a zombie.

Night of the Living Dead is classic film noir, and it’s not even a crime thriller. Contemporary films like 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later continue the tradition of zombie noir in the movies.

When it comes to hopelessness, a bleak desolate environment, and cynical desperate characters, nothing can compare to the zombie apocalypse genre.  Hence the popularity and rise of zombie noir during these days of a sluggish economy.

Why Do Zombies Matter?

It seems that zombies are everywhere these days.  They’re not just in horror movies like 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later.  Now we have zombie computers and zombie banks.

Zombie computers are computers controlled by hackers who use them for nefarious purposes, such as sending out spam.  Zombie banks are insolvent banks that are propped up by the government.

The term zombie didn’t even come into existence until around 1871.  The Haitian Creole word was used to describe individuals in the West Indies who had died and come back to life.  In most cases, these cadavers were resurrected by practitioners of voodoo.

One of the first books about zombies was Magic Island by W. B. Seabrook concerning Haitian zombies, but zombies didn’t really catch on until horror movies popularized them in the 1930s.

One of the earliest and most popular zombie movies was Victor Halperin’s creepy White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi in 1932.  Lugosi is an evil genius who uses zombies to do his bidding.

At this point in the evolution of these monsters, zombies are Haitian-type creatures that have been resurrected by a voodoo-practicing malefactor, or by an evil madman, who orders them around like they are slaves.

It is interesting to note that these zombies evolved during the Great Depression and also during Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany.

The zombies in White Zombie shuffle around with their eyes staring blankly out of their heads as they act like minions to the whims of their evil master played by Bela Lugosi.  The zombies’ servile obedience to Lugosi can be interpreted as mirroring the Germans’ blind obedience to their fuehrer Adolf Hitler.

The next incarnation of the Hollywood zombie came in 1968 with the release of George Romero’s low-budget classic Night of the Living Dead.  Like the zombies in White Zombie, Romero’s zombies shamble around mindlessly.  However, these newer zombies are different in several important respects.  First, they don’t take orders from an evil genius, and second, they have developed an overpowering appetite for living human flesh.  In fact, the only reason they exist is to eat.

The next generation of zombies manifests itself in 2007’s 28 Weeks Later.  Like their predecessors in Night of the Living Dead, these zombies are flesh-eating ghouls, but there is a striking difference.  Whereas the older zombies shambled around like drunks, these new zombies are fleet-footed like humans.  The new generation of zombies isn’t resurrected from the dead.  These zombies are infected by plague, which may explain why they can move as fast as their fellow living humans.

Modern zombies reflect the collapse of contemporary civilization and its inability to cope with its failing and disintegrating economic systems.  These zombies aren’t controlled by a Hitler-type evil genius.  They aren’t controlled by any human being.  Mindless, they are controlled only by their insatiable craving for living human flesh.  Zombies now represent mankind run amok.

It is no wonder then that zombies, who most accurately symbolize the times we are living in, have become the ne plus ultra of bete noires for modern times, superseding other monsters like vampires, Frankenstein monsters, and Godzilla.

“Zombie Necropolis” to Follow “Zombie Maelstrom”

The sequel to Bryan Cassiday’s zombie apocalypse thriller Zombie Maelstrom will be released at the end of May 2012.  The book will be titled Zombie Necropolis.

Visit a terrifying new world where the living dead rule the land, killer drones rule the sky, and death lurks around the next corner in Zombie Necropolis.

Meanwhile, see how it all began in Zombie Maelstrom.  Click to buy at Amazon.

Zombie Apocalypse Books

Check out the new Zombie Apocalypse Books page on Facebook.

Zombie Maelstrom is featured there.  Any fan of zombie apocalypse books is welcome to post on this Facebook page.